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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

LuntzFINALRepublican Party political consultant, strategist and pollster Frank Luntz is whining. Being Frank Luntz, you can be sure that it's calculated whining, but it's whining nevertheless.

The man who has devoted the better part of his professional life to turning words into weapons of mass misdirection in support of his clients -- often resulting in their becoming weapons of mass indigestion for his clients' opponents -- is claiming that his privacy rights have been violated by a University of Pennsylvania student who secretly taped "off-the-record" comments made by Luntz about how certain well-known figures within the conservative movement are hurting the movement.

There are two storylines in play here: 1) The Original -- What Luntz actually said about divisive conservatives hurting the Republican Party; and, 2) The Conjured-- Luntz the aggrieved.

Clearly, Luntz's whining is aimed at changing the narrative from storyline one to storyline two.

Over the years, I've devoted more than enough ink to Frank Luntz:

In 2010, in a story headlined "If one man can single-handedly poison the debate over significant issues in America that man is Frank Luntz," I wrote: "Frank Luntz is above all else a practical man. Everything he does has been carefully calculated, weighed, and measured, be it his focus groups, his questionable 'fair and balanced' polling, or his Instant Response dial sessions.

"And there are words. Words that influence political campaigns; words that sway public opinion; words that confuse; words that deceive. Most of all, words that win. If you're looking for poetry do not come knocking of Luntz's door. If you're looking for color, you'll not discover a Luntzian rainbow. What you will find these days, however, is his Mighty Wurlitzer of words cranked up to full blast."

 

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

SavarFINAL“Everywhere near the building, the stench of death was overpowering. Men in surgical masks sprayed disinfectant in the air.”

We move from tragedy to tragedy with hellish regularity.

“The scope of injuries,” Jim Yardley writes in the New York Times, “was horrifying: fractured skulls, crushed rib cages, severed livers, ruptured spleens. One survivor lost both legs. . . . A teenage girl named Sania lost her right leg. Another teenager, Anna, lost her right hand.”

This wasn’t from a bomb in Boston. It was from a collapsed building outside Dhaka, Bangladesh — another shocking sweatshop disaster, this one claiming the lives, according to the most recent count, of 385 people, with many more missing and at least 1,000 injured. Eight people, including the owner of the building, which housed five separate garment operations employing more than 3,000 people, were arrested. Workers, the Times reported, saw cracks in the walls of the building the day before it collapsed. They were told to go to work anyway.

Last November, when a fire swept through another Bangladesh garment factory, killing 112, I wrote: “It is a ruthless profit squeeze that has created workers’ hell in Bangladesh and elsewhere, and that guarantees more fires and grotesque death tolls in coming months and years.”

It is terrifyingly easy to be prescient about such matters, just as it’s easy to predict more mass shootings in the United States. The system is broken. It’s eating us alive. We do not value human life — or, for that matter, life itself — at the core of our social structure. But even the immensely powerful among us affect to value it after the fact, as rescuers pull bodies from the rubble and the survivors wail.

Published in Guest Commentary

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MarkSanfordFINALF. Scott Fitzgerald famously uttered "there are no second acts in American lives" but bless his heart, the besotted scribe seems blissfully unaware of the loophole large enough to taxi a C- 130 through that exists for American politicians. These people are as indomitable as a mule falling off a bridge. More oblivious than a blind tortoise humping a rock. Limber like a deboned eel.

Behavior best exemplified by their insect like ability to manufacture a sort of shame resistant exoskeleton. When scandalized, your ordinary citizen will retreat, burrowing deep into a hidey- hole and pulling the hole back in on him. Not the politician. They will hold a press conference to declare all accusations baseless, then publicly resign to spend more time with their family. Of course, nobody gets to ask the family how they feel. Sometimes the smiles are so tight you can hear enamel cracking.

Following an imprecise length of penitence, depending on the transgression, they publicly declare their self- imposed sabbaticals to be complete, and head up the comeback trail spouting enough platitudes to chagrin an evangelist. Cue the red, white and blue gospel music. All is forgiven and the practiced hypocrisy reels back out in a tail- sucking mobius loop.

Recently, a veritable gaggle of disgraced politicians have serpentined their way back into the spotlight. Surely you remember the unfortunately named Anthony Weiner, New York Congressman, caught knee deep in doo- doo for sexting six women, including a porn star. Even tried to get her to lie about the relationship, but she refused. Might be Weiner's lasting legacy; proving porn possesses more integrity than politics.

Published in Guest Commentary

RICHARD A. STITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bush mission accomplishedFINALSome of the media scribes who attended the dedication ceremony on April 26 for the George W. Bush $250 million Library and Museum on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas, TX commented that there was not one word mentioned about Iraq.

Most of us know why, including the 2008 and 2012 Republican conventions in which there was no acknowledgement by the party's leadership of George W. Bush's Iraq legacy. Or much, if anything at all, about number 43.

There are, of course, exceptions. Most notably Karl Rove whose George W. Bush adulation included his recent proposal to chisel his former boss's image on Mount Rushmore. Rove no doubt was yearning for those halcyon days when photo ops maintained the facade of a commander-in-chief in thoughtful poses such as the one that lined up the profile of George W. Bush with the four presidents' likenesses that are etched into South Dakota's Mount Rushmore.

As to his own perceived legacy Bush has been quoted several times saying that history will judge number 43's record. After all, he has opined, they (historians) are still writing the legacy of the first G.W. over two-and-a-half centuries later.

So, in keeping with this selective erasure of all memory of Iraq I suggest at least one day should be enshrined in the American tradition of celebrating special days in history. It could be called, Uno de Mayo.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 29 April 2013 09:59

Sequester: What a Good Idea! Not.

ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MealsWheelsFINALHere we are again, fumbling around with the regulatory mechanisms that govern our lives. With respect to the sequester, surely it is time to stop playing games with the American people’s ability to plan their lives and have reasonable expectations regarding arrivals and departures at our nation’s most important travel hubs.

But if we were to be completely honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit that travel arrangements have become the focus of our attention, in the absence other sequester-affected aspects of our society. The inconvenience of flight disruptions has an immediate affect that is easily traced to the source, but the terrible cost in terms of children’s education, food programs for the elderly and other areas on the chopping block are rarely discussed.

Congress is all in a dither and has, in fact, just devised a “bipartisan” solution, as Maine’s Susan Collins described it, to remedy a situation that in addition to being an inconvenience had become an embarrassment for the administration as well as lawmakers. And so loud voices and powerful lobbying efforts by industry won the day yet again. Talk about embarrassing.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DebtPrisonFINAL"In the 1990s, Jack [Dawley's] drug and alcohol addictions led to convictions for domestic violence and driving under the influence, resulting in nearly $1,500 in fines and costs in the Norwalk Municipal Court. Jack was also behind on his child support, which led to an out-of-state jail sentence." After serving three and a half years in Wisconsin, Dawley, now sober for 14 years, is still trying to catch up with the fines he owes, and it has "continue[d] to wreak havoc on his life."

Tricia Metcalf is a mother with sole custody of two teenagers. In 2006, Metcalf "was convicted of passing multiple bad checks. The fines mounted into the thousands. Unable to pay the total amount owed, Tricia entered into a payment plan of $50 per month." Although she's worked temporary jobs, a long-term job has been hard to find. "Whenever Tricia missed a payment, a warrant was issued and she was taken to jail."

The stories of Jack Dawley and Tricia Metcalf are only two of several compelling accounts in the ACLU's new report, The Outskirts of Hope: How Ohio's Debtors' Prisons Are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities.

The jailing of people unable to pay fines and court costs is no longer a relic of the 19th century American judicial system. Debtors' prisons are alive and well in one-third of the states in this country.

In 2011, Think Progress' Marie Diamond wrote: "Federal imprisonment for unpaid debt has been illegal in the U.S. since 1833. It's a practice people associate more with the age of Dickens than modern-day America. But as more Americans struggle to pay their bills in the wake of the recession, collection agencies are using harsher methods to get their money, ushering in the return of debtor's prisons."

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

FearFINALWe've all been affected by the tragedy in Boston. Anytime an innocent person gets killed in an act of terror, we feel some of the pain of the victims' families, and we feel less safe, for our way of life has been threatened.

In another incident, on a warm spring afternoon in Chicago in 2012, 6-year-old Aliyah Shell sat with her mother on the front porch of their Little Village home on the city's southwest side. A pickup truck drove by, shots were fired, and Aliyah lay in the arms of a mother crazed with confusion and grief. The little girl died later that afternoon at the hospital.

In a third incident, in March of 2011, about 40 individuals gathered together at a community center to try to resolve a dispute over a local mine. The group included the most respected senior members of the community. At about 10:45 AM the room was bombed, and most people inside were killed. Their bodies were blown up, torn into unrecognizable pieces. Family members could do nothing. Even collecting the remains for burial was dangerous, for bombings were often followed by attacks targeting the rescuers. This has been the way of life in much of Pakistan.

All these attacks ended human lives and caused unimaginable suffering for the families of the victims. All deserve our attention. We don't need the media to decide for us which is most important, or which impacts us most personally. But news sources have tried to do that with the Boston bombing, to stir the passion of fear in our minds, to bolster the cause of homeland security. The Wall Street Journal proclaimed that the Boston attack is "a reminder of the continuing need for heightened defenses against terror threats."

But what is the nature of "terrorism" in each case?

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

NewsroomFINALStill smarting over November's bitter electoral defeats, the Koch Brothers may be on the verge of taking their libertarian/free enterprise/deregulation game plan to another level; the purchase of the Tribune Company, and a string of other daily newspapers.

Such a purchase would immediately give Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and generous funder of right-wing institutions, causes and candidates, direct media access to the editorial and news pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant. Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in the country, could also be Included in the deal.

According to the New York Times, "The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion."

The New York Times also reported Sunday, that Three years ago the Koch Brothers "held a seminar of like-minded, wealthy political donors at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Colo., [where] [t]hey laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes." The first two prongs of the strategy consisted of "educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics"; the third prong was media.

 

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MarathonBombFINALAt the end of Amy Goodman’s interview with Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, and the award-winning documentary film with the same name appearing at theatres this June, Scahill concluded that we cannot avoid asking the question: Are Americans paying a high price for the U.S. government’s violent war polices?  The corporate media will not go there when it comes to this question.

 

I agree with Scahill’s assessment.  If these wars continue in our name, it’s highly likely that Americans will be the target of retaliation.  America is no longer seen as the Beacon of Light in the world.  For the last twelve years, our government is viewed globally as the Bully of Darkness.  After the complete annihilation of Iraq, wrongly blamed for 9-11 and wrongly accused of harboring weapons of mass destruction, can you blame world leaders’ for escalating defense programs?

 

When speaking about war crimes i.e. statements such as “Look what we’re doing to those poor village peasants in Afghanistan and Yemen, killing up to 30 or 40 women and children for one suspect,” the pronoun “we” should be replaced with “President Obama”.   Obama won the 2008 election on the campaign promise that that he’d put an end to these unconscionable wars and begin the process of healing and reconciliation.  Thus, Americans are not responsible for what this government does.  The President vowed to do so and he betrayed us.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 25 April 2013 07:50

Bombing the Constitution

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ConstitutionFINALThe negative outcomes of the Boston bombings are multiple. First of all, of course, were the three deaths. Second of all were the injuries, ranging from minor to life-changing. (As a 30-year-plus triathlete and a former marathoner [although never Boston - too tough for me!], I identified particularly with the runners who lost one or both legs.) Third, perhaps the most long-lasting in terms of our nation as a whole, is the attack on various aspects of U.S. Constitutional Democracy, reflecting what has been underway since the response to 9/11 which was exploited with such evil intent by the Bush/Cheney regime.

First, let us consider the use of the term "Miranda Rights" in referring to the initial juridical process applied to the surviving bomber (who has apparently confessed). The way the term is used by most reporters, commentators, and politicians implies that there is some special set of rights that were created at some time in the past to protect persons arrested on criminal charges. The implication always is that there is some special set of privileges granted to certain arrested persons, especially "very bad" ones.

But as it happens there are no "Miranda Rights," no special group of rights plucked out of thin air, or, heaven forfend, invented by some awful (liberal, you know) Supreme Court to protect the otherwise undeserving. The Rights in question are actually Constitutional Rights, ensconced in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. They guarantee, or are supposed to guarantee, due process of the law (which includes right-to-counsel) and protection against self-incrimination, before questioning by the authorities can begin, to any arrestee.

The term "Miranda" which has been so widely used since the Boston horror, refers to a 1966 Supreme Court decision that simply said that all arrestees have these rights, whether they know that they have them or not. Thus the terms "Miranda warning" and "Mirandizing." Virtually any watcher of any TV crime show is familiar with an arresting officer saying to an arrestee: "You have the right to an attorney. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you." Thus "Miranda" simply refers to a process clearly and unequivocally written into the Constitution, not any special group of rights. All US citizens have these rights, or should have them, under the Constitution. "Mirandizing" is to make sure that any person has them in practice, whether they happen to know that they have them, and can articulate them, or not.

Published in Guest Commentary
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