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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNetMap(Photo: Map of the Internet by The Opte Project)When it comes to Internet Service Providers and high-speed Internet, the consumer marketplace has hardly been a model of competitiveness. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to choose from two providers, and some of us only have access to one.

These digital conduits are essential parts of America's utility infrastructure, nearly as basic as electricity and water pipes. They connect us (and our children) to worldwide knowledge, news, diverse viewpoints and other fundamental tools of citizenship. And, of course, we can buy and sell through them, be entertained, run our businesses, connect with friends, get up-to-the-minute scores, follow the weather and — yes indeedy — pay our bills.

Yet while this digital highway is deemed vital to our nation's well-being, access to it is not offered as a public service — i.e., an investment in the common good. Instead, it is treated as just another profit center for a few corporations

Amassing market power to gouge customers is bad enough, but ISP's plan on eviscerating the pure egalitarian ethic of the Internet, which is why they were so upset when President Obama recently urged the FCC to back a free and open Internet.

Like an uncensored global bulletin board, the great virtue of the Internet is that no one controls its content. This digital communication technology has been so spectacularly successful and so socially valuable because it is a wide-open, democratic forum, accessible on equal terms to all who want to put information, images, opinions, etc. on it or to download any of the same from it. Since its invention, the guiding principle behind the use of this liberating technology has been that no corporation, government, religion, or other controlling power should be its gatekeeper.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrancisPope(Photo: EcoWatch)In what has become an annual tradition, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia and this year’s leader of the G20 Summit, which will take place Nov. 15-16 in Brisbane, Australia. On the heels of a report by the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International, which is the first detailed breakdown of fossil fuel exploration subsidies by all G20 countries, the Pope has voiced his concerns about the state of world affairs:

To the Honourable Tony Abbott
Prime Minister of Australia

On 15 and 16 November next in Brisbane you will chair the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the world’s twenty largest economies, thus bringing to a close Australia’s presidency of the Group over the past year.  This presidency has proved to be an excellent opportunity for everyone to appreciate Oceania’s significant contributions to the management of world affairs and its efforts to promote the constructive integration of all countries.

The G20 agenda in Brisbane is highly focused on efforts to relaunch a sustained and sustainable growth of the world economy, thereby banishing the spectre of global recession. One crucial point that has emerged from the preparatory work is the fundamental imperative of creating dignified and stable employment for all. This will call for improvement in the quality of public spending and investment, the promotion of private investment, a fair and adequate system of taxation, concerted efforts to combat tax evasion and a regulation of the financial sector which ensures honesty, security and transparency.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChicago(Photo: Daniel Schwen)The vision is a city interlaced with restorative justice hubs — community centers that bring hope and promise to troubled kids in a town where too many of them are dying. "It is not OK that my friends and I have already planned our funerals," then-high school senior Keann Mays-Lenoir told a crowd of 300 people a year ago, at a rafter-shaking meeting where the idea was introduced.

It builds slowly, from the bottom up. Reclaim common sense. Reclaim community. Reclaim Chicago.

I've written a fair amount about restorative justice — RJ — over the last few years. It's a movement about healing and sanity, truth, dignity, respect, wholeness. It's catching on in Chicago, where I live: in the schools, in the juvenile justice system, in the broken 'hoods. RJ is about repairing harm, not punishing wrongdoers and, in the process, saddling them with a lifelong identity as criminals. It's also about telling the truth, and building relationships with truth as the bedrock. It's about connecting.

"This is about making kids irresistible forces for positive change."

The speaker was Judge Sophia Hall, presiding judge of the Resource Section of the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department of the Circuit Court of Cook County, who hosts a semiannual, region-wide meeting about restorative justice, held, appropriately, at Juvenile Court. The topic was the hubs: the vision of a different kind of city, where teenagers aren't planning their own funerals but, rather, figuring out their futures, with the help of mentoring adults, in a world in which they feel welcome.

Published in Guest Commentary

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArlington(Photo: Remember)My deepest and most sincere apologies to all of my veteran friends, but I need to be honest: I simply hate this day. I've had this low-and-slow weeping thing going on basically from the moment I got out of bed this morning. Tomas Young is dead, and I can't stop thinking about all the letters I've received from the loved ones of so many other fallen soldiers over the last 12 years.

What's worse, this maudlin weepiness makes me sick because my emotions are making it about me, and not them, and that sucks big rocks, but I can't seem to help it. When I was 13 years old, all I wanted was to serve the way my father who volunteered for service in Vietnam did. An accumulation of experiences and opinions culminated with the recruiter sitting in my living room some 25 years ago, days after my 18th birthday, telling me Saddam Hussein was worse than Hitler and his army was vast, but if I signed up right then and there, I probably wouldn't see combat for at least four years, and the only thing going through my head was BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT THIS GUY IS FULL OF BULLSHIT, so I didn't sign, and I never served, and I'm glad of it, because it was the correct decision...

...but all these years later, on this day of days, I recall that decision, and I think of the men and women who went when I didn't, and how very many of them are gone, or damaged, or simply done. We're averaging 22 veteran suicides a day these days. Once upon a time, I wrote that when a person dons the uniform of the armed services and swears the oath, the nation to which they have pledged their life also owes an oath: not to cast that precious life onto the pyre of profit and political ambition. I weep slowly today, to no small degree, because the other half of that oath has not been kept.

Published in Editorials

RICHARD A. STITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPoorCamden(Photo: Phillies1fan777)Observe any post-election geographical map of the United States whether it is in a presidential election year or a midterm election and close to 90% of the country is red. Red states dictate the direction our country takes like it or not.

But, they fall short in representing anything close to 90% of the population. Add the combined total population of a dozen red states and they barely equal the size of one city in a blue state like California or New York.

Why does this matter? Because each state receives two U.S. Senators you will always see an imbalance in how citizens are represented in our congress. Also, red state voters, even those with low populations, vote in Republican House members almost by default regardless of that politician's qualifications or lack thereof.

Though there are plenty of Republicans in California, for example, the same can't be said of Democrats in the second most populated state, Texas, where there is only a scattering of Democrats plus there is not a single statewide office held by a Democrat.

What has poisoned our democracy is the huge flood of money that the corporate interests pour into our elections. With Citizens United v. FEC and the McCutcheon v. FEC Supreme Court decisions the billions that were spent on this past election paid of huge dividends for Republicans and their money brokers who bankrolled their campaigns.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 06:35

Swift-Boating Obama: A Conservative Obsession

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaObamaChurch(Photo: Pete Souza)Despite President Barack Obama's weakened political position, as epitomized by the drubbing Democrats took in the mid-term elections, when many of his Democratic Party colleagues avoided him like, well . . . the plague, do not expect conservatives to ease up on the attacks. Swift boating Obama, one of the longest-lasting conservative smear campaigns in history, will continue unabated as Republicans gear up to lead Congress and set the stage for the 2016 presidential election.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth get, and deserve, a lot of credit for helping sink Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. Television ads and a bestselling book titled Unfit for Command, "circulated innuendoes, dubious claims and falsehoods about ... Kerry's patriotism and whether he deserved three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for service in the US Navy during the Vietnam War," The Jerusalem post has reported. After the Kerry debacle, swift boating became part of the political vernacular, coming to mean a campaign of dishonest, unfair, and unreasonable attacks on a political candidate.

From the time Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Party primaries, and began his journey to the White House, an assortment of conservative activists, Christian Right groups, Republican Party regulars, right wing think tanks, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and numerous right wing pundits and radio talk-show hosts, launched what is now one of the longest-running smear campaigns in history; think of it as comparable the Broadway run of Cats.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTonyPerkinsEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Anti-gay activists are sounding increasingly unhinged as marriage equality sweeps the U.S. Climate deniers are sounding increasingly unhinged as evidence piles up that we’ve got to do something about the way we’re ravaging our planet.

Put them together and what do you have? An epic level of head-scratching conspiracy-mongering emanating from the master of that craft, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a man who has been professionally obsessed with LGBT people for years.

According to watchdog group Right Wing Watch, Perkins told a caller to his Washington Watch radio program last week that those who are advocating for action on climate change are behind the push for LGBT rights.

The caller offered him an opening, saying that homosexuality is “promoted” because it doesn’t lead to reproduction and that “there’s this anti-life agenda, there’s a total anti-human, anti-life, human beings are a virus type of mentality.”

Perkins took the opportunity to connect that with people working to stem and reverse climate change.

Published in Guest Commentary

GARY WOCKNER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGagEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)The Oct. 30 New York Times ran a story about how the oil and gas industry and its high-priced lobbyist/publicist Richard Berman are personally targeting Colorado activists who are working in anti-fracking campaigns. The story is based on a secretly recorded speech given by Berman and his colleague to industry officials in Colorado Springs in 2014 during which he described how the industry was going hard negative and using personal attacks against activists and how the industry must prepare for an “endless war” against environmentalists about fracking.

I am one of the activists targeted by Berman. If you go to the website Berman highlighted in his speech, BigGreenRadicals.org, then click on “Colorado,” then click on “Gary Wockner,” you’ll see Berman’s hit job (it’s not very accurate or insightful). I’m in good company there, joined by my Congressman Jared Polis, Yoko Ono, Mark Ruffalo and other local Colorado activists with whom I’ve been proud to work over the past couple of years.

A few environmental leaders are taking Berman and industry to task for their tactics targeting me and others. After reading the story in the Times, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “You know climate deniers and big polluters are desperate when they turn to the tired old tactics of the tobacco industry to try and save themselves.” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called Berman “The Oil Reich’s Minister of Propaganda” in this tweet:

Rick Berman: The Oil Reich's Minister of Propaganda & public information. ?

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGoldWealth(Photo: Agnico-Eagle Mines)A recent posting detailed how upper middle class Americans are rapidly losing ground to the one-percenters who averaged $5 million in wealth gains over just three years. It also noted that the global 1% has increased their wealth from $100 trillion to $127 trillion in just three years.

The information came from the Credit Suisse 2014 Global Wealth Databook (GWD), which goes on to reveal much more about the disappearing middle class.

1. Each Year Since the Recession, America's Richest 1% Have Made More Than the Cost of All U.S. Social Programs

In effect, a reverse transfer from the poor to the rich. Even as conservatives blame Social Security for being too costly.

Much of the 1% wealth just sits there, accumulating more wealth. The numbers are nearly unfathomable. Depending on the estimate, the 1% took in anywhere from $2.3 trillion to $5.7 trillion per year. (All numeric analysis is detailed here.)

Even the smaller estimate of $2.3 trillion per year is more than the budget for Social Security ($860 billion), Medicare ($524 billion), Medicaid ($304 billion), and the entire safety net ($286 billion for SNAP, WIC [Women, Infants, Children], Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Housing).

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHalloween(Photo: Toby Ord)For around $300.00, you can purchase your own Halloween Hell House Kit. Back in the day when the Rev. Jerry Falwell was roaming the planet, he hit upon a fantabulous money-making/soul-saving scheme. Why give over Halloween to the hell raisers, candy scavengers and trick or treaters, he thought? Let's get in on the action. And that's precisely what he did.

Churches around the country would set up "Hell Houses," places that young people could visit and get the crap scared out of them.

According to psmag.com's Marc Herman, "New Destiny Christian Center, a Colorado-based evangelical ministry, is the specialist in the programs." Over the years, Hell Houses have become remarkably adaptable to current issues.

While $299.00 will get you the basic kit, a few more bucks will get you "plug-in 'modules,' allowing a particular hell house to address specific sins in one's own neighborhood. The online brochure starts off with a new 'domestic abuse' stage set, moving on to the 'rave scene,' 'drunk driving,' and the 'gay wedding.'"

Published in Guest Commentary
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