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WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBullyingNo(Photo: Andrevruas)Bullies love fear. And once they sniff its smoke, the real pros know how to fuel and exploit it. Always claiming to represent the greater good, when what they specialize in is looking out for #1. And flinging loads of #2 at the rest of us. Consequently, the people most susceptible to their reviled reveille are the weak, the ignorant, the powerless, other bullies and folks with neck tattoos.

Hitler, Stalin and Joe McCarthy all secured status in the Big Time Bully Hall of Fame by railing against imaginary enemies. Creating an "us versus them" story line where anybody who doesn't look like us, is a THEM. Which can lead to an incestuous behavior typically endowing royal families with weak chins.

Quickly tiring of having sand kicked in their face by a series of invading hordes, Russia turned to bullies for self- preservation. One of the reasons the Russian people never really warmed up to Mikhail Gorbachev even though we thought he was the bees' knees. Or the bear's hair. Or kittens' mittens. Whatever. We liked him. They didn't.

The architect of Perestroika didn't want to bury the West, he wanted to partner with it, to give his people Madonna CDs and Happy Meals. Bars of soap without splinters of bone in them. Can't we all get along? But after the Soviet Union dissolved, they kicked him out. So, apparently, the answer is nyet, we can't.

Vladimir Putin has since run his country by parading around as the guy you don't want to mess with, compared to Obama, who is the guy you don't want to play backgammon with. Putin is a dangerous bully and wants you to know it. That's why he's always pulling stunts like riding wolves bareback shirtless. Wrestling sharks. For crum's sake, the guy is 5' 7". Barely taller than Tom Cruise. Maybe he should play Jack Reacher in the sequel.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBLMwonttakeit(Photo: INeverCry)In his bestselling book, Between The World And Me, an extended essay told as a letter to his 15-year-old son, Samori, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes: "I am writing you because this is the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; ... that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store. And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old whom they were oath-bound to protect. And you have seen men in the same uniforms pummel Marlene Pinnock, someone's grandmother, on the side of the road." If and when Coates' book goes to paperback, there are likely to be many more examples of the epidemic of police violence.

Pick a city, just about any city -- or maybe even a smallish town -- and there's a good chance that sometime during the year on the front page of your local newspaper you'll find a headline similar to: "Video puts new light on shooting," which appeared in the Saturday, December 12 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. The headline topped a story about the December 2nd fatal police killing of 26-year-old Mario Woods in the city's Bayview neighborhood. Surrounded by five police officers, Woods, with a knife in his hand, apparently had his arms down by his sides when the officers, claiming to be threatened, fired at least fifteen, and maybe as many as twenty shots.

According to the Chronicle's Vivian Ho, a video "shows [that] San Francisco police officers fired a barrage of shots at [Woods] while he held his arms at his sides, an apparent contradiction to the Police Department's account that he prompted his killing by threatening an officer with a kitchen knife."

In this age when just about everyone has the tools to take videos and then instantaneously post them, two phrases in Ho's piece stand out: a) "a video shows" and, b) "apparent contradiction to the Police Department's account." It is no great secret that official accounts by police – and corroboration by fellow officers – are justifiably and all too frequently suspect.

Published in Guest Commentary

SOHARA MEHROZE SHACHI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCOP21protest(Photo: EcoWatch)The latest version of the draft COP21 agreement that came out yesterday was a slap in the face of even the most pragmatic optimists. With most of the crucial elements now bracketed (i.e. uncertain), the agreement has been almost reduced to empty rhetoric and far from what is needed to prevent global temperature rise beyond the catastrophic 2 degree level, let alone 1.5 degrees.

“Offer of 1.5 as an inspiration is not what we are expecting,” says Azer Girmai of LDC Watch. “It will not become a tradeoff for our demands. We insist for developed countries to commit.”

The new draft presents two options for mitigation, a not very ambitious quantitative target and a qualitative target which would either be carbon neutrality or decarbonization—neither of which is very ambitious. There is also a bracketed goal for a very ambitious goal which is most likely to be rejected. However, these options will allow countries to keep emitting.

With regards to finance, the agreement is equally disappointing. While it says financial assistance would be provided to vulnerable countries, the options do not promise much and the key words and specifics are all bracketed. “This is a reflection of the resistance of developed country parties to describe finance that is in anyway meaningful,” says Lidy Nacpi, regional coordinator of WECAN.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBlankenship(Photo: Magnus Manske)Don Blankenship didn't get what he deserves in his federal trial, but he definitely deserves what he got.

"Guilty," declared all 12 West Virginia jurors who pondered the charge that this arrogant and avaricious CEO of Massey Energy Company willfully conspired to violate America's mine safety laws. As a result of that conspiracy, 29 miners were essentially murdered by the corporation on April 5, 2010, in a horrific explosion deep inside Massey's Upper Big Branch coal mine.

Blankenship, a multimillionaire right-wing ideologue, union-buster, and political heavyweight, ran the Upper Big Branch mine like a lawless third-world operator. It was one of the most dangerous workplaces in the country, because this kingpin of King Coal relentlessly put profit over people, recklessly endangering miners. But coal is, indeed, king in West Virginia, so the laws are written to coddle the royals of the industry. Thus, Blankenship's guilt is to be punished by a maximum of one year in prison — and his diamond-studded legal team intends to have the jury's unanimous verdict of guilt tossed down the dark shaft of judicial favoritism for the rich.

What the mining baron deserved was to be put in stocks on the state's capitol grounds, where he would be subjected to a steady stream of derision from the families of mineworkers who were degraded, made ill and even killed to haul up coal so Don could live in luxury. He escaped that justice, but he'll never shake off the guilty judgment of the jurors — or of the American people who followed the long, widely covered trial that fully documented the rank immorality of this man and his ill-gotten fortune.

He undoubtedly thinks he got away with murder, but in the Court of Public Opinion, his legacy is that he has turned the name Blankenship into a four-letter word.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 00:00

J.K. Rowling Says Trump Worse Than Voldemort

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAVoldetrump(Photo: EcoWatch)Following the deadly attacks involving Islamic extremists in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Donald Trump in a press release yesterday called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” This sparked an intense backlash from, not only the general public, but even his GOP rivals and other Republicans.

Jeb Bush called Trump “unhinged,” while former Vice President Dick Cheney said it “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”

“Just foolish,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).  He’s “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who urged his party this morning to tell Trump to “go to hell.”

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN yesterday that the ban should apply to Muslims looking to immigrate to the U.S., as well as those looking to visit as tourists “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” He added, “it does not apply to people living in the country, except we have to be vigilant.”

Trump doubled down on his statement this morning. “You’re going to have many more World Trade Centers if you don’t solve it—many, many more and probably beyond the World Trade Center,” referring to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York City, the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.

Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes called Trump’s remarks “totally contrary to our values as Americans.”

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHolsterPistol(Photo: Hustvedt)Ordinarily at this time of year, as I've done in past years, I'd come up with a "War on Christmas" roundup, pointing out a few of the ludicrous incidents where conservative Christian activists are beating the drum for this phony meme, dropping a few of the more interesting "War on Christmas" historical anecdotes, and calling it a wrap. However, since the San Bernardino massacre, some longtime "War on Christmas" combatants are morphing over-the-top "War on Christmas" rhetoric into an all-out attack targeting all American Muslims.

Peter Brimelow, one of the early architects of the modern "War on Christmas" is one of those combatants. In a recent column at the VDARE website, Brimelow maintains that immigration should be suspended – an argument he has made for years – and, he's added a new wrinkle; Muslim Americans should be subject to expulsion from this country.

In a piece titled "San Bernardino: The Answer Is An Immigration Moratorium—And Muslim Expulsion," Brimelow writes: "There is one indisputable fact about Wednesday's shootings in San Bernardino: if the family of Syed Rizwan Farook had not been allowed to immigrate 30 years ago and if he had not been allowed to import his fiancée Tafsheen Malik from Pakistan in 2014 as part of the ongoing 'family reunification' scam, they would not have been able to murder 14 innocent Americans in 2015."

Brimelow argues that after the Charleston Church massacre, the mainstream media launched a "witch-hunt" against the Council of Conservative Citizens "because its—entirely factual—reports of disproportionate black-on-white crime were mentioned by Charleston Church killer Dylann Roof."

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNewspaper(Photo: Public Domain)On Monday, Nov. 2, every National Geographic staffer was told to report to the magazine's Washington, D.C., headquarters the next day to await a phone call or e-mail from Human Resources.

Ever since Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox corporation bought the magazine in September, there were rumors the new owner would maximize profits by terminating employees. Those predictions came through when Management fired 180 people, and told dozens of others they were being offered "voluntary buy-outs."

The corporation also announced it was eliminating health coverage for future retirees and was freezing all pensions. Management told the public there would be no loss of quality, but it's hard to believe those claims when the same management sliced photo editors, designers, writers, and several fact-checkers from the payroll.

The same day Murdoch terminated 9 percent of his staff, the owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News fired 46 journalists, leaving only one copyeditor at the Daily News. A month earlier, the Los Angeles Times cut about 10 percent of its news room staff. The Chicago Sun-Times fired all its 28 photographers, including one who won the Pulitzer Prize, and is relying upon lower-paid freelancers and wire services.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, plans to cut one-fifth of its news staff. Beginning in 2012, executive management in Cleveland reduced the newspaper from a daily to three times a week and fired staffers at that time. The Times–Picayune isn't the only newspaper to have downsized its newsroom and reduced frequency. Among metro dailies that are now printed only three or four days a week are the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, the Seattle-Post-Intelligencer, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the Syracuse Advance-Standard, and the Harrisburg Patriot-News. The Times-Picayune, Plain-Dealer, Advance-Standard, and the Patriot-News, all owned by Newhouse Newspapers, slashed their newsroom staff before reducing the frequency. Executive management had claimed there would be no loss of quality; Management was wrong.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaLove2(Photo: Tatoli ba Kultura)It’s too easy to reduce acts of kindness to an “aw, isn’t that nice?” sort of irrelevance. What if we thought about them, instead, as templates for foreign policy?

For one thing, if we did, there would be no such thing as “foreign” policy — no segregation of most of humanity behind borders and labels, to be controlled and, most of all, feared. There would only be getting-to-know-you policy, not in a simplistic sense but with a deep and courageous curiosity . . . because our survival depends on it.

Another way to say this is: War doesn’t work. Bombing ISIS doesn’t work. Closing our border to Syrians — or Mexicans — doesn’t work. Yet “we,” by which I mean the whole world, or at least its community of nation states and terrorists (a single entity, as far as I can tell), go back to this suicidal behavior again and again and again. “France is at war.” We greet terror with revenge. It accomplishes nothing except to make matters worse — infinitely worse — but somehow it feels right at the time, so we keep doing it.

Why are we violent but not illiterate?

I ask this question all the time. It was originally posed some years ago by Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy. The answer is obvious, of course. We’re taught to read; originally, we taught ourselves to read. We invented written language. The human species is now in the process of inventing something just as crucial: how to love itself, how to engage with itself nonviolently. We’ve been organized for far too long in a state of only partial connection, relying on the presence of enemies to stay in solidarity with our neighbors. We’ve expended, especially in recent millennia, far more of our intelligence and treasure on the means to fortify ourselves from — and kill — the enemy than we have, perhaps, on anything else. Think nuclear weapons.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 02 December 2015 07:05

Building Monopolies, One Merger After Another

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonopoly(Photo: Tostie14)Corporate World is experiencing a surge in the urge to merge.

Control of market after market — from cable TV to chickens, banking to washing machines — has been seized by less than a handful of enormous corporations. Rather than compete, they collude to set prices, cut quality, shrink service and squeeze out any would-be competitors.

There was a time, not that long ago, when monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies were not only frowned upon by our public officials and watchdog agencies but also aggressively challenged and busted up. In recent years, however, corporate giants feel free to get ever-gianter by gobbling up their competitors, knowing that the watchdogs will barely bark, much less bite. In fact, now that the Supreme Court has turned corporate campaign donations into legalized bribes, our so-called "public" officials — including congress critters, governors, judges and even presidents — have become tail-wagging accomplices to the amalgamation of corporate power.

The Bush-Cheney regime was infamous for cheerleading this consolidation, including allowing the merger of AT&T and Verizon to capture 70 percent of all wireless phone subscribers. But this is not just a Republican phenomenon. Obama's Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Aviation Administration genially waved through American Airline's takeover of US Airways and United's consumption of Continental, effectively leaving air travelers to the brutish mercy of one or two bullies in every major airport — and no service at all in smaller cities.

Now come dominant health-care giants Aetna, Humana, Anthem and Cigna, as well as Walgreens and Rite Aid, demanding to merge into behemoths that would control the availability of health insurance and essential medicines to millions of Americans. Ironically, the very lawmakers, corporate lobbyists and pundits who push and praise each of these mergers are also the noisiest preachers of the virtue of competitive markets, small business and consumer choice.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFukuHotspot(Photo: Abasaa)As a follow-up to the Paris Climate Change Talks - the following commentary examines four alarming reports that received very little coverage in the media relating to the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima:

U.S. Navy sailors sue TEPCO for Fukushima radiation exposure: Rare cancers, blindness, paralysis of limbs, and deaths

The report came and went like a blip in the daily coverage of headline news over CBS network, KPIX, San Francisco, November 2014. It didn’t make the national news. Indeed, the worst nuclear disaster in history at TEPCO’s (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Fukushima has been hushed up and swept under the media radar as if it never happened that horrific day in May, 2011.

The media blackout on Fukushima is chilling to say the least because it’s a life-threatening crisis that has no ending, no solution, and yet no one is aware of the predicament due to the censorship of it. Not only has Fukushima been deleted in the newsrooms, nuclear power has been raised during the U.S. Presidential debates as a “safe, clean, alternative energy to address global warming.” Shamefully, the explosions at Fukushima were not even mentioned once or questioned. When Democratic candidate, Jim Webb, for instance, raved about the wonders of nuclear power, CNN’s Anderson Cooper experienced a convenient moment of amnesia of his extensive reports at Fukushima when the plants were exploding concrete walls before his very eyes. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also drew blanks on Fukushima.  

Fukushima’s nuclear hydrogen explosions, which occurred after the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan, blasted the strongest cement concrete containment facilities that could possibly be built into a pile of hot radiated ash. Radiation is immeasurably hot in terms of temperature. Mechanical robots that were sent into the blasted facilities melted in seconds. The hydrogen explosions that blew apart those buildings were the equivalent of four nuclear bombs, one after another, that released massive amounts of radioactivity.

Published in Guest Commentary
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