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EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTwilightZone(Photo: Scifi.com)Let me go out on a limb: The Malaysian airliner did not get sucked into a black hole, vanish over the Indian Ocean equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle or crash-land on the spooky island from "Lost."

Those "theories" were actually discussed on CNN this week. Host Don Lemon dismissed them as "preposterous" before asking one of his assembled "expert" guests -- there were six of them waiting expectantly in their boxes on the screen -- whether, you know, such ideas really were so preposterous.

At which point the nonstop coverage of this tragedy entered the Twilight Zone.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is pretty close to a pure mystery. The news media -- especially the cable television networks -- have responded with an orgy of what can only be called pure speculation. Far too often, as every journalist knows, the facts get in the way of a good story. In this case, there aren't any indisputably consequent facts except one: On March 8, a jetliner with 239 people aboard went missing.

On second thought, I guess there's one other fact that matters: The mystery is so compelling that people can't seem to get enough of it. CNN has soared to the top of the cable news ratings -- at times besting even behemoth Fox News -- by covering the story ceaselessly, and by that I mean you wonder when the anchors get a chance to go to the bathroom.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaRussaGays(Photo: Murrur)With a column vigorously supporting Vladimir Putin's anti-gay crusade in Russia, Evangelist Franklin Graham finds himself edging closer to inheriting the mantle of Fred Phelps, rather than that of his father, Billy Graham.

In the column, titled "Putin's Olympic Controversy," Graham not only declares his support Putin's treatment of gays in Russia, he also maintains that the Russian leader is handling gay issues better than President Barack Obama.

Graham, the controversial preacher who now heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which was started by his father, and Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization, "praises Putin in the March issue of the group's Decision magazine for signing a bill that imposes fines for adults who promote 'propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,'" Charisma News, an evangelical Christian news service, recently reported. The bill has unleashed numerous violent attacks on members of Russia's gay community.

As expected the media quickly picked up on Graham's assertions: Salon's headlined its story, "Franklin Graham wishes Barack Obama were more like Vladimir Putin"; Mediaite.com went with, "Rev. Franklin Graham: Obama Should Be More Like Putin on Gay Rights"; The Christian Post titled its piece, "Franklin Graham Commends Putin for Opposing LGBT Agenda in Russia, But Is Praying for Peace in Ukraine"; The Advocate declared: "Billy Graham's Son: Obama Could Learn from Putin's Homophobia" and Religion News Service headlined its story "Franklin Graham Thinks Putin's Stance On Gay Rights Is Better Than Obama's."

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaVulture(Photo: P.Lindgren)"After Russia invaded Crimea, a senior American official vowed to 'make it hurt.' More than two weeks later, Moscow has given no sign that it feels any pain, and the challenge for President Obama is whether he is willing or able to inflict enough to change the Kremlin's calculus."

This is the New York Times, of course, yet again parroting the insecure right, ignoring history and reducing the terrifying complexity of international politics – and the great global longing for peace – to a lethally simplistic game of winning and losing. It's the kind of coverage we get in every political crisis, inevitably shutting down whatever collective intelligence we're capable of manifesting and reducing the public to spectators at a geopolitical wrestling match.

Forget history; ignore reality. Once again we have good vs. evil popping up in some previously unknown corner of the world. Our side is the pro-democracy side, no matter that the neo-Nazi movement Svboda is part of the mix that overthrew Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych last month.

Voices of sanity are nowhere to be found – that is, unless one takes the trouble to look. Consider, for instance, this statement by the International Peace Bureau (reprinted at WorldBeyondWar.org):

"It should be obvious to all but the most hawkish politicians that the number one priority in the coming days and weeks must not be point-scoring and lecturing one's opponents but dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. . . . (T)here is no alternative; Russia and the West have to learn to live and talk with each other and indeed work together for mutual benefit, as well as resolving the fate of Ukraine.

"Meanwhile," the IPB statement continues, "there is much to be done at the citizen level."

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 18 March 2014 07:31

The End Times for Fred Phelps?

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaWBC(Photo: David Shankbone)Reports out of Topeka, Kansas, has it that the Rev. Fred Waldron Phelps Sr., is in hospice care near death in a Kansas hospital. I first encountered the Rev. Phelps when I was visiting friends in Kansas in the early 1990s and found out that an old friend, who had died of AIDS in California, was being brought home to Kansas for burial. The family was so concerned that the Phelps Family would find out about her death and picket the funeral that they decided not to publicize details about where and when she would be buried. At the time, Phelps, relatively unknown nationally, was clearly having a huge impact locally.

Phelps eventually gained national recognition and became notorious for leading his family, and a small band of followers, in promoting a brand of anti-gay viciousness that eventually even embarrassed the likes of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and the still extant Pat Robertson, both of whom were well known for their own form of anti-gay rhetoric. For many Americans, the Phelps family's picketing of military funerals, with signs containing messages such as "Thank God for dead soldiers," and "Thank God for 9/11," was the final straw. The Phelps clan not only became a laughing stock, they provoked counter-demonstrations which far outnumbered his flock's meager numbers, and his sojourns around the country often became fundraising tools for progressive organizations.

Phelps' son Nathan, long estranged from his 84 year-old father, wrote on his Facebook page that the elder Phelps was "on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house," Reuters' Victoria Cavaliere, reported.

Published in Guest Commentary

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJellyfish(Photo: Dan90266)Here is what Democrats should learn from their party's loss in a special House election in Florida last week: Wishy-washy won't work.

Republicans are obviously going to make opposition to the Affordable Care Act the main theme of their campaigns this fall. Democrats will be better off if they push back hard -- really hard -- rather than seek some nonexistent middle ground.

The contest between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly in Florida's 13th Congressional District was almost like a laboratory experiment. The House seat was held for decades by the late C.W. "Bill" Young, a Republican, but voters are evenly balanced between the two parties. Sink was better known, having narrowly lost a race for governor in 2010; Jolly had deeper roots in the community. Neither displayed an overabundance of charisma.

Jolly's narrow victory -- he won by about 3,500 votes out of about 184,000 cast -- is not a death knell for the Democratic Party's prospects come autumn. But it does suggest how Democrats should not run in close races. Jolly has to run again in November, and if Sink gets another shot at him, I'd suggest she do things a bit differently.

Published in Guest Commentary

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaVote(Photo: Tom Arthur)My mother is an official for a town nearby, and this past week was a voting week on what are called "Warrant Articles," which is New Hampshire-ese for ballot initiatives and budget proposals. The town she works for has a small but very vocal and very active contingent of Free Staters who believe in conspiracy theories like the UN is seeking to take over the town by way of Agenda 21. They show up at every town meeting, and always always always always vote.

...and they win, more often than not, because the people with their heads screwed on right don't bother to summon the energy to raise their hand once a year. The Agenda 21 people are a small segment of the populace, but they always show up.

Bill Clinton, in his first inauguration speech, said, "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America." One of the things that is right with America is your right to vote, and when I hear people say voting does not matter, does not make a difference, it makes me want to tear my teeth out.

Math: the coocoobirds who think dinosaurs don't exist because they aren't mentioned in the Bible comprise, give or take, about 12% of the voting population in America. They are a small minority within a minority party. When only 50% of the voting population shows up to vote in a presidential election year, that 12% doubles to 25%, because those 12%-ers go to the polls even if it is raining live jaguars outside...which means any right-wing candidate who says the right things about Jesus, fetuses and guns is halfway to the 50.1% needed for victory before they put their pants on come election day. To call that an enormous advantage is to devalue the definition of "enormous."

Published in Editorials

ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCO2emissions(Photo: World Resources Institute)25.18% of U.S. greenhouse gases are being emitted by only 43 firms, according to figures tabulated by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), from corporate filings with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as of the latest available year, which was 2011.

PERI, which is sponsored by the Economics Department at the University of Massachussetts at Amherst, lists the largest 100 emitters at its website.

Even just the top ten emitters account for 12.05% of U.S. greenhouse gases. In order, from the top, they are:

1: American Electric Power, 1.94%

2: Duke Energy, 1.89%

3: Southern Co., 1.76%

4: U.S. Govt., 1.16%

5: Berkshire Hathaway, 1.06%

6: Ameren Corp., 1.01%

7: Luminant Generation Co., 0.92%

8: FirstEnergy, 0.79%

9: AES, 0.76%

10: Xcel Energy, 0.76%

Published in Guest Commentary

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aCia-lobby-seal(Photo: Rodzilla)We now have even more proof that our burgeoning intelligence agencies, which were given unprecedented latitude to wage war against terrorists, are dangerously out of control.

Not that further evidence was needed: Months of stunning revelations about the National Security Agency's massive domestic surveillance, thanks to fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden, should have been more than enough. But this week, one of the intelligence community's staunchest defenders in Congress took to the Senate floor to announce that even she has had it up to (BEG ITAL)here(END ITAL).

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the Senate intelligence committee, trained her fury on the CIA, which has waged a five-year campaign of bureaucratic guerrilla warfare to keep the committee from doing a crucial job: fully investigating the torture, secret detention and other appalling excesses committed under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Feinstein accused the CIA of improperly searching computers that intelligence committee staff members were using to review CIA documents about "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding -- in plain language, torture.

"The CIA just went and searched the committee's computers," Feinstein said. "I have grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation-of-powers principle embodied in the United States Constitution." She said she believed the agency might also have violated the Fourth Amendment, a federal law and a presidential executive order.

This is not just a bunch of rhetoric. It's a very big deal.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 13 March 2014 08:52

Ukraine, the Cheneyites, and Permanent War

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaUkraineCrisis2014(Photo: Amakuha)On March 5, 2014, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.com presented a very well-documented case for the hypothesis, long-standing on the Left in the U.S. and around the world as well, that the principal reason the U.S. invaded Iraq was for oil. (It had also been thought that the invasion had as a goal establishing permanent military bases in the Western Iraqi desert).

Of course it was known before the invasion that Iraq had no "weapons of mass destruction." That had been well-documented by the team led by the Chief UN Weapons Investigator Hans Blix. Thus it was widely known at the time that the reason(s) given for the invasion were bogus. (To its credit, in 2013 MSNBC also ran a documentary on the selling of the Iraq War).

Indeed, given the preoccupation with petroleum products and policy of the then chief driver of U.S. foreign policy, Dick Cheney, that it was really for oil (and bases) was a very reasonable proposition. Ms. Maddow has now provided much evidence that it was the case.

Nevertheless, for quite some time I have felt that beyond oil and bases the primary reason for the invasion, coming as it did on the relative heels of the Neo-cons' wished-for "next Pearl Harbor" 9/11, and with the (totally bogus) claim that "Saddam was behind 9/11," was to help establish a U.S. policy of Permanent War. And so we come to Ukraine.

 

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 13 March 2014 06:49

Detroit USA: Poster City for Abandonment

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AbandonedHouseDetroit(Photo: Notorious4life)White flight, corporate flight . . .

I grew up just outside Detroit and have felt an ache in my heart for this bleeding city for so many years now. It's long been one of the country's designated loser cities, beginning in the 1960s, when change hit it hard. The phrase at the time was "urban blight," a social cancer with unexamined causes that, in the ensuing years, has gotten progressively worse.

A year ago this week, the city, which is predominantly African-American, lost its self-governance when the Republican governor of Michigan appointed an emergency financial manager, an overboss with powers superseding that of all elected officials — including the ability to rewrite laws, break contracts, privatize services and much more — on the premise that only an autocrat could straighten out the city's disastrous finances. Four months later, Detroit made headlines as the largest city to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, but of course it wasn't "the city" that did so; it was the emergency manager.

The city, in all its soul and complexity, had been reduced to a single voice: the voice of austerity and, of course, corporate interests.

"If the city filed for bankruptcy, and was arguing in its own interest," activist Detroit pastor Bill Wylie-Kellermann wrote recently in The Catholic Worker, "the banks and the pensioners and the unions, would all be on a level playing field. Instead the banks have been dealt with up front, offered 80 cents on the dollar. The city pensioners were offered 10 cents."

Published in Guest Commentary
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