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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAvarice(Photo: Jesus Solana)Examples of extreme inequality are becoming easier to find. Progressive leaders have us thinking about revolution. If a revolution is to take place, Americans - especially young Americans - need to know the facts, and they need to know how they're getting cheated, and they need to get angry. The following should help.

1. $1,000,000,000,000,000 in Sales. Not One Cent for Sales Tax

The trading volume on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) reached an incomprehensible $1 quadrillion in notional value in 2012. That's a thousand trillion dollars. In comparison, the entire U.S. GDP is $17 trillion.

On that quadrillion dollars of sales CME imposes transfer fees, contract fees, brokerage fees, Globex fees, clearing fees, and contract surcharges, many of them on both the buyer's and seller's side. As a result, the company had a profit margin higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation from 2008 to 2010, and it's gotten even higher since then.

But not a penny in sales tax for the taxpayers who provide publicly-funded infrastructure, technology, systems of law, and security to help them process billions of financial transactions.

Instead -- incredibly -- CME complained that its taxes were too high, and they demanded and received an $85 million tax break from the State of Illinois.

Published in Guest Commentary

BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoalHole(Photo: Kjetil Ree)The newest innovation of the climate denying machine, it turns out, is the lawsuit.

Despite the fact that President Barack Obama's emissions rule remains a proposal for at least a year, the mere idea of a limit on carbon has incensed an Ohio coal executive to the point of threatened litigation. Robert E. Murray, founder of Murray Energy Corp., said he would sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for spreading what he believes to be misinformation and attempting to enforce legislation based on it—violations of the federal Data Quality Act in Murray's view.

"Under the act, they are obligated to tell the truth, and they are not telling the truth about global warming," Murray said of the EPA in an interview with West Virginia Executive. "They are not telling hardly any truth about the science.

"The earth has actually cooled over the last 17 years, so under the Data Quality Act, they've actually been lying about so-called global warming," he continued. "This lawsuit will force them to not just take data from the environmentalists and publish it, as they have been doing, but to review that data and make sure it's accurate."

Clearly, the EPA doesn't "just take" data from environmentalists. If that were the case, a project like Keystone XL would have been nixed a while ago. Instead, the agency considers information like the study of nearly 12,000 abstracts concluding with 97 percent of scientists agreeing that climate change is manmade.

Published in Guest Commentary

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTeaBags(Photo: André Karwath)The Republican Party's reliance on tea party support is like an addict's dependence on a dangerous drug: It may feel good at first, but eventually it eats you alive.

No House majority leader had ever been ousted in a primary before Eric Cantor's shocking defeat on Tuesday. Republicans who tell themselves it was Cantor's own fault -- he lost touch with his Virginia district, he tried to have it both ways on immigration, he came to be seen as part of the Washington establishment -- are whistling past the graveyard.

Cantor didn't just lose, he got clobbered. His opponent, college professor Dave Brat, spent just $200,000 on the race -- not much more than Cantor's $5 million campaign spent on meals at steakhouses. Yet a powerful incumbent, running in a district whose boundaries were custom-designed for his benefit, lost by an incredible 11 percentage points.

There can be no doubt that the tail is now wagging the dog. The tea party should no longer be thought of as just a faction of the GOP. It's calling the shots.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTips(Photo: Scott Sanchez)At last, our political leaders in Washington are taking action for low-wage workers and the middle class, striking a bold blow for America's historic values of economic fairness and common good.

Gosh, I hope you don't think I meant Washington, D.C.! No, no — the same old corporate mentality of stiffing workers and stripping any semblance of ethics from the work ethic still rules in that plutocratic roost. Rather than Washington, D.C., it's Washington state I'm talking about, specifically the progressive forces of Seattle who've just produced a landmark $15-an-hour minimum wage. Instead of just talking about the widening gap of inequality and wishing our do-nothing Congress might give a damn about the millions of hard-working Americans being knocked down, the good people of Seattle are providing some much-needed national leadership.

"We did it — workers did this," said Kshama Sawant. She has been a leader of Occupy Seattle, and then became the tenacious, articulate leader of a large grassroots coalition of low-wage workers called "15 Now." Last year, Sawant was elected to the City Council by putting the case for the $15 wage floor directly to the voters.

In addition, Mayor Ed Murray campaigned last year for raising the minimum to $15 — indexed to inflation. Having won, he pulled together a 24-member working group of both labor and business interests this year, and they spent the last four months working together to hammer out details of the local ordinance. On June 2, all nine city council members voted unanimously to adopt it.

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBulletsNRA(Photo: Snowjackal)For awhile, it appeared the NRA leadership committed an act of sanity. But, a few hours later, the pills wore off.

The story begins with a group called Open Carry Texas (OCT). This fringe group rubbed both its brain cells together, wrapped itself in what it erroneously believes is the Second Amendment, and decided it would be great theatre to bring semi-automatic carbines into family restaurants. Waving the yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flags, a common sight at Tea Party rallies, OCT members handed out leaflets, proclaimed their rights to carry weapons and confronted citizens who had little desire to be in a place where civilians were carrying weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, any one of which could shred any one of their internal organs.

Openly carrying handguns in Texas is illegal, but the law permits anyone to openly carry long guns, from BB guns to semi-automatic military weapons.

Almost all OCT members are white men, but there are a few white women who also believe in their "right-to-carry." Among them was a woman in Dallas who openly carried her 10-month-old twins and a semi-automatic assault weapon.

When Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Starbucks, and other coffee shops, restaurants, and department stores told these thugs, who can even make the rural folk of "Deliverance" appear to be civilized, they were welcome to eat, shop, and browse—but leave the weapons at home—Open Carry Texas escalated its public demonstrations.

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEmbeddedJournalist(Photo: Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel)Close to ten years ago Frank Rich, formerly of The New York Times, presently of New York Magazine, wrote one of the best books on the Bush/Cheney War on Iraq. Entitled The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America, it definitively took the cover off the Bush/Cheney lies that led the United States into what to date has been the most disastrous war the nation has ever been engaged in.

In a recent issue of the New York Magazine, Rich visits the role of the so-called "liberal media" in making the BushCheney initiative a "go." In a side-bar, he summarizes his overview of the initiative: "The massive blunder of Iraq remains the nation's inescapable existential burden two and a half years after our last troops departed." Now, one must say that in terms of Bush/Cheney's true objectives, that is the establishment of permanent war or at least the permanent preparation for permanent war, that objective has been achieved. True, President Obama has announced that most U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2016.

However, one never knows A) what war or wars "of necessity" might pop up in the interim, B) what would happen were a Republican of the neocon persuasion (Ted Cruz, anyone?) were to win the Presidency in 2016. Why there might be just the smallest of gaps in the Permanent War sequence, and certainly the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War would be fully restored. (And even President Obama seems to be moving in the latter direction.) But for our nation as a whole, Rich is right: it was a "massive blunder."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNazis(Photo: German Federal Archive)In late May, the BBC reported that "Eurosceptic and far-right parties have seized ground in elections to the European parliament, in what France's PM called a 'political earthquake'." Aftershocks from the far-right's European "political earthquake" are being felt in the United States, as America's White supremacists are celebrating like it's 1999.

It takes an experienced researcher and writer with an international perspective to dissect the recent European parliament elections and try and understand what it means to, and for, the far right in the United States. And, Devin Burghart is the perfect person for the job. In a recent post at the website of the Institute For Research & Education On Human Rights (IREHR), Burghart pointed out that for the most part, America's far right is rejoicing over the results of the elections.

"Many on the American far right, from the Tea Party to hardened white nationalists, paid close attention to the European results," Burghart, vice president of IREHR, wrote in a story titled, American Far Right Jubilant Over European Election Results. "Looking at these votes for nationalist, anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-European Union political parties — the American hard right saw hope for the future here at home."

Burghart pointed to several emergent themes including: "1) nationalist, anti-globalist arguments in the age of austerity and financial turmoil, 2) anti-immigrant politics as a winning message, and 3) the necessity of a white electoral strategy here at home."

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPOW(Photo: James Pollock)Last week, President Obama gave an emotionally stirring announcement with Sergeant Bergdahl's grateful parents by his side in the White House Rose Garden concerning the return of their beloved son, Sgt. Bowe Berghahl, who's been held in captivity for five years in Afghanistan. Obama explained that they "made a deal to bring home the longest-held American captive of America's longest war."

It didn't take long for Republicans and the right-wing media to attack President Obama for doing something that was morally right for a change: for taking ethical action that brings us closer to shutting down Guantanamo Bay Prison, as I wrote in my last Buzzflash-Truthout commentary, a prison widely known for its illegal practice of indefinite detention, and for its CIA horrors of physical torture and psychological abuses.

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, prosecutor of ethical whistleblowers' Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) and Edward Snowden (whistleblower on NSA's surveillance abuses), joined angry Republicans' crazy John McCain, Ted Cruz, and other moral midgets to instigate a bully attack, insisting that the exchange of the Taliban prisoners for Mr. Bergdahl puts American lives at risk, a statement meant to stir up the pit bulls at the corporate media, to block any hope of shutting down GITMO.

After all, most Republicans think GITMO is a symbol of unlimited power to the world, and most Bush-Cheney Republicans have turned a blind eye to torturing human beings in the most sickening, gruesome ways, including raping males with harsh instruments—at GITMO.

Published in Guest Commentary

DR DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOceanTrash(Photo: NOAA)June 8 is World Oceans Day. It's a fitting time to contemplate humanity's evolving relationship with the source of all life. For much of human history, we've affected marine ecosystems primarily by what we've taken out of the seas. The challenge as we encounter warming temperatures and increasing industrial activity will be to manage what we put into them.

As a top predator, humans from the tropics to the poles have harvested all forms of marine life, from the smallest shrimp to the largest whales, from the ocean's surface to its floor. The staggering volume of fish removed from our waters has had a ripple effect through all ocean ecosystems. Yet the ocean continues to provide food for billions of people, and improved fishing practices in many places, including Canada, are leading to healthier marine-life populations. We're slowly getting better at managing what we catch to keep it within the ocean's capacity to replenish. But while we may be advancing in this battle, we're losing the war with climate change and pollution.

In the coming years, our ties to the oceans will be defined by what we put into them: carbon dioxide, nutrients washed from the land, diseases from aquaculture and land-based animals, invasive species, plastics, contaminants, noise and ever-increasing marine traffic. We once incorrectly viewed oceans as limitless storehouses of marine bounty and places to dump our garbage; now it's clear they can only handle so much.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJournalism(Photo: Kai Mörk)Too often "the law" is nothing more than prejudice embedded in jargon.

So the Obama administration, in its attempt to hammer another national security leaker, is directly challenging the right of journalists to protect confidential sources. Administration lawyers, arguing this week before the Supreme Court — which rejected New York Times reporter James Risen's appeal of a Circuit Court decision that could require him to testify in the case against a former CIA officer — asserted, according to the Times, that "reporters have no privilege to refuse to provide direct evidence of criminal wrongdoing by confidential sources."

Wrongdoing is one thing but, wow, "criminal wrongdoing" is quite another. The phrase bristles with righteous fury, summoning a sense of no-nonsense seriousness that sends a tremor to the very foundations of our society. The former CIA guy the administration wants to nail, Jeffrey Sterling, may have passed classified information — this is the government's contention — along to reporter Risen, and therefore endangered the nation's security. Criminal wrongdoing! Same as murder, rape and shoplifting. Freedom of the press doesn't give journalists the privilege to protect people like this.

One problem here is that the discussion of this issue is safely confined to abstract concepts. When we unravel the facts of this matter and put them in a real context of national — indeed, global — security, the legal trumpet-blasting reduces to a kind of weak toot. This is all about nuclear weapons, geopolitics . . . and public relations, specifically, the government's right to orchestrate what the public knows.

Published in Guest Commentary
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