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JP SOTTILE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aukraineUkranian protests in late 2013 (Photo: Wikipedia)Everybody’s got an opinion about the “showdown” with Russia.

Some say it’s about freedom and the right to self-determination. Some say it’s about standing up to aggression and halting a dictator’s march. Some say it’s about the future of everything—from Syria to North Korea to Iran’s nuclear program—and, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, it all stems from Obama’s failure to kill the people who killed Americans at Benghazi.

But the most-revealing voice in the chorus is Condi Rice.

She penned a tension-filled op-ed on Ukraine for the Washington Post—the newspaper of broken records. Her nostalgic, “Baby, It’s a Cold War Outside” ditty on the “Ukrainian Problem” came just two days after a Teflon-coatedHenry Kissinger opined about the “art of establishing priorities” in his own Ukraine-themed op-ed for the Post.

As the world learned through painful experience, Condi Rice, much like Henry Kissinger, was all about establishing priorities. But now that she’s out of power, why should anyone waste any time considering Ms. Rice’s opinion about anything, much less about the “crisis” in Ukraine?

Why? Because it’s telling.

Like most American Exceptionalists, her bluster and posturing can be reverse-engineered to find the banal truth about U.S. foreign policy. For example, her steadfast belief that Ukraine “should not be a pawn in a great-power conflict but rather an independent nation” might have something to do with Chevron’s 50-year lease to develop Ukraine’s shale gas reserves.

Published in Guest Commentary

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

avera2.jpaAnti-Fracking activist Vera Scroggins is under virtual house arrest in PA. (Photo: James Pitarresi) It seems every week or so you can hear language borrowed from the War On Terror, the Salem Witch Hunts and the McCarthy hearings. Some prosecutor is hurling invective at fossil fuel resisters, who sit in the courtroom with their pro bono lawyers, staring with the disbelief of newcomers to the evils of the plunderers of our Earth -- and the collusion of our government with them.

We know that there are heroes like the Sea Shepherd sailors, the Arctic 30, and Tim "Bidder 70" DeChristopher. Although some of these activists are young, we tend to think of them as veterans who are making a stand for the rest of us. But an increasing movement seems to be building, in which the heroes are people who might be described as local activists. These are volunteer citizens who oppose fossil fuel projects near where they live - who resist with their bodies because they don't have the money to pull the strings in government like the fossil fuel industry. Something about these under-equipped protesters is making Big Oil go crazy.

Three Michigan women - Lisa Leggio, Barbara Carter, and Vicci Hamlin - chained themselves to an excavator in the little town of Mason. They were polite in that Midwestern way throughout their protest of Enbridge, the Canadian firm that leaked 800,000 gallons of oil in their community, and can't seem to clean it up. After the conviction was read, Judge William Collette, a Republican and former bomber pilot, marched the ladies - one of them a great-grandmother - straight to jail from their defense table, despite their intentions to appeal.

Here we have a signature tactic of fossil fuel injustice. Call it "overcharging," accusing nonviolent defendants of felonious crimes that will later be dropped, but meanwhile holding them in prison because the bail is too high. In this way, the personal turmoil in the families of the accused is maximized. 

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acig(Photo: Fried Dough)

January 11, 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first “Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health.” In part its summary states that: “On the basis of more than 7,000 articles relating to smoking and disease already available at that time [1964] in the biomedical literature, the advisory committee concluded that cigarette smoking is: a cause of lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men; a probable cause of lung cancer in women; the most important cause of chronic bronchitis.” Fifty years later we know that not only is cigarette smoking causative of a broad range of diseases in addition to those mentioned above, but also that “second-hand smoke” is a major killer as well.

Certainly progress has been made, but major problems remain. As Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health of the Department of Health and Human Services, says in the cited executive summary of the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report:

“The nation stands poised at the crossroads of tobacco control. On one hand, we can celebrate tremendous progress 50 years after the landmark 1964 Surgeon General’s report: Smoking and Health. Adult smoking rates have fallen from about 43% (1965) to about 18% today. Mortality rates from lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in this country, are declining. Most smokers visiting health care settings are now routinely asked and advised about tobacco use. On the other hand, cigarette smoking remains the chief preventable killer in America, with more than 40 million Americans caught in a web of tobacco dependence. Each day, more than 3,200 youth (younger than 18 years of age) smoke their first cigarette and another 2,100 youth and young adults who are occasional smokers progress to become daily smokers. Furthermore, the range of emerging tobacco products complicates the current public health landscape.”

So why do we still have wide-spread cigarette smoking and why do we still have close to 500,000 deaths per year linked to smoking, in this country alone? There is only one reason: the power of the tobacco industry and its political and corporate allies. From the time of the publication of the first papers based on irrefutable evidence, in this country and Great Britain in the 1950s, cited in that first Surgeon General’s Report in 1964, until the end of the 20th century, the tobacco industry, aided by some powerful and clever public relations companies, kept up a constant drumfire of denial and distraction.

Published in Guest Commentary

NNADMI AKWADA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aslave234(Photo: Boston Public Library)


Among the 2013 Hollywood motion pictures that are receiving critical acclaim, 12 Years a Slave boasts of three talented African diasporans. Indeed, Hollywood is experiencing a slight fever for the African diaspora and African renaissance with the nominations of African diasporans for various awards. Director Steve McQueen and actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Idris Elba, Yaya Alafia, David Oyelowo, and Barkhad Abdi are in the process of becoming household names in the movie industry. These folks are not just getting awards for British accents but for their amazing talents. These recognitions from the birthplace of the notorious Tarzan movies and Ice Cube’s depictions of Africans appear to be a shift away from the racially biased and stereotypical caricatures of the past.

Nonetheless, getting the opportunity to watch the movie 12 Years a Slave about Solomon Northup -- the upstate New York gentleman who was stolen and rendered to the capitalist slavery economic system, the forerunner of industrial societies -- was hard to find. This was largely due to the Tinsel Town distribution mechanisms and the realization that in a “progressive state” like Maryland there are certain pockets of resistance and contempt for historical facts that do not match skewed romanticized narratives. Therefore some movie theaters in counties, cities, and towns, including the largest county in Maryland have gone out of their way to selectively limit the viewing of films like 12 Years a Slave, because it critiques the current world order and makes some folks uncomfortable.

Indeed this epic motion picture stands out because it was able to depict the three S-terminologies which reinforced the physical and mental slavery cycle. The concepts of steal, savagery, and silence were essential in furthering the slavery economic system. Subjects were stolen with brute force (savagery) while labeled as savages, and their kidnappings were effected with strategic precision (silencing of opposition). Moreover, the victims and their survivals were conditioned through social control to remain under the dominance of slavery and other similar formations. The survivors and/or successors of this colonial era have continued to suffer due to past legacies while the elite class from New York to Rio de Janeiro, from London to Abuja, from Dubai to the Cayman Islands is content with mass impoverishment around the globe.  

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ab5500300007 cf782ca405It was shown in a recent report that the richest Americans have made millions from their stock holdings since the recession.

It's getting worse. The facts are summarized here, and presented in greater detail at Us Against Greed.

1. Just 13 Americans Made More from Their Investments in 2013 than the Entire SNAP Budget

Some wealthy Americans like to refer to themselves as "makers," and food stamp recipients as "takers," even though most of the latter are children, the elderly, or low-wage workers. Many of the top 13 on the Forbes list did not make anything of significance in 2013. Yet by being heavily invested in the stock market they were able to take $80 billion among them, more than a year of food stamps for almost 50 million people.

2. The Richest 400 Took $300 Billion in 2013, Approximately the Entire Safety Net
The total budget for SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants, children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Housing is less than the $300 billion 'earned' by the Forbes 400.

Published in Guest Commentary

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT SATIRE

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  Avast me mateys. Off the starboard bow. Thar she blows. Looks like the Chris Christie juggernaut hit its first iceberg. And harpoons are flying in from multiple quarters. Back on the Jersey Shore, Hillary Clinton’s people and Rand Paul’s people are partying so loud and hard, Snooki and JWoww’s people are banging on doors demanding they keep it down

Rumors that Governor Juggernaut was a petty and vindictive bully have rattled across the borders of the Garden State for quite some time. So when it was revealed that aides shut down 2/3rds of the lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee’s mayor for not endorsing him, it sounded as in character as the bolts on Baron von Frankenstein’s little buddy. Funny thing is, when you think of the porcine politico and major arteries being clogged, traffic patterns are not what springs to mind.

Christie, however, claims to have had nothing to do with the allegations. And attempted to prove it by getting rid of the guilty staffers quicker than a shower shank thrust to a snitch. If throwing people under a bus were an Olympic event, Chris Christie would be waving from the top of the podium wearing a double XL tracksuit in Russia next month. Fortunately, the bus was stuck in traffic and never moved.

Published in Guest Commentary

The annual Denver, Colorado pro-marijuana rally at the Civic Center on April 20, 2013.The annual Denver, Colorado pro-marijuana rally at the Civic Center on April 20, 2013.DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Seven years before legal marijuana went on sale this month in my home state of Colorado, the drug warriors in President George W. Bush's administration released an advertisement that is now worth revisiting.

"I smoked weed and nobody died," intoned the teenage narrator. "I didn't get into a car accident. I didn't O.D. on heroin the next day. Nothing happened."

The television spot from the White House drug czar was intended to discourage marijuana use by depicting it as boring. But in the process, the government suggested that smoking a little pot is literally, in the words of the narrator, "the safest thing in the world."

Why is this spot worth revisiting? Because in light of what's happening here in Colorado, the ad looks less like a scary warning than a reassuringly accurate prophecy. Indeed, to paraphrase the ad, for all the sky-will-fall rhetoric about legalization, there haven't been piles of dead bodies and overdoses. Nothing like that has happened since we started regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol.

Instead, as I saw during a trip to 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, it has been the opposite. There, I didn't find the mayhem predicted by so many drug warriors.

Published in Guest Commentary

2014.1.13.BF.MoneyPAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A recent New York Times article by economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff suggested that we "Abolish the Corporate Income Tax." His case for doing so, he explains, "requires constructing a large-scale computer simulation model of the United States economy as it interacts over time with other nations' economies." The computer determined that the tax cut would be "self-financing to a significant extent."

Big business hints at serious consequences if we don't comply with this lower tax demand. But abolishing the corporate income tax is not likely to reverse the long history of harmful corporate behavior. There are several good reasons why.

Published in Guest Commentary

COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

atppstopCommunications Workers of America President Larry Cohen today made the following statement in response to the bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Dave Camp calling for “fast track” authorization for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP):

“Fast track is the wrong track when it comes to a trade deal like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will affect our laws, our jobs, our food and our environment. Fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority, forces Congress to give up its Constitutional right to amend and improve this trade deal, which now is reportedly more than 1,000 pages long.

“For nearly four years, the U.S. Trade Representative and TPP negotiators have purposely restricted participation and information, keeping members of Congress and citizen groups, unions, environmental and consumer organizations in the dark. There has been no opportunity for public interest groups to meaningfully participate in the negotiations, and under fast track authority, there will be no opportunity for our elected representatives to amend the deal and make it better for Americans."

Published in Guest Commentary

Two USAF MaxxPro MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles.Two USAF MaxxPro MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles.JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

What a Christmas little Bastrop had! It's still a mystery how Santa Claus got it down the chimney, but Bastrop got a nifty present that most children could only dream about: a big honkin', steel-clad, war toy called MRAP.

But Bastrop is not a 6-year-old child, and an MRAP is not a toy. Bastrop is a Texas county of some 75,000 people, and MRAP stands for "Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected." It's a heavily armored military vehicle weighing about 15 tons — one of several versions of fighting machines that have become the hot, must-have playthings of police departments all across the country.

Are the good people of Bastrop facing some imminent terrorist threat that warrants military equipment? No, it's a very pleasant, laid-back place. And while the county is named for a 19th century land developer and accused embezzler, it's never been a haven for particularly dangerous criminals — indeed, the relatively few crimes in Bastrop today don't rise above the level of routine police work.

Published in Guest Commentary
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