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Colorado National Guard flood response.Colorado National Guard flood response.BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Many have tried, but few have succeeded. Some have made it part of their regular schtick, and make a handsome living by doing it over and over again. But try as they might, the gold standard for blaming a natural disaster -- or tragic event -- on their enemies of choice, is still held by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Now, however, with floodwaters raging in his state, Colorado pastor and radio talk show host Kevin Swanson is aiming to be a contender in the pantheon of blame-game flame-throwers. Swanson recently pointed his finger at the real causers of the floods: abortion, the legalization of marijuana, and "decadent homosexual activity." Climate change? Not so much. (For some time, Swanson resided in the school of global warming denial.)

In trying to make some sense of the cause of natural disasters, some conservative evangelical preachers have gone off the rails. Hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, floods, earthquakes and yes, even the less-than-natural terrorist attack, is blamed on abortion, gays, and yes, even the American Civil Liberties Union.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Image of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on March 16, 2011 of the four damaged reactor buildings.Image of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on March 16, 2011 of the four damaged reactor buildings.We are now within two months of what may be humankind's most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focused on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4.

Fukushima's owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.

Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.

The one thing certain about this crisis is that Tepco does not have the scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle it. Nor does the Japanese government. The situation demands a coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster.

Published in Guest Commentary

2013.9.23.BF.BuchheitPAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

That's over and above our payments to the big companies for energy and food and housing and health care and all our tech devices. It's $6,000 that no family would have to pay if we truly lived in a competitive but well-regulated free-market economy.

The $6,000 figure is an average, which means that low-income families are paying less. But it also means that families (households) making over $72,000 are paying more than $6,000 to the corporations.

1. $870 for Direct Subsidies and Grants to Companies

The Cato Institute estimates that the U.S. federal government spends $100 billion a year on corporate welfare. That's an average of $870 for each one of America's 115 million families. Cato notes that this includes "cash payments to farmers and research funds to high-tech companies, as well as indirect subsidies, such as funding for overseas promotion of specific U.S. products and industries...It does not include tax preferences or trade restrictions."

Published in Guest Commentary

ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

guns9 21There’s something wrong here, “something evil in our society that we Americans have to work to try to eradicate” said Dr. Janis Orlasky, chief medical officer at Med Star Washington Hospital Center, after the fatal shootings at the Naval shipyard last week. Although she made no mention of gun control laws or other restrictive measures a torrent of angry responses were quickly posted to refute what were deemed anti-gun by typically angry defenders of gun-carrying enthusiasts.

There is something terminally naive about the way our country deals with gun violence in its various letahal and injurious forms. Guns are faster and when large magazine clips are part of the mix the lethal effect can be devastating. Recent knife wielding assailants caused many painful injuries but few deaths.

And what reasonable objection can there be about background checks and what do they have to do with the Second Smendment in any case? It is beyond irrational to suggest that mental disturbance or even blindness may not be severe enough to warrant suspension of one’s right to bear arms? Just how crazy -- or a "good guy" who loves to abuse the power of guns over other people like George Zimmerman -- do you have to be to warrant some limitation on your right to be out and about carrying a lethal weapon? What if you hear voices or if you think your dog is sending you messages? Should ‘freedom’ actually translate as a license to kill, and when do the rights of anyone include the right to stand one’s ground -- however personally one's interprets that -- against real or imaginary foes?

Who among us will take the necessary action to stem the tide of violence and undertake to lessen the the gun culture’s allure? 

Dr. Orlasky would like to see her trauma center “out of business” at least when it comes to gunshot wounds. It is amazing that so many members of society are able to slough off the ravages of gun violence behavior and move seamlessly on with their lives, unless of course they are first responders or medical personnel who have unforgettable pictures forever etched in their memories.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 28 August 2013 07:35

Will NSA Metadata Be Used to Blackmail You?

Snowden BF 82813(Photo: DonkeyHotey)JOE GIAMBRONE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“I’m an upstanding citizen and I’m not doing anything wrong.  

I just don’t want the government invading my privacy.” 

–unnamed

I got into a heated argument, a disagreeable shouting match over that idea today – mostly being shouted at for nitpicking someone on my own side.  I find the above rationale to be a surface response without any thought behind it or any acknowledgement of how actual surveillance-societies of the past devolved into Orwellian abominations.  Worse still, the current drive for a “Total Information Awareness” society, where birth to death communications will be stored forever by the government, looms over us. 

NSA / Booz Allen Hamilton whistleblower Edward Snowden has said:

“…they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them.”

To that end the NSA’s operating budget has increased steadily, avoiding any cutbacks from the so-called “sequester.”  The new NSA storage facility in Utah is a central piece of this total data capture society.

“An article by Forbes estimates the storage capacity as between 3 and 12 exabytes in the near term… advances in technology could be expected to increase the capacity by orders of magnitude in the coming years.” (Wikipedia)

NSA Whistleblower William Binney revealed further problems at the National Security Agency and its runaway capabilities: 

Published in Guest Commentary

BF hurricanekatrina 82813(Photo: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center)ROSEMARY AND WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Almost one-third of Louisiana Republicans blame President Obama for the slow and largely ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast, Aug. 31, 2005. More than 1,800 were killed in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana; estimates of property damage exceeded $100 billion.

Public Policy Polling reveals that 29 percent of the state’s Republicans blame Obama. Only 28 percent blame George W. Bush. The rest, according to the poll, don’t know who to blame.

The disaster occurred in the first year of George W. Bush’s second term. Barack Obama did not become president until more than three years later.

While the Bush–Cheney administration was embroiled in Iraq and developing all kinds of plans to deal with foreign terrorists, it failed to keep the homeland safe—for the second time, the first being 9/11 itself.Natural disasters have been responsible for significantly more injuries, deaths, and property damage than all terrorist attacks, both past and projected.

More than a year before Katrina hit, we had written our first article about the probability that the U.S. would be unable to provide a quick response to any natural disaster of great magnitude. We concluded “While we can’t put natural disasters into the same category as an al-Qaeda attack, they both encompass a fear of imminent danger. Death and destruction by a Category 3/4 hurricane is more imminent than an attack by Iraq ever was—and could leave more death and destruction than 9/11. Neither our home nor our land is secure.”

Published in Guest Commentary

BF 8 23 13 NSA Surveillance(Photo: DonkeyHotey )BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted…the Patriot Act.  As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.  This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.”  

- US Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall

Published in Guest Commentary

BF 8 22 13 RainforestAerial view of the Amazon Rainforest. (Photo: CIFOR)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coincidentally, after reading that the world’s last Amazon rainforest is disappearing for oil profits, a review on Matt Damon’s new film “Elysium” appeared on the same page.  It described the earth as gray, barren, little more than a polluted prison for all those not wealthy enough to live on the luxury space station “Elysium,” hovering a short 20-minute shuttle ride above earth. The poor are left to fight in squalid conditions, which is the deplorable situation right now for over half the world’s children. 

They are poor because for the last two centuries, industrialists have been raping the earth’s resources without restoring what they took, depleting community economies as they go; it’s a form of capitalism that is so ruthless that it defies the meaning of capitalism; it benefits a few thousand people at the expense of the human race, wildlife habitats, fresh water, oceans, forests—nearly everything that makes the earth a heaven instead of a hell.  Read Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” for an in-depth explanation of this parasitical model of capitalism based on corporate privatization.

Published in Guest Commentary

 BF 8 22 13 Report Brasch(Photo: Rachael Moore)WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sen. Diane Feinstein and a horde of members of Congress of both parties want to decide who is and who isn’t a reporter. Sen. Feinstein says a “real” reporter is a “salaried agent of a media company.”

She mentions the usual suspects—New York Times, ABC News. She dismisses part-time staff. She dismisses freelancers. She dismisses those who write, often without pay, for the hundreds of alternative publications, and often break news and investigative stories well ahead of the mainstream media. She dismisses anyone who, she says, “have no professional qualifications.”

The reason she wants to define what a reporter is or isn’t is because there’s a proposed federal Media Shield Law that would protect reporters from revealing their sources. Forty states and the District of Columbia currently have shield laws. Sen. Feinstein wants to amend the federal bill to take away existing First Amendment protections from anyone not involved in—apparently—salaried establishment media.

There are people who have minimal qualifications to be a reporter. Many write nothing but screeds. Many have problems with basic language skills. Many have little familiarity with the AP Style Book. Many have an inability to ask probing questions of government officials; many merely transcribe what they’re told, whether from the president, a council member, or a local reader who is the focus of a feature. Some of them are paid salaries and are agents of media companies, which Sen. Feinstein believes are acceptable requirements.

There are also those who frequently allow “deep background” and “off-the-record” comments. Many news media won’t allow sources to go “off-the-record.” If the information isn’t available to the general public, it shouldn’t be available only to reporters. Access to news sources is something reporters enjoy that the average reader doesn’t; but there is a responsibility to the reader and viewer and listener not to hide information.

Published in Guest Commentary

BF 8 21 13 KingofPop(Photo: bernissimo)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Does Philip Anschutz, the conservative billionaire owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) – a wholly owned subsidiary of the Anschutz Company -- and/or his company, an entertainment and sports empire, bear any responsibility in the death of Michael Jackson?

Anschutz Entertainment Group’s AEG Live knew it could make a fortune if Michael Jackson‘s comeback tour was even mildly successful. During preparation for the “This Is It” tour, which might have been the biggest comeback tour in entertainment history starting with 50 shows in London and then possibly moving on to other worldwide venues, an out-of-shape, exhausted and prescription drug-dependent Jackson died of an overdose of drugs.

Published in Guest Commentary
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