STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Recent discoveries from the Kepler telescope have indicated that in our galaxy, the Milky Way, alone there are 647 possible "Earth-sized" planets orbiting various sun-star equivalents. (One does wonder how they get to that exact number.) And then there are an estimated 500 billion other galaxies out there. The speculation is becoming more intense as to whether or not there are other "intelligent" species on one or more of those planets. Well, the great Dr. Stephen Hawking's view to the contrary notwithstanding, given the vast distances of space it is unlikely that we will ever find out (nor would another intelligent species find out about us either). (Do note that "vast" is a word that vastly underrepresents the reality of what those distances really are.) But nevertheless one intriguing question is, if there is, or was, intelligent life that has developed the equivalent of what we call "civilization" elsewhere in the universe, is it co-existent in time with ours?
For it to be co-existent with ours, unless the timing were virtually exact, it would have to have lasted quite a bit longer than ours, because we, living in what we call "civilization," have been around for the mere twinkling of a geologic eye (less than 10,000 years). Further, our species is on the verge of self-destruction, whether due to global warming-induced climate change and its resultant disasters, over-population (and the resulting under-supply of food and water), depletion of natural resources, or nuclear war.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
December is a time of many holiday feasts - which makes it a good time to remember family farmers and the tremendous contributions they make to our country, culture, taste buds and tummies. But not all farmers contribute equally, which is why I'm sending out this special holiday sentiment to one group of unique agriculturalists: Thbbllllttttt!
That raspberry goes out to 50 billionaires who've been farming the U.S. farm subsidy program for years, harvesting a cornucopia of taxpayer cash for themselves or their corporate empires. They include top executives or owners of such diverse entities as Chase Manhattan Bank, Chick-fil-A, DISH Network, Fiji Water, Hyatt Hotels, Microsoft and Victoria's Secret. The diligent watchdogs of the Environmental Working Group matched the "Forbes 400" list of richest Americans with a farm subsidy database to unmask these Gucci-wearing Old MacDonalds. E-I-E-I-O, what a rip-off!
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We already pay dearly for energy, medicine, banking, and telecommunications services. But a little research reveals that we're paying more -- much more -- in a variety of ways that our business-friendly mainstream media won't talk about.
1. Drug Companies: The Body Snatchers
A report by Battelle Memorial Institute determined that the $4 billion government-funded Human Genome Project (HGP) will generate economic activity of about $140 for every dollar spent. Although that estimate is controversial, drug industry executives say it's just a matter of time before the profits roll in.
Big business is quickly making its move. Celera Genomics was first, as the company initiated a private version of the genome project, incorporating the public data into their work, but forbidding the public effort to use Celera data. Abbott Labs is developing products based on the HGP. Merck's automated biotechnology facility was made possible by the HGP. Two-thirds of the products at Bristol-Myers Squibb have been impacted by the HGP. Pfizer is starting to make big profits from its genome-based cancer treatments.
CHESTER KULIS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On September 16, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary on how Rev. Billy Talen -- street theater minister for the anti-consumer movement -- and his choir leader were arrested for leading a performance art protest at a Chase bank branch in Manhattan. The target of the theatrical presentation was how JP Morgan Chase is one of the key banks financing industries that are tumbling earth toward a climate implosion. On December 9th, Talen and his choir master will appear in a NYC court and face the prosecution's charges that could result in up to a year in jail.
Meanwhile, Jamie Dimon, Washington D.C.'s made man on Wall Street and the don of JP Morgan Chase, has not faced a criminal investigation (that has been made public) or charges for his role in Wall Street's crash. Yes, JP Morgan Chase was recently fined $13 billion dollars, but that is largely -- as large as it may appear -- a public relations stunt on the part of the Department of Justice to make it appear that it is cracking down on errant banks.
Meanwhile, Jamie Dimon rakes in the millions and remains the talk of the town. But Rev. Billy and his associate may go to jail for entertaining some Chase stuffed suits with their presentation on behalf of saving life on the planet.
The following is a commentary Rev. Billy wrote recently for BuzzFlash at Truthout about the tragic irony of his prosecution, in the face of Wall Street crooks being as untouchable as the mafia.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
1. Scrounging to Survive and Heartlessness
Beverly is a middle-aged homeless woman who survives day-by-day on the streets of Chicago. I learned about her from my friend Joe, an advocate for the homeless and a volunteer at a community kitchen on the city's north side. He first noticed Beverly huddled in a theater exitway on a frigid November morning, cup in hand, a pair of crutches leaning against the door behind her. He gave her a little money, and she responded with a smile and a quiet "thank you." They talked a little bit; she seemed eager to share a few minutes of conversation. She mentioned that she hadn't eaten that day. Since they were too far from, and it was too early for, the community kitchen, Joe offered to buy her a meal. Her favorite was chili, at a lunch spot around the corner.
Charles and David Koch are both members of the .00001%. That's a group of twenty individuals who have a total net worth of over a half-trillion dollars, about $26 billion each. One of David's residences is at 740 Park Avenue, in the most exclusive area of Manhattan. The doorman at the 740 building had this to say about David Koch: "We would load up his trucks - two vans, usually - every weekend, for the Hamptons...multiple guys, in and out, in and out, heavy bags. We would never get a tip from Mr. Koch. We would never get a smile from Mr. Koch. Fifty-dollar check for Christmas."
2. Bedbugs and Gluttony
Beverly had made $8 that day, from 8AM to 2PM, a little over a dollar an hour. She needed $22 for a night in a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel, where she could shower and have some privacy, and most importantly feel safe for a few hours. The alternative was a local mission, where, she said, "You got to sleep with your stuff under you, so that nobody will steal it from you." She also spoke reluctantly about the bedbugs.
Hamptons home builder Joe Farrell described some of the extravagances: a home ATM machine "regularly restocked with $20,000 in $10 bills"; and a store selling $30,000 bottles of Dom Perignon. A trifle for someone like David Koch, who made $3 million an hour from his investments last year.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
BuzzFlash at Truthout has, for years, discussed the last great stand of white Americans -- who feel entitled to power -- and the racist origins of the anger that have been building up at the diminishment of white privilege. This, of course, accounts for the vigorous effort by Republicans to reduce the vote of nonwhites and the poor, because demographically -- as we and others have repeated -- whites are headed toward minority status in America.
And knowing the history of what whites have done to minorities (including black slaves, Native Americans, Mexicans and Chinese imported to build the railroads just to name a few), the fear of payback has to be included in their bitter hate for "the other."
But, it is also important to remember that one of the key political conflicts playing itself out here also concerns property rights versus citizenship rights when it comes to voting.
Let's take a trip down America's regrettable heritage of slavery. Although blacks abducted and sold into servitude and babaric cruelty were needless to say denied the right of citizenship, they were considered property -- and the accumulation of a lot of slaves exemplified a large and powerful property owner (including George Washington).
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Right Wing Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast called the public school system a "socialist regime." Michelle Rhee cautions us against commending students for their 'participation' in sports and other activities.
Privatizers believe that any form of working together as a community is anti-American. To them, individual achievement is all that matters. They're now applying their winner-take-all profit motive to our children.
We're Sliding Backwards, Towards "Separate and Unequal"
In 1954, the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education seemed to place our country on the right track. Chief Justice Earl Warren said that education "is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." Thurgood Marshall insisted on "the right of every American to an equal start in life."
But then we got derailed. We've become a nation of inequality, worse than ever before, worse than during the racist "separate but equal" policy of Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA shows that "segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities." The Economic Policy Institute tells us that "African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago."
The privatizers clamor for vouchers and charters to improve education, but such methods generally don't serve those who need it most. According to a Center on Education Policy report, private schools serve 12 percent of the nation's elementary and secondary students, but only one percent of disabled students. Forty-three percent of public school students are from minority families, compared to 24% of private school students.
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As William Rivers Pitt recently pointed out in his signature Truthout column, it's ludicrous to begin concentrating on the presidential race in 2016. Democracy is too valuable and powerful to have its future concentrated in one person.
BuzzFlash contributor Will Durst also ponders the absurdity of handicapping who might run for president in three years in the following column:
What the heck is going on here, people? Did someone drop the flag signaling the start of the 2016 Presidential election race in secret? Was there a furtive whispered “go now” left on the voice mail of all the major players in the 202 area code? 36 months before the election? Is it possible to earn extra credit by skipping this one and moving right on to 2020?
The most recent media-consumed fever dream boils down to Chris Christie versus Hillary Clinton. Although, two weeks ago, Ted Cruz was the presumptive GOP nominee. Didn’t Hillary use up her inevitability card in 2008? When she was destined to face off against Rudy Giuliani? How’d that end up?
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As we face a growing catastrpohic crisis in the form of global warming, and economic hardships from policies that benefit billionaires while working Americans struggle to pay for basic necessities, I can’t help thinking about Al Gore and how different things would be under his leadership after Bush followed by years of broken promises.
Let’s remember that Al Gore won the popular vote and the state of Florida if the votes had been fully counted, despite the legal evidence proving that there was plenty of cheating going on for Bush in 2000, and last but not least, let’s not forget how the Supreme Court Justices unjustly ruled to stop counting the votes in Florida.
Predictably, the industrial oligarchs would never have allowed an Al Gore victory.
In 2000, we were at the crossroads or as President Clinton liked to say to “building a bridge to the twenty-first century, the New Millennium.”