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BrazilFlag73113(Photo: Nuno Cardoso)NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

As whistleblower Edward Snowden releases more and more sensitive National Security Agency (NSA) files, the public is gaining unique insights into Washington’s underhanded foreign policy in South America.  It’s no secret that both the Bush and Obama administrations have viewed Venezuela as a threat, but Snowden’s disclosures suggest that Washington has a bead on Brazil, too. For some time I’ve been writing about such rivalry, and recent explosive reports merely confirm what many US diplomats already concede privately: that is to say, Brazil is a force to be reckoned with and the country may even undermine or upset traditional regional US dominance in the not too distant future.

Snowden’s revelations, which have given rise to a firestorm of international controversy, underscore the growing importance of the NSA, which worked in tandem with the CIA to set up a spying operation in Brasilia.  The joint espionage program, code-named “F6” but more commonly known as the “Special Collection Service,” sought to scoop up and obtain valuable satellite data.  According to a recent article in The Week, “the men and women of the Special Collection Service are responsible for placing super-high-tech bugs in unbelievably hard-to-reach places.”  According to the publication, Special Collection Service teams comprised of two to five people rotate into American embassies around the world, working undercover as diplomats.  When the State Department is unable to offer official cover, agents may pose as businesspeople.   

Published in Guest Commentary

OilPipeline(Photo: shannonpatrick17)PUBLIC EMPLOYEES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hundreds of spills draw no inspection; Two million pipeline miles remain uninspected.              

Washington, DC - Only a small fraction of America’s vast network of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines has undergone any sort of inspection in recent years, including several hundred pipelines which have spilled or broken down, according to federal records displayed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).   As a result, the safety and reliability of much of this key but volatile transport grid remains unknown.

Published in Guest Commentary

janestillwater7 24At hospital, Jane Stillwater recovers from her concern about domestic drone attacks. (Photo: Courtesy of Jane Stillwater)JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

OMG! What if American neo-cons aren't the only imperialist bastards to start developing and using drones! What if some other imperial bastard bad guys also start using drones, too? Or Goldfinger or the NSA or the phone company gets them? Then, obviously, what would happen next is that wedding parties in Oregon and Ohio and women and children in New Hampshire and New Mexico will also have to keep their eyes on the skies 24/7 too - just like they now do in Pakistan and Palestine!

And when (not if) this happens, we can realistically expect to see a whole new 9-11-style fear-and-loathing scenario being played out every day on every quiet, peaceful suburban street in America.

Yes, thanks to drones, war might easily be coming to America soon - just like the Pentagon has already generously brought war to the doorstep of almost every other country on the planet.

When the American neo-con military-industrial complex began developing and using drones, it obviously opened a whole new can of worms. And are we any safer now because of these drones? NOT. What goes around comes around. Thanks a lot, War Street.

"But, Jane," you might say, "you're acting just like Chicken Little here. No one else is gonna be able to develop drones - or be able to use them either." Hey, why not? Drones are basically model airplanes with payloads. How hard can it be to develop one of those? All that the other bad guys have to do is just infiltrate some model-airplane rally in Ohio - and it's Goodnight Cincinnati.

Someone just informed me that Monsanto is currently also developing drones. Dare to plant some heirloom tomatoes in your backyard and you're toast! "Step away from the tomatoes!" That is, if you get any warning at all.

Published in Guest Commentary

SNAP072413Yesenia Bazan, a San Antonio Food Bank employee, works on a Texas Health and Human Services Commission pilot project that screens applicants on site for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. (Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture)RICHARD A. STITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Recently, the Republican-controlled House voted for an agriculture bill that appears to be the template for all future bills that we can expect to come out of this dysfunctional, mean-spirited and parsimonious Republican-Tea Party body of risible and odious lawmakers. To their glee and characteristically malignant mien, they discovered that those issues that serve the most vulnerable American citizens, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), could be totally eliminated.

Voilá! Just like 5 right-wing, partisans on the U.S. Supreme Court who decreed that discrimination and prejudice are a thing of the past when they gutted the Voting Rights Act, so too has the Boehner-led Congress decided with the swift swing of an axe, they could ignore poverty by excising the food stamp program from the agriculture bill that serves the American men, women and children who need that help more than ever. 

But when it comes to larding up the mega farm and agri-business with all the freebies they know will please their constituents back in their home districts, the bill is a virtual cornucopia loaded with subsidies for cotton, sugar, corn ethanol (an extremely inefficient fuel), tobacco and other handouts that are in their bottomless bag of goodies to shake down the taxpayers in order to feed their lobbyists and political campaign contributors.

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The Republican demagoguery is hitting its stride as they trot out some of their most obstreperous luminaries like Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee (this is their future?) and other Ayn Rand enlightened self-interest types. Their hope is that they can convince enough of their Pied Piper following to join them in a collective contempt for those millions of American workers who have fallen on hard times. 

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The logic for the tax is indisputable:

  1. Financial industry speculation devastated middle-class homeowner wealth.
  2. U.S. investors pay zero tax on their speculative transactions.
  3. The tax is easy to implement, and is very successful in other countries.

The emotional appeal reaches most of America:

  • Why should the rest of us pay up to 10% on the necessities of life while risky derivative purchases aren't taxed at all?
  • Why should kids around the country lose their arts programs while trillions of dollars flow, untaxed, to Wall Street?
Published in Guest Commentary

shakespear71613(Photo: Yortw)RICHARD A. STITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

One of those who testified at the George Zimmerman trial, the manager of the mixed martial arts club where George Zimmerman trained, said that Zimmerman was soft and out of shape when he began his training regimen. He had a high level of body fat or body mass index (BMI) in proportion to his weight and height. He weighed over 204 pounds at the time.

But, when you look at Zimmerman's photographs after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin he was in far better shape and should have been more than capable of physically handling a 17-year-old teenage kid in a confrontation, especially since he was training to be a cop.

Zimmerman's friends all confirmed that he was a "wannabe cop." But, Zimmerman wanted to take his neighborhood watch job to another level so that he could prove how adeptly he could provoke an incident and handle it. His ultimate test though was a judgmental one in which he decided to use a 9 mm handgun designed not to wound or slow down a fleeing "suspect," but to stop and end that suspect's life.

Published in Guest Commentary

Viagara071613(Photo: Simon Willison)JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

I recently saw a cartoon of a man walking out of an X-rated video store - only to be confronted by an irate bunch of women picketing him and screaming, "Masturbation is murder!" and "Life begins at erection!"  Truly hilarious.  But perhaps a lot of people who saw this cartoon missed its main point.  Ironic sarcasm?  Sure.  But also by its shear absurdity, the cartoon made it clear that an American man's reproductive decisions are his and his alone - and that a woman's reproductive decisions are mostly his too.

I think that we've all seen photos of grinning federal, state and local lawmakers who have just voted in favor of making various birth-control and anti-abortion laws mandatory for all women.  And most of the people in these photos are men.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 15 July 2013 06:23

The Obscenities of Capitalism

TheVisibleSafetyNet071513(Photo: World Bank Photo Collection)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Committed capitalists don't seem to recognize that people depend on each other, and that individual success is a result of collaborative effort, usually over a long period of time. The less free-market thinkers are regulated, the less they seem to care about others. They ignore the fact that America's most productive eras were driven by progressive taxes that funded entrepreneurship in the middle class. And they fail to see the deficiencies in a system that relies solely on profit-making to the exclusion of social responsibility.

Like the images of a dreaded disease, their beliefs might best be defined as obscene.

Published in Guest Commentary

ipaid(Photo: Steve Rhodes)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CEOs are legendary for defending their tax paying records, and eager to imply that government is responsible for any of their tax delinquencies. Apple CEO Tim Cook announced, "We pay all the taxes we owe - every single dollar." Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey supported the iPhone maker, saying "It's not Apple's fault that they're seeking to avoid paying taxes. They're not lying, cheating or stealing. They're following the rules that were created by governments. If the government doesn't like the rules, they can change them."

Mackey didn't mention that changing the tax rules is a specialty of big business. As is flouting the tax rules. The following four tales of corporate malfeasance are particularly disturbing.

 

Published in Guest Commentary

3159236167 2204935b7c n(Photo: Let Ideas Compete)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A recent article by Les Leopold informed us that our nation is near the bottom of the developed world in median wealth, probably the best gauge for the economic strength of the middle class. The source of the information, the Global Wealth Databook, provides additional evidence of our decline from our once-lofty position as an egalitarian country with opportunities for nearly everyone.

The data is summarized below. Column 4 reveals that the U.S. is near the top of the developed world in average wealth, in good part because of its many millionaires (Col 8). Median wealth per adult, in Column 5, is much lower. As a sign of the distance between America's middle class and its national wealth, Column 6 shows that the ratio of median to mean in the U.S. is lower than in any country except Russia.

Published in Guest Commentary
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