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Wednesday, 21 August 2013 08:05

Eugene Robinson: Arbitrary and Uncalled For


Washington -  For all who believe in colorblind justice -- and want to see fewer African-American and Hispanic men caught up in the system -- there are two items of good news: a judge's ruling ordering changes in New York's "stop and frisk" policy and Attorney General Eric Holder's initiative to keep nonviolent drug offenders out of prison.

First, "stop and frisk." Mayor Michael Bloomberg is having a hissy fit over U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin's finding that the policy amounted to "indirect racial profiling." On his weekly radio show, the mayor wouldn't even say Scheindlin's name, calling her "some woman" who knows "absolutely zero" about policing. In an op-ed article for The Washington Post, Bloomberg went so far as to accuse Scheindlin of being "ideologically driven."

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Buchheit CharlesKoch81913(Photo: Free Press)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Scary because he claims "We don't have the power to coerce anybody" while providing massive funding to organizations that attack public education, social programs, worker salaries, business regulations, and the environment.

Scary because he refers to himself with words like 'integrity' and 'principles' while saying "I want my fair share - and that's all of it."

Scary because he declares, "I want my legacy to be...a better way of life for...all Americans." Here is some of the legacy of Charles Koch.

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U.S. Representative Marlin Stutzman said, "Most people will agree that if you are an able bodied adult without any kids you should find your way off food stamps." That depends on whether those ways can be found. If Stutzman and other members of Congress believe it's that easy to find a job with a living wage, they're either ignorant of middle-class life or victims of free-market delusion. In either case, Congress, with its shameful response to the people who elected them, has not only made the job search more difficult for average Americans, but has also impeded the process.

Senate Republicans killed a proposed $447 billion jobs bill in 2011 that would have added about two million jobs to the economy. They filibustered Nancy Pelosi's "Prevention of Outsourcing Act," and temporarily blocked the "Small Business Jobs Act." Most recently, only one member of Congress bothered to show up for a hearing on unemployment.

Congress' unwavering support of big business donors shows a callous disregard for the needs of the millions of Americans they're supposed to be representing.

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“Even on Election Day, November 6, 2012, the Romney team was confident of victory.” Stuart Stevens, the campaign’s chief strategist and speechwriter was certain that Romney’s message “would resonate with the electorate across the nation, easily trumping any computer-driven, Internet-based get-out-the-vote strategy the technological geeks running the Obama campaign could devise and implement.”

– Jerome R. Corsi, What Went Wrong

Jerome R. Corsi, the conspiracy-crazed, fear mongering, race baiting, factually challenged best selling conservative author, reached the height of his powers during the run-up to the 2004 presidential election when a book he co-authored helped take down John Kerry’s presidential campaign. In his new book, What Went Wrong: The Inside Story of the GOP Debacle of 2012…and how it Can Be Avoided Next Time, Corsi offers his post-election analysis and advises Republicans how to win future presidential elections.  And, ironically, if you disregard the nutty – which will take a heap of disregarding – he makes some interesting observations. 

Corsi’s editors, however, do let Corsi be Corsi: To get Obama “over the top with the last few votes necessary to win an election, the Democratic Party has engaged in the systematic vote registration of ‘a shadow group’ of illegal aliens, felons, dead people, multiple-state voters, and assorted others in a massive, nationwide campaign to enable voter fraud.” All of which was “masterminded” by … wait for it … ACORN. 

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dreamdefenders8513A group of Trayvon Martin Protesters along with the Dream Defenders did a sit-in rally at the Sanford Police Department in April of 2012. (Photo: Werth Media)BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Packed into the small reception area of the Florida Governor’s office in Tallahassee, a couple dozen determined Dream Defenders conducted a people’s hearing on racial profiling. Black and brown college and high school youth took turns giving compelling testimony of being profiled at school, in public and by the police. In one corner was a court reporter. A camera was live streaming the proceedings.

On the coffee table, a can of iced tea and a bag of skittles. On the floor were strips of tape to keep an aisle clear so the Governor’s people could find get in and out of their offices. Over the couch was a hand lettered sign of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

These are the Dream Defenders. They are an inspiring and organized black and brown student movement going into week four of their sit in and occupation of the Florida Governor’s office. They are demanding changes in Florida laws which criminalize young black and brown people.

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8WaysPrivatizationHasFailed BF(Photo: elycefeliz)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Some of America's leading news analysts are beginning to recognize the fallacy of the "free market." Said Ted Koppel, "We are privatizing ourselves into one disaster after another." Fareed Zakaria admitted, "I am a big fan of the free market...But precisely because it is so powerful, in places where it doesn't work well, it can cause huge distortions." They're right. A little analysis reveals that privatization doesn't seem to work in any of the areas vital to the American public.

Health Care

Our private health care system is by far the most expensive system in the developed world. Forty-two percent of sick Americans skipped doctor's visits and/or medication purchases in 2011 because of excessive costs. The price of common surgeries is anywhere from three to ten times higher in the U.S. than in Great Britain, Canada, France, or Germany. Some of the documented tales: a $15,000 charge for lab tests for which a Medicare patient would have paid a few hundred dollars; an $8,000 special stress test for which Medicare would have paid $554; and a $60,000 gall bladder operation, which was covered for $2,000 under a private policy.

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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.   

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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