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Wednesday, 26 June 2013 09:54

Why NSA Spying Isn't New


It makes no difference if Edward Snowden, who had fled to Hong Kong and revealed that the American government was spying upon American citizens, is a traitor or a hero.

Intelligence agencies from China, Russia, England, Israel, and maybe even Lichtenstein, probably already know that the National Security Administration (NSA) is collecting data of all the phone calls and emails of Americans, and linking them to conversations with foreign nationals. What is unsettling is that everything the NSA is doing is legal. Secret federal courts can issue secret warrants to agencies that maintain secret files.

Americans who have been paying attention should also know that electronic spying—it sounds better when the government says it’s data mining to prevent terrorism—has been going on at least a decade.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 24 June 2013 08:24

Six Shameful Facts About Hunger

FoodStamps62413(Photo: US Department of Agriculture)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Of all the miseries placed on human beings in their everyday lives, the lack of food may be the most inexcusable. Even in a world controlled by unbending attitudes of self-reliance and individual responsibility, the reality of children and seniors and disabled citizens without food is a stain on humanity, a shameful testament to the capitalist goal of profit without conscience.

The facts presented here all touch on the lives of human beings, in the U.S. and beyond, who lack food or the means to pay for it.

1. Congress wants to cut a food program for which almost half the recipients are children

According to the Department of Agriculture, 48% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in 2011 were children. Either unaware or indifferent to this, Congress is considering a new farm bill that would cut food assistance by $2 billion a year while boosting the farm subsidies of big agriculture.

Published in Guest Commentary

NSA61913(Photo: ElectronicFrontierFoundation)WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Dear US Citizen:

Please accept our most egregiously sincere apologies for the difficulties and inconveniences the secret monitoring of your phone records and email and GPS units and foreign travel and bank accounts and yes, even your snail mail has evidently caused.

We here at the NSA strive for the perfection of our services, which depend on the chronic obliviousness of you, our valued customers. Unfortunately, due to one disgruntled deadbeat (who escaped to China to avoid government persecution- which is like joining the Army because you're tired of people telling you what to do) you now know of our continuing efforts to keep you safe. That was never our intention.

When you are even tangentially aware of the absurd lengths the National Security Agency will go to keep you and your loved ones out of harm's way, our mission has failed. If you knew half the crap we have to slog through here, your hair would curl, but that's another story altogether.

Yes, we're pretty much keeping tabs on everything everyone says and does, all the time, which we understand upsets a few of you. Folks. Don't worry. Nobody's actually listening to any of this stuff. We're just used to collecting it. If it makes you feel any better, think of this whole enterprise as an exceedingly long, government- subsidized episode of "Hoarders." You can trust us.

Published in Guest Commentary

VotingBooth61813(Photo: Joe Shlabotnik)BURT HALL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The right wing of the Republican Party no longer has the leadership or agenda to gain the presidency through a popular vote. Instead, it is relying on ruthless obstruction of the party in power, slowing down economy and voter suppression. The right wing will continue on this path until the American people put a stop to it and remove this cancer from our politics.

After much campaigning and political infighting, we elect a president every four years. These elections provide legitimacy to a new or continued administration. Traditionally, most Americans and their elected representatives in Congress have pulled together and supported a newly elected president, especially in times of crisis. This tradition was broken in a big way during the 1990's.

Published in Guest Commentary

UCDavis 061713(Photo: Talk Radio News Service)

We hear a lot about corporationsavoiding federal taxes. Less well known is their non-payment of state taxes, which along with local taxes make up 90% of U.S. education funding.

Pay Up Now just completed a review of 2011-12 tax data from the SEC filings of 155 of the largest U.S. corporations. The results show that the total cost of K-12 educational cutbacks in recent years is approximately equal to the amount of state taxes left unpaid by these companies.


Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 12 June 2013 10:31

A Silver Lining in the IRS Hulabaloo?

IRS SILVER LININGNew York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. (Photo: Azi Paybarah)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In the movie Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper's character, suffering from bipolar disorder, strives to find silver linings in his daily life. When it comes to the still-developing IRS scandal, looking for a silver lining may be a colossal stretch. In recent days, however, a sliver of a silver lining is peeking over the horizon.

At this point, it is difficult to predict the long-term consequences of the uproar over the IRS paying extra special attention to Tea Party and Patriot groups seeking tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status. There are many things we know for certain about the IRS scandal's recent trajectory: Congressman Darrel Issa (R-Ca.) will continue to receive more than his fair share of face time as he holds more hearings and makes more provocative statements to the media; Christian right legal firms will file lawsuits galore; a significant amount of money will be raised by conservative organizations; some on the right will push to "Abolish The IRS," while others will call for the impeachment of President Obama; and, in all likelihood, Tea Party and Patriot groups will attempt to launch a spring and summer offensive, based full of outrage and indignation, aimed at stirring up the base.

Published in Guest Commentary

IRSA Tea Party protest in May 2013 against the IRS. (Photo: Jeffery Scism)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Anyone who has followed right wing movements over the past several decades, or even the past few months, could have anticipated the most recent wrinkle in the still-developing IRS scandal; the call to abolish the IRS. While advocating eliminating the IRS is nothing new -- former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has pushed that idea for years -- shortly before a House Appropriation Committee hearing, Senator Ted Cruz picked up the abolish the IRS standard tweeting: “Mr. President, if your #1 priority is fixing the problem, let's abolish the #IRS

Published in Guest Commentary


Young people in America, and their parents and grandparents, are all contributors to the greatest revolution in technology in the history of the world. Yet as we heap praise and money on tech leader Apple, and generate billions in advertising revenue for Google and Facebook, we're not getting back as much as we're giving.

Yes, these companies provide quality products and much-desired entertainment. They deserve a sizable profit. But while they're making unprecedented profits, they're creating little more than low-wage positions, investing minimally in the country that funded their growth, and making a mockery of the tax laws that are supposed to pay for the next generation's education.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 11:18

The Permanence of Permanent War

8551478445 1f13f7c8b5 n(Photo: thierry ehrmann)STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

President Barack Obama's recent speech on ending, or winding down, or cutting back on, or doing something to/with the "War on Terror" that the U.S. has supposedly been engaged in since the events of 9/11 has received a great deal of attention. Indeed the United States has been engaged in what can be described as "Permanent War" since the Bush/Cheney invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent invasion of Iraq. To begin to answer the above question one can begin with an analysis of Iraq in particular.

Published in Guest Commentary

5751317156 1a9225f81a n(Photo: Talk Radio News Service)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It is not hyperbolic to state that the prison system in the U.S. is one unholy dysfunctional mess. Over the past few months I've written about overcrowded and crumbling prisons, the revival of debtors prisons in a number of states across the country, the disenfranchisement of former felons, and the problems of false confessions and the wrongfully convicted. In years past I've written about the rising rates of sexual assault against incarcerated women and men, and how people with mental illness are disproportionately represented in America's correctional institutions.

Published in Guest Commentary
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