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BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
by Meg White

With the holidays coming up, you may be asking yourself, "What do I get for the mavericky, million-dollar mom who has everything?" And I'd like to submit that a coloring book would satisfy her need to scribble outside the lines.

going rouge coloring bookA coloring book may sound like a strange way to approach telling the story of the Momma Bear of Alaska Sarah Palin, but once you hear the reasoning behind Going Rouge: The Sarah Palin Rogue Coloring & Activity Book, everything falls into place.

As a former editorial artist and political cartoonist at a number of newspapers across Arizona who has worked with Jerry Scott of "Zits" and "Baby Blues" fame, Julie Sigwart turned the jokes she was hearing about Palin's upcoming memoir coming with a free pack of crayons into a parody everyone can enjoy.

"It's an editorial statement about Palin's policies and approach to politics," she said. "We didn't want to tell a narrative like a comic book and instead put together a collection of editorial cartoons disguised as a kids' coloring book."

Published in Interviews

BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW

One of the realities of new progressive journalism is that some writers play it safe; they stay on the side of D.C. insider acceptability, so that they can still be television pundits and be on panels and get invited to parties in D.C.,  New York and LA. And, of course, so that they can get paid for their work by corporate mainstream journalism who know that they won't upset the entrenched powers. In short, they know how to play the game and advance their careers and incomes.

Published in Interviews

BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
by Meg White

When I heard that the American Petroleum Institute (API), the lobby group for Big Oil, was taking a cues from the healthcare debate by endeavoring to recreate the vicious rallies we've been seeing in an effort to defeat the Waxman-Markey bill, I was worried. Not only am I just plain sick of the frightening vitriol being spewed at these events under the guise of populism, I'm also afraid of any further compromises to the already watered-down cap-and-trade legislation as it moves through the Senate.

What to do? Well, I had a chat with America's No. 1 populist. Author and commentator Jim Hightower assured me he is not worried, despite the fact that the very first rally by API's front group, Energy Citizens, was held in his home state of Texas last Tuesday.

"These protests have been popping up like mushrooms on moldy Astroturf, and this might just be the moldiest," Hightower said. "Energy Citizens is nothing but a Big Oil front and a PR stunt," noting that oil companies around Houston rented the space for the rally, provided entertainment, printed placards and t-shirts and provided food for the event.

The thing that really got him was that these companies gave time off to their employees and encouraged them to attend the rally. Hightower speculated that, had employees tried to take off work to meet with their kid's teacher for example, the situation would have been quite different.

"Here they are in a very philanthropic mood," Hightower said with what sounded over the phone like a wry grin. But what was really a "hoot" were the people who were complaining about "big government intruding" on the industry by giving subsidies to alternative energy companies.

"Big Oil is just gobbling billions of dollars of subsidies," Hightower said. "It's beyond ludicrous."

Published in Interviews

A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
by Meg White

Phylis Geller -- the writer, producer and director of the new documentary film Coal Country -- sees her latest work as something of an attempt at conflict resolution. But when the mere definition of neutrality is at stake, COAL COUNTRYit's hard to appear evenhanded.

Such is the case with coal in West Virginia. Geller says "the topic is in the air" after a flurry of lawsuits, demonstrations, conflicts and lobbying surrounding the coal-producing region in Appalachia. "Then there's this film that purports to be fair, but if it doesn't just support your side, you don't think it's fair."

She's no stranger to the area. Geller and the film's executive producer (and native Appalachian) Mari-Lynn Evans also collaborated to create the three-part television series Appalachia. But Geller called the film's premier in West Virginia "an event unlike any other."

I had the pleasure of interviewing Geller over the phone Tuesday evening about the controversy surrounding the film and its debut in West Virginia this past Saturday.

Though they had booked the premier with the South Charleston Museum's LaBelle Theater months in advance, the event was canceled last minute. The Wednesday before the Saturday of the event, museum representatives called and said that, due to security concerns, they were going to cancel the showing.

What may sound like an overreaction to a couple of protesters and some unwanted controversy was much more than that. Protests and demonstrations have recently rocked coal country, and miners are already on edge. The industry is also worried about possible changes from the Obama Administration, according to Geller.

"They had a good friend in the Bush Administration," she said.

Geller was worried about the possibility of violence herself. After a fracas between miners and environmentalists over the recent July 4 weekend, she wasn't taking any chances either. They had hired private security and had tried to convince state troopers to be on hand for the premier.

Published in Interviews

A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW

Our goal is to give benevolent nudgers an instruction manual.  The evil nudgers have already mastered most of these tools, alas.

-- Richard H. Thaler, Coauthor with Cass R. Sunstein of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

* * *

Nudge

In a most intriguing yet wonkish book -- Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness -- Professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein (who has been nominated by President Obama to serve as "regulatory czar" overseeing the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs*) bring the world of behavioral economics down to a very entertaining and user-friendly plane. Talking about choice architecture, they give concrete examples in chapter after chapter of how real people pick and decide their way through life, sometimes effectively, other times to their own detriment. They look at all kinds of institutional "nudges" that influence choices, from street stripes painted to fool drivers into slowing down, to targets in urinals that, well, you get the picture -- nudges are everywhere. And the authors show ways we can all nudge and get nudged more wisely. Sometimes, it's as simple as designing a better form or engineering-in a better default option.

Unhappy about your retirement plan choice? This book will help you think about how you picked it. Eager to save the planet? This book identifies painless ways to help do that. There's plenty, too, about political choices and existing or potential governmental nudging. How about privatizing marriage, fixing Social Security, or simplifying tax returns? It's all in the book.

BuzzFlash found much to like in Nudge. It's one of those books that sticks with you, making you more self-aware and alert to possibilities. Our thanks to Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein for simply illustrating choice architecture concepts and showing the value of implementing simple but significant changes.

* * *

BuzzFlash: In Nudge, you talk about everyday decisions people have to make – what will a hungry kid choose from the school cafeteria line, or which Medicare Plan D drug coverage will a retiree choose?  Choice architects are the people or committees that help shape those decisions by making it easier or more appealing to pick one thing and not the other. Is that a fair summary of the role of bureaucrats and managers who have the power to offer choices?

Richard H. Thaler: Yes, Good start!Richard H. Thaler

BuzzFlash: Nudges by your definition are well intentioned. Benevolent nudgers “are self-consciously attempting to move people in directions that will make their lives better.”  Can you contrast that to a more nefarious choice architecture?

Richard H. Thaler: Nudgers CAN be well-intentioned but can also be self-interested.  We are being nudged all the time by marketers, religions, spouses, etc.  Sunstein and I did not invent nudging!  Our goal is to give benevolent nudgers an instruction manual.  The evil nudgers have already mastered most of these tools, alas.

Published in Interviews

A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW

I would say there is an increase in interest in the white nationalist movement now, but not necessarily an upsurge in violence that is out of the ordinary. It's something that is always there ...

-- Leonard Zeskind, author, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream

* * *

BuzzFlash is deeply concerned, yet eager to understand what's behind the recent killings at a Kansas reproductive health clinic and a Washington, D.C. Holocaust museum. Both prime suspects, Scott Roeder and James von Brunn, have had long and active relationships with radical right-wing groups such as the Freemen, Liberty Lobby and the National Alliance. Today we called up a person who has studied extremist groups and the shooters they spawn for decades -- author and anti-racism activist Leonard Zeskind.

Leonard Zeskind

In his heavily researched and much lauded book, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, Zeskind describes two extremist factions among the white supremacist, neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denier and anti-Semitic groups. The mainstreamists, he says, are like David Duke -- they seek a political base and larger numbers. The vanguardists are more interested in going out on their own -- acting on their beliefs in direct, targeted ways.

But as Zeskind told Bill Berkowitz recently: "… these are not a string of disconnected organizations sharing only a common set of hatreds. Rather, this is a single movement, with a common set of leaders and interlocking memberships that hold a complete and sometimes sophisticated ideology. Further, the white nationalist movement today is organized around the notion that the power of whites to control government and social policy has already been overthrown by people of color and Jews, rather unlike the Klan of the 1960s which sought to defend a system of racial apartheid in the South.”

Zeskind talked with BuzzFlash about the relationship between the leaders and the shooters who make up a clearly dangerous radical movement. He suggests how America should see them, and how to respond.

Published in Interviews

A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW

So when you have The New York Times, on the front page, posing a self-evidently ridiculous notion like a politically savvy challenge to evolution -- actually it's not. It's a politically savvy challenge to the poor bastards who are trying to teach high school biology.

-- Charles P. Pierce, humorist and author, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

* * *

BuzzFlash readers have been flocking to support reader-accountable progressive journalism and community by buying Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free from the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace -- and with good reason.  Pierce has written an irreverent, droll, insightful account of how the land of the enlightenment -- which threw off the monarchical shackles of Europe -- has come to value "truthiness" and belief not grounded in reason or science.  In short, a good deal of this great nation has become grounded in a parallel universe that has little to do with fact or enlightened innovation.

Pierce told us that BuzzFlash was one of the first Internet sites he reads regularly.  We have to admit here at BuzzFlash; we have found a soulmate.

* * *

Charles P. Pierce

BuzzFlash: I understand that you decided to write Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free during a visit to the creation museum. Can you discuss that?

Charles P. Pierce: Actually it's a little bit more complicated than that. I realized, as I was going through my past work, that there were a couple of things that kept running through it. I think I was most struck by what eventually coalesced into the thesis of the book, when I was watching the extended media spectacle around the Terri Schiavo case, where people stubbornly, and I think stupidly, self-destructed on so many different levels that it just looked like people willing themselves over a cliff. At about the same point, I was reading a newspaper and saw a thing about the building of the "creation museum." In an update, they talked about what would be the fundamental belief of the creation museum - that humans and dinosaurs had coexisted somehow, and they mentioned there was an exhibit where they had dinosaurs with saddles on them, showing you how men would have ridden dinosaurs when they both coexisted.

Published in Interviews

A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW

Hate-talk radio is all about Manichean dualism: Dividing the world into good and evil, black and white, conservative and liberal. And I’m convinced that it actually services a significant bloc of the American public that craves this kind of explanation of their world, because it has a comforting value to them. These are the people Robert Altemeyer calls “the authoritarians” –- the people who actively seek authoritarian rule.

-- David Neiwert, author, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right

If BuzzFlash has emphasized three things in its nine years of being online as a progressive news and commentary site over nine years, it's that the right wing engages in demagoguery, hypocrisy and lies.

Right-wing radio and television roll all three of these nefarious techniqures together and deliver up a combo plate heaped high with a dangerous appeal to primal fears and emotions that threaten the basis of a reasoned democracy based on mutual respect.

They also threaten the "other" -- as in "liberals," for instance -- by branding them ("us") as the enemy.  We might laugh condescendingly at right-wing media shills, but they are very dangerous indeed.

As David Neiwert writes in his introduction, "Eliminationism [is] a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination."

Their rhetoric is "focused on an enemy within, people who constitute entire blocs of the citizen populace. It advocates the excision and extermination of those entire blocs by violent or civil means."

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A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW

Americans tend to pride themselves on getting a “bargain”, getting a good deal.  But often a cheap price means that people in other countries aren’t getting a fair wage.

-- Nancy Jones, Chicago Fair Trade Director

* * *

For years BuzzFlash has supported the Fair Trade movement by promoting and offering Fair Trade items as premiums. It represents BuzzFlash's commitment to economic justice.  Fair Trade also represents our unique model of underwriting progressive news and commentary through the purchase of progressive consumer items.  BuzzFlash is the only liberal news and commentary website that practices what it writes about: changing our overly consumer and advertising-driven society by asking readers to purchase progressive products that support progressive media.

It's a win-win choice for all those who seek hope and change, and a new media rising from the ashes of the corporate status quo press.

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A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW

Tax responsibilities have shifted off of large wealth holders and onto wage earners, off corporations and onto individuals, off the progressive federal tax system and onto state and local tax systems, which tend to be more regressive.  Tax cuts for the rich have shrunk federal services -- and shifted responsibilities to states for health, anti-poverty, transportation and more.  That’s the shaft part. ...
We're in America's "Second Gilded Age."

-- Chuck Collins, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good.

* * *

It's April 15 and the Mad Hatters of the Teabagging Party are off to protest that the extreme income redistribution over the last 30 years continue unabated so that the super-rich become even richer as America's middle class sinks into oblivion.  There's been a class war going on since Reagan was elected, and it's been a war on the working class as the average wage earner got mugged by the largest shift of wealth to the rich in American history.

What better day than April 15 to devote our BuzzFlash interview to a conversation with Chuck Collins, who is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and is director of their "Program on Inequality and the Common Good." We strongly recommend you read it in full.  It's chock full of information that reveals the income redistribution scam that has been pulled off in full view of the American public, fattening the wallets of the already financially engorged fat cats.

Also, please make a visit to Chuck's tremendous site, Extreme Inequality. The truth about economic injustice will set you free from propaganda on taxes, bought and paid for by the wealthy.

* * *Chuck Collins

BuzzFlash: Can you explain what the Working Group on Extreme Inequality is and its relationship to the Institute for Policy Studies?

Chuck Collins: The Working Group was formed by a group of labor, religious and civic leaders with the goal of advancing the discussion about the dangers of extreme inequality to our economy, health, democracy and civic life.  The Institute helps staff the Working Group through the Program on Inequality and the Common Good. Our original work was to dramatize that “inequality matters” -- that these inequalities have undermined the quality of life for everyone. 

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