ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We can end war.
Please, before you read on, let those four words float in silence for half a minute, until you actually hear them — until they come alive with meaning as insistent as a hatching egg. War is not inevitable, no matter how cluelessly enthusiastic the media may be to promote it, no matter how thoroughly it runs the global economy and dominates almost every government.
We can shut down this system of self-perpetuating violence and geopolitical chicken. We can dismantle the glory machine and redefine patriotism. We can curtail the most toxic enterprise on the planet. We can end war.
Oh, the audacity to say such a thing! Yet it amounts to no more than saying: We can evolve, individually and collectively. We can bring wisdom to conflict. We can reclaim the institutions that run our lives. We can look into the eyes of children, those we know and those we don't know, and vow to protect them. We can start caring again about future generations and bring their well-being into our thoughts and plans.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Despite widespread criticism that the titans of the financial world engage in illegal or destructive profiteering practices – and escape punishment except for a few scapegoats, evidence and reports of trading improprieties continue to emerge.
Of all publications, Bloomberg.com headlines the most recent alleged global financial scandal: "Traders Said to Rig Currency Rates to Profit Off Clients." Yes, Bloomberg reports that five big-time currency traders (as in converting dollars to yen for example) say that they have engaged in or witnessed the fixing of exchange rates for greater profit.
In a rather complicated scheme that involves split-second timing, foreign currency traders, executing orders on behalf of clients, game the system to make larger profits at the expense of those who have retained them to convert currencies.
That's a wordy way of saying clients get cheated by some of the foreign currency traders, because the traders are driving up exchange rates and making money on the increased margin.
As a June 12 Bloomberg article reports:
“The FX [foreign currency exchange] market is like the Wild West,” said James McGeehan, who spent 12 years at banks before co-founding Framingham, Massachusetts-based FX Transparency LLC, which advises companies on foreign-exchange trading, in 2009.
“It’s buyer beware.”The $4.7-trillion-a-day currency market, the biggest in the financial system, is one of the least regulated. The inherent conflict banks face between executing client orders and profiting from their own trades is exacerbated because most currency trading takes place away from exchanges.
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.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a previous Commentary on this subject, I endeavored to "set the stage." I briefly retailed the history of the establishment of US Permanent War policy by BushCheney. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama appeared to attack the policy head-on, and suggested that he would endeavour to end it.
This President is known for giving very pretty speeches, seemingly showing a great deal of resolve to solve very difficult problems, but then for one reason or another failing to follow through and surely failing to achieve the goals he appeared to set forth. There are a variety of reasons for this. Some have to do with his apparent dis-interest in engaging in heavy-duty political battling. Some have to do with his traditional right-wing Democratic politics. Some have to do with the well-known total intransigence of the Congressional Republican Party in dealing with him.
But there are some major structural problems in the US economy and in US society in general that make it very hard for President Obama to follow through on his proposal. (It should be noted that here, for the sake of this discussion, I am taking him at his word that he really wants to do this and is not just blowing smoke. However, it is well-known on the Left that that may very well not be the case.)
And so, not necessarily in order of importance, let's consider the question, "Why Permanent War." The central element is the nature of modern US capitalism. Until the advent of the Reagan Administration, since the end of World War II US capitalism focused on domestic production for profit-making (and profit-making is the number one goal of capitalists. Any other positive achievements for society as a whole may be called "collateral benefits," for lack of a better term.) Then things began to change. Since this history is well-known to most readers of these pages, I will review it very quickly.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On June 10, the Senate passed a farm bill that would reduce food stamp allotments by $4 billlion. It gets worse though, the House wants to, according to The Hill, cut government-issued food stamps by a brutal $20.5 billion dollars.
Both the Senate and the House are presenting their farm bills as "austerity measures." Heck, if Congress wants to stop subsidizing big agri-farmers not to grow crops, that's a cut in tax spending that makes sense. (Although this bill still includes a lot of agricultural subsidies, including – gasp – tobacco.)
But cutting food stamps is purely punitive against the poor. It's the austerity "conventional wisdom" in DC that views poverty as resulting from being a lesser person, of being responsible for being hungry – or it being some sort of divine decision that some Americans have been placed into a state of purgatory.
This is at a time, according to a March 28 MSNBC article, that more US citizens require food stamps for sustenance than ever before: "A record 47.8 million people are enrolled in the program despite the recession's end and a stronger economy."
The war on food stamps is a paradox, because the program's strongest opponents are red state Republicans.
PUBLIC CITIZEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Momentum to free elections from corporate influence is growing by the month. A bipartisan majority of both houses of Delaware's General Assembly have signed a letter calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment reversing the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Delaware is now the 15th state to call for such an amendment, after Maine, West Virginia and Illinois passed similar resolutions over the past two months. Known as "the First State" for being the first to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Delaware is maintaining that tradition of leadership by being one of the early states to stand for voter ownership of political campaigns.
A total of 24 state representatives and 11 state senators signed their names to the letter, which is addressed to U.S. Sens. Thomas Carper (D–Del.) and Chris Coons (D–Del.) and U.S. Rep. John Carney (D–Del.).
The letter, which was initiated by state Rep. Paul Baumbach and state Sen. Bryan Townsend, reads in part, "There is no more critical foundation to our government than citizens' confidence in fair and free elections. The Citizens United decision directly undermines this confidence, and was issued in the absence of any evidence or searching inquiry to refute the fair assumption that unbridled and opaque spending in politics harms American democracy. ... The United States of America's elections should not be permitted to go to the highest bidder, and yet this is the risk that rises from the ashes of the Citizens United decision." The letter represents the second major response to Citizens United in the past two years in Delaware. In 2012, Common Cause Delaware and Public Citizen helped pass a bill requiring reporting of independent political expenditures in excess of $10,000 in Delaware. Common Cause Delaware also played a leadership role in securing this victory for free elections.
WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yes, of course, a lot of the NSA spying Mr. Greenwald appears so breathlessly surprised by has been going on for many years. I know because I've been writing about it since the PATRIOT Act. The Washington Post did an excellent, enormous report on the US surveillance state in 2010 titled Top Secret America, which included a section titled Monitoring America, which pretty much let all the cats out of all the bags on this particular subject...and yet now, all of a sudden, members of the "news" media and a bunch of other people who should know better are shocked, shocked that such things are going on. Simple truth: anyone acting all astonished by this is either oblivious, naive, or is desperately trying to sell you something.
On the other side of the coin are the people arguing it's no big deal, because it's been going on for years, and besides, it's legal, and Congress has oversight, so chill out. Invariably, these are the Obama supporters, many of whom have conveniently forgotten the president's vehement promises to dramatically scale back the assault on civil liberties he inherited from Bush and the War on Terra. Besides, didn't they mention that Congress has oversight? All is well.
Congress?! That's supposed to make anyone feel better? The Capitol dome is half-packed with outright Christian fascists, and most of the rest of them I wouldn't follow into the water...but they've got the country's back on domestic surveillance? Spare me. I'd bet my salary that 90% of Congress doesn't even begin to understand the basic details of this situation; half the guys in the House GOP still light their cigars by banging rocks together...and most of them would gleefully authorize full-spectrum surveillance of anyone not Bathed In The Blood Of The Lamb. I am not comforted.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's worth noting that a noticeable number of progressives are protesting not the expanded government invasion of privacy under President Obama, but rather those sites, such as BuzzFlash at Truthout, who are harshly critical of Obama for justifying a secret system of massive spying on individuals.
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I could fill this commentary with a load of urls linking to articles raising the alarm on how a president who is a constitutional lawyer is extending the groundwork – laid by Bush and Cheney, but really begun during the cold war with the creation of agencies like the CIA, NSA and NRO (National Reconaissance Office – the spy satellite system that tracks people, monitors phone calls, and collects data from space) -- but this is really about the arc of history, democracy and common sense.
Edward Snowden, who admitted this weekend to being the leaker of the latest NSA revelation that the US is collecting -- the kind of data that moves toward the direction of a Stasi state -- is ensconced in Hong Kong, hoping that his heroic action on behalf of the Constitution will not end in his arrest and extradition. We know what fate will await Snowden – if Hong Kong extradites him, which it probably will because it is a part of China now, and China doesn't want to encourage whistleblowers in its own nation. He will be treated as an enemy of the state, although if processed through a civilian court may not experience the psychological and deprivation torture that has been Bradley Manning's fate.
Snowden told Glenn Greenwald -- who is no doubt the subject of an investigation by the NSA, CIA and FBI using data and information collected on the constitutional lawyer turned journalist – that "I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of thing."
Already the Obama administration is calling for Snowden's prosecution. After all, his leak is a tsuanami of an embarrassment to the White House.
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
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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.