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Friday, 12 September 2014 08:29

Mitch McConnell Threatens the United States

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMcConnellRifle(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader, is not a happy man.

He didn’t like it when Barack Obama was elected president. Just about the first thing McConnell said was that his main responsibility was to make sure that Mr. Obama was a one-term president.

That vow drove McConnell’s and the Tea Party’s politics. They didn’t worry about the nation or the people. They worried about how to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

They failed.

But, in the past six years, McConnell managed to block almost all constructive legislation in the Senate.  And it’s not even a fair fight. McConnell manipulated and wheeled and dealed so that the majority no longer can do anything. It now takes 60 votes to pass almost anything in the Senate. That’s because the Republican obstructionists have threatened to filibuster anything of substance.  Important bipartisan legislation that would normally pass with a majority of 51 to 59 votes out of the 100 possible are now scuttled by backroom politics and the blind hatreds that some have for this nation’s president who was elected by the people and by the Electoral College—twice.

And now comes Mitch McConnell to again obstruct the people and the government. He vows if the Republicans win the Senate in November, he will shut down the government if President Obama doesn’t agree with the Republicans.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apalin3(Photo: Wikipedia)

The Palin clan, headed by Momma Grizzly and Papa Todd, were reportedly involved in a drunken brawl a few days ago. Apparently, the family was at a party related to Alaska's famous Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race (which Todd has won four times) when fists began to fly.

According to ABC News

Sarah Palin and her family were at the center of a lively party last weekend that erupted into a fight, with daughter Bristol Palin allegedly throwing a right hook, a man who says he was a guest at the party told ABC News.

“She was punching him [another man] in the face like six times; it was an assault if I’ve ever seen one,” Eric Thompson said, adding that he was among 70 guests at the birthday party in Anchorage Saturday.

“It wasn’t a light punch either. She was really hitting him. I’m surprised he just sat there and took it.”

Political blogger Amanda Coyne reported that Sarah Palin, along with husband Todd and kids Bristol, Willow and Track, arrived in a stretch Hummer and that the fighting started as the beer started flowing.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaStatuePlaque(Photo: melanzane1013)After a long and inert struggle, resembling nothing so much as two elderly crocodiles trying to gum one another to death, Obama has declared that no action on immigration reform will be taken until after the fall elections. On the one hand, this makes perfect political sense. The chances of getting the House to pass a bill proclaiming that 2+2=4 would be close to nil, were said bill favored by the president. And a bill on so sensitive a topic as immigration reform? Unlikely. And addressing the issue with executive orders would, as the prophets of conventional wisdom proclaim, only hand Republicans further ammunition in an already grim looking mid-term election.

On the other hand, come on, really? Immigration reform has been under discussion for years. The latest iteration of the battle has seen Obama repeatedly put off action, to give the Republicans in the House a chance to act, which they seized upon by doing, um, nothing. And of course, since assuming office, Obama has been deporting undocumented immigrants at a record rate, apparently under the assumption that, once he has passed a certain threshold of anti-immigrant toughness, perhaps by biting off the head of a Guatemalan infant on live TV, his political opponents would have no choice but to sit down and actually hammer out some sort of deal.

But that hasn’t quite worked out, has it? As with most every other area of debate in which the president has attempted to meet his adversaries halfway, the end result has been that the terms of discourse drift rightwards whilst his opponents screech and little of consequence occurs. And in this particular case, we are now left to wait until, at the very earliest, November for any action. And perhaps, post mid-terms, the notion of political capital will come up and Obama will opt to spend his dwindling stores of it on something exciting, like a few more million tons of bombs in Iraq and/or Syria. So then the can gets kicked ever further down the road and oh no! Here’s the 2016 elections and we certainly can’t be doing anything to upset that, can we?

Thursday, 11 September 2014 09:06

A GOP Senate: Good News or Bad News?

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSenate(Photo: US Senate)Just the other day I received the following communication from the GOP (and that’s how they referred to themselves in this particular email):

Subj: GREAT polls for Republicans:

“Steven, Just wanted to update you on the state of play in the critical battleground races: This weekend, there were a number of positive polls released for Republicans. One forecast showed Republicans holding “at least a nominal lead in eight states held by Democrats, more than the six they need to retake the chamber.” One leading forecaster predicted Republicans have a 65.1% chance of winning a Senate majority this November — up from 63.5% two days prior. And another forecasting model gave Republicans a 61% chance of taking back the Senate — up from 58% since a wave of new data was released. The momentum is growing, and the odds are on our side. But every single one of these Senate battleground races is just too close for comfort. With less than two months until Election Day, we can’t afford to leave the odds making to the pollsters. It’s up to us whether we clear the path, seize the lead and deliver a victory in each battleground state.”

Then they go on to ask for money. What? They don’t get enough from the Koch’s et al? But that’s another story.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

americanexcept(Photo: Occupy Posters)

The headline for this commentary came from, of all places, a Chris Cillizza Washington Post column analyzing President Obama's Wednesday night speech on his war plans against ISIS:

The closing moments of Obama's speech, which were noticeably free - or close to it - of the sort of soaring oration his allies love and his detractors loathe, was essentially a paean to American exceptionalism. "America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth," Obama said as he began his close. He went on to note the exceptional role the U.S. had played in beating back an ever-aggressive Russia, our country's work to contain Ebola and the U.S.'s key contribution to ridding Syria of chemical weapons. "America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden," Obama insisted, a line - and a sentiment - that Ronald Reagan would have loved.

Cillizza wasn't necessarily being critical in his tone; he simply was stating the reality that Obama was continuing policies marked by the US asserting itself as the military superpower of the world. As with Bush and Reagan and everyone in between, Obama invokes the notion that the US is obligated to enter into war because it has a uniquely moral mission.

Yes, it is true that Obama did not make the decision to begin the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that led to the blowback of ISIS, but much of his White House speech could have easily been delivered by George W. Bush.

Thursday, 11 September 2014 06:12

The Quick-Draw Morality of Violent Police Force

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBadge(Photo: Scott Sanchez)“So you want to disarm cops LOL yeah that’s an intelligent thing to do the gang bangers would love that surely they will unilaterally disarm too.”

I’m used to semi-anonymous sarcasm by now, like this Huffington Post comment beneath a recent column I wrote on the militarization of the police and the possibility of disarmament, and I have no interest in “fighting it out” with the guy. But there it is, perfectly preserved: an impulse homage to Big Fear, wrapped in unexamined certainty. This is fast-draw morality, made in Hollywood.

I take this moment to highlight it because it’s so typical and, for that reason, the first line of defense of the status quo of violence: this instant acceptance of the idea that our enemies are continually stalking the perimeter of our lives, waiting to invade, to commandeer our way of life the moment we lower our weapons.

This instant reaction to any questioning of the use of armed force to maintain safety and “peace” not only shuts down the discussion but hides all the consequences of violent self-defense, including the creation of the very enemies we fear (e.g., the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and the hemorrhaging of sanctioned, official violence backwards into our own lives.

Violent force and temporary dominance of a situation may occasionally serve a larger end, but the permanent maintenance of this mindset has us stalled in a state of endless embattlement, both at home and abroad. Fear has us locked into a bad story: that violent dominance over our enemies is our only hope. In actuality, our only hope is embracing a larger story: that all humanity, and all of life, is connected. Finding that connection is often what requires courage.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

greeda(Photo: See-ming Lee)

Who knows, maybe journalists at CNNMoney are reading BuzzFlash?

On August 8, we posted a commentary, "As the Rich Get Richer, 75 Percent of the Nation Expects Stagnant or Lower Incomes." On September 8, Emily Jane Fox of CNN Money wrote, "Super rich are getting super richer."

However, Fox did not need to read BuzzFlash to arrive at the conclusion of her article. The facts speak for themselves. As the CNNMoney article reports:

The super rich got super richer as the gap between them and the rest of Americans continued to widen over the last few years, according to a new Federal Reserve report.

In its Study of Consumer Finances, released every three years, the Fed found that the wealthiest 3% of American households controlled 54.4% of the nation's wealth in 2013, a slight increase from its last survey in 2010. It's also substantially higher from the 44.8% they held in 1989, showing how quickly the income divide has been growing over the past decade or so.

At the same time, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 24.7% in 2013. That's compared to 33.2% in 1989.

By the metrics of the Federal Reserve, 10 percent of the US population controls 75 percent of the wealth in this country. Other analyses of the continued redistribution of wealth upward speculate that the nation's financial assets are being increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few individuals and families.

National Guardsmen at New York's Attica prison in 1971. (Screen grab <a href=" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBG1UkxrMG0" target="_blank">The Nation / YouTube</a>)National Guardsmen at New York's Attica prison in 1971. (Screen grab via The Nation / YouTube)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"With the exception of Indian massacres in the late 19th century, the ... assault [on the Attica Correctional Facility] which ended the four-day prison uprising was the bloodiest one-day encounter between Americans since the Civil War."
- New York State Special Commission on Attica, 1972.

September 9 marks the 43rd Anniversary of the start of the Prisoner Rebellion at Attica, located upstate in western New York. After four days of negotiating, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ended what appeared to be productive sessions by ordering 1,000 National Guardsmen, prison guards, and state and local police to storm the facility, resulting nearly 40 people killed, the vast majority of whom were incarcerated.

"Nearly half of Attica prison's approximately 2,200 [prisoners] rebelled and seized control of the prison. Some were angry over the death of an African American activist at another prison, while others revolted because they were unhappy with the brutal living conditions inside Attica," The Huffington Post's David Lohr wrote two years ago. Racist behavior amongst the prison guards was rampant, hygienic conditions were horrific, and medical care was virtually non-existent.

The deadly raid began with the dropping of CS gas putting everyone on the ground, and was followed by the indiscriminate firing of 4500 rounds of ammunition, unloaded on basically unarmed people. The raid did not end the brutality: "Guards beat and tortured prisoners after the revolt, resulting in a wave of prison rebellions nationwide," Scott A. Bonn, a crime expert and assistant professor of sociology at Drew University, told The Huffington Post.

Ray Rice at the Baltimore Ravens training camp, August 5, 2009. (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/3791794853/in/photolist-6M4Wvk-6MppDq-5cT87K-hSsE4m-5cXos7-6RqjPQ-5cT3NX-6M8X2Y-6RmnyB-6Rke8n-icMEQh-5aRQ8q-6M4PWe-5dMufL-6RkPC4-5bGoBR-5cXsrm-5cXsgG-6RpoHS-6RkYUx-6RkwrK-6RpsFs-6Rq6Qb-5cXpid-6RqqNY-6RLYtD-5dH8Gk-6RRiwC-b53U22-5dMtRy-6RRhJ1-aF1SXC-6RAGuf-hSsz3j-7gTLDw-6RMfK8-6RMcS6-6RRif3-6MmtHX-bsKNqC-6Ri63B-6MpkLE-5bLDxh-cyowTj-6RQScA-hSrWLv-6RLYFe-6RR3qo-cyoDff-6RR4UJ" target="_blank">  Keith Allison / Flickr</a>)Ray Rice at the Baltimore Ravens training camp, August 5, 2009. (Photo: Keith Allison / Flickr)AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“There is a comfort in conformity, a security in control, that is appealing. There is a thrill in domination, and we are all secretly attracted to violence.”
- Tom Robbins

I don’t pay much attention to the NFL, not since the Buffalo Bills eviscerated me back in the early 90s. Still, there’s no ignoring what’s been happening this week. In February, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was filmed dragging his unconscious fiancé from an elevator.  Reasoning that there could have been any number of convincing explanations for this, and thanking their lucky stars that he hadn’t been dragging a giant bag of weed, the team wisely suspended him for two games. Flash forwards to Monday, when a second tape surfaced, revealing the reason for Rice’s fiancé’s unconsciousness was that he had punched her directly in the face.

This is part of a bigger story, stretching far beyond the NFL. Consider the following data points.  Item: earlier this month, a series of hacked iCloud accounts led to the release of an assortment of privately taken nude images of a number of celebrities. Amongst the reaction to this, a common theme was, if one doesn’t want nude pictures of oneself circulating, don’t leave them lying around in the cloud. Item: a female tech blogger recently released a series of YouTube pieces examining sexism in video games. The response was a barrage of tweets and threats that were so vicious and specific, she was forced to leave her home. Item: a particularly clever college student made the particularly clever observation that, if you leave an unlocked bicycle lying around, it is likely to get stolen. This rancid metaphor was dropped into an essay on rape and was apparently intended to make a point that was lost on me, since my brain immediately committed seppuku.   

Are you starting to see the pattern here? Violence, of one kind or another, directed at women, accompanied by excuses and victim blaming. The examples are endless. The term “rape culture” has begun to see more and more usage these days, and it’s a useful term, mostly due to its second component: culture. The issue we are looking at is endemic to our society. It is more than an incident of domestic violence in the NFL or the victim blaming that accompanies reports of sexual assault. It is more than slut-shaming in schools or the threats of sexual violence that swirl about in the comment threads of any article even remotely related to gender issues. It is a culture. And that culture is sexist. And that culture reinforces itself through violence.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

armstrade(Photo: fotdmike)According to a new report by the Conflict Armament Research (CAR), which is a project funded by the European Union, a large number of the guns - including high-capacity rifles - used by ISIS were originally supplied to other forces by the US military. "Islamic State forces have captured significant quantities of US-manufactured small arms and have employed them on the battlefield," the report states.

The Conflict Armament Research report and an article in The Independent include a large number of photos indicating the US origin of the weapons. The Independent article states:

James Bevan, CAR director, told [The Independent] that around 30 to 40 per cent of arms his team were able to document were US-made, reflecting the fact that Isis captured most of its weaponry from the Iraqi army when it made stunning territorial gains earlier this year.

Other nations - including Russia and China - were the source of some ISIS weapons, captured as the self-proclaimed caliphate swept across a wide swath of territory in Syria and Iraq and seized arsenals from defeated forces.

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