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Scenes from the March For Change rally against gun violence at the State Capitol in Hartford in the wake the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (February 14, 2013)Scenes from the March For Change rally against gun violence at the State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut, on February 14, 2013 (Photo: CT Senate for Democrats / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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"You're waving still-warm bodies around to shill for your pet projects that have zero to do with and would have in no way prevented the Las Vegas shooting... Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" a conservative friend wrote me after my column ("Post Las Vegas Massacre, Prayers and Condolences Are Not Enough: Stop The Gun Madness in This Country") about the murder of at least 59 and the wounding of more than 500 at a country music festival in Las Vegas Sunday night, was posted online line Monday morning.

After mass shootings -- "477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress." according to the Editorial Board of The New York Times -- it is inevitable that some Americans will try and explain them away by turning toward other explanations, except the proliferation of guns in the country. Some comments are worth hearing and trying to understand, despite how ridiculous or opportunist, or caught in a maelstrom of denial.

Wednesday, 04 October 2017 06:25

Gun Violence Created the United States


gunvnvmassThe foundation of the United States is embedded in gun violence. (Photo: Joe Loong)

It happens after every mass shooting. Corporate media outlets have a formula for coverage. They publish stories for a week or so ascertaining a "motive" for the shooter, talking about the details of high-tech -- usually military-style firearms -- used in the massacres and speculating on what gun control would have stopped the specific shooting of the moment. Of course, we can't forget the pro forma, with rare exception, neighbor or relative who can attest that the shooter "was a wonderful guy and always helped when you needed him."

According to the Guardian, there have been 1,516 mass killing sprees in the US in the last 1,735 days. That's a lot of fodder for the templated coverage of the mainstream media.

Generally, after a week or two, coverage fizzles out until the next mass shooting. Newspapers and other media generally accept the conventional wisdom that there is no one way the latest hideous outbreak of violence could have been prevented. Then, the business of protecting the manufacture and sales of any gun that the National Rifle Association (NRA) designates not only continues; it expands.

Right now, for instance, there is a bill before Congress that would allow the easy purchase of silencers without a special license. Yes, those are the mechanisms that muffle a gunshot so a person can be shot without making a loud noise. It was expected to pass Congress, but the GOP leadership has now "shelved [it] indefinitely" from consideration, fearing backlash after the Las Vegas massacre. However, it will be back, along with some other NRA wish list laws, when the Republican leadership believes massacres are crowded out by other news for a period, and they can slip it through.

The NRA must be held responsible for militarizing individual gun owners and creating the possibility for someone like the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, to amass the arsenal found in his room. Paddock owned over 40 high-tech guns, many (23) of which he had with him at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. He also had his sniper rifle equipped with a legal device, called a "bumper," which effectively turned his firearm into an automatic weapon.


starvationSculptures of famine. (Photo: provided by Kathy Kelly)

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Earlier this year, the Sisters of St. Brigid invited me to speak at their Feile Bride celebration in Kildare, Ireland. The theme of the gathering was: “Allow the Voice of the Suffering to Speak.”

The Sisters have embraced numerous projects to protect the environment, welcome refugees and nonviolently resist wars. I felt grateful to reconnect with people who so vigorously opposed any Irish support for U.S. military wars in Iraq. They had also campaigned to end the economic sanctions against Iraq, knowing that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children suffered and died for lack of food, medicine and clean water. This year, the Sisters asked me to first meet with local teenagers who would commemorate another time of starvation imposed by an imperial power.

Joe Murray, who heads Action from Ireland (Afri), arranged for a class from Dublin’s Beneavin De La Salle College to join an Irish historianin a field adjacent to the Dunshaughlin work house on the outskirts of Dublin.

Such workhouses dot the landscape of Ireland and England. In the mid-19th century, during the famine years, they were dreaded places. People who went there knew they were near the brink of death due to hunger, disease, and dire poverty. Ominously, behind the workhouse lay the graveyard. 

The young men couldn’t help poking a bit of fun, at first; what in the world were they doing out in a field next to an imposing building, their feet already soaked in the wet grass as a light rain fell? They soon became quite attentive.

2017.10.2.Berkowitz.BFThe 2016 list of most challenged books definitely reflect the politics of our times. (Photo: Kennedy Library / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Graphic novels tackling the issues of sex and gender made up a chunk of the 2016 list of most challenged books, a list published each year by the American Library Association during Banned Books Week. In case you were preoccupied by headlines about the Trump administration's woefully inadequate response to the people of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria's path of destruction; the president's attempted reinvigoration of the "culture wars" by slamming NFL players (mostly Black), for taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem; and HHS Secretary Tom Price's resignation over his profligate use of government aircraft, last week was the 35th annual Banned Books Week.

"Of the top 10 books challenged in libraries, the top five were challenged for having LGBTQ content, which seems pretty significant," Mariko Tamaki, author of This One Summer, the number one book on the list, told The Washington Post's Comic Riffs.

Every year, typically during the last week in September, the American Library Association (ALA) –- and numerous other organizations -- celebrates, that's right, celebrates -- Banned Books Week. At the bannedbooksweek.org website, folks there even greet you with a hearty "Happy Banned Books Week!"

Last week was indeed Banned Books Week, which annually celebrates the freedom to read, and there were celebrations across the country in theaters, bookstores and online venues.

Microsoft refuses to own up to its tax responsibility, and to its social responsibility.  Microsoft refuses to own up to its tax responsibility, and to its social responsibility. (Photo: Seattle Clouds / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Corporate cheating goes well beyond federal tax reporting, as big companies have used various forms of deception to keep taking from America, especially with a complicit corporate media unwilling to report the facts about their behavior. 

1. Give Us Your Technology, Infrastructure, Security, Patent Law ... but Sorry, Our Profits Were Made in Another Country.

-----Microsoft: "Rediscovering Their Soul" While Skipping Out on Their Taxes

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella writes about the "Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone," and the company's commitment to "humans and the unique quality we call empathy." But the empathy apparently doesn't apply to the Americans who rely on tax dollars to support basic needs. Microsoft made over half its 2017 revenue in the U.S., and it has 57 percent of its long-lived assets in our country. Yet for 2016 it claimed a LOSS IN THE U.S. and a $20 billion profit in other countries. Microsoft goes on to tell its shareholders: "As of June 30, 2017, $127.9 billion was held by our foreign subsidiaries and would be subject to material repatriation tax effects." 

Few other companies have benefited as much as Microsoft from 75 years of technological research and development in the United States. But the company refuses to own up to its tax responsibility, and to its social responsibility. 

Friday, 29 September 2017 06:58

Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Vietnam War


MLK 0929wrp opt(Portrait: Dave McKeague)In preparing for a panel discussion about Martin Luther King, Jr., I re-read the sermon that he delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City. The sermon is titled, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam," and it took place on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before King's assassination.

Dr. King was cautioned by many of his advisors not to give that sermon because it was sure to alienate influential supporters of the civil rights movement, including President Lyndon Johnson. Nonetheless, King spoke out.

He gave a powerful and eloquent sermon, one well worth reflecting on, particularly in light of the new Ken Burns and Lynn Novick ten-part documentary on the war in Vietnam. I'll review below some of the lines in King's sermon that jumped out at me

Dr. King said, "I see this war as an unjust, evil and futile war. I preach to you today on the war in Vietnam because my conscience leaves me with no other choice." Dr. King is speaking truth to power in naming the war for what it was -- "unjust, evil and futile." King was a great leader because he led from his conscience and, in doing so, inspired and empowered others to do so.


coloriverpersonWhat about river personhood? (Photo: Cathryn)

If corporations have personhood, based in part on the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling, then why shouldn't rivers and other natural features? That's a question that a recent case filed in Denver asks, according to a September 25 New York Times article. In this case, the contention by the plaintiffs is that the Colorado River should have the rights of an individual to sue various governmental and private entities:

Does a river -- or a plant, or a forest -- have rights?

This is the essential question in what attorneys are calling a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit, in which a Denver lawyer and a[n] ... environmental group are asking a judge to recognize the Colorado River as a person....

The suit was filed Monday in Federal District Court in Colorado by Jason Flores-Williams, a Denver lawyer. It names the river ecosystem as the plaintiff -- citing no specific physical boundaries -- and seeks to hold the state of Colorado and Gov. John Hickenlooper liable for violating the river's "right to exist, flourish, regenerate, be restored, and naturally evolve."

Because the river cannot appear in court, a group called Deep Green Resistance is filing the suit as an ally, or so-called next friend, of the waterway.

The Times notes that "several environmental law experts said the suit had a slim chance at best." However, just how extreme has the pendulum shifted toward businesses that they are considered to have rights that they share with individual people, but the natural environment upon which we depend and beautifies the earth is considered to have no legal standing? Isn't the Colorado River alive with fish and marine life as it rushes through bends and turns (including the Grand Canyon), traveling 1,450 miles across several states, supplying fresh water to millions of people?

In Beirut, tens of people gathered in front of the Saudi Embassy in solidarity with them for their fight for their basic human right to move freely.People gather in front of the Saudi Embassy in Beirut on June 18, 2011, in solidarity with Saudi women and their fight for the basic human right to move freely. (Photo: Joelle Jatem / Flickr)MEDEA BENJAMIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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It looks like 27 years of protesting, along with international pressure and government recognition that it needs more Saudi women in the workforce, has finally paid off.

In a royal decree, Saudi King Salman announced on September 26 that Saudi women, who have been the only women in the world banned from driving, will have that right as of June 2018. The move brings the Saudi Arabia a step closer to joining the 21st century, but Saudi women remain shackled by extreme gender segregation and a guardianship system that is a form of gender apartheid.

For decades Saudi women have been fighting to lift the driving ban. In 1990, a protest was organized by Aisha Almana, a Saudi woman who had studied -- and driven -- in the United States. Almana and forty-six other women piled into cars and drove around the capital. They were arrested and thrown in jail. Their passports were confiscated, those with government jobs were fired, and they were denounced in mosques across the country.The ban on driving, along with the general lack of reliable and safe public transportation, has had a terrible impact on middle class and poor Saudi women who cannot afford their own personal drivers. It has been a major factor keeping women at less than 20 percent of the labor force. The recent introduction of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Careem have helped, but are still too expensive for many women as a daily form of transportation.

Thursday, 28 September 2017 06:44

The Courage to Kneel

Trump, you might say, is the logical consequence of a passive, spectator citizenry: a "leader" who tweets the unconscious impulses -- the fears and hatreds -- of his supporters and delivers one comforting scapegoat after another for the public to revile.Trump, you might say, is the logical consequence of a passive, spectator citizenry: a "leader" who tweets the unconscious impulses -- the fears and hatreds -- of his supporters and delivers one comforting scapegoat after another for the public to revile. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Kneel, touch the earth.

"Oh say can you see . . . "

The anthem starts. I can feel the courage . . . of Colin Kaepernick, the (then) San Francisco 49ers quarterback who refused to stand for the national war hymn, not when one of the wars was directed at Americans of color. Occupying the public spotlight that he did, Kaepernick risked -- and received -- widespread condemnation. Rabid fans burned replicas of his jersey. I’m sure as he knelt that first time, as his knee touched the earth, he had a sense of what he was setting off.

This is patriotism.

A year later, his action still resonates. The president got involved (of course), ranting and tweeting that kneeling NFL players should be fired, thus, as Adam Erickson points out, joining his list of scapegoats:

"Donald Trump," he writes at the Raven Foundation website, "attempts to push this mythical narrative on almost every minority: Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, journalists, immigrants, the transgender community, and now we can include professional athletes in the long list of Trump’s scapegoats. The mythical narrative (i.e., the lie) he espouses is that these minorities pose a significant threat to American values."


voting2445Voter suppression is the real fraud. (Photo: justgrimes)


A new study showing the impact of voter suppression in Wisconsin, which Donald Trump won by 22,748 votes, possibly played a role in the Badger State's electoral outcome. The report was analyzed by journalist Ari Berman in a September 25 Mother Jones article:

A comprehensive study released today suggests how many missing votes can be attributed to the new law. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison surveyed registered voters who didn't cast a 2016 ballot in the state's two biggest counties -- Milwaukee and Dane, which is home to Madison. More than 1 out of 10 nonvoters (11.2 percent) said they lacked acceptable voter ID and cited the law as a reason why they didn't vote; 6.4 percent of respondents said the voter ID law was the "main reason" they didn't vote.

The study's lead author, University of Wisconsin political scientist Kenneth Mayer, says between roughly 9,000 and 23,000 registered voters in the reliably Democratic counties were deterred from voting by the ID law. Extrapolating statewide, he says the data suggests as many as 45,000 voters sat out the election, though he cautioned that it was difficult to produce an estimate from just two counties.

Berman knows this topic because he has written on it numerous times before and has also authored a book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. Of course, Berman spends a good deal of time discussing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the book. Unfortunately, the law was weakened by the Supreme Court in 2013.

The important fact to remember, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has pointed out many a time, is that voter fraud at the polls is infinitesimal nationally. Lorraine C. Minnite, author of The Myth of Voter Fraud, provides examples that disprove the Republican allegations of voter fraud in an article featured in the Scholars Strategy Network.

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