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KEN JOHNSON OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSolarPanels(Photo: EcoWatch)Mark Twain said it best, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.” It’s hard to tell which is which after closely reviewing the latest hatchet job on solar energy by the Koch brothers’ front group, The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA).

Aside from spelling solar correctly, much of the report, Filling the Solar Sinkhole, is untrue or misleading—including its basic assertion that the U.S. solar industry receives $39 billion in annual subsidies. Seriously? How can that be? How can an industry with a U.S. market value of $15 billion receive $39 billion in annual subsidies? The answer: it doesn’t. This is fuzzy math, and dirty tricks, at their very worst. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The purpose of this report isn’t to inform or educate. The purpose is to incite activists and generate scandalous headlines, when, in fact, no scandal exists.

According to PV-Tech’s John Parnell, who did a thoughtful analysis, “The report doesn’t make it clear how it arrived at the $39 billion figure. Of the 26 references cited in the report, 16 of them are from organizations that were either founded by the Koch brothers, or have received funding from them.”

Enough is enough. If clean energy critics want a bare knuckle brawl, then they’re going to get one. This type of guerrilla warfare simply isn’t going to work. Americans overwhelmingly support clean, renewable solar energy—and that scares the hell out of the Koch brothers and their lackeys. Here’s the dirty little truth: few industries benefit more from the U.S. tax code than carbon-rich big oil. By their own estimates, oil and gas tax breaks amount to a staggering $100 billion over 10 years. So how do the Koch brothers divert attention away from this? They prod conservative groups, many of which they fund directly or indirectly, to attack clean energy. If it served their purposes, they would portray Snow White as an adulteress, a deadbeat and a crack queen.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anoreillycar(Image: DonkeyHotey)

Fox News and Bill O'Reilly certainly epitomize the confluence of "sustaining a self-serving narrative" with using flashy news sets and good-looking anchors to attract advertising dollars. Corporate television news is structured so as to reflect a government and business perspective - that is to convey "news" to reflect the outlook of the neoliberal oligarchical status quo. Fox, however, goes one step beyond and maintains a focus on emotionally charged "framing" of so-called news to reinforce and inflame racist, Christian fundamentalist and ALEC-style political biases. 

War and violence are a mainstay of corporate news coverage, in part, because there is a voyeuristic, sordid viewer interest in "war porn" and everyday violence in the US. In short, death and destruction are good for ratings. Perhaps the apogee of war and violence as spectacles that attract television watchers - and increase ad dollars to the networks - was the breathless promotion of the "shock and awe" opening night invasion of Iraq. It was the carnage of war repackaged as a Disneyland fireworks display. 

This context explains why Brian Williams was probably not a rare exception, when it comes to corporate news celebrities burnishing their resumes with embellished tales of heroism. This type of dramatic embellishment meets the dramatic needs of contemporary television reporting. 

As a result, it should be no surprise that Bill O'Reilly - who once was a TV reporter and is now a bloviating television pundit espousing a caricature of jingoistic, alleged Christian virtues - is being accused of enhancing his war reporting record to make himself appear daring and fearless.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

awarter(Photo: spanaut)

It has been clear for years that the US government and mass media's application of the word "terrorism" is highly subjective. If the US kills civilians in drone attacks it is, according to the White House, not terrorism; it's self-defense. If a white male gun enthusiast kills three Muslim students, it's not terrorism; it's a dispute over parking.

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The examples of how violent acts committed by nation-states or white males are not terrorism are virtually endless. That doesn't just apply to the United States, of course. It is the prerogative of white eurocentric culture to attribute violent acts - even on a large scale - of members of the dominant classes to individual pathology rather than "terrorism." BuzzFlash at Truthout is hardly the first site to point out that Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 children and adults in Norway in 2011, is generally described as an extremist, radical or mass murderer, but not a terrorist. On the other hand, the term is often used automatically when a Muslim commits an act of violence.

Breivik's acts, however, actually mirror those of the killers in Paris and Copenhagen, who were immediately branded as terrorists because of their Islamic association. According to an article on the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) website, "At the time of the massacre, Breivik said his actions were 'cruel but necessary' to save Europe from Islam and multiculturalism." In short, he had an agenda to "terrorize" Norway and Europe based on his notions of Aryan supremacy. Yet, no government, to our knowledge, warned its citizens of the terrorist threat of Aryan supremacists after Breivik's carnage, even though he slaughtered nearly 80 people - mostly children at a camp on an island.

This double standard about who is labeled a terrorist and who is not is indicative of the malleable use of the term by Western nations in order to manipulate public opinion.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPeaceImagine(Photo: Adam Zivner)We’re watching Katy Perry’s Super Bowl half-time show and out pops Missy Elliott, and she’s wearing a Jumpsuit, and there, on the left thigh of her outfit, is what looks like a peace symbol. While it may be a little incongruous/bizarre in this age of US acts of war, terrorist beheadings, US Drone strikes and other acts of state and non-state violence to think about the Peace Symbol, Elliot’s outfit reminded me that fifty-seven-years after its creation, the Peace Symbol is still found even in the most unlikely of places, i.e. the National Football League’s 49th Annual Super Bowl.

Over the years, the Peace Symbol has endured charges by the far right, including the John Birch Society, which claimed that it was “associated … with a broken cross, Communism, [the] anti-Christ, and Satanism,” and it has survived twentieth, and now twenty-first, century crass commercialism.

People wear the peace symbol – as jewelry, and on shirts, scarves, dresses, raingear; carry it around on their lunchboxes, book bags, umbrellas; and, I am guessing here, more than a few folks have it tattooed somewhere on their bodies. In short, the Peace Symbol has become as American as hot dogs, crappy television programs, income inequality, and mass shootings.

Few, however, know of its origins. I know this to be true because I have occasionally stopped a peace symbol wearer, and after mentioning that I admired their peace symbol, I‘ve asked them if they knew of its derivation. The question invariably draws a smile, and a blank look.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBlood(Photo: Crystal)Good and evil leap from the headlines: “Egyptian planes pound ISIS in Libya in revenge for mass beheadings of Christians.”

It’s nonstop action for the American public. It’s the history of war compressed into a dozen words. It’s Fox News, but it could be just about any mainstream purveyor of current events.

Once again, I feel a cry of despair tear loose from my soul and spill into the void. Our politics are out of control. There’s no sanity left — no calmness of strategic assessment, no impulse control. At least none of that stuff is allowed into the mainstream conversation about national security, which amounts to: ISIS is bad. The more of them we (or our allies of the moment) kill, the better. USA! USA!

We’re in a state of perpetual war and have no intention of escaping it. Certainly we have no intention of critiquing our own actions or — don’t be silly — questioning the effectiveness of war, occupation or high-tech terror (think: “shock and awe”) as a means to create a stable, secure world. The interests of war have dug in for the long haul, fortified by the cynicism of the media they own. The voices of reason cry from the margins. When a trickle of sanity finds its way into the mainstream, it’s mocked until it goes away.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afearphoto(Photo: Loretta Prencipe)

Fear is a primary, primordial emotion.

It can easily be manipulated so that reason and logic are bypassed, as people cower in support of anything that will allegedly save them from what they perceive as a threat to their lives.

Since 9/11, the US government has been masterful at using fear to manipulate voters into supporting large-scale military intervention and intrusive surveillance policies. Fear is the fuel for the expansion of a military-industrial-surveillance state.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has long used fear as the basis for justifying unrestricted gun availability. However, just scratch the surface of much of the NRA's inflammatory rhetoric and you will find racism. Indeed, the subtext of the NRA's alarmist appeal on behalf of gun ownership primarily appeals to white males. White people need guns, the NRA says with a coded nod and a wink, because "the other" - males of color - are, in this racist sub-narrative, a daily threat to the lives of "law-abiding" white males and their families. You can draw a straight line from the institution of slavery - justified by disputing the humanity of Africans - to the NRA's appeal to white males.

This practice of creating a stereotyped class of people to fear - let us call them "the other" - is as prevalent in US government and corporate media today as it is in the NRA. These days, "the other" label is categorically applied to Muslims. 

2015.2.18.Durst.BFRoy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, defends Alabama judges that refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses and talks about his personal views. (Screen grab via Bloomberg Business / YouTube)WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Kind of sad being forced to watch the death struggle of these modern-day dinosaurs. Responsible parents should keep their kids from peering over the Plexiglas railing into the tar pits below to see the huge lumbering antediluvian beasts frenziedly dig themselves deeper into the sticky morass that is gay marriage. Not a sight for the queasy or squeamish.

For some unfathomable reason, the thought of other people having sex makes certain folks crazier than a three-legged, drunken squirrel on a telephone wire covered in ice. Judge Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is one of those; and frankly, his obsession is becoming more than a mite suspicious.

Last week, Moore ordered probate judges in the Yellowhammer State to ignore a federal court order and refuse to issue marriage certificates to gay couples. Like the Civil War, these guys are programmed to never give up. Hey, South! Get over it. Unless you have compromising photos of US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy with a baby brontosaurus, gay marriage is a done deal. And guess what, you lost. Again. Deal with it.

2015.2.18.Berkowitz.BFA new, mean-spirited attack on the gay community is being launched by the religious right. (Image: Loren Javier / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A group of conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants are gearing up for the culture war battle of the century. A new manifesto – to be revealed in the March edition of the conservative publication First Things -- is meant to set the tone for the upcoming decision on same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court, and perhaps the 2016 presidential election as well.

The document maintains that same-sex marriage is "a graver threat" to the social order than "easy acceptance of divorce" or "widespread cohabitation." "We must say, as clearly as possible, that same-sex unions, even when sanctioned by the state, are not marriages," the document stated. "Christians who wish to remain faithful to the Scriptures and Christian tradition cannot embrace this falsification of reality, irrespective of its status in law."

With temperate rhetoric tossed aside, and a new mean-spirited attack on the gay community being launched, language in the new document makes signees like the Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest Calif., and Robert George, professor at Princeton University and vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms, sound like the second coming of the late Rev. Fred Phelps.

HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDavisBesse(Photo: EcoWatch)As the world’s nuke reactors begin to crumble and fall, the danger of a major disaster is escalating at the decrepit Davis-Besse plant near Toledo, Ohio.

Now the plant’s owners are asking the Ohio Public Utilities Commission to force the public to pay billions of dollars over the next 15 years to subsidize reactor operations.

But Davis-Besse’s astonishing history of near-miss disasters defies belief. Its shoddy construction, continual operator error and relentless owner incompetence would not be believed as fiction, let alone as the stark realities of a large commercial reactor operating in a heavily populated area.

Time and again Davis-Besse has come within a fraction of an inch and an hour of crisis management time. Today its critical shield wall is literally crumbing, with new cracks opening up every time the northern Ohio weather freezes (like this week).

The company’s owners have blacked out the entire Northeast including 50 million customers—the largest such disaster in world history.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2000deathsTranslation from the French: In 2012, more than 2000 migrants died in the Mediterranean. (Photo: Denis Bocquet)

National borders are often used to keep the "losers" in global capitalism confined to nations that, due to exploitation and neglect, are economic disaster zones for the majority of their citizens. One need look no further than the draconian, militarized wall on the Mexican border, which prevents people from crossing into the US in order to literally survive. In addition, hundreds of thousands of undocumented Mexican and Central Americans are arrested and deported from living within the US each year.

A short time ago, BuzzFlash interviewed Robert Neustadt about how US border policy with Mexico is in part designed to kill desperate migrants by forcing many of them to travel through the deadly gauntlet of the Sonoran desert.

However, a close reading of international news reveals that the deaths of migrants seeking economic survival or fleeing political turmoil is hardly confined to the Mexican border. In fact, the cruel treatment of those who flee poverty and violence is a worldwide reality.

Last week, Reuters posted an article with what would have been a shocking headline were it have been about the loss of life of white people from developed nations, "More than 300 migrants died this week trying to reach Italy: U.N. agency."

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