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Monday, 16 July 2007 15:37

Will Durst: Skooter Skates

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Who can tell what motivates the President these days? Maybe the commutation of Scooter Libby is meant to demonstrate his latent in-chargity. That he's relevant, dammit! That not only can he be the decider, but he also has the skills to be the commuter as well. With an approval rating lower than a drunk IRS agent wearing pinstripes behind the Red Sox dugout at Fenway, he probably wouldn't mind commuting himself, to and from the comfort of Crawford, Texas, four or seven days a week. Could become the First Telecommuting Chief Executive. "I'm looking forward to Friday, that's ‘No Pants Day.'" Bet Laura and the twins would prefer that. Dick too, just to clear the decks for some of the trickier bits.

Proving his pertinence required George Bush to set a convicted partisan felon free as the proverbial bird. Though the identity of what kind of bird that phrase is intended to signify has been shrouded by the mists of time; it is safe to say, it sure ain't no jailbird, because due to Dubyah's opportune intervention, Cheney's former chief of staff served less time than a spitballing junior-high study-hall miscreant sent to honors detention in the cafeteria.

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT

Oversight Committee Announces Hearing on The Tillman Fratricide: What the Leadership of the Defense Department Knew

WASHINGTON, DC - On Wednesday, August 1, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing entitled "The Tillman Fratricide: What the Leadership of the Defense Department Knew." The hearing will examine what senior Defense Department officials knew about U.S. Army Corporal Patrick Tillman's death by fratricide.

Monday, 16 July 2007 09:17

Cindy Sheehan: Torture is a War Crime

A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Cindy Sheehan

Journey for Humanity and Accountability: Day 5
Today our Journey took us to Ft. Benning, Ga, where the cancer of the School of Americas (WINSEC) is housed. I have written on torture before and I believe that BushCo’s policy of imprisoning people without their basic due process and torturing them is one of the grossest breeches of international and American law and one of the overriding reasons that they should be impeached.

THOM HARTMANN'S "INDEPENDENT THINKER" BOOK OF THE MONTH REVIEW

The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America by Daniel Brook is one of the most brilliant and important books to come along in many years. Synthesizing stories from people in real life with a strong and healthy dose of history (particularly the history of the 60s through today, both politically and economically), Brook's book paints a stark picture of the death of the American middle class as a direct result of the Reagan Revolution, and implicitly suggests that the clear and simple solution is to revert to the economic policies of the New Deal. This book is probably the most powerful and compelling attack on Reaganomics and the "conservative revolution" that I've read in a decade.

Brook opens the book with stories of people torn between the desire to do good (in the world) and the need to do well (financially). Several conservative reviewers have trashed the book on this basis, suggesting one shouldn't empathize with people who are experiencing existential angst over making $150,000 a year in a corporate law firm instead of working for Public Citizen, but apparently none of those reviewers bothered to read beyond the first two pages. With devastating precision, Brook shows how the basic necessaries of health care, housing, and providing for a safe retirement require a startlingly high income (particularly for people who live in our big cities).

As Brook points out, "Starting in the 1980s, the media began to note that more and more of the best and the brightest were going to work for corporate America." He adds, "Their analysis focused on the proverbial carrot, never considering the stick." He lays out how the middle class has been wiped out in America, quoting, for example, a Brookings Institution report from 2006 that found "the proportion of middle-class central-city neighborhoods was cut in half between 1970 and 2000; the number of rich and poor neighborhoods grew. Most metropolitan neighborhoods were middle class in 1970; only 41 percent were by 2000." In LA it's down to 28 percent of households, and New York is the worst in the country. And it wasn't this way at all before Reagan.

Brook documents how William F. Buckley Jr. and other conservatives back in the 1960s and 1970s put into place an infrastructure to completely deconstruct the New Deal. Their reason was based on the flawed belief that "equality" and "freedom" are at opposite ends of an economic spectrum. Brook shows how even liberals have bought into this since Reagan -- the conservative meme has been almost totally absorbed by even the Democratic Party, and certainly by the Republicans, the media, and academe.

In reality, as FDR pointed out in his acceptance speech in 1936 for his second term, "A necessitous man is not a free man." This was a radical -- and true -- notion when FDR said it, and it's an almost unspeakable truth today, so forgotten is the core idea.

Reality is not reflected in conservative notions of freedom -- mostly economic freedom (to buy your own health insurance, plan for your own retirement, and pay for your own education, in particular). Nor is reality served in saying that people who have greater economic equality (because of progressive taxation with top tax rates as high as 91 percent, national health care, and free public education reaching all the way to the PhD level -- all common in many European countries) are not "free."

In fact, Brook asserts (as did FDR), the engine that produces "freedom" is "equality." The highest point of economic equality in the history of the United States was the two-decade period of the 1960s and 1970s, and it was also the time of greatest personal freedom by dozens of indices. As economic equality crashes, the result of tax cuts and "small government," freedom is increasingly constrained for all but CEOs and those with inherited wealth. Everybody else has been turned into a serf.

While social mobility -- probably the best indicator of "freedom" -- has steadily increased over the past 50 years in most of Europe and particularly in the Scandinavian countries, social mobility has crashed in the US since Reaganomics. We're now the lowest -- the most rigidly socially stratified and "unfree" -- of all developed nations in the world, and this is happening at the same time that the rise of economic inequality in the US has hit a high not seen in this nation since the 1920s, just before the Republican Great Depression.

I read this book from cover to cover in a comfortable round-trip train ride from Portland to Seattle and back -- couldn't put it down, in fact -- and probably 5 percent of the pages in my copy are now dog-eared and marked up (the sign of a book that's really valuable to me!).

The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America is a book you can't miss out on. If you read nothing else this year, choose this book.

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling author and the host of The Thom Hartmann Program syndicated nationally by Air America Radio. His website is ThomHartmann.com.

THOM HARTMANN'S "INDEPENDENT THINKER" BOOK OF THE MONTH REVIEW

A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Dave Lindorff

Bill Moyers has put impeachment in the news and, in the process, shaming both the national media and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Congressional leadership.

Translation: there was a chat with the White House
And I think it's pretty clear
Who won;

 A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Martha Rosenberg

Monday, 16 July 2007 05:56

Jim Ridout: This we must demand

A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
by Jim Ridout

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. -- Theodore Roosevelt (Republican).

It is in this spirit of patriotism that we as citizens, Republicans and Democrats alike, must demand that our elected officials impeach President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Monday, 16 July 2007 05:08

BuzzFlash Mailbag for July 16, 2007

BUZZFLASH MAILBAG

Want to join the conversation? Share your thoughts with other Mailbag readers by clicking here.

A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Harvey Wasserman

A major pro-nuke "surge" against the renewable solution to global warming is about to erupt in California.

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