AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
With all the awesome things that have happened in the past week, a small bit of positivity may be found in the news that the Senate will finally be releasing its report on CIA torture. It's been a long strange trip to get us to this point, complete with a Diane Feinstein freakout that the CIA had dared to shift its surveillance focus from ordinary folk to Real Important People. But now it's on its way, and President Obama had a few thoughts on the upcoming report.
"We tortured some folks."
Full stop, as head explodes from cognitive dissonance.
Let's break this sentence down, shall we?
"We." No problems there. The usage of first person plural is a good move. It acknowledges a sort of collective responsibility. We're all guilty. Actually, I don't feel all that guilty, since I've managed to go 38 years without ever torturing anyone, but moving right along.
"Tortured." Also good. No Newspeak terms like enhanced interrogation techniques. Just tortured. Blunt and to the point. The past tense is slightly troubling. Some of the activities currently going on in Guantanamo are, at best, questionable. But that's outside the scope of this report.
So far, so good...
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
poor people have it easy.
The degree of ignorance about poverty is stunning, even for people far removed from the realities of an average American lifestyle. Both oilman Charles Koch and Nicole Miller CEO Bud Konheim have suggested that we should compare ourselves to poor people in China and India, and then just shut up and be happy. The Cato Institute informs Americans that "The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work." And entrepreneur Marc Andreessen explains, rather incomprehensibly, that "Technology innovation disproportionately helps the poor more than it helps the rich, as the poor spend more of their income on products."
1. We Spend Relatively Little on Poverty Programs
The Economic Policy Institute stated, "The United States stands out as the country with the highest poverty rate and one of the lowest levels of social expenditure." It's a national disgrace that we allow just a few people to take more of the country's wealth than the millions of productive people who can't find living-wage jobs.
Just two men made more investment income in 2013 than the entire year's welfare budget (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly referred to as 'welfare').
Just 400 individuals made more investment income in 2013 than the entire safety net (SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, TANF, and Housing).
And the richest 1% made more from their investments in 2013 than the total cost of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the entire safety net.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As the worldwide transportation industry seeks to maximize profits, it may be racing toward its own demise.
The transportation sector is a major contributor to climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions, and, worldwide, it’s also one of the most vulnerable sectors to the effects of climate change, according to a new report.
In other words, climate change could mean “sun kinks” could warp train tracks in the heat, airplanes will be more expensive to fly, highway surfaces could soften in heat waves, roadways and bridges could be washed away in rising seas and storm surges, and storms in the open ocean could increase the cost and risks associated with shipping.
Those are the findings of a new report, “Climate Change: Implications for Transport,” released Monday by Cambridge University and sustainable business advocacy group Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) outlining what the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ’s Fifth Assessment Report mean for global transportation.
TOM WEISS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We've got this.
Thanks to the courageous and indefatigable efforts of pipeline fighters everywhere, the tide has finally turned on Keystone XL. As it becomes increasingly clear that Keystone XL's northern leg is not going through, it is time to set our sights on ending all tar sands exploitation.
The Obama administration's latest election year delay on Keystone North is not a victory, but the dominoes continue to fall. Earlier this year, a citizen lawsuit denied TransCanada a route through Nebraska. Last month, it lost its permit through South Dakota. Now it faces a gauntlet of "Cowboys & Indians" vowing to stop it in its tracks.
We cannot let up until Keystone North is vanquished, but all signs point to President Obama nixing TransCanada's cross-border permit after the November elections. Don't just take my word for it.
On April 23, Rolling Stone contributing editor Jeff Goodell wrote: "I was told recently by members of the administration that the pipeline would, in fact, be rejected." On June 18, former Vice President Al Gore wrote in this same magazine: "[Obama] has signaled that he is likely to reject the absurdly reckless Keystone XL-pipeline proposal."
Both pronouncements come on the heels of former President Jimmy Carter pointedly warning the president that Keystone XL "will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced—climate change."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As US elections have become increasingly determined by the unlimited political spending of shadowy organizations financed by the rich, participatory democracy has further deteriorated. Although the ascension of wealth pulling the strings in Washington DC has long been underway, the 2010 US Supreme Court Citizens United decision put the outcome of elections - particularly on the federal level - more and more in the hands of the 1%.
This is particularly true in an age when television ads, with their negative memes and characterizations, play the most significant role in forming voter perceptions. Given that TV political advertising is extremely expensive in major media markets, corporatist candidates that have the backing of groups formed by the likes of the Koch brothers most often have the ability to dominate the airwaves and a better chance at defining their opponents.
Several campaigns are underway to amend the US Constitution to exclude both the concept of corporate personhood and unlimited political campaign spending in whatever form. These organizations include Move to Amend and Democracy is for People. Proceeding with a constitutional amendment is a rough slog.
REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Our last remaining bit of shame is being dot-commed, with a young girl's pixilated eyes looking back at us from her murder.
I'm watching this atrocity with up to date technology, as I sit here typing. I remember a time when some techno-utopians thought that the global village would tilt us toward peace, as the violence became so vividly fore-grounded, the bleeding too painfully bright red, the searching for loved ones too real, and the eyes. Her eyes are more piercing than ever.
But reports of war's death were greatly exaggerated. Our acceptance of violence has grown with our consuming of deadly products. We watch wars, produced at great expense, with thousands of special effects engineers and Oscar-winning death scenes by trained method actors. And when a real war sneaks onto our screen, what can we do? Continue to watch.
Victims come to us as information, across the landscape of information, in the age of information consumption. And this makes the viewing experience of this child not different than the many children that we have watched burned and cut toward death. We are image predators, sitting in traffic, in trains, at home in our techno-cockpits, saving the bombed schools and hospitals to clouds overhead...
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Cliven Bundy, the Nevada-based rancher who refused to pay the over $1 million he owes in fees for having his cattle graze on public lands for twenty years, and who then assembled a posse of armed militia and antigovernment activists for a stand off against officers of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, may -- by virtue of his openly aired racist remarks about the "Negro" -- already be sitting atop history's trash heap, but there are numerous wannabes out there waiting to Cliven Bundy themselves into the headlines.
According to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, "The Bundy standoff has invigorated an extremist movement that exploded when President Obama was elected, going from some 150 groups in 2008 to more than 1,000 last year."
Alabama's Mike Vanderboegh, who heads the III Percent Patriots, wrote the following on his blog: "It is impossible to overstate the importance of the victory won in the desert today. The feds were routed — routed. There is no word that applies. Courage is contagious, defiance is contagious, victory is contagious. Yet the war is not over."
Armed militia groups are currently responding to the influx of thousands of immigrants – mostly women and children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – by arming themselves and "standing guard" at the U.S.-Mexico border. Pictures of members of militia groups, carrying semi-automatic rifles and wearing masks, camouflage and tactical gear can be found here.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Wednesday, July 30, many official events celebrated Medicare's 49th anniversary of providing health coverage for seniors. Before President Lyndon Johnson signed the law enacting Medicare coverage, seniors in the United States received erratic often bankrupting care.
By all accounts, all but the most ardent elderly Tea Party stalwarts laud Medicare for its freedom of choice in providers and relative simplicity in claims processing.
Although the Affordable Care Act is hopefully a political holding position until single-payer health care for all is enacted in the US - thus catching the nation up with most of the rest of the developed world - there are still right-wingers whose goal is to dismantle the current Medicare system.
Let us listen to the public - and not the chattering pundit class - for a change on healthcare coverage, as reflected in this letter to the editor in The Hartford Current by West Hartford resident Win Heimer:
There are some in Congress who continue to call for benefit cuts for retirees and disabled Americans. For example, there continue to be calls to cut Medicare benefits by raising the age of eligibility, means-testing benefits, requiring home health co-pays and limiting Medigap coverage. These changes would do nothing to reduce the cost of health care, but instead, shift costs to beneficiaries.
July 30 is Medicare's 49th birthday. What better way to celebrate than by strengthening Medicare through a better alternative that will not harm beneficiaries? Congress should pass the Medicare Drug Savings Act introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Rep. Henry Waxman of California. This legislation will require drug companies to provide the government discounts for low-income Medicare beneficiaries, saving the government and taxpayers $141 billion over 10 years and all but eliminating the need to cut benefits or shift costs to beneficiaries.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I'm thirsty. Indeed, I'm overwhelmed by thirst, thinking about those who lack access to clean water. I'm thirsty for a different world.
"In Gaza, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lack water, including those living in hospitals and refugee camps," Sarah Kendzior wrote in Al-Jazeera last week. "On July 15, citizens of Detroit held a rally in solidarity, holding signs that said 'Water for all, from Detroit to Palestine.' A basic resource has become a distant dream, a longing for a transformation of politics aimed at ending suffering instead of extending it."
Water is our common need, our common source of being. In bankrupt Detroit (city of my birth), as the world now knows, the poor and struggling segment of the population — the people whose overdue water bills exceed $150 — face water shutoff. The United Nations, for God's sake, has condemned the action by the city's emergency manager as a human rights violation. Thousands of residences — housing as many as 100,000 people — have had their water shut off so far, out of a total city population of 700,000.
Ironically, Detroit is surrounded by the Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh water in the world. Michigan license plates used to proclaim: "Water Wonderland."
Austerity, austerity, God shed his grace on thee . . .
AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn" - Rabbi Hillel
As Jews go, I'm a poor one. I like Wagner and bacon, and have been known to seethe a kid in its mother's milk. I have enough tattoos to be banned from burial in any Jewish cemetery, and I gave up on God halfway through my first reading of the Old Testament - in that one passage where he acts like a genocidal psychopath.
I'm a bad Jew.
But, since my mother was Jewish, I am still, technically, Jewish. Which means that, should I so desire, I can move to Israel and, in time, become a citizen. As for the Palestinian guy in Gaza whose family has been living there for 20-odd generations? He lives in an open air prison and if he wants to spend some time in the land of his ancestors, he will be going through multiple armed check points, if he is lucky.
Or, these days, he's not visiting at all, what with the bombings and ground invasion and all. As I write, the Palestinian death toll stands at over 1200, while the Israeli death toll amounts to three civilian casualties and an IDF toll that may have surpassed 50 by now, but would have not occurred if the invasion had not been launched. A UN school has been hit for the second time, with an Israel mortar as the confirmed source, and at least 16 Gazans who sought refuge there are dead.