BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Elected official, check; multiple marriages, check; self-proclaimed apostolic Christian, check; Religious Right martyr, check; media star for a tad more than her 15 minutes, check; Pope meeting, check (sort of); Soldier for Christ, check. Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, defied United States District Judge David Bunning’s court order, and spent five days in jail because of it, is all of these things and even more, the symbol of the fight over religious liberty and individual conscience, a battle that has been brewing for quite some time.
It was undoubtedly the summer of Kim Davis’ life. For a short time, the Davis Affair even gave Donald Trump a run for media attention. The stakes were always much greater than Davis herself: religious liberty and individual conscience, and a new iteration of the religious right’s culture wars. While religious liberty can seem like little more than a fall fashion, or in this case, a summer fling, for Christian Right organizations and candidates it is a theme that has been decades in the making, and one that has gained momentum in recent years.
“The Christian Right has been steadily reframing their culture war agenda in terms of religious liberty since at least the 2009 manifesto, the Manhattan Declaration, which for the first time brought the leaders of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops together with top leaders of Protestant evangelicalism to forge a common platform -- comprising three interrelated themes, ‘sanctity of life,’ ‘dignity of marriage,’ and ‘freedom of religion,’ Frederick Clarkson, author of the invaluable Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy (Common Courage Press, 1997) and one of the journalists that pioneered research and writing about the religious right, told Truthout in an email exchange.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We Americans have been deceived by the notion that individual desires preempt the needs of society; by the Ayn-Rand/Reagan/Thatcher aversion to government regulation; by the distorted image of 'freedom' as winner-take-all capitalism; by the assurance that the benefits of greed will spread downwards to everyone.
Our current capitalist-driven inequalities will only be rectified when people realize that a strong community makes successful individuals, not the other way around.
These are a few of the ways we would benefit with a social democracy.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
So South Carolina has a special crime category called “disturbing schools,” which seems to be creating just that: disturbing schools. Very disturbing schools.
Not that I need to single out South Carolina. In my brief stint teaching writing as an outside consultant in several Chicago high schools, some 20 years ago, I was smacked broadside with the observation that the city’s educational system exhibited the behavior of an occupying army, at least in its low-income neighborhoods. Education was something imposed from above and force-fed to the students like bad-tasting medicine. It didn’t honor the students’ own culture.
What the kids needed was a generosity of understanding that the education system had no interest in giving them, preferring to help them along on their journey to adulthood with zero tolerance and metal detectors.
What has happened to our national intelligence, not to mention our national values? In the era of cellphone accountability, our lack thereof has a new poster boy: Officer Slam. Throw the insolent kid across the floor, break her arm if necessary, slap her in cuffs.
This is how we teach respect. This is how we teach math.
“I was screaming ‘What the f, what the f, is this really happening?’” These are the words of Niya Kenny, the brave young woman who stood up to Officer Ben Fields as he manhandled her classmate this past Monday at Spring Valley High School, in Columbia, S.C. “I was praying out loud for the girl. I just couldn’t believe this was happening.”
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Internationally acclaimed pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, now retired, is clearly an expert on how the brain functions. After all, the Republican presidential aspirant was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at the renowned Johns Hopkins Medical Center from 1984 to 2013, and received much acclaim for his skills in the operating room.
That is why it is safe to assume that Carson is well aware of the role of one part of the brain in stimulating fear: the amygdala. The website About Education describes one major role of the amygdala:
The amygdala is involved in autonomic responses associated with fear and hormonal secretions. Scientific studies of the amygdala have led to the discovery of the location of neurons in the amygdala that are responsible for fear conditioning. Fear conditioning is an associative learning process by which we learn through repeated experiences to fear something. Our experiences can cause brain circuits to change and form new memories.
Opportunistic politicians are well aware of the use of fear in attracting voters who are predisposed to latch onto the invocation of alarmist threats.
JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In today's so-called "democratic" election process, Big Money doesn't talk, it roars — usually drowning out the people's voice.
Bizarrely, the Supreme Court decreed in its 2010 Citizens United ruling that money is a form of "free speech." Thus, declared the learned justices, people and corporations are henceforth allowed to spend unlimited sums of their money to "speak" in election campaigns. But wait — if political speech is measured by money then by definition speech is not free. It can be bought, thereby giving the most speech to the few with the most money. That's plutocracy, not democracy.
Sure enough, in the first six months of this presidential election cycle, more than half of the record-setting $300 million given to the various candidates came from only 358 mega-rich families and the corporations they control. The top 158 of them totaled $176 million in political spending, meaning that, on average, each one of them bought more than a million dollars' worth of "free" speech.
Nearly all of their money is backing Republican presidential hopefuls who promise: (1) to cut taxes on the rich; (2) cut regulations that protect us from corporate pollution and other abuses of the common good; and (3) to cut Social Security, food stamps and other safety-net programs that we un-rich people need. The great majority of Americans adamantly oppose all of those cuts — but none of us has a million bucks to buy an equivalent amount of political "free" speech.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The corporate media is generally touting Paul Ryan's election as Speaker of the House as a triumph of Republican centrism. Paul Krugman, however, rebuked that notion in an October 10 New York Times commentary, in which he notes that Ryan is,
more or less unique among extreme right-wingers in having the approbation of centrists, especially centrist pundits. That is, he’s a big man within the GOP because people outside seem to approve of him....
And it has been a stunningly successful act. In his heyday, Ryan was the object of an immense, indeed embarrassing, media crush — the word “love” came up a lot....
So Ryan’s current stature is really quite curious, and I’d argue quite fragile. He has been a highly successful con artist, pretending to be the reasonable conservative centrists desperately want to see; he has become a power within his party because of that external achievement.
The con job of which Krugman speaks involves couching extreme right wing positions in a veneer of budgetary wonkishness. This is particularly true when Ryan claims that he wants to "help" the poor when he is actually conducting a war on the poor that is based on the tacit premise that they are disposable people. Ryan is, indeed, obsessed with reducing government aid to the poor, including assisting them in finding jobs.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTMARION NESTLE OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.
The just-released report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer judging processed meat as clearly carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic has caused consternation among meat producers and consumers.
Meat producers do not like the “eat less meat” message. Consumers do not want to give up their bacon and hamburgers—delicious and also icons of the American way of life.
But these judgments should come as no surprise to anyone. Eating less processed and red meat has been accepted dietary advice since Ancel and Margaret Keys wrote their diet book for heart disease prevention, Eat Well and Stay Well, in 1959. Their advice: “restrict saturated fats, the fats in beef, pork, lamb, sausages …” They aimed this advice at reducing saturated fat to prevent heart disease. Federal committees and agencies have continued issuing such heart-disease advice to the present day.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Washington Post reports that Kansas has recorded more earthquakes in the past two weeks alone than there have been in the years between 1990 and 2013. According to the Kansas Geological Survey, between Oct. 15-26, there were 52 quakes, most with a magnitude between 2.0 or 3.0. That’s a huge increase from the 19 earthquakes recorded in the state between 1990 and 2010.
In all, the number of earthquakes in the state jumped from four in 2013 to 817 in 2014, the Post reported.
In recent years, Kansas has seen an energy boom-and-bust due to technological advancements in fracking and horizontal drilling. However, this quest for oil and gas has produced mixed results, from harmful waste spills to an increase in seismic activity.
Earlier this year, the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, decided to limit the underground injection disposal of saltwater from oil wells mainly in Harper and Sumner Counties. The decision reportedly tamped down on the number of earthquakes in the area, according The Wichita Eagle.
However, one can only wonder if the recent spate of tremors in the state has anything to do with the commission’s regulations expiring Sept. 13.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Singing a few lines from "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" -- a song from the Disney 1946 live action and animated movie Song of the South, sung by James Baskett – and sporting a jaunty bounce in his step, Speaker of the House John Boehner stepped up to the podium and announced he was giving up his speakership and leaving Congress. Two years ago, Boehner wasn't nearly as playful after he gave in to demands to shut down the government over a fight over Obamacare. This time around, Boehner, and his Senate partner Mitch McConnell, were determined not to shut down the government despite pressure from his far right conservative brethren to shut-it-down if necessary in the battle over defunding Planned Parenthood.
However, he did give his right flank a gift; a new "select" committee to investigate Planned Parenthood. "Recent videos exposing the abortion-for-baby parts business have shocked the nation, and demanded action. At my request, three House committees have been investigating the abortion business, but we still don't have the full truth," Boehner said last week.
He topped off his gift by appointing Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn to head the committee, which will include seven other GOP representatives (four of whom will be women), and, I presume -- should they choose to participate – several congressional Democrats. The Editorial Board of the Sacramento Bee characterized Blackburn as "a partisan so far to the right that she earlier this year told BBC Radio that she doesn't accept the theory of evolution."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A just-released study on the enormous gap between retirement assets and benefits for the wealthy as compared to the rest of Americans - "A Tale of Two Retirements" - blames the divide on "a shift in the rules to favor corporate executives over other working people."
Key findings of the report, which was authored by Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger for the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government, include:
The company-sponsored retirement assets of just 100 CEOs add up to as much as the entire retirement account savings of 41% of American families (50 million families in total).
The 100 largest CEO retirement accounts are worth an average of more than $49.3 million—enough to generate a $277,686 monthly retirement check for each executive for the rest of their lives.
David Novak of YUM Brands had the largest retirement nest egg in the Fortune 500 in 2014, with $234 million, while hundreds of thousands of his Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC employees have no company retirement assets whatsoever. Novak transitioned from CEO to Executive Chairman in 2015.
Meanwhile, as BuzzFlash pointed out in an October 15 commentary, US "seniors face year of increased hardship as Social Security benefits stagnate." We pointed out that the government is denying seniors on Social Security a cost-of-living increase next year, even though their costs for food, medical care and rent are increasing.