MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yes the gun lobby has enabled the arming of child soldiers -- even younger than 10-years-old --and the deadly raging of local militia wars around the world. No, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is not selling small arms to militias; it is not recruiting child soldiers and giving them guns to fight for "rebel" forces around that commit atrocities; it does not directly sell firearms and weapons to rebel nations that commit massacres of its own people.
But the National Riffle Association has for years held up the United States endorsement of the international Arms Trade Treaty, which would provide a legal framework for limiting the profiteering of weapons that create killing fields, particularly in poorer nations.
Amnesty International is creating a campaign to stop the NRA from blocking the Arms Trade Treaty this time around:
Children -- no matter where they live -- must be kept safe from gun violence. The United Nations is preparing to finalize a treaty that would help to do just that by helping to stem the flow of weapons to human rights abusers. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is standing in the way of these efforts by waging a campaign of misinformation and lies force the U.S. government to oppose the treaty.
Around the globe, over a billion children live in countries impacted by armed conflict that is fueled by small arms and conventional weapons. These children are at grave risk of being abducted and trafficked, used as soldiers and sex slaves, forced from their homes, attacked at school.
“The Arms Trade Treaty represents a call to conscience to the world – and especially to the United States government –to protect civilians and help develop a system that would prevent weapons from flowing into a situation where we know lives are at risk,” said Amnesty International's Michelle Ringuette. "The U.S. public must not allow its own leaders to ignore the horrific impact of weapons traded into the hands of despots and tyrants. Would we hand a gun to a rapist, murderer or child abuser? Of course we wouldn’t. But that is what we allow with arms trading with devastating results.”
Amazingly, the Obama White House has not yet taken a position on the next round of treaty negotiations that begin on March 18th. If you counter that the treaty is not yet written so why should the president take a position at this time, then know this: "a round of treaty talks last July ended when the United States stepped away from the negotiating process," according to Amnesty International. The political factor behind the US walking away was, at a political level, the NRA.
(Photo: Amnesty International)
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Strategies used by the Church to cover up its worldwide sexual abuse scandal included: the Vatican's refusal to cooperate with civil authorities; officially sanctioned priest shifting; the destruction of evidence; punishing whistle-blowers and rewarding enablers; and, blaming the victims.
Last week, the eyes of the world were on Pope Benedict XVI – who apparently expects to be known as Pope Emeritus – as he left the Vatican by helicopter to spend the final hours of what many would characterize as his scandal-dogged papacy, at the papal summer retreat. According to The New York Times, "Onlookers in St. Peter's Square cheered, church bells rang and Romans stood on rooftops to wave flags as he flew by."
To the thousands of survivors of the Roman Catholic Church's worldwide sexual abuse scandals, however, there was little to cheer about.
A Philadelphia Grand Jury report put the long-lived scandal in unambiguous terms: By sexual abuse, "We mean rape. Boys who were raped orally, boys who were raped anally, girls who were raped vaginally. But even those victims whose physical abuse did not include actual rape – those who were subjected to fondling, to masturbation, to pornography – suffered psychological abuse that scarred their lives and sapped the faith in which they had been raised."
Aftershocks from the decades-long sexual abuse scandal continue to reverberate, even as cardinals gather to choose the next pope. As the Times reported, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's senior Roman Catholic cleric, "said he would not participate in the conclave, after having been accused of 'inappropriate acts' with several priests, charges that he denies." Other cardinals, including some from the United States have also come under fire.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Steven Brill's article in Time Magazine about the cost of private health care is likely to make most of his readers very angry. Angry about the prices we pay, about the lives that are devastated, and about the fact that we're one of the few developed countries without adequate health care for its citizens.
Economists have told us that the profit motive of privatization comes with an "invisible hand" that automatically corrects inequities in the market. It hasn't worked that way for health care. The personal stories recounted below, and some additional facts to complement them, make it clear that an essential human need has been turned into a product that benefits a few people at the expense of many others.
$15,000 for Blood Tests
Brill's article begins with the story of a 42-year-old Ohio man named Sean Recchi, who traveled to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He and his wife Stephanie had paid $469 a month, or about 20% of their income, for insurance that covered $2,000 per day of hospital costs. His financial troubles started when MD Anderson told him, "We don't take that kind of discount insurance."
But he had to go to the hospital. His wife recalled that he was "sweating and shaking with chills and pains. He had a large mass in his chest that was..growing. He was panicked."
Stephanie asked her mother to write a check for $48,900.
Sean waited for 90 minutes while the hospital confirmed that the check had cleared. He was also required to advance MD Anderson $7,500 from his credit card. The total cost for the initial treatment and chemotherapy was $83,900, including a $15,000 charge for lab tests for which a Medicare patient would have paid a few hundred dollars, $283 for an x-ray that Medicare categorizes as a $20 charge, and $1.50 for a generic version of a Tylenol pill.
ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The U.S. State Department’s “Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement Keystone XL Project” released on Friday evening, makes no mention of the impact on the world’s climate that would result from construction of the proposed Pipeline.
The study does discuss “Climate Change Impacts on the Proposed Project,” but not the proposed project’s impacts on climate change. It finds that climate change will have no significant impact upon either the construction, or the operation, of the Pipeline.
In fact, a separate section, “Summary of Impacts,” summarizes the “Climate Change Impacts on the Proposed Project” by saying, “Climate change would have no substantive effects on construction of the proposed Project,” and, “Climate change would have no substantive effects on operation of the proposed Project.”
That is the only section that this study devotes to climate change.
Environmentalists oppose this Pipeline virtually entirely because of the impact that it would have on climate change: speeding it up. They are virtually uninterested in the impact climate change will have on the Pipeline.
NASA’s James Hansen warned on 9 May 2012 in The New York Times, about the Alberta Canada tar-sands oil that this Pipeline would transport, by saying “It Will Be Game Over for the Climate” (you can see his reasoning if you click on that link) if this Pipeline to a Texas port ever does get constructed. However, he presented no analysis there of the climate-change impact specifically of the Keystone XL. He simply said that “Canada’s tar sands ... contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history,” and that “That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control.” Those were unanalyzed bare assertions.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Short of rocket launchers, Scalia scorns gun control
In a little noted speech reported in the conservative Washington Examiner, the leading Supreme Court judge who regularly legislates from the bench, Antonin Scalia, signaled that he is ready to further rule in favor of more guns in more hands, with even fewer restrictions than now. Examiner columnist Paul Bedard wrote of an early February Scalia interview with NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg:
Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, decrying America's demonization of guns, is predicting that the parade of new gun control laws, cheered on by President Obama, will hit the Supreme Court soon, possibly settling for ever the types of weapons that can be owned.
Scalia, whose legacy decision in the 2008 case of District of Columbia vs. Heller ended the ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., suggested that the Constitution allows limits on what Americans can own, but the only example he offered was a shoulder-launched rocket that would bring down jets.
Like his good buddy, Dick Cheney, Scalia likes to hunt birds, although – to be fair – we don't know of any accounts where, like Cheney, Antonin has filled a friend's face full of buck shot instead of a pheasant. But we now know he draws the line at shooting corralled birds with a rocket launcher.
USA Today reported that Scalia teased Totenberg before an audience at the Smithsonian Associates:
Asked if the Second Amendment's right to bear arms is as unequivocal as the First Amendment's right to free speech, Scalia said, "We're going to find out, aren't we?" -- an indication he expects the court to hear a gun rights case in the near future.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Peter G. Peterson’s cringe-worthy Fix the Debt campaign can hoover the kind of attention that most ordinary Americans couldn’t even dream about. If Peterson succeeds, a new era of austerity will be unleashed, and programs that the middle class and poor depend on will be decimated.
Peterson, a longtime political operative and one of the wealthiest men in the country, made his personal fortune “at the Blackstone Group on Wall Street, [where he] … cashed out with $2 billion shortly before the 2008 financial meltdown,” the Madison, Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) recently pointed out.
Now Peterson has assembled a huge war chest, recruited a high-powered supporting cast, developed a nationwide infrastructure, and is preparing to plop a chunk of his Blackstone money into “convince[ing] Americans -- who overwhelmingly want to keep and strengthen Social Security and Medicare -- that these programs threaten our very existence as a nation.”
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Scalia admits to legislating from the bench
During oral arguments yesterday about whether or not the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is constitutional, partisan judicial thug Antonin Scalia revealed a new facet of his personality; he is a clairvoyant.
Congressional support for reauthorizing the VRA was overwhelming, even in 2006 when the vote was taken during Bush's second term: the Senate reauthorized it by a vote of 98 to 0. In the House, the vote was 390 to 33.
But Scalia, who has made his trademark being a self-proclaimed "strict constitutional constructionist" who scorns liberal judges who allegedly legislate from the bench, came out of the closet in heaping contempt and derision on Congress for passing the VRA. Although Scalia has long been perhaps the stellar example of a judge who legislates from the bench (on behalf of the right wing), he's usually coded his usurpation of congressional and other legislative powers in legal mumbo jumbo.
Yesterday, however, the Washington Post editorial board chastised Scalia for openly claiming:
"THIS IS NOT the kind of a question [the VRA, particularly Section 5] you can leave to Congress,” Justice Antonin Scalia pronounced during a Supreme Court argument Wednesday….
“It was clear to 98 senators, including every senator from a covered state, who decided that there was a continuing need for this piece of legislation,” Justice Elena Kagan said, in what might seem a self-evident point.
But not to Justice Scalia. “Or decided that perhaps they’d better not vote against, that there’s . . .none of their interests in voting against it,” he said. Later he elaborated on why he feels free to dismiss this particular congressional action: “I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any senator to vote against continuation of this act. . . . They are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act. Even the name of it is wonderful: the Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?”
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Sometimes what I fear most is that the disintegration of public life — indeed, the very idea of the public good — is complete. The vultures and profiteers swarm around the carcass and make a profit and that’s all that matters.
Thirty years on, the Reagan Revolution has done its job, or nearly so. There’s no sustaining integrity left to how our society is organized, no principle that can’t be gamed for private benefit. And even awareness of all this has been successfully marginalized. We still proclaim ourselves, in the prevailing media, the world’s oldest, greatest democracy, and worship the old rituals.
But the common good has been auctioned off.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Deteriorated housing leaves blacks behind
In a Washington Post (WP) article entitled "Study ties black-white wealth gap to stubborn disparities in real estate," the Post offers one more piece of proof that the "post-racial" presidency is nothing more than a soundbite.
The backlash of Tea Party racists and the general Republican Southern strategy of race baiting through code words clearly has defined that this is still a nation of two visions: one of a white Christian patriarchal America with Disneyland dreams of an imaginary Main Street and the other of a multi-cultural society of equality and the celebration of national communal values.
However, the facts on the ground reveal a deeper schism not of visions, but of a vastly unequal economic reality.
According to the recent study cited by the WP,
The large and growing wealth gap separating white and black families is the product of stubborn barriers that disproportionately consign African Americans to less-valuable real estate and lower-paying jobs, according to a new study.
A long-term examination of the financial lives of black and white Americans revealed that African Americans typically face a subtle but persistent opportunity gap that has served to widen financial disparities remaining from a long history of overt discrimination, according to a report to be released Wednesday by Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy.
In short, despite an outburst of bitter racial resentment after Obama's election that continues to this day, blacks are faring worse not better than in the past. Vast areas of urban blight -- where pushing drugs is often the only entrepreneurial opportunity of any livable wage (until you are shot in a turf war) -- have been left to stagnate. These are the urban plantations of poverty that gave birth to the 1968 riots after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. In fact, they have worsened as the last of the remaining industrial and mid-to-large business base has fled these areas.
(Photo: Ryan Thomas)