ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Too often "the law" is nothing more than prejudice embedded in jargon.
So the Obama administration, in its attempt to hammer another national security leaker, is directly challenging the right of journalists to protect confidential sources. Administration lawyers, arguing this week before the Supreme Court — which rejected New York Times reporter James Risen's appeal of a Circuit Court decision that could require him to testify in the case against a former CIA officer — asserted, according to the Times, that "reporters have no privilege to refuse to provide direct evidence of criminal wrongdoing by confidential sources."
Wrongdoing is one thing but, wow, "criminal wrongdoing" is quite another. The phrase bristles with righteous fury, summoning a sense of no-nonsense seriousness that sends a tremor to the very foundations of our society. The former CIA guy the administration wants to nail, Jeffrey Sterling, may have passed classified information — this is the government's contention — along to reporter Risen, and therefore endangered the nation's security. Criminal wrongdoing! Same as murder, rape and shoplifting. Freedom of the press doesn't give journalists the privilege to protect people like this.
One problem here is that the discussion of this issue is safely confined to abstract concepts. When we unravel the facts of this matter and put them in a real context of national — indeed, global — security, the legal trumpet-blasting reduces to a kind of weak toot. This is all about nuclear weapons, geopolitics . . . and public relations, specifically, the government's right to orchestrate what the public knows.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
BuzzFlash at Truthout has posted several commentaries on the war on the homeless, including one yesterday entitled, "Liberal Bastion of San Francisco Bay Area Continues NIMBY Crackdown on Homeless." In April, we offered the commentary, "Criminalizing People Who Live in Cars Is a New Low in the War on the Poor."
Nothing increases homelessness like income inequality. Other causes of people in the United States living without permanent shelter include a decrease in services for persons with mental health needs, less funds for agencies that provide homeless services (including places to sleep), foreclosures, domestic violence, loss of work, gentrification and the lack of availability of inexpensive single room occupancy housing, teenage runaways without resources, etc.
As a result, we have seen a nationally spreading war on the homeless that aims to make them disappear without assisting them. Many cities and communities, as BuzzFlash noted in our commentary yesterday, regard the homeless as a form of urban blight.
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In the bad old days, medieval German Lords figured out how to pocket some quick coin by charging a toll on the primitive paths meandering across their lands. The money wasn't used to improve the roads or better the lives of the peasants or clean the rivers their pigs pooped in but rather heighten the piles in their treasury. Even back then, you just couldn't have enough pewter candlesticks.
These were the first robber barons. Literally. Rich people whose sole pursuit was to survive to become richer people. A criminal aristocracy. A term history has proved redundant.
During the Gilded Age, the flushest 1% of the country held 1/3 of the national income. In the 1920s, this figure ramped up to 2/5ths. Molehills compared to today's mountainous wealth, where the richest 400 American families control more money than the poorest 165 million of their fellow citizens put together. And if all 165 million were knelt end to end, those 400 families would have footrests from any compass point.
REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Let's consider for a moment the honey bee and its anticipated replacement, the RoboBee. Let's pay a visit to the frankenbee's parents, Monsanto and DARPA.
The RoboBee is a mechanical bee in the design stage at the Microrobotics Lab, housed in a well-appointed building at Harvard University. The RoboBee project's Intelligence Office declares that the robotic inventors are inspired by the bee. The RoboBee project's website and press releases use the imagery of the golden bees that we remember from our love of the cuddly buzzy honey-maker.
But something is wrong with this enterprise. While the RoboBee's press is nearly all positive, and open-faced students have posted euphoric YouTube reports of their robotic work, the whole thing looks quite different to the people of the beekeeping community, who can't help but point out that the real life honey bees and bumble bees are plummeting toward extinction.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The East Bay city of Albany, California, a relatively small town (approximately 19,000 residents) - just north of the former bastion of leftist politics and culture, Berkeley - this past Thursday cleared the last homeless residents from public land by charging them with "suspicion of illegal lodging."
According to the Monday June 2 The Daily Californian:
Police arrested Bulb [the name of the publicly owned landfill in the East bay] residents Amber Whitson and Philip Lewis, along with their friend Erik Eisenberg, on suspicion of illegal lodging. The city began enforcing a no-camping ordinance in October in an effort to relocate the homeless population so that the Bulb can be turned into a state park. Local law firms then filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of the residents, which ended in an April settlement that gave residents $3,000 each as long as they agreed to leave the Bulb by April 25 and stay away from the area for one year.
Twenty-eight residents accepted the money, but Whitson and Lewis refused it, making them the last to leave the Bulb. The two have lived in the Bulb for seven years.
“We didn’t take the money because you can’t buy someone’s home,” Whitson said.
Although Albany is not as economically prosperous as the now upper-end Silicon Valley housing values of the increasingly wealth-dominated Berkeley, it is following a trend in the Bay Area that includes a war on the homeless. A 2010 citywide vote San in Francisco, the poster board symbol of alleged "degenerate" liberal values for the right wing, made sitting or lying on public sidewalks illegal from 7 AM to to 11 PM. This, even though, the San Francisco Police Department found the law utterly ineffective and a waste of law enforcement time.
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The corporate media silence on Fukushima has been deafening even though the melted-down nuclear power plant's seaborne radiation is now washing up on American beaches.
Ever more radioactive water continues to pour into the Pacific.
At least three extremely volatile fuel assemblies are stuck high in the air at Unit 4. Three years after the March 11, 2011, disaster, nobody knows exactly where the melted cores from Units 1, 2 and 3 might be.
Amid a dicey cleanup infiltrated by organized crime, still more massive radiation releases are a real possibility at any time.
Radioactive groundwater washing through the complex is enough of a problem that Fukushima Daiichi owner Tepco has just won approval for a highly controversial ice wall to be constructed around the crippled reactor site. No wall of this scale and type has ever been built, and this one might not be ready for two years. Widespread skepticism has erupted surrounding its potential impact on the stability of the site and on the huge amounts of energy necessary to sustain it. Critics also doubt it would effectively guard the site from flooding and worry it could cause even more damage should power fail.
Meanwhile, children nearby are dying.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Even for people who don't believe in it, climate change just got real. It's about time.
The Obama administration's proposed new rule for existing power plants -- reducing heat-trapping carbon emissions by up to 30 percent by 2030 -- is ambitious enough to get anyone's attention. No, this one measure will not halt or reverse human-induced warming of the atmosphere. But the rule is necessary in the context of seeking international consensus on solutions -- and also significant in its own right.
Before Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy could announce the new rule Monday, critics were already bellowing about higher energy rates and lost jobs. They pretended not to see that President Obama -- as with health care reform -- is taking what ought to be seen as a Republican-friendly approach.
The rule, which will not become final until next year, gives states great flexibility in how they reach the target. They are not forced to immediately begin shutting down the aging coal-fired power plants that constitute one of the biggest sources of carbon pollution. Rather, each state can take the path that best fits its circumstances -- ramping up the generation of energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar, for example, or entering regional cap-and-trade agreements.
Ultimately, however, hundreds of those aging, dirty, coal-fired plants will have to close. If the planet could speak, it would say good riddance.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The severing of our society into a plutocracy and a peasantry is so far along that statistics almost cease to have meaning. But the facts have to be told, to help explain the sickening sense that we're becoming a nation without a middle class, paralyzed by the inequality deniers and excuse makers who refuse to admit there's something wrong with their free-market capitalist system. The extremes are becoming almost intolerable.
1. A Broken System of Compensation: The Combined Salaries of 350,000 Pre-School Teachers Is Less Than That of Five Hedge Fund Managers
Pre-school teaching may be our nation's most important job. Numerous studies show that with pre-school, all children achieve more and earn more through adulthood, with the most disadvantaged benefiting the most.
Hedge fund managers, at the other extreme, are likely to bet on mortgages to fail or on food prices to rise.
It's a frightening commentary on our value system that the total income of over a third of a million pre-school teachers is less than the combined income of just five big-money speculators.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
This piece is dedicated to Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald for their attempt to preserve our liberties by law in the People's Bill of Rights.
In case you didn't catch the irony of the title, "Tear down this wall!" was the challenge issued by President Ronald Reagan to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall, June 12th 1987, as a demand to increase freedom in the Eastern Bloc, freedom to come and go as one pleases, and freedom from state controlled surveillance.
My, my, my—how the tables have turned, no?
Protesters around the world are demanding that President Obama fulfill his 2008 promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, a prison known for torture and abuse, and for its illegal "indefinite detention" practice.
Guantanamo Bay Prison stands as a blatant violation of Constitutional Laws. So how did it happen in the first place?
Worst still, Obama's National Defense Authorization Act made certain that American citizens can also be held indefinitely without trial or charge. The Patriot Act pales by comparison to the NDAA. President Obama used Executive Action to pass it into law on New Year's Day 2012—as if it were something to celebrate. He refuses, however, to take Executive Action for shutting down GITMO. Morally speaking, the president doesn't seem to know right from wrong.
As the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, put it: "Barack Obama is the first president ever in the United States to sign into law indefinite detention as part of the policy of the United States."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
TIME online reports:The US economy shrunk (according to just released revised figures) for the first time in three years.
The U.S.' Gross Domestic Product contracted by 1 percent in the first quarter of 2014, marking the first contraction in years as government economists revised earlier figures by taking stock of additional glum measures
The U.S. economy shrunk by 1% in the first quarter of 2014, according to government data released Thursday, marking the first economic contraction in three years.
The figure, from revised estimates released by the Commerce Department, was revised downwards from an earlier estimate of 0.1% growth in gross domestic product, as government economists took stock of additional glum measures. The Commerce Department noted that on top of a winter wallop to retail and construction, real GDP was dragged down further by a rise in imports and a marked decline in inventory growth. The last time real GDP contracted was in the first quarter of 2011 at the tail end of a punishing recession.
Even though many mainstream media reports quote "analysts" who claim that the downturn was an anomaly - and that consumer demand should increase in the second quarter - the anemic performance of the Gross Domestic Product has implications for an increase in equality.
That is the outlook if you agree with the one of the basic tenets in economist Thomas Piketty's widely discussed new book: "Capital in the Twenty-First Century."