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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

agovtrans1 8New New York Times (NYT) editorials have generally been more liberal in their outlook (although there are many exceptions to this, including its editorials supporting the Iraq War and Wall Street) than the news section that most often reflects an inside the beltway conventional wisdom perspective, it is still a red letter day when an editorial -- such as the one appearing on January 7th -- excoriates the president and attorney general for putting obstacles in the way of government transparency:

When President Obama took office in 2009, he promised an “unprecedented level of openness in government.” In a memo issued the day after his inauguration, he wrote, “The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”

In the latest reminder that the Obama administration has failed to live up to that promise, the Justice Department last week won its fight to keep secret a memo that outlines the supposed legal authority for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect Americans’ telephone and financial records without a subpoena...

Many other opinions remain hidden under the specious claim that they are only working drafts, not adopted policies, and that if officials must worry about operating “in a fishbowl,” they will avoid seeking legal advice altogether. This rationale is largely a pretext for putting an ever-expanding shroud over almost any controversial, and potentially illegal, government action. 

Two USAF MaxxPro MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles.Two USAF MaxxPro MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles.JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

What a Christmas little Bastrop had! It's still a mystery how Santa Claus got it down the chimney, but Bastrop got a nifty present that most children could only dream about: a big honkin', steel-clad, war toy called MRAP.

But Bastrop is not a 6-year-old child, and an MRAP is not a toy. Bastrop is a Texas county of some 75,000 people, and MRAP stands for "Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected." It's a heavily armored military vehicle weighing about 15 tons — one of several versions of fighting machines that have become the hot, must-have playthings of police departments all across the country.

Are the good people of Bastrop facing some imminent terrorist threat that warrants military equipment? No, it's a very pleasant, laid-back place. And while the county is named for a 19th century land developer and accused embezzler, it's never been a haven for particularly dangerous criminals — indeed, the relatively few crimes in Bastrop today don't rise above the level of routine police work.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amediaTheaterPatriots who have come in from the dark. The unraveling of FBI surveillance and suppression of dissent that began with the burglary of an FBI office in Media, PA, in 1971.John and Bonnie Raines, now senior citizens, were known as a model Philidelphia couple and parents in the early 1970s. They were also ardent anti-Vietnam War protesters.

In a video assembled by Retro Report (an online investigative documentary reporting site) for the New York Times, John Raines states simply of that period of large-scale anti-government protests, "We knew the FBI was systematically trying to squash dissent, and dissent is the lifeblood of democracy."

William C. Davidon, a professor of physics at Haverford College, recruited the Raines and five other activists against the war to carry off a daring 1971 burglary of an FBI outpost office in Media, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philly. Their goal was to expose the FBI as an agency that was conducting surveillance upon and interfering in the lives of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DustBowlI’ve been writing about the threat of global warming for the last eight years, and although the scientific evidence is well established and alarming—that we are warming the earth more than a full degree Fahrenheit by releasing carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, it wasn’t until this winter that the threat of global warming became frighteningly real from a personal standpoint.  Here, on the central coast of California, we have had no rain to speak of for over a year, followed by record low amounts of rain in the last few years.  Not only is it the driest year on record—meteorologists are shocked to see that it’s the warmest and driest year in the history of the state.

But that won’t mean much unless you know what it’s like to live in a state threatened by severe droughts. True, the Northeastern regions are experiencing below freezing, Arctic snowstorms that have left residents without electricity, which also threatens life from the other extreme; however, as miserably dangerous as those icy conditions are—the sun will come out, the snow will eventually melt, and spring will flourish from the water.  Droughts, on the other hand, are far more pervasive and threatening in the long run because water is life, without it, life perishes

It’s physically and emotionally painful to see the fields and fresh water lakes reduced to scorched land.  The hillsides are usually a lush jade-green by this time of year, and early wildflowers brighten the pastures with daisies, poppies and violets.  Now they’re dark, parched and dusty like something out of the Dustbowl days. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

alizcheney1 6Liz Cheney, Campaigning for the Senate in Wyoming Before She Dropped Out of the Primary RacePity the pro-war (with anyone who has oil or won't give sweetheart contracts to Halliburton), anti gay marriage Darth Vader voter in Wyoming.  Where are they going to turn now that Liz Cheney has dropped her senate bid?

Citing as yet unspecified health reasons in her family, Cheney announced on January 6th that she was dropping her bid to defeat an arch-conservative fellow Republican (Mike Enzi, seeking a fourth term) in what had become a highly divisive primary challenge. In fact, it had even split the Cheney family apart as Ms. Cheney adamantly opposed gay marriage even though her sister, Mary, is married to another woman, Heather Poe.  Papa Dick and Mama Lynne sided with Liz, creating a Grand Canyon schism in the Cheney clan.

Liz, who has been her father's alter-ego and fellow champion of oil empire for years, was facing charges of carpetbagging in Wyoming (yes, Dick was a congressman from Wyoming, but Liz, an Easterner, just moved from the DC suburbs to run against Enzi), according to the New York Times.

2014.1.6.BF.UPSWALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It's been about two weeks since the news media began smothering the nation with stories about UPS and FedEx delivering packages late during the holiday season.

A short shopping season of less than 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, combined with extraordinary numbers of deliveries and extreme weather problems caused thousands of packages not to be delivered by Christmas. For some media, this was the top story.

FedEx says it delivered more than 275 million packages in that one month period. UPS doesn't say how many it delivered or how many were late. But it does say that if customers sent their packages by ground and hoped they would arrive by Christmas, the cut-off date was December 11. For air service, UPS temporarily added 29 planes to its fleet.

2014.1.6.BF.BuchheitPAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The fear of running out of money in retirement is America's greatest financial concern. It's a fear greater than death.

But the American workers who have paid all their lives for retirement security are being cheated by wealthy individuals and corporations who refuse to meet their tax obligations, and who have found other ways to keep expanding their wealth at the expense of the middle class.

1. Federal Tax Avoidance Is the Biggest Threat to Social Security

Conservatives say that Social Security is too expensive, and that cutbacks and a later retirement age are necessary. But they refuse to acknowledge the facts about missing revenue. Annual tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and corporations is in the trillions of dollars, over double the cost of Social Security.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

a240px-Seal of Kentucky.svgIn a recent National Journal article, journalist Beth Reinhold exposes yet again the politically destructive reality that many poor whites -- particularly in the South -- will vote for candidates opposing government safety net programs, all the while accepting or living off those programs.

Reinhold chooses Kentucky as her case in point, where Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wages racial class warfare with his ongoing denunciation of government assistance to the needy. 

Unfortunately, poor whites have long been lured by the Pied Piper "welfare queen" image (a mythical black woman allegedly driving a Cadillac paid for by Medicaid and food stamps -- no, it doesn't make any economic sense; it's sort of like a Disney fantasy for racists), even when, as Reinhold points out "ample and objective statistics show...that most welfare recipients are white families with children, the stereotype of the welfare queen persists."

JOE CONASON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

FrancisPopeIf anyone wonders whether Pope Francis has irritated wealthy conservatives with his courage and idealism, the latest outburst from Kenneth Langone left little doubt. Sounding both aggressive and whiny, the billionaire investor warned that he and his overprivileged friends might withhold their millions from church and charity unless the pontiff stops preaching against the excesses and cruelty of unleashed capitalism.

According to Langone, such criticism from the Holy See could ultimately hurt the sensitive feelings of the rich so badly that they become "incapable of feeling compassion for the poor." He also said rich donors are already losing their enthusiasm for the restoration of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan — a very specific threat that he mentioned directly to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.

Langone is not only a leading fundraiser for church projects but a generous donor to hospitals, universities and cancer charities (often for programs and buildings named after him, in the style of today's self-promoting philanthropists). Among the super-rich, he has many friends and associates who may share his excitable temperament.

While his ultimatum seems senseless — would a person of true faith stiff the church and the poor? — it may well be sincere. And Langone spends freely to promote his political and economic views, in the company of the Koch brothers and other Republican plutocrats.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DucksFrom the I-can-see-it-coming-down-the-pike department: Remember Obama's "Beer Date" with Professor Henry Louis Gates and Police Sergeant James Crowley? Well ... Wait for it ... don't be shocked if sometime in 2014, we see a made for TV "Duck Date."

There's been some quacking these days on the Internets that Phil Robertson, the recently suspended and subsequently unsuspended patriarch and star of A&E's "Duck Dynasty" is going to get together for some old-fashioned duck hunting, duck eating, or a duck and cover drill with the likes of Jesse Jackson and/or Al Sharpton.

Is someone blowing smoke, or one of the Robertson family's duck whistles?

By now, unless you've been hiding out in some duck blind in the swamps of the Lower East Side in New York City, you've heard of Phil RobertsonGate. In an interview with GQ magazine Robertson made anti-gay comments and painted a thoroughly unrealistic and un-conscious portrait of life for African Americans in the south during his youth.

Lloyd Marcus is taking the possibility of a "Duck Date" seriously. Marcus is a black conservative musician whose claim to fame is having written a Tea Party Anthem. Marcus took the anthem on the road in 2010, headlining the "Tea Party Express III: Just Vote Them Out" bus tour. Marcus must have enjoyed the bus-riding experiences, as he became a regular rider on other bus blasts including the Stop Obama Tour, a batch of Tea Party Express Tours and the Defeat Obama Renew America Tour.

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