STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There is a lot of talk these days about "presidential legacies." Obama is supposedly trying to burnish his. George W. Bush has spent the last six years trying to run away from his: from his failure to prevent 9/11, to his invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, to his failed attempt to destroy Social Security. And then there's the very real legacy of Bill Clinton, which doesn't seem to garner much attention. However, on the domestic side it has been, over the long-term, just as damaging to the nation as has been George W. Bush's on the foreign side. But as Hillary apparently prepares to run for the presidency, Bill will certainly be part of the equation, whether she likes it or not. And she will not be able to try to ignore him and his record, as Al Gore did in the 2000 campaign, for better or worse.
So it might be a good idea at this time to take a look at that picture, even though it is hardly a pretty one. I am presenting the elements of it that I find to be most important, but not necessarily in order of importance, for some would think that some are more important than others. However, I think that most persons viewing this particular list would agree that they are all negative to a greater or lesser extent. Or at least they would agree that I just happen to have picked out a bunch of negative ones (but I did have a hard time remembering any positive ones). And so, in no particular order, here's my list.
Bill Clinton introduced us to Big Pharma advertising for prescription drugs on television. The main purpose of these ads, at least as they are now constructed, would seem to be to attempt to protect the firms from charges of non-full disclosure when various pharmaceuticals come to suit. But at the same time, with the visuals all the way through and the often dream-like text about what the pills can do for you at the beginning and the end, the ads: a) reinforce the US drug culture: "take this pill; it will solve your problem"; b) add to the pressure that physicians feel all the time anyway about prescribing; and c) attempt to make patients into self-prescribers.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Ominous portents abound that water - necessary for the survival of all life on earth - is under dire threat. In a commentary pondering the notion that we may have passed the threshold of peak potable water, Lucinda Marshall cites some troubling signs:
To make matters worse, the Colorado River is drying up at an alarming rate.
And of course it isn’t just the American West that is in trouble. Nadia Prupis reports that, unless water use is drastically minimized…widespread drought will affect between 30 and 40 percent of the planet by 2020, and another two decades after that will see a severe water shortage that would affect the entire planet.”
War can severely impact access to safe water as the Iraqis know all too well and as we are seeing now in the Ukraine and in Gaza.
As can corporate greed, as we are learning in Detroit.
Throughout the U.S. water service is frequently disrupted by pipe breaks in our aging infrastructure.
And now we are seeing how allowing the over-fertilization of lawns can contribute to poisoning water supplies such as Lake Erie, recently leaving the entire city of Toledo, OH without potable water.
We have littered the oceans with literally islands of trash.
And of course the ongoing disaster that is Fukushima.
As Marshall observes, "That, unfortunately is only the prelude of what is to come."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
You may have read that due to pressure from gun control groups, some national chains such as Starbucks, Target and Chipotle now discourage gun zealots from openly carrying firearms into their facilities.
According to an April 3 Christian Science Monitor article, however, "Smaller Restaurants Welcome Gun Owners: While Some Large Chains Discourage Guns, More Independent Restaurateurs Are Giving the Green Light." Not only are guns welcome at these diners, but you can even get a discount for carrying a gun at some, the Monitor reports:
"Most that come in are responsible and have their guns holstered," said Jay Laze, owner of All Around Pizza and Deli. Last year, Mr. Laze began giving 15% discounts to diners who either were carrying openly or had concealed-carry permits. "It was good for business, and I've hopefully educated some folks on the Second Amendment and the right to carry."
Bryan Crosswhite, owner of The Cajun Experience, which gives 10% discounts on Wednesdays to those with guns, said he, too, had experienced no serious problems with his program, adding that he won't serve alcohol to patrons openly carrying.
Give Bryan Crosswhite some credit. At least he doesn't give a 20 percent discount if you drink and carry a firearm into his eating establishment. (Although some states, it should be noted, allow for carrying guns into bars and restaurants that serve liquor.)
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.