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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPistolPile(Photo: Joshuashearn)Before I heard about the horrific terrorist attack on the offices of the Paris-based humor magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the deaths of at least twelve people and the wounding of many more, I was reading a report in the Washington Examiner about a poll taken by McLaughlin & Associates that found "74.2 percent of likely voters said they fear terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State will strike U.S. targets if they aren't stopped." Now that cable television's news networks are covering the Paris events twenty-four/seven, it is likely that a similar poll taken today might reveal even higher numbers.

Joel C. Rosenberg, in an apparently self-serving move aimed at promoting his new book titled "The Third Target," commissioned the McLaughlin & Associates poll and has been touting the results at his blog. "The Third Target," according to Rosenberg is about "ISIS broadening its attacks outside of Syria and Iraq." Rosenberg, who years ago worked for current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and who currently runs a charity called The Joshua Fund, is the author of a series of best-selling novels dealing with the Middle East.

While Rosenberg's novels consistently deal with terrorist plots in the Middle East, radical Islamists, and his own apocalyptic visions, he steers clear of writing about white, homegrown, Christian-based anti-government radicals in the United States.

In actuality, there are more than enough domestic terrorist incidents to write about.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNYPDbadge(Photo: SGT141)Oh, the moral force of a snub.

Several hundred cops turn their backs on New York's mayor as he eulogizes one of their own, killed in the line of duty, and the media have another us-vs.-them story to report. Bill de Blasio's in trouble, accused of playing politics with the lives of heroes. And, of course, the story goes no deeper than the dramatic accusation.

As the sign of a lone protester at the officer's funeral proclaimed: "God bless the NYPD: Dump de Blasio."

There's nothing like a good, righteous condemnation to stop a national discussion. Criticizing police tactics means contributing to an anti-police atmosphere. End of debate.

Personally, I view the snub, by some New York police, as de Blasio's red badge of courage more than his moral condemnation. He stood for something outside the zone of official righteousness. He met with protesters. He ended stop-and-frisk, the tactic of warrantless street searches that primarily targeted blacks and Hispanics. He told his biracial son to "take special care in any encounter he has with police officers," in other words, refused to sugarcoat a pragmatic truth.

And he has eulogized about attaining peace other than through brute force: "As we start a new year, a year we're entering with hearts that are doubly heavy, let us rededicate ourselves to those great New York traditions of mutual understanding and living in harmony. Let us move forward by strengthening the bonds that unite us, and let us work together to attain peace."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aglwarm(Photo: Mikael Miettinen)

On Wednesday, January 7, The Guardian reported on a just-released analysis that warns (as stated in the article's headline), "Leave fossil fuels buried to prevent climate change: New research is first to identify which reserves must not be burned to keep global temperature rise under 2C, including over 90% of US and Australian coal and almost all Canadian tar sands."

In a stunning series of reports on Truthout, Dahr Jamail has regularly reported on the imminence of catastrophic climate failure if no dramatic steps are taken to prevent it. Other Truthout journalists have also focused on the portentous threat.

The Guardian article based on research from University College London ominously warns:

Vast amounts of oil in the Middle East, coal in the US, Australia and China and many other fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground to prevent dangerous climate change, according to the first analysis to identify which existing reserves cannot be burned.

The new work reveals the profound geopolitical and economic implications of tackling global warming for both countries and major companies that are reliant on fossil fuel wealth. It shows trillions of dollars of known and extractable coal, oil and gas, including most Canadian tar sands, all Arctic oil and gas and much potential shale gas, cannot be exploited if the global temperature rise is to be kept under the 2C safety limit agreed by the world's nations. Currently, the world is heading for a catastrophic 5C of warming and the deadline to seal a global climate deal comes in December at a crunch UN summit in Paris.

One can only imagine the public relations consultants for the fossil fuel industry in full crisis management mode, preparing propaganda to debunk a credible study.

Thursday, 08 January 2015 07:10

You Are Not Your Beliefs

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCharlieH(Photo: Aftermath of 2011 Charlie Hebdo firebombing. Photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin)It has been a day since I woke to the news that the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had been attacked by armed gunmen, leaving 12 dead. The magazine had last made international headlines back in 2011, when its office was firebombed after publishing an issue featuring cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, but it has a long and rich history of attacking pretty much anyone within reach.

It would be nice to imagine that the response to this will not follow a far too predictable pattern. The attacks will be, rightfully, deplored all around. Islam will be denounced. Radical Islam will be denounced. Richard Dawkins will shoot his mouth off. The entirely reasonable claim that the actions of two individual extremists do not represent the totality of the faith will be made. Charlie Hebdo will be attacked as racist and insensitive, and defended as a shining exemplar of free speech and satire.

And meanwhile 12 people are dead because offense was taken when someone’s beliefs were attacked.

Wednesday, 07 January 2015 08:10

Fracking Ban Bill Introduced in Florida

2015.1.7.Everglades.BFMany Floridians don't think fracking belongs anywhere near the delicate ecology of the Everglades - or anywhere else in their state. (Photo: Chauncey Davis / Flickr)

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There may not be any actual fracking going on in Florida yet. But some legislators there are taking no chances, introducing bills to ban the process in the state, just as New York did in mid-December. Yesterday state representative Evan Jenne introduced HB 169 which “prohibits well stimulation treatments for exploration or production of oil or natural gas.” His bill enumerated the problems caused by fracking: use of carcinogenic chemicals, heavy use of fresh water when many communities are facing water scarcity, threats to protected wildlife species, the potential to damage the surrounding environment and the emission of climate change-driving greenhouse gases.

It follows on the heels of similar legislation, SB 166, filed by state Senators Darren Soto and Dwight Bullard last month. All the bills have been introduced for consideration in the upcoming legislative session.

“Florida is home to scenic beaches, wonderful springs and the legendary Everglades,” said Soto. “This natural beauty in turn fosters a strong tourism industry, annually attracting many new residents to our shores. It must be preserved. We Floridians also get the vast majority of our water supply from ground water through the Floridan Aquifer. This critical water source must be protected from pollution to assure ample, clean water for future generations.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

fds(Photo: USDAgov)

The possibility of implosion persistently looms over the US economy, but a moral disintegration of the nation has been simmering for decades.

The continued reduction in food stamp support is the latest addition to the dismantling of a social safety net that fulfills an ethical obligation to individuals in the US. That obligation is based on the reality that the current financial system is structured with incentives to ensure that full employment is never achieved. Large-scale unemployment is necessary in order to keep corporate profits high by keeping the costs of labor low.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities predicts that in the government's fiscal year of 2016, it is possible that one million adults (without dependent children) who do not have jobs will have lost their food stamp benefits. These are individuals in extreme need of supplemental food support for survival: 

Unemployed, nondisabled childless adults on SNAP [the food stamp program] tend to be very poor. USDA data show that while these individuals participate in SNAP their gross income averages 19 percent of the poverty line - about $2,200 per year for a household of one in 2014 - compared to gross income of 58.5 percent of the poverty line for the average SNAP household overall…. Some 96 percent of them live in households below 100 percent of the poverty line.  

Some 40 percent of this vulnerable population are women. Almost one-third are over age 40. Among those who report their race, about half are white, a third are African American, and a tenth are Hispanic. Half have only a high school diploma or GED.  

The Center estimates that new regulations will result in a loss of $150-$200 a month in food assistance for individuals who have total incomes of just over $2,000 a year.

Wednesday, 07 January 2015 06:45

Why Are the Police More Valued Than the People?

2015.1.7.Watts.BFPresident Obama shakes the hand of Chuck Canterbury, President of the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police at the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service. (Photo: James Tourtellotte / Flickr)

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“I’m not against the police; I’m just afraid of them.”

- Alfred Hitchcock

A funny thing happened on Monday: Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, issued a call for federal hate crime laws to be expanded to protect law enforcement officers. I’ll return to this statement shortly – it contains a level of idiocy and entitlement that is seldom seen – but first let’s take a brief walk through some related events of the past few weeks.

To start with, the New York Police Department threw a bit of a temper tantrum. In the wake of the killing of two NYPD officers, head of the city’s Patrolman’s Benevolent Association Patrick Lynch made a number of interesting logical leaps and drew a connection between the officers’ murders and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rather restrained criticisms of the NYPD. Apparently, de Blasio’s statement about warning his biracial son to take special care in interactions with law enforcement was simply too much for Lynch to bear, and he declared that de Blasio had “blood on his hands.”  And this was followed by the spectacle of officers turning their backs on de Blasio at the funerals of the slain policemen, and police cadets booing the mayor when he spoke at their graduation ceremony.

On a somewhat lighter note, the NYPD has taken the additional step of drastically reducing their rate of arrests and ticketing for lower level offenses. It is notable that this action, or rather inaction, has not resulted in widespread looting and chaos, and that New York City has yet to burn to the ground. This might suggest that, if the intent of the slowdown is to demonstrate the indispensability of the police force, a rethinking of strategy might be in order.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMcConnellBoehner(Photo: EcoWatch)With Congress back in session, Republican leadership is putting at the top of its agenda an item that probably isn’t at the top of most Americans’ agenda: approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

Majority leader Kevin McCarthy said that the House of Representatives will vote on Keystone XL pipeline Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal. The House has voted ten previous times to approve the pipeline but each time, it failed to clear the Democratic-controlled Senate. Now, with Republicans in charge of the Senate and a larger Republican majority in the House, its passage is guaranteed. The last House vote was 252-16, and it’s sure to garner an even larger margin this time.

The Senate is scheduled to begin consideration of the pipeline bill tomorrow with hearings in the Energy and Natural Resource Committee, headed by Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a supporter of the project. Senate Democrats are pushing for an open process that would allow them to offer amendments, and incoming Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has said that will happen. That means a full vote on the Senate floor could be weeks away.

“Just about the only people who think the first thing Congress should do is force approval of Keystone XL are those working for oil and gas billionaires—which explains exactly why Congressional Republicans want to do it,” said Sierra Club’s legislative director Melinda Pierce. “For those in Congress who don’t share those pro-polluter goals, this first vote will be a chance to stand together and send the message to the public that we won’t go backwards. After all, Americans didn’t vote for dirty air, dirty water or dirty energy, even if Congress is committed to doing just that.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aenoughblacklives(Photo: Light Brigade/ Black Lives Matter)

Nationally known progressive newscaster, author and daily Truthout commentator Thom Hartmann wrote some time ago about how George Zimmerman's vigilante shooting of Trayvon Martin (for walking while Black) represented the legacy of slave patrols.

Hartmann wrote on Truthout in July of 2013,

George Zimmerman kept close watch over his neighborhood.

When Black men walked or even drove through the area, he alerted the police, over and over and over again.

Finally, exasperated that "they always" got away, he went out on a rainy night armed with a loaded gun and the Stand Your Ground law, looking for anybody who should not be in his largely White neighborhood.

The South has a long history of this sort of thing. Today they’re called Neighborhood Watches. They used to be called Slave Patrols.

A recent BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary contended:

The role of most large urban police forces that aggressively patrol poor communities of color is to remove the "blight" of people of color in poverty by arrest and imprisonment - particularly black males and Latinos, and increasingly women of color. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abirdhome(Photo: DavidPronk)

In 2014, BuzzFlash posted periodic commentaries on a national trend of cities prohibiting organizations and individuals from feeding the homeless. Basically, real estate developers and people living in comfortable neighborhoods regard people who are homeless as little more than urban blight, and so municipalities have increasingly been passing ordinances that outlaw providing food to individuals who cannot afford housing. A number of different nefarious strategies have also been implemented by cities to make homelessness illegal in certain areas. It is not surprising that Glenn Beck's right-wing website, The Blaze, touts the "Top 10 Anti-Homeless Measures Used in the United States."

Unfortunately, the last days of 2014 indicate that the war against the homeless will continue on into 2015. During the holiday season - the alleged period of caring, love and empathy - the city officials of Roseville, California (located just northeast of Sacramento), threatened to take action against an organization with the seasonally appropriate name of "What Would Jesus Do" for offering food to homeless individuals.

According to the December 28 The Sacramento Bee, 

For the homeless feeding organization called What Would Jesus Do, it is an act of benevolent defiance.

After a 31/2-month absence, the group is again serving breakfast pastries, hot chocolate and coffee, canned goods and additional staples to homeless and other disadvantaged people at Roseville’s Saugstad Park on Sunday mornings. Volunteers were out once more in the chilly air Sunday after resuming the park program on Dec. 21.

Just four days before Christmas, however, Roseville City Hall was not happy.  

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