BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What began as an offhanded suggestion by Ronald Reagan to Thomas Roe (a member of his "kitchen cabinet") in the 1980s, has evolved into an army of at least 63 state-based groups pushing conservative public policy issues as members of the powerful and well-coordinated State Policy Network (SPN).
Although many of the groups involved claim to be non-partisan and independent, an investigation by the watchdog group, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has found "that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, ALEC-backed agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities."
In September, the Arlington, Virginia-based State Policy Network held its 21st annual meeting in Oklahoma City. According to CMD's report EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, the meeting "featured a legislative agenda that included privatizing and profitizing schools, attacking the pensions negotiated for public workers, limiting the ability of states to tax, ending collective bargaining rights of workers, cutting federal spending out of state budgets, and thwarting the Affordable Care Act."
As might be expected the Koch Brothers have their imprint writ large over the SPN: The September event was attended by "representatives from Koch Industries, the Charles Koch Institute, and Charles Koch Foundation, and other the Koch-funded groups such as David Koch's Americans for Prosperity, Generation Opportunity, and the Association for American Innovation, which is now called 'Freedom Partners' and is funded to an unknown extent by the fortunes of the billionaire Koch brothers, housed in the same building as other Koch front groups, staffed by Koch operatives, and stacked with a board full of Koch insiders."
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Looks like the holidays are going to be, shall we say, a bit awkward for the Cheney family.
Actually, more than a bit. A feud between the former vice president's daughters emerged into public view when Liz Cheney, who is trying to win a Senate seat from Wyoming by pandering to the far-right Republican base, went on "Fox News Sunday" and declared her opposition to gay marriage.
She said the question should be left up to the states, but added, "I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage."
Her sister, Mary Cheney, reportedly was watching at the home she shares with her wife, Heather Poe, and their two children. To understate, the Cheney-Poe household was not amused.
Mary Cheney responded via her Facebook page. "Liz," she wrote, "this isn't just an issue on which we disagree -- you're just wrong -- and on the wrong side of history."
Poe's reaction, also posted on Facebook, was more elaborate -- and more pointed.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
BuzzFlash at Truthout has, for years, discussed the last great stand of white Americans -- who feel entitled to power -- and the racist origins of the anger that have been building up at the diminishment of white privilege. This, of course, accounts for the vigorous effort by Republicans to reduce the vote of nonwhites and the poor, because demographically -- as we and others have repeated -- whites are headed toward minority status in America.
And knowing the history of what whites have done to minorities (including black slaves, Native Americans, Mexicans and Chinese imported to build the railroads just to name a few), the fear of payback has to be included in their bitter hate for "the other."
But, it is also important to remember that one of the key political conflicts playing itself out here also concerns property rights versus citizenship rights when it comes to voting.
Let's take a trip down America's regrettable heritage of slavery. Although blacks abducted and sold into servitude and babaric cruelty were needless to say denied the right of citizenship, they were considered property -- and the accumulation of a lot of slaves exemplified a large and powerful property owner (including George Washington).
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Right Wing Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast called the public school system a "socialist regime." Michelle Rhee cautions us against commending students for their 'participation' in sports and other activities.
Privatizers believe that any form of working together as a community is anti-American. To them, individual achievement is all that matters. They're now applying their winner-take-all profit motive to our children.
We're Sliding Backwards, Towards "Separate and Unequal"
In 1954, the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education seemed to place our country on the right track. Chief Justice Earl Warren said that education "is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." Thurgood Marshall insisted on "the right of every American to an equal start in life."
But then we got derailed. We've become a nation of inequality, worse than ever before, worse than during the racist "separate but equal" policy of Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA shows that "segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities." The Economic Policy Institute tells us that "African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago."
The privatizers clamor for vouchers and charters to improve education, but such methods generally don't serve those who need it most. According to a Center on Education Policy report, private schools serve 12 percent of the nation's elementary and secondary students, but only one percent of disabled students. Forty-three percent of public school students are from minority families, compared to 24% of private school students.
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As William Rivers Pitt recently pointed out in his signature Truthout column, it's ludicrous to begin concentrating on the presidential race in 2016. Democracy is too valuable and powerful to have its future concentrated in one person.
BuzzFlash contributor Will Durst also ponders the absurdity of handicapping who might run for president in three years in the following column:
What the heck is going on here, people? Did someone drop the flag signaling the start of the 2016 Presidential election race in secret? Was there a furtive whispered “go now” left on the voice mail of all the major players in the 202 area code? 36 months before the election? Is it possible to earn extra credit by skipping this one and moving right on to 2020?
The most recent media-consumed fever dream boils down to Chris Christie versus Hillary Clinton. Although, two weeks ago, Ted Cruz was the presumptive GOP nominee. Didn’t Hillary use up her inevitability card in 2008? When she was destined to face off against Rudy Giuliani? How’d that end up?
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As we face a growing catastrpohic crisis in the form of global warming, and economic hardships from policies that benefit billionaires while working Americans struggle to pay for basic necessities, I can’t help thinking about Al Gore and how different things would be under his leadership after Bush followed by years of broken promises.
Let’s remember that Al Gore won the popular vote and the state of Florida if the votes had been fully counted, despite the legal evidence proving that there was plenty of cheating going on for Bush in 2000, and last but not least, let’s not forget how the Supreme Court Justices unjustly ruled to stop counting the votes in Florida.
Predictably, the industrial oligarchs would never have allowed an Al Gore victory.
In 2000, we were at the crossroads or as President Clinton liked to say to “building a bridge to the twenty-first century, the New Millennium.”
WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
For the record, I hope the Affordable Care Act survives and succeeds. I hope President Obama pulls these irons out of the fire and hammers them into shape. I know he and his administration are struggling to enact long-term solutions to a complicated situation in the age of the 24-hour bullshit machine that is the modern "news" cycle, and I deeply and fully appreciate the difficulty of the task.
But I'm pissed, and rightfully so, and I will tell you why.
I believe that government - federal, state and local - can and far more often than not does work for the benefit of the people. If you drive on roads, have your trash collected, eat food that isn't poisoned, drink water that isn't black, breathe air that isn't blue, get a response from fire or health professionals when you cry for help, if you go to court and win, if the snow gets cleared off your street after a blizzard, if your community is rebuilt after a natural disaster, and every single time someone stops for a red light to let you pass, you can thank a government.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In the fall of 1993, President and Mrs. (as she was then know, before she became brand "Hillary") Clinton were gearing up for the introduction of what became known as "The Clinton Health Plan" to Congress. At the Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, held in Washington, DC in November that year, a session was held looking for volunteers to speak on behalf of the plan at community meetings to be held the following year. I had a long background in what we used to call "health care delivery systems analysis."
And so I went along to that first session, really a tryout. Each participant was asked to give a brief presentation on the problems facing the US health care system and how they thought that the Clinton Health Plan could help to ameliorate them. I was pleased that I was chosen to participate and invited to come to Washington a couple of weeks later to begin training. I was dismayed, however, when, with no further discussion and certainly no interview for the job, I was asked to become a trainer myself.
These folks did not know me, had engaged in no training for trainers, and it quickly became apparent that they were more or less shooting from the hip. Nevertheless, when we chosen "speakers on behalf of the Clinton Health Plan" were invited to a plenary session at the White House, I fully expected that we would be presented with marching orders and a detailed plan, including talking points, for dealing with the policy and political problems with which we would be expected to deal out on the CHP campaign trail.
Instead, there were several speeches from the designers of the plan about its contents, which were already well-known, and that was about it. No strategy, no tactics, no group meetings, just sitting in lectures. I remember coming home from that meeting and telling my wife at the time, "if this is all they've got, the CHP is going to lose."
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It was a necessary retreat, but President Obama made clear Thursday that his bottom line remains unchanged: "I'm not going to walk away from 40 million people who have the chance to get health insurance for the first time."
The president's pledge should be the nation's bottom line as well. It came as Obama surrendered to overwhelming pressure, much of it from fellow Democrats, and allowed individuals to keep their bare-bones insurance policies that do not meet the Affordable Care Act's standards -- at least for a year. The change was meant to correct an imbalance that cannot long be tolerated: More people are being annoyed and inconvenienced by the new law than are being helped.
It should be the other way around, and Obama accepted the blame. "There have been times where I thought we were kind of, you know, slapped around a little bit unjustly," he said. "This one's deserved, all right? It's on us."
The only semi-dodge was when Obama apologized, kind of, for his repeated assertion that Americans who were satisfied with the health insurance coverage they already have would be able to keep it. "There is no doubt that the way I put that forward, unequivocally, ended up not being accurate," he said.
"Ended up not being accurate" is a phrase I might try the next time I have to correct an erroneous fact or a misattributed quotation. I doubt my editors will let me get away with it.
Overall, however, Obama was as contrite as I've ever seen him, and also as resolute. We screwed up, he effectively said, but we're not backing down.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Ah Thanksgiving, that quintessential of US holidays when the warmth of family and appreciation for the bounty of our nation are celebrated. The tantalizing and comforting aroma of turkey -- with all the trimmings -- lingers as we give thanks and bask in the warmth of those we love.
Some begin the groaning board meal with a prayer; some begin with secular thanks; and some don't have enough money for a proper holiday meal. But this is the day that symbolizes the harvest, the fruit of one's labor, the emotional recognition of the value of work and life and family and friends.
Except that the creeping consumerism of American society has been encroaching upon Thanksgiving. Last year some big box stores started "black Friday" by opening up on Thanksgiving eve. That new retailing strategy is continuing in 2013, with K-Mart breaking a new regrettable milestone by throwing open its doors at 6 AM on turkey day.