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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFBI(Photo: Federal Bureau of Investigation)Let's start with a premise I think we can all agree with: There have been no 9/11-type attacks on United States soil since, well, 9/11. Here's another statement we all probably agree with: The federal government has all sorts of arrows in its quiver when it comes to gathering intelligence to thwart such attacks. And that is where it begins to gets dicey: Unfortunately, in its counterterrorism project, the government appears to be relying more and more on perhaps the most twisted of those arrows; the use of informants, coerced and/or rewarded, entrapment, and the sting.

Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the federal government has obtained more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions. According to a new Human Rights Watch report (produced in association with Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute), "nearly 50 percent of [those] ... convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot."

The report, "Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions," points out that, while "[m]any prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks... many others have targeted individuals who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them.

"Indeed, in some cases the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target's willingness to act."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ggiffordsPolice gather around site where Cong. Gabby Giffords was shot and others killed on January 8, 2011. (Photo: SearchNetMedia)

Larry Pratt, long-time head of the Gun Owners of America (GOA) - which is to the NRA what the Tea Party is to the GOP - believes United States representatives should live in dread of being shot.

According to Right Wing Watch,

Prominent gun lobbyist Larry Pratt is doubling down on his insistence that members of Congress should have a “healthy fear” of being shot, lecturing a congresswoman who felt threatened by one of his group’s members that she just doesn’t understand the Constitution.

Right Wing Watch first reported Pratt’s comments in a March interview with radio host Bill Cunningham. Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, told Cunningham that a member of his group had spoken to a congresswoman who told him, “you want to shoot me, don’t you.”

“Well, that’s probably a healthy fear for them to have,” Pratt said. “You know, I’m kind of glad that’s in the back of their minds. Hopefully they’ll behave.”

Since that veiled threat, Pratt has slyly retreated into translating his words into a disclaimer: “I have never encouraged, or even suggested, that anyone harm anyone.” Then he went on to explain that the fear of being shot is a tool to educate elected representatives about gun rights.

Yet, educating elected officials apparently includes once again implying that the bullet box may replace the ballot box. According to Pratt:

Should you attempt to disarm Americans the way the British crown tried 240 years ago, the same sovereign people who constituted this government using the cartridge box someday may need to reconstitute it, as clearly anticipated by the Declaration of Independence.

Larry Pratt is a spokesperson for the enemy within the United States – and what is more unnerving is that he is not even the most radical zealot of gun extremists.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBorderbeachtj(Photo: James Reyes)The Republican Party's paralysis on immigration is so complete -- and so utterly irresponsible -- that President Obama has no choice but to act on his own.

Just say the word immigration and most GOP members of Congress either change the subject or scurry away. Rather than tackle a suite of genuine issues whose obvious solutions would clearly benefit the nation, House Republicans prefer to pass yet more useless bills that seek -- and fail -- to take away people's health insurance.

Both parties agree that the rapid influx of more than 50,000 unaccompanied children from Central America is a crisis. Yet House Speaker John Boehner must struggle to convince his GOP majority to do something, anything, before leaving Washington for their annual month-long summer vacation.

Obama asked Congress for an emergency $3.7 billion appropriation, much of which would be spent to house and care for the children while their requests for asylum are evaluated. Senate Democrats are set to propose approving roughly $2.7 billion, shaving the president's request to the sum needed for this calendar year. There is no guarantee, however, that the bill won't be stymied by a GOP filibuster.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have been spinning their wheels. Boehner is reportedly seeking agreement on a bill that provides only about $1 billion in emergency funding, far less than Obama says is needed. And it seems likely that the House bill -- if there is one -- will seek to change a 2008 law that prevents the Central American children from being summarily deported.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

tax1(Photo: darya-mead)

It would be an understatement to assert that The New York Times (NYT) was never sympathetic to the Occupy Movement. NYT reporting on Occupy and income inequality has generally served as a mini-me transcript of former Mayor Michael ("I'm with the titans of Wall Street") Bloomberg

Yes, The New York Times does post Paul Krugman and occasional op-eds on income inequality, but usually, its coverage of economic issues leans heavily toward the financial interests of the top percentage earners - the people who buy the luxury goods and services advertised in the paper. When it comes to the economy, the NYT is not the paper of record; it is the paper promoting the interests and lifestyles of the rich.

That was why I was surprised to see buried in the July 26 edition, in a section called Business Day, an article with this headline: "The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third Less." Now, that is a blunt headline, merited by the opening two paragraphs of the story:

Economic inequality in the United States has been receiving a lot of attention. But it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too.

The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.

When it comes to economic inequality, it doesn't get any more telling than a study that proves that the "typical" US household has decreased in net worth by a third since 2003. As BuzzFlash has noted, many analysts speculate that 95 percent of the economic rebound from the 2008 crash of the economy has ended up in the hands or offshore accounts of the top 1 percent of US households.

Open carry guns. (Image <a href=" http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/75/New_Hampshire_Open_Carry_2009.jpg" target="_blank">via Wikipedia</a>)Open carry guns. (Image via Wikipedia)WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A group of white gun-rights advocates plan to sling rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic assault weapons onto their bodies, and walk through a Black neighborhood in Houston.

What could possibly go wrong with that?!

The march through Houston's Fifth Ward is planned for August 16 to "educate" Texans about their rights to openly carry firearms.

To deflect criticism that the march is racially-insensitive, the testosterone-enhanced group, apparently with straight faces to hide its freeze-dried minds, says all it wants is for racial equality.

Student homelessness increased by 10 percent in just one year. (Photo:<a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/corruptkitten/1648247208" target="_blank"> Denise Allen / Flickr</a>)Student homelessness increased by 10 percent in just one year. (Photo: Denise Allen / Flickr)

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Our country's wealthy white once-idealistic baby boomer generation has cheated those of you entering the working world. A small percentage of us have taken almost all the new wealth since the recession. Our Silicon Valley CEOs have placated you with overpriced technological toys that are the result of decades of American productivity, but which have mainly profited the elite members of their industries.

Although none of us in the older generations can speak for you, we can help you research the facts. And the facts are painfully clear.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

fairshare(Photo: Michael Fleshman)

It took six years, but President Barack Obama finally used his bully pulpit to chastise US corporations who abandon this country to save taxes.

On June 30, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary, "Unpatriotic US Corporations Increasingly Move Headquarters Overseas to Decrease Taxes." As BuzzFlash noted then:

According to [The Chicago] Tribune, "Walgreen joins a small but growing number of U.S. multinationals contemplating inversions to lower their tax burden." The Tribune includes a chart of businesses that have moved their headquarters to other countries for tax avoidance purposes (on the second page of the Internet article) - and it is a legal net revenue increasing strategy. It is also noted that "fresh waves of companies have moved or are considering moving to avoid taxes."

....Among the many hypocritical ironies, given this trend of US companies becoming technically non-US companies, are the implications for the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. How can a non-US company have the rights of a US citizen if it is incorporated in another country?

Apparently the president, who has been rather cozy with Wall Street and US corporations for six years, felt a rare gust of populist disdain for businesses that abandon the US to decrease their taxes. He robustly expressed his scorn on July 24, first in a speech at a technical college in Los Angeles and then in a CNBC interview. 

Young people challenge Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) for being a climate denier at a town hall meeting on April 2, 2013. (Photo:<a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/forecastthefacts/8620704806/in/photolist-e8Mncu-e8MmZ1-e8FHxn-bmBHBb-9vaVJ4-baXmia-7mS2E1-9vaVAz-9vdWjC-9vdWpb-atxQxb-9QqJ9z-5UuKET-7nwhV6-7nwhSk-7nwhXR-7nKLcK-fjkK7p-gHYFC3-8McxgS-4qVL93-9chSab-fEMxbu-7a8obm-4ULBrG-ebVfyv-7pBZ9E-e8FHQz-9vdWrw-7nPEfb-7nPEbS-7nKL3n-7nPEdL-7nPE9E-boqPC-aeYSVt-atxQBS-aejdEy-8jRU36-5Nbgbi-mwTu11-c3EvMb-9z2eCG-aScRAr-buFUc4-dVGtpU-9ksVdw-7a4ygp-4Npvb2-4NtCkj" target="_blank"> ForecastTheFacts / Flickr</a>)Young people challenge Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) for being a climate denier at a town hall meeting on April 2, 2013. (Photo: ForecastTheFacts / Flickr)

BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Just a week after a nonprofit revealed that the U.S. is lagging behind other developed countries in energy efficiency, a research firm’s data shows that the nation is the leader in denying climate change.

With more and more denial earning time on TV and in Washington, it’s not all that surprising. Still, it’s sobering to see visual data of Americans’ attitudes toward climate change compared to other countries.

The data comes from United Kingdom-based Ipsos MORI, as part of the company’s Global Trends study, which polled 16,000 people in 20 countries. The respondents were asked 200 questions about eight topics, including the environment.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

hitech(Photo: Toban B.)

Technology has advanced exponentially in the last few decades. In terms of news, it means that we can learn as quickly about an event thousands of miles away as we can about the sudden death of a neighbor.

A couple centuries ago, wars were only learned about when ships came into port from far-away lands with letters, local newspapers and eyewitness accounts. Now, we see the murderous invasion that is occurring in Gaza in real time, including four children obliterated on a beach by an Israeli government gunboat.

We hear immediately of an Israeli attack on a UN “safe zone” shelter that killed 15 Gazans.

We learn all this - and view it - strolling down the street with a smartphone, or on a computer screen, or watching television. If there were an expectation at one point - and there was among some - that technological advancements would bring the peoples of distant lands closer together in harmony, we are now dismayed at how naive such a thought was.

Citigroup Center, Chicago. (Image <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Citigroup.canary.wharf.arp.500pix.jpg" target="_blank">via Wikipedia</a>)Citigroup Center, Chicago. (Image via Wikipedia)JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Media outlets across the country trumpeted the stunning news with headlines like this: "Citigroup Punished."

At last, went the storyline, the Justice Department brought down the hammer on one of the greed-headed Wall Street giants that are guilty of massive mortgage frauds that crashed our economy six years ago. While millions of ordinary Americans lost homes, jobs, and businesses — and still haven't recovered — the finagling bankers were promptly bailed out by Washington and continue to get multimillion-dollar bonuses. So, hitting Citigroup with $7 billion in penalties for its role in the calamitous scandal is a real blow for justice!

Well, sort of. Actually ... not so much. While seven billion bucks is more than a slap on the wrist, it pales in contrast to the egregious nature of Citigroup's crime and the extent of the horrendous damage done by the bankers. In fact, when it announced the settlement, the Justice Department itself pointed out that Citigroup's fraudulent acts "shattered lives."

For most of us, paying billions is impossible to imagine, much less do. But this is a Wall Street colossus with $76 billion in revenue last year alone. It rakes in enough profit in six months to more than cover this "punishment." Also, the bank will get to deduct 40 percent of the penalty from its income tax. Then there's this little number that the prosecutors failed to mention when they announced the settlement: Citigroup's taxpayer bailout in 2008 was $45 billion — six times more than it is now having to pay back!

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