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aaaaaaaaaaaaaaacnndebatesAllowing presidential debates to be the exclusive property of a pay-TV channel is another step toward privatizing democracy. (Photo: Mohamed Nanabhay)

CNN aired the first Democratic debate last night, October 13. It also aired two Republican debates (a "main event" and an "undercard" debate) on September 16. On August 6, FOX held the first Republican debates (also televised in separate lower and upper tier candidate - based on polls - segments).

CNN bragged on its CNN Money site that "23 million [viewers] watched [the] GOP debate, a record for CNN." Adweek reported that 24 million viewers watched the first FOX GOP "main event" debate. As CNN Money stated in its article,

Historically the most popular events on TV have been shown by broadcast networks, not cable channels like CNN. According to Nielsen data, Wednesday's debate ranked as the #10 cable program ever, behind 8 college football games on ESPN and the Fox debate last month.

The Democratic debate viewership totals were not in at the time of the writing of this commentary, but an October 14 CNN Money article has already predicted that "preliminary Nielsen ratings indicate that CNN's Tuesday night debate was the highest-rated Democratic debate ever."

So the CNN and Fox cable news channels have enhanced their branding, audience and potential advertising and campaign advertising revenue by burnishing their images as "go-to" television political outlets - with the full cooperation of both major political parties who negotiated details of the debates with the two stations. 


aaaaaaaaaarahmboRahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, dismayingly blames post-Ferguson demand for police restraint as cause of spike in Chicago murders. (Photo: Talk Radio News Service)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the head of the nation's third largest city, is standing by his deadly pronouncement that police officers need to return to "pre-Ferguson" non-transparent and "aggressive” policing. This is the racist policing style that not infrequently results in brutality, the targeting of people of color and law enforcement officers literally getting away with murder.

As reported in The Chicago-Sun Times on October 9, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is blaming a record-setting bloodletting September in Chicago on police officers allegedly becoming less aggressive. Emanuel contemptuously - and puzzlingly - complains that the murder spike among citizens occurred in the wake of the video revelations of police around the nation murdering people of color and harassing them: 

Chicago’s police union is taking exception to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s description of Chicago cops as being “fetal” and not proactively policing because they’re afraid of getting in trouble when citizens post YouTube videos of their interactions with the public.

Emanuel’s comments came as he urged support for police during a private meeting [last] Wednesday with big-city police chiefs, the U.S. attorney general, the head of the FBI and other law-enforcement and elected officials, according to a Washington Post reporter who was there.

“We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence,” Emanuel told U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “They have pulled back from the ability to interdict . . . they don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact.” 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015 10:45

Another Tea Party Assault on Democracy


aaaCarlPopeTeaParty(Photo: EcoWatch)The House Freedom Caucus is correct in lamenting that the media have trivialized their true goals by focusing on the personality of the next Speaker of the House. They are wrong to believe that a focus on their deep agenda would help their cause—for that agenda is to restore minority, not democratic, control of the “People’s House.”

The Tea Party wing of the House Republican party is seeking changes in the rules and procedures, changes designed to strip the Speaker of the ability to assemble a majority within the House and enable that majority to govern. They cloak their demands in the language of bottom-up democracy—let members offer whatever amendments they desire, let committees choose their own chairs, deny the Speaker the ability manage the flow of legislation on the House floor.

But their complaints about John Boehner’s leadership give away the game. Boehner, they claim, has betrayed conservatism by seeking legislative outcomes like lifting the debt ceiling or funding highways. These bills transparently enjoyed not only the support of a majority of the House, but a support of a majority of the Republican caucus. But to the Freedom Caucus these are treasonous compromises.

What the Freedom Caucus seeks is not more democracy, but a House in which a minority – actually 10 percent—of the House can shut down the government and destroy the full faith and credit of the U.S. government—unless in response to this blackmail wildly unpopular policies like defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Affordable Health Care are part of the package.


aaaAmFlag(Photo: John P. Salvatore)American 'exceptionalism' exists in the minds of super-patriots who are more than willing to overlook their own faults as they place themselves above other people. The only question may be which of their self-serving hypocrisies is most outrageous and destructive. 

1. Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits, Asking Taxpayers to Pay Their Employees' Wages 

Citizens for Tax Justice just reported that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore for tax purposes, with estimated taxes due of over $600 billion. But high-profile businessmen Peter Georgescu and Warren Buffett both recently recommended that government subsidies be used to increase worker wages, and Marco Rubio agreed, suggesting that government should pay the sick leave for corporate employees. 

Georgescu proclaimed: "This country has given me remarkable opportunities.." In return, he concludes, taxpayers should "provide tax incentives to business." 

2. Mourning American Lives, But Not Foreign Lives 

Two days after President Obama expressed grief and anger about the Oregon school shootings, a hospital in Afghanistan was bombed by the U.S., killing 22 people. Our government admitted its mistake. But we haven't apologized for funding Saudi Arabia's attacks in Yemen, which are killing hundreds of civilians. Or for our drone strikes in Pakistan, which led one 13-year-old to say, "I no longer love blue skies...The drones do not fly when the skies are gray." 

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman assured us that "If necessary, the President would implement changes that would make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future." But these are empty words. Professor Marc Herold'sresearch has shown that "as the U.S. bombs get smarter, civilian casualties increase." The military is encouraged to "drop bombs on sites which previously might not have been hit for fear of causing widespread civilian deaths."


aaaAR15MassShootings(Photo: TheAlphaWolf)Shortly after the mass murders at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Ore., President Obama predictedthe extreme right wing would crank out press releases declaring the nation needs fewer gun control laws and more guns.

The rabid pro-gun lobby didn’t disappoint him.

Shortly after the mass murders in a Charleston, S.C., church in June, NRA board member Charles Cotton, an attorney who fired his first shot when he was four years old, had claimedif the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator “had voted to allow gun owners to carry their own weapons [into churches], eight of his church members  . . . might be alive.” After the shootings in Oregon, Cotton saidhad the students been carrying guns, there would have been no mass murder. “How carefree do you have to be with all of the mass shootings that are going on throughout America to not have something as simple and convenient as a small knife when you go to class, let alone a gun with which to protect yourself?” Cotton asked.

The Republican presidential herd called for even more guns in a culture that has made Americans inured to violence. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush said, “Stuff happens.”

One absurdity of arming all of America is that there are no requirements that anyone with a gun needs to know how to use that gun. The possibility of any one person with a hand gun being able to react faster than the shooter, be more accurate than the shooter, or not accidentally wounding or killing others is high. Heavily armed police, better trained in weapons than most Americans, did not kill the shooter, who wore body armor; the shooter killed himself.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaahillaryFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has rejected the hard choice of reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act to rein in Wall Street. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

Amidst the announcements by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she officially opposes the northern sector of the Keystone XL pipeline and has taken a position against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, there has been little discussion of Clinton's announcement that she is opposed to the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall act. 

The infamous repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act occurred during the waning days of the Bill Clinton administration, with his full support. The law, according to Investopedia, was "an act the U.S. Congress passed in 1933 as the Banking Act, which prohibited commercial banks from participating in the investment banking business."

As an analysis of Clinton's position by journalist Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! Politics states:

The Glass-Steagall Act, passed in 1933, prohibited commercial banks from participating in the investment banking business and created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to protect bank deposits from institutional failure. But major provisions of the law were repealed in 1999 under President Bill Clinton, a move some believe contributed to the 2008 global credit crisis because commercial banks - now free to invest in things such as real estate - were saddled with billions of dollars in losses tied to cratering U.S. home prices. Several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the reinstatement of the law to make "too-big-to-fail" banks much smaller, minimize risk and prevent such a crisis from happening again.

An onslaught of critics have blamed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act for the 2008 US economic implosion, the bailing-out of banks with billions and billions of taxpayer dollars, and the ongoing fraud and illegal behavior of many large banks. Clinton, however, says that she has a better prescription to cure Wall Street misbehavior.

Thursday, 08 October 2015 09:15

Monsanto vs. Freedom of Information Act

2015.8.10 BF Nader(Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)RALPH NADER OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Next year, the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will celebrate its 50th anniversary as one of the finest laws our Congress has ever passed. It is a vital investigative tool for exposing government and corporate wrongdoing.

The FOIA was championed by Congressman John E. Moss (D-CA), who strove to "guarantee the right of every citizen to know the facts of his government." Moss, with whom I worked closely as an outside citizen advocate, said that "without the fullest possible access to government information, it is impossible to gain the knowledge necessary to discharge the responsibilities of citizenship."

All fifty states have adopted FOIA statutes.

As the FOIA approaches its 50th year, it faces a disturbing backlash from scientists tied to the agrichemical company Monsanto and its allies. Here are some examples.

On March 9, three former presidents of the American Association for the Advancement of Science—all with ties to Monsanto or the biotech industry—wrote in the pages of the Guardian to criticize the use of the state FOIA laws to investigate taxpayer-funded scientists who vocally defend Monsanto, the agri-chemical industry, their pesticides and genetically engineered food. They called the FOIAs an "organized attack on science."

The super-secretive Monsanto has stated, regarding the FOIAs, that "agenda-driven groups often take individual documents or quotes out of context in an attempt to distort the facts, advance their agenda and stop legitimate research."

Thursday, 08 October 2015 08:17

In the US, Is God a White Racist?



What God would be on the side of racism, violence and white supremacy? (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

In a Truthout commentary in January 2013, Thom Hartmann asserted that the Second Amendment was inserted in the US Constitution to preserve slavery. Hartmann provides concrete detail and historical context to bolster his claim. He argues that the Southern slave states were fearful that the Northern states would eventually have enough power to end slavery in the newly formed United States. As a result, they wanted concessions in the Constitution to alleviate their "concerns."

These appeasements included counting human slaves as three-fifths of a person (even though they were obviously not allowed to vote) in order to enlarge Southern congressional districts, and allotting two senators to states regardless of population to give relatively sparsely populated slave states equal representation in the Senate to Northern states that were larger in population. 

Hartmann cogently accounts for how important the Second Amendment was to Slave states, to ensure their legal ability - through militarized police actions and groups - to attempt to prevent slaves from escaping or rebelling. 

2015.8.10 BF koehler(Photo: Debra Sweet)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the Intensive Care Unit six patients were burning in their beds."

So said Lajos Zoltan Jecs, a nurse at the hospital the US bombed in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 22 people: doctors, staff, patients (including three children). This image is now spiraling through the Internet and across the global consciousness.

The hospital was not "collateral damage"; it was deliberately targeted, deliberately destroyed, in multiple bombing runs that lasted at least half an hour. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which operated the hospital, contacted its sources in the US government immediately, pleading for the attack to stop — to no avail. The bombing continued until the hospital, with more than 180 occupants, was destroyed.

And we're left with the aftermath of a mass murderer spree, except the killer isn't dead or hogtied and shoved into a police wagon. The killer gives a press conference.

Oh same old, same old!


aaaGMopesticides(Photo: EcoWatch)As an Episcopal pastor, Dan Hinkle is a man of peace and faith, but the issue of genetically modified foods (GMOs) makes him angry.

“We don’t know the long-term effects of genetic engineering; this is a questionable process,” said Hinkle, who lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “We have been force fed something we should not have been. People are being hurt by this technology. If GMOs are so safe and feed the world, why not tell us about it? These issues have gotten me fired up.”

Hinkle’s concern about GMOs led him to become a founding member of GMO Free Lancaster, a non-profit group that is working to ban GMOs and pesticides in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Zoe Swartz, a mother, started the group after the first March Against Monsanto in May 2013.

“There was no one involved in the march in Lancaster so we started organizing,” she said.

Hinkle calls GMO Free Lancaster a “classic American grassroots organization of concerned citizens.”

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