JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's not at all hard to believe that our most popular national priority right now is to see how many more new and effective weapons of death we can supply our troops with, supply foreign dictators with, supply our cities' paramilitary police with, supply every rabid gun-nut and gangsta in the country with and/or also supply ourselves? Geez Louise!
And can you also believe that we just spent over 300 billion dollars on developing an F-35 bomber which, despite its crappy design, construction and performance, is still an ultra-deadly weapon of mass destruction on a post-Godzillian scale?
What ever happened to knives, shivs, nunchuks, baseball bats or even fists? If you really want to kill someone that badly, shouldn't you be required to do it with just your bare hands?
Over in this pile on my left we have all kinds of stuff we could be spending our money on that would make us healthy, happy and safe. And over in that pile to my right we have all kinds of stuff to kill people with. If you were to compare these two piles right now, one pile would about the size of a wedding cake -- maybe. And the other pile would easily dwarf the Empire State Building or even the Twin Towers -- the one that all the gazillion weapons we own couldn't save. How misguided (or even sick) is that!
We Americans need to get a hold of ourselves. We need to put our blood-lust in check.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was mad. Not the kind of mad you get when your favorite team blows a big lead and loses its eighth straight game, but Red-Faced-Exploding-Blood-
“This is what you get from the political Left in America,” McConnell bellowed to the media. “That is what the political Left does these days.”
McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, added his opinion—“We’ve always said the Left would stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell.” They demanded the FBI launch a criminal investigation. The FBI response to the media was, “[W]e are looking into the matter.” Not long after, McConnell approved a campaign slogan, exhorting voters to “Stand with McConnell against the liberal media’s illegal and underhanded tactics.”
What McConnell and Benton were furious about was a leaked tape that revealed possible tactics they would use against movie star Ashley Judd if she were to oppose McConnell in the 2014 Senate race.
McConnell had no evidence there was any liberal plot or that the tape was the result of a bug deliberately planted in campaign headquarters, but tried to spin in circles to make people believe it was a liberal invasion of his soul.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Elizabeth Warren is defying party allegiance -- and apparent Democratic leadership acquiescence (Pelosi and Reid) -- to oppose President Obama's chained CPI downward payment adjustment to Social Security recipients in his latest budget.
According to the Huffington Post she is, well frankly, astonished:
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made it clear Wednesday in an email to supporters that not only would she oppose President Barack Obama's plan to cut Social Security benefits through a cost-of-living adjustment known as chained CPI, but that she was "shocked to hear" it was included in the White House's budget proposal at all.
Warren said her brother David lives on the $13,200 per year he receives in Social Security benefits. "I can almost guarantee that you know someone -- a family member, friend, or neighbor -- who counts on Social Security checks to get by," she wrote.
An excerpt from her e-mail to her followers reads:
That's why I was shocked to hear that the President's newest budget proposal would cut $100 billion in Social Security benefits. Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch.
The President's policy proposal, known as "chained CPI," would re-calculate the cost of living for Social Security beneficiaries. That new number won't keep up with inflation on things like food and health care -- the basics that we need to live.
In short, "chained CPI" is just a fancy way to say "cut benefits for seniors, the permanently disabled, and orphans."
What is essential to understanding Social Security is that it is a regressive flat tax, like a retail tax. It is the same rate for everyone regardless of income, and it is capped at $113,700. This means that on income above that level, one doesn't have to pay Social Security tax.
(Photo: common license on flickr)
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In the not so distant future, America’s skies will be full of . . . drones.
What could go wrong?
“Although the prospect of drones flying over U.S. cities is generating cries of spies in the skies,” writes the Los Angeles Times, “groups from California to Florida are fiercely competing to become one of six federally designated sites for testing how the remotely piloted aircraft can safely be incorporated into the nation’s airspace.”
It’s just technology and technology is neutral, or so the forces of mainstream capitalism assure us. Drones are an emerging market, with worldwide sales expected to double in the next decade, to $11 billion, if not much more. And these will be good drones, the kind that look for lost children or leaks in pipelines, the kind that catch criminals.
What disturbs me about all this — what feels utterly unexamined in the mainstream coverage of this looming techno-makeover of our world — is:
A. Why is there such an emerging market for drones?
B. Why does the fact that some people will make lots of money on drones make their domestic mega-debut a done deal and what are the implications of the fact that potential profit for the well-connected is the lodestar of our future?
C. What might Drone World look like 10 or 20 years — or seven generations — down the road? And why does that not seem to be a concern of government; that is to say, why in an alleged democracy is there so little public discussion about the world we’re creating for our children and all succeeding generations?
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Last week, David Kuo died at age 44, after almost ten years of battling a brain tumor. Although he wasn't a household name, Kuo was a major player in the Bush Administration's Faith-Based Initiative who after leaving the administration wrote a book blowing the lid off the administration's faith-based shenanigans.
Kuo's 2006 book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, revealed how the Bush Administration politicized the Faith-Based Initiative. Amongst the provocative revelations were; how the Bush White House took every opportunity to politicize the initiative, how ideologically-minded officials frequently rejected applications for federal faith-based funds because they came from non-Christian applicants, how administration operatives mocked and ridiculed leaders of the Christian Right, and how the very essence of the initiative's charge to help the poor was reduced to platitudes.
Kuo served in the White House Office for three years (resigning in December 2003 after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, giving him, by his own account, perhaps five or 10 years to live) and having been fully involved in the evolution of the faith-based initiative from its inception as the highly touted compassionate conservative centerpiece of the president's domestic agenda to its current status as under-funded afterthought.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) charges in a news release issued from his Senate office:
The 10 largest banks in the United States are bigger now than before a taxpayer bailout following the 2008 financial crisis when the Federal Reserve propped up financial institutions with $16 trillion in near zero-interest loans and Congress approved a $700 billion rescue for banks that some considered “too big to fail.” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. now says the Justice Department may not pursue criminal cases against big banks because filing charges could “have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”
“We have a situation now where Wall Street banks are not only too big to fail, they are too big to jail,” Sanders said. “That is unacceptable and that has got to change because America is based on a system of law and justice.”
As BuzzFlash at Truthout has written in numerous commentaries, the Obama Administration has given Wall Street execs a get out of jail free card. It's part of the revolving door of regulators and prosecutors who go from the private sector to the public sector back to the private sector at an enhanced salary, defending the "too big to fail banks" that they should have been prosecuting.
Of the many columns on the injustice of letting Wall Street jailbirds off free, BuzzFlash posted: "Eric Holder Enables Dishonesty, Fraud and Likely Criminal Activity on Wall Street" ; and "Lanny Breuer Cashes in After Not Prosecuting Wall Street Execs, Will Receive Approximate Salary of 4 Million Dollars."
STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The power and authority of the Supreme Court of the United States to review acts and actions of the other two branches of the Federal government is nowhere to be found in Article III of the Constitution, the one which defines and describes the Supreme Court and its powers. It was the fourth United States Chief Justice, John Marshall, and colleagues on the Court during his long tenure (1831-1835), who essentially made it up as they went along, in a series of cases ranging fromMarbury v. Madison through McCulloch v. Maryland.
ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Perhaps common sense has become obsolete; at least the term seems to have lost the clout it used to enjoy. Especially in recent days, the most absurd arguments have been put forward about everything from same-sex marriage to gun safety. Hold that semi-automatic, multi-round magazine clip close to your heart and repeat the one-man, one woman mantra or the country could be overrun with people who prefer goats as marital partners and heaven only knows what forms of life such liaisons might engender.
As for guns and ammunition, anything less than a hundred-round magazine clip could spell disaster for that woman and her children hiding in a closet when a cadre of armed assailants invades her home. And with respect to those fun-loving hunters and targeteers: is the nasty old government trying to twist a light-hearted pastime into something evil and dangerous? Or is limiting the number of rounds the way an authoritarian government keeps a freedom-loving people in check?
Arming teachers and beleaguered public officials is the best way, according to the NRA, to protect all of us from the bad guys. As President of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre puts it, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” A gun is, of course, one way to silence a drunken hubby, unless of course he has a gun too and thinks his wife is the one who needs to be silenced. There are dozens of gun apologists and moral one-man, one-womanizers who suggest solutions for the current state of our social compact. Unlikely situations abound that call for a fully-loaded weapon at one’s side; training by NRA do-gooders is available so safety is assured, they say. The biggest problem is a paucity of weapons in the private sector, not the preponderance of them. Examples of what happens when guns are confiscated by leaders like Hitler and Mussolini abound, as if the lessons of the Second World War boiled down to countries that lacked a second-amendment shield.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Logo of Skull and Bones
A leading government official declares that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is made up exclusively of "principled people" and should therefore be trusted. Period. No need to inquire further.
It sounds like President Obama and his staff justifying their use of drones in assassinations that also cause the "collateral damage" of civilians (although those "kill list" decisions come out of the White House not the CIA), doesn't it?
But the "principled people" statement was made by George Herbert Walker Bush to a group of fellow Kennebunk, Maine, area residents at the Sea Spray Inn on September 8 of 1976. At that time, the senior Bush was serving a one-year stint as head of the CIA (although there are many reports that he had served the CIA in other capacities from time to time – and was later likely very deep into the Iran-Contra scandal).
I have a copy of the original article describing the Bush remarks from the York County Coast Star (providing news coverage to the area where the Bush family has its summer compound) in front of me. A BuzzFlash reader sent it some time ago, and I just came across it in clearing out papers.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
You wouldn’t recognize William “Jerry” Boykin if you were sharing a pole with him on the subway or sitting next to him on a bus. While he isn’t one of the brightest stars in the conservative Christian right’s constellation, he has certainly tried – and in some cases succeeded – to raise his profile. For Boykin, now executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, the path to right wing stardom has revolved around a protracted and vicious anti-Muslim campaign: Shtick that he’s been purveying for more than a decade.
In February, Boykin, one of the original members of the US Army's Delta Force and a former United States Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, appeared on a panel, led by radio talk show host Janet Parshall, at the National Religious Broadcasters convention. According to People for the American Way’s Brian Tashman, Boykin, the co-author of Sharia, the Threat to America railed against the so-called Sharia threat, and “cited a report from Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy that claims that judges in fifty court cases have used Islamic law in making their decisions and that Sharia ‘has been insinuated into our legal system.’”
The ACLU has pointed out that “the CSP report consists mostly of 50 judicial opinions, which the authors copied and pasted word-for-word simply because they mention Islam or involve claims brought by Muslims, contending that these cases serve as evidence of the so-called 'Sharia threat.'" The CSP "report doesn’t even attempt to prove that Sharia law is being used in courts, but merely finds that there are some court cases which ‘happen to involve Islam or Muslims.'"
Tashman noted that “Boykin went on to cite Oklahoma’s unconstitutional Sharia ban and insisted that the media is refusing to reveal ‘the true nature of Islam.’”