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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adetroitShould Detroit annex itself to the Ukraine to receive US financial aid? (Photo: dreaming_of_rivers)

Biting satire, as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report so uproariously reveal, is often closer to the heart of reality than the "packaged reality" it mercilessly skews. 

In the BuzzFlash at Truthout e-mail this weekend, we received our weekly quips from Howard Albrecht, an octogenarian comic writer who staffed many of the top shows of the golden age of comedy during the '50s and '60s.  Retired now, Albrecht's audience is his list serve.  This Saturday, his package of one-liners included this one: "To help stabilize the region, the US is giving a billion dollars to Ukraine. In an effort to uplift their city, Detroit just declared war on Russia."

Like the cutting remarks on Comedy Central, there is a ring of absurdist truth in Albrecht's sarcastic proposition: if we want to save an American city decimated by national and corporate financial neglect and abandonment, then instead of declaring the city bankrupt, why don't the remaining citizens of Detroit issue a declaration of war against Putin's Russian Federation?

Worker drills for natural gas on high-efficiency flex rig. (Photo: <a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/energytomorrow/3459664743/"target="_blank"> EnergyTomorrow / Flickr</a>)Worker drills for natural gas on high-efficiency flex rig. (Photo: EnergyTomorrow / Flickr)WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The oil and gas industry, the nation's chambers of commerce, and politicians who are dependent upon campaign contributions from the industry and the chambers, claim fracking is safe.

First, close your mind to the myriad scientific studies that show the health effects from fracking.

Close your mind to the well-documented evidence of the environmental impact.

Focus just upon the effects upon the workers.

The oil and gas industry has a fatality rate seven times higher than for all other workers, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control. (CDC). According to the CDC, the death rate in the oil and gas industry is 27.1; the U.S. collective death rate is 3.8.

"Job gains in oil and gas construction have come with more fatalities, and that is unacceptable," said John E. Perez, secretary of labor.

Grand Canyon National Park. (Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/82763263@N00/2977674446/in/photolist-5x8mSA-8JAp9i-dMHPPW-dM1aSG-4Dwun9-4DsmRp-4DwQRd-4DwRN7-4DsmUr-4DshPx-4DwAej-4Dsj2K-4DsfwZ-4DwwAb-dLUBEn-4Dsdhn-bPQxaK-uB4ah-bAVVBC-bPQwHV-bAW1Sw-bAW1j3-bAW1B5-bPQC86-bAVVnu-bPQD9c-bAVYHJ-bAVZB5-bAVZQW-bPQCmi-bAVpUm-bAVTmW-9C7TED-fdyEtC-fdjkji-9vg3yH-5g6b6t-5gapVS-9vg46V-5g68zK-bZHouE-5gaut5-bZH8FC-9vg2yx-bZHmV7-9vj6vN-9vj5GE-9vg1R6-5garJo-9vg33z-5g66SV"target="_blank"> B Rosen / Flickr</a>)Grand Canyon National Park. (Photo: B Rosen / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We may have once believed that the darkest days were behind us, and that slow and steady progress for middle-class workers would continue to be made. But greed and good sense are forever in competition. Gains made in our country's progressive years are, a century later, once again in serious jeopardy.

1. The Commons: A Toll Gate in the Grand Canyon

In the early 1900s the Grand Canyon had been taken over by speculators, especially Ralph Henry Cameron, an entrepreneur and soon-to-be Arizona Senator who laid claim to much of the canyon land. He built a hotel on the main trail, set up a toll gate, and even charged exorbitant prices for water at the steamy canyon bottom.

We're heading back in that direction, and we don't have Teddy Roosevelt to knock some sense into Congress. Attempts to privatize federal land were made by the Reagan administration in the 1980s and the Republican-controlled Congress in the 1990s. In 2006, President Bush proposed auctioning off 300,000 acres of national forest in 41 states. Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity has proposed to sell millions of acres of "unneeded federal land," and the libertarian Cato Institute demands that our property be "allocated to the highest-value use." Representative Cliff Stearns recommended that we "sell off some of our national parks." Mitt Romney admitted that he didn't know "what the purpose is" of public lands.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aOilRigChina(Photo: Phreakster)It's time for the public to start calling 19th century barbaric fossil fuels what it is: Energy of Mass Extinction. Dirty energy companies, including nuclear power plants, have been owned by a few rich white families from the start, which is why production of energy has remained in the Dark Ages even though clean renewable energy could have lit up the world easily, cheaply and without pollution twenty years ago. Given the latest advances in green energy technology, there's absolutely no excuse for not legislating rapid shifts to clean energy by 2020.

Instead, world leaders, primarily the US government, not only serve as "barriers" to the advancement of green energy, they're the fossil fuel industry's sleaziest salesmen on earth: Big Oil pays for their seats on the Hill for the sole purpose of selling Energy of Mass Extinction to world markets. Oil executives are given an open door invitation to the White House any time and day of the week.

By contrast, lawyers that represent the public's welfare and our environment are not welcomed, or they are put on a long waiting list. In short, the oil oligarchs operate from the White House where the polluters meet and draw up their plans. Judges are also owned by the oil firms. For example, read Buzzflash editor at Truthout Mark Karlin's recent commentary about a federal judge that blocked U.S. courts from being used to collect a $9 billion Ecuadorean judgment against Chevron for turning a beautiful rainforest into a putrid toxic waste dump Thanks to a thoroughly corrupt US government, another victory for Chevron's oil tyrants who don't have to clean up the toxic sludge they leave behind after they've contaminated everything in sight for Energy of Mass Extinction.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aSlavesForSale(Photo: New York Public Library)Hollywood has finally taken an unflinching look at slavery. It's past time for the rest of the country to do the same.

I wanted to wait a few days before writing about the best picture Oscar for "12 Years a Slave" to see if it still felt like an important milestone. It does. Academy Award recognition for one well-made movie obviously does not make up for a century of pretending that slavery never happened. But perhaps the movie industry's top prize can give impetus to the efforts of artists and scholars who are beginning to honestly confront this nation's Original Sin.

We tell ourselves that we know all about slavery, that it's ancient history. But we've never fully investigated its horrors, which means we've never come to terms with them, which means we've never been able to get beyond them. Where slavery is concerned, we are imprisoned by William Faulkner's famous epigram: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

The success of "12 Years a Slave" may be a significant step toward our collective liberation.

The movie came just a year after "Django Unchained," the 2012 epic in which Quentin Tarantino reimagined slavery as a Southern-fried spaghetti Western. "Django" had one of those traditional hero-on-a-quest story lines that Hollywood can't get enough of, and Tarantino's blood-spattered style was perfect for capturing the unspeakable brutality that sustained American slavery. But "12 Years" is vastly more important, for two reasons: It won best picture, and it's based on a true story.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

alatteLattes or Sex? Alaskan state senator says it is your choice. (Photo: My Sight, as You See)Only in the state Sarah Palin was elected governor of could you find a state senator, John Coghill (GOP) from North Pole (a top-of-the-world themed suburb of Fairbanks), opposing birth control and Planned Parenthood, while avidly arguing Medicaid should only pay for abortions in extreme circumstances.  

That fits right in with his colleague's -- Sen. Fred Dyson's (GOP) -- confounding argument that sex is "recreational" unless it is for procreation, and, therefore, family planning should not be funded by Medicaid (even though the federal government would pay 90% of the tab). According to the Anchorage Daily News, 

Dyson says condoms cost a dollar apiece and for the price of four or five lattes, a woman could get birth control pills for a month. Dyson says sexual activity is largely "recreation" and the public shouldn't be required to finance "other people's recreation."

So if you are on limited means in Palin's home state, wouldn't this mean if you are married, for instance -- and of limited means, you might have to choose between a cup of coffee and making love with your husband or wife (or whomever).

Thursday, 06 March 2014 07:23

The Predatory Consensus of the "Deep State"

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Camo(Photo: Cplbeaudoin)There has always been a "deep state," as Mike Lofgren described it in a compelling essay recently published at BillMoyers.com — a predatory consensus of money and political ideology that serves only its own endless growth and functions in pristine autonomy from any sort of democratic process — but defining it begs an enormous question: Can we actually build a world that isn't run by its shadow interests?

And what is this going to take? Can good will and big principles stand up to Wall Street and the Washington consensus? Perhaps even more to the point, if it's even possible, how much time do we have before war and climate change rip the human experiment to shreds?

The significance of Lofgren's thesis is that we have to look well beyond the known world of governmental procedures, the electoral process and the mainstream media to begin effecting serious change. All of this has been effectively gamed and controlled by the deep state's interests. In other words, no matter how broke or paralyzed by partisan bickering the country is, there's always money available, without controversy or opposition, for war and overblown "security."

In recent years, as Lofgren points out, while headlines blared "austerity" and "debt ceiling" and "budget crisis," while our infrastructure was collapsing and schools were closing, the resources were available to overthrow the Gaddafi regime in Libya; help keep a civil war going in Syria and fund or engage in aggressive activities all over the planet; militarize local police departments; and finance a massive security state. None of this was subject to the least sort of democratic discussion. To the extent any of this was reported, it was reported as a done deal.

JP SOTTILE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPentagon(Photo: David B. Gleason)

The defense industry dreams of genies.

That’s because it is really hard to get the genie back into bottle after you let it loose.

Really, the only option after releasing a genie is to invent new, expensive ways to combat it. And that’s been the story of America’s persistent gift to posterity—the “nuclear genie.”

Just ask the people who refuse to return to the site of America’s most notorious above-ground nuclear test—the bombing of Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. That hydrogen bomb, codenamed “Shrimp,” remains the largest bomb ever tested by the United States. It’s also known as a “thermonuclear weapon” because it uses high temperatures to trigger four cascading stages, each magnifying the power of the explosion. It was an “advance” on the run-of-the-mill atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And it was a response to the Soviet Union’s emerging atomic weapon program, which was, in turn, a response to America’s pioneering effort to weaponize the atom.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acorprom(Photo:MittRomneys)

It is a good time to reach for the upchuck bag when a politician or billionaire lectures Americans "to work hard and play by the rules" when the idle rich regard such an attitude with undistilled cynicism.

In fact, you could argue that for many, if not most of the 1%, their motto is to get as much pleasure, leisure and opulent comfort out of life by not playing by the rules. 

Here are five examples of why it is brazenly hypocritical for the super wealthy and their political puppets to advise time-clock punching Americans to work hard and play by the rules:

1) The wealthy, their lobbyists, and the politicians that they control in Congress, the White House and in legislative bodies throughout the land write the rules.  To put it mildly, that is a conflict of interest.  In short, the rules that the working person plays by are written to favor the richest in the land -- and to assist them in becoming richer.  

Robin Hood tax march near Lafayette Park on Connecticut Avenue between H and I Street, NW, Washington DC on April 20, 2013. (Photo: <a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/95413346@N00/8667812714/in/photolist-ecWNJN-ecRkSX-ecRxhK-ecRsze-ecX2cU-ecRn2g-ecRsJn-ecR9Li-ecX1xj-ecX2Gf-ecRnj6-ecWQwh-ecRoKX-ecRbxF-ecRmCp-ecRa1M-ecRoB8-ecWPkE-ecWQYY-ecX6GU-ecWRbm-ecRsqK-ed8jRT-ede2Bd-eddZjL-ed8h4a-eddQrs-ed8n9c-ed8jae-eddFGJ-ed8gba-eddUjG-eddSF7-eddRdq-ed8hMp-ed8ivg-ed8eCp-ede1aw-eddmQW-ed2s16-ed2drr-eddm2f-ecXHZ1-ed2nPP-ecWBNX-edeG1Q-ecSrTD-ecWHH8-ed7WXL-ecSrug-ed3c2u "target="_blank"> Elvert Barnes Protest Photography / Flickr</a>)Robin Hood tax march near Lafayette Park on Connecticut Avenue between H and I Street, NW, Washington DC on April 20, 2013. (Photo: Elvert Barnes Protest Photography / Flickr)JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Have you heard about High Frequency Trading? Get ready to be dazzled! HFT is sweeping, purely speculative financial transactions that have been made possible by huge leaps in technology. Done by super-fast computers, using mathematical algorithms, HFT searches millions of prices at lightning speeds and places bets automatically. Transaction times are measured in milliseconds, as the global network of "trading robots" never sleeps, and its sole function is to allow the wealthiest speculators to skim quick profits out of markets.

Guess how much in taxes folks pay on the sales in the HFT game? When I buy a $3 pack of toilet paper here in Austin, Texas, I pay an extra 8.25 percent in sales tax. But if a high roller in the HFT game buys $10 million worth of corporate stock, he or she pays zero tax on the sale.

So maybe we need an FTT on HFT. A Financial Transaction Tax is not an idea whose time has come, but simply returned. From 1914 to 1966, our country taxed all sales and transfers of stock. The tax was doubled in the last year of Herbert Hoover's presidency to help us recover from the Great Depression. Today, 40 countries have FTT's, including the seven with the fastest-growing stock exchanges in the world. Seven members of the European Union voted for an FTT (including France and Germany) to help blunt rising poverty, restore services and put people back to work.

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