STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Part 1 of this two-part series, I briefly reviewed what are perhaps the four most significant elements of the "Cheney Legacy:" the War on Afghanistan, the War on Iraq, the principle that Presidents can violate the Constitution at their pleasure as long as they claim to do so "in the interests of national security" (in Cheney's case through the establishment of the use of torture as national policy such use violates Article VI), and also most important, the attempt to establish Permanent War or at least the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War as the central element of US government policy.In
There are certainly other elements in the "Cheney Legacy." Not particularly in order of importance, one could start the list with the "outing" of the former CIA agent Valerie Plame. This was done in apparent retaliation for the revelation by her husband, Joseph Wilson, that the Nigeria-"Yellow Cake-Saddam Hussein story was a complete fabrication. Committing such an act violated several laws, but of course Cheney hid behind subordinates like "Scooter" Libby and was never held to account for his action. The continued use of the 9/11 tragedy to promote fear over the whole country. In his current attack on President Obama Cheney is specifically use fear-mongering as a central element in that attack.
Then there are the current top-three GOP-termed "scandals:" the "IRS," the VA (which is a scandal, but just not how the GOP defines the term), and of course "Benghazi." The three attacks have in common the use of lies and distortions designed to attack the opposition political party, not to find any solutions to the problems raised. Finally there is the Cheney principle of the Privatization of Government, including or perhaps beginning with the military and intelligence services. Any way that traditional government can be turned to enable profit-making by the private sector is, in Cheney's eyes a good thing. One of the ironies of that policy is that if Edward Snowden had remained as a government employee rather than working for a private intelligence contractor, it is possible that he might have a) not decided to make the revelations that he has, and b) might not have had the opportunity to do so.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While Americans were watching fireworks explode on the 4th, and laboring under the sad delusion that the United States is the land of the free and the brave, I was thinking about the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Massachusetts’ abortion buffer zone law and how some people are free to petition their grievances while anti-war demonstrators, Occupy Wall Street protesters, and environmentalists are either locked away behind chain-link cages designated “free speech zones”, or they’re violently assaulted by the police and thrown in jail.
Recently, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down Massachusetts’ abortion buffer zone law, ruling in favor of anti-abortion protesters who argued that 35 feet away from clinic entrances is a violation of their freedom of speech. The decision rolls back a proactive policy intended to protect women’s access to reproductive health care in the face of persistent harassment and intimidation from abortion opponents.
As reporters have pointed out, buffer zones are not entirely unusual policies. “There are already buffer zones around funerals and polling places,” explained Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress. “Ironically, the Supreme Court itself has a large buffer zone around it to prevent protesters from picketing on its 252-by-98-foot plaza, requiring demonstrations to take place on the sidewalk.”
And let’s not forget the largest buffer zone of all: The White House, which is more like a military fortress than the People’s House.
On closer inspection of the ruling, it appears that there is a catchword that can be applied to defend protesters, should protesters want to get right in the face of their adversaries; and that word is “counseling” vs. “picketing or protesting.”
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Hobby Lobby ruling is just one of an avalanche of Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decisions in which the right wing has legislated from the bench. Forget about the largely fictional concept of a "liberal activist bench"; if you can find such an ongoing entity, please respond in the comments section.
The reality is that the 5-4 right-wing, pro-corporate-personhood SCOTUS is masterful at defying Congress and the White House and rewriting laws to suit a partisan agenda, including socially conservative goals. BuzzFlash posted a commentary a few days ago about the absurdity of bestowing religious beliefs on a company, for example.
To put this in context, when Antonin Scalia argued for striking down provisions in the Voting Rights Act (which had just been overwhelmingly reapproved by both houses of Congress), he declared in 2013: "This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress." What he means, of course, is that a 5-4 majority on SCOTUS has turned it into a de facto legislative body that determines US law by a total of five votes, on behalf of a nation of more than 300 million people.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is joining other Democratic senators in support of the Protect Women's Health from Corporate Interference Act. In an email, Warren described the bill:
The bill reverses the Supreme Court's decision by making it clear that employers cannot deny access to any of the health benefits required by the ACA – not immunizations, not blood transfusions, not HIV treatments, and not birth control – while preserving reasonable accommodations for religiously exempt employers [that would mean actual religions, such as the Catholic Church]
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Ah, 1961. The year — certain aspects of it, anyway — are almost impossible to remember. "Whites only" bathrooms, for instance.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, legendary civil rights leader and crosser of lines, recently tweeted an ancient mugshot memorializing his arrest that year for using a "whites only" bathroom in Mississippi and, in the process, amping up outrage against Jim Crow segregation in the South and intensifying the civil rights movement's global resonance.
He was charged with disorderly conduct and spent 37 days at the Parchman Penitentiary. How difficult it is to fathom such smug, legally sanctified certainty. It all seems so long ago . . . those days when the people who ran things were so wrong.
I say this facetiously, of course.
The emergence of this mugshot from 53 years ago, and the memories of a long-gone era that unavoidably accompany it, somehow speaks volumes to the numerous movements for change that are simmering today. One reason is because the civil rights movement of the 1960s was actually successful. It turned the country around. It undid every last legal and moral justification that held together a whites-only Old South, and it seriously undermined much of the legally ensconced racism of the North.
No, it didn't end racism per se, which regrouped "legally" around a bloated prison-industrial complex, but it woke the nation up and created an enduring legacy of nonviolent, human-rights-based change. It set a standard for what's possible, at the same time exposing the vicious hatred, masquerading as moral sanctity, which held together the existing social order.
ECOWATCH STAFF ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Pope Francis called for more respect for nature in an address at the University of Molise, an agricultural region in southern Italy.
Francis said the destruction of South America’s rain forests and other forms of environmental exploitation is a sin of modern times.
“This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation,” he told students and farmers while speaking in a university hall on Saturday.
The Earth should be allowed to give her fruits without being exploited, Francis said.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The lies about weapons of mass destruction fell down upon the people of the United States like water rushing down Niagara Falls as Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld used fear to jump start a war early last decade.
Republicans are, after all, good at sales and marketing. They are masters of getting voters to either buy or support products that they don't need - or using propaganda and mendacious campaigns to create a state of abject fear that succumbs to the government launching a military invasion allegedly to ensure national security.
In fact, in the summer of 2002, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card dismissed the notion that the administration would start pushing a war with Iraq at that time. To paraphrase Card's remark, "You don't start pushing a war until the fall, when people are back from vacation."
There is the indelible farcical, pathetic and vile image, of course, of George W. Bush pretending to "comically" search for weapons of mass destruction under the dais table at a White Horse Correspondents' Dinner. The stenographers of the DC press corps ignominiously roared with laughter.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"You see an illegal. You point your gun dead at him, right between his eyes, and you say, 'Get back across the border or you will be shot.'" – Chris Davis, head of "Secure our Border – Laredo Sector."
Chris Davis, a man who over the past few years has been deeply involved with the armed-wing of the far right, is calling for militia members to grab their guns and head for the border. Although Davis is claiming that his new project is aimed at drug cartels and gangs, it is not especially far-fetched to consider that Davis might be looking for a Cliven Bundy moment; making a name for himself by leading a platoon of armed militia members to confront the women and children from Central America crossing the Texas-Mexico border.
Over the July 4th holiday weekend, Karen Antonacci reported in the Brownsville Herald that a group calling itself "'Patriots' has put out a call for people to go to the Texas-Mexico border and help with a citizen militia operation called 'Secure our Border - Laredo.'"
Davis' vigilante project comes despite assurances from Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, who recently told ABC News' Jim Avila that the Central Americans crossing the US border – now numbering 50,000 -- "are not dangerous individuals," nor a threat to national security.
It also comes against the backdrop of anti-immigrant activists in Murrieta, California, who received national attention after they forced US government buses full of the undocumented children to divert.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While the US has been causing impoverishment and the breakdown of civil society in Latin America - as noted in a BuzzFlash commentary yesterday - it has been continuing its decade-long boycott of Cuba. That action has lost US businesses hundreds of billions of dollars as other nations invest in the island. The boycott is a symbol of the lingering visceral vile toward Castro and the word communism.
Castro is in ill health, and Cuba appears about ready to burst out of the Soviet era as one of the last two communist nations on earth (along with North Korea). Cuba, however, differs from North Korea in that, while it is still subject to the cult of a one-man dictatorship, Cubans are on the last legs of a fading and disintegrating experiment in Soviet-style government. North Korea has one of the largest armies in the world; Cuba since the former Soviet Union cut it off years ago has a military force that is a shadow of it former strength.
Nonetheless, the aging pro-Batista exile community in Florida and the neocons with a Cold War hangover continue to enforce a boycott on the island 90 miles from the Keys that now threatens national security much less than Cliven Bundy and his militia supporters. In fact, on a threat-level scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being the greatest threat to the US), Cuba probably scores about a 25.
There is another very interesting aspect of the US government's focus on Cuba as a political punching bag. Virtually any Cuban who makes it to dry ground in the US will not be deported. It used to be that no Cuban immigrants were kicked out of the US, but after the 1980 Mariel boat lift, in which Castro allegedly put "undesirables" and boats and sent them sailing to Florida, Cubans had to make it to the US land mass to be considered refugees who would not be deported. Only if they are intercepted at sea are they sent back to Cuba.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Long before the billionaire Koch Brothers and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson began polluting the American political landscape with obscene amounts of money, decades before the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, years before the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth mobilized a platoon of millionaire financiers to put the kibosh on John Kerry's presidential campaign, and before folks like Rex Sinquefield were bound and determined to have their money loom large over the legislative process in the states, there was Richard Mellon Scaife.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Scaife and his family were among the top donors to a myriad of right-wing organizations and causes. Back in the day it didn't take long before researchers following the money behind the conservative movement ran headlong into the Scaife clan.
Scaife, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based heir to the Mellon banking fortune, was a man on a multi-pronged mission. He succeeded in helping build the powerful conservative infrastructure that essentially paved the way for the way for the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the rise of the Religious Right and the institutionalization of such right-wing powerhouses as the Heritage Foundation.
According to The New York Times, Scaife "inherited roughly $500 million in 1965, and with more family bequests and income from trust funds and investments in oil, steel and real estate, nearly tripled his net worth over his lifetime. But unlike his forebears, who were primarily benefactors of museums, public art collections, education and medicine, he gave hundreds of millions to promote conservative political causes."
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Despite the July 4 tributes, millions of US soldiers and veterans are in serious trouble.
Twenty two veterans kill themselves every day according to the Veterans Administration. A study by the Los Angeles Times found veterans are more than twice as likely as other civilians to commit suicide. Suicides among full-time soldiers, especially among male soldiers, are also well above the national civilian rate. USA Today reported a suicide rate of 19.9 per 100,000 for civilian men compared to rates of 31.8 per 100,000 for male soldiers and 34.2 per 100,000 for men in the National Guard.
Over 57,000 veterans are homeless on any given night according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Unemployment is much higher among post 911 veterans than the general population according to the Department of Labor.
More than 1.4 million veterans are living below the poverty line according to US Senate report, and another 1.4 million are just above the line. Of veterans between the ages of 18 and 34, 12.5 percent are living in poverty.
Over 900,000 veterans live in households which receive food stamps reports the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The use of food stamps by active duty service members appears to be at an all-time high, according to CNN. In addition, many active duty service families receive a special military supplemental food allowance designed to replace food stamps for low income service families.