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2014.12.22.Bush.BFJeb Bush. (Photo: The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia / Flickr)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Let's get one thing straight from the jump; no matter how his conservative compadres try to label him, Jeb Bush is no liberal, nor a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Bush's response to President Barack Obama's recent historic initiative regarding Cuba – calling it a "foreign policy misstep" and a "dramatic overreach" -- puts him squarely inside the conservative bubble regarding relations with Cuba, which basically translates to "stay the course." On most issues, despite what folks at the Heritage Foundation and The Patriot Post are currently saying about him, Bush's conservative credentials are unimpeachable.

Against his mother's better judgment, Bush appears to be laying the groundwork for a presidential run by announcing that he will establish a leadership PAC early next year. In a Facebook post, Bush wrote: "As a result of ... [family] conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs," he wrote, "I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States." Thus the plan to set up a political action committee to "facilitate conversations with citizens across America."

The early announcement likely has several purposes: 1) convince the big-time billionaire Republican Party financial backers to hold off on writing checks to any of the as-of-yet undeclared so-called center-right candidacies including Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney; and, 2) serve as a preemptive strike against the Party's right-wing as Bush understands that his announcement would incur the wrath of that sector of the GOP -- thus, to the general public, he begins to look like a sane alternative to the likes of Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum.

It didn't take long for the wrath to start flowing.

2014.12.22.Buchheit.BF"Don't Be a Grinch - Fight for Fifteen": A march goes by in support of fast food workers striking for an increase in the minimum wage, December 6, 2013. (Photo: yooperann / Flickr)

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If Christmas magic were real, America's political and business leaders -- the people with power and money -- would speak on behalf of the nation they've debased:

1. To Our Most Neglected Citizens

By the time the Koch brothers wake up on Christmas morning, the wealth the two men will have accumulated throughout the night could get a room for the night for every one of the 633,000 homeless Americans.

To Americans without a place to live, we apologize for a society that allows almost all of its new wealth to be redistributed to people who are already rich.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTortureDog(Photo: US Army)I’m not drawing a parallel between the Holocaust that led to the deaths of six million tortured and murdered Jewish parents and their children under Hitler’s regime and the CIA Torture Report; to do so would diminish the unspeakable evils that were committed by S.S. operations. However, the question of torturing victims of US occupations in the Middle East is applicable here. Many of the same barbaric methods of torture that the S.S. used on their prisoners were also used on detainees in Iraq, Guantánamo Bay, and at secret CIA cells, many of whom were innocent people who met the tragic misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It’s important to remember, in the context of the CIA Torture Report, that the Bush administration invaded Iraq on the same false “pre-emptive attack” premises that Adolf Hitler, in part, used against his neighboring countries: that we have to “get them before they get us,” despite the fact that the Iraqi people were completely innocent and that they had absolutely nothing to do with the September 11th attack—nor did Saddam Hussein harbor weapons of mass destruction.

After WW II, the world acknowledged that heinous crimes of torture were committed by the Nazis. There was no debate. There was nothing “controversial” about condemning the horrific practice. No one argued in the media the pros and cons of torturing human beings.

No, the US did not commit a Holocaust after 9/11, but it did torture. I would like to ask the corporate network media defenders of the Bush-Cheney administration if they believe that the techniques of torture committed by the S.S. paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler should be discussed as a “controversial” and “debatable” issue?

WENONAH HAUTER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrackingCuomo(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Fantastic news came from the state of New York this week when the Cuomo administration announced its decision to ban fracking in the state. This exciting decision is a tribute to everyone who has worked so hard in New York to protect the state from the ravages experiences elsewhere from fracking.

Here’s the full story: On Wednesday, the Governor convened a cabinet meeting where Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker presented the findings of the Department of Health’s review on fracking. He described the peer-reviewed studies showing that fracking contaminates air and water and harms health, and he highlighted that many of the long-term health effects are still unknown, as epidemiological studies have not been conducted. Comissioner Zucker ended his presentation by saying, “Would I live in a community that would allow fracking? The answer is no.”

Then in this real-time drama, Joe Martens, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation indicated the department would issue “legally binding findings to prohibit high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.” They will be included in the supplemental generic environmental impact study that will be released in the New Year, an approach that Governor Cuomo supports, and that will effectively ban fracking in New York.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

astopexec(Photo: Luke)

 

A morbidly twisted controversy is being played out over so-called "botched" executions, in which condemned men and women endure prolonged deaths due to experimentation with lethal drugs. FOX News jumped on the bandwagon of scorning "inefficient" state-sanctioned killings with this headline, "Botched execution of Oklahoma killer raises questions about new 3-drug lethal injection protocol."

FOX joined other national news outlets in detailing the gruesome details of how Clayton Lockett died in April of a heart attack after an ad hoc three-drug combination failed to render Lockett unconscious:

A botched execution using a new drug combination left a convicted killer writhing and clenching his teeth on the gurney Tuesday, leading Oklahoma prison officials to halt the proceedings before the inmate's eventual death from a heart attack....

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaWarehouse(Photo: Warehouse, Green Logistics Co.)During the hectic holiday shopping season, Jeff Bezos' Amazon.com may seem like a great option, especially for us procrastinators. Anything you want can be shipped directly to your doorstep. All it takes is a few clicks on the Amazon website and — of course — some of your hard-earned money.

The media sings the praises of Bezos' concept and business. But what you may not know is that, as head of the Amazon beast, Bezos is hard on his labor force. In fact, this past May, he was awarded a less-coveted prize by the International Trade Union Confederation: "World's Worst Boss."

Consider one of the most difficult of Amazon jobs — the "picker." In each warehouse, hundreds of them are simultaneously scrambling throughout a maze of shelves, grabbing products. This is hard, physically painful labor, for two reasons. First, pickers must speed-walk on concrete an average of a dozen miles a day, for an Amazon warehouse is shockingly big — more than 16 football fields big, or eight city blocks — and pickers must constantly crisscross the expanse. Then, there are miles of 7-foot-high shelves running along the narrow aisles on each floor of the three-story buildings, requiring the swarm of pickers to stoop continuously. They are directed by handheld computers to each target. For example, "Electric Flour Sifters: Dallas sector, section yellow, row H34, bin 22, level D." Then they scan the pick and must put it on the right track of the 7 miles of conveyor belts running through the facility, immediately after which they're dispatched by the computer to find the next product.

Secondly, the pace is hellish. The pickers' computers don't just dictate where they're to go next, but how many seconds Amazon's time-motion experts have calculated it should take them to get there. The scanners also record the time each worker actually takes — information that is fed directly into a central, all-knowing computer. The times of every picker are reviewed and scored by managers who have an unmerciful mandate to fire those exceeding their allotted seconds.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acuba(Photo: flippinyank)

An archaic relic of the Cold War - propped up by a literally dying contingent of pro-Batista US citizens of Cuban descent in Florida and conservatives who still think there is a Soviet Union - is about to be demolished by the Obama administration. As The New York Times headline declares: "Obama Announces U.S. and Cuba Will Resume Diplomatic Relations."

Amid ruinous and deadly US foreign policy, the diplomatic shunning of Cuba - along with a congressional boycott of the nation - stands as a singular act of international stupidity. The United States loyally props up dictators, tyrants and neoliberal clones in Latin and South America, often helping maneuver them into power. (This is happening relatively less under Obama, but let's not forget official State Department policy such as his administration's recognition of the Honduran military coup.) Moreover, the US has used a deadly war on drugs to secure the expansion of US-based corporations south of the border.

The State Department and Congress have long been holdouts in politically recognizing the island nation of Cuba, with a population of 11.25 million. European nations have had both diplomatic and economic relations with Havana for years, as does Canada.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014 08:47

Abolishing the CIA

2014.12.17.CIA.BF"Abolish the CIA," says Robert Koehler. "It serves national insecurity." (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: public domain / Wikimedia)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The shock resonating from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report isn’t due so much to the revelations themselves, grotesque as the details are, but to the fact that they’re now officially public. National spokespersons (except for Dick Cheney) can no longer deny, quite so glibly, that the United States is what it claims its enemies to be.

We’re responsible for the worst sort of abuses of our fellow human beings: A half-naked man freezes to death. A detainee is chained to the wall in a standing position for 17 days. The stories have no saving grace, not even “good intelligence.”

The Axis of Evil smiles, yawns: It’s home.

The question is, what do we do with this moment of national self-awareness? Beyond demanding the prosecution of high-level perps, how about really changing the game? I suggest reviving S. 126, a bill introduced into the U.S. Senate on Jan. 4, 1995 by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, titled: Abolition of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The causes of acts of mass violence are a lot more complex than gun advocates would want us to believe. (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/phuongnguyen89/8060335519/in/photolist-dhgjW4-4KYyX-86scjh-5HEnyV-dgEDzb-2k2NYr-7by1WJ-hsYkNC-eMmGp1-a7Az6P-7w3YB5-5YAhA-m9QRF-m9HNs-ma5vV-m9HNr-m9XCe-ma4ct-m9HNq-ma5vT-m9XCj-m9XCf-m9XCk-m9XCo-ma1gV-ma2x9-ma1gU-ma2x8-m9YS8-m9YS6-m9XCq-m8CjS-ma1gT-m8CjK-m8CjL-m8CjP-m8CjM-ma1gS-m9FDt-mxoeoY-7Cv7xe-62i6As-eRvubZ-4VvqeT-jajxyR-eED4bq-eEwX5t-eEwXzR-eED2Pm-eEwXMM" target="_blank">  theglowingstars / Flickr</a>)The causes of acts of mass violence are a lot more complex than gun advocates would want us to believe. (Photo: theglowingstars / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

With every new mass shooting in this country resulting in casualties, people with mental illness are singled out for blame. While access to the United States' mental health care system is woefully lacking, the proliferation of guns and the ease with which anyone can get them - a central cause of mass shootings - is typically swept under the rug.

Two years ago this past weekend, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults with his mother's Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The nation was shocked, saddened and outraged. If there were ever an opportunity for the implementation of some very basic, common sense laws controlling guns, that was the time.

However, the National Rifle Association applied full-court pressure, Congress failed to act. National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre blamed "delusional killers" for violence in the United States, and provocatively called for a "national registry" of persons with mental illness. Instead of any meaningful gun control measures, pro-gun advocates and their media representatives obscured the issue and blamed mentally ill people for the mass shootings epidemic.

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTorturePunch(Photo: Sherurcij)As the world that is interested in such matters knows, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has finally released the (redacted) 524-page Executive Summary of its 6000-page report on torture and the CIA, headed "Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations." One cannot be sure why the Chair, Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, decided to release it over the mounting objections of both the White House and the CIA as well as most Republicans (apparently in favor of the use of torture, from the sound of it/them). But she may have been informed that one Senator or another, especially the outgoing Senator from Colorado, Mark Udall, would do it himself if she didn't. (It is rumored that Sen. Udall may still put the whole report into the Congressional Record. If he does, I would strongly suggest that he never again fly in a small aircraft.) At any rate, even just the Executive Summary presents a huge amount of horrifying detail. (I need not detail it here; it and a huge amount of commentary has already appeared in The Times and many other news sources, print, electronic and other.)

It happens that a good deal of the information contained in it has been known, in relative bits and pieces, for quite some time. What the Senate Committee has done is assemble a huge amount of material in one place, and then put their imprimatur on the information, which it has been collecting in sometimes gruesome detail over the past six years. Of course the Republicans have reacted in horror, not at the details of the torture itself and the catalog of CIA cover-ups, incompetence, disorganization, amateurism, and what-have-you, but at the fact that they have all been made public. Of course, Sen. Feinstein and her Democratic colleagues knew full well that if they didn't release the document now, it would never see the light of day, at least for the next two years of a Republican Senate majority. Further, even if the Democrats were to retake the Senate in 2016, by that time it would be a) old news and b) the CIA and its allies within and outside of government would have had many more opportunities to a) cover their tracks and b) further justify their actions with the repetitive aid of Fox"News.".

One should note that Democrats hardly have entirely clean hands in this matter. After all, the Obama White House didn't want even the heavily redacted Executive Summary published. Further, right at the start of its Administration, the Obama White House and its "Justice" Department made clear that they would not be going after any of the torturers or, much more importantly, the torture-enablers starting with Cheney, based on what was even then already widely known about the program. Not only has it done nothing to prosecute the perpetrators, it has even allowed the promotion of many of them. Furthermore, we have the odd occurrence that Obama's current CIA director, John Brennan, who knew about the program when he was Obama's counter-terrorism advisor in 2009, and is a member of a Democratic Administration, criticized the Report not only as inaccurate, but also "flawed," "partisan" (sic), and "frustrating."

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