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EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGabriel2(Photo: Jose Lara)Years before I met him, Gabriel Garcia Marquez changed my life.

"One Hundred Years of Solitude" gave me a new way of looking at the world. The label "magical realism" does not begin to capture the poetry of Garcia Marquez's imagination or the evocative power of his prose. Reading his masterpiece was like stepping through a portal into a Technicolor reality where the streets are paved with metaphor and the air is fragrant with dreams.

Garcia Marquez, who died Thursday at 87, was my introduction to modern Latin American literature. I wanted more.

When I got a Nieman fellowship at Harvard -- a year off to study anything I wanted -- the first thing I did was sign up for a literature course taught by the great Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes. I hoped someday to read my favorite authors in their native tongue, so I took a Spanish-language course. The novels I was reading referred to unfamiliar events, so I enrolled in a Latin American history course.

Midway through the academic year, I learned that The Washington Post's South America bureau was coming open. I had prepared myself for the job -- accidentally -- and so instead of returning to Washington in the summer of 1988, I moved with my family to Buenos Aires.

In four years of crisscrossing the continent, I felt as if Garcia Marquez were my constant companion. The name of the fictional town where "One Hundred Years of Solitude" is set -- Macondo -- became shorthand for the bizarre, magical-realist things that happened all the time in Latin America but seemingly nowhere else.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 06:58

Put the Move in the Movement

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaExtinction(Photo: Dirk van der Made)Earth scientists are trying to get our attention. Well, that's an understatement – they are apoplectic, waving their arms in the windows of the super mall that our culture has become. Yes, we don't notice them because we're shopping, with iPhones glowing in our faces and white wires in our ears.

The King of the Slow Motion Shoppers is Barack Obama. He's doing the tai chi of total hesitation. He puts off the pipeline. He puts it off until after the apocalypse. In so doing, he encourages all citizens to enter the gradualism of shopping where basic change, structural way-of-life change, is impossible. Shoppers are morphed into Obama-like ditherers, lost in a cloud of alternatives, the product, the packaging, competing prices, warranties, credit, resale value, prestige value, sex life value, status value. Shopping forces upon us its false complexity.

In the last year study after study has been published by a world of natural scientists. The IPCC report from the United Nations is the most famous, but there are many others. These groups of conservation biologists, paleontologists, climatologists, – across the spectrum of disciplines within the natural sciences, add up to an unprecedented gathering of scientists around a single issue, which you might call "Life on Earth."

Each of these learned researchers is reporting the mass death on the island of life that they are studying. Each professor's specialty is dying before her eyes. Thousands of scientists are shouting to us from their coral reefs, wetlands, glaciers, cloud forests and mountain streams, from every conceivable eco-system. They all conclude their reports with the same thundering pronouncements, like a secularized Book of Revelation. "Super storms that will overwhelm economies..." "Migrations from the coastal cities and global south..." "Methane levels like the Permia Extinction of 250 million years ago..."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anevadas(Photo: Thomas Hawk)It is time for politicians to stop enabling domestic white male terrorists. (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), however, is getting heat for calling them just that.)

The latest incident of domestic white male terrorism was in Nevada, where a veritable make-shift militia presented an armed threat to federal and local law enforcement. Why were they there? Because they were defending the view that Cliven Bundy was being treated unjustly by a US government that was allegedly violating his rights and his beliefs. It sounds like al Qaeda circling a military unit with firepower to defend the beliefs of Osama bin Laden.

Some facts are established: Within the state of Nevada Constitution, much of the former territory's land was ceded to the federal government in return for admission to the union. As a result, several thousand ranchers pay grazing rights for their cattle to make use of federal land. Cliven Brady, who owes the US treasury over a million dollars, says that he is not paying out of principle - since his family, he claims, owned the land before Nevada was a state.

After more than 20 years of Bundy, in essence, cheating other taxpayers by not paying his fair share, the federal government seized his cattle that were living off of federal land.

That is when seditious Americans assembled at his ranch to - reportedly with women and children strategically placed to protect them - threatened US law enforcement and Bureau of Land Management officials with firearms, locked and loaded.

Monday, 21 April 2014 07:27

Five Ways the 1% Are Killing Us

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

agreedwall(Photo: David Paul Ohmer)The trolls have been out blasting BuzzFlash at Truthout for calling the fossil fuel industry "eco-terrorists" for careening the earth into a human-made death spiral, but it's true.

Those who can't smell the carbon dioxide ravaging the earth for hedonistic profit - enabled by federal and many state and local governments - will find out that just because you can't smell global warming does not mean that it is not brewing a cauldron of devastation just over the horizon.

Since 9/11 few Americans have been killed by terrorists, but we have built a multi-billion dollar "anti-terrorist" intelligence, military, surveillance and incarceration state to deal with a threat that pales in comparison to global warming.

Toss in the lurking big bang of devastation to life on earth - climate change - and the 1% are living the last days of Pompeii in at least five different ways that are killing many of the rest of us.

Here they are.

(Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/petrick/70924598" target="_blank"> Perpetual Tourist / Flickr</a>)(Photo: Perpetual Tourist / Flickr)DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If you read one business book this year, make it Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. The journalist famous for Moneyball and The Big Short takes readers inside the parasitic world of high-frequency trading that is harming the broader economy.

The technical architecture of high-frequency trading is right out of a sci-fi movie - the schemes rely on algorithms that seem artificially intelligent, and the velocity of transaction signals approach light speed. As Lewis recounts, all that technological wizardry is marshaled to let insiders know information before everyone else, which consequently lets those insiders extract wealth from the market.

The good news is that a financial transaction tax can at once raise public resources and disincentivize the most predatory schemes. The even better news is that structural changes in the industry have made such a tax more economically viable than ever.

(Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/4773510477" target="_blank"> Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Azureon2, bayat</a>)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Azureon2, bayat)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Warren Buffett once claimed that the "genius of the American economy, our emphasis on a meritocracy and a market system and a rule of law has enabled generation after generation to live better than their parents did." The Economist suggested that "people succeed through brains and hard work." Economist Tyler Cowen believes in a "hyper-meritocracy" in which wealth is created by the most intelligent and motivated people.

That all sounds very inspirational. But the super-rich tend to make their money in less meritorious ways.


1. Betting on Food Prices to Rise

Chris Hedges noted that Goldman Sachs’ commodities index "is the most heavily traded in the world. The company hoards rice, wheat, corn, sugar and livestock and jacks up commodity prices around the globe so that poor families can no longer afford basic staples and literally starve." Numerous sources agree that speculation drives up commodity prices. Wheat, for example, rose in price from $105 to $481 in just eight years.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acellapril.jpag(Photo: Miss Millions)Just the other day, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary on how some banks and employers are now gouging laborers by paying them in electronic transfer cards - or essentially what we commonly know in the form of gift cards.  As we noted, this means profiteering fees are assessed in a variety of ways for workers to access their hard-earned salaries.

The Des Moines Register recently ran an article describing how a similar tactic is looting former prisoners - along with other fees assessed on those who are incarcerated that are excessive and take advantage of their imprisoned (lacking in basic rights) condition:

Perhaps Iowans don't care about what goes on in prisons, let alone about something as seemingly trivial as the fees imposed on inmates. But any of us could have a daughter, mother or brother who is one mistake away from entering an Iowa prison. If that happens, you will care. When you scrape together a little money to send your son to buy dental floss, you will care.

You will also witness how the loss of freedom, lack of basic pleasures and isolation is more than enough punishment for many incarcerated Iowans. You will know many are poor and mentally ill and give up a day's pay just to make a phone call home.

And then you may start to wonder just how many additional ways the Iowa Legislature can make life more of a struggle for inmates - and their families.

The analysis of prisoner fees includes a scam similar to the electronic salary card that is becoming a profitable business for banks and employers.  

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBloodMoon(Photo: Roadcrusher)Harold Camping, the Oakland, California-based preacher who wrongly prophesized the coming of the End Times is now gone, but there's no shortage of End Timers out there in America. Anne Lotz Graham, the daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, recently wrote a column claiming that the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could be a sign of the coming of The Rapture; a reboot of the Left Behind movie, based on Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' mega-best-selling Left Behind series of apocalyptic novels, is due in theaters in early October; and now, Pastor John Hagee, the master of his multi-million-dollar domain in San Antonio, Texas, is peddling an End Times book directly linked to "blood moon" eclipses.

Before your head explodes at the thought of yet another story about an End Times-inflamed preacher, consider this. Not only does Pastor Hagee preside over the mega-church, Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, but he also heads a multi-million-dollar medias empire. Not only is he a powerful political player within the Republican Party, but he has established significant political connections in Israel. The faithful have lapped up many of the more than 30 books he has written, including: "Earth's Final Moments," "From Daniel to Doomsday: The Countdown Has Begun," "Can America Survive?: 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are The Terminal Generation" and "Jerusalem Countdown," which was made into a not-very-well-received movie. I think you get the general themes of Hagee's oeuvre!

Perhaps his most significant accomplishment, however, came in 2006, when Hagee founded what is now the largest pro-Israel religious-based lobbying group in the world, the 1.3 million member Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aref(Photo: ItzaFineDay)An email came to BuzzFlash at Truthout the other day with a blazing red warning of five national security threats: "Cyber Attacks • Counterintelligence • Terrorism • Weapons of Mass Destruction • Counterspace."

The organization sending the email, the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA), primarily enriches itself off of defense and national security industry conferences in which vendors market their services and hardware to government buyers. (It is a subsidiary of a larger conference firm, IQPC.) The IDGA meetings have  a veneer of top military, surveillance and prison industry speakers, but the real action for contracts is in the exhibition areas.

Upcoming conferences include:
 
Homeland Security Conference - April 2014
Big Data for Government and Defense - April 2014
Border Management Southwest 2014 - May 2014
Arctic Patrol and Reconnaisance - May 2014
Armored Vehicles Latin America - May 2014
Prisons and Correctional Facilities - June 2014
Mission Command - June 2014

 

Thursday, 17 April 2014 07:08

OK, Humanity, It's Time to Grow Up

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEvolutionEarth(Photo: NASA)OK, mankind, it's time to grow up, and I see a good way to start: Change the wording of Genesis 1:26.

Change one word.

Last week, I quoted that Bible verse in a column about the increasing velocity of climate change: "And God said . . . let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air," etc. Dominion! Nature belongs to us, to suck dry and toss away. And thus we moved out of the circle of life and became its conquerors, an attitude at the core of the Agricultural Revolution and the rise of civilization. The momentum of this attitude is still driving us. We don't know how to stop, even though most people now grasp that we're wrecking the environmental commons that sustains life.

Addressing the verse and the idea of "dominion," Phil Miller, a minister, wrote: "Some of us understand that word to mean 'stewardship' or 'responsibility.'"

And David Cameron wrote: "One has to wonder what would have ensued had the translation said 'stewardship' rather than 'dominion'? Almost incomprehensible that our future and the future of so many and so much may have hinged on that one word."

If in one of the most defining religious-political texts of the human species we'd been charged with stewardship of the natural world, not some sort of adolescent, consequence-free control over it, what sort of spiritual understanding would have evolved over the millennia? What sort of technology? What would our civilizations look like if we believed in the depths of our beings that they were not distinct from but part of nature? What if, instead of organizing ourselves around the concept that we have enemies to subdue — "survival of the fittest" — we explored the complexity of our connectedness to one another and the whole of creation, even when the connections were barely visible?

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