JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yes, it's that's time of year again when working Americans foolishly blow their hard-earned money on junk primarily because of the thousands of advertisements that tell them to do just that at an accelerated rate during the holidays.
Of course, you're not supposed to know about the mothers and children in miserable conditions that labor to make all that material stuff for a buck a day, much less think about how the Company Men exploit the poor by turning them into automatons.
Just buy the stuff—that's all that matters. If you don't, Shame, shame, Oh the power of guilt! Why do you suppose the corporate networks broadcast the shopping malls as if it were a competitive race almost every night until the end of New Year's?
Oblivious shoppers, let me tell you a thing or two, there are no glossy photos at GAP, Old Navy, Tommy Hilfiger, Macy's, Kohl's...that capture the slaves of the world, the mothers and fathers, the children in Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, around the globe, and yes, right here in the good old U.S.A., sweating over hundreds of sewing machines for 10 hours at a time, shoulder to shoulder in suffocating, smelly rooms that resemble prisons with no fire exits. And when there are fires and workers die? The retailers simply turn their backs, refusing aid and compensation.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The bottom line is that as long as President Obama accepts the myth of "heroic" unfettered capitalism, he won't solve the problem of surging income inequality and increasingly stagnant social mobility.
The president came to the political forefront at the 2004 Democratic Convention with a soaring speech about a "purple" America. As president, he has seen only a red and blue America.
There will be no purple economic equality as long as Wall Street, corporations and the 1% are calling the shots in DC and subsidizing their wealth at our expense.
There's no purple solution to economic injustice.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
'Tis the season to feel rage and heartache about the economy.
I feel hope as well, praise the Lord, thanks to Pope Francis and the alley behind my house, where nothing of value goes to waste.
I'm the kind of person who can't throw anything away, but sometimes I have to anyway — an old microwave, a sewing machine that hasn't been used in 20 years, a threadbare easy chair, tangled computer wires and other excruciating miscellany — and when I do, it's usually gone within a day, if not an hour. When I can no longer find value in what I possess, others see it as a gift from the universe.
The alley economy flows though my Chicago neighborhood 24/7, a sort of gift economy that continually revitalizes one's material possessions, in unnoticed defiance of the official, throwaway, money-profit-growth economy that has its claws around our world and is squeezing us to death. The alley economy is, in fact, part of a rudimentary social ecosystem, where forces collude for the common good and nothing is wasted.
This is the opposite of the official economy, where everything except growth and profit are held in contempt and the environmental and human commons are simultaneously exploited and polluted. Those who benefit from this system are just as trapped in it as the ones who are victimized by it, and will ultimately come tumbling down when sustainability collapses along with the rest of us, but in the meantime they are forced both to serve its perpetuation and ignore its hellish cost.
That last part — the tacit ignoring of what's wrong, the blurred distinction between news and advertising, the erosion of integrity in most forms of public communication — is particularly distressing, because without clarity of discussion we can't begin to address what's wrong and begin making crucial changes, even if they benefit everyone.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Thanksgiving weekend, The Chicago Tribune posted a front page article that revealed that fossil fuel and chemical companies are knowingly using tank cars that do not meet federal safety standards.
The danger, one critic in the article charges, has been apparent since the early '90s:
With tank cars brimming with tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil, these trains have been described as "virtual pipelines" passing through heavily populated residential areas.
But despite the hazardous nature of the cargoes on board, the vast majority of these tank cars do not meet the latest safety standards and should be retrofitted, according to federal officials and the railroad industry.
Older models of the type of tank car known as the DOT-111, which carry flammables like crude oil and ethanol, have an "inadequate design" and are more vulnerable to being breached in a derailment than newer versions, the National Transportation Safety Board has determined.
Critics charge that the tank car owners, who are generally oil and chemical companies, are balking at proposed requirements to fix flaws in the cars or gradually take them out of service, citing the costs involved and the demand for cars to haul oil.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Recent discoveries from the Kepler telescope have indicated that in our galaxy, the Milky Way, alone there are 647 possible "Earth-sized" planets orbiting various sun-star equivalents. (One does wonder how they get to that exact number.) And then there are an estimated 500 billion other galaxies out there. The speculation is becoming more intense as to whether or not there are other "intelligent" species on one or more of those planets. Well, the great Dr. Stephen Hawking's view to the contrary notwithstanding, given the vast distances of space it is unlikely that we will ever find out (nor would another intelligent species find out about us either). (Do note that "vast" is a word that vastly underrepresents the reality of what those distances really are.) But nevertheless one intriguing question is, if there is, or was, intelligent life that has developed the equivalent of what we call "civilization" elsewhere in the universe, is it co-existent in time with ours?
For it to be co-existent with ours, unless the timing were virtually exact, it would have to have lasted quite a bit longer than ours, because we, living in what we call "civilization," have been around for the mere twinkling of a geologic eye (less than 10,000 years). Further, our species is on the verge of self-destruction, whether due to global warming-induced climate change and its resultant disasters, over-population (and the resulting under-supply of food and water), depletion of natural resources, or nuclear war.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
December is a time of many holiday feasts - which makes it a good time to remember family farmers and the tremendous contributions they make to our country, culture, taste buds and tummies. But not all farmers contribute equally, which is why I'm sending out this special holiday sentiment to one group of unique agriculturalists: Thbbllllttttt!
That raspberry goes out to 50 billionaires who've been farming the U.S. farm subsidy program for years, harvesting a cornucopia of taxpayer cash for themselves or their corporate empires. They include top executives or owners of such diverse entities as Chase Manhattan Bank, Chick-fil-A, DISH Network, Fiji Water, Hyatt Hotels, Microsoft and Victoria's Secret. The diligent watchdogs of the Environmental Working Group matched the "Forbes 400" list of richest Americans with a farm subsidy database to unmask these Gucci-wearing Old MacDonalds. E-I-E-I-O, what a rip-off!
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Paul Crouch, once one of the most powerful men in the world of televangelism, has died at 79 after a ten-year battle with degenerative heart disease. Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network with his wife Janice, was a master at pitching the "prosperity gospel," and prosperity surely came his way. Crouch and Janice had "matching his-and-her mansions in Newport Beach, Calif., and used multimillion dollar corporate jets," entertainment.time.com pointed out.
Crouch's wealth not only grew out of the power of his own preaching and fundraising solicitations, it also came from selling time on his network to many of the world's best known preachers. And, the Crouches were ultimate survivors, having, as Religion Dispatches' Sarah Posner recently pointed out, "survived many a media exposé."
The Trinity Broadcasting Network, founded in 1973 -- well before the rise of the Rev. Jerry Falwell and a decade after Pat Robertson founded his Christian Broadcasting Network -- has been called the world's largest Christian broadcasting network. According to the Associated Press, the Costa Mesa, California-based TBN has "84 satellite channels and more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates as well as a Christian amusement park in Orlando."
AP reported that "Crouch began his broadcasting career while studying theology at Central Bible Institute and Seminary in his native Missouri by helping build the campus' radio station. He moved to California in the early 1960s to manage the movie and television unit of the Assemblies of God before founding Trinity Broadcast Network in 1973 with his wife."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
An article posted in The National Journal asserts that fracking -- dangerous to the environment, the earth and humans -- has resulted in huge price breaks in natural gas for businesses, but comparatively little for consumers.
The article reveals that the industrial sector has seen the wholesale price of natural gas decrease by 66% -- attributed to fracking increases in the supply of natural gas -- but only 23% for residential consumers. This, of course, raises the issues yet again of who is benefitting from the large risk of fracking, which uses toxic chemicals, pollutes the environment, and ravages the earth's outer layer.
On a web page revealingly filled with large adds for Chevron -- "Which Industry is Creating American Jobs and Strengthening the Economy? The Answer Is Energy," one huge Chevron banner ad proclaims -- the article makes clear who is economically get a windfall from fracking:
Fracking has sent the price of natural gas plummeting, just not for the people who need it most.
The straight-out-of-the-ground price of natural gas is way down since the start of the boom in hydraulic fracturing. Back in 2008, users buying gas directly from drillers were paying an average of $7.97 per thousand cubic feet, according to the Energy Information Administration. By 2012, that cost—known as the “wellhead” price—had dropped to $2.66 in nominal dollars (not adjusted for inflation) resulting in a two-thirds discount in just five years.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries may be militarily effective, but they are killing innocent civilians in a way that is obscene and immoral. I'm afraid that ignoring this ugly fact makes Americans complicit in murder.
It is understandable why President Obama has made drone attacks his go-to weapon in the fight against terrorists and the Taliban. Armed, pilotless aircraft allow the CIA and the military to target individuals in enemy strongholds without putting U.S. lives at risk. But efficacy is not legitimacy, and I don't see how drone strikes can be considered a wholly legitimate way to wage war.
This is an unpopular view in Washington -- especially at the White House, where Obama and his aides have done much to erase the stain on the nation's honor left by the excesses of George W. Bush's Global War on Terrorism. It is to his great credit that Obama ended torture, shut down the CIA's secret overseas prisons and made a good-faith effort to close the detention center at Guantanamo.
But Obama has greatly expanded the use of drones, and his version of the terror war looks a lot like a campaign of assassination.
Even if the intelligence agents and military officers who operate the drones have perfect knowledge -- meaning they are absolutely certain the target is a dangerous enemy -- and fire the drones' missiles with perfect accuracy, this amounts to summary execution. Is such killing morally defensible?
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Amidst the difficulties of rolling out the private insurance company model of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA), it has almost gone unnoticed by the national corporate media that one state is going ahead with plans for a "single-payer" non-profit system to be implemented by 2017.
Back in 2011, the Vermont legislature passed and Governor Peter Shumlin (D) signed the single-payer goal into law, which has its signifying slogan: "Everybody in, nobody out."
This "Medicare for all" precedent was made possible by the latitude allowed in the ACA for states to create their own health insurance models.