MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Toni Preckwinkle, President of the Cook County Board (the largest county governmental unit in the United States after Los Angeles), lacerated Rahm "Coporate Privatization and Anti-Union" Emanuel for his plan to close public schools in minority areas. Preckwinkle, who became the first bona fide progressive to run the county government that includes Chicago, doesn't buy Emanuel's attempt to continue to weaken public schools and particularly those in minority areas. (90% of the Chicago public schools targeted for closing by Emanuel are in predominantly black neighborhoods.)
In an interview this week with the Chicago Sun-Times, Preckwinkle pointedly castigated Emanuel:
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle broadly criticized Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s education agenda Thursday, saying the Chicago Public Schools teachers’ strike last year had provided the excuse for a sweeping school-closure plan that “weakens our public schools…."
"What was the point of having public hearings?" Preckwinkle said during a 20-minute interview in her office. “Was it all a charade? If you weren’t going to pay any attention to the outcome of the public hearings or the recommendations of the public hearing officers, why would you bother to waste everyone’s time?"
In Chicago where the County Board has for decades been run as a patronage appendage of City Hall, Preckwinkle upended politics as usual with her broadside against Emanuel's education policies. She wasn't about to offer a euphemistic dissent. Preckwinkle was blunt in her chastisement of Chicago's mayor who has extremely close political and personal ties to Obama and Bill Clinton:
ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Darrell Issa appears to be following his stated purpose of opening an investigation a week into sensitive White House matters. At this point it is difficult to determine just what it is he and others are after, except of course pursuing the obvious goal of discrediting the president and the administration. Examining the various talking points, however, takes some doing because they are so often enmeshed in arcane partisan positions. They can nevertheless create stumbling blocks to try the patience of even the most temperate leader.
But to be perfectly frank, Conservatives are far more adept at developing story lines than the other side of the aisle. No matter how they wrap their talking points the result is always the same - - a partisan blood bath. As the IRS story has unfolded, it has provided chairman Issa with numerous opportunities to exploit right-wing ideology in the guise of "getting to the bottom" of some real or imagined transgression on the part of the administration. It is perhaps a weakness of this president and his team that they failed to pursue the Bush/Chaney stumbles with the intensity that was warranted. And we see now the folly of trying to "play nice" with political opponents for whom ethics and morality have lost all meaning, except as they play out in a destructive form of gamesmanship. Only the most perverse mental gyrations could suggest a comparison between the current "scandals" and Watergate. But we the people are being played for suckers again - - forced to draw conclusions from false premises and partisan rhetoric.
It should be obvious by now that, while it may not be proper to target any group for special attention when they apply for tax-free status, it is just as clear that Tea Party members do not exist simply to educate and provide guidance on constitutional matters. They are in fact as partisan as can be, and the fact that requests for tax-free status among Tea Party faithful increased by an inordinate amount after the recent presidential election was an indication of how the political winds were blowing. It is probably the case that requests for tax-free status from whatever source should be scrutinized with extreme care. There can be no reason for any group that holds views and supports candidates other taxpayers do not to receive special consideration from the IRS.
NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Now that Venezuela’s larger than life Hugo Chávez has vanished from the political landscape, what does the future hold for South America? Though Venezuela is only a medium-sized country, Chávez was able to skillfully realign geopolitical faultlines through shrewd use of oil largesse and petro populism. It is unlikely, though, that uncharismatic Chávez successor Nicolás Maduro, who only won his country’s recent presidential election by the slightest of margins, will be as successful as his protégé in maintaining Venezuela’s carefully crafted system of regional alliances.
As Venezuela fades, Brazil will naturally assume a greater leadership role, thus paving the path for a somewhat unusual three-way contest between the two South American countries and the United States. Just what form, precisely, is such competition likely to take and where are new geopolitical rivalries going to be most acutely felt? For answers, look to Brazil “buffer state” Uruguay, a country rife with diplomatic intrigue.
Venezuela: Last Hurrah in Southern Cone?
Feeling threatened and diminished by recent political reversals, Maduro is doing his utmost to shore up alliances in the Southern Cone. Shortly after his election, the Venezuelan traveled to Uruguay, a small nation in the region sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil. Historically, Chávez enjoyed warm ties to Montevideo where former Tupamaro guerrillas hold sway within the leftist Broad Front or Frente Amplio.
In 2005, Uruguay turned to Chávez in an effort to secure vital energy resources from Venezuela. The populist leader from Caracas was all too willing to oblige, sending oil to Uruguay on preferential terms in exchange for meat and milk. The ailing Chávez also apparently hoped that Caracas and Montevideo might consolidate military ties: last year, over 200 Venezuelan military personnel traveled to Uruguay to participate in joint exercises.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's official, the amber waves of grain in "America, The Beautiful" are now unofficially owned, in growing acreage, by Monsanto and the other giant seed companies. Not only that, the US State Department and executive branch have been acting as marketing agents for the companies who are patenting the most basic seeds necessary for human survival – and doing it throughout the world.
The non-profit organization Food and Water Watch just released a report in which it concludes:
In the past decade, the United States has aggressively pursued foreign policies in food and agriculture that benefit the largest seed companies. The U.S. State Department has launched a concerted strategy to promote agricultural biotechnology, often over the opposition of the public and governments, to the near exclusion of other more sustainable, more appropriate agricultural policy alternatives.
Russian Television (RT) provided more insight into the basis for the Food and Water Watch findings:
After US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed that the State Department was lobbying worldwide for Monsanto and other similar corporations, a new report based on the cables shows Washington's shilling for the biotech industry in distinct detail.The August 2011 WikiLeaks revelations showed that American diplomats had requested funding to send lobbyists for the biotech industry to hold talks with politicians and agricultural officials in "target countries" in areas like Africa and Latin America, where genetically-modified crops were not yet a mainstay, as well as some European countries that have resisted the controversial agricultural practice.
The title of the white paper is "Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry's Global Agenda"
Although the WikiLeaks cables covered 2005 – 2009, the Obama administration has continued to cozy up to Monsanto, including the appointment of former Monsanto-associated individuals to government positions. Furthermore, as RT reported, just a short time ago "the president signed into law an agricultural spending bill that included a provision that provides biotech companies with liability from future lawsuits filed over possible health hazards brought on by unregulated and untested GMO products."
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Let’s all work together to stop terrorism!
The Palm Beach County, Fla. Sheriff’s Office has a new video out urging local citizens to call them if something smells bad or seems a little weird, like, oh, a tourist is taking a picture of a bridge but there’s no one in the foreground — no spouse, no grinning kids, just . . . a bridge.
If it seems suspicious, call — because, I guess, if everyone is vigilant (“Hello, I want to report two young men carrying backpacks”) and we work with the authorities, America will be safe as pie in no time.
This program is called Community Partners Against Terrorism, though I’m tempted to call it know-nothing security — the kind based on stereotypes, unexamined fears, self-righteousness, external projections and an us-vs.-them social organization. Terrorists are bad people with inscrutable motives. All we need to know is that they’re out to get us. This is the message of the terrorism “experts,” who leverage their authority from their ability to keep us scared and vigilant.
Security is a real need, of course, but know-nothing security flaunts that need, often enough both ignoring and aggravating the real dangers we face while, at the same time, inflicting massive inconvenience on people innocently caught in its web, i.e., those on the wrong side of our society’s color and ethnicity divide.
For instance, when I read about the CPAT initiative, I thought about an incident 11 years ago that garnered its 15 minutes of national attention and neatly encapsulated all the problems with know-nothing security.
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
An unedited version of Ann Curry’s excellent report on Ecuador’s plans to plunder the last pristine rainforest on earth for petrodollars aired on NBC Rock Center. Unlike the edited version for NBC Nightly News, it includes astonishing footage of this beautiful Eden, and the devastating impact from oil pillaging.
(Q: Is it a strange coincidence that NBC executives axed Rock Center after this story aired? Big Oil pays Big Bucks for positive PR ads, including their demand to censor reports on the growing threat of global warming.)
The full report gives a visual tour of how oil drilling reduced the Amazon forest to a barren wasteland, marred by black gooey pools of toxic oil. It’s shocking to see how anyone could be evil enough to destroy such a sacred rainforest teeming with life; more mammal, bird, amphibian and plant species than any other spot on earth: parrots, monkeys, butterflies, panthers, and the gorgeous tapestries of ancient trees pillaged by oil drilling and deforestation over the last four decades.
The Amazon flourished for centuries but in our lifetime, a continent of forests has been effaced under the satanic wheel of insatiable greed.
Read Robert Kennedy’s How Big Oil Uses the Republican Party to Subvert American Democracy. In the absence of wise and moral leadership, the oil oligarchs and their government collaborators have no vital relationship with the natural world or spiritual world of nature. They never see what they destroy. They think nothing of clear-cutting our last beautiful forests for a private jet or $30 million dollar yachts, regardless of global warming or the hell they’re creating for our children.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's not a done deal, but Vermont took the first step toward legally requiring the labeling of foods that have been genetically modified.
Although the Vermont House moved the legislation one step toward becoming law last week, the GMO industry is fighting it tooth and nail, threatening lawsuits right and left. As a recent Truthout article noted, "Monsanto Threatens to Sue Vermont Over GMO Labeling Bill."
The threat of legal action by multi-billion dollar corporations who are acquiring a monopoly on patented genetically modified food lets states like Vermont know that they will spend unlimited amounts of money on litigation, thus striking fear in state legislators who are worried about economically fragile budgets. As a May 13th Grist article quotes an NPR report:
No representatives on Thursday argued against the concept of more transparent food labeling. The most frequent point of opposition voiced on the floor concerned a likely lawsuit from the biotech or food industries that the Attorney General’s Office estimates could cost the state more than $5 million.
Grist comments on this argument in relation to a failed proposition in California:
(Photo: Chiot's Run)
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday signed a bill making gay marriage legal in Minnesota, the 12th state to take the step, as thousands of onlookers cheered.
“What a day for Minnesota!” Dayton, a Democrat, declared moments before putting his signature on a bill. “And what a difference a year and an election can make in our state.”
When progressives become pessimistic about the ongoing reign of the ruling elite status quo and corporate governance in DC, it is important to remember that some issues that benefit equality and the common good are moving forward in states and at the local level. When Gov. Mark Dayton (D) signs a state marriage equality bill just passed by the Minnesota Senate, it will become the 12th state to allow same sex marriages.
That is progress by any standard, when just a few years back the thought of major politicians of either party -- from any but the deepest blue states supporting this right -- was almost non-existent. Now, even the ever-cautious President Obama is backing it. The Christian Science Monitor reported, Gov. Dayton is expected to sign the legislation as early as today:
Minnesota moved one step closer to becoming the 12th US state to recognize same-sex marriage on Monday when the state Senate voted 37 to 30 to approve a bill establishing equal civil rights to marry for gay men and lesbians.Cheers flooded the Senate chamber and cascaded through the surrounding halls as word spread of the bill’s passage. Minnesota’s House of Representatives approved the measure last week and Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to sign the bill into law on Tuesday.
If he does, Minnesota will become the third state this month to legalize same-sex marriage. The governor of Rhode Island signed a bill May 2, and Delaware's governor signed a bill on May 7. In Minnesota, same-sex marriages could begin as early as August 1.
The momentum toward achieving a progressive goal that seemed as far out of reach as gun control just a decade ago – or less – now has the momentum, with the wind at its back.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Race to Incarcerate, Marc Mauer's 1999 authoritative book on America's criminal justice system, has been reimagined as a work of graphic non-fiction. In Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling, painter, comic book artist, and illustrator Sabrina Jones transforms Mauer's history of the criminal justice system into a powerful true crime story -- accessible to young readers and people of all ages.
Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project in Washington D.C., and Jones is the author and graphic artist of Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography and a number of politically focused comics.
"If current trends continue, one of every three black males and one of every six Latino males born today can expect to find themselves at some point behind bars," according to a press release issued by the New Press announcing the publication of Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling.
America's criminal justice system hasn't always been completely oriented to a "lock 'em up and throw away the key" approach. In fact, despite periodic surges of criminal activity, the number of prisoners in the United States remained relatively stable through most of the 20th century. In the 1970s, however, things began to change: In 1972, there were 300,000 prisoners behind bars in the country; by 2010, that number had skyrocketed to 2.3 million. At 730 prisoners for every 100,000 citizens, the U.S. rate of incarceration is the highest in the world, outstripping Russia, Iran, China, Brazil, Japan, Britain, France, and Germany. Young black and Latino men have been disproportionally the target of this rush to incarcerate.