WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Up until about an hour ago, most Americans thought Benghazi was the guy who palled around with John Cassavetes back in the 60s, but now it's obvious we're talking about the foreign policy arm of a multi- ramped tar pit the President has found himself swimming- up to his armpits. Yes, friends, it's pity time at the White House.
After flogging the issue nonstop since September 11, the Fox News Team's persistence finally pushed the story of the Libyan Embassy riot that resulted in the death of 4 Americans over the cliff into the public consciousness. Space available only because both Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty are on hiatus.
The hue and cry from the right is demanding many questions be answered. Was the protest planned or spontaneous? Did the group that initiated the attack have any affiliation with Arab terrorists? Who altered the talking points; the CIA or the State Department? Where were the drones? Queens? Wasps? Chigger mites? How many angels can dance on the head of a bent and broken Romney/ Ryan pin? What would Cheney do?
Having taken all this in, the American people responded with what can only be characterized as even more penetrating questions such as: "Who cares? What difference does it make? Aren't we stuffed to the gills with enough partisan gobbledy goop already? Does anyone really give an albino rat's ass? Isn't there a seafood buffet around here somewhere?"
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yes, as the GOP endlessly bamboozles the corporate mainstream media about Benghazi, the multitude of challenges facing the United States continues to mount.
Take for example a widely overlooked "regulation" that rolls the clock back, in many ways, to the Wild West derivatives' market leading up to the 2008 crash.
The New York Times has been one of the few "status quo" newspapers to realize the potentially ominous implications of a new Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) rule that will allow banks too big to fail to gamble with the economy, as if it were 2008 all over again.
Yes, there has been some increased regulation of Wall Street as a result of the Dodd-Frank law – and other augmented oversight. But it has been far too little counterweight to the powerful plutocratic forces of Wall Street.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Julia Trigg Crawford of Direct, Texas, is the manager of a 650-acre farm that her grandfather first bought in 1948. The farm produces mostly corn, wheat, and soy. On its north border is the Red River; to the west is the Bois d'Arc Creek.
TransCanada is an Alberta-based corporation that is building the controversial Keystone Pipeline that will carry bitumen—thicker, more corrosive and toxic, than crude oil—through 36-inch diameter pipes from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, mostly to be exported. The $2.3 billion southern segment, about 485 miles from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast is nearly complete. With the exception of a 300-mile extension between Cushing and Steele City, Neb., the rest of the $7 billion 1,959 mile pipeline is being held up until President Obama either succumbs to corporate and business pressures or blocks the construction because of environmental and health concerns.
When TransCanada first approached Crawford's father in 2008, and offered to pay about $7,000 for easement rights, he refused, telling the company, "We don't want you here." He said the corporation could reroute the line, just as other pipeline companies in oil-rich Texas had done for decades. TransCanada increased the offer in the following years, but the family still refused. In August 2012, with Dick Crawford's daughter, Julia Trigg Crawford now managing the farm, TransCanada offered $21,626 for an easement—and a threat. "We were given three days to accept their offer," she says, "and if we didn't, they would condemn the land and seize it anyway." She still refused.
And so, TransCanada, a foreign corporation exercised the right of eminent domain to seize two acres of the farm so it could build a pipeline.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Diogenes was a fifth century BC Greek philosopher, and a rather controversial one at that. Also known as Diogenes the Cynic, it is said that he took a vow of poverty and often lived in a barrel. He was a social critic long before social critics became cool. Everything we know about Diogenes is through anecdote since none of his writings have survived the centuries. He is probably best known for a stunt: carrying a lamp during the day and claiming to be searching for an honest man. Which brings me, some 2400 years later, to strapping on a headlamp and searching for an honest rendering of the IRS "Scandal" that has been monopolizing the news over the past ten days or so.
With horse racing's Triple Crown no longer up for grabs -- Oxbow defeated Kentucky Derby winner Orb and seven other horses in the Preakness Stakes -- the mainstream media and conservative media and advocacy groups are in search of a whole different kind of Trifecta.
In the spirit of not letting facts get in the way of a good story, the mainstream and conservative media have glommed onto the IRS "Scandal," trying to link it with the Benghazi screw up (but no conspiracy), and the Justice Department's chilling efforts to spy on journalists, and are reveling in calling it Obama's Scandal Trifecta.
While the crux of the scandal is seen as the IRS being overzealous when looking into Tea Party and other conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status, the real scandal might be how ill-equipped the IRS has been to actually ferret out groups that are have been doing political work, not social welfare work as required by the IRS to receive 501(c)(4) status.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Exhilirated by the promise of transparency, accountability and change, it is painful for progressives and those who believe in the guaranteed rights of the Constitution to find themselves in the midst of a Kafkaesque attack on the public's right to know, journalistic investigation of the government, increased prosecution of whistleblowers and unaccountable executive branch censorship.
It is almost incomprehensible to fathom how a president who is a constitutional lawyer has exceeded all his Republican predecessors when it comes to prosecuting and punishing whistleblowers, expanding executive branch secrecy, declaring the most basic information classifed, and intimidating and surveilling journalists. One can be grateful that the Tea Party has not yet won the White House, but the censorship, prosecution and surveillance state measures being implemented with President Obama's approval are nothing short of creeping fascism. That is not an exaggeration.
On the heels of the extensive Department of Justice violation of the privacy and professional protections guaranteed Associated Press reporters, Glenn Greenwald reports on how the Department of Justice accused a reporter of aiding and abetting the leaking of classified information in order to put him under extensive surveillance and interception of his communications.
As Greenwald points out:
Under US law, it is not illegal to publish classified information. That fact, along with the First Amendment's guarantee of press freedoms, is what has prevented the US government from ever prosecuting journalists for reporting on what the US government does in secret. This newfound theory of the Obama DOJ - that a journalist can be guilty of crimes for "soliciting" the disclosure of classified information - is a means for circumventing those safeguards and criminalizing the act of investigative journalism itself. These latest revelations show that this is not just a theory but one put into practice, as the Obama DOJ submitted court documents accusing a journalist of committing crimes by doing this.
RICHARD A. STITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Remember the good old days when Republican-Tea Partyers' political attack ads placed rifle scope crosshairs over their Democratic Party opponents' congressional districts? Sarah Palin urged Tea Party candidates to "reload" and "aim" for Democrats.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle urged her voter base in 2010 to resort to "Second Amendment Remedies."
Arizona congressional candidate Jesse Kelly who opposed Gabriel Giffords put out political ads inviting his supporters to a rally to "Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly."
During the frenzy of gun rhetoric Allen West's chief of staff, screech radio host Joyce Kaufman, shrieked, "If ballots don't work bullets will." That incendiary statement caused Florida's Broward County to immediately close schools and send 250,000 schoolchildren home because of the fears of escalating gun violence. Allen West was defeated in his reelection bid in 2012 but he recently joined his like-minded cohorts on Fox News who are presently on a Benghazi Obama impeachment crusade which is devolving more into a risible Sisyphean parody.
Rush Limbaugh spouted, "I tell people don't kill all the liberals, leave enough around so we can have two on every campus; living fossils, so we will never forget what these people stood for."
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The damage caused by the relentless corporate drive for profits has become more clear in recent years. In the most important areas of American life, devastating changes have occurred:
Health Care: Almost half of the working-age adults in America passed up doctor visits or other medical services because they couldn't afford to pay. The system hasn't supported kids, either. A UNICEF study places the U.S. 26th out of 29 OECD countries in the overall well-being of its children.
Education: Student loan balances increased by 75% between 2007 and 2012.
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.