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.
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.