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Guest Commentary (3864)

Thursday, 20 November 2014 06:29

Ferguson and the "Us vs. Them" Illusion

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBrownDontShoot(Photo: Jamelle Bouie)As the grand jury’s decision on whether nor not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson loomed, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told a TV reporter “he’s preparing for peace and war.”

What the governor did, in the tense uncertainty preceding the decision, was pre-declare a state of emergency and activate the Missouri National Guard to help contain the possibility of violent, anti-police protests. He also appointed 16 people, including several of the protesters, to a newly created “Ferguson Commission” to recommend solutions to the racial problems plaguing that community, which the killing of Michael Brown last August made unavoidably apparent.

Meanwhile, gun sales at local shops are through the roof and the local Klan is stirring, distributing fliers warning protesters that they’ve awakened a sleeping giant.

America, America . . .

Before we proceed further, let’s stir in a little Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

That level of thinking — the political, governmental and media consensus of who we are — is blind and deaf to history and locked into us-vs.-them thinking. Security, whether domestic or international, is a game played against presumed and, often enough, imagined enemies. Thus, prior to the governor’s decision to call out the Guard, the FBI had issued an intelligence bulletin warning local officials that “the announcement of the grand jury’s decision … will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure,” according to the Washington Post.

2014.11.19.Keystone.BFUS Capitol Police officers dragged out five protesters, including Greg Grey Cloud of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe as he bellowed a tribal song. (Photo: Frank Thorp for Red Power Media via Facebook)

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Anyone following the Keystone XL pipeline vote in the Senate yesterday heard what appeared to be chanting or singing in the background when the final tally of 41-59 was announced, signaling that approval of the pipeline had failed to clear the bar of 60 votes and that congressional approval of the pipeline was delayed for the time being.

That sound was coming from Native Americans in the gallery, singing a traditional tribal tune. Five of them were removed from the gallery and arrested.

According to Red Power Media, one of the protesters was Greg Grey Cloud of the Rosebud Sioux tribe.

11.19.Swaggart.BFPastor Donnie Swaggart. (Screen grab via Tweety Bell / YouTube)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It may not seem possible, but Jimmy Swaggart's son Donnie is making his father look pretty darned good. In the late 1980s, the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, one of the most watched and wealthiest televangelists of his era, was involved in one of the Religious Right's most memorable and salacious sex scandals; he was caught with a prostitute in a hotel room located along New Orleans' notoriously sleazy Airport Highway. His tearful apology has become a YouTube classic. Some twenty-seven years later, Pastor Donnie Swaggart is raving about gays and lesbians wanting to behead Christians. Some one needs to find this guy a prostitute!

On the Houston, Texas television talk show "Frances and Friends," Donnie Swaggart, Jimmy and his wife Francis' only son, hosted a panel discussion "dedicated to discussing the controversy that had erupted in Houston, Texas, after the mayor's office subpoenaed sermons and other materials from a handful of pastors as part of a lawsuit anti-gay activists had filed in an effort to overturn a local antidiscrimination ordinance," People For the American Way's Right Wing Watch recently reported.

Donnie Swaggart told the audience that "LGBT activists are like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in that they want to destroy Christianity and behead its practitioners," Raw Story recently reported. "They want the Bible gone. And I'm going to make a statement: These people that are trying to do this in Houston, the only difference between them and ISIS, those thugs in Iraq, is those here cannot chop our heads off. That's the only difference. The heart is the same. The heart is the same. If they could silence us that way to intimidate others, that's exactly what they would do."

Tuesday, 18 November 2014 10:15

Which Side Are You On?

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaConflictAkira(Photo: Hans Holbein the Younger)Ever get the feeling that things are spiraling out of control? Yes, apocalyptic thinking seems to be a hardwired human impulse, but it’s hard to deny that, of late, events are trending in an ever more unhinged direction. On issue after issue, stark contrasts may be drawn between opposing sides as the rhetoric becomes ever more forceful.

Item: House Republicans have seized upon the “mandate” offered by the recent midterm elections to pass a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline, an enterprise that will support the carbon emissions-heavy extraction of oil from the Alberta tar sands, have little positive impact on domestic energy costs, and create, in the end, a whopping 50 permanent jobs. In an attempt to secure her political legacy, or perhaps a post-political consulting career, the soon to be ex-Democratic senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu, is pushing for a vote in the Senate on a similar bill. Meanwhile, the Rosebud Sioux, through whose reservation the pipeline will run, have denounced the authorization as an “act of war.”

Item: President Obama issued an entirely sensible statement calling for net neutrality, something that has been long overdue, and something that enjoys overwhelming public support. Senator Ted Cruz, who I am increasingly convinced is the product of a failed collaboration between a third-rate cloning facility and an adolescent performance artist, immediately denounced net neutrality as the “Obamacare of the internet,” following this fascinating claim with a collection of other words that offered the outward appearance of meaning and coherence while demonstrating little more than a profound lack of understanding of the issue.

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPollingStation(Photo: Man vyi)The leadership of the Republican Party knows that, except in a few very high income neighborhoods, it cannot win elections running on its real program of tax cuts for the wealthy, bread-crumbs (if any) for everyone else, and ending government regulation of every sector of the economy from the banking industry to the production of energy. So ever since Nixon, and most especially since Reagan, they have necessarily engaged in what I have for quite some time described as "The Rightward Imperative." This means attracting voters to the GOP through religious determinism, enhancing bigotry, demonization, and so on and so forth.

However, the true leadership of the GOP, of many of whom we have little or no knowledge, knew that someday this movement would run out of gas. Yes, after Ted "Damn the Law" Cruz has come Joni "Shoot the Law" Ernst, and you have Louie Gohmert and Steve "immigrant children carry bags of dope across the desert" King, not all that many voters are going to go that way in national elections, as especially as the general economy stagnates. And so, the true, big money, leadership knew that they were going to have to go in a different direction. Rove's "Permanent Republican Majority" would never appear. But a "Permanent Republican Government" could.

Which brings us to the Republicans' Grand Plan to achieve that end. It began back in 1992 with the hatching by the then, now defunct, Republican political ally, the Christian Coalition, of something they called "The 15% Solution." (I wrote a book with that title, on the theme of what the GOP/Religious Right would do if they were ever to attain significant power in US government. Originally published in 1996, the current edition is to be found here. "The 15% Solution" itself is to be found on p. 17 of that book). It was a strategy designed to lower voting participation, down to a level where the loyal rightist "15%" could win elections, all by themselves. As Paul Weyrich, one of the creators of the Republican-Religious Right Alliance, a founder of ALEC (see below) and a founder of the Heritage Foundation, famously said: "We don't want everyone to vote. Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the voting population goes down" (see p. 18).

2014.11.17.Ferguson.BFPolice forces in Ferguson, Missouri, August 17, 2014. (Photo: Loavesofbread / Wikipedia )

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When the Michael Brown grand jury decision is announced, people can expect the police to take at least ten different illegal actions to prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights. The Ferguson police have been on TV more than others so people can see how awful they have been acting. But their illegal police tactics are unfortunately quite commonly used by other law enforcement in big protests across the US.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution promises the government will not abridge freedom of speech or to prevent the right of the people to peaceably assemble or to petition to the government for the redress of grievances.

Here is what they are going to do, watch for each of these illegal actions when the crowds start to grow.

2014.11.17.TTIP.BFA flash mob of TTIP protesters at a campaign event for the Christian Democratic Union with Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Hamburg, Germany, May 17, 2014. (Photo: Ulrike Schmidt for campact / Flickr)

ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On November 14, German Economic News (which this writer has found to be the world’s most honest, non-propagandistic newspaper) published two articles about the first independent study of the likely impacts of the Obama-proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This study, by an American economist, concludes:

“TTIP appears to favor economic disintegration, rather than integration, in Europe. At a minimum, [the] official studies do not offer a solid basis for an informed decision on TTIP …

“TTIP would lead to losses in terms of net exports after a decade, compared to the baseline ‘no-TTIP’ scenario …

“TTIP would lead to net losses in terms of GDP …

“TTIP would lead to a loss of labor income …

“TTIP would lead to job losses …

“TTIP would lead to a reduction of the labor share [and increase in the capital or stockholders’ share] …

“TTIP would lead to a loss of government revenue [less money for infrastructure, law-enforcement, social welfare, etc.] …

“TTIP would lead to higher financial instability [higher risk of economic crashes].”

Monday, 17 November 2014 06:11

Sordid Tales of Selfishness in the Superrich

2014.11.17.Buchheit.BF (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If the mainstream media made the effort to analyze and report the facts, the whole country would know about a level of selfishness that has spiraled out of control since the economists of the Reagan era convinced the wealthiest Americans that greed is good for everyone. Here are four extreme examples of that selfishness.


1. Ebola's Not Worth the Money If Only Africans Get Infected

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr. Margaret Chan recently stated: "Ebola emerged nearly four decades ago. Why are clinicians still empty-handed, with no vaccines and no cure? Because Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D incentive is virtually non-existent. A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay."

So we turn to philanthropy. But rich donors don't compensate for the flaws of capitalism. The Gates Foundation, among others, may appear noble and praiseworthy for all its charitable giving, but Dr. Chan noted that "My budget [is] highly earmarked, so it is driven by what I call donor interests." Little of that 'earmarking' is toward diseases of the poor. A study in The Lancet of medical products registered in 2000-11 revealed that "Only four new chemical entities were approved for neglected diseases (three for malaria, one for diarrhoeal disease), accounting for 1% of the 336 new chemical entities approved during the study period."

JACKIE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anunendwar(Photo: Tony Fischer)

Recently, Common Dreams ran an article entitled, "As New War Rages, Mainstream Media Silences Debate, Study Finds." Indeed most of the people in the US probably go through the day without ever thinking about the nation's ceaseless wars.

Many US voters are disgusted with both major political parties for reasons that go back a long way.

If elected Republicans think that they have a mandate as a result of the November 4th elections, they are laboring under a grand delusion. 

The fact of the matter is that more than a third of those who voted for a Republican House candidate were dissatisfied or angry with GOP leaders in Congress, according to preliminary exit polls. A quarter of Democratic voters were similarly upset with President Obama.

Over the last decade, many voters have come to believe that going to the polls is an exercise in futility. They intuitively sense that elected officials from both parties work for corporate millionaires and billionaires, and that the oligarchs from the oil and weapon industries will continue to shape foreign and domestic policies in their favor to the detriment of the vast majority of those in the US - no matter who is elected. As a case in point, the economy is backsliding for most workers in terms of pay.

Friday, 14 November 2014 08:47

Shell Oil Loses Arctic Drilling Lawsuit

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaExxon(Photo: EcoWatch)Shell Oil seems to be on a losing streak these days.

In early October it was announced that the Greenpeace campaign to get Danish toy company LEGO to sever its nearly 50-year partnership with the oil giant was successful. Its Arctic drilling has been plagued with misadventures such as a drilling rig running aground on New Year’s Eve 2012. It was forced to abandon its drilling plans for 2013 and 2014, although it has said it plans to try again for 2015.

And yesterday, in a decision sure to be a relief to activist and advocacy groups of all stripes, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a lawsuit brought by Shell that was primarily an effort to block potential lawsuits from environmental groups who opposed its drilling operations in the Arctic.

Two years ago, Shell filed a preemptive lawsuit against 13 environmental, indigenous and community groups to prevent them from possibly suing Shell at some time in the future over its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. The 9th Circuit Court panel yesterday called the legal maneuver “novel”and said that it was unconstitutional.

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