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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.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anotfrack(Photo: Daniel Lobo)

The oil company Citadel Exploration didn't like that the citizens of San Benito County, California, passed a fracking ban this November. (The county is ironically located just west of a town called Bittersweet.)

Citadel Exploration believes that the right to frack away - with all its destructive impact - supersedes the passage of Measure J, which prohibits future fracking in San Benito. So Citadel filed a lawsuit that would require the county to pay it $1.2 billion in lost profits.

KSBW.com of Monterey California summarized the Citadel legal extortion:

Citadel owners claim they could have extracted 20-40 million barrels of oil [in San Benito county], a value they believe equals $1.2 billion.

"$1.2 billion. That's like asking for the moon. The county will file for bankruptcy and reorganize. He’s not going to get anything,” San Benito County Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said.

"We don’t have that kind of money ever, ever," supervisor Muenzer said. Such a judgement would leave the county broke....

The company is arguing that Measure J constitutes "regulatory taking," meaning, government regulation limits on the use of private property.

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."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT


annsaliftoff(Photo: Tjebbe van Tijen)

(Photo: Tjebbe van Tijen)

Putting aside for the moment the entire issue of the exponentially growing lead government Big Brother agency - the National Security Agency (NSA) - and all of the valid objections to most of what the agency does, the collection of data on citizens and others in the United States (first revealed in detail by Edward Snowden) is symbolic of an egregious evasion of the privacy of the people who elect the government.

Combat the epidemic of misinformation that plagues the corporate media! Make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and BuzzFlash today.

The NSA has been challenged by many as being an agency out of control, like a virulent cancer that self-perpetuates its own inexorable expansion. Many critics contend that the assertion of spying powers, including on US citizens, has yielded little in terms of results - and that some of the information is ending up in the hands of other US agencies to be used for purposes that have nothing to do with the so-called war on terrorism.

As The Guardian recounted on November 19:

Nearly 18 months after Edward Snowden's disclosures upended the secret world of US surveillance, the US Senate has rejected the most politically viable effort to rein in the National Security Agency in almost four decades.

The USA Freedom Act, a bill introduced last year that sought to end the NSA's ongoing daily collection of practically all US phone data, failed to reach a 60-vote threshold to cut off debate and move to passage...

Although the domestic phone data dragnet has not thwarted any terrorist attacks, in the lead up to the vote critics savaged the bill as a gift to terrorists[Italics added by BuzzFlash.]

The bill defeated on November 18 - through a passive filibuster by Republicans (only one Democrat voted against it) - was a watered-down one to begin with.

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).

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aceopay(Photo: binx)

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released a study on November 18 entitled, "Fleecing Uncle Sam." The analysis concludes that "a growing number of corporations spend more on executive compensation than federal income taxes."

It's rather astonishing that such an economic betrayal of corporate financial obligations to society exists, but it is even more shocking - according to IPS - that it is growing:

Of America’s 30 largest corporations, seven (23 percent) paid their CEOs more than they paid in federal income taxes last year. 

    • All seven of these firms were highly profitable, collectively reporting more than $74 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits. However, they received a combined total of $1.9 billion in refunds from the IRS.

    • The seven CEOs leading these tax-dodging corporations were paid $17.3 million on average in 2013. Boeing and Ford Motors both paid their CEOs more than $23 million last year while receiving large tax refunds.

Of America’s 100 highest-paid CEOs, 29 received more in pay last year than their company paid in federal income taxes—up from 25 out of the top 100 in our 2010 and 2011 surveys.

“Our corporate tax system is so broken that large, profitable firms can get away without paying their fair share and instead funnel massive funds into the pockets of top executives,” remarked Scott Klinger, Director of Revenue and Spending Policies at the Center for Effective Government and a co-author of the report.

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.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

a2jimrisenJim Risen (Photo: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In an interview with Truthout just recently posted, New York Times Reporter James Risen was adamant about not revealing a confidential source, even if the Supreme Course orders him to do so:

MARK KARLIN: In regards to your own travails as a journalist, the government is trying to force you to reveal a confidential source relating to the shadow intelligence gathering community. You have stood steadfastly against giving up a source for information contained within your book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. The Obama administration is pursuing its legal case against you to the Supreme Court. You appear as resolute as ever to uphold the journalistic right to shield sources. Would anything change that courageous stance?

JAMES RISEN: No.

Risen revealed the background to the legal persecution that he is enduring - through the Bush and Obama administrations' obsessive disregard for journalistic investigative rights in a free society - in an excerpt posted on Truthout from his new book, PAY ANY PRICE:

As my legal battle against the government dragged on year after year, eventually making its way to the Supreme Court in 2014, I became convinced that I was fighting to protect press freedom in the post-9/11 age. But in the process, I discovered that I was no longer merely a journalist and author covering the war on terror. I had joined the many people whose lives had been upended by its excesses....

[Risen then details how The New York Times, at the request of the Bush Administration, refused to run a story on the NSA warrantless wiretapping that he had co-authored with Eric Lichtblau. It was refused publication twice by The New York Times, with direct presidential influence, and published only after Risen wrote a book that included the information, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration]

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