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Wednesday, 30 November 2016 06:56

Betsy DeVos' Plan to Destroy Public Education

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Eraser 1130wrp opt(Photo: Prosavage2600)Betsy DeVos, Present-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education, has, as Douglas N. Harris recently wrote in an Op-Ed in The New York Times, “sent shock waves through the educational establishment.” And that is probably what Team Trump hoped would happen and continues to happen when DeVos takes office. Several years before being tapped by Trump, Americans United’s Rob Boston observed, “DeVos’ goal is nothing short of a radical re-creation of education in the United States, with tax-supported religious and other private schools replacing the traditional public school system.”

Betsy DeVos is a billionaire philanthropist, a longtime funder of multiple right-wing causes and candidates, and an ardent supporter of school vouchers/charter schools/privatization of public schools.

DeVos, and her brother, Erik Prince – the founder of Blackwater, the private military force that received contract worth billions of dollars from the U.S. government -- are two of the four children of  Elsa Prince Broekhuizen and the late Edgar Prince.

Edgar Prince made his fortune in Prince Automotive, and became one of the primary supporters of numerous Religious Right organizations and causes. Betsy DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, former CEO of Amway/Alticor and Republican candidate for governor of Michigan in a failed bid in 2006.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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 Noam Chomsky warns that the real "American Dream" is of plutocracy suppressing majority rule.  (Photo: Andrew Rusk)

During times like these, when we must choose resistance over compliance with an unjust power structure, I recall an exhortation from Maya Angelou:

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.

There will no coming out of the current political nightmare -- which existed before the November election, and exponentially worsened after it -- without a redoubling of advocacy for the common good.

That is what Noam Chomsky concludes in a sobering and informative documentary, Requiem for the American Dream (available from Truthout by clicking here). In the documentary, Chomsky describes 10 reasons why we have arrived at this time of political and social dystopia.

 

Monday, 28 November 2016 08:08

Understanding This New Age of Fascism

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Nationalism 1128wrp opt(Photo: Maerz1848)Anyone attempting to understand the roots of what is now being called the “alt-right” should run out to your favorite independent bookstore and grab hold of a copy of Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream. Published in 2009, and written by Leonard Zeskind, it remains a seminal history of the white supremacist movement, now being reimagined as the “alt-right.”

"While the white nationalist movement has splintered organizationally over the last few years, it is best to think of this phenomenon as something akin to a broken thermometer, where the mercury continually reconfigures itself into silver beads smaller and larger," Zeskind has written.

Drew S. Days III, Professor of Law, Yale University, and former U.S. Solicitor General called Blood and Politics “not only a brilliant account of the origins, modes of operation, collaborations, and internecine disputes of white supremacist, neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denier, and anti-Semitic groups in America, but alerts us to the fact that despite—or perhaps because of—significant improvements in race relations and changing demographic patterns, we are likely to witness a resurgence of their activities.”

Monday, 28 November 2016 06:56

Donald Trump Shatters the Arc of Justice

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TrumpPence 1128wrp opt(Photo: Ali Shaker/VOA)Maybe this much is true. Donald Trump, pseudo-president-elect, loser of the real election, charismatic stump-speech populist whose actual ability to govern may well be non-existent, has inflicted significant damage on America’s political infrastructure.

This is scary, of course, but not necessarily a bad thing. I say this even, or especially, if he manages to assemble a far right, white-nationalist-friendly cabinet and inner circle and start attempting to implement some of the promises he made on the campaign trail. If the Trump pseudo-presidency is “normalized” and we-the-people and the media shrug our shoulders at the rebuilding of Jim Crow Nation — the Wall, the Muslim registry and God knows what happens next — then yes, this is a disaster and moving to Canada is a viable option. But if Trump, instead, is the reincarnation of Bull Connor, someone who makes a dark, hidden ugliness suddenly clear to the public at large, then his rise to power may be the harbinger of profound, positive change.

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe,” abolitionist Theodore Parker wrote more than 150 years ago, prefiguring the words of Martin Luther King. “The arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

But the arc doesn’t bend by itself.

STEVEN C. DAY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

19535228309 6c8e142ec1 z(Photo: Mike Licht)

Perhaps the best analogy for the political situation in United States today is of a man who, intent on ending his own life, has jumped from a tall building. As he free falls, the street below growing ever larger in his eyes, his fate is set. Options are a thing of his past. His decision is now irrevocable -- all that remains are the consequences.

On November 8, in what history will surely remember as the single greatest example of electoral malpractice ever committed, this country chose to make a necrotic, bigoted, pathologically dishonest and sociopathic man-child the leader of the free world. And as with our hypothetical jumper, this decision, having once been made, is now final -- and its impact will be felt for generations. Ready or not -- and count me among the nots -- the Trump presidency is upon us.                                                                                                                     

While the likely consequences of this decision should have been apparent to anyone paying attention long before the votes were cast, now that the election is over they have become blindingly clear. With each reckless appointment and childish temper tantrum, the disaster awaiting us shows itself. And while this commentary will ultimately be about resistance and even possible redemption, the first step must be acknowledging the bleakness of the landscape we face.

Elections, as the cliché goes, have consequences, and right now the consequences of this one are getting ready to slam into the United States with the force of a category five hurricane.

2016.22.11 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Elvert Barnes)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Those of us who want to build a better world will have our work cut out for us in the months and years ahead, and the commentary and analysis at Buzzflash will be more important than ever. Can we count on your support?

If you've ever wondered what you would do had you been around in 1930s Germany, I'm awfully afraid that you're gonna get a chance to find out. – Dr. Harry Edwards, Edge of Sports, November 2016

The incidents are starting to pile up: From chants by white students of "Build that Wall," at a high school volleyball tournament in Snyder, Tex., where Archer City High was facing off with Fort Hancock, to middle school students in Michigan chanting "build the wall" during lunch the day after the election; from women wearing head-scarfs getting harassed, to young Muslim men yelled at menacingly from passing cars; from a Latina women told to "go back to where you came from" to gay men harassed on the streets of Raleigh, North Carolina, the election of Donald Trump has ushered in a harvest of hate.

In this post-election period where white supremacists, white nationalists, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites seem to feel empowered to do and say just about anything, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is reporting that more than 700 incidents of "hateful intimidation and harassment" have already occurred.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

hamiltontrumpAlexander Hamilton (Image: Marion Doss)

At Truthout and BuzzFlash, we don't pull any punches when it comes to criticizing the forces in power. Don't wait to hold the next president's feet to the fire: Make a donation to independent media today!

Hamilton, the stunning biographical musical that won 11 Tony Awards in 2016 and swept just about every other major theater award in 2016, is the current blockbuster on Broadway. The sold-out production is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the script, lyrics and musical score. Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, dazzlingly transforms an account of Alexander Hamilton's life -- particularly around the time of the US revolution -- into a multicultural production with a vibrant hip hop-based musical score.

Miranda largely adhered to historical accuracy -- Hamilton is a hero to modern Federalists, such as the late Antonin Scalia -- but by selecting a cast largely comprised of people of color, he recreated the story in a new light. Hamilton's cast and the way the narrative is interpreted point toward the possibility of an inclusive democracy. So does the score, which incorporates the rhythms of a diverse United States. It's a soundtrack that makes clear the contributions made to the US's musical legacy by the people who were marginalized by this country's white founders.

This aspect of Hamilton became an issue when a casting call was issued for non-white actors, as the production was preparing for its first non-New York cast. (The musical is now playing in Chicago.) The right wing promptly started crying crocodile tears over "discrimination." A Huffington Post post article stated:

But what makes Hamilton work so well is the fact that it's a commentary on America's past through the prism of America's present, its future. It works because the historically white, male founding fathers are being played by a predominantly non-white cast of blacks and Latinos (there are alsoplans to cast women in the roles of men).

Now, what would the musical look like if Alexander Hamilton wasn't played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Aaron Burr wasn't played by Leslie Odom, Jr, but instead the characters were played by two capable, talented white actors? The show would likely still be entertaining, but the context and the conversation would change. It's like suggesting that "For Colored Girls..." or "The Color Purple" have an all-white cast. It's a completely different show. 

The same article notes, "And if you think about it, Hamilton is perhaps as colorblind as castings come -- when else would black and Latino actors get to play the Founding Fathers?"

2016.22.11 BF Cohen(Photo: Joe Brusky)ELLIOT D. COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

At Truthout and BuzzFlash, we don't pull any punches when it comes to criticizing the forces in power. Don't wait to hold the next president's feet to the fire: Make a donation to independent media today!

The infrastructure for mass warrantless surveillance is now in place for cyber racial profiling by a government administration with the will to carry it out. The latter is the systematic use of a spy technology network for purposes of targeting a specific race/s. As disclosed in the National Security Agency (NSA) slides leaked in 2013 by Edward Snowden, the present system of surveillance technology is of global proportions with the capacity to capture, store, and inspect virtually every electronic message (email, phone conversation, internet search, chat, etc.) sent and received by millions of U.S. citizens each day. The selection of racially motivated cabinet members at the highest level of the Trump administration is a clear warning sign that we may be about to witness a firestorm of cyber racial oppression that could end the experiment in democracy our forefathers began more than two hundred years ago.

The NSA presently conducts warrantless searches that have captured and stored millions of communications of U.S. citizens. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FIS) Court has allowed this activity to continue unabated rather than to insist that the technology be equipped with content filtering technologies that block government access to personal information of U.S. Citizens. While, pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, federal agencies conducting terrorism investigations need a court warrant to target U.S. citizens, they do not need such a warrant when their target is a non-U.S. citizen. However, the 2008 amendments to the 1978 FISA law now allow the feds to gather information containing the personal information of U.S. persons when this information is collected tangential to collecting foreign intelligence that targets non-U.S. persons. All that is necessary is that a "significant purpose" of the search is to gather foreign intelligence. Previous FISA law required that "the [only] purpose" of the investigation be to gather foreign intelligence. So, if the feds are conducting a terrorist investigation and they "just happen" to gather information about a U.S. citizen who is engaged in an allegedly illegal activity, this information is admissible for purposes of charging the person with a crime.

JUDY WICKS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Those of us who want to build a better world will have our work cut out for us in the months and years ahead, and the commentary and analysis at Buzzflash will be more important than ever. Can we count on your support?

Protectors 1121wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)This Thanksgiving, I'm going to Standing Rock with a delegation of more than 50 people from across the U.S. to cook and serve dinner for 500 Water Protectors, as a small way to give back to Native Americans on our national day of thanks.

Looking back on history, Native Americans saved the lives of newly arrived Europeans in what is now Massachusetts by sharing their harvest in the winter of 1620. The Wampanoag, who had lived in the region for some 12,000 years, taught the settlers to grow native crops. The Wampanoag were not the only tribe to be generous. In the earliest days, many tribes throughout the Americas helped new settlers survive.

The foods the natives shared with settlers were not just growing wild. They were cultivated over many generations by native people who had a deep connection to the land. Today, many vegetables and fruits in our diet were first cultivated by Native Americans, including foods found on the Thanksgiving table—potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, corn, tomatoes, squash, pumpkin and cranberry. The turkey many enjoy on Thanksgiving Day was first domesticated by Native Americans.

Monday, 21 November 2016 08:17

The Terrorism Targeting Our Grandchildren

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Those of us who want to build a better world will have our work cut out for us in the months and years ahead, and the commentary and analysis at Buzzflash will be more important than ever. Can we count on your support?

Children 1121wrp opt(Photo: Saveoursmile)Four decades of American narcissism and greed and exceptionalism have allowed the super-rich to dictate the future path of our nation. We're paying the price now, with environmental disasters, nonexistent savings for half of our families, Americans dying because of expensive health care, and a growing fear of blowback from desperate victims of our foreign wars.

Environment Be Damned

Almost all reputable sources agree that human-caused climate change is killing people, with up to 400,000 annual deaths "due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries," and up to 7 million deaths -- over a half-million of them children under the age of five -- caused by air pollution.

The richest people in the world create most of the pollution, yet are the least likely to feel guilty about the effects of their behavior, and the least likely to suffer from the impending environmental damage. This could lead to terror-filled years for the generations to follow us. Even the CHANCE of such misery for their grandchildren should motivate the super-rich to address the root causes of global warming. Instead, they have plans to retreat to impregnable "safe rooms" with food and water, oxygen, medical supplies, and all the amenities for a year or more of underground living.

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