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DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHill(Photo: Josve05a)Less than three weeks into her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has already accomplished a stunning feat: She appears to have unified large swaths of the Democratic Party and its activist base to support the core tenets of the Citizens United decision — the one that effectively allowed unlimited money into politics.

That 2010 Supreme Court ruling declared that, unless there is an explicit quid pro quo, the fact that major campaign donors "may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt." The theory is that as long as a donor and a politician do not agree to an overt bribe, everything is A-OK.

When the ruling was handed down, Democrats were outraged, and Hillary Clinton herself has recently suggested she wants it overturned. Yet with revelations that firms with business before Clinton's State Department donated to her foundation and paid her husband, Clinton's campaign and rank-and-file Democratic activists are suddenly championing the Citizens United theory.

In campaign statements and talking points — and in activists' tweets and Facebook comments — the party seems to be collectively saying that without evidence of any explicit quid pro quo, all the Clinton cash is acceptable. Moreover, the inference seems to be that the revelations aren't even newsworthy because, in the words of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, "there's nothing new" here.

To advocates for limiting the influence of money in politics, this pushback from Democrats is particularly rich (pun intended) coming from a party that spent a decade asserting that Republicans raking in cash from Big Oil and pushing oil-friendly policies was rank corruption. The Democratic defense of their presumptive presidential nominee registers as especially disturbing to campaign finance reform advocates considering the mighty efficiency of the Clinton fundraising machine.

Consider a few undisputed facts that we surfaced in our reporting at the International Business Times...

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaRainbowFlag(Photo: Benson Kua)In the 1940s and 1950s, countless people in the US were being bullied and brutalized by the anti-communist scare tactics and character assassinations of Senator Joseph McCarthy.  The end of the McCarthy red-baiting era began when Joseph Welch stood up to McCarthy after he attacked a young lawyer on his staff.  Welch was appalled by McCarthy’s callous disregard and despite McCarthy’s power, challenged him by stating: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” He concluded by saying “You’ve done enough.  Have you no sense of decency, sir?  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

In the recent marriage equality case, Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia argued that marriage equality opens the door to polygamy, underage sex, and incest between brothers and sisters.  This is the modern equivalent of McCarthy red-baiting and deserves the same response.

The cruel, illogical, heartless and hateful arguments of Alito and Scalia give considerable support and inspiration to right wing groups who literally demonize our sisters and brothers and sons and daughters who seek only to marry their same sex partners just like the rest of us. 

Alito and Scalia give comfort to the likes of Rush Limbaugh who stated marriage equality leads to incest.  To Rick Santorum who compares same sex relationships to bestiality and pedophilia.  To the head of ironically named American Decency Association who claimed that gay rights is a satanic attack on the US.  And to legions of other people and groups who practice hostility and violence against our sisters and brothers.

2015.4.5 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Garry Knight)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“Even though previous popes have spoken strongly against harming the earth and its inhabitants, one world renowned atmospheric scientist said it is going to be Pope Francis ‘to save the day,’" the Catholic News Service recently reported.

Most of today’s environmental activists are way too young to remember the Mighty Mouse Playhouse, which aired on Saturday mornings from December 1955 until September 1967. A mighty theme song kicked off each show. With Pope Francis getting ready to make what many environmentalists hope will be a game-changing statement on global warming, here’s an updated version of the Mighty Mouse theme song: “Climate change deniers never hang around, when they hear this mighty sound. ‘Here he comes to save the day.’ That means Pope Francis is on his way. Yes folks, when there's a wrong to right. Pope Francis will join the fight. On the sea or on the land, he’ll get the situation well in hand.”

Veerabhadran Ramanathan, who in the 1970s helped discover that pollutants and other gases, in addition to carbon dioxide, were contributing to the greenhouse effect, told Catholic News Service (CNS) that Pope Francis would be "the savior on the environment.”

Ramanathan said Pope Francis "has transcended Catholic religion and he's transcended Christianity. People of different followings, different nations admire this pope, they listen to his words so he has a global reach."

United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon recently spoke to an international gathering on the moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable development at the Vatican, sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Religions for Peace.

2015.4.5 BF buchheit(Photo: Elliot Brown)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Law enforcement, education, health care, water management, government itself -- all have been or are being privatized. People with money get the best of each service.

At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand 'freedom' unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf.

These privatizers have a system:

1. Convince Yourself That "I Did It On My Own"

The people in position to take from society seek to rationalize their actions, and many have accomplished this through the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the author of The Virtue of Selfishness. She rejected community values, saying "Any group...is only a number of individuals...If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject."

Post-Ayn-Rand, in the growing era of neoliberalism, with Ronald Reagan blurting "government is the problem" and Margaret Thatcher proclaiming "There is no such thing as society," once-respected institutions like public education and public transportation were demonized as "socialist" and "Soviet-style." The message has been repeated so often by the business-backed media that the general public began to believe it. Said The Economist with regard to product development, "Governments have always been lousy at picking winners, and they are likely to become more so, as legions of entrepreneurs and tinkerers swap designs online, turn them into products at home and market them globally from a garage. As the revolution rages, governments should stick to the basics...Leave the rest to the revolutionaries."

2015.30.4 BF ecowatch(Photo: Wikipedia)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Jon Stewart is preparing for life after The Daily Show. If you’re like me you’re dreading the day he departs the show in August, but, of course, news has already broke of Stewart’s next venture. He and his wife, Tracey, reportedly decided to purchase a farm in New Jersey to house their impressive amount of rescue animals and potentially many more, according to Ecorazzi. The Stewart clan already contains two children, four dogs, two horses, two pigs, three rabbits, two guinea pigs, two hamsters, one parrot and two fish. “All rescues,” Tracey told USA Today of her enormous brood. “Except for the children.”

The move should come as no surprise to Daily Show fans. Stewart has been a consistent animal advocate throughout his time on the air. Most notably, he skewered Gov. Christie on vetoing a popular gestation crate ban. He also recently hosted Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary to discuss animal rescue and veganism and John Hargrove, the former SeaWorld employee who became a whistleblower on the company’s animal cruelty.

 

2015.30.4 BF BERKOWITZ(Photo: David Yu)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Some might say that the relationship between the conservative US Jewish community and Evangelicals is inviolable, with support for Israel being the cement that forever binds the two. However, a number of controversial social issues could threaten to alter a relationship that has historically been replete with questions about awkward, and not so secret, Christian objectives.

"Conservative Jews who make common cause with Christian Zionists are overlooking an inconvenient truth: Despite all of their talk about their love for Israel, religious right zealots are motivated primarily by a goofy end-of-the-world scenario cribbed from the mad scribbling of Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye and other 'End Times’ prophets,” Rob Boston, Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told me in an email.

“In this scenario,” Boston added, “Israel needs to do certain things so that the Apocalypse can be ushered in and the Book of Revelation will come to pass. Jews, in this vision of things, are merely cannon fodder who either convert to Christianity or get burned to a crisp in the final battle when Jesus confronts the Antichrist. I'm not seeing a lot of love and respect for the Jewish faith here."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anincomeeq4(Photo: Quinn Dombrowski)

When The New York Times starts posting articles warning of a dystopian future in the United States due to income equality, you know that the alarm bells are starting to sound even in the corporate mass media.

On April 28, the Times posted an analysis by reporter Eduardo Porter in its economy section. Porter bluntly stated:

But when it comes to the health, well-being and shared prosperity of its people, the United States has fallen far behind.

Pick almost any measure of social health and cohesion over the last four decades or so, and you will find that the United States took a wrong turn along the way.

Porter manages to find a glimmer of hope in the grim statistics about the real state of the union. However, his sliver of optimism is only due to the fact that the deterioration of the nation as a community is so bad that he believes it will ultimately force a political solution. "The silver lining in these dismal, if abstract, statistics," Porter writes, "is that they portend such a dysfunctional future that our broken political system might finally be forced to come together to prevent it."

That's not a lot to hang your hat on. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abernies(Image: DonkeyHotey)

In case you didn't know it, Sen. Bernie Sanders is a socialist - and he doesn't try to evade the identification if you ask him. That alone makes him an unusual politician: he doesn't try to steer away from his principles in order to climb the political ladder.

Officially, Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate. Now, he will be running for president as a Democrat, while robustly bringing up systemic problems with the US economic system, corporate media and ongoing injustices. 

Sanders says that he hasn't changed his political positions on fundamental systemic change in the US since he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont years ago. Sanders isn't a politician who watches the polls; he keeps his eye on the prize of social and economic justice.

I know because when BuzzFlash started in 2000, we began interviewing Sanders and working with his press secretary, who was then David Sirota (now a progressive columnist and author). Sanders was also a regular reader of BuzzFlash, as he would tell us when we ran into him at venues such as the first Free Press conferences. The egregious flaws in the current US financial, media and political system were the ones he focused on back when we first talked with him. 

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaShakles(Photo: Klaus with K )Since the mid-1980s, prison privatization – a reality from the time of the American Revolution – has experienced unprecedented growth. Totally absorbed with profit making, it is safe to say that daily life for prisoners has not been enhanced. One of the few bright spots for many prisoners has been the face-to-face family visit. Now, along comes something called video visitation, the latest profit-making venture trying to suck up to strapped county jail systems, and suck money out of the pockets of prisoners and their families.

Video visitation is a phenomenon that "has been quietly sweeping the nation's state prisons and county jails," a report by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) pointed out. "Currently, more than 500 facilities in 43 states and the District of Columbia are experimenting with video visitation," according to the non-profit, non-partisan PPI.

Earlier this year, the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) released Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails, "its first comprehensive national survey of the video visitation industry." Maya Schenwar, Truthout's editor-in-chief and the author of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, discussed the report in a mid-February piece.

Bernadette Rabuy, Policy and Communications Associate with PPI, and co-author of the report (along with Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, and a co-author of the Prison Policy Initiative's oft-cited previous expose Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates, and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry), told The Real News Network's Eddie Conway that while video visitation has its upside – allowing family members living far from their imprisoned relatives to stay in touch – it also is "being implemented to replace traditional visits."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

nasandler(Photo: Shinya Suzuki)

According to an April 23 Indian Country Article, "Approximately a dozen Native actors and actresses, as well as the Native cultural advisor, left the set of Adam Sandler’s newest film production, The Ridiculous Six."

Allison Young, a Navajo woman and former film student from Dartmouth, protested the film's demeaning portrayals of Indigenous people. She talked with Indian Country about the situation:

"When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted," she said. "I talked to a former instructor at Dartmouth and he told me to take this as finally experiencing stereotyping first hand. We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, 'If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.' I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way."

"Nothing has changed," said Young. "We are still just Hollywood Indians."

"Just Hollywood Indians" is a resounding lamentation, considering the Tinseltown legacy of disseminating negative images of Indigenous people. 

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