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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cantor2Eric Cantor (Photo: Wikipedia)Maybe his theme song should be, "Don't Cry for Me, John Boehner." After all, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his congressional seat earlier this year after being defeated in the GOP primary earlier this year by a Tea Party zealot. It was, in the mainstream media narrative, an embarrassment of immeasurable proportion for the man who was next in line to the Speaker of the House.

Last month, Cantor unexpectedly resigned before his term was over in January. Now we know why.

Cantor is making his way through the perennial revolving door, in which a primary loss can lead to a treasure chest of Wall Street riches. The Los Angeles Times reports that Cantor will join the investment bank Moelis & Co. Notice, according to The LA Times, how his pay escalates after the first year, perhaps so as to make it appear that he is not immediately cashing in on his high-ranking congressional and government access: 

Cantor is the latest government official to cash in on Wall Street after working in Washington. His pay will jump from the $193,400 a year he earned as majority leader to a base salary of $400,000 a year to start.

He also will receive a $400,000 cash payment and $1 million in restricted stock that will vest in phases after his third, fourth and fifth anniversaries with the company, according to a filing Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Next year, he will receive a minimum incentive payment of $1.2 million in cash and $400,000 in restricted stock.

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGOPUpsideDown(Photo: GOP)"Small Government Conservatism" has been THE GOP mantra ever since Reagan gave out with his famous pronouncement on "the government isn't the solution to your problems, it IS the problem," or words to that effect. This mantra today resonates from the so-called "sensible" Republicans in the Joe Scarborough (of "Morning Joe, in case you didn't know) mold to the most far-out of the Tea Partiers like Rep. Steve (8-year-old-undocumented-immigrants-have-calves-the-size-of-footballs-from-toting-drugs-across-the-desert [or words to that effect]; my-you-speak-English-well [to a couple of Dreamers who came to the US as infants]) King of Iowa.

Before going on to the discussion of the substance of this column, let me say that I think that it must be understood that the difference between today's "mainstream" Republican Party, led by such eminences as John (gay-marriage-is-a-sin-because-the-Bible-tells-me-so) Boehner and Mitch (I-will-filibuster-any-bill-I-don't-like, said-in-December, 2008) McConnell is solely a matter of style and rhetoric, not substance. They have the same agenda, to first and foremost serve the interests of their paymasters. That is, of course, a group of named and nameless leaders of the dominant wing of the US ruling class, for which the Koch Brothers make an oh-so-convenient twin figurehead. Those true interests are reflected precisely in just what the GOP/TYP actually means when it talks about "Small Government Conservatism."

Many liberals and even some progressives get into direct and/or indirect battles with such folk over the question of what indeed is the role of government, Federal, state and local, in a large country like ours, with the Constitution that we have. But to me, that discussion does our side no good. For in fact the GOP/TP is hardly for "Small Government Conservatism" across the board. They use the mantra to attack programs that they don't like. But in many sectors of our society, they are for precisely the opposite. But before getting to that list, let's see what they mean when they talk about "shrinking the government."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

toygunShot to Death for Holding a Toy Gun? (Photo:Tom Simpson)

Many gun laws vary by state, in the absence of strong national gun control. That explains the open carrying of semi-automatic rifles in stores such as Target in Texas without any police intervention. In every photo that I have seen of the gun toters of AK-47s and the like in Texas two realties are apparent: 1) All the defiant military-style gun carriers are white; and 2) there are no police to be seen as the gun fanatics swagger through housewares toting Uzis.

The reason that there are no police to be seen is that it is now legal to tote around handguns and semi-automatic long guns in stores and other public spaces in the longhorn state. Texas is not the only such state: In Ohio, state law allows people to carry firearms in many public spaces (though the NRA Institute for Legislative Action notes that "a person should exercise caution when carrying a firearm in public"). The state generally has loose firearms laws and can be considered a pro-gun-owner state. Nevertheless, a black man, 22-year-old John Crawford III, was shot dead by Beaver Creek, Ohio, police in early August - for holding a toy rifle in the toy section of a local Walmart. Apparently, a customer had called 911 and said a man was holding a rifle, and the police showed up, shouted a few disputed orders and then killed Crawford with real guns, as the toy Walmart rifle fell to the floor. (He did not enter the store with the toy rifle; he happened to pick it up while in the toy section of the store.)

It would be extremely difficult, given the recent events in Ferguson and the long history of racial bias shown by police in shooting black "suspects," to surmise that Crawford's skin color and dreadlocks didn't play any role in the decision of the Beavercreek police officers to murder a young adult holding a toy rifle.

 

Tuesday, 02 September 2014 06:30

Climate Change and Food Riots: Learn to Farm

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCorn(Photo: Christian Fischer)What with everything everywhere being busy exploding, the fact that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest draft was leaked is not, perhaps, the sexiest of news items. The facts remain mostly unchanged from longer reports that have been previously released, but the tone is far more dire. One item of note: while the goal, set in 2009, was to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Fahrenheit, we’re now on track to hit 3.6 degrees by the middle of this century and 6.7 degrees by 2100.

This is not the best of news. Our thoughts immediately turn to rising sea levels, the inundation of major cities, and massive population displacement. All bad things, to be sure. But so very gradual, so easy to dismiss as happening far off in the distant future when we’ll all long since have died of Ebola. So let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about famine.

Famine has been with us throughout history. And even with increases in agricultural productivity, over 70 million people starved to death in the 20th century. As deaths go, starvation is a nasty one and as human disasters go, it’s one that we fear to the point where famine was considered to be one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. One of the neat things about climate change is that it tends to cause massive disruption to agriculture, livestock, fisheries – all things that help us avoid starving to death. And those disruptions to our food supply will hit us a long time before Boston, Venice, and Amsterdam are underwater.

Friday, 29 August 2014 07:13

The Courage to Disarm

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAlbers(Photo: Darmokand)The Ferguson tragedy, like all those that preceded it and all that will follow — involving the trivial and panicky use of lethal force, by the police or anyone else — stirs up questions the social status quo doesn’t dare face.

My sister, Sue Melcher, put it this way: “I find myself also nauseated that another issue never seems to enter the discussion: the issue that a highly trained officer could make such a mistake with a gun demonstrates that just having the weapon present increased the danger of the situation. Had the citizens been armed, how many more casualties could there have been? None of us is ‘healthy’ enough to be trusted to use lethal force wisely — and is that even possible?”

The “wise” use of lethal force . . .

We’ve wrapped our global civilization around the certainty that we understand and revere life in all its vastness and mystery so completely that we know when to cut it short, indeed, that we — those of us who are officially sanctioned good guys — have a right to cut it short in, it would seem, an ever-widening array of circumstances. In so doing, we allegedly make life better for the social whole. This is called militarism. To keep this profitable lie going, we refuse to look deeply at its consequences.

When we inflict death on distant cultures, at the sterile remove that modern weapons grant us, we can avoid all but the most cursory awareness of the consequences of our actions. But when we do it at home, it’s not always so easy.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHomelessUSA(Photo: C.G.P. Grey)While weapon contractors, those ‘masters of war’, are raiding our treasury for multibillion dollar federal contracts, our middle-class economy is falling below the levels of third world countries.  Last night, ABC news did a report on homeless children in the United States.  Some American children are living out of cars with nothing more than green garbage bags to keep their small belongings in. These children were grateful to receive suitcases because living out of “garbage bags made them feel trashy.”  

Has it come to this? Shame on this government for turning the United States of America into a country that includes too many starving, homeless children, while less than a privileged group of companies is receiving billions of our tax dollars for weapons, and those weapons are used in turn to steal oil in the Middle East.

new report found that the nation's food pantries serve 620,000 families with a member in the military: “another troubling indication that service members battling against poverty must often rely on the generosity of our charities.”

Our tax dollars should provide adequate funding for middle-class and poor communities: schools, hospitals, roads, teachers, police, firefighters, and alternative energy among other expenditures that benefit the public good. However, when so many of our tax dollars are going directly into the bank accounts of weapon-surveillance contractors, and Wall Street banksters, you begin to understand why everyone else is left with a few scattered crumbs to fight over; you begin to see why the oligarchy encourages conflicts and divisions between blacks and whites, middle-class workers and immigrants, and so forth. After all, while everyone’s busy fighting, the biggest robbery in history is going down: big money is being stolen behind closed doors with the assistance of the White House and congressional friends of the oligarchy.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

malibubeachMalibu Beach, California (Photo: Michael Clesle)

A battle for public access to the California beaches on the Pacific Ocean is raging.

Although the outcome will impact anyone who wants to partake of the joy of walking on the sand, swimming and viewing the breathtaking natural beauty of the Pacific, the iconic California surfers are taking center stage in the battle to easily reach the beach. In fact, some of the best waves for surfing near Los Angeles are located in the exclusive Malibu area - where members of the 1% are trying to limit entryway to the oceanfront.

Independent LA television station KCET - in an article entitled, "Why California Beaches Are Open to Everyone" - provides background on the issue:

California voters in 1972 passed Proposition 20, also known as the California Coastal Commission Initiative.

The ballot measure called for the temporary creation of the California Coastal Commission, a politically appointed body tasked in part with protecting and preserving the 1,100 miles that make up the Golden State's coast and guaranteeing the public's access to that sea and shore. In 1976, the state legislature passed the California Coastal Act, basically making Prop 20 permanent."These two laws were really instrumental in changing the way Los Angeles, Southern California and the whole state's coastline looks and the ability of people in California to enjoy those resources," says Molly Selvin, associate dean for interdisciplinary programs at Southwestern Law School....

Many super-rich beachfront property owners have found ways to block paths to the beach by taking advantage of poor enforcement. As a result, in June of this year California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that empowered the California Coastal Commission to fine property owners who obstructed access to the ocean and beaches. 

Thursday, 28 August 2014 07:06

Chevron: Global Bandit, Local Bully

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChevron(Photo: Coolcaesar)Perhaps one of the lesser predictable outcomes of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision is that it would open the floodgates to corporations having their way in local elections. That seems to be a significant part of an ongoing story in Richmond, California, a city of a little over 106,000 residents, where the Chevron Corporation -- the city's main employer and taxpayer – is using a Political Action Committee to back a Chevron-friendly mayoral candidate, and several City Council candidates.

Although the Political Action Committee, called Moving Forward, claims it is made up of "labor unions, small businesses and public safety and firefighters associations," in reality, it is Chevron, headquartered in San Ramon, which makes its engine run. According to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson, Chevron is "the biggest spender on political campaigns ... set[ing] aside $1.6 million" for Moving Forward.

Johnson pointed out that "The campaign contribution limit in Richmond for both individuals and companies is $2,500, but political action committees can spend unlimited amounts of money on 'in-kind' support – money not given directly to a candidate but spent on that candidate's behalf." The Contra Costa Times' Robert Rogers noted that according to documents, "All of the [PAC's] money came from Chevron."

The beneficiaries of Chevron's contributions are "Richmond City Councilman Nat Bates, [83] who's running for mayor and Donna Powers, Charles Ramsey and Al Martinez, all candidates vying for seats on the City Council," Johnson reported.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF TRUTHOUT AT BUZZFLASH

romneysequel(Photo: DonkeyHotey)Here is a recap of his most infamous and self-revealing statement of the 2012 campaign:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said in the video. "All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

"And I mean the president starts out with 48, 49 percent … he starts off with a huge number," Romney continued. "These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Romney is the distilled essence of the plutocracy: bloated with a sense of white entitlement and bursting with billions of dollars made, in large part, by lowering the income, benefits and standard of living of the US workforce. He is a guy who quintessentially - and cluelessly - represents the great redistribution of money from the working, middle class and poor to the wealthiest people in the United States. Moreover, a primary characteristic of the oligarchy - a lack of empathy - is a key element of Romney's character and an underpinning of his road to at least $250 million in personal wealth.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBaghdadBombed(Photo: Msgt. James M. Bowman, USAF)The Middle East, as a region, went sideways quite a while back, probably about the time a bunch of European countries decided to draw borders in a manner they found to be personally amusing. But if there is a point that future historians might look at, when trying to see when any semblance of coherence was lost, August 26th of 2014, the day Egypt and the United Arab Emirates dropped a few bombs on Libya, might not be a bad candidate.

We have civil wars in Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Lebanon having a wee bit of a problem with refugees. A simmering uprising in Bahrain. Continuing conflict in Yemen. And Israel continuing to do what Israel does so well. And, of course, those states that do seem to be pulling off relative stability are managing it without resorting to anything pesky like, say, democracy. And we're just fine with that, by the way. The soaring rhetoric that democracy in Iraq would spread throughout the region as a thousand flowers bloom is long gone. The promises of the Arab Spring are dead. Democracy, as it turns out, means that the people will elect governments who we don't like. Can't have that, can we?

It's all starting to resemble nothing so much as our policy during the Cold War, when the existential threat of Communism was so fundamentally terrifying that we would support any genocidal madman, so long as he was anti-communist, and would send the CIA in to "remove" those leaders who hinted at having anything approaching a pinkish hue. And so it is today: so long as a regime stands in opposition to the Islamist hordes, we're pretty much cool with them. Never mind that lumping ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas into one singular "Islamist horde" is basically moronic. That fact seems to have escaped us.

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