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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCrossified(Photo: Herrad of Landsberg)By recently unveiling its "Bigotry Map," which exposes "Anti-Christian Bigotry in America," the American Family Association, apparently tired of being monitored, tracked, and vilified, has decided to turn the tables on "anti-Christian bigots" in the United States, and do some tracking of its own.

On its website, a newly developed interactive map of the United States is marked by symbols identifying "groups and organizations that openly display bigotry toward the Christian faith." You can do a state-by-state search to discover which of these groups reside in your neck of the woods.

The symbols designate whether the group identified is part of the "Homosexual Agenda" – "Advocates for the legalization and promotion of same-sex marriage and viciously attacks Christians who exercise their First Amendment right to voice support for God's plan for marriage as between one man and one woman -- is out-and-out "Anti-Christian" – "Actively engages in the complete eradication of the Christian faith from society, government and private commerce. These groups file lawsuits and use intimidation to silence any reference to Christianity from the public square" -- is "Atheist" – "Does not believe in God and is critical of those who express their faith in public" – or "Humanist" – "Believes critical thinking and physical evidence are the sole basis for beliefs. Humanists believe science triumphs faith in issues of morality and decision-making."

The website also singles out four organizations, two of which deal directly with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. They are the Human Rights Campaign; GLSEN; the Freedom From Religion Foundation; and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has been a particular thorn in the side of the AFA ever since the SPLC labeled the AFA a hate group.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

lethalinjection(Photo: Ken Piorkowski)

CNN trumpeted the news: "Weather threat postpones Georgia's first execution of a woman in 70 years." 

The use of lethal injection as a form of capital punishment was meant to make killing in the name of the state more palatable.After all, the image of someone bound to a gurney sighing before dying makes taking someone's life seem a lot more "humane" - on a visual level - than the image of a dangling body kicking and jerking during a hanging, or smoke and fire coming from a condemned person's head during an electrocution, or blood spurting from a body after death by a firing squad.

Of course, there have been several "botched" lethal injection executions in which the deaths have been prolonged and grueling. One cause of this: Since it is increasingly difficult to procure lethal injection drugs, some eager-to-execute states have been using "untested" combinations of drugs that sometimes have horrific results. According to a 2014 article on the website Cerca, 

After recently running out of supplies of pentobarbital, some states have obtained the lethal injection drug from compound pharmacies or are experimenting with untested drug combos.

Pharmaceutical companies worldwide have boycotted the sale of drugs used for executions to U.S. prison systems in recent years. Alternatives like the gas chamber or electric chair would be problematic for states and could "raise the spectacle" level, according to death penalty expert Richard Dieter. 

Compounding pharmacies aren't subject to FDA regulation, raising concerns about drug contamination. Lawyers for inmates allege pentobarbital can cause a possibly painful and prolonged death. Several states, including Georgia, have enacted secrecy laws around the origins of their lethal drugs.

Thursday, 26 February 2015 06:49

Peace Behind Barbed Wire: The Far Side of Fear

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBarbWire(Photo: Logan King)As media ownership converges and technology “unites” us, the concept of national identity grows ever easier to exploit — and therefore, I fear, increasingly, and dangerously, simplistic.

This is the war on terror. This is the war on crime. They march on, despite the magnitude of their failures. They march on . . . because America is tough. America is exceptional.

If our news and mass-entertainment outlets valued complexity and expansion of the national IQ, we wouldn’t go to war. We’d be building our lives on the far side of fear and the far side of cynicism, which is the only place where peace is possible.

It’s not like we aren’t doing that anyway, to a certain extent. But it only becomes news when visionary journalists — peace journalists — declare that it is, which is why, every year for the last seven years now, I have written about and celebrated Chicago’s Peace on Earth Film Festival, which showcases extraordinary films that step beyond the simplistic myth of good vs. evil, us vs. them. This year the festival is scheduled for March 19-22 at the Chicago Cultural Center; as always, it’s free of charge.

“I was a thief, I was a manipulator, I was a con. I had lost all contact with my heart.”

So it is in this context that I reflect on the words of Lisandro Martinez, quoted above, and the words of a dozen other prisoners and ex-prisoners at Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio, Texas, who were among the participants in a class at the prison run by volunteers and called, of all things, Inner Peace. It almost doesn’t sound possible — a class like this at a place where we corral bad guys, “offenders,” criminals — much less that it could be effective.

2015.2.25.iMatter.BFiMatter youth march. The iMatter campaign, an initiative of Kids vs. Global Warming and Our Children’s Trust, is composed of young people driving change. (Photo: Backbone Campaign / Flickr)

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Many young people feel they have too much at stake to wait for our leaders to get their act together and take meaningful action on climate change. In the words of one young climate activist, Alec Loorz, we need to demand our political leaders “govern as if our future matters.” With their future at stake, many youth have taken their case to the courts in the hopes that the judiciary will require the legislature to take action.

“We are all in imminent danger,” Loorz, who founded the nonprofit Kids vs. Global Warming, told Outside Magazine. “Scientists have said we have 10 years to make changes if we want to stabilize the climate by 2100—and that was back in 2005 … We care more about money and power than we do about future generations. The judicial system is the only branch of government not bought out by corporate interests.”

On Bill Moyer’s show last month, Mary Christina Wood, law professor at the University of Oregon and author of Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, explains what is being called the “Children’s Climate Crusade.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

agiulballoonsRudy G.: The Man Who Loved Himself Too Much (Photo: VictoryNH)

At BuzzFlash, we have long been critical of many of the key neoliberal policies of the Obama administration. The white House's positions on foreign policy and Wall Street, for example, have always embodied the consensus conventional wisdom of the duopoly - and that is not an expression of praise.

There are, of course, some relative differences between Obama and the GOP on several issues, such as the environment, the social safety net, job creation and a few social justice issues - but in large part, the gap is more of an intra-party dispute rather than an inter-party conflict. However, during the two terms of the Obama administration, the white Republican leaders, media and base have biliously attacked Obama and relentlessly impugned his "love of country." This has occurred despite Obama's aggressive support of the military-industrial-surveillance complex and the current financial system.

Of course, most readers of this commentary are aware that just a short while ago, Rudy Giuliani - a man inexorably in love with himself - told an audience of one-percenters in New York that, in essence, Obama is a traitor to the United States. Of all people, Fox's Megan Kelly's challenged Giuliani on air - and Giuliani responded by launching even more lacerating attacks on Obama's loyalty to the US (stating that he and his ancestors were associated with communists). Here is Giuliani's original statement at an NYC dinner honoring Wisconsin Governor Scott (Koch Brothers) Walker, as posted on FOX:

I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you and he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.

Kelly repeatedly pressed Giuliani if he stood by the accusation, which he did at that time. At one point Giuliani cut to the heart of the matter:

I don't hear from him [Obama] what I heard from Harry Truman, what I heard from Bill Clinton, what I heard from Jimmy Carter, which is these wonderful words about what a great country we are, what an exceptional country we are.

Giuliani is praising three white Democratic presidents, while lacerating Obama over the mythical notion of "American exceptionalism." At the heart of the notion of "American exceptionalism," of course, is the idea that the US was divinely chosen to be led by white Christians and to extend its empire of ruling elite values throughout the world.

HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDiabloNuke(Photo: EcoWatch)New revelations about earthquake dangers have shaken the future of California’s Diablo Canyon nukes.

In a rare move, Washington DC’s Federal U.S. Court of Appeals will hear a landmark challenge to their continued operation.

The suit says Diablo’s owners illegally conspired with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken seismic standards. “This is a big victory,” says Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth. “The public has a right to know what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric won’t admit—hundreds of thousands of people are put at immediate risk by earthquake danger at Diablo Canyon.”

Diablo is also vulnerable on state and federal water quality regulations, economic concerns and more. Citizen activism has also shut operating reactors at Humboldt, Rancho Seco and San Onofre. Proposed projects have been cancelled at Bodega Bay and Bakersfield.

California’s two remaining reactors are surrounded by more than a dozen seismic fault lines. The Shoreline fault runs within 600-700 yards of the Diablo cores, which also sit just 45 miles from the massive San Andreas fault—half Fukushima’s distance from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it.

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGod(Photo: Cima da Conegliano)It was in 1832 that the first Nullification Crisis occurred. Oddly enough, it was not about slavery, but rather about money. In 1828 and 1832 Congress had passed two acts establishing protective tariffs, which benefitted the manufacturers of the North and harmed the agricultural interests of the South. South Carolina was the state that was most upset about this state of affairs.

The leading politician in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun actually resigned the Vice-Presidency so that he could more effectively lead the opposition to the tariff legislation. The South Carolina legislature passed a law that if the objectionable tariffs were not reduced further (they had been reduced between the 1828 act and the one of 1832) South Carolina would resist their collection by force of arms. The President was Andrew Jackson, a fellow Southerner to Calhoun and a slave-owner. He would have none of it and got Congress to pass a law authorizing him to use force if South Carolina did the same. In the end, the tariffs were reduced a bit further, both sides backed down, and violence was averted.

The next nullification crisis, in 1861, led to the First Civil War. This one was not over something that the Federal government had actually done, but what it, under Lincoln, the Federal government might do. Lincoln was a strong opponent of the expansion of slavery to the Territories (although he had made a clear pledge not to interfere with slavery in those states in which it existed at the time). Nevertheless, as is well-known, well before Lincoln was inaugurated, led by South Carolina, 11 states seceded and . . . . Other attempts at nullification or one sort or another took place in the South around the issue of school integration (see Gov. Faubus in Arkansas and Gov. Wallace in Alabama).

Now we are faced with another act of nullification by an organ of state government, the State’s Supreme Court in the person of its Chief Justice, against the Federal judiciary in general and the Supreme Court of the United States in particular. Interestingly enough, the issue this time around is neither money nor slavery but rather the role of theism in making both Federal and state law.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aplutoberman(Photo: Jon Fowler)

The Citizens United decision opened up the floodgates, providing the plutocracy with even more financial leverage to influence election outcomes. However, even before Citizens United, there were many toolsin which vast sums of money were legally used to ensure that legislative and regulatory bodies - from small towns to Congress - served the interests of corporations and the wealthy. Those tools are now multiplying.

On Monday, February 23, The Guardian reported on one of these oligarchical strategies: the use of disguised front groups (backed by secret big money) to ensure profits at the expense of the public good. The report focuses on an individual lobbyist, Richard Berman, and his firm, which specializes in setting up "false front" studies and organizations. (Of corse, this is just one tool of many that are funded by the uber-rich, to undermine the interests of the majority.)

The Guardian article is entitled, "Lobbyist dubbed Dr Evil behind front groups attacking Obama power rules: Richard Berman routed funding for at least 16 studies and five front groups attacking Environmental Protection Agency rules on power plant emissions." Berman, according to The Guardian, is

the hidden orchestrator of industry campaigns against the Humane Society, Mothers against Drunk Driving, and other seemingly uncontroversial groups....

Over the last year, Berman has secretly routed funding...attacking Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting carbon dioxide from power plants, the Guardian has learned.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anexfinityComcast and other internet monopolizers will continue to make an "xfinity" of profits, even if net neutrality is preserved. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

Comcast, the most dreaded customer service and internet cable provider in the nation, will soon control more than half the US cable and internet market - if the FCC approves its merger with Time Warner Cable, which it is likely to do. According to The Guardian:

And in the meantime cable cutters [persons who are no longer subscribing to cable TV] bemoaning their lack of choice face an even more consolidated market. If the Comcast/Time Warner deals goes through, according to the FCC’s measures some 63% of US consumers will only have one choice of broadband provider.

Proponents of net neutrality like Neil Hunt, chief product officer at Netflix, have previously bemoaned the lack of competition among internet service providers.

“The reality in this country is that we don’t really have competition for which cable provider you really get your broadband from,” Hunt told the Guardian last year. And as such, if companies like Netflix want to reach consumers in all parts of the US, they have to find a way to work with the particular providers servicing those individual areas.

Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal pictures, is a juggernaut. According to Philadelphia Magazine, Comcast generated $68 billion in 2014. It, like the other few major players in cable and the internet (including AT&T), has consolidated internet, cable television and phone services, through investing in fiber optic cables and then reaping windfall profits by acquiring smaller providers and increasing monthly charges to consumers. Although cable subscribers in the US are reportedly decreasing due to the increased diversity of entertainment and news offerings on the internet - as well as frequently shoddy service and high "packaged" pricing for cable - providers such as Comcast are making up for it by charging high fees for fast broadband. 

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT2015.2.23.Berkowitz.BFIn his first foreign policy speech since he began moving around the country raising oodles of money, Jeb Bush tried to give his father and brother props, and then claim that he is his own man. (Photo: World Affairs Council / Flickr)

It is still extremely early in 2016 presidential politics, but, with the race for the Republican Party nomination under way, we may be getting a not-so-sneaky preview of how former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush intends to navigate his way around the minefield of foreign policy decision-making by his father, President George H.W. Bush, and brother, President George W. Bush. While he still has to sit around the Thanksgiving table with his family, Jeb understands that it is of utmost importance that he offers his own foreign policy vision. Stay tuned for what appears to be the mother of all-political flip-flopping, back flipping, and political U-turns; moonwalking that would make the late Michael Jackson stand up and smile.

In his first foreign policy speech since he began moving around the country raising oodles of money while exploring a run for the presidency, Jeb Bush tried, albeit awkwardly, to give his father and brother props, and then claim that he is his own man when it comes to foreign policy issues.

Before an audience at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Bush allowed that he’s:

“been fortunate to have a father and a brother who helped shape America's foreign-policy from the oval office. I recognize that as a result my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs. In fact, this is a great, fascinating thing in the political world for some reason. Sometimes in contrast to theirs. Look, just for the record, one more time, I love my brother, I love my dad, I actually love my mother as well, hope that's OK. And I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make, but I'm my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.”

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