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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.”

2015.2.23.Buchheit.BFTax avoidance and federal tax subsidies cost at least $10,000 per household, per year. (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Steve Wampler, epicharmus)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

That estimate is based on facts, not the conservative-style emotion that might deny the responsibility for any debt to the American people. Wealth redistribution to big business has occurred in a variety of ways to be explained below. And there's some precedent for paying Americans for the use of their commonly-held resources. The Alaska Permanent Fund has been in effect, and widely popular, for over thirty years.

The Main Argument: Corporations Have Used Our Money To Build Their Businesses

Over half (57 percent) of basic research is paid for by our tax dollars. Corporations don't want to pay for this. It's easier for them to allow public money to do the startup work, and then, when profit potential is evident, to take over with applied R&D, often with patents that take the rights away from the rest of us.

All the technology in our phones and computers started this way, and continues to the present day. Pharmaceutical companies have depended on the National Institute of Health. The quadrillion-dollar trading capacity of the financial industry was made possible by government-funded Internet technology, and the big banks survived because of a $7 trillion public bailout.

KEN JOHNSON OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSolarPanels(Photo: EcoWatch)Mark Twain said it best, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.” It’s hard to tell which is which after closely reviewing the latest hatchet job on solar energy by the Koch brothers’ front group, The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA).

Aside from spelling solar correctly, much of the report, Filling the Solar Sinkhole, is untrue or misleading—including its basic assertion that the U.S. solar industry receives $39 billion in annual subsidies. Seriously? How can that be? How can an industry with a U.S. market value of $15 billion receive $39 billion in annual subsidies? The answer: it doesn’t. This is fuzzy math, and dirty tricks, at their very worst. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The purpose of this report isn’t to inform or educate. The purpose is to incite activists and generate scandalous headlines, when, in fact, no scandal exists.

According to PV-Tech’s John Parnell, who did a thoughtful analysis, “The report doesn’t make it clear how it arrived at the $39 billion figure. Of the 26 references cited in the report, 16 of them are from organizations that were either founded by the Koch brothers, or have received funding from them.”

Enough is enough. If clean energy critics want a bare knuckle brawl, then they’re going to get one. This type of guerrilla warfare simply isn’t going to work. Americans overwhelmingly support clean, renewable solar energy—and that scares the hell out of the Koch brothers and their lackeys. Here’s the dirty little truth: few industries benefit more from the U.S. tax code than carbon-rich big oil. By their own estimates, oil and gas tax breaks amount to a staggering $100 billion over 10 years. So how do the Koch brothers divert attention away from this? They prod conservative groups, many of which they fund directly or indirectly, to attack clean energy. If it served their purposes, they would portray Snow White as an adulteress, a deadbeat and a crack queen.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anoreillycar(Image: DonkeyHotey)

Fox News and Bill O'Reilly certainly epitomize the confluence of "sustaining a self-serving narrative" with using flashy news sets and good-looking anchors to attract advertising dollars. Corporate television news is structured so as to reflect a government and business perspective - that is to convey "news" to reflect the outlook of the neoliberal oligarchical status quo. Fox, however, goes one step beyond and maintains a focus on emotionally charged "framing" of so-called news to reinforce and inflame racist, Christian fundamentalist and ALEC-style political biases. 

War and violence are a mainstay of corporate news coverage, in part, because there is a voyeuristic, sordid viewer interest in "war porn" and everyday violence in the US. In short, death and destruction are good for ratings. Perhaps the apogee of war and violence as spectacles that attract television watchers - and increase ad dollars to the networks - was the breathless promotion of the "shock and awe" opening night invasion of Iraq. It was the carnage of war repackaged as a Disneyland fireworks display. 

This context explains why Brian Williams was probably not a rare exception, when it comes to corporate news celebrities burnishing their resumes with embellished tales of heroism. This type of dramatic embellishment meets the dramatic needs of contemporary television reporting. 

As a result, it should be no surprise that Bill O'Reilly - who once was a TV reporter and is now a bloviating television pundit espousing a caricature of jingoistic, alleged Christian virtues - is being accused of enhancing his war reporting record to make himself appear daring and fearless.  

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

awarter(Photo: spanaut)

It has been clear for years that the US government and mass media's application of the word "terrorism" is highly subjective. If the US kills civilians in drone attacks it is, according to the White House, not terrorism; it's self-defense. If a white male gun enthusiast kills three Muslim students, it's not terrorism; it's a dispute over parking.

Want to challenge injustice and make real change happen? That’s the goal of Truthout and BuzzFlash, and we depend on our readers - support our work with a donation today!

The examples of how violent acts committed by nation-states or white males are not terrorism are virtually endless. That doesn't just apply to the United States, of course. It is the prerogative of white eurocentric culture to attribute violent acts - even on a large scale - of members of the dominant classes to individual pathology rather than "terrorism." BuzzFlash at Truthout is hardly the first site to point out that Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 children and adults in Norway in 2011, is generally described as an extremist, radical or mass murderer, but not a terrorist. On the other hand, the term is often used automatically when a Muslim commits an act of violence.

Breivik's acts, however, actually mirror those of the killers in Paris and Copenhagen, who were immediately branded as terrorists because of their Islamic association. According to an article on the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) website, "At the time of the massacre, Breivik said his actions were 'cruel but necessary' to save Europe from Islam and multiculturalism." In short, he had an agenda to "terrorize" Norway and Europe based on his notions of Aryan supremacy. Yet, no government, to our knowledge, warned its citizens of the terrorist threat of Aryan supremacists after Breivik's carnage, even though he slaughtered nearly 80 people - mostly children at a camp on an island.

This double standard about who is labeled a terrorist and who is not is indicative of the malleable use of the term by Western nations in order to manipulate public opinion.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPeaceImagine(Photo: Adam Zivner)We’re watching Katy Perry’s Super Bowl half-time show and out pops Missy Elliott, and she’s wearing a Jumpsuit, and there, on the left thigh of her outfit, is what looks like a peace symbol. While it may be a little incongruous/bizarre in this age of US acts of war, terrorist beheadings, US Drone strikes and other acts of state and non-state violence to think about the Peace Symbol, Elliot’s outfit reminded me that fifty-seven-years after its creation, the Peace Symbol is still found even in the most unlikely of places, i.e. the National Football League’s 49th Annual Super Bowl.

Over the years, the Peace Symbol has endured charges by the far right, including the John Birch Society, which claimed that it was “associated … with a broken cross, Communism, [the] anti-Christ, and Satanism,” and it has survived twentieth, and now twenty-first, century crass commercialism.

People wear the peace symbol – as jewelry, and on shirts, scarves, dresses, raingear; carry it around on their lunchboxes, book bags, umbrellas; and, I am guessing here, more than a few folks have it tattooed somewhere on their bodies. In short, the Peace Symbol has become as American as hot dogs, crappy television programs, income inequality, and mass shootings.

Few, however, know of its origins. I know this to be true because I have occasionally stopped a peace symbol wearer, and after mentioning that I admired their peace symbol, I‘ve asked them if they knew of its derivation. The question invariably draws a smile, and a blank look.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBlood(Photo: Crystal)Good and evil leap from the headlines: “Egyptian planes pound ISIS in Libya in revenge for mass beheadings of Christians.”

It’s nonstop action for the American public. It’s the history of war compressed into a dozen words. It’s Fox News, but it could be just about any mainstream purveyor of current events.

Once again, I feel a cry of despair tear loose from my soul and spill into the void. Our politics are out of control. There’s no sanity left — no calmness of strategic assessment, no impulse control. At least none of that stuff is allowed into the mainstream conversation about national security, which amounts to: ISIS is bad. The more of them we (or our allies of the moment) kill, the better. USA! USA!

We’re in a state of perpetual war and have no intention of escaping it. Certainly we have no intention of critiquing our own actions or — don’t be silly — questioning the effectiveness of war, occupation or high-tech terror (think: “shock and awe”) as a means to create a stable, secure world. The interests of war have dug in for the long haul, fortified by the cynicism of the media they own. The voices of reason cry from the margins. When a trickle of sanity finds its way into the mainstream, it’s mocked until it goes away.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afearphoto(Photo: Loretta Prencipe)

Fear is a primary, primordial emotion.

It can easily be manipulated so that reason and logic are bypassed, as people cower in support of anything that will allegedly save them from what they perceive as a threat to their lives.

Since 9/11, the US government has been masterful at using fear to manipulate voters into supporting large-scale military intervention and intrusive surveillance policies. Fear is the fuel for the expansion of a military-industrial-surveillance state.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has long used fear as the basis for justifying unrestricted gun availability. However, just scratch the surface of much of the NRA's inflammatory rhetoric and you will find racism. Indeed, the subtext of the NRA's alarmist appeal on behalf of gun ownership primarily appeals to white males. White people need guns, the NRA says with a coded nod and a wink, because "the other" - males of color - are, in this racist sub-narrative, a daily threat to the lives of "law-abiding" white males and their families. You can draw a straight line from the institution of slavery - justified by disputing the humanity of Africans - to the NRA's appeal to white males.

This practice of creating a stereotyped class of people to fear - let us call them "the other" - is as prevalent in US government and corporate media today as it is in the NRA. These days, "the other" label is categorically applied to Muslims. 

2015.2.18.Durst.BFRoy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, defends Alabama judges that refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses and talks about his personal views. (Screen grab via Bloomberg Business / YouTube)WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Kind of sad being forced to watch the death struggle of these modern-day dinosaurs. Responsible parents should keep their kids from peering over the Plexiglas railing into the tar pits below to see the huge lumbering antediluvian beasts frenziedly dig themselves deeper into the sticky morass that is gay marriage. Not a sight for the queasy or squeamish.

For some unfathomable reason, the thought of other people having sex makes certain folks crazier than a three-legged, drunken squirrel on a telephone wire covered in ice. Judge Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is one of those; and frankly, his obsession is becoming more than a mite suspicious.

Last week, Moore ordered probate judges in the Yellowhammer State to ignore a federal court order and refuse to issue marriage certificates to gay couples. Like the Civil War, these guys are programmed to never give up. Hey, South! Get over it. Unless you have compromising photos of US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy with a baby brontosaurus, gay marriage is a done deal. And guess what, you lost. Again. Deal with it.

2015.2.18.Berkowitz.BFA new, mean-spirited attack on the gay community is being launched by the religious right. (Image: Loren Javier / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A group of conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants are gearing up for the culture war battle of the century. A new manifesto – to be revealed in the March edition of the conservative publication First Things -- is meant to set the tone for the upcoming decision on same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court, and perhaps the 2016 presidential election as well.

The document maintains that same-sex marriage is "a graver threat" to the social order than "easy acceptance of divorce" or "widespread cohabitation." "We must say, as clearly as possible, that same-sex unions, even when sanctioned by the state, are not marriages," the document stated. "Christians who wish to remain faithful to the Scriptures and Christian tradition cannot embrace this falsification of reality, irrespective of its status in law."

With temperate rhetoric tossed aside, and a new mean-spirited attack on the gay community being launched, language in the new document makes signees like the Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest Calif., and Robert George, professor at Princeton University and vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms, sound like the second coming of the late Rev. Fred Phelps.

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