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EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNeedle(Photo: Biggishben)No one who supports the death penalty should have the slightest problem with the way Clayton Lockett died.

Lockett, a convicted murderer, spent 43 minutes in apparent agony Tuesday night as the state of Oklahoma tried to execute him by injecting an untested cocktail of drugs. Instead of quickly losing consciousness, he writhed in obvious distress and attempted to speak. Witnesses described what they saw as horrific.

Prison authorities halted the procedure -- they were going to revive Lockett so they could kill him at a later date, presumably in a more aesthetically pleasing manner -- but the condemned man suffered a heart attack and died.

The state postponed a second execution that had been scheduled for the same night, but I wonder why. We fool ourselves if we think there is a "humane" way to way to kill someone. Sure, the second inmate, Charles Warner, probably would have suffered an equally agonizing death. But isn't this the whole point?

When I read about the crimes Lockett committed, I wish I could support capital punishment. When I read about what Warner did, I want to strangle him with my own hands. But revenge is not the same thing as justice, and karmic retribution is not a power I trust government to exercise. The death penalty has no place in a civilized society.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
 
deptofjusticeDepartment of Justice (Photo: Wikipedia)In a recent breathlessly written "we have the inside scoop" article, The New York Times would have you believe that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is finally getting serious about filing criminal charges against a couple of banks.

Technically, the Times may prove to be right, but on a practical level, the actions it is predicting would be more of the same kid-glove treatment of too-big-to-fail banks we’ve seen in the past. As BuzzFlash at Truthout noted in commentaries last year, Attorney General Holder has officially stated his concern that prosecuting the largest banks would have adverse affects on our economy. As The New York Times reports about the possibility of looming criminal charges against two foreign banks (emphasis on foreign - Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas, not US):

Federal prosecutors are nearing criminal charges against some of the world’s biggest banks, according to lawyers briefed on the matter, a development that could produce the first guilty plea from a major bank in more than two decades.

In doing so, prosecutors are confronting the popular belief that Wall Street institutions have grown so important to the economy that they cannot be charged. A lack of criminal prosecutions of banks and their leaders fueled a public outcry over the perception that Wall Street giants are “too big to jail.”

Addressing those concerns, prosecutors in Washington and New York have met with regulators about how to criminally punish banks without putting them out of business and damaging the economy, interviews with lawyers and records reviewed by The New York Times show.

That last paragraph is devastatingly revealing.

(Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasgovernor/11227220684"> Official Texas Governor's Office Photograph by Jeremy Newman</a>)(Photo: Official Texas Governor's Office Photograph by Jeremy Newman)JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

He's back. And, this time, he has eyeglasses.

Yes, Rick "Oops" Perry, is back, pitching himself for another presidential run. What fun! Who can forget the Texas governor's nationally televised pratfall during a 2011 presidential debate, when he couldn't remember the third federal agency he intended to ax? Well, he later sniffed on Fox & Friends, "If anybody's looking for ... the smoothest debater, I readily admit I'm not that person." Clearly not.

But Rick, you weren't "debating"; you were simply trying to recite your own three talking points. One, two ... oops! And the issue isn't whether you're smooth, but whether you're stupid — way too stupid to be president of the United States of America. That's a role in which this Texan would need to match wits, not with such lamebrains as Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann, but Russia's Vladimir Putin.

But wait — there's a new Rick! As mentioned, this go-round he's sporting black-framed, designer eyeglasses, which his makeover consultants insist make him look smarter. Actually, the bespectacled Perry looks like a guy squinting at the thermostat to see if he can get his IQ up to room temperature.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amissourMissouri State Capitol (Photo: JeromeG111)If you want to see how just one Wall Street robber baron can squash democracy for the sake of greed and privatization, just look to the Missouri legislature.

According to The Progressive magazine, that's where Rex Sinquefield, a man who made his fortune off of trading in index funds, is spending millions of dollars to forward his personal agenda. Sinquefield has combined personal political giving with backing nonprofit organizations, much like the Koch brothers have done on the national level. The Progressive notes: "Sinquefield and his wife spent more than $28 million in disclosed donations in state elections since 2007, plus nearly $2 million more in disclosed donations in federal elections since 2006, for a total of at least $30 million."

That total does not include the indirect millions spent backing third-party organizations, as The Progressive details:

The jewel in [Sinquefield's] privatization crown is the Missouri-based Show-Me Institute, a rightwing think tank that receives just shy of $1 million every year from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation. Its tag line is a mouthful: "Advancing Liberty with Responsibility by Promoting Market Solutions for Missouri Public Policy."

Rex Sinquefield is the institute's president, and his daughter is also employed there (and spends her time tweeting rightwing talking points).

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asunkoch(Photo: Atmospheric Imaging Assembly)If you thought the fossil fuel industry was content to profiteer off of the earth's destruction by not supporting alternative energy, you would be wrong. That is because - as The New York Times editorial board recently pointed out - they are not just passively ignoring alternative energy sources; they are actively opposing them.

In particular, The New York Times chastises the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for financing lobbying in state legislatures to impose taxes on homeowners who install solar energy:

For the last few months, the Kochs and other big polluters have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panels to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities. So they’ve been pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive.

Oklahoma lawmakers recently approved such a surcharge at the behest of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative group that often dictates bills to Republican statehouses and receives financing from the utility industry and fossil-fuel producers, including the Kochs. As The Los Angeles Times reported recently, the Kochs and ALEC have made similar efforts in other states, though they were beaten back by solar advocates in Kansas and the surtax was reduced to $5 a month in Arizona.

But the Big Carbon advocates aren’t giving up. The same group is trying to repeal or freeze Ohio’s requirement that 12.5 percent of the state’s electric power come from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2025. Twenty-nine states have established similar standards that call for 10 percent or more in renewable power. These states can now anticipate well-financed campaigns to eliminate these targets or scale them back.

The coal producers’ motivation is clear: They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses. 

Given that our lives and the lives of future generations are in jeopardy due to climate change - largely caused by fossil fuels - the formidable effort to make renewable energy more expensive prioritizes profit over safeguarding the future of our species. 

JOE CONASON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaThomPiketty(Photo: Sue Gardner)It has been a long, long time since Americans accepted the advice of a French intellectual about anything important, let alone the future of democracy and the economy. But the furor over Thomas Piketty's stunning best-seller, "Capital in the 21st Century" — and especially the outraged reaction from the Republican right — suggests that this fresh import from la belle France has struck an exposed nerve.

What Piketty proves, with his massive data set and complex analytical tools, is something that many of us — including Pope Francis — have understood both intuitively and intellectually: namely, that human society, both here and globally, has long been grossly inequitable and is steadily becoming more so, to our moral detriment.

What Piketty strongly suggests is that the structures of capitalism not only regenerate worsening inequality, but now drive us toward a system of economic peonage and political autocracy.

The underlying equation Piketty derives is simple enough: r>g, meaning that the return on capital (property, stock and other forms of ownership) is consistently higher than economic growth. How much higher? Since the early 1800s, financiers and land-owners have enjoyed returns of roughly five percent annually, while economic growth benefiting everyone has lagged, averaging closer to one or two percent. This formula has held fairly steady across time and space. While other respectable economists may dispute his methodology and even his conclusions, they cannot dismiss his conclusions.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acheneyhannitySean Hannity interviewing Dick Cheney (Photo: Wikipedia)

If you have been watching Jon Stewart lately, you have had the pleasure of witnessing a series of withering attacks on Sean Hannity's hypocrisy.  Furthermore, BuzzFlash (for many years) and Stewart have both sniffed the simmering racism of Hannity and FOX. Yes, it's a coded racism, but it's there - lingering in the smirk of his smug lacerating comments about liberals - and is a strong magnet of attraction to the aged, largely white male, viewing base of FOX.

This came to the forefront again with Hannity's strong support for Cliven Bundy, until Bundy openly expressed his racism - thus breaking the tacit understanding of Hannity, FOX and their viewers to never publicly disclose their bigotry.  Racism on FOX (along with its bigotry cousin: "multiculturalism is destroying the United States") is a primary attraction of the program to its watchers who see white entitlement slipping from their hands. However, it is never to be openly acknowleged -- and even officially renounced if necessary, as Hannity did when he had to walk back his embrace of Bundy after the rancher channeled the opinions of a plantation slave owner on video.

As Jon Stewart pointed out, Hannity is always attacking President Obama and liberals for allegedly selectively applying the law, but when it comes to white male gun loving racists like Bundy (and anyone watching what happened before Bundy's followers threatened law enforcement officers with guns knew that racism and anti-big government sedition fit together like a hand in a kid glove), but gives enormous latitude for white males who express anti-government sentiments, even when the firearms are appointed at Hannity's beloved police.

It is important to note, yet again, that the Nevada state Constitution designates as federal property, by law, the land Cliven Bundy has been using for grazing his cattle on.

Protests in Caracas, Venezuela, February 15, 2014. (Photo: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/marquinam/13252511645/in/photostream/"> MARQUINAM / Flickr</a>)Protests in Caracas, Venezuela, February 15, 2014. (Photo: MARQUINAM / Flickr)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"No nation has the right to simply grab land from another nation. No nation has that right. And we will never recognize Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea, and neither will the world." —US Vice President Joe Biden

Yes, Joe Biden really did say that—in the aftermath of Iraq. As we all know, the US government launched an illegal, pre-emptive attack on Iraq. That tiny country and its people have been literally annihilated, tortured, imprisoned, and left for dead in a depleted uranium cancer zone where mothers are giving birth to monstrously deformed babies from uranium exposure. Iraqis have been facing a multitude of life-threatening medical atrocities, not to mention the severe poverty that escalated after a decade of US war and occupation. A puppet election was established with a puppet government. There are still thousands of innocent civilians languishing in Iraq's prisons with no sign of due process or trials. If Iraq isn't the most hideous "land-grab for oil" criminal war violation of our constitutional laws and international treaties in recent history, I don't know what is.

Not long ago, after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died, I wrote a piece for Buzzflash at Truthout.org titled, "If Democratic Leader Hugo Chávez was a Dictator, as U.S. Media Claims, Why Do Millions of People Love Him?"

Although this essay is about Hugo Chávez, it explains the current civil unrest that is taking place right now in Venezuela: The United States government was, and still is, in the business of overthrowing egalitarian, social democracies to suit the needs of US corporate interests.

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. (Photo: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/nordique/13997532791/in/photolist-nkSkLc-niVv7h-nk5rgg-njKfQ1-njkfQ9-njHe5R-nk8h4H-nktViE-nhQSSh-niEVKq-nkmisq-nfzRNL-nkeJ1g-nnp7Gw-njV1Qg-nkAv4H-nmGSF4-nmqQLV"> Peter Stevens / Flickr</a>)Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. (Photo: Peter Stevens / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cliven Bundy has stumbled through the trapdoor of right-wing media-generated celebrity and fallen flat on his face. While many following his story wondered what this government-disdaining Nevada-based rancher -- who has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land and who marshaled armed militia forces to engage in a standoff with federal agents -- was all about, America's right wing, especially the crew at Fox News, and conservative radio talk show hosts, were quick to brand Bundy a courageous leader of a New Sagebrush Rebellion.

Bundy and his followers forced the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to back down and withdraw. Team Bundy was riding high and feeling cocky. If there were such a thing, Fox News would have immediately conferred upon Bundy a "Man of the Year" award.

Then the shit hit the fan. Now, he has become the symbol of racist right wing ignorance, and fodder for late night comedians. But there is nothing funny about Bundy, his right wing views and the GOP's attempt to hitch its wagon to Bundy's crusade.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abusschool(Photo: loop_oh)
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It bears repeating again and again that the concept of charter schools is a scam and - more significantly - a betrayal of society's obligation to provide communities filled with economic opportunities to all.

recent article in the Huffington Post - "Big Profits in Not-for-Profit Charter Schools" - lays out one of the most basic complaints about charter schools: The primary parties they enrich are the administrators and nonprofits that run them, along with the for-profit consultants who provide services to allegedly "improve" public education. The article notes that some charter school administrators make "very heady profits":

Currently, there are approximately 2.5 million students enrolled in publicly funded charter schools in the United States. These charter schools are operated by both profit-making companies and "not for profit" organizations. In New York City every charter school is operated by what is known as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In New York State, only 16 out of 209 charter schools are operated by for-profit companies. In other states, particularly Michigan, Florida, and Arizona, for-profit companies dominate the charter school movement. In Michigan, about 65% of the charter schools are run by for-profit educational management organizations

However, operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student. By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student. In other words, Moskowitz earns about 100 times more than King for each student enrolled in a Success Academy Charter School. Carmen Farina, New York City School Chancellor is paid $212,000 a year to oversee 1.1 million students or about 19 cents per student.

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