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STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEmbeddedJournalist(Photo: Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel)Close to ten years ago Frank Rich, formerly of The New York Times, presently of New York Magazine, wrote one of the best books on the Bush/Cheney War on Iraq. Entitled The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America, it definitively took the cover off the Bush/Cheney lies that led the United States into what to date has been the most disastrous war the nation has ever been engaged in.

In a recent issue of the New York Magazine, Rich visits the role of the so-called "liberal media" in making the BushCheney initiative a "go." In a side-bar, he summarizes his overview of the initiative: "The massive blunder of Iraq remains the nation's inescapable existential burden two and a half years after our last troops departed." Now, one must say that in terms of Bush/Cheney's true objectives, that is the establishment of permanent war or at least the permanent preparation for permanent war, that objective has been achieved. True, President Obama has announced that most U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2016.

However, one never knows A) what war or wars "of necessity" might pop up in the interim, B) what would happen were a Republican of the neocon persuasion (Ted Cruz, anyone?) were to win the Presidency in 2016. Why there might be just the smallest of gaps in the Permanent War sequence, and certainly the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War would be fully restored. (And even President Obama seems to be moving in the latter direction.) But for our nation as a whole, Rich is right: it was a "massive blunder."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afracsand2A frac sand excavation in Wisconsin. (Photo: uwex)

An essential resource needed in the fracking extraction process is a relatively rare sand - and Illinois has one of the largest supplies in the United States. As a result, once again the fossil fuel industry is forcing destructive changes in nature that threaten, in this case, farming in the United States heartland: the nation's breadbasket. This is because the sand exists in deposits under rich Illinois agricutural land.

In a June 8 article, the Chicago Tribune spelled out the financial stakes at play:

Dallas-based Eagle Materials Inc., poised to start operating in LaSalle County, estimates it would sell at least 900,000 tons of sand a year from a single mine on 564 acres. At $110 a ton, the company estimates the mine will generate $99 million a year over the next 45 years, according to a state permit application. Analysts who follow Eagle Materials say about $40 of the $110-per-ton price is pure profit.

"Mining frac sand is a lot like mining regular sand except it's wildly profitable, and that's why everyone wants to do it," said Todd Vencil, managing director of equities research at Sterne Agee, a privately owned brokerage firm based in Birmingham, Ala.

The company paid $8 million to buy the land, according to property and state records, and it expects to invest $25 million to $50 million to get the mine running, according to company filings.

The rolling corn and soybean fields near Starved Rock State Park, 95 miles southwest of Chicago, are coveted by multinational corporations for the fine-grain sand deep below the rich soil. Known as Ottawa white, the sand is uniformly circular — perfect for drillers who pump a mixture of sand and chemicals into fracking wells across the nation.

"In the world, there are not that many — geographically speaking — deposits of very high quality northern white sand that has the technical specifications that are in greatest demand. One of those areas is in Illinois, and it's close to the surface of the earth," said Robert Stewart, executive vice president of strategy, corporate development and communications at Eagle Materials.

Cities in LaSalle County, in north central Illinois, are exempt from a county ban on new sand excavation, and many are cutting deals for royalties that are being paid to towns from the frac sand mining companies.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNazis(Photo: German Federal Archive)In late May, the BBC reported that "Eurosceptic and far-right parties have seized ground in elections to the European parliament, in what France's PM called a 'political earthquake'." Aftershocks from the far-right's European "political earthquake" are being felt in the United States, as America's White supremacists are celebrating like it's 1999.

It takes an experienced researcher and writer with an international perspective to dissect the recent European parliament elections and try and understand what it means to, and for, the far right in the United States. And, Devin Burghart is the perfect person for the job. In a recent post at the website of the Institute For Research & Education On Human Rights (IREHR), Burghart pointed out that for the most part, America's far right is rejoicing over the results of the elections.

"Many on the American far right, from the Tea Party to hardened white nationalists, paid close attention to the European results," Burghart, vice president of IREHR, wrote in a story titled, American Far Right Jubilant Over European Election Results. "Looking at these votes for nationalist, anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-European Union political parties — the American hard right saw hope for the future here at home."

Burghart pointed to several emergent themes including: "1) nationalist, anti-globalist arguments in the age of austerity and financial turmoil, 2) anti-immigrant politics as a winning message, and 3) the necessity of a white electoral strategy here at home."

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPOW(Photo: James Pollock)Last week, President Obama gave an emotionally stirring announcement with Sergeant Bergdahl's grateful parents by his side in the White House Rose Garden concerning the return of their beloved son, Sgt. Bowe Berghahl, who's been held in captivity for five years in Afghanistan. Obama explained that they "made a deal to bring home the longest-held American captive of America's longest war."

It didn't take long for Republicans and the right-wing media to attack President Obama for doing something that was morally right for a change: for taking ethical action that brings us closer to shutting down Guantanamo Bay Prison, as I wrote in my last Buzzflash-Truthout commentary, a prison widely known for its illegal practice of indefinite detention, and for its CIA horrors of physical torture and psychological abuses.

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, prosecutor of ethical whistleblowers' Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) and Edward Snowden (whistleblower on NSA's surveillance abuses), joined angry Republicans' crazy John McCain, Ted Cruz, and other moral midgets to instigate a bully attack, insisting that the exchange of the Taliban prisoners for Mr. Bergdahl puts American lives at risk, a statement meant to stir up the pit bulls at the corporate media, to block any hope of shutting down GITMO.

After all, most Republicans think GITMO is a symbol of unlimited power to the world, and most Bush-Cheney Republicans have turned a blind eye to torturing human beings in the most sickening, gruesome ways, including raping males with harsh instruments—at GITMO.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ajudgesec(Photo: stockmonkeys.com)On Wednesday, June 4, an appeals court overturned an earlier ruling by Federal District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff that would have required the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to crack down harder on Wall Street banks that egregiously violate regulations and the law.

In a 2011 decision, Rakoff prohibited an SEC settlement with Citigroup from proceeding. His objections included that the SEC let Citigroup "off with little more than a slap on the wrist," according to The New York Times. Rakoff admonished the regulatory agency, saying that it could not continuously "punish" serious and massive financial wrongdoing with financial fines without requiring the banks to admit wrongdoing.

The Rakoff 2011 ruling was one of few on the federal level that challenged the SEC's and Department of Justice's (DOJ) practice of allowing Wall Street financial institutions to get away with malfeasance by levying fines that become merely the cost of doing business. In short, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has detailed many times, the primary enforcement institutions over the integrity of our financial system enable prodigious wrongdoing.

DR DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOceanTrash(Photo: NOAA)June 8 is World Oceans Day. It's a fitting time to contemplate humanity's evolving relationship with the source of all life. For much of human history, we've affected marine ecosystems primarily by what we've taken out of the seas. The challenge as we encounter warming temperatures and increasing industrial activity will be to manage what we put into them.

As a top predator, humans from the tropics to the poles have harvested all forms of marine life, from the smallest shrimp to the largest whales, from the ocean's surface to its floor. The staggering volume of fish removed from our waters has had a ripple effect through all ocean ecosystems. Yet the ocean continues to provide food for billions of people, and improved fishing practices in many places, including Canada, are leading to healthier marine-life populations. We're slowly getting better at managing what we catch to keep it within the ocean's capacity to replenish. But while we may be advancing in this battle, we're losing the war with climate change and pollution.

In the coming years, our ties to the oceans will be defined by what we put into them: carbon dioxide, nutrients washed from the land, diseases from aquaculture and land-based animals, invasive species, plastics, contaminants, noise and ever-increasing marine traffic. We once incorrectly viewed oceans as limitless storehouses of marine bounty and places to dump our garbage; now it's clear they can only handle so much.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

trickledown345(Photo: Bankenstein)If someone insists that it is not raining when it is, you might think that you can persuade him or her by taking the denier to a window and showing him or her the downpour, with drops splattering against the glass.

When the person insists that the drenching rain is really only due to a sprinkler being on - even though the sky is filled with lightning and booming with thunder - you know that you have a reality denier in your midst.

The upholders of the reigning economic policy in the US - trickle-down economics - are once again taking issue with data that disproves that the concentration of wealth will benefit the economy as a whole. Such is the case in financial media criticism of Thomas Piketty's data in Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which Piketty has already refuted. (You can watch a highly informative conversation between Piketty and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), in which he handily dismisses challenges to his book.)

Aside from periodic economic studies that debunk the idea that the concentration of capital in the hands of the few improves the US gross domestic product and expands jobs and wages - as BuzzFlash at Truthout discussed in a commentary last week - there is a more compelling refutation of the notion that letting the rich get richer benefits everyone: reality.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJournalism(Photo: Kai Mörk)Too often "the law" is nothing more than prejudice embedded in jargon.

So the Obama administration, in its attempt to hammer another national security leaker, is directly challenging the right of journalists to protect confidential sources. Administration lawyers, arguing this week before the Supreme Court — which rejected New York Times reporter James Risen's appeal of a Circuit Court decision that could require him to testify in the case against a former CIA officer — asserted, according to the Times, that "reporters have no privilege to refuse to provide direct evidence of criminal wrongdoing by confidential sources."

Wrongdoing is one thing but, wow, "criminal wrongdoing" is quite another. The phrase bristles with righteous fury, summoning a sense of no-nonsense seriousness that sends a tremor to the very foundations of our society. The former CIA guy the administration wants to nail, Jeffrey Sterling, may have passed classified information — this is the government's contention — along to reporter Risen, and therefore endangered the nation's security. Criminal wrongdoing! Same as murder, rape and shoplifting. Freedom of the press doesn't give journalists the privilege to protect people like this.

One problem here is that the discussion of this issue is safely confined to abstract concepts. When we unravel the facts of this matter and put them in a real context of national — indeed, global — security, the legal trumpet-blasting reduces to a kind of weak toot. This is all about nuclear weapons, geopolitics . . . and public relations, specifically, the government's right to orchestrate what the public knows.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ahomeless6(Photo: Vlastula)

BuzzFlash at Truthout has posted several commentaries on the war on the homeless, including one yesterday entitled, "Liberal Bastion of San Francisco Bay Area Continues NIMBY Crackdown on Homeless." In April, we offered the commentary, "Criminalizing People Who Live in Cars Is a New Low in the War on the Poor."

Nothing increases homelessness like income inequality. Other causes of people in the United States living without permanent shelter include a decrease in services for persons with mental health needs, less funds for agencies that provide homeless services (including places to sleep), foreclosures, domestic violence, loss of work, gentrification and the lack of availability of inexpensive single room occupancy housing, teenage runaways without resources, etc.

As a result, we have seen a nationally spreading war on the homeless that aims to make them disappear without assisting them.  Many cities and communities, as BuzzFlash noted in our commentary yesterday, regard the homeless as a form of urban blight.

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 07:17

The Koch Brothers Will Bankrupt Us

(Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/8432382363/in/photolist-fm3eMM-dR9auP-bJS88n-bu7YWi-aTfYhF" target="_blank">Jared Rodriguez / Truthout</a>)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In the bad old days, medieval German Lords figured out how to pocket some quick coin by charging a toll on the primitive paths meandering across their lands. The money wasn't used to improve the roads or better the lives of the peasants or clean the rivers their pigs pooped in but rather heighten the piles in their treasury. Even back then, you just couldn't have enough pewter candlesticks.

These were the first robber barons. Literally. Rich people whose sole pursuit was to survive to become richer people. A criminal aristocracy. A term history has proved redundant.

During the Gilded Age, the flushest 1% of the country held 1/3 of the national income. In the 1920s, this figure ramped up to 2/5ths. Molehills compared to today's mountainous wealth, where the richest 400 American families control more money than the poorest 165 million of their fellow citizens put together. And if all 165 million were knelt end to end, those 400 families would have footrests from any compass point.

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