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Saturday, 09 May 2015 07:13

A Life That Mattered

2015.9.5 BF BRaschWALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Michael Blake died last week.

You probably don’t know the name.

You probably don’t know about his life.

You probably don’t know most of what he wrote. That’s probably because he didn’t write diet and exercise books. Or cookbooks. Or “feel good” books. Or books about celebrities. Or books that advanced junk science or conspiracy theories.

Michael Blake fused history and social issues, writing about social justice. Writing books that mattered. Writing screenplays that were never produced and then discarded.

He was born in Fort Bragg, N.C.; his father was in the Army, and later became a telephone executive. But it was his mother, Sally, who dominated his life. It was her last name, “Blake,” that he adopted as his own, pushing aside his father’s name, “Webb.”

Michael Blake studied journalism at the University of New Mexico, dropping out in his senior year; he would later study film at the Berkeley Film Institute.

2015.7.5 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Ahmad Hammoud)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

This year is the 50th anniversary of the rise of the Underground Press. The growth of alternative media across the country in the mid-to-late 1960s was a sudden and unexpected phenomenon. Newspapers appeared in all sorts of places, some, where they might be expected, including Berkeley, California’s The Berkeley Barb (1965), New York City’s The East Village Other (1965), and Chicago, Illinois’ The Chicago Seed (1967). Many other papers popped up in smaller cities and towns, some of which were attached to a college or university, such as Ann Arbor, Michigan’s The Ann Arbor Argus (1969), Madison, Wisconsin’s The Madison Kaleidoscope (1967), and Lawrence, Kansas’ Reconstruction (1969).

The need was manifest to political and social activists: Either the mainstream media ignored important issues of the times -- the growing Vietnam War protest movement, the civil rights movement, New Left politics, issues affecting students on college campuses, the counterculture’s music, drug use and alternative lifestyles -- or their coverage of them was inadequate and often incompetent.

Young people wanted to report the news as they experienced and understood it, and tell their own stories, and that is what they did.

Independent news services, such as Liberation News Service and the Underground Press Syndicate, were created to serve the mushrooming crop of newspapers. At the same time, political organizations, and a number of organizations involved with what was called “the party building movement,” founded their own publications.

2015.7.5 BF KOEHLER(Photo: Joe Flood)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The 21st century has skewed off plan and begun to break open. Its self-designated guardians and explainers look on, at times, confused.

“But at least 15 police officers have been hurt, 200 arrests, 144 vehicle fires — these are statistics. There’s no excuse for that kind of violence, right?”

This is CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewing DeRay Mckesson last week as Baltimore convulsed. Mckesson, an organizer and citizen-journalist — a young, former school administrator radicalized last summer by the death of Michael Brown — stared into the camera and refused to succumb to, or be ensnared in, the anchorman’s agenda. That agenda was obvious: to turn “the riot” into the news, to sever Baltimore’s fury and despair from its cause, a militarized police force and the casual, ongoing murder of African-Americans. The official agenda was to portray the protesters as terrorists.

“Yeah, and there’s no excuse for the seven people that the Baltimore City Police Department killed in the last year either, right?” McKesson answered, flipping the interview on its head.

The mainstream news is supposed to be delivered with a ho-hum and a smirk. It’s not supposed to be deep or intelligent. It’s deliberately superficial in most ways in order to avoid making awkward connections — you know, about police violence, militarized society, war. This stuff is all official and necessary (not to mention integral to our economy). The only connections the corporate media ever make are the ties that bad people — our enemies — have to one another, and to ISIS or al-Qaeda.

DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHill(Photo: Josve05a)Less than three weeks into her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has already accomplished a stunning feat: She appears to have unified large swaths of the Democratic Party and its activist base to support the core tenets of the Citizens United decision — the one that effectively allowed unlimited money into politics.

That 2010 Supreme Court ruling declared that, unless there is an explicit quid pro quo, the fact that major campaign donors "may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt." The theory is that as long as a donor and a politician do not agree to an overt bribe, everything is A-OK.

When the ruling was handed down, Democrats were outraged, and Hillary Clinton herself has recently suggested she wants it overturned. Yet with revelations that firms with business before Clinton's State Department donated to her foundation and paid her husband, Clinton's campaign and rank-and-file Democratic activists are suddenly championing the Citizens United theory.

In campaign statements and talking points — and in activists' tweets and Facebook comments — the party seems to be collectively saying that without evidence of any explicit quid pro quo, all the Clinton cash is acceptable. Moreover, the inference seems to be that the revelations aren't even newsworthy because, in the words of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, "there's nothing new" here.

To advocates for limiting the influence of money in politics, this pushback from Democrats is particularly rich (pun intended) coming from a party that spent a decade asserting that Republicans raking in cash from Big Oil and pushing oil-friendly policies was rank corruption. The Democratic defense of their presumptive presidential nominee registers as especially disturbing to campaign finance reform advocates considering the mighty efficiency of the Clinton fundraising machine.

Consider a few undisputed facts that we surfaced in our reporting at the International Business Times...

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaRainbowFlag(Photo: Benson Kua)In the 1940s and 1950s, countless people in the US were being bullied and brutalized by the anti-communist scare tactics and character assassinations of Senator Joseph McCarthy.  The end of the McCarthy red-baiting era began when Joseph Welch stood up to McCarthy after he attacked a young lawyer on his staff.  Welch was appalled by McCarthy’s callous disregard and despite McCarthy’s power, challenged him by stating: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” He concluded by saying “You’ve done enough.  Have you no sense of decency, sir?  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

In the recent marriage equality case, Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia argued that marriage equality opens the door to polygamy, underage sex, and incest between brothers and sisters.  This is the modern equivalent of McCarthy red-baiting and deserves the same response.

The cruel, illogical, heartless and hateful arguments of Alito and Scalia give considerable support and inspiration to right wing groups who literally demonize our sisters and brothers and sons and daughters who seek only to marry their same sex partners just like the rest of us. 

Alito and Scalia give comfort to the likes of Rush Limbaugh who stated marriage equality leads to incest.  To Rick Santorum who compares same sex relationships to bestiality and pedophilia.  To the head of ironically named American Decency Association who claimed that gay rights is a satanic attack on the US.  And to legions of other people and groups who practice hostility and violence against our sisters and brothers.

2015.4.5 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Garry Knight)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“Even though previous popes have spoken strongly against harming the earth and its inhabitants, one world renowned atmospheric scientist said it is going to be Pope Francis ‘to save the day,’" the Catholic News Service recently reported.

Most of today’s environmental activists are way too young to remember the Mighty Mouse Playhouse, which aired on Saturday mornings from December 1955 until September 1967. A mighty theme song kicked off each show. With Pope Francis getting ready to make what many environmentalists hope will be a game-changing statement on global warming, here’s an updated version of the Mighty Mouse theme song: “Climate change deniers never hang around, when they hear this mighty sound. ‘Here he comes to save the day.’ That means Pope Francis is on his way. Yes folks, when there's a wrong to right. Pope Francis will join the fight. On the sea or on the land, he’ll get the situation well in hand.”

Veerabhadran Ramanathan, who in the 1970s helped discover that pollutants and other gases, in addition to carbon dioxide, were contributing to the greenhouse effect, told Catholic News Service (CNS) that Pope Francis would be "the savior on the environment.”

Ramanathan said Pope Francis "has transcended Catholic religion and he's transcended Christianity. People of different followings, different nations admire this pope, they listen to his words so he has a global reach."

United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon recently spoke to an international gathering on the moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable development at the Vatican, sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Religions for Peace.

2015.4.5 BF buchheit(Photo: Elliot Brown)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Law enforcement, education, health care, water management, government itself -- all have been or are being privatized. People with money get the best of each service.

At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand 'freedom' unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf.

These privatizers have a system:

1. Convince Yourself That "I Did It On My Own"

The people in position to take from society seek to rationalize their actions, and many have accomplished this through the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the author of The Virtue of Selfishness. She rejected community values, saying "Any group...is only a number of individuals...If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject."

Post-Ayn-Rand, in the growing era of neoliberalism, with Ronald Reagan blurting "government is the problem" and Margaret Thatcher proclaiming "There is no such thing as society," once-respected institutions like public education and public transportation were demonized as "socialist" and "Soviet-style." The message has been repeated so often by the business-backed media that the general public began to believe it. Said The Economist with regard to product development, "Governments have always been lousy at picking winners, and they are likely to become more so, as legions of entrepreneurs and tinkerers swap designs online, turn them into products at home and market them globally from a garage. As the revolution rages, governments should stick to the basics...Leave the rest to the revolutionaries."

2015.30.4 BF ecowatch(Photo: Wikipedia)COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Jon Stewart is preparing for life after The Daily Show. If you’re like me you’re dreading the day he departs the show in August, but, of course, news has already broke of Stewart’s next venture. He and his wife, Tracey, reportedly decided to purchase a farm in New Jersey to house their impressive amount of rescue animals and potentially many more, according to Ecorazzi. The Stewart clan already contains two children, four dogs, two horses, two pigs, three rabbits, two guinea pigs, two hamsters, one parrot and two fish. “All rescues,” Tracey told USA Today of her enormous brood. “Except for the children.”

The move should come as no surprise to Daily Show fans. Stewart has been a consistent animal advocate throughout his time on the air. Most notably, he skewered Gov. Christie on vetoing a popular gestation crate ban. He also recently hosted Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary to discuss animal rescue and veganism and John Hargrove, the former SeaWorld employee who became a whistleblower on the company’s animal cruelty.

 

2015.30.4 BF BERKOWITZ(Photo: David Yu)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Some might say that the relationship between the conservative US Jewish community and Evangelicals is inviolable, with support for Israel being the cement that forever binds the two. However, a number of controversial social issues could threaten to alter a relationship that has historically been replete with questions about awkward, and not so secret, Christian objectives.

"Conservative Jews who make common cause with Christian Zionists are overlooking an inconvenient truth: Despite all of their talk about their love for Israel, religious right zealots are motivated primarily by a goofy end-of-the-world scenario cribbed from the mad scribbling of Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye and other 'End Times’ prophets,” Rob Boston, Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told me in an email.

“In this scenario,” Boston added, “Israel needs to do certain things so that the Apocalypse can be ushered in and the Book of Revelation will come to pass. Jews, in this vision of things, are merely cannon fodder who either convert to Christianity or get burned to a crisp in the final battle when Jesus confronts the Antichrist. I'm not seeing a lot of love and respect for the Jewish faith here."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anincomeeq4(Photo: Quinn Dombrowski)

When The New York Times starts posting articles warning of a dystopian future in the United States due to income equality, you know that the alarm bells are starting to sound even in the corporate mass media.

On April 28, the Times posted an analysis by reporter Eduardo Porter in its economy section. Porter bluntly stated:

But when it comes to the health, well-being and shared prosperity of its people, the United States has fallen far behind.

Pick almost any measure of social health and cohesion over the last four decades or so, and you will find that the United States took a wrong turn along the way.

Porter manages to find a glimmer of hope in the grim statistics about the real state of the union. However, his sliver of optimism is only due to the fact that the deterioration of the nation as a community is so bad that he believes it will ultimately force a political solution. "The silver lining in these dismal, if abstract, statistics," Porter writes, "is that they portend such a dysfunctional future that our broken political system might finally be forced to come together to prevent it."

That's not a lot to hang your hat on. 

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