BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you've been following politics over the past few years, you are undoubtedly familiar with the political machinations, maneuvering, and the ongoing efforts by the conservative billionaires, Charles and David Koch, to bend democracy to their will and turn the political landscape into their own personal playground. The Koch Brothers' major league funding of right-wing candidates and campaigns (big and small) across the country, have become one of the most toxic elements on America's political scene.
Chances are, however, you do not know anyone who actually knows any of the Koch brothers. You are even less likely to know anyone who, as a teenager, actually spent some time with one of the Koch Brothers in their hometown of Wichita, Kansas.
By the rules of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," I should acknowledge my link to the man, who, as a teenager, hung around the John Birch Society bookshop in Wichita, and met Charles Koch!
Meet Gus diZerega, blogger, political theorist, and author.
I met diZerega while we attended the University of Kansas in the 1960s. It was a long time ago, but if I remember correctly, we clashed – politically, not physically -- a few times during our college years. There were some heated exchanges. Our relationship these days, which is via e-mail exchanges, is not only civil, but also enjoyable and informative; at least I feel informed by his writing.
In a post titled "A Meditation on Charles Koch, Classical Liberalism, and Global Warming," diZerega wrote that he first met Charles Koch while he was in high school in Wichita, Kansas: "I had become a young conservative attracted to right-wing conspiracy theories. One afternoon I was in the American Opinion Bookstore, a John Birch Society operation filled with books on the Communist conspiracy."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Although the Chicago Democratic mayoral primary is a little less than a year off (February of 2015), already the polls have begun to test how he would fare against a Democratic opponent. Emanuel is widely viewed by progressives as a corporatist mayor with an anti-union, pro charter schools, privatization, pro-wealth bias.
Paying relatively little attention to neighborhoods in need in a city that is now an international service and financial hub, Emanuel has largely been considered to be invincible for reelection due to his alleged $6 million political war chest -- and his unstinting support from the business community.
The first public poll (released last week) indicates that he would lose next year's primary to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Preckwinkle is a progressive who would represent the 99% against Emanuel's 1% backing and political viewpoints. The poll results, for whatever they are worth at this point, conclude that Preckwinkle would win by 40 percent to 32%, with a large undecided vote at this time.
Chicago mainstream media is questioning the credibiity of the poll based on it being conducted by a lesser-known firm -- and the distance in time to the actual race. Both of these are valid points, and isolated polls -- without others to establish trending -- should be judged with caution.
Furthermore, Preckwinkle is running for re-election as Cook County Board President in November. She has indicated that she wants to (given that her re-election is a lock-in) fill out her next four-year term.
However, as Chicago's ABC television affiliate notes online, Preckwinkle "has not ruled out challenging Emanuel in February 2015."
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The education privatizers are trying to convince us that parental 'choice' will solve all the problems in our schools. But the choice they have in mind is to dismantle a once-proud system of education that was nurtured and funded by a society of Americans willing to work together.
The wealthiest among us seem to have forgotten how important it is to cooperate, as most Americans did in the post-WW2 years, in order to forge new paths of productivity and inventiveness. A vibrant society makes great individuals, not the other way around. Education must be at the forefront of such cooperative thinking. Here are four good arguments for it.
1. Equal Opportunity is an American Mandate
In the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. the Board of Education, Chief Justice Earl Warren said that education "is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." Equally eminent future Justice Thurgood Marshall insisted on "the right of every American to an equal start in life."
But now, as The Economist points out, "Whereas most OECD countries spend more on the education of poor children than rich ones, in America the opposite is true." Poverty, of course, is of all colors, but it's disproportionately black. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA shows that "segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities," while the Economic Policy Institute tells us that "African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago." New York City is the best example of that.
Charters and vouchers are the 'choice' of the free market. But the National Education Policy Center notes that "Charter schools...can shape their student enrollment in surprising ways," through practices that often exclude "students with special needs, those with low test scores, English learners, or students in poverty." Stanford's updated CREDO study found that fewer special education students and fewer English language learners are served in charters than in traditional public schools.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Vera Scroggins of Susquehanna County, Pa., will now be allowed to go to her hospital, supermarket, drug store, several restaurants, and the place where she goes for rehabilitation therapy. She can now go to the county’s recycling center, which is on 12.5 acres of land the county had leased to Cabot Gas & Oil Corp., one of the largest drillers in the country.
Common Pleas Court Judge Kenneth W. Seamans, Friday, revised a preliminary injunction he issued in October against the anti-fracking activist. That injunction had required the 63-year-old grandmother and retired nurse’s aide to stay at least 150 feet from all properties where Cabot had leased mineral rights, even if that distance was on public property. Because Cabot had leased mineral rights to 40 percent of Susquehanna County, about 300 square miles, almost any place Scroggins wanted to be was a place she was not allowed to be. The injunction didn’t specify where Scroggins couldn’t go. It was a task that required her to go to the courthouse in Montrose, dig through hundreds of documents, and figure it out for herself.
The injunction, says Scott Michelman of Public Citizen was “overbroad and violates her constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of movement.” Public Citizen, the Pennsylvania ACLU, and local attorney Gerald Kinchy, represented her Monday when she sought to vacate the order. At that hearing, Cabot wanted the buffer zone extended to 500 feet, but couldn’t show any reason why 500 feet was necessary.
Seamans’ revised order prohibits Scroggins from going within 100 feet of any active well pad or access roads of properties Cabot owns or has leased mineral rights. Land not being drilled, but which Cabot owns mineral rights, is no longer part of the injunction. That 100 feet separation is still far more than most injunctions call for; even abortion clinics typically have 15 feet exclusion zones to prevent violence, according to the brief filed in Scroggins’ behalf. Even the revised order probably violates her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary yesterday, "The Major Reason There Will Be No War With Russia: They Are Rasputin Capitalists Now," we speculated that there would be no armed conflict between the United States and Russia, because Moscow under Putin has become a full-fledged gangster capitalist nation -- a country Wall Street can love and admire for its brashness in being openly proud of its thuggishness oligarchy.
However, that does not mean that there is not competition within the pantheon of titan capitalists. Such is the case occurring in the United States using the Ukarine-Crimea "crisis" to launch an all out fossil fuel face-off with Russia's Gazprom, the number one natural gas supplier in the world. Europe and the Ukraine and many other nations depend upon Gazprom for a good percentage of their natural gas supply.
The United States may now be, or so the government claims, the largest producer of oil and natural gas combined, but the production frenzy of the US (and Canadian) fossel fuel industry is reaching a grand finale of maximum Earth destroying extraction, before global warming will force a possible too-late reduction of oil and gas production ravaging of the Earth.
So, what are US politicians doing in response to Russian incursion into Crimea? Why, crying for undercutting Russian natural gas exports by increasing US shipments to Europe and former Soviet Union republics, now independent nations.
In fact, President Obama is encouraging not only increased shipment of natural gas overseas, but more fracking in Europe -- all destined to ratchet up the Earth's climate change, putting residents of the planet in perilous risk.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I had no idea so many Republicans were nostalgic for the Cold War. President Obama should dust off the zinger he used in a campaign debate against Mitt Romney: "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back."
Poor Mitt. It seems he never got over Obama's putdown of his view that Russia is the "number-one geopolitical foe" of the United States. Since Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from neighboring Ukraine, Romney has been crowing "told you so."
Other hawkish GOP luminaries, either out of ideology or opportunism, are loudly echoing Romney's criticism. Speaking of hawks, Sen. John McCain of Arizona accused the president of conducting a "feckless" foreign policy. And speaking of opportunists, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said the United States has "receded from leadership" in the world and speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "openly laughing" at Obama.
I think it's much more likely that Putin finds humor in all the armchair generals who fail to suggest a single course of action that would have prevented him from snatching Crimea -- or a course of action that would make him give it back. Loud, content-free bluster can be amusing.
Obama's words and actions matter, however, and his handling of the Ukraine crisis has been firm, steady and realistic. These are not the 1980s and this is not the Cold War. I believe most Americans realize this, and perhaps someday the hawkish wing of the Republican Party will catch up.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
All this talk of a new cold war is just a lot of political blather coming out of DC due to the re-emergence of the neocons.
The reality is that there will be no war with the Russian Federation because Russia is now a raffish capitalist nation. Let us just remember Vladimir Putin was a lieutenant colonel in the KGB (for 16 years) at a time that they might have surpassed the CIA for lacking scruples, although probably not by much.
Since Putin assumed power in Russia in 2000, he has served as either president or prime minister of the Russian Federation, effectively being the most powerful man in the nation for the past 13 years.
There is no ideological conflict with Russia now, no wall to bring to down, no communism to overthrow. Under Putin, the Russian Federation has become a full-fledged member of the global capitalist system, only with the sleight variation that the Russian mafia plays an open role in the free market system. Instead of bankers crushing people with financial maneuverings, the Russian oligarchs allegedly prefer using their friends "Smith and Wesson" to resolve business disputes.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"It was loaded with meaning and death."
Oh lethal, ticklish topic. So many people love guns and swear by them — many of them people with whom I am otherwise in essential political agreement. And it's not like I relish a debate about "gun control," a tug-of-war about limits that offends most gun lovers and causes weapon-buying sprees after every mass murder.
But the topic is unavoidable. The gun industry is part of the military-industrial complex and its advertising war aimed at the American reptile brain is centered around a permanent state of fear and, even more significantly, helplessness. Most people, or at least most gun owners, think "disarmed" means "disempowered" and the debate, such as it is, ends there.
The quote above is from an extraordinary essay by poet Judy Juanita, which gets at the spiritual dimension of the matter:
"The Gun as steel metaphor carrying the human urge to dominate and lay waste to an enemy or perceived threat. Guns as import and export. Hollywood's Gun, its cinematic ordnance, is the United States' international calling card.
"The Gun is oh-so-social as it erases human inequality. Anyone can obtain one and point . . . shoot . . . kill."
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a January 2005, story titled "Rumsfeld's Bloody Paths of Glory," I wrote: "Invoke the name of Donald Rumsfeld and these are the associations: failure to provide enough U.S. troops for Iraq; torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo; extended tours of duty and stopgap orders; worn out reservists and National Guard members; hubris worthy of the Greek chroniclers of the wars of the Peloponnesus; and infamous Rumsfeldian remarks including his recent, you go to war 'with the army you have.'"
In Errol Morris' Oscar-winning Fog of War, the filmmaker was able to get Robert McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense who guided America through the dreadful Vietnam War, to reflect on the war's failures and apologize for the disastrous mistakes he made. In his new film, The Unknown Known, Morris allows George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to be Rumsfeld; smug, self-satisfied, and unremorseful about the disastrous invasion of Iraq.
The other evening, Morris was a guest on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher". He was there to discuss and promote The Unknown Known, based in large part on Rumsfeld granting Morris more than thirty hours with him.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR AT BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Lost in the coverage of America's tale of two economies (the 1% who have recieved 95 percent of the financial gains since they busted the economy in 2008 -- and the rest of us), is that seniors are especially hard hit by the disparity between so-called savings account interest (currently .01 percent at most banks) and inflation.
Yes, there still is inflation. It is relatively modest, but is still there and has a palpable impact on those on low fixed incomes - such as Social Security. According to a website that covers inflation:
Over the longer period from December 2012 to December 2013, the US inflation rate rose 1.5 percent. That increase compares to the 1.2 percent advance in the 12 months ended November. Inflation in 2012, as another comparison, rose 1.7 percent. Noted specifically by the Labor Department, it is the first time that inflation has been under 2 percent for consecutive years since 1997-98.
Wrapping everything up, core annual inflation in 2013 rose 1.7 percent, which is the same 12-month increase noted in each of the prior three CPI reports. The total in 2012 was 1.9 percent.
Yes, it is true that Social Security recipients received a 1.7 percent increase in 2013 payments. But given that the banks (ostensibly based on the overnight interest charged by the Federal Reserve) are only paying - in general - .01 percent interest on what are falsely called "savings accounts," seniors are losing money.