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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Thorn 1027wrp opt(Photo: David Corby)If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, one thing is for sure, the Hillary-Bashing Industrial Complex will not fade away. It remains to be seen what form the opposition will take: whether it takes the form of John McCain’s pledge – should he win re-election -- that a Republican-controlled Senate will not approve any of her Supreme Court nominees; or, a House-led crusade, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, to privatize Social Security and Medicare; or, leaders of the Christian Right, alt-right, white supremacist right, and anti-immigrant right, organizing to challenge Clinton’s agenda. And, opposition will likely not be a right-wing-only affair, as a fair number of progressives are also champing at the bit to confront Clinton’s policy proposals.

Should Hillary Clinton be elected, progressives will face an existential dilemma: How to become effective thorns in the side of Hillary Clinton, without nullifying their voices by becoming auto-reflexive naysayers. Should they compile binders of WikiLeaks to use as cudgels, or prepare binders of progressive proposals to move on? Will Hillary have a honeymoon with progressives, or merely a one-night stand?

For progressives, what does being a thorn in the side of a Clinton administration look like? Does it mean opposing every effort she might make at working with Republicans? Does it mean opposing all appointments for cabinet positions? Does it mean continuing to pillory her as a stooge of Wall Street, an enemy of the people, at every opportunity? Does it mean filling up oodles of Facebook space with critical articles, WikiLeaks posts, tweets and scuttlebutt?

How might principled progressives go about creating an effective voice and counterbalance to Clinton’s center/center-right initiatives?

Thursday, 27 October 2016 06:41

Budgeting the "Good War" for 75 Years

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Arizona 1027wrp opt(Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)World War II never quite ended — it morphed.

Today we call it the status quo, or endless war, or we just don’t bother to notice it. Indeed, now more than ever we don’t notice it. It’s barely part of the 2016 election, even though we’re engaged in active conflict in half a dozen countries, toying with a relaunch of the Cold War with Russia and, of course, hemorrhaging, as always, more than half our annual discretionary budget on “defense.”

World War II has been going on for seven decades now and has no intention of ever stopping . . . of its own volition. But this year’s rocking electoral craziness — not just Hurricane Donald, but the unexpected staying power of the Bernie Sanders campaign — may well be the harbinger of transcendence. Apparently there’s another force in the universe capable of standing up to the American, indeed, the global, military-industrial status quo.

Slowly, slowly this force is organizing itself and taking human shape. This isn’t a simple process. After all, the game of empire — the game called war, the game of domination — has been coalescing political power for several thousand years now.

But our current military budget was birthed by the wars of the 20th century. William Hartung, writing recently at TomDispatch, shows the fascinating connectedness of the wars that followed VE and VJ Days, as the corporate beneficiaries of the Big War aligned with mainstream politicians of both major parties and coalesced into the Washington consensus. Over the decades they have engaged in an ongoing struggle to maintain military spending at breathtakingly high levels and avoid any sort of transition to something called peace.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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EcoFrack 1026wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Yet another study has determined that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, might be a major public health threat. In one of the most exhaustive reviews to date, researchers from the Yale School of Public Health have confirmed that many of the chemicals involved and released by the controversial drilling process can be linked to cancer.

"Previous studies have examined the carcinogenicity of more selective lists of chemicals," lead author Nicole Deziel, Ph.D., assistant professor explained to the school. "To our knowledge, our analysis represents the most expansive review of carcinogenicity of hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the published literature."

For the study, published in Science of the Total Environment, the researchers assessed the carcinogenicity of 1,177 water pollutants and 143 air pollutants released by the fracking process and from fracking wastewater. They found that 55 unique chemicals could be classified as known, probable or possible human carcinogens. They also specifically identified 20 compounds that had evidence of leukemia/lymphoma risk.

One of the scarier parts from this study is that the researchers could not completely unpack the health hazards of fracking's entire chemical cocktail. More than 80 percent of the chemicals lacked sufficient data on cancer-causing potential, "highlighting an important knowledge gap," the school noted.

The unconventional drilling rush in the U.S. has expanded to as many as 30 states, spelling major consequences to the air we breathe and the water we drink. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013 that more than 15 million Americans lived within a mile of a well.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 08:02

Jim Hightower: A Tale of Two Pipes

Standing with the Standing Rock Sioux and all the water, land, sacred site and planet "protectors" gathered in North Dakota and beyond, to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.(Photo: Peg Hunter)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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In bad movies (and bad history alike), the Native American ceremonial pipe figured prominently as symbol of defeat -- typically in a cliched scene of subdued chieftains signing a treaty of surrender and passing around a "peace pipe" in a sorrowful gesture to seal the raw deal.

The reality is that the communal smoking of a ceremonial pipe, often filled with tobacco, is a centuries-old tradition rich in spiritual meaning for many Native people who see it as an eternal channel through which tribes seek metaphysical strength, courage and endurance. The ceremonial pipe both shapes and conveys Native people's living history, a story that's perpetually being written.

Indeed, a dramatic new chapter is unfolding this year in a volatile confrontation on a remote stretch of the Northern Plains in rural North Dakota. It's a "Battle of Two Pipes," pitting the cultural power symbolized by the Native American pipe against the bruising financial power of a giant pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

internationcrimThe International Criminal Court in the Hague (Photo: ekenitr)

In an October 25 Los Angeles Times article, this question was asked about the International Criminal Court (ICC): Why have "only Africans have been tried at the court for the worst crimes on Earth"? The International Criminal Court began enforcement for "crimes against humanity" (among other charges) in 2002 in the Hague.

In 1999, Slobodan Milošević was brought to trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (IICTY); his prosecution preceded the ICC. Therefore, he was not an exception to the rule of the International Criminal Court, which thus far has been to only conduct prominent prosecutions against Africans.

It would take much more space than this commentary allows to fully explain the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, but suffice it to say, it is not limited to Africa. It includes almost every nation on the planet. Therefore, it is a bit curious as to why so much prosecutorial effort has been focused on the crimes of African leaders.

Luis Moreno Ocampo, the former ICC chief prosecutor, gave his opinion to the BBC:

Mr Ocampo argues that African leaders should use the "tools" of the court to develop a level playing field with the world's superpowers by holding countries like the US to account.

One way they should do this, he argues, is by supporting the ICC's preliminary examination into the alleged mistreatment of detainees by US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

It may be an academic point but it requires unanimity of purpose among the very leaders who are the biggest critics of the court.

That may be a bit of a challenge, because two nations who have not ratified the treaty creating the ICC are the United States and Israel. 124 other nations have signed onto the jurisdiction of the court.

It is also important to recall the history of contemporary Africa. The continent of Africa was divided up by European colonial powers and was a laboratory for the colonial torture and mass murder of Black people, as well as the capture of human beings who were then sold into slavery.

2016.25.10 BF SpearConstruction of the Muskrat Falls Generation Facility began in 2013 and sources say flooding will begin in the coming days. (Photo: Innovationtrail)STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Renowned Inuk artist Billy Gauthier has not eaten since Oct. 13. He is on a hunger strike against the proposed flooding of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project reservoir.

The Muskrat Falls project, part of the $8.6 billion Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador, Canada, will flood the Lake Melville river valley, which has cultural and spiritual significance for the Innu and Inuit peoples.

Construction of the Muskrat Falls Generation Facility began in 2013 and sources say flooding will begin in the next 36 hours.

Opposition to this project has been long-standing. Ossie Michelin, a freelance journalist living in Labrador, has been documenting the fight against the dam. He shared how the hydroelectric project "will cut through the unceded territory of the NunatuKavut Inuit, the only group of Inuit in Canada with an outstanding land claim," and "destroy hundreds of kilometers of forest and contaminate fish and seal stocks with methylmercury."

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Poll 1024wrp opt(Photo: Smithsonian Institution)My wife, Rosemary, a registered Republican, received a black and white poll in the mail. Plastered across the top of the sheet in bold black letters was the title: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.” I wonder who that could be.

On to the questions. All she had to do was to check the appropriate box and return the ballot. The survey indicated name, survey number, and a processing code, all with a bar code for identification.  She just had to check the appropriate box beneath a picture of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or “no opinion.” Seemed simple enough.

First question: “Hillary Clinton is working hard to win the White House so she can carry forward Barack Obama’s disastrous policies—including increased taxes—which have been so harmful to our nation’s economy. Donald Trump is dedicated to lowering taxes and instituting responsible reforms that will create jobs, strengthen free enterprise and boost economic growth. Which candidate do you trust more to put America on a secure and prosperous economic path.”

Gee, this is a hard one. Let’s think about it awhile. OK, time’s up. I guess, based upon the question, the demon Clinton wasn’t the right answer. Rosemary needed to check Trump as the one to keep the country moving forward.

There were nine questions, all similar to the first one. The other questions had to do with the federal debt, foreign policy, the nomination of federal judges, immigration, environment, and ObamaCare. The ninth one asked the most vital question: “Are you willing to financially help the Trump Make America Great Again Committee in making sure our nation finally leaves behind the ruinous policies of the past eight years and elects a Republican president who will Make America Great Again?”

Monday, 24 October 2016 07:58

New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Soil 1024wrp(Photo: USDA)An earlier review identified the "Three Big Sins of Charter Schools": fraud, a lack of transparency, and the exclusion of unwanted students. The evidence against charters continues to grow. Yet except for its reporting on a few egregious examples of charter malfeasance and failure, the mainstream media continues to echo the sentiments of privatization-loving billionaires who believe their wealth somehow equates to educational wisdom.

The Wall Street Journal, in its misinformed way, says that the turnaround of public schools requires "increasing options for parents, from magnet to charter schools." Wrong. As the NAACP affirms, our nation needs "free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children." For all children, not just a select few.

The NAACP has called for a moratorium on charter schools. And Diane Ravitch makes a crucial point: "Would [corporate reformers] still be able to call themselves leaders of the civil rights issue of our time if the NAACP disagreed with their aggressive efforts to privatize public schools?"

Here are the four big sins of charter schools, updated by a surge of new evidence:

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6621873843 aa27b53de6 zOur primary "national interest" should be nurturing a robust democracy, not engaging in millitarized conflicts around the world. (Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet )

I don't know how many times "the national interest" was mentioned in the three presidential debates, but if I were having one of those drinking contests where you down a shot of alcohol every time a word or phrase is mentioned, I would have ended with more vodka than blood pulsing through my veins.

I've discussed before how disingenuous it is of the pundits and the politicians to utter the words "the national interest" in intonations normally reserved for grave and somber responsibilities. In an officially secular nation, the phrase is often spoken with a sacredness that is reserved for divinities. After all, our democracy -- at least in federal elections -- is supposed to be focused on protecting and enhancing "the national interest"; even though politicians may think that it is the other way around.

That's because the phrase "national interest" is generally code for the sum total of the wealth and comfort of upper-middle-class and wealthy Americans. Keep in mind that the US accounts for more than 40 percent of the world's wealth. And according to a 2010 article in the New York Times, the US and Europe together have amassed 70 percent of the planets' financial assets. That's an important point, when you look at the presidential debates and how significant NATO is in Hillary Clinton's "national interest" worldview. The US "national interest" and European national interests represent not a thirst for spreading democracy, but the replacement of colonial ownership of less-developed countries with the more modern world of global financial dominance. This is essentially colonialism under a new economic framework, with independent governments that are beholden to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and financial subjugation by the West.

Given that "the national interest" of monetary and asset accumulation -- and ensuring, as just one example, the growth of such US mainstays as malls filled with merchandise to make the "haves" feel more prosperous -- is dependent upon a robust military. These forces are deployed around the world to ensure access to raw materials and suppress the emergence of true democracies that challenge US hegemony in the world. Therefore, it is completely understandable that so many candidates for national office link "the national interest" with a military deployment that spans the world. A 2015 article from TomDispatch (reprinted on Truthout) stated it quite succinctly: "The United States probably has more foreign military bases than any other people, nation, or empire in history." Of course, our most "reliable" allies are our partners in dividing the world's assets and cheap labor: European nations who participate in military coalition campaigns with the US. 

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earth 1021wrp opt(Photo: NASA/Bill Anders)Maybe it's the phrase — "commander in chief" — that best captures the transcendent absurdity and unaddressed horrors of the 2016 election season and the business as usual that will follow.

I don't want to elect anyone commander in chief: not the xenophobic misogynist and egomaniac, not the Henry Kissinger acolyte and Libya hawk. The big hole in this democracy is not the candidates; it's the bedrock, founding belief that the rest of the world is our potential enemy, that war with someone is always inevitable and only a strong military will keep us safe.

In a million ways, we've outgrown this concept, or been pushed beyond it by awareness of global human connectedness and the shared planetary risk of eco-collapse. So whenever I hear someone in the media bring "commander in chief" into the discussion — always superficially and without question — what I hear is boys playing war. Yes, we wage war in a real way as well, but when the public is invited to participate in the process by selecting its next commander in chief, this is pretend war at its most surreal: all glory and greatness and hammering ISIS in Mosul.

"What about our safety here?" Brian Williams asked Gen. Barry McCaffrey on MSNBC the other night, as they were discussing the awfulness of terrorism and the need to bomb the bad guys out of existence. I cringed. How long can they keep selling this?

Our safety is far, far more imperiled by the fact that we have a military at all than by any enemy that military is allegedly fighting, but is, in fact, creating as it churns out endless collateral damage, a.k.a., dead and injured civilians.

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