JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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
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
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.June 8 is
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
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
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
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.
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.
REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Let's consider for a moment the honey bee and its anticipated replacement, the RoboBee. Let's pay a visit to the frankenbee's parents, Monsanto and DARPA.
The RoboBee is a mechanical bee in the design stage at the Microrobotics Lab, housed in a well-appointed building at Harvard University. The RoboBee project's Intelligence Office declares that the robotic inventors are inspired by the bee. The RoboBee project's website and press releases use the imagery of the golden bees that we remember from our love of the cuddly buzzy honey-maker.
But something is wrong with this enterprise. While the RoboBee's press is nearly all positive, and open-faced students have posted euphoric YouTube reports of their robotic work, the whole thing looks quite different to the people of the beekeeping community, who can't help but point out that the real life honey bees and bumble bees are plummeting toward extinction.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The East Bay city of Albany, California, a relatively small town (approximately 19,000 residents) - just north of the former bastion of leftist politics and culture, Berkeley - this past Thursday cleared the last homeless residents from public land by charging them with "suspicion of illegal lodging."
According to the Monday June 2 The Daily Californian:
Police arrested Bulb [the name of the publicly owned landfill in the East bay] residents Amber Whitson and Philip Lewis, along with their friend Erik Eisenberg, on suspicion of illegal lodging. The city began enforcing a no-camping ordinance in October in an effort to relocate the homeless population so that the Bulb can be turned into a state park. Local law firms then filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of the residents, which ended in an April settlement that gave residents $3,000 each as long as they agreed to leave the Bulb by April 25 and stay away from the area for one year.
Twenty-eight residents accepted the money, but Whitson and Lewis refused it, making them the last to leave the Bulb. The two have lived in the Bulb for seven years.
“We didn’t take the money because you can’t buy someone’s home,” Whitson said.
Although Albany is not as economically prosperous as the now upper-end Silicon Valley housing values of the increasingly wealth-dominated Berkeley, it is following a trend in the Bay Area that includes a war on the homeless. A 2010 citywide vote San in Francisco, the poster board symbol of alleged "degenerate" liberal values for the right wing, made sitting or lying on public sidewalks illegal from 7 AM to to 11 PM. This, even though, the San Francisco Police Department found the law utterly ineffective and a waste of law enforcement time.
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The corporate media silence on Fukushima has been deafening even though the melted-down nuclear power plant's seaborne radiation is now washing up on American beaches.
Ever more radioactive water continues to pour into the Pacific.
At least three extremely volatile fuel assemblies are stuck high in the air at Unit 4. Three years after the March 11, 2011, disaster, nobody knows exactly where the melted cores from Units 1, 2 and 3 might be.
Amid a dicey cleanup infiltrated by organized crime, still more massive radiation releases are a real possibility at any time.
Radioactive groundwater washing through the complex is enough of a problem that Fukushima Daiichi owner Tepco has just won approval for a highly controversial ice wall to be constructed around the crippled reactor site. No wall of this scale and type has ever been built, and this one might not be ready for two years. Widespread skepticism has erupted surrounding its potential impact on the stability of the site and on the huge amounts of energy necessary to sustain it. Critics also doubt it would effectively guard the site from flooding and worry it could cause even more damage should power fail.
Meanwhile, children nearby are dying.