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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

armstrade(Photo: fotdmike)According to a new report by the Conflict Armament Research (CAR), which is a project funded by the European Union, a large number of the guns - including high-capacity rifles - used by ISIS were originally supplied to other forces by the US military. "Islamic State forces have captured significant quantities of US-manufactured small arms and have employed them on the battlefield," the report states.

The Conflict Armament Research report and an article in The Independent include a large number of photos indicating the US origin of the weapons. The Independent article states:

James Bevan, CAR director, told [The Independent] that around 30 to 40 per cent of arms his team were able to document were US-made, reflecting the fact that Isis captured most of its weaponry from the Iraqi army when it made stunning territorial gains earlier this year.

Other nations - including Russia and China - were the source of some ISIS weapons, captured as the self-proclaimed caliphate swept across a wide swath of territory in Syria and Iraq and seized arsenals from defeated forces.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSteth(Photo: Huji)There is a great deal that could be said about what is wrong with our health care system, but I would rather discuss what is right about Cuba’s health care program, from medical training to medical treatment.

During the Affordable Health Care debate, many people were asking why the president and Congress didn’t simply expand Medicare to everyone in the United States. Instead, there is a movement in DC to cut Medicare benefits. To expand on the theme of my last BuzzFlash commentary, wars for oil, the reason they want to cut Medicare funding is because the US government spends not millions, not billions, but trillions of dollars on weapons, wars, and surveillance.  

But in Cuba, it’s different.  In Cuba, people are more important than profits. Instead of investing in bombs, Cuba invests in: 1) education, including medical training; and 2) decent housing and food for all Cubans: although Cuba is a poor country, no one is starving and no one is homeless.

By contrast, in the US, there is a strong connection between poverty and medical need.  Cuba’s commitment to health care is seen as a human right, not as a privilege for only those who can afford it. 

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBoots(Photo: HAF 932)President Obama's strategy against the Islamic State may be hard to pin down -- maddeningly so, some complain -- but it is likely to work far better than anything his bellicose critics advocate.

Perhaps the president will eliminate any confusion when he addresses the nation Wednesday, but I doubt it. Based on what he told NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press," there may be no way to reduce Obama's fluid and perhaps deliberately ambiguous thinking to a black-or-white, all-or-nothing dichotomy.

"This is not going to be an announcement about U.S. ground troops. This is not the equivalent of the Iraq War," Obama said. Later in the interview, he added that "we're not looking at sending in 100,000 American troops" and that "our goal should not be to think that we can occupy every country where there's a terrorist organization."

Clear? Kind of.

We understand that the president will not announce the deployment of U.S. troops in large numbers and that he does not intend for the United States to re-invade and re-occupy Iraq. But we know that U.S. military advisers and special operations teams have already been active in both Iraq and Syria. And since Obama described the fight against the Islamic State as "similar to the kinds of counterterrorism campaigns that we've been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years," we can assume there will be some U.S. military presence on the ground, however covert and limited.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBible(Photo: David Ball)A few years back, Forbes magazine called them “undercover billionaires.” Meet Farris and Dan Wilks, who, after selling their fracking business and becoming generous donors to right-wing causes, politicians, and the Republican Party, are no longer “undercover.” While claiming that Christians are under attack, the Wilks brothers’ are "using the riches that the Lord has blessed" them with and are dedicating themselves to getting the Bible back in schools.

The brothers began by working in their father’s masonry business, operating mostly in Oklahoma and Texas. In 1995, the brothers founded their own company called Wilks Masonry. However, they “really hit the big time when they got in on the ground floor with fracking, the controversial natural gas drilling technique that has boomed over the past decade,” People for the American Way’s Peter Montgomery recently pointed out in a report titled “The Wilks Brothers: Fracking Sugar Daddies For The Far Right.” 

In 2002, the Cisco, Texas-based Wilks brothers – who share the #352 spot on Forbes list of billionaires -- “entered the energy industry with the founding of hydraulic fracturing and oil field services firm Frac Tech,” Forbes magazine pointed out in a September 2011 article. In May 2011, the brothers sold Frac Tech to a “group of investors led by Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund” for $3.5 billion. According to Forbes, the brothers are worth $1.4 billion each.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

healthhumanright(Photo: United Workers)

Yes, of course single-payer universal health care coverage would be the preferable health coverage program for people in the United States. After all, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - a.k.a. Obamacare - is a jerry-rigged system that relies on a private insurance market (except for the important Medicaid expansion component) and still leaves many in the US uninsured.

Nevertheless, the Affordable Care Act has, now that it has gone through its growing pains, enabled millions more people to be covered by health insurance. In April of this year, the White House announced that 7.5 million people had signed up on the state exchanges. In addition, another three million people were enrolled in Medicaid in states that accepted federal government funds. It is a demonstrable gain for the health and economic wellbeing of millions of individuals and families in the US, helping many people avert crushing medical debt.

On September 8, Talking Points Memo offered the analysis that the Republican Party had pinned its key electoral strategy on launching a years-long fusillade against Obamacare, including repeated attempts in the House of Representatives to repeal it. However, despite the rocky rollout of the program, it is now viewed fairly favorably, perceived as a vital link to medical and health insurance by the millions of people who are benefitting from it. 

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGoldBars(Photo: Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited)The profit motive fogs the thinking of free-market advocates. The Economist gushes, "Take a bow, capitalism...the biggest poverty-reduction measure of all is liberalising markets to let poor people get richer." Forbes proclaims its belief in "the unmatched power of capitalism to improve human life."

Self-indulgent capitalists have turned much of America against its own best interests by promoting a winner-take-all philosophy that reaps great rewards for a few people at the expense of everyone else. To the neoliberal, vital human needs like health and education are products to be bought and sold.

Here are some other examples of greed and the pain it causes.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

citizensucorrupts(Photo: Light Brigading)

On September 4, Public Citizen held a news conference to urge the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to consider a rule that would prohibit corporate campaign contributions from being cloaked in secrecy.

The organization announced that one million people in the United States had either sent formal comments to the SEC or signed a petition to bring transparency to corporations contributing shareholder-owned funds to elections without full disclosure. Public Citizen is urging the SEC

to require all publicly traded companies to disclose political spending information to their shareholders.

The rule was placed on the agency’s agenda by departing SEC Chair Mary Shapiro in 2013 but was removed by Chair Mary Jo White earlier this year. The rulemaking petition has garnered historic support from investors and the general public. Its removal sparked outrage among its advocates, who contend that White is not taking into account the changing needs of investors since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That ruling gave corporations and the wealthy the green light to spend unlimited sums to influence elections and led to a flood of “dark money” groups that don’t disclose their donors. In addition, White is ignoring the material nature of political spending information (with its inherent risks) to shareholders.

In short, SEC Chair Mary Jo White - who many thought would bring sunlight to bear upon corporate involvement in politics - is actually enabling them to keep their contributions in the dark.

Friday, 05 September 2014 07:05

Creating a Future That Values Everyone

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaImaginePeace(Photo: Adam Zivner)“I think if we had a gun we would have been shot immediately.”

This is as good a place to start as any, at the logical limits of violent self-defense. The speaker is Andres Gutierrez of Nonviolent Peaceforce, a nonprofit organization that has engaged in peacekeeping work in troubled regions of the world for the last decade. Gutierrez, the organization’s team leader in South Sudan, along with colleague Derek Oakley, got caught in the chaos last April when the city of Bor was attacked, with armed men overrunning the perimeter of a U.N. base where thousands of civilians had sought protection. The two took shelter inside a mud hut.

More than 60 people were killed in the ethnic massacre, but Gutierrez and Oakley, the unarmed peacekeepers, kept that total from being higher. Four women and nine children were inside the hut as well.

As noted on the Nonviolent Peaceforce website: “On three separate occasions men with guns came and ordered the peacekeepers out so they could kill the women and kids. The peacekeepers refused, holding up their (Nonviolent Peaceforce) IDs and saying they were unarmed, there to protect civilians and would not leave. After the third time the armed men left. The people were saved.”

The armed men gave up; thirteen people, plus the two peacekeepers, are still alive. This calls for a moment of awe. This calls for reverence and, most of all, remembrance.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPoliticalIslam(Photo: Voice of America News)Destroying, degrading or containing the Islamic State -- whichever goal President Obama chooses -- will be the easy part. Finding ways for fundamentalist Islam to express itself peacefully is a bigger, tougher and more important project.

In his remarks Tuesday following the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff, Obama offered a smorgasbord of options. "Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy" the Islamic State, he said, although it sounded like two different objectives. He added that the goal was "to make sure that [the Islamic State] is not an ongoing threat to the region." Then he said the aim was to reduce the terrorist group to "a manageable problem."

Before the warmongers have a cow, keep in mind that Obama's idea of managing a terrorism problem involves killing people, without warning, even in countries where we are not at war. Just this week he authorized an airstrike in Somalia in an attempt to kill the leader of al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda offshoot. Obama's fondness for drones as instruments of surveillance and assassination is such that any terrorist leader is foolhardy if he ventures to take out the garbage.

But the Islamic State is clearly not "manageable" in its current state, flush with weapons, cash and eager recruits -- and occupying a huge tract of land in Iraq and Syria. Obama will have to destroy or degrade, but all the focus on his decision misses the larger context: the fundamentalist political instinct that the Islamic State represents, or rather misrepresents.

We're talking about 15,000 or so fighters -- not much of a challenge for the greatest military force the world has ever known. Why not just smash this group and be done with it? Let's look at recent history.

Thursday, 04 September 2014 07:12

We Need an Option to Vote for "None of the Above"

REV. STEPHEN H. PHELPS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBallotBox(Photo: Rama)Imagine a consumer economy with these rules:

* For any particular product—shoes, lawnmowers, canned tuna, etc.—only two brands may be offered. Other brands on display behind the glass are not for sale.

* When a customer steps into a store to find a product, she must purchase one of the two brands. She may not leave empty-handed unless she agrees to forgo searching elsewhere for the product for two years, when the same rules will apply.

In the land of the free, we would not stand for such restrictions, right? Un-American! Communistic! we'd shout. Why, if two companies got to split 100% of the market, they would take no risks. To capture maximum market share, their products would turn out similar as soap. Quality would sink, but not the price, for no matter what shoddy merchandise they sent to the shelves, the consumer would still have to buy it.

Well, America, this is the system we have installed in the brain stem of our government. Come election time, only two brands are on offer and we generally have to buy one or the other —or suffer the scolds who say "Those who don't vote can't complain." The notion that third par-ties are free to compete is mostly sung by people pitching the status quo, since politics is a money game run by rich citizens united to make it next to impossible for third parties to compete.

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