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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.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

kochconclave2Masks of the Koch brothers (Photo: peoplesworld)Early this summer, the Koch brothers held another one of their 1% planning sessions to keep the other 99% of people in the United States under the permanent rule of the oligarchy. Some BuzzFlash and Truthout readers learned a bit about the gathering through a leaked recording of the plutocratic remarks and political obstruction plans of Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell.

It was a noteworthy audiotape of McConnell because it is difficult to imagine him saying anything more shocking privately than he has said publicly.

The Koch summit McConnell spoke at in June, however, was apparently filled with speakers who advocated strategies to elect a longterm government to increase the wealth of the richest people in the US and protect their interests. To this end, the gathering was filled with slanderous statements and self-serving political theory that demonized and dismissed the poor as a cargo of leeches that is dragging down the ship of state.

In The Huffington Post, Lauren Windsor recently reported on more audiotape from the Koch brothers' billionaires retreat in an article entitled, "Top Koch Strategist Argues the Minimum Wage Leads Directly to Fascism":

“Psychology shows that it is the main recruiting ground for totalitarianism, for fascism, for conformism, when people feel like they’re victims,” said Richard Fink, described by Windsor as the top political strategist for the Koch brothers. “So the big danger of minimum wage isn’t the fact that some people are being paid more than their value-added -- that’s not great. It’s not that it’s hard to stay in business -- that’s not great, either. But it’s the 500,000 people that will not have a job because of minimum wage.”

The assertion that a sense of "victimhood" is what keeps people from a just wage - when it is an issue of paying the lowest possible wages in order for the 1% to achieve the highest possible profit - is a self-serving defamation of exploited laborers.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBenCarson(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Vigorously opposed to Obamacare, calling it "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery?" Check. Think America is "very much like Nazi Germany?" Check. Think Michael Brown may have caused his own murder? Check. If you need an opinion or a controversial remark from an African American conservative, Dr. Ben Carson has a quiver full. If you haven't yet heard of Dr. Ben Carson, that's probably because you're not watching the Fox News Channel often enough.

But have no fear, the major news networks are liable to be discovering him in the very near future. Mainstream appearances are likely to be triggered by: a) the networks' desperately seeking a conservative African American voice; and/or, b) Carson may be seriously considering a run at the White House in 2016.

Carson, who in late 2013 was added as a Fox News contributor, is a 62-year-old retired neurosurgeon, who, according to Wikipedia, is credited with being the first doctor to successfully separate conjoined twins at the head. Carson is emeritus professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. According to an amazon.com bio, he "serves on the corporate boards of the Kellogg Company, Costco Wholesale Corp., and American's Promise, among others, and is an Emeritus Fellow of the Yale Corporation."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cantor2Eric Cantor (Photo: Wikipedia)Maybe his theme song should be, "Don't Cry for Me, John Boehner." After all, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his congressional seat earlier this year after being defeated in the GOP primary earlier this year by a Tea Party zealot. It was, in the mainstream media narrative, an embarrassment of immeasurable proportion for the man who was next in line to the Speaker of the House.

Last month, Cantor unexpectedly resigned before his term was over in January. Now we know why.

Cantor is making his way through the perennial revolving door, in which a primary loss can lead to a treasure chest of Wall Street riches. The Los Angeles Times reports that Cantor will join the investment bank Moelis & Co. Notice, according to The LA Times, how his pay escalates after the first year, perhaps so as to make it appear that he is not immediately cashing in on his high-ranking congressional and government access: 

Cantor is the latest government official to cash in on Wall Street after working in Washington. His pay will jump from the $193,400 a year he earned as majority leader to a base salary of $400,000 a year to start.

He also will receive a $400,000 cash payment and $1 million in restricted stock that will vest in phases after his third, fourth and fifth anniversaries with the company, according to a filing Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Next year, he will receive a minimum incentive payment of $1.2 million in cash and $400,000 in restricted stock.

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGOPUpsideDown(Photo: GOP)"Small Government Conservatism" has been THE GOP mantra ever since Reagan gave out with his famous pronouncement on "the government isn't the solution to your problems, it IS the problem," or words to that effect. This mantra today resonates from the so-called "sensible" Republicans in the Joe Scarborough (of "Morning Joe, in case you didn't know) mold to the most far-out of the Tea Partiers like Rep. Steve (8-year-old-undocumented-immigrants-have-calves-the-size-of-footballs-from-toting-drugs-across-the-desert [or words to that effect]; my-you-speak-English-well [to a couple of Dreamers who came to the US as infants]) King of Iowa.

Before going on to the discussion of the substance of this column, let me say that I think that it must be understood that the difference between today's "mainstream" Republican Party, led by such eminences as John (gay-marriage-is-a-sin-because-the-Bible-tells-me-so) Boehner and Mitch (I-will-filibuster-any-bill-I-don't-like, said-in-December, 2008) McConnell is solely a matter of style and rhetoric, not substance. They have the same agenda, to first and foremost serve the interests of their paymasters. That is, of course, a group of named and nameless leaders of the dominant wing of the US ruling class, for which the Koch Brothers make an oh-so-convenient twin figurehead. Those true interests are reflected precisely in just what the GOP/TYP actually means when it talks about "Small Government Conservatism."

Many liberals and even some progressives get into direct and/or indirect battles with such folk over the question of what indeed is the role of government, Federal, state and local, in a large country like ours, with the Constitution that we have. But to me, that discussion does our side no good. For in fact the GOP/TP is hardly for "Small Government Conservatism" across the board. They use the mantra to attack programs that they don't like. But in many sectors of our society, they are for precisely the opposite. But before getting to that list, let's see what they mean when they talk about "shrinking the government."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

toygunShot to Death for Holding a Toy Gun? (Photo:Tom Simpson)

Many gun laws vary by state, in the absence of strong national gun control. That explains the open carrying of semi-automatic rifles in stores such as Target in Texas without any police intervention. In every photo that I have seen of the gun toters of AK-47s and the like in Texas two realties are apparent: 1) All the defiant military-style gun carriers are white; and 2) there are no police to be seen as the gun fanatics swagger through housewares toting Uzis.

The reason that there are no police to be seen is that it is now legal to tote around handguns and semi-automatic long guns in stores and other public spaces in the longhorn state. Texas is not the only such state: In Ohio, state law allows people to carry firearms in many public spaces (though the NRA Institute for Legislative Action notes that "a person should exercise caution when carrying a firearm in public"). The state generally has loose firearms laws and can be considered a pro-gun-owner state. Nevertheless, a black man, 22-year-old John Crawford III, was shot dead by Beaver Creek, Ohio, police in early August - for holding a toy rifle in the toy section of a local Walmart. Apparently, a customer had called 911 and said a man was holding a rifle, and the police showed up, shouted a few disputed orders and then killed Crawford with real guns, as the toy Walmart rifle fell to the floor. (He did not enter the store with the toy rifle; he happened to pick it up while in the toy section of the store.)

It would be extremely difficult, given the recent events in Ferguson and the long history of racial bias shown by police in shooting black "suspects," to surmise that Crawford's skin color and dreadlocks didn't play any role in the decision of the Beavercreek police officers to murder a young adult holding a toy rifle.

 

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