Guest Commentary (3283)
JONATHAN FRANKLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
RIO: For anyone fortunate to be in Brazil last night, the raucous and peaceful outpouring of an estimated 250,000 street protestors was indeed historic. What began as disgust with shoddy public transportation exploded to include issues ranging from government corruption to flamboyant and seemingly unlimited state spending on next year's World Cup. "Japan take our football, we want your education" was one popular sign at last night's protests.
I watched in awe as street after street in Rio de Janeiro filled with the young, the restless and the until-now passive Brazilian citizenry. Not anymore. In dozens of cities in Brazil and around the world, Brazilians flocked together to shine a light on their discontent. "It's not just about 20 cents" was a common sign, referring to the hike in bus tickets that set off the first round of protests. Protestors in Turkey waved signs "Brazil You Are Not Alone."
The massive street protests in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and cities across Brazil stunned the Brazilian body politic. For nearly a generation the Brazilian populace kept quiet despite rising signs of corruption, inefficiency and overall financial mismanagement. But the international hype about Brazil – which is always off the charts – went haywire with the awarding of both the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics. (Though both competitions are notoriously corrupt and shady, somehow the winning of both rounds was supposedly a sign that Brazil had graduated to the big leagues.) Few analysts took the time to contemplate really what it would take to negotiate the smoky back rooms of the IOC and FIFA and come out winners in both rounds. Bribery allegations aside, Brazil was an emerging power, a BRIC with samba hips.
The first cracks began showing earlier in the year. Stadium projects were far off schedule. Construction projects tens of millions of dollars over budget. The Brazilian economy slowed, the stock market tanked. Foreigners began ripping billions out of Brazil. FIFA began to feel the panic.
EUGENE ROBINSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In Syria, the Obama administration seems to be stumbling back to the future: An old-fashioned proxy war, complete with the usual shadowy CIA arms-running operation, the traditional plan to prop up ostensible "moderates" whose prospects are doubtful and, of course, the customary shaky grasp of what the fighting is really about.
This will not end well.
It is tragic that more than 90,000 people have been killed in the bloody Syrian conflict, with more than 1.5 million displaced. But I have heard no claim that President Obama's decision to arm the rebels will halt or even slow the carnage. To the contrary, sending more weapons into the fray will likely result in greater death and destruction, at least in the short term.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We hear a lot about corporationsavoiding federal taxes. Less well known is their non-payment of state taxes, which along with local taxes make up 90% of U.S. education funding.
Pay Up Now just completed a review of 2011-12 tax data from the SEC filings of 155 of the largest U.S. corporations. The results show that the total cost of K-12 educational cutbacks in recent years is approximately equal to the amount of state taxes left unpaid by these companies.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When the issue of homosexuality in the US military was front and center, or rather when the issue of the open recognition without penalty (which in virtually all cases meant discharge), was front and center, the public concerns raised by both military and even more so by political opponents of gay equality in the military always was presented in the context of the issue of "combat readiness."
Ohmygosh, those "authorities" on the subject told us over and over again, why if gays were permitted, or rather were openly permitted, in the ranks, combat readiness was sure to suffer. Thus until very recently open homosexual behavior paved the path to discharge, lickety-split. So let's deal with the "combat readiness" issue on which the policy was presumably based.
There have presumably been homosexuals in at least some military organizations going back to Biblical times. The Bible famously has its apparent proscriptions on homosexual behaviors. They would presumably have not been included had there not been A) homosexuals and B) homophobes to have been concerned with it.
(Not all churchmen, by the way, interpret the Biblical mentions of homosexuality in the same way. The Baptist Minister P.J. Gomes, one-time head of the Harvard Divinity School, and gay himself saw the matter quite differently. But that is another matter.)
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's Father's Day, and that means the Great White Republican Hierarchy in Washington smells burnt charcoal and is ready to barbeque some Democrats.
Because Father's Day is special, the Republican-proposed Sequester is waived, and there is no budget limit for the day's food and frivolity.
It's warm this Father's Day, but the Republicans aren't complaining about all the fracking heat from their propane grill or the sweat they're putting into making a nice dinner. They're sure that it'll be ice-age cool next year because the destruction of the ozone layer and Climate Change don't exist.
First onto their searing grill is a slice of prime Benghazi. The meat has been marinating for nine months and is ready to pop. The Republican fathers see a conspiracy and cover-up that four Americans died in an embassy fire caused by terrorists. Protecting the Republican eyes from all the heat being stirred up are rose-colored glasses that have kept them safe from acknowledging they have been responsible for massive funding cuts for State Department security. The glasses also protect them from remembering they weren't outraged and didn't demand impeachment when terrorists attacked seven diplomatic compounds and killed more than 30 people during the George W. Bush administration.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We can end war.
Please, before you read on, let those four words float in silence for half a minute, until you actually hear them — until they come alive with meaning as insistent as a hatching egg. War is not inevitable, no matter how cluelessly enthusiastic the media may be to promote it, no matter how thoroughly it runs the global economy and dominates almost every government.
We can shut down this system of self-perpetuating violence and geopolitical chicken. We can dismantle the glory machine and redefine patriotism. We can curtail the most toxic enterprise on the planet. We can end war.
Oh, the audacity to say such a thing! Yet it amounts to no more than saying: We can evolve, individually and collectively. We can bring wisdom to conflict. We can reclaim the institutions that run our lives. We can look into the eyes of children, those we know and those we don't know, and vow to protect them. We can start caring again about future generations and bring their well-being into our thoughts and plans.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In the movie Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper's character, suffering from bipolar disorder, strives to find silver linings in his daily life. When it comes to the still-developing IRS scandal, looking for a silver lining may be a colossal stretch. In recent days, however, a sliver of a silver lining is peeking over the horizon.
At this point, it is difficult to predict the long-term consequences of the uproar over the IRS paying extra special attention to Tea Party and Patriot groups seeking tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status. There are many things we know for certain about the IRS scandal's recent trajectory: Congressman Darrel Issa (R-Ca.) will continue to receive more than his fair share of face time as he holds more hearings and makes more provocative statements to the media; Christian right legal firms will file lawsuits galore; a significant amount of money will be raised by conservative organizations; some on the right will push to "Abolish The IRS," while others will call for the impeachment of President Obama; and, in all likelihood, Tea Party and Patriot groups will attempt to launch a spring and summer offensive, based full of outrage and indignation, aimed at stirring up the base.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a previous Commentary on this subject, I endeavored to "set the stage." I briefly retailed the history of the establishment of US Permanent War policy by BushCheney. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama appeared to attack the policy head-on, and suggested that he would endeavour to end it.
This President is known for giving very pretty speeches, seemingly showing a great deal of resolve to solve very difficult problems, but then for one reason or another failing to follow through and surely failing to achieve the goals he appeared to set forth. There are a variety of reasons for this. Some have to do with his apparent dis-interest in engaging in heavy-duty political battling. Some have to do with his traditional right-wing Democratic politics. Some have to do with the well-known total intransigence of the Congressional Republican Party in dealing with him.
But there are some major structural problems in the US economy and in US society in general that make it very hard for President Obama to follow through on his proposal. (It should be noted that here, for the sake of this discussion, I am taking him at his word that he really wants to do this and is not just blowing smoke. However, it is well-known on the Left that that may very well not be the case.)
And so, not necessarily in order of importance, let's consider the question, "Why Permanent War." The central element is the nature of modern US capitalism. Until the advent of the Reagan Administration, since the end of World War II US capitalism focused on domestic production for profit-making (and profit-making is the number one goal of capitalists. Any other positive achievements for society as a whole may be called "collateral benefits," for lack of a better term.) Then things began to change. Since this history is well-known to most readers of these pages, I will review it very quickly.
PUBLIC CITIZEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Momentum to free elections from corporate influence is growing by the month. A bipartisan majority of both houses of Delaware's General Assembly have signed a letter calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment reversing the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Delaware is now the 15th state to call for such an amendment, after Maine, West Virginia and Illinois passed similar resolutions over the past two months. Known as "the First State" for being the first to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Delaware is maintaining that tradition of leadership by being one of the early states to stand for voter ownership of political campaigns.
A total of 24 state representatives and 11 state senators signed their names to the letter, which is addressed to U.S. Sens. Thomas Carper (D–Del.) and Chris Coons (D–Del.) and U.S. Rep. John Carney (D–Del.).
The letter, which was initiated by state Rep. Paul Baumbach and state Sen. Bryan Townsend, reads in part, "There is no more critical foundation to our government than citizens' confidence in fair and free elections. The Citizens United decision directly undermines this confidence, and was issued in the absence of any evidence or searching inquiry to refute the fair assumption that unbridled and opaque spending in politics harms American democracy. ... The United States of America's elections should not be permitted to go to the highest bidder, and yet this is the risk that rises from the ashes of the Citizens United decision." The letter represents the second major response to Citizens United in the past two years in Delaware. In 2012, Common Cause Delaware and Public Citizen helped pass a bill requiring reporting of independent political expenditures in excess of $10,000 in Delaware. Common Cause Delaware also played a leadership role in securing this victory for free elections.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Anyone who has followed right wing movements over the past several decades, or even the past few months, could have anticipated the most recent wrinkle in the still-developing IRS scandal; the call to abolish the IRS. While advocating eliminating the IRS is nothing new -- former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has pushed that idea for years -- shortly before a House Appropriation Committee hearing, Senator Ted Cruz picked up the abolish the IRS standard tweeting: “Mr. President, if your #1 priority is fixing the problem, let's abolish the #IRS