Guest Commentary (3726)
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A group of white gun-rights advocates plan to sling rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic assault weapons onto their bodies, and walk through a Black neighborhood in Houston.
What could possibly go wrong with that?!
The march through Houston's Fifth Ward is planned for August 16 to "educate" Texans about their rights to openly carry firearms.
To deflect criticism that the march is racially-insensitive, the testosterone-enhanced group, apparently with straight faces to hide its freeze-dried minds, says all it wants is for racial equality.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Our country's wealthy white once-idealistic baby boomer generation has cheated those of you entering the working world. A small percentage of us have taken almost all the new wealth since the recession. Our Silicon Valley CEOs have placated you with overpriced technological toys that are the result of decades of American productivity, but which have mainly profited the elite members of their industries.
Although none of us in the older generations can speak for you, we can help you research the facts. And the facts are painfully clear.
BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Just a week after a nonprofit revealed that the U.S. is lagging behind other developed countries in energy efficiency, a research firm’s data shows that the nation is the leader in denying climate change.
With more and more denial earning time on TV and in Washington, it’s not all that surprising. Still, it’s sobering to see visual data of Americans’ attitudes toward climate change compared to other countries.
The data comes from United Kingdom-based Ipsos MORI, as part of the company’s Global Trends study, which polled 16,000 people in 20 countries. The respondents were asked 200 questions about eight topics, including the environment.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Media outlets across the country trumpeted the stunning news with headlines like this: "Citigroup Punished."
At last, went the storyline, the Justice Department brought down the hammer on one of the greed-headed Wall Street giants that are guilty of massive mortgage frauds that crashed our economy six years ago. While millions of ordinary Americans lost homes, jobs, and businesses — and still haven't recovered — the finagling bankers were promptly bailed out by Washington and continue to get multimillion-dollar bonuses. So, hitting Citigroup with $7 billion in penalties for its role in the calamitous scandal is a real blow for justice!
Well, sort of. Actually ... not so much. While seven billion bucks is more than a slap on the wrist, it pales in contrast to the egregious nature of Citigroup's crime and the extent of the horrendous damage done by the bankers. In fact, when it announced the settlement, the Justice Department itself pointed out that Citigroup's fraudulent acts "shattered lives."
For most of us, paying billions is impossible to imagine, much less do. But this is a Wall Street colossus with $76 billion in revenue last year alone. It rakes in enough profit in six months to more than cover this "punishment." Also, the bank will get to deduct 40 percent of the penalty from its income tax. Then there's this little number that the prosecutors failed to mention when they announced the settlement: Citigroup's taxpayer bailout in 2008 was $45 billion — six times more than it is now having to pay back!
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The World Congress of Families, an anti-gay Religious Right operation with an international focus, had been planning to hold "World Congress of Families VIII – the Moscow Congress" in Russia in September. According to a WCF Press Release, the conference has been suspended because of the "situation in the Ukraine and Crimea (and the resulting U.S. and European sanctions) [which] has raised questions about travel, logistics, and other matters necessary to plan WCF VIII." The "situation" in Ukraine, however, isn't scaring off numerous Religious Right leaders from visiting Ukraine and pitching their wares.
As the late Actor/Comedian/Pianist, Jimmy Durante often said: "Everybody wants to get into de act." Now, it's David Barton's turn. People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch recently reported that Barton, ersatz historian and genuine Christian nationalist had also spent some time in Ukraine, where he met "with members of the government and various religious leaders in order to teach them how to build a proper government based on the teachings of the Bible."
Last week, Buzzflash ran a piece about the American Pastors Network involvement with government and religious entities in Ukraine. However, over the past fifteen years, the Religious Right has launched numerous projects aimed at the Ukrainian people.
ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTNICOLE D'ALESSANDRO OF
A historic vote in Maine reaffirms that residents want to keep toxic tar sands at bay.
Yesterday, South Portland City Council voted 6-1 to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance, which prohibits bulk loading of tar sands onto tankers at the waterfront and the construction of any infrastructure that would be used for that purpose.
A number of groups, including Protect South Portland, Natural Resources Council of Maine and Environment Maine, have weighed in on the issue after finding that the pipeline transfer and bulk loading of tar sands on the waterfront would increase toxic air pollution, including volatile organic compounds; contribute to climate change threats; pose unacceptable risks of pipelines leaks into lakes and rivers; threaten wildlife; and harm property values.
The bulk loading of crude has never been done in South Portland, and the city plans to keep it that way. This is the first time in which a U.S. city considering loading tar sands oil onto tankers has banned the activity.
BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Renewable energy continues growing its share of new electricity generation in the U.S.
According to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, solar and wind energy constituted more than half of the new generating capacity in the country for the first half of 2014. Solar and wind energy combined for 1.83 gigawatts (GW) of the total 3.53 GW installed from January to June.
Natural gas constituted much of the remainder of installed capacity with about 1.56 GW. Coal and nuclear energy came to a complete half with zero projects and zero capacity. Last year, coal had two new units during the same time period. Since then, the Obama Administration issued a proposal for U.S. power plants to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent compared to 2005 level. Coal plants account for nearly half of the country’s carbon emissions.
ARIEL ZEPEDA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY REBECCA SOLNIT
This is the remarkable and ordinary story of the reactions of the people around a woman who woke up bruised with no memory of how she got that way. Ariel Zepeda lets us see how a campus rape can not just go unreported, but unnamed, how people can choose to smooth it over to spare themselves the difficulty of admitting there’s a rapist in their social circle and that justice might require something be done. Zepeda—who I had the pleasure of working with this spring in a writing seminar—is the voice we haven’t heard from yet: the male peer who’s horrified at the conduct of his fellow students but ambivalent about what constitutes an appropriate response. The New York Times’ cover story a week ago demonstrated yet again how awful can be the consequences for a university student who chooses to report being raped; it’s not a choice you can easily make for someone else.
It’s also worth remembering that from Harvard to Stanford, from Berkeley to Notre Dame to University of Connecticut, our finest universities are apparently graduating a new crop of unpunished rapists every year. I don’t know how this epidemic will be stopped, but I’m amazed and moved by the young women organizing on dozens of campuses to address the situation. They are doing much to change it. And I’m convinced voices like Ariel’s will help us see the nuances, the conflicts, dilemmas, blind spots, and pressures that surround these crimes and criminals. Too, this is an issue that men must address, because the most misogynist among us don’t listen to women and absorb the idea that rape is cool rather than reprehensible from what we now call rape culture and from their male peers in particular. Which is why the other voices need to be heard.
-- Rebecca Solnit
She trusted the people at the party. It was her second semester at U.C. Berkeley, at a fraternity party she attended with a group of her sorority sisters. You are vulnerable to new people whenever you try to gain entrance into a society. Some people try to befriend you while others try to take advantage of you. Ultimately, you must be able to trust these strangers. Even if you cannot trust strangers enough to befriend them, you should be able to trust the friends you already have.
The mandatory class on the responsible use of alcohol at U.C. Berkeley consisted of a couple hundred students gathered in an auditorium. We watched a video in which unsuspecting bystanders reacted to a scene in which a man (an actor) attempted to take an intoxicated woman (also an actress) home with him. We were supposed to learn that sex is never okay when drinking is involved, because you cannot fully ensure the other person’s consent. When we discussed the video, a student questioned the usefulness of the exercise, since the actor in the video was vocal about her refusal to leave the bar with the man, while real-life situations are more ambiguous for the bystanders and sometimes the participants.
In a more chaotic environment, like a party, it is nearly impossible to know what people are doing, or to know their intentions. Even if someone were to witness another person engaged in suspicious behavior, most would not get involved or would assume that someone else was responsible for that stranger stumbling away from the party. It is all part of the social experience at universities. You take chances, make mistakes, and try to move on – though this night would be different.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Zoia Horn died Saturday in Oakland at age 96. She was, to understate it, an incredible woman who led an extraordinary life. I had the privilege and honor of working closely with her at the DataCenter, an Oakland, California-based research center, helping her edit the Center's People's Right To Know series of Press Profiles.
Zoia Horn was a librarian who went to prison "as a matter of conscience by refusing to testify against antiwar activists accused of a bizarre terrorist plot," the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out in its obituary.
The case revolved a government investigation of "a plot masterminded by the Rev. Philip Berrigan along with other current or former priests or nuns, to blow up tunnels beneath Washington, D.C., and then kidnap Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's national security advisor, and hold him until the U.S. stopped bombing Southeast Asia," reported the Chronicle.
The government had gotten wind of the plot through "an informant [Boyd Douglas] who had been in prison with Berrigan and then got a job as a library assistant, where he prevailed on Ms. Horn, a tax-withholding opponent of the Vietnam War, to host a meeting with some of Berrigan's friends."
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"At the same time, values and ideas which were considered universal, such as cooperation, mutual aid, international social justice and peace as an encompassing paradigm are also becoming irrelevant."
Maybe this piercing observation by Roberto Savio, founder of the news agency Inter Press Service, is the cruelest cut of all. Geopolitically speaking, hope — the official kind, represented, say, by the United Nations in 1945 — feels fainter than I can remember. "We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . ."
I mean, it was never real. Five centuries of European colonialism and global culture-trashing, and the remaking of the world in the economic interests of competing empires, cannot be undone by a single institution and a cluster of lofty ideals.
As Savio notes in an essay called "Ever Wondered Why the World Is a Mess?,": "The world, as it now exists, was largely shaped by the colonial powers, which divided the world among themselves, carving out states without any consideration for existing ethnic, religious or cultural realities."
And after the colonial era collapsed, these carved-out political entities, defining swatches of territory without any history of national identity, suddenly became the Third World and floundered in disarray. ". . . it was inevitable that to keep these artificial countries alive, and avoid their disintegration, strongmen would be needed to cover the void left by the colonial powers. The rules of democracy were used only to reach power, with very few exceptions."
Whatever noble attempts at eliminating war the powers that be made in the wake of World War II — Europe's near self-annihilation — didn't cut nearly deep enough. These attempts didn't set about undoing five centuries of colonial conquest and genocide. They didn't cut deeper than national interest.