Guest Commentary (3463)
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Last night, it was difficult to cut through the fog of reaction from current day conservatives to the death of Nelson Mandela. However, despite the kind words and the tributes, it should never be forgotten that the conservative movement in this country took great pains to condemn and demonize Mandela and the African National Congress, doing all they could to undermine the economic boycott of South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement.
Nelson Mandela and his comrades with the African National Congress were not always the toast of the town, especially in Washington, D.C.
President Ronald Reagan, who placed the ANC on the U.S. terror list in the 1980s (a designation that wasn't removed until 2008), labeled the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 as "immoral" and "utterly repugnant." Instead, the Reagan Administration adopted "a position a position of constructive engagement towards South Africa." The Nation's Sam Kleiner reported in early July.
"Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester Crocker pushed for expanded trade with Johannesburg under the belief that it was a strong ally in the Cold War. While divestment activists urged the United States to isolate the South African regime, the Reagan administration was pushing for more trade and engagement."
In 1985, Rep. Dick Cheney voted against a congressional resolution calling for the release of Mandela and the recognition of the African National Congress. North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms "turned his back during Mandela's visit to the U.S. Capitol."
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yes, it's that's time of year again when working Americans foolishly blow their hard-earned money on junk primarily because of the thousands of advertisements that tell them to do just that at an accelerated rate during the holidays.
Of course, you're not supposed to know about the mothers and children in miserable conditions that labor to make all that material stuff for a buck a day, much less think about how the Company Men exploit the poor by turning them into automatons.
Just buy the stuff—that's all that matters. If you don't, Shame, shame, Oh the power of guilt! Why do you suppose the corporate networks broadcast the shopping malls as if it were a competitive race almost every night until the end of New Year's?
Oblivious shoppers, let me tell you a thing or two, there are no glossy photos at GAP, Old Navy, Tommy Hilfiger, Macy's, Kohl's...that capture the slaves of the world, the mothers and fathers, the children in Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, around the globe, and yes, right here in the good old U.S.A., sweating over hundreds of sewing machines for 10 hours at a time, shoulder to shoulder in suffocating, smelly rooms that resemble prisons with no fire exits. And when there are fires and workers die? The retailers simply turn their backs, refusing aid and compensation.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
'Tis the season to feel rage and heartache about the economy.
I feel hope as well, praise the Lord, thanks to Pope Francis and the alley behind my house, where nothing of value goes to waste.
I'm the kind of person who can't throw anything away, but sometimes I have to anyway — an old microwave, a sewing machine that hasn't been used in 20 years, a threadbare easy chair, tangled computer wires and other excruciating miscellany — and when I do, it's usually gone within a day, if not an hour. When I can no longer find value in what I possess, others see it as a gift from the universe.
The alley economy flows though my Chicago neighborhood 24/7, a sort of gift economy that continually revitalizes one's material possessions, in unnoticed defiance of the official, throwaway, money-profit-growth economy that has its claws around our world and is squeezing us to death. The alley economy is, in fact, part of a rudimentary social ecosystem, where forces collude for the common good and nothing is wasted.
This is the opposite of the official economy, where everything except growth and profit are held in contempt and the environmental and human commons are simultaneously exploited and polluted. Those who benefit from this system are just as trapped in it as the ones who are victimized by it, and will ultimately come tumbling down when sustainability collapses along with the rest of us, but in the meantime they are forced both to serve its perpetuation and ignore its hellish cost.
That last part — the tacit ignoring of what's wrong, the blurred distinction between news and advertising, the erosion of integrity in most forms of public communication — is particularly distressing, because without clarity of discussion we can't begin to address what's wrong and begin making crucial changes, even if they benefit everyone.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Recent discoveries from the Kepler telescope have indicated that in our galaxy, the Milky Way, alone there are 647 possible "Earth-sized" planets orbiting various sun-star equivalents. (One does wonder how they get to that exact number.) And then there are an estimated 500 billion other galaxies out there. The speculation is becoming more intense as to whether or not there are other "intelligent" species on one or more of those planets. Well, the great Dr. Stephen Hawking's view to the contrary notwithstanding, given the vast distances of space it is unlikely that we will ever find out (nor would another intelligent species find out about us either). (Do note that "vast" is a word that vastly underrepresents the reality of what those distances really are.) But nevertheless one intriguing question is, if there is, or was, intelligent life that has developed the equivalent of what we call "civilization" elsewhere in the universe, is it co-existent in time with ours?
For it to be co-existent with ours, unless the timing were virtually exact, it would have to have lasted quite a bit longer than ours, because we, living in what we call "civilization," have been around for the mere twinkling of a geologic eye (less than 10,000 years). Further, our species is on the verge of self-destruction, whether due to global warming-induced climate change and its resultant disasters, over-population (and the resulting under-supply of food and water), depletion of natural resources, or nuclear war.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
December is a time of many holiday feasts - which makes it a good time to remember family farmers and the tremendous contributions they make to our country, culture, taste buds and tummies. But not all farmers contribute equally, which is why I'm sending out this special holiday sentiment to one group of unique agriculturalists: Thbbllllttttt!
That raspberry goes out to 50 billionaires who've been farming the U.S. farm subsidy program for years, harvesting a cornucopia of taxpayer cash for themselves or their corporate empires. They include top executives or owners of such diverse entities as Chase Manhattan Bank, Chick-fil-A, DISH Network, Fiji Water, Hyatt Hotels, Microsoft and Victoria's Secret. The diligent watchdogs of the Environmental Working Group matched the "Forbes 400" list of richest Americans with a farm subsidy database to unmask these Gucci-wearing Old MacDonalds. E-I-E-I-O, what a rip-off!
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Paul Crouch, once one of the most powerful men in the world of televangelism, has died at 79 after a ten-year battle with degenerative heart disease. Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network with his wife Janice, was a master at pitching the "prosperity gospel," and prosperity surely came his way. Crouch and Janice had "matching his-and-her mansions in Newport Beach, Calif., and used multimillion dollar corporate jets," entertainment.time.com pointed out.
Crouch's wealth not only grew out of the power of his own preaching and fundraising solicitations, it also came from selling time on his network to many of the world's best known preachers. And, the Crouches were ultimate survivors, having, as Religion Dispatches' Sarah Posner recently pointed out, "survived many a media exposé."
The Trinity Broadcasting Network, founded in 1973 -- well before the rise of the Rev. Jerry Falwell and a decade after Pat Robertson founded his Christian Broadcasting Network -- has been called the world's largest Christian broadcasting network. According to the Associated Press, the Costa Mesa, California-based TBN has "84 satellite channels and more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates as well as a Christian amusement park in Orlando."
AP reported that "Crouch began his broadcasting career while studying theology at Central Bible Institute and Seminary in his native Missouri by helping build the campus' radio station. He moved to California in the early 1960s to manage the movie and television unit of the Assemblies of God before founding Trinity Broadcast Network in 1973 with his wife."
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries may be militarily effective, but they are killing innocent civilians in a way that is obscene and immoral. I'm afraid that ignoring this ugly fact makes Americans complicit in murder.
It is understandable why President Obama has made drone attacks his go-to weapon in the fight against terrorists and the Taliban. Armed, pilotless aircraft allow the CIA and the military to target individuals in enemy strongholds without putting U.S. lives at risk. But efficacy is not legitimacy, and I don't see how drone strikes can be considered a wholly legitimate way to wage war.
This is an unpopular view in Washington -- especially at the White House, where Obama and his aides have done much to erase the stain on the nation's honor left by the excesses of George W. Bush's Global War on Terrorism. It is to his great credit that Obama ended torture, shut down the CIA's secret overseas prisons and made a good-faith effort to close the detention center at Guantanamo.
But Obama has greatly expanded the use of drones, and his version of the terror war looks a lot like a campaign of assassination.
Even if the intelligence agents and military officers who operate the drones have perfect knowledge -- meaning they are absolutely certain the target is a dangerous enemy -- and fire the drones' missiles with perfect accuracy, this amounts to summary execution. Is such killing morally defensible?
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We already pay dearly for energy, medicine, banking, and telecommunications services. But a little research reveals that we're paying more -- much more -- in a variety of ways that our business-friendly mainstream media won't talk about.
1. Drug Companies: The Body Snatchers
A report by Battelle Memorial Institute determined that the $4 billion government-funded Human Genome Project (HGP) will generate economic activity of about $140 for every dollar spent. Although that estimate is controversial, drug industry executives say it's just a matter of time before the profits roll in.
Big business is quickly making its move. Celera Genomics was first, as the company initiated a private version of the genome project, incorporating the public data into their work, but forbidding the public effort to use Celera data. Abbott Labs is developing products based on the HGP. Merck's automated biotechnology facility was made possible by the HGP. Two-thirds of the products at Bristol-Myers Squibb have been impacted by the HGP. Pfizer is starting to make big profits from its genome-based cancer treatments.
BOB KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What goes around comes around . . . and around, and around.
Last month, the day after I left Santa Rosa, Calif., a 13-year-old boy carrying a toy replica of an AK-47 was shot and killed on the outskirts of that town by a Sonoma County deputy sheriff with a reputation for being trigger-happy. The officer had ordered the boy to drop the “gun,” then in a matter of two or three seconds opened fire, giving him no chance to comply.
This is not an isolated incident, which is why it’s yet one more tragedy I can’t get out of my mind — one more logical consequence of the simplistic militarism and mission creep that’s eating us alive. This is gun culture running unchecked from boyhood to manhood, permeating national policy both geopolitically and domestically. This is the trivialization of peace. It results in the ongoing murder of the innocent, both at home and abroad, at the hands of government as well as criminals and terrorists.
“That’s America, we say, as news of the latest massacre breaks,” Henry Porter wrote in September in the U.K. Observer. The massacre of the moment was lone gunman Aaron Alexis’ slaying of 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.
“But what,” Porter asked, “if we no longer thought of this as just a problem for America and, instead, viewed it as an international humanitarian crisis — a quasi civil war, if you like, that calls for outside intervention?”
CHESTER KULIS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT