Guest Commentary (3834)
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.
ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTBRANDON BAKER OF
Since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, federal fossil fuel subsidies have grown by 45 percent, from $12.7 billion to a current total of $18.5 billion, according to a report from Oil Change International.
Las year alone, U.S. federal and state governments provided $21.6 billion in production and exploration subsidies to the oil, gas, and coal industries. The increase is a result of oil and gas booms that are rewarded with tax breaks and other incentives. They are essentially rewarded for accelerating climate change, the report concludes.
“Channeling billions of taxpayer dollars to the oil, gas, and coal industries each year is in direct opposition to the urgent demands of climate change,” the report’s executive summary reads. “The U.S. needs to reject its current All of the Above energy strategy that amounts to nothing less than climate denial and live up to its promises to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and usher in a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy.”
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There is no contesting the fact that high-profile religious right leaders from the United States helped set the table for Uganda's appalling anti-gay laws. Now, emboldened by "victories" in Uganda and the prospect for further discriminatory legislation in other African countries, and Vladimir Putin's anti-gay laws in Russia, some elements of the religious right appear to be setting their sights on Ukraine.
Last summer, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued a report titled "Dangerous Liaisons: The American Religious Right & the Criminalization of Homosexuality in Belize." Although the report focused on a dangerous situation for the LGBT community in Belize, Heidi Beirich, the author of the report and director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, offered an overview: "Many ... American religious-right groups know they have lost the battle against LGBT rights in the United States, ... they're now aiding and abetting anti-LGBT forces in countries where anti-gay violence is prevalent. These groups are pouring fuel on an exceedingly volatile fire."
A recent report-back from a group calling itself the American Pastor's Network (APN), told of attending an International Leadership Summit in Ukraine and "working with and encouraging pastors and elected leaders there who are making a concerted effort to embrace American ideas to restore the country."
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Gas prices at the pump during the July 4th extended weekend were the highest they have been in six years. This, of course, has little to do with supply-and-demand economics. It has everything to do with supply-and-gouge profits.
Over the past decade, the five largest oil companies have earned more than $1 trillion in profits. Last year, the Big Five—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell—earned about $93 billion in profits. Their CEOs last year earned an average of about $20 million. Included within the profits is $2.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies because it's hard to make a living when your hourly wage, assuming you work every hour of every day, is only $2,283.
"We have been subsidizing oil companies for a century. That's long enough," President Obama said more than a year ago. The Senate disagreed. Forty-three Republicans and four Democrats blocked the elimination of subsidies. Although the final vote was 51–47 to end the subsidies, a simple majority was not enough because the Republicans threatened a filibuster that would have required 60 votes to pass the bill. A Think Progress financial analysis revealed that the 47 senators who voted to continue subsidies received almost $23.6 million in career contributions from the oil and gas industry. In contrast, the 51 senators who had voted to repeal the subsidies received only about $5.9 million.
For a couple of decades, the oil industry blamed the Arabs for not pumping enough oil to export to the United States. But when the Arab oil cartel (of which the major U.S. oil companies have limited partnerships) decided to pump more oil, the Americans had to look elsewhere for their excuses. In rapid succession, they blamed Mexico, England, the Bermuda Triangle, polar bears who were lying about climate change so they could get more ice for their diet drinks, and infertile dinosaurs.
ECOWATCH STAFF ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Less than two weeks ago, local communities triumphed over the fracking industry in a precedent-setting case decided by the New York Court of Appeals. The court ruled that the towns of Dryden and Middlefield can use local zoning laws to ban heavy industry, including oil and gas production within municipal borders.
While the court decision is a victory for the two towns, many New Yorkers continue to rally and push for a statewide fracking moratorium. In this vein, Concerned Health Professionals of New York (CHPNY) today released a major resource to the public, including public officials, researchers and journalists—the Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking.
“This compilation of findings brings together data from many fields of study and reveals the diversity of the problems with fracking—from increased flood risks to increased crime risks, from earthquakes to methane leaks,” said Sandra Steingraber, PhD, at a press conference held today. “What this multitude of threats all has in common is the ability to harm public health. That’s our message to Governor Cuomo and Acting Health Commissioner Zucker.”