Guest Commentary (3722)
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Love 'em or not, everyone has probably experienced Honey Maid graham crackers sometime in their lifetime. Last month, Nabisco, the company that makes Honey Maid Graham Crackers, and Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Nilla Wafers and an assortment of other well-known cookies and crackers, came up with an extraordinary family positive/gay-positive advertisement. And "traditional values" conservatives went, well, crackers. Ironically, at the end of the day, the graham cracker dust-up may in fact benefit both the folks at Nabisco and its chief critics, the American Family Association's One Million Moms.
The advertisement, which was extraordinarily family-positive, started out with two men taking care of their child, and was followed by a diverse group of families spending time together. The New Yorker's Andrew Solomon described the ad: "It shows a two-dad family, a rocker family, a single dad, an interracial family, a military family. The two-dad household is featured at some length; you cannot be distracted away from it. Most striking is the tagline of the ad: 'No matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will. Honey Maid. Everyday wholesome snacks for every wholesome family. This is wholesome.'"
The response to the ad – issued earlier this month -- was both heart-warming – many people responded in a very supportive way – and super critical. It was the latter responses that caused the company to put together a second ad, which takes the sometimes super-nasty comments and turns them into an extraordinary and inspirational art project, in which two artists glue together the complaints to spell out the word love in cursive.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Somewhere between these two quotes lies the future:
"And I would like to emphasize that nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change."
"The Judeo-Christian worldview is that man is at the center of the universe; nature was therefore created for man. Nature has no intrinsic worth other than man's appreciation and moral use of it."
The first quote is from Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, summing up the dire and much-discussed findings of its recent report: Human civilization — its technology, its war games, its helpless short-sightedness and addiction to fossil fuels — is wrecking the environment that sustains all life. Time is running out on our ability to make changes; and the world's, uh, "leadership" — political, corporate — has shown little will to step beyond more of the same, to figure out how we can reduce carbon emissions and live in eco-harmony, with a sense of responsibility for the future.
The second quote is from radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, writing recently in the National Review Online. He goes on, in his remarkable rant against environmentalism, to point out that "worship of nature was the pagan worldview" and "for the Left, the earth has supplanted patriotism." Eventually he compares environmentalism to loving wild dogs more than mauled children.
Prager's diatribe isn't my normal reading matter and I only bring it up here because I think it has relevance to the leadership void I've been pondering. The contemptuous dismissal of nature as lacking intrinsic worth — an unworthy competitor with God for human allegiance — may no longer have mainstream credibility, but, like racism, it's part of the mindset that has shaped Western civilization.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Washington - Torture is immoral, illegal and irreconcilable with this nation's most cherished values. If defenders of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program disagree, they should come out and say so. Instead, they blow smoke.
Sexist smoke, at that: Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said Sunday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is being "emotional" rather than "objective" as the intelligence committee, which Feinstein heads, moves toward release of a comprehensive report on CIA detention and torture during the George W. Bush administration.
Feinstein coolly responded that the report is indeed "objective, based on fact, thoroughly footnoted, and I am certain it will stand on its own merits. ... The only direction I gave staff was to let the facts speak for themselves."
Those facts, from what we know so far, are appalling.
ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Bloomberg News reported on April 8 that a Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuting attorney, James Kidney, said at his recent retirement party on March 27, that his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other mega-banks had been squelched by top people at the agency, because they "were more focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service than on bringing difficult cases." He suggested that SEC officials knew that Wall Street would likely hire them after the SEC at much bigger pay than their government remuneration was, so long as the SEC wouldn’t prosecute those megabank executives on any criminal charges for helping to cause the mortgage-backed securities scams and resulting 2008 economic crash.
His "remarks drew applause from the crowd of about 70 people," according to the Bloomberg report. This would indicate that other SEC prosecutors feel similarly squelched by their bosses.
Kidney’s speech said that his superiors did not “believe in afflicting the comfortable and powerful.”
Referring to the agency's public-relations tactic of defending its prosecution-record by use of what he considered to be misleading statistics, Kidney said, "It's a cancer" at the SEC.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
CNN is the 24/7 media trumpet for news about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that is presumed to have crashed in the Southern Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia. On that flight were 227 passengers and 12 crew members.
CNN grabbed every iota of information, pumped it full of digital frequencies, and broadcast it to what it thought was a world salivating for every syllable of thought.
When there was news, CNN broadcast it. When there was no news, CNN broadcast it. When there were outrageous theories, CNN was the source to find out who was saying what. When there was a rumor, CNN broadcast that, only to have to retract it hours later. Through chatter and repetition, CNN kept the story alive.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are no dummies. And neither is Paul Lalonde. They understand that the first attempts at turning LaHaye and Jenkins' mega-best-selling Left Behind series of apocalyptic novels into a film franchise fell flat. Although three Left Behind films were made, there was little interest -- except amongst the most enthusiastic End Timers -- little buzz generated within the filmmaking community, and not much doing at the box office. Now, in the spirit of "pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again," LaHaye, Jenkins and Lalonde have garnered a multi-million dollar budget, and plucked a box-office legend for the lead role, and are poised to take full advantage of the latest flood of religion-themed films.
If you don't think religion-themed films are trending, consider this: As of this writing (Monday, April 7), Noah, now in it's second week in theaters, has brought in more than $72 million at the box office; God's Not Dead, more than $32 million in three weeks, and Son of God, more than $58 million in its sixth week in theaters.
The Denver Post's film critic, Lisa Kennedy, recently pointed out that "By fall, no fewer than a half-dozen films with religious themes will be aiming for audiences beyond the faithful. Yet it's not simply the number of movies in or entering theaters in the coming months that herald a change in what we've come to know as 'faith-based' cinema. It's the variety, the mix of some things old and some things new."
Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind novels, recently tweeted: "Left Behind" [movie] is going to prompt important, life changing conversations. Are you ready? #leftbehindmovie."
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As is well-known, since their triumph in the 2010 elections, not only at the Federal but also at the level of the states, a number one priority for the Republican Party has been limiting the numbers of those voting, especially those who might vote Democratic. Further, they have also focused on limiting the significance of the votes of potential Democratic voters. The first step in this direction was the post-2010 re-districting for both Congressional and state legislative seats.
In those states where they had gained both a majority in both Houses of the legislature and the Governor's mansion, they very creatively re-drew both Congressional and state legislative district lines to, wherever possible concentrating potential Democratic votes while expanding the electoral impact of potential Republican votes. Indeed, they had succeeded Karl Rove's early-2000's goal of a "Permanent Republican Majority, which had proved illusory," with the goal-in-fact of creating a Permanent Republican Elected Government, without the bother of having to gain electoral majorities to do that.
Of course they did not put it that way. They used other terminology, like "dealing with voting fraud." Fox"News"Channel and Savagely Levin-itatingO'Rhannibaugh, laid on that one every day to a fare-thee-well. Never mind that voter fraud almost never occurs. It just had to be prevented, using such means as requiring photo ID for registration and then voting. Now if the GOP were really interested in preventing voter fraud, they would, for example, have set up systems in the states in which they were requiring this for registration and voting making acquiring one easy and cheap. They could, for example, have set up numerous photo ID-acquisition centers, at taxpayer expense. Funny. That just didn't happen.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The following are all relevant, fact-based issues, the "hard news" stories that the media has a responsibility to report. But the corporate-owned press generally avoids them.
1. U.S. Wealth Up $34 Trillion Since Recession. 93% of You Got Almost None of It.
That's an average of $100,000 for every American. But the people who already own most of the stocks took almost all of it. For them, the average gain was well over a million dollars -- tax-free as long as they don't cash it in. Details available here.
2. Eight Rich Americans Made More Than 3.6 Million Minimum Wage Workers
A recent report stated that no full-time minimum wage worker in the U.S. can afford a one-bedroom or two-bedroom rental at fair market rent. There are 3.6 million such workers, and their total (combined) 2013 earnings is less than the 2013 stock market gains of just eight Americans, all of whom take more than their share from society: the four Waltons, the two Kochs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett.
3. News Sources Speak for the 5%
It would be refreshing to read an honest editorial: "We dearly value the 5 to 7 percent of our readers who make a lot of money and believe that their growing riches are helping everyone else."
Instead, the business media seems unable to differentiate between the top 5 percent and the rest of society. The Wall Street Journal exclaimed, "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before," and then went on to sputter: "What Recession?...The economy has bounced back from recession, unemployment has declined.."
The Chicago Tribune may be even further out of touch with its less privileged readers, asking them: "What's so terrible about the infusion of so much money into the presidential campaign?"
4. TV News Dumbed Down for American Viewers
A 2009 survey by the European Journal of Communication compared the U.S. to Denmark, Finland, and the UK in the awareness and reporting of domestic vs. international news, and of 'hard' news (politics, public administration, the economy, science, technology) vs. 'soft' news (celebrities, human interest, sport and entertainment). The results:
-- Americans [are] especially uninformed about international public affairs.
-- American respondents also underperformed in relation to domestic-related hard news stories.
-- American television reports much less international news than Finnish, Danish and British television;
-- American television network newscasts also report much less hard news than Finnish and Danish television.
Surprisingly, the report states that "our sample of American newspapers was more oriented towards hard news than their counterparts in the European countries." Too bad Americans are reading less newspapers.
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
High above the Bowling Green town dump, a green energy revolution is being won. It's being helped along by the legalization of marijuana and its biofueled cousin, industrial hemp.
But it's under extreme attack from the billionaire Koch Brothers, utilities like First Energy (FE), and a fossil/nuke industry that threatens our existence on this planet.
Robber Baron resistance to renewable energy has never been more fierce. The prime reason is that the Solartopian Revolution embodies the ultimate threat to the corporate utility industry and the hundreds of billions of dollars it has invested in the obsolete monopolies that define King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes & Gas).
The outcome will depend on YOUR activism, and will determine whether we survive here at all. Four very large wind turbines in this small Ohio town are producing clean, cheap electricity that can help save our planet. A prime reason they exist is that Bowling Green has a municipalowned utility. When it came time to go green, the city didn't have to beg some corporateowned electric monopoly to do it for them.
In fact, most of northern Ohio is now dominated by FirstEnergy, one of the most reactionary, anti-green private utilities in the entire US. As owner of the infamous DavisBesse reactor near Toledo, FE continually resists the conversion of our energy economy to renewable sources. Except for the occasional green window dressing, First Energy has fought fiercely for decades to preserve its unsafe reactors while fighting off the steady progression of renewable generators.
FE's obstinance has been particularly dangerous at DavisBesse, one of the world's most profoundly unsafe nukes. To the dismay even of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other notoriously docile agencies, undetected boric acid ate nearly all the way through a reactor pressure vessel and threatened a massive meltdown/explosion that could have irradiated the entire north coast and the Great Lakes. FE's nuke at Perry, east of Cleveland, was the first in the US to be substantially damaged by an earthquake.
Both Perry and DavisBesse are in the stages of advanced decay. Each of them is being held together by the atomic equivalent of duct tape and bailing twine. A major accident grows more likely with each hour of operation.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A mind is a terrible thing to test, especially a child's mind — if, in so doing, you reduce it to a number and proceed to worship that number, ignoring the extraordinary complexity and near-infinite potential of what you have just tested.
"In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty."
What if the American education bureaucracy understood these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson and honored the latent genius of every student? What if it funded teachers and schools with as much enthusiasm as it did corporate vendors? What if, in some official way, we loved kids and their potential more than the job slots we envisioned for them and judged them only in relationship to their realization of that potential? What if standardized testing, especially the obsessive, punitive form that has evolved in this country, went the way of the dunce cap and the stool in the corner?
What if the education process were allowed to move the human race to a higher level of awareness? That is to say, what if it weren't stagnant and political but, instead . . . sacred, in the way that it feels sacred to hold an infant in one's arms?
I know that's asking a lot, but I feel emboldened to pose such questions as I become aware that standardized testing and the all-pervasive political hold it has on education is being challenged at the grass-roots level. Teachers across the country are standing up to the standardized testing system and parents are opting out of it: They're refusing to let their 8- to -13-year-olds take these "high stakes" tests that so many jobs and so much money rides on. And this movement, small as it is, has become news.