Guest Commentary (3724)
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you've been following politics over the past few years, you are undoubtedly familiar with the political machinations, maneuvering, and the ongoing efforts by the conservative billionaires, Charles and David Koch, to bend democracy to their will and turn the political landscape into their own personal playground. The Koch Brothers' major league funding of right-wing candidates and campaigns (big and small) across the country, have become one of the most toxic elements on America's political scene.
Chances are, however, you do not know anyone who actually knows any of the Koch brothers. You are even less likely to know anyone who, as a teenager, actually spent some time with one of the Koch Brothers in their hometown of Wichita, Kansas.
By the rules of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," I should acknowledge my link to the man, who, as a teenager, hung around the John Birch Society bookshop in Wichita, and met Charles Koch!
Meet Gus diZerega, blogger, political theorist, and author.
I met diZerega while we attended the University of Kansas in the 1960s. It was a long time ago, but if I remember correctly, we clashed – politically, not physically -- a few times during our college years. There were some heated exchanges. Our relationship these days, which is via e-mail exchanges, is not only civil, but also enjoyable and informative; at least I feel informed by his writing.
In a post titled "A Meditation on Charles Koch, Classical Liberalism, and Global Warming," diZerega wrote that he first met Charles Koch while he was in high school in Wichita, Kansas: "I had become a young conservative attracted to right-wing conspiracy theories. One afternoon I was in the American Opinion Bookstore, a John Birch Society operation filled with books on the Communist conspiracy."
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The education privatizers are trying to convince us that parental 'choice' will solve all the problems in our schools. But the choice they have in mind is to dismantle a once-proud system of education that was nurtured and funded by a society of Americans willing to work together.
The wealthiest among us seem to have forgotten how important it is to cooperate, as most Americans did in the post-WW2 years, in order to forge new paths of productivity and inventiveness. A vibrant society makes great individuals, not the other way around. Education must be at the forefront of such cooperative thinking. Here are four good arguments for it.
1. Equal Opportunity is an American Mandate
In the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. the Board of Education, Chief Justice Earl Warren said that education "is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." Equally eminent future Justice Thurgood Marshall insisted on "the right of every American to an equal start in life."
But now, as The Economist points out, "Whereas most OECD countries spend more on the education of poor children than rich ones, in America the opposite is true." Poverty, of course, is of all colors, but it's disproportionately black. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA shows that "segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities," while the Economic Policy Institute tells us that "African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago." New York City is the best example of that.
Charters and vouchers are the 'choice' of the free market. But the National Education Policy Center notes that "Charter schools...can shape their student enrollment in surprising ways," through practices that often exclude "students with special needs, those with low test scores, English learners, or students in poverty." Stanford's updated CREDO study found that fewer special education students and fewer English language learners are served in charters than in traditional public schools.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Vera Scroggins of Susquehanna County, Pa., will now be allowed to go to her hospital, supermarket, drug store, several restaurants, and the place where she goes for rehabilitation therapy. She can now go to the county’s recycling center, which is on 12.5 acres of land the county had leased to Cabot Gas & Oil Corp., one of the largest drillers in the country.
Common Pleas Court Judge Kenneth W. Seamans, Friday, revised a preliminary injunction he issued in October against the anti-fracking activist. That injunction had required the 63-year-old grandmother and retired nurse’s aide to stay at least 150 feet from all properties where Cabot had leased mineral rights, even if that distance was on public property. Because Cabot had leased mineral rights to 40 percent of Susquehanna County, about 300 square miles, almost any place Scroggins wanted to be was a place she was not allowed to be. The injunction didn’t specify where Scroggins couldn’t go. It was a task that required her to go to the courthouse in Montrose, dig through hundreds of documents, and figure it out for herself.
The injunction, says Scott Michelman of Public Citizen was “overbroad and violates her constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of movement.” Public Citizen, the Pennsylvania ACLU, and local attorney Gerald Kinchy, represented her Monday when she sought to vacate the order. At that hearing, Cabot wanted the buffer zone extended to 500 feet, but couldn’t show any reason why 500 feet was necessary.
Seamans’ revised order prohibits Scroggins from going within 100 feet of any active well pad or access roads of properties Cabot owns or has leased mineral rights. Land not being drilled, but which Cabot owns mineral rights, is no longer part of the injunction. That 100 feet separation is still far more than most injunctions call for; even abortion clinics typically have 15 feet exclusion zones to prevent violence, according to the brief filed in Scroggins’ behalf. Even the revised order probably violates her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I had no idea so many Republicans were nostalgic for the Cold War. President Obama should dust off the zinger he used in a campaign debate against Mitt Romney: "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back."
Poor Mitt. It seems he never got over Obama's putdown of his view that Russia is the "number-one geopolitical foe" of the United States. Since Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from neighboring Ukraine, Romney has been crowing "told you so."
Other hawkish GOP luminaries, either out of ideology or opportunism, are loudly echoing Romney's criticism. Speaking of hawks, Sen. John McCain of Arizona accused the president of conducting a "feckless" foreign policy. And speaking of opportunists, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said the United States has "receded from leadership" in the world and speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "openly laughing" at Obama.
I think it's much more likely that Putin finds humor in all the armchair generals who fail to suggest a single course of action that would have prevented him from snatching Crimea -- or a course of action that would make him give it back. Loud, content-free bluster can be amusing.
Obama's words and actions matter, however, and his handling of the Ukraine crisis has been firm, steady and realistic. These are not the 1980s and this is not the Cold War. I believe most Americans realize this, and perhaps someday the hawkish wing of the Republican Party will catch up.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"It was loaded with meaning and death."
Oh lethal, ticklish topic. So many people love guns and swear by them — many of them people with whom I am otherwise in essential political agreement. And it's not like I relish a debate about "gun control," a tug-of-war about limits that offends most gun lovers and causes weapon-buying sprees after every mass murder.
But the topic is unavoidable. The gun industry is part of the military-industrial complex and its advertising war aimed at the American reptile brain is centered around a permanent state of fear and, even more significantly, helplessness. Most people, or at least most gun owners, think "disarmed" means "disempowered" and the debate, such as it is, ends there.
The quote above is from an extraordinary essay by poet Judy Juanita, which gets at the spiritual dimension of the matter:
"The Gun as steel metaphor carrying the human urge to dominate and lay waste to an enemy or perceived threat. Guns as import and export. Hollywood's Gun, its cinematic ordnance, is the United States' international calling card.
"The Gun is oh-so-social as it erases human inequality. Anyone can obtain one and point . . . shoot . . . kill."
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a January 2005, story titled "Rumsfeld's Bloody Paths of Glory," I wrote: "Invoke the name of Donald Rumsfeld and these are the associations: failure to provide enough U.S. troops for Iraq; torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo; extended tours of duty and stopgap orders; worn out reservists and National Guard members; hubris worthy of the Greek chroniclers of the wars of the Peloponnesus; and infamous Rumsfeldian remarks including his recent, you go to war 'with the army you have.'"
In Errol Morris' Oscar-winning Fog of War, the filmmaker was able to get Robert McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense who guided America through the dreadful Vietnam War, to reflect on the war's failures and apologize for the disastrous mistakes he made. In his new film, The Unknown Known, Morris allows George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to be Rumsfeld; smug, self-satisfied, and unremorseful about the disastrous invasion of Iraq.
The other evening, Morris was a guest on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher". He was there to discuss and promote The Unknown Known, based in large part on Rumsfeld granting Morris more than thirty hours with him.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If one obscure college professor dies, does it make any difference? If you're Margaret Mary Vojtko, yes.
Margaret Mary died last summer at age 83 — and her death has turned her name into an emotional rallying cry for adjunct college teachers who're seeking justice from their schools.
Vojtko had taught French classes for 25 years at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, earning high marks from her students. Their praise helped make up for Duquesne's poor pay and lack of respect. Like most teachers there, Margaret Mary was part of the adjunct faculty — a group that now teaches more than half of all U.S. college courses, yet has no tenure or bargaining power, thus allowing schools like Duquesne to take advantage of them. And, boy, do they ever!
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you've been waiting for someone to link the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 to The Rapture, thanks to the Reverend Billy Graham's daughter, your wait is over. According to Anne Graham Lotz, the disappearance of the Boeing 777 over the Indian Ocean could be a sign that The Rapture might be around the corner.
Ms. Graham Lotz's Malaysian Airlines theorizing, coupled with her brother Franklin's recent declaration of support for the way Russia's Valadimir Putin is dealing with gays in his country, makes one think that March Madness extends far beyond the nation's premier basketball tournament.
Graham Lotz, a Christian evangelist, begins her piece, titled "Malaysian Airliner Disappearance Offers Snapshot of Post-Rapture World Shock," by citing 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
She then poses a series of questions that many have been asking:
"How could a modern airliner drop out of sight so quickly and completely? What happened to the plane itself? Was it hijacked? Was it blown out of the sky? Did something happen to the pilots so that without guidance the plane plunged intact into the depths of the sea?"
"Bottom line," she writes, "Where are all the people?"
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Blaming poverty on the mysterious influence of "culture" is a convenient excuse for doing nothing to address the problem.
That's the real issue with what Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said about distressed inner-city communities. Critics who accuse him of racism are missing the point. What he's really guilty of is providing a reason for government to throw up its hands in mock helplessness.
The fundamental problem that poor people have, whether they live in decaying urban neighborhoods or depressed Appalachian valleys or small towns of the Deep South, is not enough money.
Alleviating stubborn poverty is difficult and expensive. Direct government aid -- money, food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance and the like -- is not enough. Poor people need employment that offers a brighter future for themselves and their children. Which means they need job skills. Which means they need education. Which means they need good schools and safe streets.
The list of needs is dauntingly long, and it's hard to know where to start -- or where the money for all the needed interventions will come from. It's much easier to say that culture is ultimately to blame. But since there's no step-by-step procedure for changing a culture, we end up not doing anything.
ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Gallup headlined on March 20th, "Americans Again Pick Environment Over Economic Growth: Partisan Gap Over Priority Largest [Ever] Recorded." Their report showed that, whereas by a margin of 51% to 41%, all Americans place higher priority on "protection of the environment" than on "economic growth," the partisan gap on this issue is now at a record 34% of the electorate: 66% of Democrats favor the environment, whereas only 32% of Republicans do. In 2013, that was 55% to 27%. In 2012, it was 50% to 27%.
Back in 2000, 75% of Democrats favored the environment, and 60% of Republicans did, for a mere 15% partisan gap.
Between those two periods, a 14-year stretch, there was a massive money-funnel into conservative politics, operated by the largest owners of the Alberta Canada tar sands, Charles and David Koch, to attack the credibility of the growing climatological consensus, that the world is dangerously heating up due to the burning of fossil fuels, especially of the most-carbon-laden ones: coal and tar-sands oils.