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Guest Commentary (4831)

2016.1.12 BF Kennedy(Photo: Leslie Peterson)ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR. OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

In 1966, my father held Senate hearings to investigate violent attacks by growers against pickers in the produce fields surrounding Delano, California. A young United Farmworkers organizer, Cesar Chavez, was orchestrating peaceful protests by Filipino and Chicano farmworkers against meager pay and brutal working conditions. My father only reluctantly attended the hearings. While he was sympathetic with the farmworkers' plight, he already had a full plate of issues ranging from the Vietnam War, rioting cities to starvation in the Delta and education on Indian reservations. He didn't think he had bandwidth for another cause.

"Why do I need to fly all the way to California," he complained to his aid, Peter Edelman, on the airplane out. But then something made him mad; A Kern county sheriff explained to the committee that he had imprisoned the peaceful protestors "for their own protection" to safeguard them from violent growers and their hired thugs.

The prospect of law enforcement officials deploying the states police power on behalf of lawbreaking corporations against law abiding citizens whose only crime was their poverty and powerlessness made him steam. My father despised bullies and believed in rule of law. He gaveled the morning session to a close. "May I suggest that during the luncheon period of time that the sheriff and the district attorney read the Constitution of the United States?" That afternoon, he joined the farmworkers on their picket line. Chavez became his closest political and moral ally.

2016.1.12 BF Koehler(Photo: Keith Bacongco)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The impatience across much of the media is palpable.

Recount?

Oh groan. That's not going to change the election results. The consensus "truth" writhing just below the surface of the mainstream, eyeball-rolling disapproval of Jill Stein's call for and financing of a presidential vote recount in Wisconsin (and perhaps in Pennsylvania and Michigan) is that the political and media consensus has already established who the next president is. Like it or not.

And "election integrity" is apparently set in stone, here in America, the oldest democracy on the planet. We took care of that a long time ago. No matter that touch-screen voting is unverifiable and absurdly vulnerable to hacking and the struggle for power brings out the worst in people. No matter that the Republican Party -- the political party that lost the vote but won the election -- has a long history of passing voter suppression laws aimed at non-white Americans. The federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, striking down one such law in North Carolina, for instance, accused state legislators of targeting African-Americans "with almost surgical precision."

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fist 1130wrp(Photo: Genusfotografen)When you find yourself in a suddenly darkened room, what do you do?   Some rush blindly to where they think the door might be.  Others stand still, let their eyes get adjusted to the different environment, re-orient themselves, then cautiously and sensitively, move forward.  Some search out people who might be able to show the way.  Post-election, a lot of people are re-assessing and searching for the best way forward.  Here are some ideas on where we should be going and what we should be doing from experienced, thoughtful people who are organizing on the front lines. 

One:  You Were Born for This Time.

My friend, Cherri Foytlin, a mother who lives in rural Louisiana in a deeply Republican area, gives her life organizing to protect our earth, water and the rights of indigenous people.  For that she has been arrested and is subject to death threats.  Right after the election she wrote: “Fear no evil.  Joy and Love still live, and it is up to us to build the shelter for the Hope that they provide.  Lower those pointed fingers, we will need them to grasp the hammer and forge the nails.  Do not give in to your righteous anxieties.  Our heroes have never left us.  All the good that ever was, it is still here.  You were born for this time.” 

Two:  Join Allies.

Marisa Franco, one of the founders of Mijente, calls on Latinos and African Americans to join together with whites who didn’t go for Trump. “No one is going to build it, no one is going to give it to us. Positioning folks like the people in Arizona who built resilience and strength, positioning people who have been survivors to teach others. People in the South, in Arizona have been doing that for years,” she said. “We’ve got to build bridges across communities.”

Wednesday, 30 November 2016 06:56

Betsy DeVos' Plan to Destroy Public Education

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Eraser 1130wrp opt(Photo: Prosavage2600)Betsy DeVos, Present-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education, has, as Douglas N. Harris recently wrote in an Op-Ed in The New York Times, “sent shock waves through the educational establishment.” And that is probably what Team Trump hoped would happen and continues to happen when DeVos takes office. Several years before being tapped by Trump, Americans United’s Rob Boston observed, “DeVos’ goal is nothing short of a radical re-creation of education in the United States, with tax-supported religious and other private schools replacing the traditional public school system.”

Betsy DeVos is a billionaire philanthropist, a longtime funder of multiple right-wing causes and candidates, and an ardent supporter of school vouchers/charter schools/privatization of public schools.

DeVos, and her brother, Erik Prince – the founder of Blackwater, the private military force that received contract worth billions of dollars from the U.S. government -- are two of the four children of  Elsa Prince Broekhuizen and the late Edgar Prince.

Edgar Prince made his fortune in Prince Automotive, and became one of the primary supporters of numerous Religious Right organizations and causes. Betsy DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, former CEO of Amway/Alticor and Republican candidate for governor of Michigan in a failed bid in 2006.

Monday, 28 November 2016 08:08

Understanding This New Age of Fascism

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Nationalism 1128wrp opt(Photo: Maerz1848)Anyone attempting to understand the roots of what is now being called the “alt-right” should run out to your favorite independent bookstore and grab hold of a copy of Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream. Published in 2009, and written by Leonard Zeskind, it remains a seminal history of the white supremacist movement, now being reimagined as the “alt-right.”

"While the white nationalist movement has splintered organizationally over the last few years, it is best to think of this phenomenon as something akin to a broken thermometer, where the mercury continually reconfigures itself into silver beads smaller and larger," Zeskind has written.

Drew S. Days III, Professor of Law, Yale University, and former U.S. Solicitor General called Blood and Politics “not only a brilliant account of the origins, modes of operation, collaborations, and internecine disputes of white supremacist, neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denier, and anti-Semitic groups in America, but alerts us to the fact that despite—or perhaps because of—significant improvements in race relations and changing demographic patterns, we are likely to witness a resurgence of their activities.”

Monday, 28 November 2016 06:56

Donald Trump Shatters the Arc of Justice

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TrumpPence 1128wrp opt(Photo: Ali Shaker/VOA)Maybe this much is true. Donald Trump, pseudo-president-elect, loser of the real election, charismatic stump-speech populist whose actual ability to govern may well be non-existent, has inflicted significant damage on America’s political infrastructure.

This is scary, of course, but not necessarily a bad thing. I say this even, or especially, if he manages to assemble a far right, white-nationalist-friendly cabinet and inner circle and start attempting to implement some of the promises he made on the campaign trail. If the Trump pseudo-presidency is “normalized” and we-the-people and the media shrug our shoulders at the rebuilding of Jim Crow Nation — the Wall, the Muslim registry and God knows what happens next — then yes, this is a disaster and moving to Canada is a viable option. But if Trump, instead, is the reincarnation of Bull Connor, someone who makes a dark, hidden ugliness suddenly clear to the public at large, then his rise to power may be the harbinger of profound, positive change.

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe,” abolitionist Theodore Parker wrote more than 150 years ago, prefiguring the words of Martin Luther King. “The arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

But the arc doesn’t bend by itself.

2016.22.11 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Elvert Barnes)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Those of us who want to build a better world will have our work cut out for us in the months and years ahead, and the commentary and analysis at Buzzflash will be more important than ever. Can we count on your support?

If you've ever wondered what you would do had you been around in 1930s Germany, I'm awfully afraid that you're gonna get a chance to find out. – Dr. Harry Edwards, Edge of Sports, November 2016

The incidents are starting to pile up: From chants by white students of "Build that Wall," at a high school volleyball tournament in Snyder, Tex., where Archer City High was facing off with Fort Hancock, to middle school students in Michigan chanting "build the wall" during lunch the day after the election; from women wearing head-scarfs getting harassed, to young Muslim men yelled at menacingly from passing cars; from a Latina women told to "go back to where you came from" to gay men harassed on the streets of Raleigh, North Carolina, the election of Donald Trump has ushered in a harvest of hate.

In this post-election period where white supremacists, white nationalists, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites seem to feel empowered to do and say just about anything, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is reporting that more than 700 incidents of "hateful intimidation and harassment" have already occurred.

2016.22.11 BF Cohen(Photo: Joe Brusky)ELLIOT D. COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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The infrastructure for mass warrantless surveillance is now in place for cyber racial profiling by a government administration with the will to carry it out. The latter is the systematic use of a spy technology network for purposes of targeting a specific race/s. As disclosed in the National Security Agency (NSA) slides leaked in 2013 by Edward Snowden, the present system of surveillance technology is of global proportions with the capacity to capture, store, and inspect virtually every electronic message (email, phone conversation, internet search, chat, etc.) sent and received by millions of U.S. citizens each day. The selection of racially motivated cabinet members at the highest level of the Trump administration is a clear warning sign that we may be about to witness a firestorm of cyber racial oppression that could end the experiment in democracy our forefathers began more than two hundred years ago.

The NSA presently conducts warrantless searches that have captured and stored millions of communications of U.S. citizens. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FIS) Court has allowed this activity to continue unabated rather than to insist that the technology be equipped with content filtering technologies that block government access to personal information of U.S. Citizens. While, pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, federal agencies conducting terrorism investigations need a court warrant to target U.S. citizens, they do not need such a warrant when their target is a non-U.S. citizen. However, the 2008 amendments to the 1978 FISA law now allow the feds to gather information containing the personal information of U.S. persons when this information is collected tangential to collecting foreign intelligence that targets non-U.S. persons. All that is necessary is that a "significant purpose" of the search is to gather foreign intelligence. Previous FISA law required that "the [only] purpose" of the investigation be to gather foreign intelligence. So, if the feds are conducting a terrorist investigation and they "just happen" to gather information about a U.S. citizen who is engaged in an allegedly illegal activity, this information is admissible for purposes of charging the person with a crime.

JUDY WICKS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Those of us who want to build a better world will have our work cut out for us in the months and years ahead, and the commentary and analysis at Buzzflash will be more important than ever. Can we count on your support?

Protectors 1121wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)This Thanksgiving, I'm going to Standing Rock with a delegation of more than 50 people from across the U.S. to cook and serve dinner for 500 Water Protectors, as a small way to give back to Native Americans on our national day of thanks.

Looking back on history, Native Americans saved the lives of newly arrived Europeans in what is now Massachusetts by sharing their harvest in the winter of 1620. The Wampanoag, who had lived in the region for some 12,000 years, taught the settlers to grow native crops. The Wampanoag were not the only tribe to be generous. In the earliest days, many tribes throughout the Americas helped new settlers survive.

The foods the natives shared with settlers were not just growing wild. They were cultivated over many generations by native people who had a deep connection to the land. Today, many vegetables and fruits in our diet were first cultivated by Native Americans, including foods found on the Thanksgiving table—potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, corn, tomatoes, squash, pumpkin and cranberry. The turkey many enjoy on Thanksgiving Day was first domesticated by Native Americans.

Monday, 21 November 2016 08:17

The Terrorism Targeting Our Grandchildren

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Those of us who want to build a better world will have our work cut out for us in the months and years ahead, and the commentary and analysis at Buzzflash will be more important than ever. Can we count on your support?

Children 1121wrp opt(Photo: Saveoursmile)Four decades of American narcissism and greed and exceptionalism have allowed the super-rich to dictate the future path of our nation. We're paying the price now, with environmental disasters, nonexistent savings for half of our families, Americans dying because of expensive health care, and a growing fear of blowback from desperate victims of our foreign wars.

Environment Be Damned

Almost all reputable sources agree that human-caused climate change is killing people, with up to 400,000 annual deaths "due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries," and up to 7 million deaths -- over a half-million of them children under the age of five -- caused by air pollution.

The richest people in the world create most of the pollution, yet are the least likely to feel guilty about the effects of their behavior, and the least likely to suffer from the impending environmental damage. This could lead to terror-filled years for the generations to follow us. Even the CHANCE of such misery for their grandchildren should motivate the super-rich to address the root causes of global warming. Instead, they have plans to retreat to impregnable "safe rooms" with food and water, oxygen, medical supplies, and all the amenities for a year or more of underground living.

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