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Guest Commentary (4157)

Thursday, 09 April 2015 06:43

The Real Nuclear Threat

2015.9.4 KOEHLER(Photo: Nicolas Raymond)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If war were only “itself” — the violence and horror, the conflagration and death — it would be bad enough, but it’s also an abstraction, a specific language of self-justifying righteousness that allows proponents to contemplate unleashing it not merely in physical but in moral safety.

War, the abstraction, is an instrument of policy, an “option” that can be waged or threatened to get one’s way. It is always contained and sure of itself, limited in its goals and, of course, necessary. Its unintended consequences are minimal and quickly neutralized with an official apology, then forgotten. If we didn’t forget, thenextwar wouldn’t seem like such a viable, enticing option.

The next war that has been gestating for so long now is the one with Iran, and its proponents, I’m sure, will do what they can to dismantle the framework of the agreement recently negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 nations. The incompleteness of the agreement — the fact that only Iran has accountability in the realm of nuclear weapons — raises profound questions about the future of the planet, but this flaw is obscured, certainly in most mainstream coverage, by the “controversy” that the agreement has been reached at all, supplanting the possibility of a military response to Iran’s nuclear energy program.

The interests opposed to the agreement, which wouldn’t be possible without mutual trust, maintain a belief in nothing but one-sided force to achieve their ends: either ongoing sanctions against Iran or military action.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBigB(Photo: EcoWatch)This week, President Obama is launching a slew of new initiatives to focus on how climate change affects community health and how those effects can be better addressed. He kicked it off by declaring April 6-12 National Public Health Week to emphasize the importance of engaging the public health system as well as private companies and local governments to take action to mitigate the health impacts of climate change.

“We know climate change is not a distant threat,” said the White House press release. “We are already seeing impacts in communities across the country. And while most Americans see climate change hitting their communities through extreme weather events—from more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves—there are other threats climate change poses to the American people. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor and some communities of color. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries.”

To meet those challenges, the White House is kicking off a series of actions to engage various stakeholders, identify solutions, provide wider access to climate and health data and other significant information and make sure the next generation of medical professionals is trained to address the ways in which climate change is making people sick.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBeggar(Photo: Sidney Paget)At last, America's political leaders indicate that they now hear the voices and feel the pain of the poor and of the millions of working families slipping out of the middle class.

Congress had previously paid no attention to the ever-widening chasm between the rich and the rest of us, but that inequality has recently emerged as a top political topic in the race for such Republican presidential contenders as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. They are publicly lamenting the wealth gap and — by gollies — proposing solutions. Alas, though, the "solution" proposed by each of them is not to provide help for those who've been knocked down, but to offer aid to the same corporate elites who've been enriching themselves by knocking down the middle class and holding down the poor.

Specifically, their solution is to cut taxes on corporations and the rich, do away with environmental and labor protections and cut or privatize government programs — from Head Start to Social Security — that ordinary people count on. For example, Sen. Rubio proposes to kill the food stamp program (even though the need for it is greater than ever) and redirect that money into what he calls a subsidy for low-wage workers. Does he think we have sucker-wrappers around our heads? That's not a subsidy for workers, but for low-wage employers. Why should taxpayers subsidize the poverty pay of profitable giants such as McDonald's, rather than making them pay living wages and cover their own labor costs?

I guess we should count it as progress that Republican candidates are at least having to admit that inequality is a problem, but come on — offering the same old failed, anti-government snake oil is an insult to the American people. Jeb Bush shows how vacuous their flim-flammery is by saying that, to address the ever-widening wealth and income gap, he'll "celebrate success and ... cherish free enterprise." Gosh, what a comfort that'll be to America's hard-hit majority.

It may be futile to hope that the GOP's gaggle of corporate-hugging, right-wing presidential candidates will seriously address the issue of rising inequality in our "Land of Opportunity" — but where are the Democrats?

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOilRig(Photo: VaderSS)Today, six activists from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza have climbed aboard an Arctic-bound Shell oil rig, the Polar Pioneer, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 750 miles northwest of Hawaii.

The six volunteers have set up camp on the underside of the Polar Pioneer’s main deck with enough supplies to last for several days. They took this action because last week the U.S. Department of the Interior approved Shell’s drilling lease in the Alaskan Arctic, despite having been previously overruled in court twice for failure to meet environmental regulations. So now, Shell could start drilling in 100 days.

“We’re here to highlight that in less than 100 days Shell is going to the Arctic to drill for oil,” said Johno Smith from New Zealand, one of the six that is aboard the Shell oil rig. “This pristine environment needs protecting for future generations and all life that will call it home. But instead Shell’s actions are exploiting the melting ice to increase a manmade disaster. Climate change is real and already inflicting pain and suffering on my brothers and sisters in the Pacific.

“I believe that shining a light on what Shell is doing will encourage more people to take a strong stand against them and other companies who are seeking to destroy this planet for profit. I’m just one voice out here, but I know I’m not alone, and millions if not billions of voices demanding the right to safe and healthy lives will have a huge chance of changing things.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArchMO(Photo: Moofpocket)Let's paraphrase, and sing along with the late great Robert Preston, playing the fake Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, "Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right there, I say, trouble right there in the Show Me State. ... With a capital 'S' and that rhymes with Mess. And a capital 'H' that stands for Hate."

There is a big hateful troubling mess brewing in the Show Me State these days, as two prominent Republicans, one who had declared his intention to run for governor, and other, one of his closest political advisors and friends, committed suicide in a little over a month. And two of the people who may have been most responsible for the clown-suit politics that drove both suicides are a longtime local Republican Party political consultant and strategist who last summer signed onto Team Ted Cruz, and, the current chairman of Missouri's Republican Party.

According to several reports in Missouri newspapers, Jeff Roe, the founder and principal of the Kansas City, Missouri-based Axiom Strategies, was responsible for preparing a radio advertisement aimed at trashing the gubernatorial candidacy of former Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, one of the men who committed suicide.

The Kansas City Star reported that the spot, "labeled Schweich as a weak candidate for governor and pointed out that his political foes would 'squash him like the little bug that he is.' The 60-second radio ad – which also compared Schweich to Barney Fife, the hapless fictional deputy sheriff of Mayberry, on "The Andy Griffith Show" -- aired Feb. 19 and 20 on Kansas City radio station KMBZ-AM during the "Rush Limbaugh" program, shortly before Schweich committed suicide.

Monday, 06 April 2015 07:38

Indiana Law Is Religious Bullying

2015.6.4 BF(Photo: Buunnymaan)JEROME POHLEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Over the last week there has been a lot said about Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence and endorsed by most of the Republicans who plan to run for president in 2016. Yet in all the shouting, I’ve heard very little about how it’ll affect everyday citizens in rural communities, rather than basketball fans traveling to Indy for the Final Four. That’s understandable; fewer and fewer people appreciate firsthand what it is like to live in small town America. But I do.

I grew up in rural Colorado outside a town so small it fit between the north- and southbound tracks of the Santa Fe railroad lines. Options? We didn’t have any bakery, much less a Christian one. You had to go to the county seat, Castle Rock, for that.

When I was a teenager, I had a small black and white TV that blew a tube—remember those?—so I brought it to the only electronics store in Castle Rock. It was owned by a man who was an usher at our church, St. Francis of Assisi. I’ll call him Mr. Z.

After explaining the problem to Mr. Z, he exhaled dramatically, glared at the TV, and then at me. “Haven’t seen you in church lately,” he said.

2015.6.4 BF Buchheit(Photo: Viewminder)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

America's is a sickness of the mind, the unwavering belief by people in power that free-market capitalism will somehow work for everyone.

As with a virus that refuses to die, the effects are insidious, because the very rich have convinced themselves that they made it on their own, and that others have only themselves to blame if they are poor.

Rahm Emanuel is Mayor 1%. He speaks a politician's words to entice many Chicagoans to vote for him, but his actions are on behalf of his friends and colleagues in the business world.

Snubbing the Needs of Average People

The author of Mayor 1%, Kari Lydersen, tells the story of Helen Morley, a resident of the southwest side of Chicago and a regular patient at one of the mental health clinics closed by Mayor Emanuel. At Chicago's 175th birthday party in 2012, Morley pleaded, "Mayor Emanuel, please don't close our clinics! We're going to die...There's nowhere else to go." Emanuel ignored her. According to Lydersen, Morley and others believed that the mayor "didn't understand the role these specific clinics played in their lives and the difficulty they would have traveling to other locations."

The same can be said for Chicago's shuttered public schools, once the vital centers of their communities. The state of Illinois cut education spending by a greater percentage than any other state in fiscal 2012, and for 2013 it was third-worst in percentage cuts per student. Privatizers rushed in and blamed the public system. As a result, 50 neighborhood schools were closed in Chicago, opening the way for charter schools, which take taxpayer money but have little accountability to the public and an obligation only to their investors. In the end, 2,000 public school employees were fired by Emanuel, including over 1,000 teachers.

BILL McKIBBEN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGuardianDivest(Photo: EcoWatch)Here’s how far we’ve come in just a couple of years: One of the world’s most respected and influential news organizations—the Guardian Media Group—announced Wednesday that it will divest from fossil fuels.

The move follows the launch of The Guardian‘s own climate change campaign, in partnership with 350.org, to press two of the world’s largest charitable foundations to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.

The chairman of the Guardian Media Group called the move a “hard-nosed business decision” that is justified on both ethical and financial grounds. I couldn’t agree more.

It was also the second billion-dollar divestment commitment in just two days: Syracuse University in New York also ditched fossil fuels this week, demonstrating once again that cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry is both feasible and responsible.

Now is the time to increase the pressure on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust—two of the world’s largest charities, and both explicitly dedicated to global health—to do the same. Can you help us reach 200,000 signatures this week?

Add your name to the petition calling on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to stop investing in the climate crisis.

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTesla(Photo: Norio Nakayama)Back in early 2010 Ohio stood at the cusp of a modern 21st century technological revolution.

It had won a new federal-funded rail line to finally re-join Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati.

Tesla electric sales networks were moving into the state, bringing full player status in the spread of the world’s most advanced automobiles.

And we had adopted a forward-looking green energy package poised to bring billions of new investments along with thousands of new jobs.

Then the 19th century re-took control.

Today Ohio’s fossil-fueled, landlocked capital city is the western world’s largest with neither internal commuter light rail nor access by passenger train service from anywhere else.

After trying to ban them altogether, Ohio has strictly limited sales of advanced electric Tesla cars.

And after being at the cusp of major solar and wind power advances, the state has all but killed the prospects for any large new green energy projects. The state may now miss one of history’s biggest and most profitable technological transformations.

2015.2.4 BF Jones(Photo: DonkeyHotey)STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

So the Indiana Legislature passes and the Governor signs a law that seems intended to permit persons operating public accommodations and publicly licensed and/or permitted businesses to discriminate against LGBT persons, based on their sexual orientation. Certainly the list of organizations which sponsored the legislation in Indiana (and have done so in many other states) have not been shy about saying that that’s what it is all about. Those organizations include the American Family Association (state and national), “Advance America,” the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Heritage Institute, and the Family Research Council.

Of course, one wonders just how Indiana businesses which want to discriminate against LGBT persons would pick out the discriminatees. Since most LGBT persons look just like everyone else, would there be a law in Indiana requiring the known among them to line up to receive, let us say, a Pink Triangle? Now it is true that that was the insignia the Nazis used to identify homosexuals, starting just after they took power in 1933, two years before they came up with the Yellow Star of David to identify the Jews. So there might a problem in that. Perhaps someone in one of the organizations listed above could give it some thought to come up with a better one.

One does have to admit that the wording of the law is a bit dense and can be confusing. So despite the fact that it was the Republican Right in the Indiana State legislature that made sure that the law went through with language specifically “protecting” potential discriminators who claimed a “religious exemption” from any government action against them; that the above list of known homophobic organizations had lined up behind passage of the law; and that several of their leaders had physically lined up behind Indiana’s Governor Pence when he signed it; with a straight face the governor initially said over-and-over again (at least until the economic pressure began to build) that the law did nothing of the sort, and did not need to be “fixed – a claim he has now backtracked from faced with an economic boycott of the land of Hoosiers.

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