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Guest Commentary (3868)

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNetMap(Photo: Map of the Internet by The Opte Project)When it comes to Internet Service Providers and high-speed Internet, the consumer marketplace has hardly been a model of competitiveness. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to choose from two providers, and some of us only have access to one.

These digital conduits are essential parts of America's utility infrastructure, nearly as basic as electricity and water pipes. They connect us (and our children) to worldwide knowledge, news, diverse viewpoints and other fundamental tools of citizenship. And, of course, we can buy and sell through them, be entertained, run our businesses, connect with friends, get up-to-the-minute scores, follow the weather and — yes indeedy — pay our bills.

Yet while this digital highway is deemed vital to our nation's well-being, access to it is not offered as a public service — i.e., an investment in the common good. Instead, it is treated as just another profit center for a few corporations

Amassing market power to gouge customers is bad enough, but ISP's plan on eviscerating the pure egalitarian ethic of the Internet, which is why they were so upset when President Obama recently urged the FCC to back a free and open Internet.

Like an uncensored global bulletin board, the great virtue of the Internet is that no one controls its content. This digital communication technology has been so spectacularly successful and so socially valuable because it is a wide-open, democratic forum, accessible on equal terms to all who want to put information, images, opinions, etc. on it or to download any of the same from it. Since its invention, the guiding principle behind the use of this liberating technology has been that no corporation, government, religion, or other controlling power should be its gatekeeper.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrancisPope(Photo: EcoWatch)In what has become an annual tradition, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia and this year’s leader of the G20 Summit, which will take place Nov. 15-16 in Brisbane, Australia. On the heels of a report by the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International, which is the first detailed breakdown of fossil fuel exploration subsidies by all G20 countries, the Pope has voiced his concerns about the state of world affairs:

To the Honourable Tony Abbott
Prime Minister of Australia

On 15 and 16 November next in Brisbane you will chair the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the world’s twenty largest economies, thus bringing to a close Australia’s presidency of the Group over the past year.  This presidency has proved to be an excellent opportunity for everyone to appreciate Oceania’s significant contributions to the management of world affairs and its efforts to promote the constructive integration of all countries.

The G20 agenda in Brisbane is highly focused on efforts to relaunch a sustained and sustainable growth of the world economy, thereby banishing the spectre of global recession. One crucial point that has emerged from the preparatory work is the fundamental imperative of creating dignified and stable employment for all. This will call for improvement in the quality of public spending and investment, the promotion of private investment, a fair and adequate system of taxation, concerted efforts to combat tax evasion and a regulation of the financial sector which ensures honesty, security and transparency.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChicago(Photo: Daniel Schwen)The vision is a city interlaced with restorative justice hubs — community centers that bring hope and promise to troubled kids in a town where too many of them are dying. "It is not OK that my friends and I have already planned our funerals," then-high school senior Keann Mays-Lenoir told a crowd of 300 people a year ago, at a rafter-shaking meeting where the idea was introduced.

It builds slowly, from the bottom up. Reclaim common sense. Reclaim community. Reclaim Chicago.

I've written a fair amount about restorative justice — RJ — over the last few years. It's a movement about healing and sanity, truth, dignity, respect, wholeness. It's catching on in Chicago, where I live: in the schools, in the juvenile justice system, in the broken 'hoods. RJ is about repairing harm, not punishing wrongdoers and, in the process, saddling them with a lifelong identity as criminals. It's also about telling the truth, and building relationships with truth as the bedrock. It's about connecting.

"This is about making kids irresistible forces for positive change."

The speaker was Judge Sophia Hall, presiding judge of the Resource Section of the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department of the Circuit Court of Cook County, who hosts a semiannual, region-wide meeting about restorative justice, held, appropriately, at Juvenile Court. The topic was the hubs: the vision of a different kind of city, where teenagers aren't planning their own funerals but, rather, figuring out their futures, with the help of mentoring adults, in a world in which they feel welcome.

2014.11.12.Berkowitz.BFEbola-fearing Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck schooled by Dr. Anthony Stephen Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (Screen grab via Sam Seder / YouTube)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

As of this moment (unless something happened overnight that I'm not aware of), there are no Ebola cases in the US. Was Ebola in the US really President Obama's Katrina, as so many right-wing commentators, radio & television talk show hosts and conservative evangelical Christian preachers claimed? Will the fear mongering/flight-suspending/border-closing advocates apologize to President Obama? Will Bill O'Reilly, Megyn Kelley and Sean Hannity apologize to President Obama? Will Chris Christie apologize to President Obama? Will Pastor John Hagge, who maintained that through his godless policies, Obama was bringing Ebola into the country, apologize?

Will there be more Ebola cases here? Very possible. Is our health system gearing up to make sure it doesn't get out of hand? I think so. Do we need to do much more to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa. No doubt about that.

We've got an Ebola Czar. Will the Senate please get off their collective duffs and approve a Surgeon General?

2014.11.12.GOP.BF (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: j-fi, Gage Skidmore)BOB FITRAKIS AND HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Since the Bush-Cheney-Rove theft of the 2000 election in Florida, the right of millions of American citizens to vote and have that vote counted has been under constant assault.

In 2014, that systematic disenfranchisement may well have delivered the US Senate to the Republican Party.  If nothing significant is done about it by 2016, we can expect the GOP to take the White House and much more.

The primary victims of this GOP-led purge have been young, elderly, poor and citizens of color who tend to vote Democratic.  The denial of their votes has changed the face of our government, and is deepening corporate control of our lives and planet.

There’s no doubt the Democrats have alienated their core constituency and given millions of their former supporters little reason to vote.  Perpetual war, blank checks for mega-banks, stiffing the working poor while giving away the planet to the rich----these are all part of the malaise.   Our political landscape is currently defined by corporate personhood and its gutting of the Democratic Party.  

RICHARD A. STITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPoorCamden(Photo: Phillies1fan777)Observe any post-election geographical map of the United States whether it is in a presidential election year or a midterm election and close to 90% of the country is red. Red states dictate the direction our country takes like it or not.

But, they fall short in representing anything close to 90% of the population. Add the combined total population of a dozen red states and they barely equal the size of one city in a blue state like California or New York.

Why does this matter? Because each state receives two U.S. Senators you will always see an imbalance in how citizens are represented in our congress. Also, red state voters, even those with low populations, vote in Republican House members almost by default regardless of that politician's qualifications or lack thereof.

Though there are plenty of Republicans in California, for example, the same can't be said of Democrats in the second most populated state, Texas, where there is only a scattering of Democrats plus there is not a single statewide office held by a Democrat.

What has poisoned our democracy is the huge flood of money that the corporate interests pour into our elections. With Citizens United v. FEC and the McCutcheon v. FEC Supreme Court decisions the billions that were spent on this past election paid of huge dividends for Republicans and their money brokers who bankrolled their campaigns.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014 06:35

Swift-Boating Obama: A Conservative Obsession

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaObamaChurch(Photo: Pete Souza)Despite President Barack Obama's weakened political position, as epitomized by the drubbing Democrats took in the mid-term elections, when many of his Democratic Party colleagues avoided him like, well . . . the plague, do not expect conservatives to ease up on the attacks. Swift boating Obama, one of the longest-lasting conservative smear campaigns in history, will continue unabated as Republicans gear up to lead Congress and set the stage for the 2016 presidential election.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth get, and deserve, a lot of credit for helping sink Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. Television ads and a bestselling book titled Unfit for Command, "circulated innuendoes, dubious claims and falsehoods about ... Kerry's patriotism and whether he deserved three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for service in the US Navy during the Vietnam War," The Jerusalem post has reported. After the Kerry debacle, swift boating became part of the political vernacular, coming to mean a campaign of dishonest, unfair, and unreasonable attacks on a political candidate.

From the time Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Party primaries, and began his journey to the White House, an assortment of conservative activists, Christian Right groups, Republican Party regulars, right wing think tanks, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and numerous right wing pundits and radio talk-show hosts, launched what is now one of the longest-running smear campaigns in history; think of it as comparable the Broadway run of Cats.

Monday, 10 November 2014 06:24

Peace as a Human Right

2014.11.10.Peace.BF

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“Individuals and peoples have a right to peace.”

In the beginning was the word. OK. This is the beginning, and these are the words, but they haven’t arrived yet — at least not officially, with full force of meaning.

It’s our job, not God’s, to create the new story of who we are, and millions — billions — of people fervently wish we could do so. The problem is that the worst of our nature is better organized than the best of it.

The words constitute Article 1 of the U.N.’s draft declaration on peace. What alerts me that they matter is the fact that they’re controversial, that “there is a lack of consensus” among the member states, according to the president of the Human Rights Council, “about the concept of the right to peace as a right in itself.”

2014.11.10.Buchheit.BF (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Our national wealth has grown by an astonishing $30 trillion since the recession, but most of it has gone to people who were already wealthy.

We are living through a massive redistribution of America's net worth to the beneficiaries of a financial industry that has used cunning and money and power to impose their version of economic "freedom" while deregulating any policies that might have stopped the incessant transfer of wealth.

It's getting worse, by the year and by the month. President Obama's claim that "We've recovered faster and come farther than almost any other advanced country on Earth" applies largely to the people whose wealth accumulation has dramatically pulled up the averages. The evidence is staring us in the face, but the super-rich are only watching their portfolios.

2014.11.9.Talen.BF (Photo: Simon Forsyth / Flickr)

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT​

During the six weeks since the "biggest climate march in history," the CO2 emissions have entered the atmosphere from American cars at two trillion pounds a week. Not only that, Republicans overtook the US Senate. The first one is an odorless gas and the second one farts in suits; they both damage the atmosphere.

Actually, the first Peoples Climate March was wonderful. Our joyous carnavale for the Earth gave us such a release. So many of us felt from the march that finally our climate change issue was expressed openly by as many people as care about it. The hard work in making giant puppets and banners and the declarations on signs – created intense partnerships that could be key in a future climate march that has more impact in the world.

The motive for Peoples Climate March was to change perceptions of the scale of the climate movement, in the eyes of our fossil-fueled politicians and in our own eyes, too. The feeling that we are powerful and on the rise – this is key to our faith that we can change this gone-wrong system. However, the no-politics-please soft center of the march leaves us after a couple months with a very big selfie and a lot of fading pixels.

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