Guest Commentary (5046)
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"There are no good options," Brian Williams said the other night on MSNBC, launching a discussion about North Korea with the implication that war -- maybe nuclear war -- is the only solution to the problem it represents.
We've been cradling our own suicide for seven decades. The baby's eyes open . . .
And Williams was right, though not in a way that he understood. When war -- forceful domination, victory through threat, carnage and, if necessary, annihilation -- is the ultimate limit of one's consciousness, there are no good options. Even the peace negotiated in the context of war is bound to be temporary and grudging and therefore a bad option -- sort of like the "peace" achieved at the end of the Korean War, after which both sides still, as Reuters reports, "have thousands of rockets and artillery pieces aimed at each other across the world's most heavily armed border."
TRAVIS MORALES FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"We're here to make sure people like you don't get poisoned. But no, you can't deliver your demands to Arkema's management, and no, we won't take them in for you."
That's what two FBI SWAT team members told me on September 4 at the gates of Arkema's chemical plant in Crosby, Texas -- the plant shown belching billows of dark black smoke for days on national TV.
Three of nine containers holding 500,000 pounds of highly flammable and toxic chemical caught fire when power was lost for their refrigeration, and two exploded. What was Arkema's solution to this environmental and health disaster? A mandatory evacuation order for a 1.5-mile radius around the plant and igniting the six remaining containers!
The flames are out, Arkema's CEO has "apologized" to the people of Crosby, and the company has listed some of the chemicals at its plant, but it is still refusing full disclosure -- even as at least 18 people have been taken to the hospital complaining of problems caused by smoke from the burning chemicals.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Jim Bakker has always been a huckster. These days, Bakker, the disgraced PTL (Praise the Lord) Club televangelist who fleeced and defrauded his audience out of more than $150 millions, got involved in some juicy sex scandals, and served time in prison, has set up an apocalyptic shop in Blue Eye, Missouri. Located in Stone County, about 30 miles southwest of Branson, Missouri, Blue Eye, according to the 2010 census, had 167 people -- 75 households and 48 families. It is in Blue Eye that Bakker is staging his televangelical and entrepreneurial resurrection, at a 700-acre property called Morningside, which is an intentional Christian community.
"A time of trouble is upon us," Bakker -- a huge supporter of President Donald Trump -- warned his audience during one episode of The Jim Bakker Show.
Whether it's the WannaCry ransomware attack; ISIS; terrorist attacks in the homeland; or devastating flooding in Texas, Bakker and his wife Lori, claim to have the right goods: "'Staying Alive' food - buckets full of freeze-dried products apparently capable of sustaining survivors through the Apocalypse," the Daily Mail's Annette Witheridge, who bought a bucket, sampled some of the food, and found it unappetizing but edible, recently reported.
In mid-May, BuzzFeed's Kelsey McKinney reported that the buckets are "the kind … that might be used to feed slop to pigs on a farm, and inside each are 18 dishes in freeze-dried food packets, making up almost 50,000 calories that, according to the purple labels slapped on their sides, have a 25-year shelf life."
Add a little water, sit back, and survive the apocalypse.
RAFAEL VIZCAÍNO FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
from Christopher Columbus to Frank Rizzo. As we approach the 525th anniversary of the so-called "Discovery of America" this October 12, it is an appropriate time to revisit the stakes of what it entails to memorialize the man credited with discovering the existence of another world beyond Europe, Asia and Africa, the so-called "New World."As the symbols of the Confederacy have again become the targets of anti-racist social movements since the events in Charlottesville in August, activists are building on the present momentum to call for the removal or replacement of memorials belonging to other controversial figures in US history,
The key problem raised by the critics of Columbus concerns the uncritical repetition of the colonial mantra that claims Columbus "discovered" this so-called "New World." For not only is it historically documented that Columbus never knew that he had arrived at a landmass that is not "Asia" (Europeans only realized this with Amerigo Vespucci's accounts of his own trips well into the 1500s), but also and more importantly, one should ask oneself what it means to "discover" a region of the world that is not empty, but instead contains several flourishing civilizations in it. The issue is that the mantra that Columbus "discovered" anything presupposes the narrative vantage point of Western European imperialism, at the same time as it invalidates the narrative vantage points of the peoples that were visited upon by these so-called "discoverers" i.e. the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, peoples that far from being ghosts of the past continue to live in the present all around us (70 percent of Native Americans now live in cities, not reservations). If history here is written by the victors, the victims of Columbus have never been fully silenced. The victors simply refuse to hear them.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"Only a crisis -- actual or perceived -- produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around." – Milton Friedman
How will the federal and state and local governments deal with post-Hurricane Harvey recovery? How and who will they deal with the toxic discharge from oil refineries, superfund sites and the raw sewage that is flooding the streets and highways of Houston and other communities? Will climate-change deniers finally take the impact of climate change – a term that Team Trump shies away from – seriously? Will Trump be able to stay focused on recovery issues? Will corporations see this as their golden ticket to vast financial gain? Will homeowners be shoved into toxic mobile homes like many were post-Katrina? Will the homeless be housed? Will a chunk of the public school system be privatized and/or voucherized? Will minorities be forced out of Houston, which, according to recent study by the Pew Research Center, is the most economically segregated city in the United States? What will be done to make the victims whole?
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In the worst moments of the tragedy in Houston, something remarkable about America burst into view, as government and business and military and especially ordinary citizens put aside thoughts of personal gain and dedicated themselves to the needs of fellow human beings.
People in Texas and around the nation pitched in, through their labors and donations; neighbors and first responders saved lives; the Red Cross and other charitable organizations, including many local churches, brought food and supplies and medicine to hurricane victims; many GoFundMe initiatives were set up; the business community -- especially furniture man Jim McIngvale -- donated their goods and services; government officials remained focused on the people they were elected to represent; even the military contributed with rescue helicopters. No one seemed to care about the skin color or religion or politics of those in need.
The empathy and cooperative spirit -- the SOCIALISM -- that gripped America was delightful to behold. But soon we return to reality.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Suddenly it's possible — indeed, all too easy — to imagine one man starting a nuclear war. What's a little harder to imagine is one human being stopping such a war.
For all time.
The person who came closest to this may have been Tony de Brum, former foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, who died last week of cancer at age 72.
He grew up in the South Pacific island chain when it was under "administrative control" of the U.S. government, which meant it was a waste zone absolutely without political or social significance (from the American point of view), and therefore a perfect spot to test nuclear weapons. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 such tests — the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima blasts every day for 12 years — and for much of the time thereafter ignored and/or lied about the consequences.
As a boy, de Brum was unavoidably a witness to some of these tests, including the one known as Castle Bravo, a 15-megaton blast conducted on Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. He and his family lived about 200 miles away, on Likiep Atoll. He was nine years old.
He later described it thus: "No sound, just a flash and then a force, the shock wave . . . as if you were under a glass bowl and someone poured blood over it. Everything turned red: sky, the ocean, the fish, my grandfather's net."
JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Just over a year ago, the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee voted on whether or not to endorse single-payer Medicare for All, or national health insurance (NHI). It lost by a narrow vote of 7-6, with the no votes coming from delegates chosen by Hillary Clinton, a cautious centrist awash with campaign money from special interests in the for-profit health care industry. That position is in direct opposition to the will of the people, with about 60 percent support of single-payer, and of Democrats, with about 80 percent support.
So what's happening today on this front as the Democratic Party tries to deal with its own split party on this issue? As centrist Democrats such as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi take a victory lap in defending (so far) the Republicans' effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with or without replacement, they are trotting out their so-called Better Deal. While this has some good ideas, they are much too small for the moment and fail to take on the chains of Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, and the medical-industrial complex. The Better Deal does not come out in favor of single-payer Medicare for All, the only way we can ever achieve universal coverage to health care as a human right for all Americans.
KEVIN ESCUDERO FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The future of the Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is once again in jeopardy. While there had been talk of ending DACA earlier in Trump's presidency, this threat is more acute and immediate, given the pending lawsuit by more than 10 state attorneys general pressuring the administration to end the program by September 5.
Around 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school every year, and with the help of DACA, more of those high school graduates are enrolling in and graduating from college. This means that educational institutions, especially colleges and universities, have a key role to play in the debate over the future of DACA. As these schools welcome undocumented and DACA students this fall, it is imperative that they respond to the threats against DACA and devise new, innovative approaches to safeguard the rights of all their community members.
What, exactly, is on the line? The DACA program, announced by President Obama in 2012, provides undocumented young people with the opportunity to obtain a Social Security number, work permit and a two-year stay of deportation, renewable in two-year increments, until age 30. According to a comprehensive, multi-year study conducted by a team of Harvard researchers, the program's success has encouraged undocumented students to pursue higher education and assisted students in finding employment related to their educational training.
BRIAN TERRELL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Monday, August 21, President Donald Trump delivered a prime-time speech almost shocking in its ordinariness. It was such an address as either of his immediate predecessors, George W. Bush or Barack Obama, could easily have given over the previous decade and a half. While hinting at nebulous new strategies and ill-defined new metrics to measure success, President Trump announced that the 17 year old war in Afghanistan will go on pretty much as it has. And the establishment breathed a sigh of relief.
Reviews were glowing. While acknowledging how low the bar had been set, on August 25, the Washington journal The Hill opined that "even the most hardened members of the anti-Trump camp must admit that Monday's speech communicated a remarkable amount of humility and self-awareness, particularly for this president." The timing of the president's crowd pleasing speech was duly noted: "Unfortunately, his very presidential announcement of the Afghanistan decision was bookended by Charlottesville and the president's rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night."
Ten days before, in Charlottesville, Virginia, torch bearing white supremacists had marched in a "Unite the Right" rally to protest the planned removal of a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Replete with flags of both the Confederacy and the Nazi Third Reich and traditional fascist chants of "blood and soil," the rally met with resistance from anti-racist activists, one of whom was murdered and others injured when one of the united right used his car as a weapon of terror, driving it into the crowd. There was outrage when Trump responded by condemning the violence "on all sides" and declaring that there are "very fine people" on both sides of the issue.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you've never heard of the Atlas Network, The Intercept's recent story, "Sphere of Influence: How American Libertarians are Remaking Latin American Politics," will certainly be an eye opener. The Atlas Network aims to rid Latin America of leftist-led governments, limit the organizing wherewithal of unions, and liberal and progressive movements, and reshape Latin America in ways the Koch Brothers, and like-minded US-based right-wing billionaires support.
The existence, and recent successes, of the Atlas Network might help explain why from seemingly out of nowhere, President Donald Trump recently took time away from taking time away, watching Fox News, and his latest tweet storm threatening North Korea with "fire and fury," to bombastically throw Venezuela into the conversation. "We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary," Trump said.
As Lee Fang, the author of The Intercept's piece, recently explained, the Atlas Network is a "libertarian network, which has reshaped political power in country after country, [and] has also operated as a quiet extension of U.S. foreign policy, with Atlas-associated think tanks receiving quiet funding from the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, a critical arm of American soft power."
WIM LAVEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When Donald Trump heads to Texas for his photo ops this week it is a completely selfish act. It is the same after every disaster and it reflects a real bifurcation between expertise on disasters and political expedience. Harvey is no different than Katrina or Sandy in that regard. George W. Bush and Barack Obama both had their pictures taken, and there are many lessons. Trump is aware of the clear lesson: stay away. He has even pledged to hold off until that trip can be made without causing disruption in the wake of the Hurricane, but he won't wait.
Presidential visits can divert critical resources. Trump, for example, has maxed out the Secret Service budget for the year already. Security details are only part of it and, on the whole, such visits require significant logistical planning during normal events and times. In the wake of a disaster, however, resources for the visit are pulled from other details, sometimes life and death operations. George W. Bush identified mistakes he made, and he avoided visiting too early during the aftermath of Katrina because he didn't want to cause disruptions. Barack Obama applied these lessons in the days following Sandy. Flyovers are effective, they don't require the volume of resources, but they don't produce the pictures. Politicians crave the boots-on-the-ground photo with the destruction in the background.
CHRISTINE NGARUIYA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It had never occurred to me to visit Trump Tower in New York before he came to power. As a form of defiance, I suppose, I had purposely avoided it as a contester to the majority of his administration's work thereafter. But then, one hazy summer afternoon, there I stood, unexpectedly lulled in by a friend from out of town with an innocent curiosity to explore the place.
I stood at the foot of the tower both metaphorically and tangibly taking in the structure and its surroundings. From a few blocks away, it was easy to spot, helped by the fully decked-out police brigade that lined the streets around it. Like many other aspects of this administration's work, it immediately struck a jarring chord with me. All of this disproportionate support for the one building on the street, serving the one and disregarding the masses.
BURT HALL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The American people are deeply frustrated with not being fairly represented in Congress and with not having a voice in our democracy. They are demanding an end to our great political divide and a return to a working democracy. For years politicians have been well aware of these concerns and the need for the two parties to be civil and work together. And, they know that trust in government has been at an all time low. But the problem persists unabated.
Republicans now control all three branches of government, yet they haven't had an acceptable administration in years. They allowed a preventable 9/11 and two wars to occur, failed two terms in office, and constantly checkmated the other party's success while offering no solutions of their own. There is something fundamentally wrong in our democratic system and it has to be addressed.
Our great political divide began in a big way when, after owning the White House for 12 years, Republicans lost it unexpectedly to the Clinton presidency. They were outraged at the loss, considered his victory illegitimate and believed he had to be driven from office. The political environment that followed has continued to the present day and is best expressed byRepublican George Voinovich. After saving Cleveland from default as mayor and making Ohio number one as governor, he worked across the aisle during two terms in the Senate (winning all 88 Ohio counties) and always had the ear of the president. He confessed at Senate retirement that the attitude of his colleagues was "We're going to get what we want or the country can go to hell."