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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aprisonthreecells(Photo: miss_millions)

If you are an aging prisoner in the United States, 50 is the new 65.

This phenomenon is called “accelerated aging” and according to the Urban Institute’s KiDeuk Kim and Bryce Peterson, “the physiological age of some older prisoners is up to 15 years greater than their chronological age.” This is in stark contrast to outside prison walls where our youth-oriented culture labels “40 as the new 30,” “60 as the new 50,” and so on.

Older prisoners -- a demographic that is growing rapidly -- face numerous hardships and injustices from incarceration, including : having their chronic health conditions ignored or mistreated; physical threats from younger prisoners; the need for special equipment, including wheelchairs and walkers to be able to ambulate around their prisons; difficulties climbing on and off top bunks; trouble hearing, making it challenging to discern orders from guards; and mental health issues, many of which are the result of prolonged imprisonment.

In a new report titled, “Aging Behind Bars: Trends and Implications of Graying Prisoners in the Federal Prison System,” Kim, and Peterson emphasize that “While this may be caused by a host of related factors—including histories of unhealthy behaviors and inadequate healthcare—there is little doubt that the trauma and stress of the prison environment can have an impact on prisoners’ accelerated aging and deterioration of health.”

JIM BLOCK FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afreespeech(Photo: Will Jabsco)

This past weekend was the 50th reunion of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley. At the beginning of the fall term of 1964, the university administration imposed a series of strict regulations limiting the right of students to engage in political soliciting on campus. Berkeley students had for several years been active in anti-H.U.A.C., pro-labor, and anti-racism protests and demonstrations throughout the Bay area. This picture of the university as a hotbed of political activism was undermining the carefully honed image being disseminated by the state of California as the leader in public higher education: in the conservative post-war period, Berkeley was being touted as not only a world class research university but at the forefront of preparing a modern elite meritocratic student body primed for corporate and governmental leadership.

What the university administration failed to consider was the fact that many activist Berkeley students had embraced new levels of commitment to political organizing by participating in Freedom Summer, an initiative by radical civil rights organizations in the South to mobilize black Americans to challenge segregation and demand voting rights. After resolutely confronting white segregationists and racist – often violent – local public officials as full-fledged democratic activists, a university administration seeking to curtail their political expression and ignoring their insistence on the urgency of social change struck these battle-tested students as demeaning and even infantilizing. Even more decisively, these acts implicated the new model university as the central institution in integrating younger generations into the corporate, hierarchical, expansionist values increasingly driving American society. It suddenly became clear that the degree was being marketed not for any educational value but as a ticket punched to the higher levels of this post-war order and to material success, social status, and a suburban lifestyle widely being identified as the American dream.

Once the university intervened, in other words, the political dynamic shifted. What had begun as an effort to support other movements for social equity and integration quickly shifted before everyone’s eyes to a demand for the liberation of students and youth and the democratization of the institutions shaping their lives as a prelude to broader social transformation. This is the F.S.M. whose message spread throughout the U.S. and beyond, catalyzing and exposing generational tensions and revealing the compliance-oriented program of American socialization. I came to Berkeley as a neophyte, a completely apolitical and uninformed undergraduate, just days before the campus controversies began. And because the events of the next couple of years became the defining experience of my life about which I have written and taught ever since (trying to make sense of it), this reunion gave me an unparalleled opportunity to reflect on and rethink that experience in conversation with this unique community of participants in this defining moment.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014 07:27

The Power to Solve Climate Change

FRED KRUPP OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaClimateMarchEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)What’s it going to take to turn the corner to a safe and stable climate? People power and market power. That was my main takeaway from a whirlwind week in New York City.

That pairing may seem odd, since some have fallen into the habit of dividing the climate community into “outsiders,” grassroots activists who demand action, and “insiders,” policy advocates who seek to correct market failures (such as the absence of a price on carbon) in order to harness the power of the marketplace to drive change. But many climate change advocates, myself included, were busy doing both last week—and both are absolutely essential to the climate solutions we need.

I began the week at the People’s Climate March, one of an estimated 400,000 Americans who took to the streets of New York City to make an urgent call for climate action. It was thrilling to see so many people—including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) members and staff from around the country—gather for a demonstration that was both peaceful and passionate. Tuesday morning my EDF colleagues and I hosted a meeting of officials and experts from China and the U.S., and later that day I spoke at the United Nations about the urgent climate threat posed by unchecked methane pollution, then shared ideas for restructuring global energy incentives with international leaders.

It was fitting that all of this began with a protest march, since motivating the public to demand action is absolutely necessary if we are going to prevail against the opponents of climate action. It was, by all accounts, the largest rally in the history of the climate change movement—even before you include the 2,600 smaller gatherings taking place in 166 countries around the world.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAmericanFlags(Photo: Lipton Sale)Sunday night President Obama made an appearance on 60 Minutes to talk about the ongoing efforts against ISIS. The quote that everyone is focusing on, of course, is Obama’s admission that they “underestimated ISIS.” The right is predictably working itself into a fine froth over this. Had we only carpet bombed everything back in 2013, the Middle East would now be a virtual utopia and nothing would ever go wrong in the region again. Personally, I don’t find the president’s admission to be a huge shock. Given that our last president had a bit of trouble thinking of a single mistake that he might have made, ever, it is refreshing to hear Obama utter words along these lines. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the actions we have taken, as we try to correct for our underestimation, what with the unforeseen consequences crawling out of the woodwork, but still, it’s nice to hear some acknowledgement of our fallibility.

Which is why the bit that does irk me is the following gem:

“America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world. And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don't call Beijing. They don't call Moscow. They call us.”

If that statement were a vehicle, it would be a Hummer with chrome-plated bumper nuts. It’s belligerent. It’s remarkably tone-deaf, coming from a man whose words are typically finely crafted. And it is, yes, stupid. There is a truth in it – no denying that. Given the amount of money we pour into our military, it certainly has the capacity to bomb, shoot, and generally wreck vast swathes of the world. We have enough nuclear weapons to ignite the Earth’s atmosphere. Our capacity is huge.

We are freaking awesome.

Monday, 29 September 2014 09:18

The Climate Change Deniers Hall of Infamy

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGlacier(Photo: Luca Galuzzi)The science of anthropogenic global warming/climate change is quite clear, and has been for quite some time. It is supported by observational evidence, such as the massive melting of sea ice, Antarctic ice, and the glaciers. Indeed, the data and reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, supported by 97% of the scientists world-wide concerned with the wide variety of related matters, has concluded, and reported with an ever-increasing sense of urgency, that massive, anthropogenic changes in our climate, due to global warming and the associated acidification of the world's oceans, are underway. If they not reversed, soon, major irreversible changes in life on Earth will take place over the next century or so, with many species, including possibly our own, either not surviving or being reduced greatly in numbers. That is, in a century or so the Earth will be frying and drowning at the same time. At the same time, we are told by the vast majority of scientific opinion that the process can be significantly slowed down and then hopefully stopped --- if major actions to reduce the anthropogenic production of Greenhouse Gases and related pollutants are taken now.

But right now, that seems unlikely, unlikely at least at the levels at which such actions would need to be taken in order to be effective. And who is standing in the way of that process? Why the Global-Warming/climate-change Deniers, of course, virtually all of whom are or were or will be connected to the fossil fuels and related industries in one way or another. They are a tough bunch. And so, I should think that, even if they are wrong (and they most surely are), they will want the world then to know who they were now. If the frying/drowning process does occur, I am sure that they would want to be known far and wide as the folks who were responsible for those outcomes. And so, I propose that they be given their very own Hall of Infamy, so that down the road, whoever is left can readily identify those who were responsible for their plight.

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPeoplesClimateMarch(Photo: Kingdebater)Okay, so we had this historic march a little while ago.

It was....

...joyous, beautiful, exhilarating, inspiring, life-confirming...and in many ways turning point.

Now that the dust has settled a bit, we can see that it will change things for a long time to come.

It proved to ourselves and the world that we have a huge, diverse, broad-based movement. And that we can put aside our differences and all get along when we have to.

We are our species' ever-evolving immune system. We are the survival instinct that must defeat the corporate profit motive.

We are also part of a mighty activist stream that's campaigned for peace, civil rights, social justice, workers' rights, women's rights, gay pride, election protection, No Nukes and so much more.

We've endured the circular firing squad and want it abolished.

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSugar(Photo: Lauri Andler)Despite all of its vivid past history of enlightened protests in favor of Truth and Justice, my home town of Berkeley hasn't been very radical at all lately.  In fact, the city has pretty much turned into a Yuppie paradise and a developer's dream.  But, boy, Berkeley has still managed to somehow put its foot in the lion's mouth! 

And all that we did to raise this huge nation-wide brouhaha was to simply propose a new November ballot measure wherein a small tax would be levied on sodas -- then suddenly all Hell has broken loose here.  Suddenly we woke up one morning to find that the American Beverage Association was staging a full frontal assault on our town. 

The ABA has taped "Vote No on Measure D" posters on almost every one of our lamp posts, has hired friendly ladies to hand out "Vote No on Measure D" fliers at our flea market -- and has begun distributing large numbers of "Vote No on Measure D" T-shirts, fliers, billboards, push-polls and mailers that follow us everywhere we go.

The American Beverage Association has spent $300,000 on its campaign against Measure D so far -- and apparently has another $200,000 more yet to spend.  Its minions come and bang on our doors.  I dare not even answer the phone any more! 

The American Beverage Association has gone total beast-mode on Berkeley.

Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:02

Climate Reckoning: My Family’s Coal Story

JEFF BIGGERS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoalEagleCreek(Photo: Jeff Biggers)Four years after the publication of my memoir/history, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, I found myself sitting in the front row of an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency hearing in southern Illinois. It was a historic evening in Harrisburg, only a few miles from where Peabody Energy sank its first coal mine in 1895, and a few blocks from where I had sat on the front porch as a kid and listened to the stories of my grandfather and other coal miners about union battles for justice. For the first time in decades, residents in coal country were shining the spotlight on issues of civil rights, environmental ruin and a spiraling health crisis from a poorly regulated coal mining rush.

The total destruction of my family’s nearby Eagle Creek community from strip-mining was held up as their cautionary tale. The takeaway: Strip-mining more than stripped the land; it stripped the traces of any human contact.

“We have lost population, we have lost homes and we have lost roads,” testified Judy Kellen, a resident facing an expanded strip mine in Rocky Branch. “We have lost history. We have to endure dust, noise levels to the pitch you wanted to scream because you couldn’t get any rest or sleep, earth tremors, home damages, complete isolation of any type of view to the north, health issues, a sadness in your heart that puts a dread on your face every day, and an unrest in the spirit that we knew nothing of.”

A lot has changed in these four years—much of it troubling, and much of it inspiring.

2014.9.24.UN.BFUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the opening of the launch of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024. (Photo: United Nations Photo / Flickr)

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The issue of climate change skyrocketed in public awareness this week as the UN Climate Summit yesterday in New York City, and the historic People’s Climate March Sunday joined by 400,000 people, attracted attention and news coverage around the world.

The UN Climate Summit was convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who invited world leaders from government, finance, business and civil society “to galvanize and catalyze climate action.” The event was not intended to strike binding agreements but to build momentum for the December 2015 UN climate conference in Paris.

“The human, environmental and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable,” Ban said at the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Summit. “We need a clear shared vision.”

Wednesday, 24 September 2014 06:11

We Have Met the Existential Threat, and It Is Us

2014.9.24.BF.Watts(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Francisco Cendejas)AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

- Sun Tzu

Let me make a bold prediction. ISIS will never invade the United States. We will never have a Red Dawn moment, when jihadist troops parachute into sleepy, Midwestern towns. The Wolverines, alas, will never be called out of retirement. Not everyone seems to see it that way, as might be gathered from the fact that we are now bombing multiple countries, in the belief that an insurgency can be neutralized by purely military means. The circle of violence widens, as Israel has decided to get in on the fun, by shooting down a Syrian jet. Oh, and the bombing doesn’t really seem to be working.

Better writers than I have argued that bombs alone are not going to bring about an end to the situation in Iraq and Syria, so I will leave that argument aside, beyond noting that it would be neat if it could receive more than passing acknowledgement from our bold and fearless leaders. Instead, let’s talk about ISIS. As is standard in beginning such a discussion, insert the obligatory disclaimer about them being Very Bad People. They are to Islam what the Westboro Baptist Church is to Christianity, were the WBC given military grade weapons. Very Bad People, yes?

You know who else is very bad? Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Myanmar was run by very bad people until they became a kind-of sort-of democracy and now we like them. Iran is very bad except in those cases in which we need their help and support and then we’re totally cool and high-fives all around. Bashar al-Assad is a very bad person and we’re definitely not on his side except we sort of need to bomb a few of those very bad people who are rebelling against his very bad government.

There’s a whole lot of very bad people out there, is what I’m getting at.

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