Guest Commentary (4752)
CHRIS GENOVALI FOR BUZZFLASH
Many Canadians have been anxiously following the unfolding Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster and are experiencing a deep sense of unease as they scan the daily media reports. Such foreboding is clearly understandable as one can't help thinking this might be a nightmarish peek into one possible future for British Columbia as federal and provincial politicians here in Canada lay the groundwork to transform our Pacific coast into an "energy corridor." They dream of seismic testing, offshore drilling, pipelines from the tar sands, and oil tankers plying our rocky coast; this is what passes as visionary in the age of government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.
Carl Pope, former chairman of the Sierra Club in the United States, has dubbed the British Petroleum catastrophe "America's Chernobyl." U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, not exactly known as being a fervent environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination, describes the potential outlook for the Gulf Coast oil spill as "a very grave scenario."
In the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, Canadian federal opposition parties are calling for emergency hearings before the Commons Natural Resources Committee to discuss the need for more stringent safeguards against oil spills in Canada's Arctic. But the public needs to be properly and clearly informed as to the risks and tradeoffs with regard to proposed oil development and transport for the BC coast as well; Raincoast Conservation Foundation's recently released report, "What's at Stake -- The cost of oil on British Columbia's priceless coast," is designed to do just that; we encourage you to go to the Raincoast website and download the report.
STEPHEN PIZZO FOR BUZZFLASH.COM
I know -- we’re not supposed to “look back but ahead.” That’s become a virtual bi-partisan slogan.
Republicans don’t want to look back because, "back there" is all the stuff that got their party run out of power. And Democrats don’t want to look back because they fear it would only make already unpleasant Republicans angry, and making Republicans angry is apparently something Democrats fear more than anything else.
As a result the GW Bush administration has been granted a defacto immunity bath for an 8-year wave of crime, misdeeds and policy disasters. And this blind-eye to the past persists even as we continue suffering the results of those policies, deeds and crimes.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH
After three decades, it took a pair of right-wing movement activists masquerading as a pimp and prostitute, equipped with a hidden camera and a phony storyline, and access to Andrew Breitbart’s well-traveled websites to finally take down ACORN. With that success under their belts, the right has moved on to other targets: In April, the Examiner, a conservative news operation owned by a Hollywood mogul who also happens to be one of the richest men in America, launched a frontal attack on the Berkeley-based Greenlining Institute.
In partnership with CalWatchDog.com, a news service sponsored by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a conservative think tank that claims to be non-partisan, the tabloid newspaper manufactured a “scandal” in a splashy 6-part series. While the attack on Greenlining has the veneer of balanced journalism, it betrays itself through a series of provocative, but unsubstantiated, charges and the use of inflammatory rhetoric. In fact, the Examiner series includes no factual evidence of malfeasance by the Greenlining Institute. The series also pivots around another longtime movement goal -- the repeal of the Carter Administration’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1978.
The attack on The Greenlining Institute could result in a conservative version of what United Farm Workers Union president Cesar Chavez used to call the “double whammy” when referring to the powerful combination of the strike and the boycott. In this case, the “double whammy” would be the take down of another progressive organization working for economic justice and the repeal of the CRA.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH
This is what happens sometimes when you play God:
“Birds dropped from the air. The sky rained mud. And, as men from the rig struggled to save themselves from the aftermath of (the) explosion . . . the Gulf of Mexico itself caught on fire.”
The Washington Post, covering a federal inquiry into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, summarized the scene, described by witnesses on a nearby supply ship, as “almost Biblical” -- which is sort of a comic-book expression these days, but conjures up a moment of superstitious awe that, God knows, seems appropriate. This is love of nature stood on its head: nature as (wow!) spectacle. What a symbol for the profound alienation of our times.
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH
May has seen an upsurge in local organizations exercising their human rights to housing. Most people recognize that international human rights guarantee all humans a right to housing. With the millions of homeless living in our communities and the millions of empty, foreclosed houses all across our communities, groups have decided to put them together.
Organizations across the US are engaging in “housing liberation” and “housing defense” to exercise their human rights to housing. Here are a few examples.
NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH
Recently, I got an invitation to attend an interesting panel dealing with indigenous issues on Earth Day. The talk, held at the Paley Center for Media in midtown Manhattan, would host a number of Native Americans but also James Cameron, creator of the blockbuster movie Avatar as well as other hits such as Terminator and Titantic. What, you might ask, was a Hollywood director doing at such an event?
If you’ve seen Cameron’s movie you know that it deals with a fictional tribe of humanoid creatures called the Na’vi who inhabit the rainforest world of Pandora. In the film, the Na’vi must fight to preserve the forest from a mineral corporation backed up by the U.S. military. Avatar, a true technological feat, brought the Pandora rainforest to movie-going audiences in 3-D. Though Avatar doesn’t attempt to teach anything to the audience per se, it does convey a sense of moral outrage.
To his credit, Cameron has sought to address not only fictional struggles in the virtual world but also the real-life plight of indigenous peoples fighting to preserve their ancestral lands from hydropower development. Recently, the Hollywood director toured the Brazilian rainforest in association with Amazon Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based NGO which is performing valuable environmental work in South America.
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH
As you read this, the life of our bodies, nation and planet is being blown out a corporate hole in the Gulf of Mexico and into a BP Dead Zone of no return.
The apocalyptic gusher of oily poison pouring into the waters that give us life can only be viewed -- FELT -- by each and every one of us as an ongoing death by a thousand cuts with no end in sight.
Yet our government -- allegedly the embodiment of our collective will to survive -- has done NOTHING of significance to fight this mass murder. Not one meaningful thing.
As it did while New Orleans drowned downstream from a willfully neglected levee system, our most potentially effective counter-force dithers on the other side of the world, in the wrong Gulf.
LORENZO A. CANIZARES FOR BUZZFLASH
Several weeks ago, Paul Krugman, in an article entitled “Senator Bunning’s Universe,” said that “Democrats and Republicans live in different universes, both intellectually and morally.” I wholeheartedly agree with him. This statement, on the face of it, should shape how we view our future as a nation.
In this article, Krugman states that Republicans are unable to feel the pain of those that are suffering economically. It has been my opinion, from the time of the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2000, that the combinations of greed and racism have been intertwined by the Republicans into a political view that have received the veneer of mainstream acceptance. This magic combo has provided Republicans the ideological cover for all the pain that they have inflicted on the middle/working class. That the majority of the recipients of this economic pain are white people is of no consequence for these Republicans. They have been able to create a mantra of themselves as protectors of white peoples' interests in defense against the inordinate attacks to their livelihood by systemic demands coming from entitlement programs directed to keep lazy minorities happy. They also call their posture fighting encroaching socialism in their attempt to eliminate any possible empathy. They rationalize their anti-worker stand, which, again, affects mostly white people, by posing to be concerned with negative behavior from those they claim are amongst the unemployed and lack incentive to find jobs -- the welfare queen syndrome. Republican Party leaders no longer seem to be inclined to take racism seriously, unless they can twist it around as “reverse racism.”
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH
They’ve tried fire and robots and domes and booms and drones and boxes and rosary beads and even panty hose stuffed with human hair but so far nothing has slowed the Deepwater Horizon oil spill from creeping towards our Southern Coast like a drunken lobbyist staggering towards a free seafood buffet. And almost as ugly. This maritime miasma promises to be the most monumental attack of sludge to hit American shores since Ann Coulter’s most recent book.
Hard to say what frightens Gulf Coast residents more; the toxic slick bearing down on their shore or the Administration’s guarantee that our government is poised and ready to swoop in with federal assistance. It worked so well after Katrina. The kind of news that prompts residents to wake screaming- bathed in sweat- from nightmares of FEMA loading trucks full of mutant hair sausages never to be delivered. And ice. But never let it be said that Congress doesn’t know how to exploit a crisis. They’ve leaped into action and appointed a panel.
WINSLOW MYERS FOR BUZZFLASH
"It is our own ethics, our buying power, our involvement, our votes,
our holding great powers accountable, that is the only possible key to
redressing the present dysfunctional imbalances—imbalances between
impersonal corporate power and the well-being of shrimpers and shrimp
in the one interconnected ocean; imbalances between our getting and
our spending, imbalances between the human and the living system
without which the human cannot survive."
MICHAEL WINSHIP FOR BUZZFLASH
The original title for Michael's commentary is "Kent State and the Frisbee Revolution," BuzzFlash Felt the primary and vital message of this profoundly important essay is the title BuzzFlash wrote, "Are Most Progressives Too Passive When They Should Seize the Agenda?"
I was a freshman at Georgetown University when it happened, 40 years ago on May 4. Most of us didn't know what had taken place until late in the day. We were in class or studying for finals, so hours went by until my friends and I heard the news. On that warm spring Monday, the Ohio National Guard had opened fire on an antiwar demonstration at Kent State University and four students lay dead. Nine others were wounded.
It took a while to sink in. This was the sort of thing that happened in South American dictatorships -- student protesters gunned down for speaking out against the government. Not here.
Then I remembered that some of my high school classmates were at Kent State, a campus fewer than 250 miles from my western New York hometown. But I had no phone numbers for them; there was no immediate way to find out if they were safe (they were).
In those faraway days before 24-hour cable news, the details were hazy and slow in coming. That night, friends huddled around the tiny TV I had in my room -- one of those early Sony portables with a fuzzy, black and white picture the size of your palm. With each sketchy report, anger and frustration grew in the room but didn't start to go over the top until, believe it or not, The Tonight Show came on after the 11 o'clock news.
Johnny Carson's guest was Bob Hope, and when the sexagenarian comedian launched into what was his standard routine those days -- lots of jokes about long-haired hippies and smelly antiwar protesters -- the kids crowded into my tiny dorm room were furious. On this of all nights how could he be so crass as to trot out those tired one-liners about, well, us?
KAREN WEBB FOR BUZZFLASH
If you voted to pass open carry in Oklahoma in the state legislature, how exactly will I know who has a license and who doesn’t? How will I know if you are a bad guy or a good guy with a gun? Should I call 911 when I see a person with a gun or just walk right up and say, “show me your license” and hope they have one?
If Smith and Wesson are your Gods and your faith is measured in the caliber of and number of rounds in your clip, then count me out. Are we now melting our plows to make guns?
You will lose my business forever if I see a gun in your establishment. I can’t be served without shoes, but I can with 45. If you come onto my property with a gun and are not wearing a police uniform, the police will be called to protect me from my gun-toting, fear-mongering, Christian legislator.
NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH
Who is responsible for the great environmental disaster arising from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? As the country reels from the sheer magnitude of the accident, the media has rightly pointed the finger at BP. Yet, not nearly enough attention has been paid to the role of Ken Salazar and his derelict Department of Interior, a government entity which, in theory, regulates offshore oil drilling.
With a budget of almost $16 billion, Interior is a hugely important department overseeing more than 500 million acres of federal land including the national parks --- nearly a fifth of all land in the U.S. The department’s programs range from protecting endangered species to providing oil and gas leases.
As the Huffington Post has reported, as recently as late 2009 the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned Interior that it was vastly underestimating the frequency of offshore oil spills and was dangerously understating the threat and impact a major spill could have on coastal people. Adding to the furor, the Washington Post reports that Interior exempted BP’s Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis last year.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s close friend and business partner, the now-disgraced Bernard Kerik, is about two weeks shy of entering prison after being convicted and sentenced to four years for committing several felonies. These days he’s spending time setting the stage for post-prison redemption.
Later this month, Bernard Kerik, who is currently sitting out his remaining days of freedom while under house arrest in New Jersey -- where he’s outfitted in an electronic ankle bracelet -- will be sent off to prison to serve a four-year term for tax fraud and lying to the White House while under consideration for Homeland Security chief back in 2004.
In the meantime, Kerik, the man who was former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s bodyguard and driver and was appointed by the mayor to a senior position in the Correction Department which eventually led to his becoming New York City Police Commissioner, and later became a partner in Giuliani-Kerik, a security arm of Giuliani Partners, which Giuliani established after leaving office in 2001 -- has plenty to say and he’s saying it on several platforms.