Guest Commentary (4799)
SHAMUS COOKE FOR BUZZFLASH
The corporate media is brutally honest on rare occasions. Take for example a recent article in The New York Times Magazine, titled "The Teachers’ Union’s Last Stand" (05-23-10).
The title itself is surprisingly sincere, since it admits that the nation’s teachers are being targeted for attack by the Obama Administration through his “Race to the Top” education reform. And although the article has an inherently corporate bias, it contains many revelations that have been otherwise ignored in the mainstream media.
The article outlines the two contending forces behind the national education “debate”: the corporate “reformers” and the “anti-change” teacher unions. Who are the reformers? The New York Times answers:
“…high-powered foundations, like the [Bill] Gates Foundation…and wealthy entrepreneurs, who have poured seed money into charter schools.”
JOSHUA BROLLIER AND KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH
Islamabad -- “Our situation is like a football match. The superpower countries are the players, and we are just the ball to be kicked around.” This sentiment, expressed by a young man from North Waziristan, has been echoed throughout many of our conversations with ordinary people here in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Most are baffled that the United States, with the largest and most modern military in the world, can’t put a stop to a few thousand militants hiding out in the border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Just about everyone we have spoken with, Pashtuns included, has little to no sympathy for the Taliban or their tactics. Many people have lost limbs, homes and loved ones to the brutal assaults of suicide bombers or the indiscriminate violence of IEDs. Yet, people expressed frustrated confusion over uncertainties regarding U.S. government goals in relation to the Taliban. Some believe that the United States might be working with the ISI (Pakistani Intelligence Services) or at least not working against them, to enable continued Taliban resistance. If there is no resistance, according to this view, a military presence in the region cannot be justified. Nor can a so-called humanitarian presence further flood the Pakistani and Afghan economies with millions of dollars in aid that most often lines the pockets of the politicians, elite bureaucrats, and United States corporations involved in construction and security.
JAMES RIDGEWAY FOR BUZZFLASH
On June 5, 1944, the eve of the largest invasion in history, General Dwight Eisenhower visited the English airfield where paratroopers were preparing to take off for their drop into France. “Quit worrying, General,” one of the soldiers told him. “We’ll take care of this thing for you.’’ The following day, 175,000 men landed on the beaches and fields of Normandy.
For children growing up in Washington, D.C., shushed into silence behind the blackout curtains while our parents bent over radios bringing the long-awaited announcement of the attack, it was all beyond comprehension -– save that every little boy was climbing into a tree to pretend he was flying his Spitfire over the Channel or parachuting into the French countryside.
At age eight, I was one of those boys. Last week I had the good fortune to meet another member of my generation whose experience of D-Day was something quite different. His name is Pierre Bernard, and he is retired to his family’s farm in the village of Maisons, a stone’s throw from the beaches that became the site of what the French call the Débarquement. In the spring of 1944, Pierre was twelve; with his parents and siblings, he worked the farm and waited for the Allied troops to arrive and free them from Nazi occupation. When that day finally came, Pierre recalls, the Germans simply vanished. British and then American troops soon passed through the village, moving quickly inland. His family was luckier than many others: Some 12,000 French civilians were killed during the battle for Normandy, along with more than 75,000 troops on both sides.
DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH
Muntadhar al-Zaidi famously threw his shoes at President George W. Bush in December 2008, kicking off a stream of shoe-throwing protests around Iraq and the world. He then spent nine months in jail. TheRealNews.com has now posted a four-part video interview in which al-Zaidi reveals, to the certain bewilderment of many Americans, that he has absolutely no notion of "hating us for our freedoms." In fact, al-Zaidi lists completely unrelated grievances not unlike those listed by every other individual ever alleged to have hated us for our freedoms. It's enough to make you almost suspect there was a pattern, if you didn't know better.
Al-Zaidi says in Part 1 of the interview, in which he also lists his grievances with the United States, that he expected and was prepared to be killed immediately for throwing his shoes at Bush's head. He left behind a videotaped statement and a will, he says. Al-Zaidi had been working as a broadcast journalist for Al-Baghdadia TV and writing about the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He says that he did not believe the world was reading his writings, and that throwing his shoes at Bush was a means of grabbing people's attention. It certainly worked, at least temporarily.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH
Better Courts Now’s candidates are on a ‘mission from God’ to transform San Diego’s court system.
If you’ve had your fill of athletes thanking God for their good fortune on the basketball court or gridiron, and/or politicians claiming that God directed them to run for public office –- think George W. Bush –- then do not read any further. If, however, you’re interested in and/or intrigued by the “Mission from God” conceit, and wondering if folks adopting that charge from on high just might be coming to your humble township, then check out what’s been happening in San Diego, California.
What may have started out as a small, almost stealth-like campaign –- similar to those that took over school boards across the country -- has evolved into a rock-em, sock-em, full-throated effort to remove four Democratic-appointed judges from Superior Court, and replace them with four bona-fide “Mission from God” Christian conservative attorneys.
The movement, called Better Courts Now, is supporting four San Diego Superior Court candidates that have the backing of “pastors, gun enthusiasts and opponents of abortion and same-sex marriages,” the Associated Press recently reported.
DANNY SCHECTER FOR BUZZFLASH
It was hard to resist an invite to my high school reunion because it came from guys who worked with me on the student newspaper at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York, my gateway to a career in journalism.
Working on the Clinton News, yes, a half century ago, inspired my perhaps naïve hope that here was a field that promotes the values of democracy I espoused even back then. I am still at it, but as an insider turned outsider where the media trend is no longer my friend.
We closed our offices at Globalvision in the same week as the reunion after nearly 24 years. Clinton may have gotten my career going, but now the timing of this occasion has, by chance, coincided with what may be its end.
SHIRLEY SMITH FOR BUZZFLASH
"Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star," Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, and below:
Alas, things ain't what we should see
If Eve had let that apple be;
And many a feller which had ought
To set with monarchses of thought,
Or play some rosy little game
With battle-chaps on fields of fame,
Is downed by his unlucky star
And hollers: "Peanuts!--here you are!"
"The Sturdy Beggar."
I know President Obama wants to do the right thing, but with US government, what has 'full responsibility' meant in the past? A place where President Clinton and President Obama didn't want to go.
Was it taking full responsibility when nothing was done about the Reagan/Bush illegal arms trading, or double dealing behind Carter's back during the US hostage situation? Have we seen "full responsibility" when Clinton took office and refused to investigate Bush number one and the first Gulf war, instead bombed the innocent citizens of Iraq for years, causing a countless number of birth deformities due to the depleted uranium in those bombs? Something that is said to stay in the soil, what, a billion or so years?
MARTHA ROSENBERG FOR BUZZFLASH
New Orleans -- It was 95 degrees with 99 percent humidity. The Gulf had the biggest oil spill in US history. And attendees to this week's American Psychiatric Convention (APA) annual meeting in New Orleans had to brave 200 protestors chanting "no drugging kids for money" and "no conflicts of interest" to get into the convention hall.
Since 2008 when Congress investigated some APA psychiatrists for alleged pharma conflicts of interest, more light has shone between the two groups, historically almost indistinguishable.
Participants at this year's meeting, estimated at 14,000, saw conflict-of-interest slides before presentations and in their 240-page program book, fewer pharma funded classes and entertainment and no gifts or free meals at the 5-day event.
"They used to wine us and dine us," said one participant, a veteran of decades of annual meetings, ruefully.
"An SSRI maker flew my entire group to a Caribbean island," remembered a doctor from the East coast who did not want to be identified. Anymore.
LAWRENCE S. WITTNER FOR BUZZFLASH
For some time now, it has been clear that nuclear weapons threaten the existence not only of humanity, but of all life on Earth. Thus, Barack Obama's pledge to work for a nuclear weapons-free world — made during his 2008 presidential campaign and subsequently in public statements — has resonated nicely with supporters of nuclear disarmament and with the general public.
But recent developments have called that commitment into question. The administration's Nuclear Posture Review does not indicate any dramatic departures in the use of nuclear weapons, while its nuclear weapons budget request for the next fiscal year represents a 14 percent increase over this year's counterpart. The most alarming sign that the administration might be preparing for a nuclear weapons-filled future is its proposal to spend $180 billion over the next ten years to upgrade the U.S. nuclear weapons production complex. From the standpoint of nuclear critics, the best interpretation of such measures — and one that might be accurate — is that they are designed to win support among hawkish Republican senators for the New START Treaty, which will reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. After all, the political argument goes, if Obama is to secure the sixty-seven Senate votes necessary to ratify the treaty, he needs to pick up some Republican support. Of course, these pro-nuclear measures might reflect a quite different scenario, one in which Obama is abandoning yet another political promise.
In this context, we might ask: would abandoning the promise of nuclear abolition be a bad idea?
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH.COM
The President may have wrestled Afghanistan and Iraq to shaky standoffs but the newest skirmish in the heads- up display of Air Force One shows him losing the third Gulf war and losing bad. Taking shots from both sides- from both sides. Republicans are yelling at Obama for holding BP responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster AND for not doing enough to clean it up. That man sure is a geographic oddity. On two wrong sides of the same issue. Which ain’t easy.
The main burst of charges that Obama is scapegoating British Petroleum are oozing from the newest Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky, Rand Paul. A man naturally disposed to disturbing people with both his views and his coif. Please, someone, have the simple common human decency to tell him that 1985 is calling and it wants its hair back. Not even Lyle Lovett wears it like that anymore. Anthony Geary maybe.
But I digress. Calls are streaming across the aisle for the President to ignore BP's jurisdictional claims and have the military take over. Because people suspect BP cannot be trusted. About anything. If they smile and say “hello,” check your back for shards of a malfunctioning Blowout Protector. “We’re trying our best.” We are familiar with your best. Your best sucks.
NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH
Some people are just nostalgic and seemingly can’t get enough of the go-go Clinton years. Ever since 1992, the year his paymaster vanquished George H.W. Bush, high level marketer James Carville has backed political candidates in Latin America identifying with Bill Clinton’s militaristic and free market approach to the region.
A political guru, frequent CNN pundit and a personality who was featured in the well known documentary The War Room, Carville moves in powerful circles in the U.S. What’s less commonly known, however, is that Carville is also a virtual kingmaker in Latin America --- indeed, his professional contacts have ranged from Mexico’s Ernesto Zedillo to Brazil’s Fernando Enrique Cardoso to many others.
His latest stint is the troubled Andean nation of Colombia, which is fast approaching its presidential election. There, according to Colombian magazine Semana, Carville has offered his consulting services to Juan Manuel Santos, a former Minister of Defense and member of the governing Social Party of National Unity or Party of the U. Santos, who is trailing in recent polls against Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus, hopes that a bit of Carville’s previous luster will rub off on him.
He needs all the help he can get: as I pointed out in a recent article, Santos has been sullied by judicial investigations into allegations by human rights groups that the armed forces killed hundreds of civilians who were passed off as rebels downed in combat operations. The scandal took place under Santos' watch while the latter served as Minister of Defense. Though the future presidential candidate was quick to demote top officials, an investigation is still ongoing.
In a sense, it’s not too surprising that Carville would back Santos, a militarist who has favored the U.S. free trade agenda. As president, Carville’s paymaster Bill Clinton supported the Colombian elite to the hilt by supporting Plan Colombia and a $1.3 billion aid package to the Andean nation which waived human rights conditions. Later, once out of office Bill backed the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement and met with President Álvaro Uribe personally in Bogotá. Wife Hillary, who Carville advised during the presidential campaign of 2008, did not support the free trade deal. However, her strategist Mark Penn was employed by the Colombian government to push for the initiative [to see my original article on the Clintons and their sordid ties to Colombia, click here].
MARY KIM FOR BUZZFLASH
If you ever wondered what it would take to thaw out the U.S. attitude toward Cuba, we might be getting the answer in this article: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2620368920100526?type=marketsNews
A U.S. company was denied permits to travel to Cuba to discuss off-shore oil-drilling there -- until right after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Now the permits have been granted.
GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH
Barack Obama may be one of the best communicators of this generation, but he is not living up to his own talents. In a year of disasters, communication failure doubles the disasters.
If, as he says, the monster spill was his highest priority from Day 1, he needed to communicate that from Day 1 — or at least Day 3 or 4. It took five weeks for him to tell the nation what he and his administration were doing. The result was visible in the press conference today. He was on the defensive. He needed to be on the offensive — from early on. The choice is not doing or communicating. It is doing and communicating.
His narrative: This is a tough, unprecedented situation, but I’m in charge, and I’ve been very busy, in the Situation Room where I belong, not on TV. I’m fully competent. I’m a good policy wonk — ask me any question about details. I’m honest. I admit my few policy mistakes. I think about the details day and night. Don’t think I’m oblivious.
It’s defensive, trying to overcome criticism that should never have been allowed to accumulate. But worse, it’s weak when it needs to be strong.