Guest Commentary (5225)
DENISE KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH
December 14th marks the beginning of the 111th Annual Christmas Bird Count, a highlight for the nearly 48 million bird-watchers in the U.S. This is their chance to participate in the world's biggest citizen science project to count, watch, and celebrate our North American birds in their natural habitats. This is clearly, birders' heaven.
The Christmas Bird Count dates back to 1900, when concerned conservationists, including renowned ornithologist Frank Chapman, recognized that over hunting was fueling declines in bird populations. Chapman proposed that the "side hunt," a holiday tradition that rewarded hunters for killing the largest number of birds, be replaced with a Christmas Bird Count to help save them.
But today, what if U.S. bird-watchers encountered groups of men climbing trees with nets in their hands, hunting down and snaring large flocks of North American blue jays or cardinals. What if they witnessed baby Red-Tailed Hawks being robbed from their nests and stuffed into knapsacks? Worst of all, what if they learned that these beautiful creatures were being shipped to foreign countries to be peddled in storefronts and marketed as ‘caged birds’ from America. Surely, they would be outraged. It would be birders' hell.
Yet this scene plays out every day for the birds of South America, Africa, and Indonesia, as countless thousands are hunted down and ripped from their families
NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH
In graduate school I came upon an interesting book called Latin America in Caricature. A work which is practically devoid of text, the book is full of U.S. newspaper cartoons depicting metaphorical images of Latin America and the Caribbean. The images, which date back to the age of gunboat diplomacy, are extremely demeaning. They show a paternalistic Uncle Sam stretching out his hand to help rescue recalcitrant, black-faced children.
While it would be a stretch to argue that these racist images caused Washington to behave in an imperialistic manner, nevertheless the cartoons surely helped to mould public opinion, not to mention the views of U.S. diplomats operating out in the field. A hundred years later it would be unthinkable for newspapers to publish such material, yet apparently it's not so easy for U.S. diplomats to rid themselves of the old mindset. That, at least, is the impression I've gotten from reading recently released U.S. documents linked to the Wikileaks scandal.
Hillary's Obsession with Psychological Detail
Take, for example, a recent cable authored by Hillary Clinton in which the Secretary of State refers to Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as a volatile and emotional
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH
This column is dedicated to the late Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, an ordained United Methodist minister, a research psychologist, and a kind and gentle man who was one of the key organizers of the campaign to keep the Bush Library off the SMU campus.
With his new book, 'Decision Points,' heading the New York Times best-seller list and the building of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at SMU now underway, inquiring minds want to know: Will Bush escape the harsh judgement of history?
First the memoir, then the ground breaking.
Less than 10 days after George W. Bush's memoir "Decision Points" hit the streets and America's 43rd president hit the airwaves to promote it, multiple shovels of dirt were hoisted and ground was broken for the George W. Bush Presidential Center located on the campus of Southern Methodist University. After several years of often acrimonious debate about the appropriateness of its location, more than 3,000 friends and supporters of Bush, as well as a notably thinner -- after of a long hospital stay following heart surgery over the summer -- former Vice President Dick Cheney and Former Cabinet Secretaries Don Evans, Condoleezza Rice and Margaret Spellings, participated in the event.
"When it opens in 2013, the center will feature a museum, library, archives and policy institute," The Dallas Morning News noted.
According to newsok.com, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Manhattan Construction Co. began construction on the project the week before the grounbreaking: The Bush Center, which will "sit on 23 acres of the SMU campus," contains a "226,565-square-foot building [that] was designed to achieve platinum certification in Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, the first presidential library to do so. Among other features, the design includes a 15-acre urban park of native landscaping and includes a rainwater collection system; and a Texas Rose Garden in the same proportions, solar orientation and formal organization as the White House Rose Garden."
(A live web cam at the construction site is available on Manhattan's website: http://www.
The groundbreaking ceremony also saw several dozen anti-war activists protesting
ELAINE SHPUNGIN FOR BUZZFLASH
On the 6th of December 2010, I received a message from a friend celebrating the fact that Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, was leading a Times magazine poll for the next "person of the year."
Up to then, I had been somewhat dismissive of the whole WikiLeaks debacle, perceiving this Assange character as someone who practiced "irresponsible" journalism, releasing thousands of private communications that seemed to have little to do with national security and a lot to do with mean-spirited back-channel insults between diplomats. Add to this an accusation of rape (which did seem suspiciously timed to me, but still) and this did not seem like someone I wanted to have coffee with, never mind nominate for person of the year!
However, due to the popularity implied by the Times poll, and to my great respect for my friend's political senses, my interest was piqued. Thus, I began to dig into the WikiLeaks story, reading sources I have personally come to trust over the years to put together a credible version of the facts
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH
The federal criminal trial of five veteran peace activists facing several charges was recessed until Monday after their jury announced late Friday they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on one of the counts. The Tacoma Washington trial has been going on since Tuesday. The five defendants, called the Disarm Now Plowshares, challenged the legality and morality of the US storage and use of thermonuclear missiles by Trident nuclear submarines at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base outside Bremerton Washington.
The peace activists argued three points: the missiles are weapons of mass destruction; the weapons are both illegal and immoral; and that all citizens have the right to try to stop international war crimes being committed by these weapons of mass destruction. "It is not a crime to reveal a crime," they argued. Supporters from around the world packed the main courtroom every day of the trial. Numerous others followed the trial in an overflow court room.
The five were charged with trespass, felony damage to federal property, felony injury to property and felony conspiracy to damage property. Each faces possible sentences of up to ten years in prison.
On trial are: Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York; Fr. Bill Bischel, 81, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma Washington; Susan Crane, 67, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, Maryland; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from Bremerton Washington; and Fr. Steve Kelly, 60, a Jesuit priest from Oakland California. Bill Bischel and Lynne Greenwald are active members of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, a community resisting Trident nuclear weapons since 1977.
The five admitted from the start that they cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Navy base during the night of All Souls, November 2, 2009. They then walked undetected for hours nearly four miles inside the base to their target, the Strategic Weapons
MUHAMMAD COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH
BANGKOK - The winning formula to combat climate change may not emerge from the latest UN meeting in Cancun but the raunchiest bar on Bangkok's Soi Cowboy.
There's something truly shocking going on in that bar, but it's not the antics of the naked women on stage or with male customers in the "Naughty Boy Corner." In plain view all over the bar, people are brazenly smoking cigarettes. The shock value of patrons puffing away offers a ray of hope to seemingly clueless, endless, and pointless UN climate change talks.
DAVIDSON LOEHR FOR BUZZFLASH
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If President Obama is a liberal, he's had a funny way of showing it, especially in the total cave-in on his proposed tax package. It may earn a spot in history as one of the few times a President received more votes from the opposition party than he did from his own. Those who remember his campaigning against "stupid" wars are having trouble recognizing this man who seems to be speaking from inside the military's pocket. His increase in government secrecy, apparent duplicity, and schizophrenic military policies now have General Petraeus saying it's unlikely that our soldiers will be home from that doomed killing zone by 2014 - and that we may be there for a very long time.
Since Obama took office, many Democrats have provided their own rationalizations for his bizarre political walk on the wild Republican side: they're footholds, he's softening the Republicans up for the big revolutionary liberal programs that he'll be announcing
LARRY BEINHART FOR BUZZFLASH
... driving your car off the cliff, paying a tow truck twice the price of the car to haul it back up,
then driving it back over because your brother-in-law's cousin's friend told you this time it will fly.
... celebrating your one day sobriety pin with a cognac and crack party.
... getting gonorrhea from unprotected sex, and after you get rid of it, going back to the bath house to see if you can get something incurable this time.
... a 400 pound person going on all McDonald's diet.
... after the drunk British football hooligans have rioted and burned down the stadium, you rebuild the stadium and, this time, to make it better, you offer free al-you-can-drink beer.
... a prostitute getting out of 'the life' by switching from cash
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH
The White House and nuclear power industry are on the brink of grabbing $7 billion in new taxpayer-funded loan guarantees for new reactors. But they can be stopped (www.nukefree.org).
Taxpayer and environmental (www.nirs.org) groups are asking citizens to call their Senators urging deletion of the guarantees.
The guarantees have been stuck into the Continuing Resolution just passed by the House to fund the government. It now goes to the Senate, where calls should be directed to delete this budget-busting radioactive
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH
- Like Bush, never signed the Kyoto Treaty
- Fearing GOP, kept Bush's polluting emission standards
- Never prosecuted Bush war crimes of practicing torture, never so much as investigated those crimes; holding detainees indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay
- Never altered the Patriot Act, to our chagrin, increased more spyware and violations of privacy, the worst being the TSA Image Scanner Machines
- Allowed insurance lawyers to write the medical insurance reform, and although
DANNY SCHECHTER FOR BUZZFLASH
Go, Wall Street, Go!
Never mind the rise in unemployment and foreclosures. Never mind the folks waiting to know if they will get the benefits they need before they are cut off. Never mind the growing gap between rich and poor, and the continuing spread of poverty.
(Did you know that inequality in the US is at the highest level of any industrialized country?)
Does any of this matter?
The idea of equality as a social goal is apparently passé.
Christmas has a special meaning on Wall Street:
It's bonus time. This brings to mind Peter Wolf singing with the J Geils Band, "First I look at the Purse."
The context was different but the meaning is the same.
Just five too big to fail bankster companies have stashed $90 billion for payouts to prized employees. They know that the beat on The Street is fading, so it seems to be take the money and run time.
Incidentally, that "bonus pool" will rise with end of the year earnings.
Right now, the greedsters have
STEPHEN PIZZO FOR BUZZFLASH
Not since bin Laden became numero uno on the FBI's Most Wanted list have we seen Western intelligence and law enforcement so jacked up. The world's judicial machinery has kicked into the highest of high gears in the effort to nail Wikileaks leader, Julian Assange.
The key piece of paper that triggered get this kind of hyper-attention seems to have been a Swedish arrest warrant filed with Interpol. After that happened it was only a matter of days before Assange was behind bars in Great Britain.
Now we get to see if the same system works the same way when the perp is a real big shot -- Dick Cheney. Because it looks all but certain that Interpol is about to get another arrest warrant, one for Cheney: "Former VP Cheney Charged
MARC PERKEL FOR BUZZFLASH
It's been 10 years since the Supreme Court usurped the power of the People and instead appointed George W. Bush as president. At that time America had a surplus. We are on tract to completely pay off the national debt in 10 years, which would be today.
Instead we got 9/11, two wars, a collapsing economy, and about 14 trillion dollars in national debt. America invades other countries without provocation. Wall Street steals trillions
LARRY BEINHART FOR BUZZFLASH
Tax increases cost jobs.
Let's do some basic economics.
Taxes are not paid on revenue. Taxes are paid on profits. Profits are revenues minus costs.
Let's imagine a small business.
For the sake of simplicity, let's say it's a personal business, not a corporation.
It has gross revenues of $10,000,000 a year.
It has one hundred employees. They each make about the median income, about $35,000, a payroll of $3,500,000 a year.
All it's other expenses come to $5,000,000. This includes all the things it buys to make whatever it sells, rent, utilities, shipping, legal, accounting, etc., etc., and so forth.
That leaves a profit of $1,500,000 a year.
Let's look at a very high tax situation.
Taxes on everything over a million dollars a years is 90%. (The rate from WWII until 1964)
So, on the final half million of my profits, I have to give the government $450,000, leaving just $50,000.
If I add ten employees at $35,000 each, that costs me $350,000. Those are costs, deducted from revenues, decreasing profits.
Do I want to do that?
I would only have kept $35,000 of that $350,000 anyway.
You bet I want to do it. I get to add ten employees at a cost - to me - of just $35,000. Or $3,500 per employee.
I get more production, more territories,