Guest Commentary (3828)
JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
With election time almost upon us, here's a rather sobering thought: By spending as little as a mere two billion dollars, anyone with that amount of money can now afford to buy an entire US election -- Congress, the White House, governorships and all.
"But Jane," you might ask, "why would anyone even want to do that?" Just look at all the immense amount of loot you can score with just this tiny investment. Access to national park lands, bank deregulation, profits from weapons production, corporate monopoly status, pro-pollution laws, judges' rulings in your favor...need I go on?
For instance, eleven trillion dollars has been recently spent on escalating and pursuing US wars. So if you "invest" in American elections and still only receive, say, just ten percent of those eleven trillion dollars.
For your weapons-manufacturing services or whatever the heck else companies like Halliburton do, you still have just grown your measly two-billion-buck investment at least a thousand times over. Forever war really pays off!
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Barack Obama's central dilemma last week, when he tried to sell a new war to the American public on the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, was to speak convincingly about the wisdom and effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy over the last decade-plus while at the same time, alas, dropping the bad news that it didn't work.
Thus: "Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer."
Hurray! God bless drones and "mission accomplished" and a million Iraqi dead and birth defects in Fallujah. God bless torture. God bless the CIA. But guess what?
"Still we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm."
So it's bombs away again, boys — another trace of evil has popped up in the Middle East — and I find myself at the edge of outrage, the edge of despair, groping for language to counter my own incredulity that the God of War is on the verge of another victory and Planet Earth and human evolution lose again.
Obama ended his executive declaration of more war with words that the military-industrial shills have slowly managed to turn into an obscenity: "May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America."
God bless another war?
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Christian-themed movies appear to be attracting large audiences these days. While none of the latest crop of religious-themed movies will come close to the box office numbers garnered by Mel Gibson's 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ – over $600 million combined domestically and worldwide -- nevertheless, these films are taking church goers out of the pews, and transporting them to local cineplexes across the country. A post-film-watching goal is to have patrons go and click on the film's website and order up an assortment of merchandise.
This year's successful crop includes Heaven is for Real ($91 million); God's Not Dead ($60 million); and, Son of God ($59 million). Noah, starring Russell Crowe, is a film that stirred controversy amongst some Christians for its lack of fealty to the Biblical tale, but nevertheless brought in nearly $360 million worldwide. According to thewrap.com's Todd Cunningham, "Grassroots and social media campaigns aimed directly at the Christian community had a lot to do with their success."
"Just as there's a whole niche publishing industry that does nothing but Christian books, this is a way to create that niche in the movie-making industry," says Michael Parnell, pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., and a commentator and film reviewer for APBnews/Herald. Organizers of the 168 Film Festival, which celebrates Christian movies, called the past year, "a stellar year for faith films at the box office ..."
More recently, faith-based films have hit some hard times in the past few months, Cunningham pointed out: "The box-office washout of The Identical made it four straight misfires for faith-based movies after an unprecedented run of success for religious films earlier this year."
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
My father, W.F. "High" Hightower, was a populist. Only, he didn't know it. Didn't know the word, much less the history or anything about populism's democratic ethos. My father was not philosophical, but he had a phrase that he used to express the gist of his political beliefs: "Everybody does better when everybody does better."
Before the populists of the late 1800s gave its instinctive rebelliousness a name, it had long been established as a defining trait of our national character: The 1776 rebellion was not only against King George III's government but against the corporate tyranny of such British monopolists as the East India Trading Company.
The establishment certainly doesn't celebrate the populist spirit, and our educational system avoids bothering students with our vibrant, human story of constant battles, big and small, mounted by "little people" against ... well, against the establishment. The Keepers of the Corporate Order take care to avoid even a suggestion that there is an important political pattern — a historic continuum — that connects Thomas Paine's radical democracy writings in the late 1700s to Shays' Rebellion in 1786, to strikes by mill women and carpenters in the early 1800s, to Jefferson's 1825 warning about the rising aristocracy of banks and corporations "riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman," to the launching of the women's suffrage movement at Seneca Falls in 1848, to the maverick Texans who outlawed banks in their 1845 state constitution, to the bloody and ultimately successful grassroots struggle for the abolition of slavery, and to the populist movement itself, plus the myriad rebellions that followed right into our present day.
AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"The so-called 'psychotically depressed' person who tries to kill herself doesn't do so out of quote 'hopelessness' or any abstract conviction that life's assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise." -- David Foster Wallace
This piece doesn't have a hook. It reacts to nothing that's happened out there in the news, either nationally or internationally. It's a bit more personal than that. At 39, I seem to have entered the phase of my life in which those around me start dying off. I've buried more than a few people over the past couple of years, but two of them sting more than the others. Both took their own lives. One did it with pills, and spent twelve agonizing hours slowly dying. The other was more efficient and used a gun. Both are dead and both suffered from mental illness.
And both might still be alive, had they not been caught in the grips of an utterly wretched mental health care system. New Mexico doesn't do all that well, when it comes to mental health, and our governor, Suzanna Martinez, has been doing her damndest to destroy the few bits of a functioning system that remains. And that leads to a particularly neat phenomenon that has been observed elsewhere: the criminal justice system has become a de facto wing of the mental health care system. New Mexico is no exception, and both of my friends bounced from mental health care providers to prisons and nowhere did they receive the anything that actually helped. For them, their illnesses proved terminal.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader, is not a happy man.
He didn’t like it when Barack Obama was elected president. Just about the first thing McConnell said was that his main responsibility was to make sure that Mr. Obama was a one-term president.
That vow drove McConnell’s and the Tea Party’s politics. They didn’t worry about the nation or the people. They worried about how to make Barack Obama a one-term president.
But, in the past six years, McConnell managed to block almost all constructive legislation in the Senate. And it’s not even a fair fight. McConnell manipulated and wheeled and dealed so that the majority no longer can do anything. It now takes 60 votes to pass almost anything in the Senate. That’s because the Republican obstructionists have threatened to filibuster anything of substance. Important bipartisan legislation that would normally pass with a majority of 51 to 59 votes out of the 100 possible are now scuttled by backroom politics and the blind hatreds that some have for this nation’s president who was elected by the people and by the Electoral College—twice.
And now comes Mitch McConnell to again obstruct the people and the government. He vows if the Republicans win the Senate in November, he will shut down the government if President Obama doesn’t agree with the Republicans.
AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
elections. On the one hand, this makes perfect political sense. The chances of getting the House to pass a bill proclaiming that 2+2=4 would be close to nil, were said bill favored by the president. And a bill on so sensitive a topic as immigration reform? Unlikely. And addressing the issue with executive orders would, as the prophets of conventional wisdom proclaim, only hand Republicans further ammunition in an already grim looking mid-term election.After a long and inert struggle, resembling nothing so much as two elderly crocodiles trying to gum one another to death, Obama has declared that no action on immigration reform will be taken until after the fall
On the other hand, come on, really? Immigration reform has been under discussion for years. The latest iteration of the battle has seen Obama repeatedly put off action, to give the Republicans in the House a chance to act, which they seized upon by doing, um, nothing. And of course, since assuming office, Obama has been deporting undocumented immigrants at a record rate, apparently under the assumption that, once he has passed a certain threshold of anti-immigrant toughness, perhaps by biting off the head of a Guatemalan infant on live TV, his political opponents would have no choice but to sit down and actually hammer out some sort of deal.
But that hasn’t quite worked out, has it? As with most every other area of debate in which the president has attempted to meet his adversaries halfway, the end result has been that the terms of discourse drift rightwards whilst his opponents screech and little of consequence occurs. And in this particular case, we are now left to wait until, at the very earliest, November for any action. And perhaps, post mid-terms, the notion of political capital will come up and Obama will opt to spend his dwindling stores of it on something exciting, like a few more million tons of bombs in Iraq and/or Syria. So then the can gets kicked ever further down the road and oh no! Here’s the 2016 elections and we certainly can’t be doing anything to upset that, can we?
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Just the other day I received the following communication from the GOP (and that’s how they referred to themselves in this particular email):
Subj: GREAT polls for Republicans:
“Steven, Just wanted to update you on the state of play in the critical battleground races: This weekend, there were a number of positive polls released for Republicans. One forecast showed Republicans holding “at least a nominal lead in eight states held by Democrats, more than the six they need to retake the chamber.” One leading forecaster predicted Republicans have a 65.1% chance of winning a Senate majority this November — up from 63.5% two days prior. And another forecasting model gave Republicans a 61% chance of taking back the Senate — up from 58% since a wave of new data was released. The momentum is growing, and the odds are on our side. But every single one of these Senate battleground races is just too close for comfort. With less than two months until Election Day, we can’t afford to leave the odds making to the pollsters. It’s up to us whether we clear the path, seize the lead and deliver a victory in each battleground state.”
Then they go on to ask for money. What? They don’t get enough from the Koch’s et al? But that’s another story.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“So you want to disarm cops LOL yeah that’s an intelligent thing to do the gang bangers would love that surely they will unilaterally disarm too.”
I’m used to semi-anonymous sarcasm by now, like this Huffington Post comment beneath a recent column I wrote on the militarization of the police and the possibility of disarmament, and I have no interest in “fighting it out” with the guy. But there it is, perfectly preserved: an impulse homage to Big Fear, wrapped in unexamined certainty. This is fast-draw morality, made in Hollywood.
I take this moment to highlight it because it’s so typical and, for that reason, the first line of defense of the status quo of violence: this instant acceptance of the idea that our enemies are continually stalking the perimeter of our lives, waiting to invade, to commandeer our way of life the moment we lower our weapons.
This instant reaction to any questioning of the use of armed force to maintain safety and “peace” not only shuts down the discussion but hides all the consequences of violent self-defense, including the creation of the very enemies we fear (e.g., the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and the hemorrhaging of sanctioned, official violence backwards into our own lives.
Violent force and temporary dominance of a situation may occasionally serve a larger end, but the permanent maintenance of this mindset has us stalled in a state of endless embattlement, both at home and abroad. Fear has us locked into a bad story: that violent dominance over our enemies is our only hope. In actuality, our only hope is embracing a larger story: that all humanity, and all of life, is connected. Finding that connection is often what requires courage.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"With the exception of Indian massacres in the late 19th century, the ... assault [on the Attica Correctional Facility] which ended the four-day prison uprising was the bloodiest one-day encounter between Americans since the Civil War."- New York State Special Commission on Attica, 1972.
September 9 marks the 43rd Anniversary of the start of the Prisoner Rebellion at Attica, located upstate in western New York. After four days of negotiating, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ended what appeared to be productive sessions by ordering 1,000 National Guardsmen, prison guards, and state and local police to storm the facility, resulting nearly 40 people killed, the vast majority of whom were incarcerated.
"Nearly half of Attica prison's approximately 2,200 [prisoners] rebelled and seized control of the prison. Some were angry over the death of an African American activist at another prison, while others revolted because they were unhappy with the brutal living conditions inside Attica," The Huffington Post's David Lohr wrote two years ago. Racist behavior amongst the prison guards was rampant, hygienic conditions were horrific, and medical care was virtually non-existent.
The deadly raid began with the dropping of CS gas putting everyone on the ground, and was followed by the indiscriminate firing of 4500 rounds of ammunition, unloaded on basically unarmed people. The raid did not end the brutality: "Guards beat and tortured prisoners after the revolt, resulting in a wave of prison rebellions nationwide," Scott A. Bonn, a crime expert and assistant professor of sociology at Drew University, told The Huffington Post.