Guest Commentary (3570)
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The young guys were half a block ahead of us. Nothing was happening except that they were walking. A police car pulled up behind them, slowed to their pace, aimed a spotlight at them.
They were African-American (did you guess?), numbering maybe half a dozen. They weren't intimidated. Some of them stopped, stood staring at the police car, talking to it; this had obviously happened before. The spotlight continued to shine in their faces. Other young men crossed the street in front of the car and joined the crowd. The game went on for a while: the slow saunter, the cops driving along next to them, the light in their faces.
Chicago, Chicago! My kind of town, but not this. How weird to see the moment unfold as I was walking along Pratt Avenue, through my own 'hood. The energy I felt was immensely unpleasant — racial profiling, pointless discord. Young black men in Chicago have to know their legal rights; that's simply the way it works. These guys obviously did.
Suddenly the light snapped off. The police car accelerated, drove away. That was it. No further confrontation. The young men kept walking. I was an observer in an occupied zone.
"But there is little or no discussion of larger social or cultural forces in the United States and the American institutions or leaders who bully other countries or workers and citizens at home."
Thus wrote Yale Magrass and Charles Derber, in an essay published at Truthout, called "Bully Nation." Their point is that, while suddenly bullying is a big deal and officially recognized as problematic, the public debate on the matter focuses almost entirely on troubled loners, when in fact no bully ever acts out of purely personal motives. Everyone acts within a social, cultural and political context, and that context is one that, in so many ways, rewards — indeed, reveres — bullying and domination.
BRIAN TERRELL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The F-16 jets of the Iowa Air National Guard that formerly buzzed the city of Des Moines have disappeared and we are told that their base at the Des Moines International Airport is in the process of refitting into a command center for unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly called drones. The MQ-9 Reaper drones themselves will not be coming to Iowa but will be based in and launched overseas. When airborne, these unmanned planes will be flown by remote control via satellite link from Des Moines. Classified by the military as a "Hunter-Killer platform," the MQ-9 Reaper is armed with Hellfire missiles and 500 pound bombs that according to plan will be launched by airmen sitting at computer terminals in Des Moines.
President Obama, in an address from the National Defense University last May, described this new technology as more precise and by implication more humane than other weaponry: "By narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life." There is an understandable appeal to the idea of a weapon that can discriminate between the good and the bad people and limit regrettable "collateral damage." It is understandable too, that a nation weary of sending its sons and daughters to fight on battlefields far away, risking injury, death or the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress, might look to embrace a new method of war whereby the warriors fights battles from the safe distances. Thousands of miles beyond the reach of the enemy, drone combatants often do not even have to leave their hometowns and are able to return to homes and families at the end of a shift.
STEVEN JONAS, MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On April 8, 2012, our esteemed Editor/Publisher at BuzzFlash at Truthout, my good friend Mark Karlin, published a column entitled "The US War on Drug Cartels in Mexico Is a Deadly Failure". In his column he noted that: "Approximately 50,000 or more Mexicans have been killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a so-called war on drug cartels. (In a recent appearance in Toronto, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claimed 150,000 people have died in the drug war in Mexico, but the timeline Panetta was referring to was unclear, as was the origin of the figure he cited.)."
Mark went on to say: "Here is the US policy in a nutshell: we pay Mexicans to kill Mexicans, and this slaughter has no effect on drug shipments or prices." Nor on the use of those drugs in the United States, which has generally not significantly changed over the 40-plus years of the "war".*
Over the years I have written at length on this subject in the academic literature.* The "War on Drugs" has never been such a thing. From its inauguration by President Richard Nixon, it has always been a "War on Certain Users of Certain Drugs", for the most part minority drug users at that, although some non-minorities do get caught up in its tentacles. The so-called War on Drugs was begun shortly after the invention of the race-based "Southern Strategy" that has controlled the fortunes of the GOP and unfortunately the country for most of the time since Nixon installed it.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Now that Harold Camping, the failed End Times prognosticator, has left this mortal coil, it is up to other conservative Christian evangelicals to carry on the outrageous. And carrying on the outrageous appears to be one of Pastor Robert Jeffress' major talents, albeit doing it in a much more affable way than many of his comrades.
Jeffress has a new book that claims President Barack Obama is paving the way for the Antichrist.
In addition to Obama paving the way for the Antichrist, according to the Christian Post's Melissa Barnhart, Jeffress' book, Perfect Ending: Why Your Eternal Future Matters Today, also "answers people's most pressing questions about heaven and what the end times will look like to Christians and those who do not believe in Jesus Christ."
Jeffress is not one of your fly-by-night conservative evangelical preachers; he's been around the block more that a few times. He is senior pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church, in Dallas, Texas; hosts a daily radio program called "Pathway to Victory" -- which is broadcast on more than 700 hundred stations; and, his weekly television show is seen on 1,200 television stations and cable systems throughout the nation and in 28 countries around the world, including China. He has written more than twenty books, and is a much sought-after speaker at evangelical Christian events, and is a frequent guest on Fox News.
He briefly attracted the attention of the mainstream media when in October 2011, after introducing Texas Governor Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., he told reporters that Mormonism was a "cult" and maintained that Mitt Romney was opposed to Christianity. A day later, after a Sunday morning service, he stood by his statements: "Mormonism is a false religion," he told Reuters. "It was invented 1800 years after the establishment of Christianity."
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is yet another victim of the war on drugs. Prohibition is not working. It is time to try something new.
Hoffman, 46, was found dead in the bathroom of his Manhattan apartment Sunday morning, apparently the victim of a heroin overdose. According to widely published reports, there was a syringe in his arm. Police found the place littered with small plastic bags stamped "Ace of Spades" or "Ace of Hearts" -- brand names that street dealers use.
Hoffman had lived through a familiar pattern: experimentation, addiction, rehab, abstinence, relapse, more rehab, more abstinence, another relapse.
Why would a man held in such high esteem, a man with so much going for him and so much to live for, risk it all by buying illegal drugs from a criminal on the street and then injecting them into his veins? For the same reason any addict uses drugs: to get high.
Perhaps this desire was a moral failing on Hoffman's part. Perhaps its origin lies buried in his personal history, with some trauma having triggered it. Perhaps it is written in his genetic code. I doubt we'll ever know for sure.
What we do know is that this need to get high is beyond some people's control. Our drug policy of prohibition and interdiction makes it difficult and dangerous for people like Hoffman to get high, but not impossible -- and makes these tragic overdose deaths more common than they have to be.
DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The rich have never been richer and the poor keep getting poorer. The financial Masters of the Universe enjoy indefinite taxpayer-funded bailouts, while the social safety net for the poor is gutted. The ruling class that engineers crushing economic inequality gathers at the World Economic Forum in Davos to pretend to care about said inequality, and then promises no concrete actions to combat the crisis. Many high-income earners pay a lower effective tax rate than low-income earners, and IRS data show that in the last few years the rich have seen a steep decline in the share of taxes they pay.
And if you think there's a problem with any of this, you're a Nazi. At least according to the poor, put-upon oligarchs.
The latest fat cat to compare critiques of inequality to violent National Socialism is venture capitalist Tom Perkins — he of the $150 million yacht and the 5,500-square-foot San Francisco penthouse. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal editor, this Silicon Valley billionaire last week bewailed supposed "parallels" between Nazi Germany's "war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews" and "the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'" Citing rising angst over inequality, he insisted: "This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?"
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Inequality is a cancer on society, here in the U.S. and across the globe. It keeps growing. But humanity seems helpless against it, as if it's an alien force that no one understands, even as the life is being gradually drained from its victims.
The recent Oxfam report on global wealth inequality reveals some of the ugly extremes that have divided our world. It also directs our attention to the Global Wealth Report compiled by Credit Suisse, and the companion Databook, which offer a shocking testament to the severity of U.S. and global inequality.
1. The 30 Richest Americans Own as Much as Half of the U.S. Population
The Oxfam report tells us that 85 individuals own as much as half the world. The U.S. is the biggest reason for that, with 5% of the world's population and 30% of the wealth. China, India, and Africa, on the other hand, combine for about half the world's population and just 12% of the wealth.
In the U.S., the richest 30 individuals own about $792 billion, while the bottom half of Americans own 1.1% of our country's wealth, also about $792 billion. That's 30 people owning as much as 157,000,000 people.
NNADMI AKWADA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Among the 2013 Hollywood motion pictures that are receiving critical acclaim, 12 Years a Slave boasts of three talented African diasporans. Indeed, Hollywood is experiencing a slight fever for the African diaspora and African renaissance with the nominations of African diasporans for various awards. Director Steve McQueen and actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Idris Elba, Yaya Alafia, David Oyelowo, and Barkhad Abdi are in the process of becoming household names in the movie industry. These folks are not just getting awards for British accents but for their amazing talents. These recognitions from the birthplace of the notorious Tarzan movies and Ice Cube’s depictions of Africans appear to be a shift away from the racially biased and stereotypical caricatures of the past.
Nonetheless, getting the opportunity to watch the movie 12 Years a Slave about Solomon Northup -- the upstate New York gentleman who was stolen and rendered to the capitalist slavery economic system, the forerunner of industrial societies -- was hard to find. This was largely due to the Tinsel Town distribution mechanisms and the realization that in a “progressive state” like Maryland there are certain pockets of resistance and contempt for historical facts that do not match skewed romanticized narratives. Therefore some movie theaters in counties, cities, and towns, including the largest county in Maryland have gone out of their way to selectively limit the viewing of films like 12 Years a Slave, because it critiques the current world order and makes some folks uncomfortable.
Indeed this epic motion picture stands out because it was able to depict the three S-terminologies which reinforced the physical and mental slavery cycle. The concepts of steal, savagery, and silence were essential in furthering the slavery economic system. Subjects were stolen with brute force (savagery) while labeled as savages, and their kidnappings were effected with strategic precision (silencing of opposition). Moreover, the victims and their survivals were conditioned through social control to remain under the dominance of slavery and other similar formations. The survivors and/or successors of this colonial era have continued to suffer due to past legacies while the elite class from New York to Rio de Janeiro, from London to Abuja, from Dubai to the Cayman Islands is content with mass impoverishment around the globe.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you know what's good for America, you will shut your door when the Girl Scouts come a knockin', and you'll "back away from those Girl Scout Cookies," conservative Christian groups are telling their constituents. It has nothing to do with evangelicals adopting gluten-free diets (although there is now a certified gluten-free Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookie), or concerns about eliminating fat from their diets. It's all about right-wingers charging Girl Scouts USA with supporting Planned Parenthood, pro-abortion role models like Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and organizations like Amnesty International, the ACLU, and the National Organization for Women (NOW).
And, now, thanks to the newly formed CookieCott 2014, Texas' Wendy Davis has been dropped into the middle of this year's ruckus.
None of the anti-GSUSA caterwauling is new to leaders of the 2.3 million member GSUSA or to conservative scolds who have been slamming the organization for years.
What is new, however, is a tweeting controversy which conservatives are trying to gin up in their own inimitable manner. CNSNews.com reported in early January, that during a conversation generated by a Huffington Post article and video panel discussion over possible nominees for Woman of the Year, "The Girl Scouts of America tweeted a link ... that praises pro-abortion politician Wendy Davis (D-Texas.)"
According to CookieCott 2014, "The Girl Scouts recently endorsed pro-abortion politicians Wendy Davis and Kathleen Sebelius as worthy role models for our children. In response, we're asking you to boycott Girl Scout cookies in 2014."
JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It seems to me that the reason we get global warming in some places and global cooling in others should be as plain as the nose on your face -- at least to those of us who live in Berkeley.
Whenever it gets hot in Walnut Creek, over the hill from Berkeley, we always get a strong wind here as our own cooler air rushes over to balance out Walnut Creek's hotspots.
So global warming and cooling should clearly work in the same way -- except on a planetary scale. As Florida really heats up, for instance, cold air from the Arctic should rush in to balance temperatures out. And hurricanes and tornadoes appear to be getting bigger and nastier here to compensate for temperature changes somewhere else. All over the planet, increased warm areas are being balanced out by increased cold areas -- and vice-versa. That's my new climate-change theory and I'm sticking to it.
And Justice works the same way as well. We gotta have liberty and justice for all -- and not just for Poobahs and cartels. Because if we don't, it's all going to even out in the end eventually -- one way or another.
Everyone everywhere keeps track of these things.
And when justice only goes to the wealthy and not to the poor, things definitely get hotter in one spot and cooler in another.