Guest Commentary (3469)
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The movie "12 Years a Slave" is described in a Wikipedia entry presumably written by its makers as an "historical drama film." It is a British-American production based on the book by the same name published in 1853 by the African-American man, Solomon Northrup, who endured this agony. It received a limited release in the United States last month, and will be released in Great Britain in January, 2014.
It will be very interesting to see how wide a release it eventually gets in the U.S. It hardly likely to be shown in very many, if any, theaters in the South, except possibly in those catering almost exclusively to African-American audiences. It would certainly not be well-received by those Southerners (and others) who refer to the First American Civil War as, for example, the "War of Northern Aggression" (a term used by the new President of the National Rifle Association, a man who refers to President Obama as a "fake President" and to Attorney General Holder as "rabidly un-American"), nor to those who refer to it as the "War for Southern Independence."
It is fascinating that the first reference cited in the latter document is: "How Should 12st [emphasis added, and yes, that is exactly how it appears in that document] Century Americans Think about the War for Southern Independence?" In that particular article, the author, a Professor of History appropriately enough at the University of the first Secessionist state, South Carolina, calls the First Civil War "Lincoln's War to Prevent Southern Independence."
Of course, at its center was the struggle by the Slave Power to preserve slavery in the states in which it already existed and to expand the "peculiar institution" to all of the then-remaining Western Territories. This is a movie that shows the full horror of slavery. Horror, that is, to those who view what was done to one group of human beings by another as a horror. Presumably those who characterize the war as one for "Southern Independence" or whatever, don't see it that way.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Another crazed, furious loner shocks the world. This time I'm a little too close to the edge of the chaos.
I gape at the TV in disbelief: I'm supposed to fly out of Los Angeles Airport — Terminal 3, no less — that afternoon, but all I see is footage of scrambling police and snarled traffic. If I'd booked an earlier flight, I could have been sitting there when the 23-year-old gunman shot the TSA agent at the foot of the escalator, then wandered through the gate area with his rifle and his grievances.
There are worse things in life than having to reschedule a flight. I postponed my return to Chicago for two days. Now that I'm back, I'm still thinking about last week's killer-rampage spectacle, which culminated in the wounding and arrest of the suspect, Paul Ciancia. Afterward came the media's smattering of sound-bite psychology.
"There were few people that kept to themselves, and he was definitely one of them," a high school classmate told ABC News.
Good enough. As the headline of the story proclaimed: He was a loner. This is the extent of our official understanding. Loner is the new race card, you could almost say — the catch-all bin that separates bad-guys-with-high-powered-rifles from the rest of us. The important thing is their differentness. Even though mass murder has been on a wild upswing since the 1960s, having increased, by some estimates, as much as fourteenfold since then (well exceeding the rise in population), the people who do these things are different from us. They're loners. That's what matters, according to the superficial media.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Goldman Sachs churns out enormous profits from its high-rolling, casino investment schemes, while also churning out fat paychecks for its top executives. They literally sack up the gold, even as their speculative gambles have wreaked havoc on our real economy.
But, finally recognizing that their public approval rating has sunk lower than mad-cow disease, Goldman's banking barons now want you to know that they feel your pain and are eager to "give back" to the people. So — ta-da! — they've transformed themselves into philanthropists, having goosed up the bank's foundation in order to flash their "charitable side." Goldman's chief of staff noted that "people said we weren't doing enough" to address the gross inequities created by Wall Streeters, so they've turned their foundation into the fourth largest corporate charity in America. In an orchestrated show that the New York Times dubbed "reputation redemption," the bank's charitable arm doled out $241 million last year, including grants to women in developing nations and small business projects here in the U.S.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Last Sunday, on NBC's Meet the Press, David Alexrod and Bob Woodward were invited to the "roundtable" to discuss Obama's low approval ratings. Alexrod replied:
Well, you know, I'm having flashbacks when I hear that number, David, because I remember when I was in the White House in the spring of 2010, and we had the oil leak in the Gulf, and Washington was in a twitter about that. And our numbers were damaged by that. And it was, you know, "Why can't they get it done? Why didn't he know what was going on in the mineral and mine service? This is Obama's Katrina."
And then we plugged the leak, got reparations for the people in the Gulf, helped repair the Gulf. And, you know, it wasn't mentioned in the 2012 campaign. So I think it's very hard to make judgments in the midst.
Bob Wooward responded to Axelrod:
It's a good framing of the question. Obviously we don't know. And you're right, health care is not the BP oil spill, it's something that's going to go on for years and decades.
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Four climate scientists have made a public statement claiming nuclear power is an answer to global warming.
Before they proceed, they should visit Fukushima, where the Tokyo Electric Power Company has moved definitively toward bringing down the some 1300 hot fuel rods from a pool at Unit Four.
Which makes this a time of global terror.
In response more than 150,000 petition signatures from www.nukefree.org and others will be delivered at the United Nations this Thursday, November 7, asking for a global response to this disaster.
Since March 11, 2011, fuel assemblies weighing some 400 tons, containing more than 1500 extremely radioactive fuel rods, have been suspended 100 feet in the air above Fukushima Daiichi's Unit Four. "If you calculate the amount of cesium 137 in the pool, the amount is equivalent to 14,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs," says Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute. Former US Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, an expert on fuel pool fires, calculates potential fallout from Unit Four at ten times greater than what came from Chernobyl.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
They're not Birthers, wackos, Christian nationalists, or particularly consumed by whether President Barack Obama is a Marxist or a socialist. Nevertheless they are steadfast conservatives hell bent on turning back the clock on the rights of workers; destroying what's left of organized labor, undermining struggles by non-union workers, and eliminating many of the achievements workers have fought for over the past seventy-five years.
Couched as a response to difficult fiscal conditions, Republican governors and Republican-led state legislatures – many of them in battleground states -- have been working hard at eviscerating the rights of public employees. Public workers, however, aren't the only target of wealthy right-wing funders, major corporate lobbies, and corporate-funded lobbying organizations; non-union and private sector workers are also seen as fair game.
And, despite the bad publicity it received over its involvement with Stand Your Ground legislation in a number of states -- information that was revealed in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin -- the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is playing a prominent role in an anti-labor coalition whose agenda is moving along at breakneck speed.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As they accumulate more and more wealth, the very rich have less need for society. At the same time, they've convinced themselves that they made it on their own, and that contributing to societal needs is unfair to them. There is ample evidence that this small group of takers is giving up on the country that made it possible for them to build huge fortunes.
1. They've Taken $25 Trillion of New Wealth While Paying Less Taxes
The 2013 Global Wealth Databook shows that U.S. wealth has increased from $47 trillion in 2008 to $72 trillion in mid-2013. But according to U.S. Government Revenue figures, federal income taxes have gone DOWN from 2008 to 2012. Even worse, corporations cut their tax rate in half.
American society has gained nothing from its massive wealth expansion. There's no wealth tax, no financial transaction tax, no way to ensure that infrastructure and public education are supported.
Just how much have the super-rich taken over the past five years? Each of the elite 5% -- the richest 12 million Americans -- gained, on average, nearly a million dollars in financial wealth between 2008 and 2013.
2. For the First Time in History, They Believe They Don't Need the Rest of Us
The rich have always needed the middle class to work in their factories and buy their products. With globalization this is no longer true. Their factories can be in China, producing goods for people in India or Europe or anywhere else in the world.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Regular readers of mine may wonder why I am spending so much time on Ted Cruz. He did not get what he apparently wanted out of the last budget/deficit crisis, repeal of “Obamacare.” He is being roundly criticized, even by reactionaries in his own party like Sen. Orrin Hatch and former Sen. Trent (Fix my Porch) Lott, for helping to engineer the government shutdown (being roundly blamed on the GOP) and the threat of fiscal default. Nationally, he is polling terribly. Yet he seems not to care. So why, we must ask, is that so. Because in terms of what his real goals are, he didn’t lose. He won.
Ted Cruz had three goals for his “anti-Obamacare” crusade. First, he was clearly out to make himself the legislative leader of the Tea Party Reactionaries in the House of Representatives. As a Senator, to accomplish this he had to do something very unusual in the Congress: reach across the Capitol Rotunda to the other House. But he did that and he became the most visible leader of the “anti-Obamacare” faction in the Congress. (Oh yes, of course the GOP would love to repeal Obamacare, not, as many observers have noted, because it is a bad law [well, since it leaves the system in the control of the “health” insurance companies it is, but that’s another story] but because they are afraid that it will become at least a modest success --- and guess whose name will be on it forever?)
Second, it is becoming more apparent by the day that he (and his powerful, wealthy, Corporate State backers) wanted to place himself in the running, now, for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination. (Why, he has already gone to Iowa, with the first primary over two years away.) He sees that his path to doing this is to place himself as far to the Right as he possibly can, continuing to follow through on the “Rightward Imperative” that has been central to the politics of the GOP since the time of Goldwater (of which I have written on a number of occasions).
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It takes chutzpah, or perhaps just an extraordinary lack of self-awareness, to argue vehemently that a program should never be implemented -- and then complain it isn't being implemented well enough.
But that seems to be the new Republican position: We want the Affordable Care Act, and we want it now.
Given that House Republicans have voted dozens of times to repeal Obamacare, you'd think more of them would be cheering the "debacle" of a barely functioning website that keeps people from signing up. Instead, they demand to know who is responsible and insist that heads should roll.
The sense of urgency surrounding the program is palpable -- and largely artificial. The Obama administration royally screwed up the launch, no question about it. But there's time to get it right. Plenty of time.
The real deadline for creating a sleek, seamless, customer-friendly website allowing people to buy insurance through the federal exchanges isn't three weeks or even three months. It's three years and change -- the time President Obama has left in office.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"To all of our atheist friends: Thank God you're wrong."
Move over, WeBuyUglyHouses.com and Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa. Here was religious faith on a billboard, refuting non-belief in letters three feet high. I was visiting Los Angeles, driving with a friend along La Cienega Boulevard, when this king-size ad for religious certainty smacked us in the eye.
Turns out that Answers in Genesis, an evangelical organization with money to spend, took the God debate to billboards this month in New York and Los Angeles. They were pushing back against a group called the American Atheists, who at Christmas time last year sponsored a billboard featuring images of Jesus and Santa Claus with the words: "Keep the Merry, dump the myth."
OMG, a billboard war about the existence of God. The whole thing agitates, for me, an endemic cultural despair that has little to do with the point of view of either organization. Well, we've reduced politics to an advertising game, not to mention health and love and pretty much everything else — that is to say, we've reduced all that was once sacred to commodities with price tags — so why not the whole God-vs.-science thing, i.e., reality? It's already been reduced to a survey question.