Guest Commentary (3783)
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Funny, in a sad sort of way.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) gets respect from the mainstream because it speaks for the money interests. To many of those outside its golden circle, the commentary of its writers is generally suspect, occasionally frightening, and often unintentionally humorous.
Delusion: Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before.
WSJ compares the present day to the 1950s, ignoring changes in education costs, health care expenses, debt repayment and financial fees. The Journal built on the delusion by printing the insensitive headline What Recession? and by counseling its readers, Don't be alarmed by high rates of "economic insecurity."
The Journal's "prosperity for all" fantasy includes their assurance that cutbacks in food stamps don't hurt children, even though in real life almost half of food stamp recipients are children.
RON SCHALOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a February 24, 2014, article, Think Progress said "Bakken shale crude oil is also the most explosive compared to oil from 86 other locations worldwide."
North Dakota leaders need to take immediate responsibility for the Bakken crude oil train explosions, and require producers to remove all explosive natural gas liquids (NGL's) from Bakken crude before shipping.
The Dot-111 tanker car is not suited for hauling watered down skim milk. It should go, but it is not the main reason for the violent and deadly explosions that have occurred over a 10 month period, from July 2013 to April 2014. The newer 1242 model cracked open during the Lynchburg, VA, derailment going 24 mph.
And, there can never be enough inspections and upgrades of the railroad tracks, and oversight of train movements, but we've been trying to keep trains on the tracks in this country for nearly 200 years, and there were still 1,260 derailments in the U.S. in 2013. Everything helps, but trains will continue to derail.
The explosions - the 300 foot fireballs, walls of fire, incinerated buildings, vaporized humans, fouled water, and poisoned soil - are primarily due to one simple fact, and it has to stop.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Before nuclear weapons, after nuclear weapons . . .
"The latter era, of course," writes Noam Chomsky, "opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but — so the evidence suggests — not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts."
We're not even close. Or so it seems on a bad day. "Why are we violent but not illiterate?" asked columnist Colman McCarthy. Well, for one thing, we don't wrap illiteracy in a shroud of glory and call it war or self-defense or national security; nor have we developed a multi-trillion-dollar industry called the Illiteracy Industrial Complex (or maybe we have, and call it television). In any case, the human race has a demonstrated ability to pull itself out of an instinct-driven existence — but now finds itself at a suicidal impasse, unable, or uncertain how, to commit to taking the next step upwards, beyond violent conflict resolution and the mentality of "us vs. them," and into a fuller connection with the universe.
This moment, as we straddle the anniversaries of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is a time to reflect on what happens next. Violence — disorganized and, of course, highly organized and extraordinarily sophisticated — remains humanity's obsession, preoccupation and primary distraction. Despite the ability we now possess to destroy ourselves and most life on this planet, we have barely begun to question our reflexive violence. Doing so requires looking courageously inward.
DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Heartland Institute’s recent International Climate Change Conference in Las Vegas illustrates climate change deniers’ desperate confusion. As Bloomberg News noted, “Heartland’s strategy seemed to be to throw many theories at the wall and see what stuck.” A who’s who of fossil fuel industry supporters and anti-science shills variously argued that global warming is a myth; that it’s happening but natural—a result of the sun or “Pacific Decadal Oscillation;” that it’s happening but we shouldn’t worry about it; or that global cooling is the real problem.
The only common thread, Bloomberg reported, was the preponderance of attacks on and jokes about Al Gore: “It rarely took more than a minute or two before one punctuated the swirl of opaque and occasionally conflicting scientific theories.”
Personal attacks are common among deniers. Their lies are continually debunked, leaving them with no rational challenge to overwhelming scientific evidence that the world is warming and that humans are largely responsible. Comments under my columns about global warming include endless repetition of falsehoods like “there’s been no warming for 18 years,” “it’s the sun,” and references to “communist misanthropes,” “libtard warmers,” alarmists and worse…
STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There is a lot of talk these days about "presidential legacies." Obama is supposedly trying to burnish his. George W. Bush has spent the last six years trying to run away from his: from his failure to prevent 9/11, to his invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, to his failed attempt to destroy Social Security. And then there's the very real legacy of Bill Clinton, which doesn't seem to garner much attention. However, on the domestic side it has been, over the long-term, just as damaging to the nation as has been George W. Bush's on the foreign side. But as Hillary apparently prepares to run for the presidency, Bill will certainly be part of the equation, whether she likes it or not. And she will not be able to try to ignore him and his record, as Al Gore did in the 2000 campaign, for better or worse.
So it might be a good idea at this time to take a look at that picture, even though it is hardly a pretty one. I am presenting the elements of it that I find to be most important, but not necessarily in order of importance, for some would think that some are more important than others. However, I think that most persons viewing this particular list would agree that they are all negative to a greater or lesser extent. Or at least they would agree that I just happen to have picked out a bunch of negative ones (but I did have a hard time remembering any positive ones). And so, in no particular order, here's my list.
Bill Clinton introduced us to Big Pharma advertising for prescription drugs on television. The main purpose of these ads, at least as they are now constructed, would seem to be to attempt to protect the firms from charges of non-full disclosure when various pharmaceuticals come to suit. But at the same time, with the visuals all the way through and the often dream-like text about what the pills can do for you at the beginning and the end, the ads: a) reinforce the US drug culture: "take this pill; it will solve your problem"; b) add to the pressure that physicians feel all the time anyway about prescribing; and c) attempt to make patients into self-prescribers.
AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
With all the awesome things that have happened in the past week, a small bit of positivity may be found in the news that the Senate will finally be releasing its report on CIA torture. It's been a long strange trip to get us to this point, complete with a Diane Feinstein freakout that the CIA had dared to shift its surveillance focus from ordinary folk to Real Important People. But now it's on its way, and President Obama had a few thoughts on the upcoming report.
"We tortured some folks."
Full stop, as head explodes from cognitive dissonance.
Let's break this sentence down, shall we?
"We." No problems there. The usage of first person plural is a good move. It acknowledges a sort of collective responsibility. We're all guilty. Actually, I don't feel all that guilty, since I've managed to go 38 years without ever torturing anyone, but moving right along.
"Tortured." Also good. No Newspeak terms like enhanced interrogation techniques. Just tortured. Blunt and to the point. The past tense is slightly troubling. Some of the activities currently going on in Guantanamo are, at best, questionable. But that's outside the scope of this report.
So far, so good...
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
poor people have it easy.
The degree of ignorance about poverty is stunning, even for people far removed from the realities of an average American lifestyle. Both oilman Charles Koch and Nicole Miller CEO Bud Konheim have suggested that we should compare ourselves to poor people in China and India, and then just shut up and be happy. The Cato Institute informs Americans that "The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work." And entrepreneur Marc Andreessen explains, rather incomprehensibly, that "Technology innovation disproportionately helps the poor more than it helps the rich, as the poor spend more of their income on products."
1. We Spend Relatively Little on Poverty Programs
The Economic Policy Institute stated, "The United States stands out as the country with the highest poverty rate and one of the lowest levels of social expenditure." It's a national disgrace that we allow just a few people to take more of the country's wealth than the millions of productive people who can't find living-wage jobs.
Just two men made more investment income in 2013 than the entire year's welfare budget (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly referred to as 'welfare').
Just 400 individuals made more investment income in 2013 than the entire safety net (SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, TANF, and Housing).
And the richest 1% made more from their investments in 2013 than the total cost of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the entire safety net.
TOM WEISS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We've got this.
Thanks to the courageous and indefatigable efforts of pipeline fighters everywhere, the tide has finally turned on Keystone XL. As it becomes increasingly clear that Keystone XL's northern leg is not going through, it is time to set our sights on ending all tar sands exploitation.
The Obama administration's latest election year delay on Keystone North is not a victory, but the dominoes continue to fall. Earlier this year, a citizen lawsuit denied TransCanada a route through Nebraska. Last month, it lost its permit through South Dakota. Now it faces a gauntlet of "Cowboys & Indians" vowing to stop it in its tracks.
We cannot let up until Keystone North is vanquished, but all signs point to President Obama nixing TransCanada's cross-border permit after the November elections. Don't just take my word for it.
On April 23, Rolling Stone contributing editor Jeff Goodell wrote: "I was told recently by members of the administration that the pipeline would, in fact, be rejected." On June 18, former Vice President Al Gore wrote in this same magazine: "[Obama] has signaled that he is likely to reject the absurdly reckless Keystone XL-pipeline proposal."
Both pronouncements come on the heels of former President Jimmy Carter pointedly warning the president that Keystone XL "will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced—climate change."
REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Our last remaining bit of shame is being dot-commed, with a young girl's pixilated eyes looking back at us from her murder.
I'm watching this atrocity with up to date technology, as I sit here typing. I remember a time when some techno-utopians thought that the global village would tilt us toward peace, as the violence became so vividly fore-grounded, the bleeding too painfully bright red, the searching for loved ones too real, and the eyes. Her eyes are more piercing than ever.
But reports of war's death were greatly exaggerated. Our acceptance of violence has grown with our consuming of deadly products. We watch wars, produced at great expense, with thousands of special effects engineers and Oscar-winning death scenes by trained method actors. And when a real war sneaks onto our screen, what can we do? Continue to watch.
Victims come to us as information, across the landscape of information, in the age of information consumption. And this makes the viewing experience of this child not different than the many children that we have watched burned and cut toward death. We are image predators, sitting in traffic, in trains, at home in our techno-cockpits, saving the bombed schools and hospitals to clouds overhead...
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Cliven Bundy, the Nevada-based rancher who refused to pay the over $1 million he owes in fees for having his cattle graze on public lands for twenty years, and who then assembled a posse of armed militia and antigovernment activists for a stand off against officers of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, may -- by virtue of his openly aired racist remarks about the "Negro" -- already be sitting atop history's trash heap, but there are numerous wannabes out there waiting to Cliven Bundy themselves into the headlines.
According to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, "The Bundy standoff has invigorated an extremist movement that exploded when President Obama was elected, going from some 150 groups in 2008 to more than 1,000 last year."
Alabama's Mike Vanderboegh, who heads the III Percent Patriots, wrote the following on his blog: "It is impossible to overstate the importance of the victory won in the desert today. The feds were routed — routed. There is no word that applies. Courage is contagious, defiance is contagious, victory is contagious. Yet the war is not over."
Armed militia groups are currently responding to the influx of thousands of immigrants – mostly women and children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – by arming themselves and "standing guard" at the U.S.-Mexico border. Pictures of members of militia groups, carrying semi-automatic rifles and wearing masks, camouflage and tactical gear can be found here.