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Guest Commentary (4020)

Thursday, 12 February 2015 09:32

The Bush Family: Where Style Trumps Substance

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBushArgh(Photo: Happyme22)At the 1988 Republican Party convention the party’s nominee, George H.W. Bush, seemed to openly break with the cold-hearted, mean-spirited Reagan years, and declared in his acceptance speech that he sought a “kinder, gentler” nation. Twelve years later, during the presidential campaign of 2000, George W. Bush tried to separate himself from others in the GOP by basing his campaign around “compassionate conservatism.” Now, with Jeb Bush gallivanting around the country to line up big-pocket donors, and “exploring” the possibility of running for the presidency, it’s his turn to come up with a catch phrase that will separate him from the other potential candidates.

To add to an old saying, “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Fool me a third time: Hello President Jeb Bush.”

As longtime conservative columnist Byron York pointed out recently in a column for the Washington Examiner, “When Bushes run for president, they portray themselves as more caring, more gentle and more compassionate than their sometimes heartless and harshly ideological fellow Republicans. It worked for George H.W. Bush in 1988, it worked for George W. Bush in 2000, and now Jeb Bush is preparing to give it another go in 2016.”

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChalk(Photo: Tuválkin)Experts have put urban violence under the microscope. You might call it the sociology of dead kids.

There’s a lot less here than meets the eye, or so it seemed when I read about a new study by researchers at Yale called “Tragic, but not random: The social contagion of nonfatal gunshot injuries.” It’s an attempt to create categories of likely future shooting victims in Chicago and, thus, determine who among us is most in danger. Well, sure, why not? But in the process, the study, at least as it was reported a few days ago in the Chicago Sun-Times, utterly depersonalized the potential victims, along with the communities in which they lived, reducing them to components in a mathematical formula.

The researchers “sought to go beyond a racial explanation for nonfatal shootings,” according to the Sun-Times. “They were trying to explain why a specific young African-American male in a high-crime neighborhood becomes a shooting victim, while another young black man in the same neighborhood doesn’t, the study said.”

It was all so cold and “scientific,” so grandly removed from the hoo-hah of growing up in the big city — of life, death, guns, gangs, poverty and the criminal justice system. As we go about the business of trying to create meaningful lives, it turns out that disinterested mega-forces, as impersonal as gravity, are colluding to determine our fate. Don’t worry. Scientists are studying these forces. They’ll get them figured out. Meanwhile, go shopping. Or whatever.

2015.2.11.EcoWatch.BF"The only way forward is choosing energy efficiency and renewables," writes Naidoo. (Photo: zpeckler / Flickr)KUMI NAIDOO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On Saturday I joined a panel at the Munich Security Conference in Germany and talked about global security and energy security. You might be surprised to see Greenpeace at a security conference. The room was full of members of the “strategic community,” people who are not the crowd we normally engage with; they are the crowd we have historically challenged with our peace campaigns. However, I appreciated having the opportunity to be a dissenting voice and to talk about what I consider is the path towards true energy security.

What often dominates discussions about peace and security are questions about solutions—around how conflicts are to be addressed and solved, economic sanctions, peace missions, diplomatic negotiations—these are all the mechanisms we have become accustomed to which dominate the discourse.

I urge you however to think about this from a different perspective—prevention. How could conflicts have been prevented and even more importantly—how can the next conflicts be prevented, or at least how do we mitigate the risks.

When I look back at 2014 and consider the many conflicts that have plagued our planet, there is one fact that I cannot ignore and that is—our addiction to fossil fuels is taking us on the road to nowhere.

2015.2.11.Brasch.BFEric Cantor (R-Virginia) said of Keystone XL: "This was a bipartisan pipeline project that will put people back to work right away and will boost our domestic energy security." (Photo: Mattias Gugel / Medill)

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Conservatives in Congress have once again proven they are not really interested in increasing jobs in the US if corporate campaigns are at stake. This time, it’s because of their fierce approval for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline, being built and run by TransCanada, will bring tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. All the oil will be exported. Major beneficiaries, including House Speaker John Boehner, are those who invest in a Canadian company.

Opponents see the 1,179-mile pipeline as environmentally destructive. They cite innumerable leaks and spills in gas pipelines, and correctly argue that the tar sands oil is far more caustic and destructive than any of the crude oil being mined in the United States. They point out the pipeline would add about 240 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. They also argue that the use of eminent domain by a foreign corporation, in this case a Canadian one, to seize private property goes against the intent of the use of eminent domain. Eminent domain seizure, they also correctly argue, should be used only to benefit the people and not private corporations.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015 12:24

Why the Attack on Tenure?

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBooks(Photo: Dr. Marcus Gossler)Tenure for K-12 teachers has been under attack from the Right for a long time. In many states, like Virginia, it does not exist. But now a new attack is being mounted by an ex-news anchor named Campbell Brown. Brown claims that THE cause of bad education in bad schools is bad teachers. And then she goes on to claim that THE solution to getting rid of bad teachers is to end tenure. Of course, the substitute for no tenure would presumably mean no protections of any kind for teachers, against arbitrary firings. They could be done by whomever would then be in charge of the firings. However, details on the latter do not seem to be on Brown's agenda for description.

But critics of the Brown type, and the Joe Klein type, don't often get into the programs that they propose to substitute for the programs they wish to eliminate (like the Repubs. on Obamacare, but that's another matter.) Joe Klein, you may remember, is the businessman that Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York City first put in charge of the city schools. He did prove one thing: someone with no background in education other than his own is unlikely to be able to effectively lead the nations' largest school system (and one of the world's largest, to boot).

The main argument here is that indeed there are bad teachers in every school system whether they have tenure protections or not. Of course there are bad news anchors who cannot hold a job and there are businessmen who cannot effectively run a school system, but that's another matter too. Not that there are that many bad teachers, possibly up to 5 percent. But, and this is the big BUT, getting rid of tenure would in no way ensure that bad teachers would be gotten rid of.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCatholicPrayer(Photo: ProtoplasmaKid)During the one and only debate between Republican candidate Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter in the presidential campaign of 1980, Carter went off on Reagan about his record on Medicare. With one superbly delivered line – "There you go again" – Reagan disarmed and deflated Carter, and pretty much won the debate; all the while forever etching a phrase into the political lexicon.

Instead of Reagan's "There you go again," one couldn't help but think "There they go again," while reading reports that the conservative Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, is demanding that his archdiocese's Catholic High School teachers adhere to Catholic doctrine in their professional and private lives. Across the Bay, Bishop Michael Barber, who plowed similar ground last year -- to great consternation amongst faculty, staff and parents -- issued a new contract with a little bit of kinder, gentler language.

Cordileone's twenty-first century culture war crusade comes in the form of the archdiocese's new handbook -- aimed at faculty and staff at four Catholic high schools: Riordan and Sacred Heart in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra High School in San Mateo – which, the San Francisco Chronicle's Heather Knight reported, declares that "sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, the viewing of pornography and masturbation are 'gravely evil.'"

"The document," Knight pointed out, "notes that while not all staff at the schools are Catholic, they are 'required to stand as effective and visible professional participants and proponents of truly Catholic education.' Those who are not Catholic 'must refrain' from participating in organizations that 'advocate issues or causes contrary to the teachings of the church.'"

2015.2.9.Durst.BFNBC’s Brian Williams addresses the Iraq RPG helicopter story. (Screen grab via Michael Rusch / YouTube)

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Big bad brouhaha over at NBC with anchor Brian Williams misremembering being shot down in a helicopter on a trip to Iraq, when the facts seem to indicate that although he did fly in a helicopter, and was over Iraq, he was not shot down. Well, come on; the guy was close. Got 2 out of 3. They keep you in the bigs with a .667 batting average, right? Well, this time around… maybe not.

Easy to see how this could happen, though. Self-aggrandizement is a tool centermost in the desk drawer of every show business aspirant. Especially pretty boy anchors with a tendency to read every story in a patented stentorian melodramatic “crisis averted, but barely” voice.

In Hollywood, resumes are so routinely full of baloney, they should be printed on the back of old deli menus. But even in the real world, who hasn’t fudged the particulars of an exciting incident to make oneself a more central character? The only difference here is he did it on television. In front of the entire world. For 12 consecutive years.

Monday, 09 February 2015 06:18

New Evidence That Half of the US Is Broke

2015.2.9.Buchheit.BFThe argument for a barely surviving half of the US has been made before, but important new data is available to strengthen the case. (Image: photosteve101 / Flickr)

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Happy Monday! S&P 500 now up 10% for year --CNN Money
Third-quarter U.S. economic growth strongest in 11 years --Reuters
The U.S. economy is on a tear --Wall Street Journal

Half of our nation, by all reasonable estimates of human need, is in poverty. The jubilant headlines above speak for people whose view is distorted by growing financial wealth. The argument for a barely surviving half of America has been made before, but important new data is available to strengthen the case.


1. No Money for Unexpected Bills

A recent Bankrate poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans didn't have savings available to cover a $500 repair bill or a $1,000 emergency room visit.

Friday, 06 February 2015 10:22

Jim Hightower | A Corporate Coup d'Etat

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAntiTPP(Photo: Neil Ballantyne)When I was a tyke, Momma warned me not to eat anything unless I knew where it came from. That advice is so sensible that even Congress acted on it in 2002, passing a straightforward law called Country Of Origin Labeling. COOL requires meat marketers to tell us whether the meat they sell is a product of the USA, China or Whereintheworldistan.

This useful information empowers us consumers — which is why global agribusiness giants hate it and are trying to get a secretive, autocratic, plutocratic, private court in Switzerland to kill it.

This can't be, you say? But it is. Unbeknownst to most Americans, when the U.S. joined the World Trade Organization in 1999, we surrendered a big chunk of our sovereignty to this corporate court.

Here's what's happening: (1) American consumers have a basic right to know where their meat comes from, but (2) that right has been pitted against American corn flakes and ketchup in a "trade war" that (3) is being forced upon us by a handful of corporations that produce, slaughter, butcher and package meat outside of our country but (4) are allowed under trade agreements to challenge a U.S. law that had been duly enacted for the people inside our country, so (5) America was sued in an obscure, autocratic, private organization created by and for corporate interests and headquartered in Switzerland. Then (6) that corporate "court" did indeed rule that the "profit right" of foreign meat packers is superior to our people's basic right of self-determination.

Holy Tom Paine, this is corporate tyranny! But it's about to get worse, for President Obama and Congress intend to hang another bad trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, around our necks this spring.

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCow(Photo: EcoWatch)The ice cream giant Breyers announced yesterday it will stop using milk from cows treated with the controversial hormone rBST. The artificial growth hormone, which stands for recombinant bovine somatotropin, is a genetically engineered hormone that farmers inject into cows to increase milk production. It’s controversial because it’s been linked to a slew of health problems in cows, and consequently, humans who drink the cows’ milk.

Bovine somatotropin (BST) is a protein hormone naturally produced in the pituitary glands of cows. Monsanto and other companies developed a recombinant version, rBST, by using a genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, according to Organic Valley. The hormone has been banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and the European Union.

Many U.S. companies, such as Ben & Jerry’s, also owned by Unilever, went rBST-free long ago. The conscientious ice cream company made the move back in 1989. Other socially conscious companies like Chipotle have opted to go rBST-free, as well as Wal-MartHaagen DazsYoplait and Dannon yogurts that only source milk from farmers whose cows are hormone free.

Breyers plans to have most of its milk rBST-free by March. In addition to sourcing non-rBST milk, Breyers will only purchase vanilla that is certified by the Rainforest Alliance, ensuring it meets the rigorous standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network and the Forest Stewardship Council.

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