Guest Commentary (3827)
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“I think if we had a gun we would have been shot immediately.”
This is as good a place to start as any, at the logical limits of violent self-defense. The speaker is Andres Gutierrez of Nonviolent Peaceforce, a nonprofit organization that has engaged in peacekeeping work in troubled regions of the world for the last decade. Gutierrez, the organization’s team leader in South Sudan, along with colleague Derek Oakley, got caught in the chaos last April when the city of Bor was attacked, with armed men overrunning the perimeter of a U.N. base where thousands of civilians had sought protection. The two took shelter inside a mud hut.
More than 60 people were killed in the ethnic massacre, but Gutierrez and Oakley, the unarmed peacekeepers, kept that total from being higher. Four women and nine children were inside the hut as well.
As noted on the Nonviolent Peaceforce website: “On three separate occasions men with guns came and ordered the peacekeepers out so they could kill the women and kids. The peacekeepers refused, holding up their (Nonviolent Peaceforce) IDs and saying they were unarmed, there to protect civilians and would not leave. After the third time the armed men left. The people were saved.”
The armed men gave up; thirteen people, plus the two peacekeepers, are still alive. This calls for a moment of awe. This calls for reverence and, most of all, remembrance.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Destroying, degrading or containing the Islamic State -- whichever goal President Obama chooses -- will be the easy part. Finding ways for fundamentalist Islam to express itself peacefully is a bigger, tougher and more important project.
In his remarks Tuesday following the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff, Obama offered a smorgasbord of options. "Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy" the Islamic State, he said, although it sounded like two different objectives. He added that the goal was "to make sure that [the Islamic State] is not an ongoing threat to the region." Then he said the aim was to reduce the terrorist group to "a manageable problem."
Before the warmongers have a cow, keep in mind that Obama's idea of managing a terrorism problem involves killing people, without warning, even in countries where we are not at war. Just this week he authorized an airstrike in Somalia in an attempt to kill the leader of al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda offshoot. Obama's fondness for drones as instruments of surveillance and assassination is such that any terrorist leader is foolhardy if he ventures to take out the garbage.
But the Islamic State is clearly not "manageable" in its current state, flush with weapons, cash and eager recruits -- and occupying a huge tract of land in Iraq and Syria. Obama will have to destroy or degrade, but all the focus on his decision misses the larger context: the fundamentalist political instinct that the Islamic State represents, or rather misrepresents.
We're talking about 15,000 or so fighters -- not much of a challenge for the greatest military force the world has ever known. Why not just smash this group and be done with it? Let's look at recent history.
REV. STEPHEN H. PHELPS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Imagine a consumer economy with these rules:
* For any particular product—shoes, lawnmowers, canned tuna, etc.—only two brands may be offered. Other brands on display behind the glass are not for sale.
* When a customer steps into a store to find a product, she must purchase one of the two brands. She may not leave empty-handed unless she agrees to forgo searching elsewhere for the product for two years, when the same rules will apply.
In the land of the free, we would not stand for such restrictions, right? Un-American! Communistic! we'd shout. Why, if two companies got to split 100% of the market, they would take no risks. To capture maximum market share, their products would turn out similar as soap. Quality would sink, but not the price, for no matter what shoddy merchandise they sent to the shelves, the consumer would still have to buy it.
Well, America, this is the system we have installed in the brain stem of our government. Come election time, only two brands are on offer and we generally have to buy one or the other —or suffer the scolds who say "Those who don't vote can't complain." The notion that third par-ties are free to compete is mostly sung by people pitching the status quo, since politics is a money game run by rich citizens united to make it next to impossible for third parties to compete.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Vigorously opposed to Obamacare, calling it "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery?" Check. Think America is "very much like Nazi Germany?" Check. Think Michael Brown may have caused his own murder? Check. If you need an opinion or a controversial remark from an African American conservative, Dr. Ben Carson has a quiver full. If you haven't yet heard of Dr. Ben Carson, that's probably because you're not watching the Fox News Channel often enough.
But have no fear, the major news networks are liable to be discovering him in the very near future. Mainstream appearances are likely to be triggered by: a) the networks' desperately seeking a conservative African American voice; and/or, b) Carson may be seriously considering a run at the White House in 2016.
Carson, who in late 2013 was added as a Fox News contributor, is a 62-year-old retired neurosurgeon, who, according to Wikipedia, is credited with being the first doctor to successfully separate conjoined twins at the head. Carson is emeritus professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. According to an amazon.com bio, he "serves on the corporate boards of the Kellogg Company, Costco Wholesale Corp., and American's Promise, among others, and is an Emeritus Fellow of the Yale Corporation."
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"Small Government Conservatism" has been THE GOP mantra ever since Reagan gave out with his famous pronouncement on "the government isn't the solution to your problems, it IS the problem," or words to that effect. This mantra today resonates from the so-called "sensible" Republicans in the Joe Scarborough (of "Morning Joe, in case you didn't know) mold to the most far-out of the Tea Partiers like Rep. Steve (8-year-old-undocumented-immigrants-have-calves-the-size-of-footballs-from-toting-drugs-across-the-desert [or words to that effect]; my-you-speak-English-well [to a couple of Dreamers who came to the US as infants]) King of Iowa.
Before going on to the discussion of the substance of this column, let me say that I think that it must be understood that the difference between today's "mainstream" Republican Party, led by such eminences as John (gay-marriage-is-a-sin-because-the-Bible-tells-me-so) Boehner and Mitch (I-will-filibuster-any-bill-I-don't-like, said-in-December, 2008) McConnell is solely a matter of style and rhetoric, not substance. They have the same agenda, to first and foremost serve the interests of their paymasters. That is, of course, a group of named and nameless leaders of the dominant wing of the US ruling class, for which the Koch Brothers make an oh-so-convenient twin figurehead. Those true interests are reflected precisely in just what the GOP/TYP actually means when it talks about "Small Government Conservatism."
Many liberals and even some progressives get into direct and/or indirect battles with such folk over the question of what indeed is the role of government, Federal, state and local, in a large country like ours, with the Constitution that we have. But to me, that discussion does our side no good. For in fact the GOP/TP is hardly for "Small Government Conservatism" across the board. They use the mantra to attack programs that they don't like. But in many sectors of our society, they are for precisely the opposite. But before getting to that list, let's see what they mean when they talk about "shrinking the government."
AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
latest draft was leaked is not, perhaps, the sexiest of news items. The facts remain mostly unchanged from longer reports that have been previously released, but the tone is far more dire. One item of note: while the goal, set in 2009, was to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Fahrenheit, we’re now on track to hit 3.6 degrees by the middle of this century and 6.7 degrees by 2100.What with everything everywhere being busy exploding, the fact that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s
This is not the best of news. Our thoughts immediately turn to rising sea levels, the inundation of major cities, and massive population displacement. All bad things, to be sure. But so very gradual, so easy to dismiss as happening far off in the distant future when we’ll all long since have died of Ebola. So let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about famine.
Famine has been with us throughout history. And even with increases in agricultural productivity, over 70 million people starved to death in the 20th century. As deaths go, starvation is a nasty one and as human disasters go, it’s one that we fear to the point where famine was considered to be one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. One of the neat things about climate change is that it tends to cause massive disruption to agriculture, livestock, fisheries – all things that help us avoid starving to death. And those disruptions to our food supply will hit us a long time before Boston, Venice, and Amsterdam are underwater.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Ferguson tragedy, like all those that preceded it and all that will follow — involving the trivial and panicky use of lethal force, by the police or anyone else — stirs up questions the social status quo doesn’t dare face.
My sister, Sue Melcher, put it this way: “I find myself also nauseated that another issue never seems to enter the discussion: the issue that a highly trained officer could make such a mistake with a gun demonstrates that just having the weapon present increased the danger of the situation. Had the citizens been armed, how many more casualties could there have been? None of us is ‘healthy’ enough to be trusted to use lethal force wisely — and is that even possible?”
The “wise” use of lethal force . . .
We’ve wrapped our global civilization around the certainty that we understand and revere life in all its vastness and mystery so completely that we know when to cut it short, indeed, that we — those of us who are officially sanctioned good guys — have a right to cut it short in, it would seem, an ever-widening array of circumstances. In so doing, we allegedly make life better for the social whole. This is called militarism. To keep this profitable lie going, we refuse to look deeply at its consequences.
When we inflict death on distant cultures, at the sterile remove that modern weapons grant us, we can avoid all but the most cursory awareness of the consequences of our actions. But when we do it at home, it’s not always so easy.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
masters of war’, are raiding our treasury for multibillion dollar federal contracts, our middle-class economy is falling below the levels of third world countries. Last night, ABC news did a report on homeless children in the United States. Some American children are living out of cars with nothing more than green garbage bags to keep their small belongings in. These children were grateful to receive suitcases because living out of “garbage bags made them feel trashy.”While weapon contractors, those ‘
Has it come to this? Shame on this government for turning the United States of America into a country that includes too many starving, homeless children, while less than a privileged group of companies is receiving billions of our tax dollars for weapons, and those weapons are used in turn to steal oil in the Middle East.
A new report found that the nation's food pantries serve 620,000 families with a member in the military: “another troubling indication that service members battling against poverty must often rely on the generosity of our charities.”
Our tax dollars should provide adequate funding for middle-class and poor communities: schools, hospitals, roads, teachers, police, firefighters, and alternative energy among other expenditures that benefit the public good. However, when so many of our tax dollars are going directly into the bank accounts of weapon-surveillance contractors, and Wall Street banksters, you begin to understand why everyone else is left with a few scattered crumbs to fight over; you begin to see why the oligarchy encourages conflicts and divisions between blacks and whites, middle-class workers and immigrants, and so forth. After all, while everyone’s busy fighting, the biggest robbery in history is going down: big money is being stolen behind closed doors with the assistance of the White House and congressional friends of the oligarchy.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Perhaps one of the lesser predictable outcomes of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision is that it would open the floodgates to corporations having their way in local elections. That seems to be a significant part of an ongoing story in Richmond, California, a city of a little over 106,000 residents, where the Chevron Corporation -- the city's main employer and taxpayer – is using a Political Action Committee to back a Chevron-friendly mayoral candidate, and several City Council candidates.
Although the Political Action Committee, called Moving Forward, claims it is made up of "labor unions, small businesses and public safety and firefighters associations," in reality, it is Chevron, headquartered in San Ramon, which makes its engine run. According to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson, Chevron is "the biggest spender on political campaigns ... set[ing] aside $1.6 million" for Moving Forward.
Johnson pointed out that "The campaign contribution limit in Richmond for both individuals and companies is $2,500, but political action committees can spend unlimited amounts of money on 'in-kind' support – money not given directly to a candidate but spent on that candidate's behalf." The Contra Costa Times' Robert Rogers noted that according to documents, "All of the [PAC's] money came from Chevron."
The beneficiaries of Chevron's contributions are "Richmond City Councilman Nat Bates,  who's running for mayor and Donna Powers, Charles Ramsey and Al Martinez, all candidates vying for seats on the City Council," Johnson reported.
AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
dropped a few bombs on Libya, might not be a bad candidate.The Middle East, as a region, went sideways quite a while back, probably about the time a bunch of European countries decided to draw borders in a manner they found to be personally amusing. But if there is a point that future historians might look at, when trying to see when any semblance of coherence was lost, August 26th of 2014, the day Egypt and the United Arab Emirates
We have civil wars in Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Lebanon having a wee bit of a problem with refugees. A simmering uprising in Bahrain. Continuing conflict in Yemen. And Israel continuing to do what Israel does so well. And, of course, those states that do seem to be pulling off relative stability are managing it without resorting to anything pesky like, say, democracy. And we're just fine with that, by the way. The soaring rhetoric that democracy in Iraq would spread throughout the region as a thousand flowers bloom is long gone. The promises of the Arab Spring are dead. Democracy, as it turns out, means that the people will elect governments who we don't like. Can't have that, can we?
It's all starting to resemble nothing so much as our policy during the Cold War, when the existential threat of Communism was so fundamentally terrifying that we would support any genocidal madman, so long as he was anti-communist, and would send the CIA in to "remove" those leaders who hinted at having anything approaching a pinkish hue. And so it is today: so long as a regime stands in opposition to the Islamist hordes, we're pretty much cool with them. Never mind that lumping ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas into one singular "Islamist horde" is basically moronic. That fact seems to have escaped us.