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Wednesday, 22 October 2014 06:57

When Black Athletes Stood With Muhammad Ali

2014.10.22.Ali.BFMuhammad Ali street art. (Photo: carnagenyc / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Will the fatal shooting of Michael Brown result in a rebirth of political activism among black athletes, or will heated tweets be the most that we see?

In early August, when unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, demonstrations erupted, a number of high-profile black athletes responded with angry tweets. In a pre-season National Football League game, some players from the Washington team demonstrated solidarity by running onto the field with their hands up – a gesture that along with the chant, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot," became a symbol of the Ferguson protests. While some of the tweeting athletes have millions of followers, these were individual statements, not organized collective action.

Although relatively small in scale, does the response of black athletes to the Michael Brown shooting, signal a rebirth of political activism?

Twenty years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier, and at the height of both the civil rights and anti-war movements, an extraordinary meeting took place in Cleveland, Ohio. On June 4,1967, at 105-15 Euclid Avenue, a small group of mostly high-profile black athletes, including Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis McClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter and John Wooten, and soon-to-be Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes, came together to question, and ultimately stand with, Muhammad Ali, after the then reigning heavyweight boxing champion of the world refused induction into the armed forces.

2014.10.22.Warren.BFSen. Elizabeth Warren. (Photo: Ninian Reid / Flickr)JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When I saw the movie Saving Mr. Banks during one of my interminably-long plane rides back from Syria, I liked it so much that I actually went out and bought a copy of the 1964 Mary Poppins Disney classic it was based on - the one with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke frolicking across the rooftops of London.

And much to my surprise, I discovered that Mary Poppins might have been one of the world's first hippies. Who woulda thought! And what was even more amazing is that Mary Poppins was one of the first people to warn us about the dangers and perfidy of big bankers and big banks.

And fortunately for those of us living here in America one hundred years later, Elizabeth Warren has now become the new Mary Poppins - also warning us about the dangers and perfidy of big bankers and big banks.

If only Americans would start paying attention to Elizabeth Warren as much as they paid attention to Julie Andrews!

"Hey, Elizabeth!" I also want to shout on the rooftops like Dick Van Dyke, "voters aren't listening to you!" Maybe if Disney studios made a movie about you too? Then maybe voters would finally start to listen.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHandsUp(Photo: Jamelle Bouie)Over the weekend, while a white riot occurred in New Hampshire over something to do with pumpkins, grand jury deliberations continued in Ferguson, Missouri, in the case of the killing of Michael Brown. A parallel federal civil rights investigation into the shooting continues. Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown, has offered his version of the story to both – and his testimony has now been leaked to the press. Unsurprisingly, it contradicts the eyewitness accounts that have thus far emerged in the case, and continues to paint Brown as the an aggressor who had to be killed in the incident.

Wilson claims that it was Brown who lunged through the window of Wilson’s vehicle. That it was Brown who left Wilson with multiple facial injuries. That it was Brown who went for Wilson’s gun. That it was Brown who so terrified Wilson, that the six-year police veteran shot him, leaving blood splattered on the inside of the police car. That it was Brown who, in running away and attempting to surrender, was such a significant threat that Wilson was compelled to shoot him at least five more times as Brown fled.

Wilson’s testimony is consistent with the narrative that the Ferguson police department has been attempting to sell since the day of the incident: Wilson was threatened; Wilson was attacked. Wilson feared for his life; Wilson defended himself with lethal gunfire against a man who stood at least 35 feet away. Parts of that narrative have already been shown to be false. Brown was closer to 100 feet away when Wilson fired the killing shots, far outside the distance at which he could have posed an imminent threat. The facial wounds that Wilson suffered at Brown’s hands? They were so minor that Wilson never even bothered to consult with medics who were on the scene. Piece by piece, the threads of the police narrative are becoming unwoven.

This is, of course, the rankest nonsense, but the fact that it has been leaked to the press suggests that this nonsense might be taken seriously, that the grand jury might actually find it credible that Wilson feared for his life, both in the initial confrontation, and in the seconds that followed. If that is indeed the direction they are leaning, they will ignore Wilson’s accountability for Brown's murder.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHagee(Photo: Paul Wharton)I know you've been waiting for it. And now you're getting it. One of this country's most influential evangelical Christian pastors is claiming that Ebola is God's judgment on President Obama for attempting to divide Jerusalem. Before you slap your forehead, and scream for mercy, remember that nearly every awful event that has happened over the past umpty-umph years – from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, from tornadoes and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 -- is a result of God's judgment, according to many American Christian leaders.

"I want every American to hear this very clearly," Pastor John Hagee said on a recent broadcast of Hagee Hotline. "The prophet Joel says in the third chapter, 'I God will bring all nations' and hear that phrase—'all nations' includes America, 'into judgment for they have divided up My land, the land of Israel.' God says when any nation divides up the land of Israel, they are subject to judgment, and dividing Jerusalem is dividing the land.

"Our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching, and He will bring America into judgment. There are grounds to say judgment has already begun because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now. We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola.

"We have a crisis in our economy. We are worried on every hand that we are going to be attacked by radical Islam, and there are some very rational voices saying we are their next target. We are a nation that has a crisis of leadership. We are in chaos, in crisis. Anarchy is running our nation in Ferguson, Missouri."

2014.10.20.Durst.BF (Photo: thomas / Flickr)​WILL DURST SATIRE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT​

Whiners. Bounders. Ingrates. Talking about the incessant griping and sniping currently buzzing over long overdue Republican reforms requiring citizens to produce a government issued ID before casting a vote. From the outcry you’d think the GOP was organizing competitive kitten clubbings. Again.
 
Oh for crum’s sakes, settle down people. It’s just an ID. You need one to fly or buy or ply or even take out a library book. What is wrong with insuring the integrity of the electoral process? This isn’t voter suppression, it’s voter protection.
 
Which is why in the great state of Texas, it’s easier to buy an automatic weapon than register to vote and a gun permit is considered proper ID but a University student ID, not so much. Because the 2nd Amendment trumps the 14th,15th & 19th Amendments. Always has. Always will. Simple math.
Monday, 20 October 2014 06:00

Pennsylvania Senate Stands Up to the NRA

2014.10.20.Brasch.BFClay pigeon shooting. (Photo: Proadventure.co.uk Activities / Flickr)WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Pennsylvania Senate, possibly for the first time in its history, stood up to the NRA leadership and extreme gun-rights groups, and voted to ban pigeon shoots. The senators correctly called the ban a matter not of gun rights but of eliminating animal cruelty.

The International Olympic Committee in 1900 banned pigeon shoots because of their cruelty and never again listed it as a sport. Most hunters and the state’s Fish and Game Commission says that pigeon shoots are not “fair chase hunting.” Pennsylvania is the only state where there are active pigeon shoots.

The vote in the Senate was 36–12. Voting for the bill were 21 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Before the Senate could vote on the bill, it had to vote down two NRA-sponsored “compromise” amendments to legislate pigeon shoots and place them under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

JACKIE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anofrackca(Photo: Daniel Lobo)At a time when California is literally on fire from a global warming drought, when the state is running out of water in several regions, as reported in the New York TimesWith Dry Taps and Toilets, California Drought Turns Desperate, the last thing we (I am a resident of the Golden State) need is for the oil industry to contaminate our limited fresh water with dozens of toxic chemicals to use for the development of thousands of new fracking wells that would defile and poison our beautiful landscape along the central coast of California.

That’s why organizers from Santa Barbara Water Guardians, Food & Water Watch, and San Luis Obispo Clean Water campaigned to establish an initiative to ban new fracking – Measure P - development starting from Santa Maria through Santa Barbara to Carpinteria for the November 4th ballot. Three weeks of hard work paid off. Three hundred volunteers and 20,000 signatures later—they successfully got the initiative off the ground.

To use a familiar analogy, fighting the most powerful and wealthiest industry in the world is the old David v. Goliath tale.

Friday, 17 October 2014 07:04

Our Souls Turned Into Weapons

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSIGpistol(Photo: Augustas Didžgalvis)“During basic training, we are weaponized: our souls turned into weapons.”

Jacob George’s suicide last month — a few days after President Obama announced that the US was launching its war against ISIS — opens a deep, terrible hole in the national identity. George: singer, banjo player, poet, peace warrior, vet. He served three tours in Afghanistan. He brought the war home. He tried to repair the damage.

Finally, finally, he reached for “the surefire therapy for ending the pain,” as a fellow vet told Truthdig. He was 32.

Maybe another war was just too much for him to endure. Military glory — protection of the innocent -- is a broken ideal, a cynical lie. “Times for war veterans are tough because we know exactly what is going to happen with the actions that Obama talked about in his recent speech,” his friend Paul Appell told Truthdig. “Jacob and other war veterans know the pain and suffering that will be done to our fellow man no matter what terms are used to describe war, whether it is done from afar with drones and bombs or up close eye to eye.”

And wars don’t end. They go on and on and on, inside the psyches of the ones who fought and killed. War’s toxins hover in the air and the water. Landmines and unexploded bombs, planted in the earth, wait patiently to explode.

RICHARD A. STITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOohRahISIS(Photo: US Army)So, this is what the Bush-Cheney administration left behind: A militant, America-hating Islamic Shiite government that is teetering on the edge of collapse.

That collapse is due mostly to the Shiite central government's exclusion of Sunni participation, all carried out under the auspices of the Bush mandates that totally disbanded the Baathist army. They also demonized and banished the Sunni civilians such as doctors, attorneys, engineers, chemists, teachers and other professionals.

During the height of Bush's war, long after Saddam Hussein was captured and jailed in 2003, Shiite militias raided Baghdad's Sunni principalities and neighborhoods, routinely confiscating their property and driving millions of Sunni families into exile.

Today, rabid Bush apologists and Obama-hating refuseniks like Lindsey Graham and John McCain are braying that "We won the war!" and they blame Barack Obama for losing it. They howl that we should have left U.S. troops behind so that they could be easy targets for both the Sunni ISIS militias and the Iran-supported Iraqi government's mercenary army which George W. Bush established when he installed his puppet, Islamic Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Malki.

The Iraqi army which the U.S. taxpayers paid for to the tune of $25 billion proved just how impotent and unprepared they were when it came time to protect their own country. In August ISIS militias poured across the border from Syria into Iraq but when confronted with actual combat the Iraqi army stripped off their uniforms, turned all their weapons and equipment over to the ISIS marauders and ran like scared rabbits.

Thursday, 16 October 2014 07:03

New Atheism Should Expand Its Horizons

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAtheistJesus(Photo: Toby Hudson)Last week, things got a little out of hand on Real Time With Bill Maher, when a discussion of radical Islam descended into white, liberal men yelling at each other. The central point, which was for some inexplicable reason brought by Ben Affleck, is that the tenor of the criticism of Islam, as articulated by representatives of the new atheist movement such as Maher and Sam Harris, has more than a little whiff of bigotry and racism. Shouting ensued and, a week later, we’re still arguing over the aftermath.

As one who has ended up, out of simple lack of interest in deities of any sort, in the atheist camp, the whole exchange rubbed me the wrong way. Reducing religious debates to television sound-bites is never a winning proposition, but the discussion served to highlight what seems to be a very real streak of Islamophobia within the new atheist movement. Pointing this out is nothing new, but it’s a disturbing trend, especially given the continued rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes. It also gives political cover to those wishing to escalate our most excellent efforts against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? ISIS: the big beheading elephant in the global room. You can’t not talk about them, and doing so necessarily involves a critique of their extreme take on Islam. The problem is that the savagery of ISIS is then used to justify attacks upon all of Islam, as if it were some monolithic entity. Of course, the Koran and the Hadith both contain exhortations to violence. They also contain words of peace. It is more than possible, as the vast majority of Muslims do, to repudiate the violence in their sacred text.

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