Guest Commentary (3568)
DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Seven years before legal marijuana went on sale this month in my home state of Colorado, the drug warriors in President George W. Bush's administration released an advertisement that is now worth revisiting.
"I smoked weed and nobody died," intoned the teenage narrator. "I didn't get into a car accident. I didn't O.D. on heroin the next day. Nothing happened."
The television spot from the White House drug czar was intended to discourage marijuana use by depicting it as boring. But in the process, the government suggested that smoking a little pot is literally, in the words of the narrator, "the safest thing in the world."
Why is this spot worth revisiting? Because in light of what's happening here in Colorado, the ad looks less like a scary warning than a reassuringly accurate prophecy. Indeed, to paraphrase the ad, for all the sky-will-fall rhetoric about legalization, there haven't been piles of dead bodies and overdoses. Nothing like that has happened since we started regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol.
Instead, as I saw during a trip to 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, it has been the opposite. There, I didn't find the mayhem predicted by so many drug warriors.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A recent New York Times article by economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff suggested that we "Abolish the Corporate Income Tax." His case for doing so, he explains, "requires constructing a large-scale computer simulation model of the United States economy as it interacts over time with other nations' economies." The computer determined that the tax cut would be "self-financing to a significant extent."
Big business hints at serious consequences if we don't comply with this lower tax demand. But abolishing the corporate income tax is not likely to reverse the long history of harmful corporate behavior. There are several good reasons why.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"In Iraq, al-Qaeda launched an offensive to take control of two cities, Fallujah and Ramadi, that U.S. troops sacrificed heavily to clear of terrorists between 2004 and 2008."
And so the new year begins, with a heavy dose of same old, same old. This is the Washington Post editorial page, which Robert Parry dubbed the neocon bullhorn, blaming the al-Qaeda uprising in western Iraq on President Obama's withdrawal of troops from that country, along with his failure to invade Syria last fall, all of which, the editorial charges, adds up to complacency in the face of growing danger and a lack of protection for "vital U.S. interests."
And for good measure, the Post lets loose a cry for the troops and their sacrifice on behalf of those vital interests. It's obviously not too early to start performing cosmetic surgery on Bush-era history (boy, we had those terrorists on the run), even as its consequences continue to hemorrhage.
The Washington Post knows as well as you or I that American "vital interests," as defined in the Bush (and more queasily in the Obama) era, float in a context of lies, stupidity, waste and war crimes. Yet its editorial page so reflects the Beltway addiction to war that it pushes for more of it no matter how counterproductive the last one turned out for any rational assessment of U.S. vital interests.
For instance, former CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar, in an essay that ran at Consortium News, notes with irony that "the Bush policies could be said to have stimulated democratization in the Middle East in large part through Middle Easterners reacting negatively to the policies themselves." That is to say, democratic movements sprang up in the region as self-defense, in opposition to the U.S. pursuit of its alleged vital interests: Being pro-democracy meant being anti-American.
COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen today made the following statement in response to the bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Dave Camp calling for “fast track” authorization for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP):
“Fast track is the wrong track when it comes to a trade deal like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will affect our laws, our jobs, our food and our environment. Fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority, forces Congress to give up its Constitutional right to amend and improve this trade deal, which now is reportedly more than 1,000 pages long.
“For nearly four years, the U.S. Trade Representative and TPP negotiators have purposely restricted participation and information, keeping members of Congress and citizen groups, unions, environmental and consumer organizations in the dark. There has been no opportunity for public interest groups to meaningfully participate in the negotiations, and under fast track authority, there will be no opportunity for our elected representatives to amend the deal and make it better for Americans."
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Remember Prohibition? I mean the Prohibition of "Boardwalk Empire." Well, there are not too many people alive now who do remember it, although I was born just three years after it came to the end of its very short life (1920-1933). But it had come to pass, through a Constitutional Amendment no less, due to the diligent work of the Temperance Wing of the Republican Party. (Indeed although the center of the original Republican Party was that of the anti-slavery Whigs, both the nativist "No-Nothings" and the Temperance Movement also were there at its beginnings. That accounts at least in part for the long association of the Republican Party with both recreational mood-altering drug (RMAD) illegalization and anti-immigrant legislation of various types at various times.)
That Prohibition was aimed at alcohol, of course. But before it, around the turn of the 20th century, 15 states had prohibition of one kind or another for tobacco use. The major difference with those Prohibitions and the modern so-called "War on Drugs" --- really a war on certain users of certain drugs --- was that the former criminalized importation and sale of the target drugs, while the latter also criminalizes possession and use.
And so here comes David Brooks of The New York Times who makes an excellent argument for the original Prohibition. He happens to have been writing about marijuana and its legalization (small amounts, for personal use) in certain parts of Colorado. But it is fascinating to note that the arguments he uses against marijuana legalization are just like those that have been used for alcohol and tobacco prohibition going back to the 19th Temperance movement.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
January 8 marked the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. What usually happens with anniversaries of this magnitude -- i.e. this past summer's 50th anniversary of the March on Washington -- is that it is recognized and discussed for just about a media minute before other issues reclaim the nation's attention.
Susan Greenbaum, a professor emerita of anthropology at the University of South Florida, pointed out that "Congress is marking the anniversary by ending unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people who have been out of work for more than a year and cutting food stamps for 47 million people who rely on them to eat," In a piece posted at the website of Al Jazeera America, Greenbaum's article, titled "What war on poverty?" noted that "At 15 percent, the poverty rate is the same today as it was in 1965, a year after the so-called war began."
Greenbaum recognized that from the outset the War on Poverty had many obstacles thrown in its way, not the least of which was Johnson's wrongheaded pursuit of the Vietnam War, and his successor President Richard Nixon's launch of a War on Drugs. Both stripped funding and urgency away from a War on Poverty.
However, as The New Republic's Alec Macgillis recently pointed out, poverty "is apparently having its moment, right up there with egg creams and stroller derbies."
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What a Christmas little Bastrop had! It's still a mystery how Santa Claus got it down the chimney, but Bastrop got a nifty present that most children could only dream about: a big honkin', steel-clad, war toy called MRAP.
But Bastrop is not a 6-year-old child, and an MRAP is not a toy. Bastrop is a Texas county of some 75,000 people, and MRAP stands for "Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected." It's a heavily armored military vehicle weighing about 15 tons — one of several versions of fighting machines that have become the hot, must-have playthings of police departments all across the country.
Are the good people of Bastrop facing some imminent terrorist threat that warrants military equipment? No, it's a very pleasant, laid-back place. And while the county is named for a 19th century land developer and accused embezzler, it's never been a haven for particularly dangerous criminals — indeed, the relatively few crimes in Bastrop today don't rise above the level of routine police work.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I’ve been writing about the threat of global warming for the last eight years, and although the scientific evidence is well established and alarming—that we are warming the earth more than a full degree Fahrenheit by releasing carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, it wasn’t until this winter that the threat of global warming became frighteningly real from a personal standpoint. Here, on the central coast of California, we have had no rain to speak of for over a year, followed by record low amounts of rain in the last few years. Not only is it the driest year on record—meteorologists are shocked to see that it’s the warmest and driest year in the history of the state.
But that won’t mean much unless you know what it’s like to live in a state threatened by severe droughts. True, the Northeastern regions are experiencing below freezing, Arctic snowstorms that have left residents without electricity, which also threatens life from the other extreme; however, as miserably dangerous as those icy conditions are—the sun will come out, the snow will eventually melt, and spring will flourish from the water. Droughts, on the other hand, are far more pervasive and threatening in the long run because water is life, without it, life perishes.
It’s physically and emotionally painful to see the fields and fresh water lakes reduced to scorched land. The hillsides are usually a lush jade-green by this time of year, and early wildflowers brighten the pastures with daisies, poppies and violets. Now they’re dark, parched and dusty like something out of the Dustbowl days.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's been about two weeks since the news media began smothering the nation with stories about UPS and FedEx delivering packages late during the holiday season.
A short shopping season of less than 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, combined with extraordinary numbers of deliveries and extreme weather problems caused thousands of packages not to be delivered by Christmas. For some media, this was the top story.
FedEx says it delivered more than 275 million packages in that one month period. UPS doesn't say how many it delivered or how many were late. But it does say that if customers sent their packages by ground and hoped they would arrive by Christmas, the cut-off date was December 11. For air service, UPS temporarily added 29 planes to its fleet.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The fear of running out of money in retirement is America's greatest financial concern. It's a fear greater than death.
But the American workers who have paid all their lives for retirement security are being cheated by wealthy individuals and corporations who refuse to meet their tax obligations, and who have found other ways to keep expanding their wealth at the expense of the middle class.
1. Federal Tax Avoidance Is the Biggest Threat to Social Security
Conservatives say that Social Security is too expensive, and that cutbacks and a later retirement age are necessary. But they refuse to acknowledge the facts about missing revenue. Annual tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and corporations is in the trillions of dollars, over double the cost of Social Security.