Guest Commentary (3257)
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“War’s lingering phantoms haunt every society.”
As two hellish, costly and needless wars struggle toward collapse, this is the time — now, right this minute, before the next false alarm goes off — for us to look honestly at the cost and quality of national security based on militarism. It’s time to squeeze the romance out of war and get it through our heads that war is not inevitable.
War is just another form of mass murder. Its core principle is dehumanization — of all participants, the enemy and the good guys. This is because you can’t hate, dehumanize and train to kill “the other” without dehumanizing yourself and damaging your soul.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Rampant growth, overcrowding, neglected inmates, staffing inadequacies, and unsound facilities mark America's federal prison system.
America's federal prison system is broken; facilities are literally bursting at the seams. Overcrowding is endemic; prisoners are often isolated, leading to severe mental health problems that go untreated; staffing is inadequate; taxpayer dollars are flying out the window to maintain facilities, some of which are as structurally unsound as many of the nation's bridges, highways and sewer systems.
One of the major reasons for this massive break down is that over the past 30 years, the federal prison population in the United States has increased by 790 percent.
"A new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) attributes [this] staggering growth ... in part to failed sentencing and correctional policies, including mandatory minimum sentences and the elimination of federal parole," a recent ACLU press release pointed out.
ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We will no doubt be remembered as one of the most wasteful societies ever, not only for our devastatingly careless treatment of the environment, but also for the terrible toll our arrogant disregard for human life has exacted on our youth - - without apology or shame, it should be noted.
Remarkably, former vice president Cheney - who never carried a weapon in defense of the country, and who successfully floated deferment after deferment during the Viet Nam era in the name of fatherhood - still struts the land as if his role in engineering the nation’s foreign policy produced the desired sine-qua-non for all time. Aside from his dismissive attitude with regard to torture, his deceitful manipulation of classified and semi-classified material was breathtaking.
His stand-in, Scooter Libby, tore the journalistic fabric to shreds by engaging former NY Times reporter, Judith Miller, to shepherd propaganda pieces purporting to be straight news onto the front page of the Times. Cheney, meanwhile, stood back, innocently pointing to the fact that his team was right after all - - the world’s most illustrious newspaper having reached the same conclusion as the Bush team. In the end, Judith Miller lost her position at the Times and moved on to Fox News, but by that time few people remembered the details or cared much about them.
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Relax. It’s not necessarily the flu making you confused and feverish. Could be spatter from that big, thick, juicy, new, improved Civil War infecting the Republican Party. Yes, again. The Rebs inside the Reds are rebooting themselves for the umpteenth time over the past few election cycles. Have to assume these self- proclaimed frugal guys purchased their huge caches of defibrillators and CPR paddles in bulk. “CLEAR!”
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Admiral Miklos Horthy of Hungary is generally acknowledged to have been history’s first fascist dictator (that is an authoritarian ruler who was not royalty). Following the overthrow of a Hungarian Communist government by Romanian royalist forces in 1919, with the acquiescence of his own King he was appointed “Regent” (for the King) in 1920. He held that post until he himself was displaced by the Nazis in 1944. Italy’s Benito Mussolini was appointed Prime Minister by the Italian King in 1922, and with the latter’s acquiescence by 1927 had become dictator of Italy. (He invented the word “fascism” to describe his form of authoritarian government.) So, we have two prominent fascist dictators in essence appointed by Kings. It may surprise you to learn that the most prominent fascist dictator of them all, Adolf Hitler, got to his position by more-or-less constitutional means, in a Republic, not a Kingdom.
Following the end of the First World War, an attempted German Communist revolution was thwarted by the combined forces of the ex-Prussian Army and various right-wing paramilitaries. With the cooperation of the right-wing of the German Socialist Party, the successors to the Prussian Hohenzollern Monarchy (the Kaiser having abdicated and fled to Holland), and other center and right-wing forces established what came to be known as the Weimar Republic. (Weimar was a small provincial city in central Germany chosen as the new Republic’s capital.) Those forces created the first republican constitution for Germany out of whole cloth. The resulting Presidential/Parliamentary system governed Germany from mid-1919 until the Nazi coup d’état which took place in stages starting on January 30, 1933.
GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT George Lakoff
Political journalists have a job to do — to examine the SOTU’s long list of proposals. They are doing that job, many are doing it well, and I’ll leave it to them. Instead, I want to discuss what in the long run is a deeper question: How did the SOTU help to change public discourse? What is the change? And technically, how did it work?
The address was coherent. There was a single frame that fit together all the different ideas, from economics to the environment to education to gun safety to voting rights. The big change in public discourse was the establishment of that underlying frame, a frame that will, over the long haul, accommodate many more specific proposals.
Briefly, the speech worked via frame evocation. Not statement, evocation — the unconscious and automatic activation in the brains of listeners of a morally-based progressive frame that made sense of what the president said.
(Photo: Courtesy of George Lakoff)
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
How do I know this was President Obama’s best State of the Union speech to date? When Dick Cheney slithers out of the rotting woodwork of his underground basement, which happens rarely these days, to announce that “Obama is destroying the country” – you know that the President was saying all the right things. As for destroying countries and global economies—now that’s something Dick Cheney excels at, indeed, you could call him the Master of Mass Destruction.
But who wants to think about old Dick Cheney after hearing President Obama’s inspirational speech last night? The President seemed determined to wrestle with the most difficult problems facing Americans by setting an agenda to solve them, which range from lifting the middle class economy up, to ending voting inequities in which citizens are intentionally forced to wait in long lines in horribly cold weather for hours to cast their votes, to fixing an eroding infrastructure, to ending the wars, to boldly announcing once and for all that we must get off oil.
Wait a minute! Did I just hear Obama say we’re getting off oil for good?
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
You’re young and prone to trouble. You get triggered quickly. Someone tells you that you’ve screwed up and you’re about to lash back. Then, instead, you think:
1. Look at the other person.
2. Say “OK.”
3. Stay calm.
This is what you do. And nothing happens, except that the moment passes and life goes on. Got it?
This column is another dispatch from Chicago, murder capital of America. How many of the murders — 506 of them last year — were committed by people who had no grasp of this particular social skill (accepting criticism or a consequence), or any of the dozen or so others tacked to the bulletin board in the peace room at Fenger High School?
JOSHUA BROLLIER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On February 11, 2013, the New York Times reported about the funeral of retired Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, portraying him as a “warrior and family man.” The highly politicized and massive public funeral, held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, points to the severe moral schizophrenia our nation has internalized. We see ourselves as the shining “city on a hill” and therefore a U.S. citizen who kills people in other lands becomes an unquestionably renowned hero. This must appear offensive and ridiculous to many people living beyond U.S. borders.
Mr. Kyle was a man who professed “no regret” for killing 160 people during his four tours in Iraq. A fellow soldier and former Marine, struggling with PTSD, murdered Kyle at point blank range while they were practice shooting for fun and “therapy” at a gun range in Texas. Despite the bizarrely karmic nature of his death and setting aside the much needed conversation on gun culture and pervasive violence which our nation is being forced to address, I am just as worried by our collective need to construct a fig leaf cover up over the legacy of Chris Kyle.