Guest Commentary (5084)
DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If war were moral, legal, defensive, beneficial to the spread of freedom, and inexpensive, we would be obliged to make abolishing it our top priority solely because of the destruction that war and preparations for war do as the leading polluters of our natural environment.
I happened to read a report this week from a US environmental think tank that advocates for the US military to blow up trucks full of oil and gas. The trucks belong to ISIS, and the argument is that bombing trucks does less damage than bombing oil wells, and that -- if you add in vague social and economic factors rather ludicrously quantified with numerical pseudo-precision -- bombing trucks does less damage than doing nothing. The option of working nonviolently for peace, disarmament, aid, and environmental protection is not considered.
If we don't start considering new options, we're going to run out of options entirely. The roughly $1 trillion that the United States puts into militarism each year is the number one way in which war kills and the source of an infinity of not-yet-considered options. Tiny fractions of US military spending could end hunger, the lack of clean water, and various diseases globally. While converting to clean energy could pay for itself in healthcare savings, the funds with which to do it are there, many times over, in the US military budget. One airplane program, the F-35, could be canceled and the funds used to convert every home in the United States to clean energy.
KALPANA KRISHNAMURTHY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Last week my seven year old son got chemotherapy to treat his leukemia. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for our family included a doctor visit to get IV chemo, a spinal tap, a twice daily steroid (and managing its side effects), and once day chemo pill.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the US Senate included multiple votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to take away his health insurance.
Let's look at it side by side.
Into the late hours of the night last week, US Senators voted time and again on proposals to replace, repeal in full or partially repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In the late hours of the night last week, my son struggled to stay asleep because he gets insomnia from the medicines he takes, because his medicines make him hungry and he needs to eat at night.
For breakfast, some U.S. senators ate in the private Senate dining room — a place where my son and most of us will never eat, even though our tax dollars pay for it.
DAVID NIOSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It has taken years, but I’ve finally come to terms with one of the most glaring inconsistencies in my own life. Though I hold myself out as a proud progressive, cognitive dissonance has allowed me to enjoy an activity that, in all honesty, directly conflicts with my core beliefs and values. After justifying and rationalizing this activity year after year, knowing deep down inside that it is indefensible, I’m finally ready to confront it:
I can no longer be a fan of the National Football League.
This decision results from an uncomfortable truth that has become increasingly undeniable to me: The NFL, because of the values it fosters on such a grand scale, is arguably the most influential reactionary force in the United States today.
If this sounds like an exaggeration, consider the facts. The NFL’s appeal and cultural influence are vast, with loyal followers, young and old, all over the country who willingly devote large amounts of time and attention to it. Yet the values it propagates are antithetical to a progressive life stance. Militarism, nationalism, corporatism, excessive consumption, and even conservative religion and anti-intellectualism -- all are nurtured, directly or indirectly, with a sprinkling of sexism for good measure, by the league and its activities.
This was not an easy truth for me to face. I’ve followed the NFL longer than I’ve called myself a progressive, since the glory days of Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw. And as a New Englander, I suffered decades of disappointment as a Patriots fan before watching the team become a dynasty in the Belichick-Brady era. The Pats just won their fifth Super Bowl, but I’ve come to realize that the NFL, overtly and covertly, stands firmly opposed to my own progressive values. I’m walking away, knowing without a doubt I’m doing the right thing.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Wednesday, July 26, Team Trump carried out an anti-gay trifecta: the president banned transgender Americans from the military; the Justice department filed a brief defending discrimination against gays in the workplace; and, the president nominated a clearly anti-gay partisan to become the ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. Unfortunately, when Donald Trump told the Republican National Convention that he would do all he could “to protect our LGBT citizens,” he apparently was talking about only protecting them from Islamic terrorists, not from himself, or conservative evangelical Christians.
Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender Americans from the military is not the first shot he’s fired in culture wars battles against the LGBT community.
The bringing of Mike Pence, an avowedly anti-gay partisan, onto the ticket, the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Supreme Court appointment of Neil Gorsuch were all signals to evangelical Christians that he has their back.
Now, the seemingly out-of-nowhere tweet regarding transsexual citizens also appears to be aimed at keeping conservative evangelicals locked into the Trumposphere at a time when talk of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions has angered many of them.
WINSLOW MEYERS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Like many citizens for whom the daily headlines are an invitation to ponder the mental health of our political leaders, it is hard not to wonder from time to time about the risk of slipping into yet another war to end all wars -- especially when the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki roll around, on August 6th and 9th, year after passing year.
In this context Stanley Kramer's 1959 film, On the Beach is still worth a look. The screenplay was adapted from a novel of the same name by the English writer, Nevil Shute, who spent his later years in Australia, where both novel and film are set.
The plot provides a coolly understated take on the end of the world. Radioactivity from all-out nuclear war, both between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. and the Soviets and the Chinese, has done in anyone in the Northern Hemisphere who might have survived the initial blasts and fires. Australia is still in one piece, but it is only a matter of months before the great cycles of upper atmosphere winds bring a fatal plague of radiation southward, making it game over for our species. A laconic Gregory Peck, stoically repressing his knowledge that his wife and children had been long since annihilated in the initial nuclear exchange, plays a submarine captain whose vessel survived by being underwater. He takes his loyal crew on a futile exploratory voyage from Melbourne across to the California coast, both to test the intensity of atmospheric radiation and to confirm that no one has survived beyond the Australian continent.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
To read Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantánamo is to run your mind along the contours of hell.
The next step, if you're an American, is to embrace it. Claim it. This is who we are: We are the proprietors of a cluster of human cages. This torture center is still open. Men ("forever prisoners") are still being held there, their imprisonment purporting to keep us safe.
The book, by Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir -- two Algerian men arrested in Bosnia in 2011 and wrongly accused of being terrorists -- allows us to imagine ourselves at Guantánamo, this outpost of the Endless War.
"'Take him outside,' the interrogator told them. They led me up a flight of eight or nine concrete steps to a long gravel drive. It was pitch black out, and completely quiet. There was no one around. One of the soldiers grabbed my left arm, and another took my right. And then they started running.
RONNIE CUMMINS OF ECOWATCH ON BNUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
regenerate public health, the environment and climate stability. We can do this most readily by moving away from industrial, GMO and factory-farm food toward an organic, pasture-based, soil-regenerative, humane, carbon-sequestering and climate-friendly agriculture system.The most important thing we can do today as conscious consumers, farmers and food workers is to
What's standing in the way of this life-or-death transformation? Rampant greenwashing. The proliferation of $90 billion worth of fraudulently labeled or advertised "natural" and "socially responsible" food products in the U.S. confuses even the most well-intentioned of consumers and lures them away from purchasing genuine organic or grass-fed products.
Perhaps no company personifies greenwashing more than Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's. Ben & Jerry's history—a start-up launched by two affable hippies, from a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont—is legendary. Despite selling out to Unilever in April 2000, the brand's handlers have preserved its quirky, homespun image and masterfully convinced consumers that Ben & Jerry's has never strayed from its mission: "to make the world a better place."
As the New York Times reported, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) recently sent samples of Ben and Jerry's top-selling ice cream brands to an independent testing lab for analysis. Ten out of 11 samples tested positive for Roundup (glyphosate and AMPA) herbicide contamination
So much for making the world a better place.
ANDREW MOSS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you take Interstate 15 about two hours north from Los Angeles, heading into the high desert of San Bernardino County, you'll reach a for-profit federal detention facility called the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center. The center's named for the neighboring town of Adelanto, which means "advancement" or "progress" in Spanish, and it's not an inappropriate title for a town founded a century ago by the inventor of the Hotpoint Electric Iron. But the name now carries a rather different set of associations due to the ICE facility's presence there.
This year, eight asylum seekers from Central American countries who had been "detained" (imprisoned) at this facility went on hunger strike to affirm the right to asylum as well as to protest excessively high bail, substandard food and medical care, and other abuses. Three detainees at Adelanto have died since March, one found hanging in his cell on March 22, the other two suffering from serious medical issues that, advocates say, had been inadequately addressed at the facility.
This year's protest follows a previous hunger strike in 2015, when 26 detainees protested prolonged imprisonment and excessive bail while awaiting resolution of their asylum cases. Earlier that year, over two dozen members of Congress wrote a letter to the Justice Department and ICE officials, citing numerous cases of medical neglect and calling for a halt to the facility's expansion. More recently, an immigrants' advocacy organization called CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Inmates in Confinement) issued a report asserting that Adelanto had the third highest number of sexual assault complaints of all U.S. immigration detention facilities.
Last year, the Obama administration ordered a phasing out of private federal prison facilities like Adelanto. Citing an Inspector General's report that faulted the prisons on issues of safety and security, and noting a decline in federal inmates, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates stated in a memo that the private prisons "compare poorly" to public facilities: "they simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources," she said, and "they do not save substantially on costs."
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTDR. DAVID SUZUKI OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Of all the plastic products we use and take for granted, plastic drinking straws are among the most unnecessary. Designed to be used once and discarded, their only real purpose is to keep your mouth from touching a glass or ice. It made more sense in the days when contaminated vessels were more of an issue.
Now, there's a movement to get people and businesses to ditch the straws. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. In the U.S. alone, people discard 500 million straws every day, or more than 180 billion a year. That's about 1.4 million kilograms of plastic sent to landfills and into the oceans every day!
Drinking straws have a long history and weren't always a big problem. The first ones were made from straw, or any strawlike grass or plant. That changed in the 1880s when Washington, DC, resident Marvin Stone was drinking a mint julep through a rye grass stalk. He didn't like the residue it left in his drink, and so he wrapped paper around a pencil, removed the pencil, glued the paper together and a straw was born! In 1888, Stone patented a version made from manila paper coated with paraffin.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Without the drummed-up fear that a black president would take guns away from law-abiding citizens, the National Rifle Association is turning toward vilifying and pillorying the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality in order to drum up gun sales. One of the platforms it now has at its disposal is NRATV. While the fledging network may not yet be among the choices in your cable television package, or available through existing streaming services, given the power of the gun lobbying organization, NRATV may soon be coming to screen near you.
Launched in October of last year, NRATV's declared mission is to provide "The most comprehensive video coverage of Second Amendment issues, events and culture anywhere in the world." The network offers such programing as NRANEWs, presented by Ruger, NRAWOMEN, presented by Smith & Wesson, NRACOUNTRY and NRAHUNTING, as well as an array of commentators.
CURTIS JOHNSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Climatewire reported that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt had launched a government initiative "to challenge mainstream climate science" using military inspired "red-team, blue-team debates" on climate change.On June 30,
According to a senior administration official,
The administrator (Pruitt) believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals ... provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science
We are in fact very excited about this initiative…. Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing.
Pruitt said he was moved to call for such debates after reading published articles by physicist Steve Koonin in the Wall Street Journal and climate change “skeptic” Brett Stephens in The New York Times, advocating more debate on climate. In an interview with Breitbart, Pruitt said, “The American people need to have that type of honest, open discussion, and it’s something we hope to provide as part of our leadership.” Pruitt told Reuters that it would be good to hold the debate on TV so it’s “open to the world” and that the American people “deserve it.”
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What the Health shows how the lives and health of human beings are considered insignificant, and in many ways threatened, by the pursuit of profits in the meat and dairy and drug industries.
The corporate disdain revealed by this film is nearly beyond belief. And our 'trusted' watchdog agencies, both non-profit and government, are beholden to the biggest companies, accepting money in return for their silence about the dangers of animal and pharmaceutical products.
Some of the contentions in the documentary have been disputed, most notably the implication that sugar is not a major factor in diabetes, and that dairyis. Indeed there may be flaws in the documentary. But it clearly reveals the damaging behavior of the businesses and organizations that are contributing to human suffering.
Despicable: Corporate Profits at the Expense of Our Health
According to the documentary (and othersources), the World Health Organization and other major health groups have labeled both processed and red meats as carcinogenic. Yet powerful lobbying efforts have kept America near the top of the world in meat consumption. The drug and chemical industries do their part by providing pesticide-filled GMO corn and soy, fed mostly to dairy cows, and with most of their antibiotic products going to fatten up the animals most of us eat.
ENVIRONEWS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTJULIA TRAVERS OF
Whitefish, Montana -- On June 28, 2017, the Western Governors' Association (WGA) released its 2017 recommendations to alter the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after its annual meeting in Montana. The resolution arrived at calls for an increase in state power over ESA implementation and an easing of the endangered species delisting process.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), issued this statement regarding the resolution:
The Western Governors' Association's call for legislative changes to the Endangered Species Act opens a Pandora's box in this hostile Congress. Since 2015, Congress has introduced more than 150 bills, amendments and riders that would undermine the ESA and weaken conservation measures for imperiled species. We cannot risk opening the Act to the avalanche of destructive amendments that would gut our nation's most effective law for protecting endangered and threatened wildlife.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Finally it comes down to this: Some people are expendable.
In certain parts of the world -- where we and our allies are waging war -- the expendable people come in two categories: terrorists (good riddance!) and civilians, whom we only kill if and when necessary, and whose deaths often elicit official apologies (if there’s no way to deny it was our fault).
Indeed, as Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, according to the Daily Beast, "There has been no change to our continued extraordinary efforts to avoid innocent civilian casualties."
We care about civilians so much -- especially children -- that we actually inconvenience ourselves in our efforts (don’t ask for details) to avoid killing them. This is true even though civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq have risen more than fourfold since Donald Trump has been in office -- according to a study for the Daily Beast conducted by the research organization Airwars -- and Trump has famously unshackled the military so that, as Mattis put it, "we can annihilate ISIS" (or as Trump put it, "bomb the shit" out of ISIS).