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EditorBlog (1504)


aaaaaconfedThe barbaric legacy of the Confederacy should be confined to a museum, not as active racism in the US in 2105. (Photo: Taber Andrew Bain)

Spare me the ongoing justification of the Confederate flag as a symbol of the "virtues" of the South. The excuses for revering the Confederate flag are sentimental claptrap that distracts from the evil of slavery.

Why is the historical bombast about the Confederate flag representing "a way of life" - including chivalry, God and mint juleps (among other respectable-sounding pastimes and habits) - such a ruse? Quite simply, because the South - in the wake of colonization - would have remained a series of hamlets of rural settlers if not for slavery producing profitable agricultural products, particularly cotton.

Although there were other sources of income in the South - banking, retail shops, etc. - the economic engine of the region was slavery. The "way of life" being romanticized among whites was built upon the foundation of treating people as chattel: buying them, brutalizing them, splitting up families, and killing those who sought their freedom or were defiant, in the most fundamental violation of human rights and liberty. 

Slavery - along with the slave trade, which included perhaps millions of Black people dying during transport from Africa to the US - was a grisly, horrifying practice that played out like passages in Dante's Inferno.


aaaaindianprideLeonard Peltier should be able to enjoy freedom. (Photo: Hamner_Fotos)

Leonard Peltier is still imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Florida, under harsh scrutiny. To what end?

Who or what is served by Peltier's incarceration? Quite simply, it is the United States government, and this country's deeply embedded racism toward its Indigenous population, bound up with settler colonialism and "Manifest Destiny"-driven expansion across the continent. The incident at Oglala occurred on a reservation, land onto which the survivors of the attempted genocide of Native Americans were forced.

When I interviewed Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United Statesin 2014, she dispelled our grammar-school narratives of prominent US historical figures being great emancipators. She documented how Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Whitman and Andrew Jackson - among many other "benevolent" US leaders and cultural icons - were proponents of Indigenous genocide.


aaaatorturekilling34(Photo: Justin Norman) 

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to ban the use of torture by the United States military and intelligence agencies. Many of us were befuddled by this development. After all, wasn't the argument for holding Bush administration officials accountable for authorizing torture based on the premise it was illegal at the time?

The answer is yes: It was illegal, but apparently a majority of senators believed that there were loopholes that the Bush White House employed to justify the use of torture. The new bill attempts to eliminate any ambiguity by only allowing interrogation techniques detailed in the Army Field Manual.

An article in Slate by staff writer Joshua Keating, however, points out that even the recently passed bill has, well, loopholes:

The legislation won’t end the debate over interrogation. For one thing, critics, including a U.N. panel that U.S. officials testified before last December, have suggested that the field manual itself may not be up to the standards of international law....

There is also increasing alarm over "proxy detention," the practice of handing detainees over to the custody of third party countries with more permissive detainee treatment laws. Detainees have been subjected to brutal treatment in Afghanistan,Iraq, and Somalia while those countries’ governments were cooperating with the Obama administration’s counterterrorism efforts. CIA Director John Brennan affirmed in March that "There are places throughout the world where CIA has worked with other intelligence services and has been able to bring people into custody and engage in the debriefings of these individuals," raising concerns that the agency has not so much stopped using "enhanced interrogation" as it has outsourced it.

Yes, extraditing "detainees" to other nations who employ torture, who then share their interrogations with the CIA, means that torture still remains effectively legal.


 aaaacorny24Don't let the smiley face of Big Agriculture fool you. (Photo: David Clow)

Bigger is not always better. As Wall Street banks and big box stores such as Walmart have shown, bigger is often worse. The list of industries that have consolidated into national and global cartels is long and growing, and so is their collateral damage.

In general, this trend - accelerated by trade agreements such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership - means an increase in the exploitation of labor. It also means an expansion of unregulated practices that lead to global warming, and an elimination of small businesses. (For example, think about the elimination of local pharmacies, office supply stores, banks and bakeries.)

In the case of the financial industry, the consolidation of the money supply in the hands of a few institutions has reverberating global impacts. These institutions engage in predatory lending policies toward individuals and underdeveloped nations. They thrive in these efforts through minimal regulation (in the US and most other G-20 nations), and are abetted by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

This pattern is repeated in other industries, such as agriculture. A column this spring in Dollars & Sense details how Big Agriculture - which includes ancillary industries, such as pesticides and seeds - sells itself as a route to creating more and safer food for a growing population.


aaaawaterdryWhen the water runs out. (Photo: Marcelo César Augusto Romeo)

Supplies of potable water are being threatened in numerous areas around the world, according to new data released by NASA. Yes, global warming is a culprit, but so are agricultural use and pollution-heavy industries.

In the not-too-distant future, we may see a widespread rationing of drinkable water. Water may then become simply unavailable in some regions. As The Washington Post reported on June 16, "new NASA data show how the world is running out of water":

The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.

Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.

Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining.

If you are wondering how important aquifers are to maintaining a fresh water supply, just look to California. 


aaaawarrendimon(Photo: AFGE)

Normally elected officials in DC wrap themselves in hackneyed statements when talking about Wall Street. After all, what Washington politician wants to bite the hand that provides a sizable chunk of many candidates' campaign funds?

That's why Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Massachusetts) reaction to a patronizing, sexist remark by JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was more than a breath of fresh air; it was like a brief release from the prison of "don't-offend-the-finance-industry" beltway jabberwocky.

Earlier this month, Dimon attempted to impugn Warren's knowledge of Wall Street by stating, "I don’t know if she fully understands the global banking system." A number of commentaries rightfully attacked Dimon for "mansplaining." In fact, Dimon - who somehow is still CEO of JP Morgan Chase even though his bank has conceded to several charges of financial wrongdoing in Department of Justice settlements - and his colleagues view Warren as a serious potential threat to their dodgy practices.

By now, you may have likely read Warren's fearlessly frank response to Dimon, as told to The Huffington Post. Warren didn't, like most DC Wall Street pawns, offer a mealy-mouthed statement such as, "I am sure that Mr. Dimon misspoke, and I continue to hold him in high regard."


aaaausterity(Photo: 401(K) 2012

Here is a lamentable historical fact to consider when reflecting upon a recent cruel proposal of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to deny heat and air conditioning assistance to the poor: In 1995, a severe heat wave in Chicago caused approximately 750 deaths among residents who could not afford air conditioning. 

Illinois has one of the largest debts among US states, with billions of dollars in additional unfunded liability. The state legislature - which is currently controlled by Democrats - is wrangling over a budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. Rauner is threatening to veto the proposed Democratic state financial plan because it includes a projected deficit, which the Democrats want to resolve at a later date.

Rauner, who champions austerity for the poor and working class while promoting economic incentives for corporations, appears largely indifferent to the lesson of 1995 in Chicago. Indeed, according to The Chicago Tribune, the governor is proposing saving a paltry "$90 to $95 million a year" by denying energy subsidies to the poor and elderly to pay for air conditioning and heat:

The governor's plan to withhold state money that helps poor residents pay their electric and gas bills was met with concern and resistance Thursday [June 11] at a hearing in Chicago.

Seniors, people with disabilities and parents of young children shared stories of hardship at the Loop hearing, saying in written or oral testimony that they rely on the money to heat and cool their homes during frigid Illinois winters and sweltering summers. The program, they said, also helps preserve basic decencies such as the ability to cook, refrigerate food, wash clothes and take a hot shower. 


aaaacalwaterCalifornia needs more water not a pricey water bar. (Photo: Joyce Cory)

The idea of a gourmet water bar - with prices as high as $20 a bottle - sounds like the punch line to a bad joke about drought-stricken California. However, it's for real.

According to an article in Yahoo Finance, the Ray's and Stark Bar in Los Angeles has a 46-page menu of bottled water and is a rousing financial success. Yahoo Finance describes the bar's growth since it opened two years ago:

Business at the bar has jumped 500% and his [the manager's] water menu has expanded to two other locations, including the Hollywood Bowl. His $50 per person water tasting class has sold out each session since it began this year. 

“[Customers] are going into the water menu, looking for different springs, saying ‘I like this, this has so much sodium, this has so much magnesium,’” he says.

No, this is not excerpted from a satirical story in The Onion. 


aaaaracismchoking(Photo: The All-Nite Images)

A tsunami of racist brutal and deadly policing is being reported daily. Of course, killings and police assaults on people of color are not a new development. A rising movement of resistance - along with the increased availability of video recordings of the incidents - have finally brought police racism to the forefront.

Of course, the systemic context on the war on people of color is also deeply tied to the mass incarceration system, which is where the prisoners of that war are deprived of their rights and, often for decades, stigmatized and used as sources of revenue for a vast criminalization industry.

This is the byproduct of cultural and state institutional polices that sanction the open presence of police racism and racist strategies of policing. Northerners who smugly believe that this is a problem confined to the South are enabling the problem's perpetuation in the former Union states.  

Look at any large northern state and you will find a disproportionate number of people of color confined in the mass incarceration system. You will also find policing strategies that are created to treat people of color, particularly those of limited economic means, as guilty until proven innocent. The police practices of the US's three largest cities - New York, Los Angeles and Chicago - are all rife with entrenched racism.


aaaacnnlogo3(Photo: Gregor Smith)

You may not know that sometimes the "news" that you are reading in a newspaper, online, or watching on television is not really "objective" news at all: it's paid-corporate PR that is known as native advertising.

The reason that you might not realize that you are reading an article or whole section that is nothing more than an ad disguised as news is that often the disclaimers that "this content is paid for" (or some variation in wording) are in such small type, you can hardly see them. Add that to the fact that regular news consumers are now often reading information at a dizzying pace so that even if there were a large disclaimer, it might go unnoticed by readers surfing through news sources.

In short, the line between the already corporate-influenced and self-serving mass media news coverage and ads is becoming increasingly blurred. It's hard to imagine that the corporate imprimatur on what is news and the frame in which it is presented could get worse, but it is.

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