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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

jesusteachFeeling that moviegoers didn't get their full bang for their buck the first time around, Cloud Ten Pictures is rebooting "Left Behind." According to leftbehindmovie.com, the "Left Behind" reboot, "will focus on the hours immediately following the rapture," but it won't "cover everything that the first book includes." if an amped-up "Left Behind" is successful at the box office, will more servings of the bestselling "Left Behind" series of End Times novels be green-lighted?

Since the public can't seem to get enough of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies, it will be interesting to see how it responds to a souped up remake – bigger budget, celebrity actors, and a theatrical release -- of "Left Behind," a film based on Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' series of 16 wildly popular and mega-bestselling End Times/Rapture-ready novels. Total sales for the series surpassed 65 million, and in 1998, four "Left Behind" books occupied the top four places on The New York Times bestseller list.

The Christian Post reported that Paul Lalonde, the founder and CEO of Cloud Ten Pictures, which released the first film adaption of "Left Behind," is the producer and writer of the reboot (along with John Patus). According to the Christian Post, they said they were remaking the film in order "to give it the blockbuster treatment many fans had felt the original version deserved."

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 30 August 2013 07:10

The Weight on Obama's Shoulders

EUGENE ROBINSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

alincolnPresident Obama's words from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial were bound to be criticized as underwhelming, no matter what he said. The context, though, was nothing short of mind-blowing.

It was a classic no-win situation: On Wednesday, at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington, Obama stood where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of the greatest speeches in the nation's history. No one could possibly measure up. It was wise not to try.

Instead of trying to match King's poetic cadences and imagery, Obama paid homage to the "I Have a Dream" speech by echoing some of King's rhetorical devices and using some of the same biblical references. The bulk of the speech, though, was vintage Obama, and anyone unfamiliar with his analysis of the social and economic challenges we face has not been paying attention.

But the context: As Obama spoke, everyone in the crowd knew that he must have been preoccupied with events halfway around the world. Faced with compelling evidence that the government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had shelled a Damascus suburb with chemical weapons, killing hundreds, Obama had spent the past week laying the groundwork for a punitive military strike.

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Elysium PosterAccording to Wikipedia: "Elysium or the Elysian Fields is a conception of the afterlife that evolved over time and was maintained by certain Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was initially reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life."

In his movie "Elysium," set in 2154, writer director Neil Blomkamp has a rather different view of the place. It is not reserved for the dead, but for the very much alive super/super/ultra-rich (read: ruling class) who have apparently survived the dead-zone for everyone else that their policies have created on Earth. And as is well-known by now to most readers of these pages, they have retreated to a vast satellite world that, even though they are hardly dead, they have for some reason named "Elysium."

Perhaps it is because even now, there are members of the present ruling class, not only in the U.S. but around the world from here to China, to Russia, to the oil Kingdoms, to certain European and South American enclaves, who think of themselves as truly above everyone else. They are in their own minds god-like perhaps, and certainly totally entitled to their riches, even if in the process of gaining them they are dooming the rest of mankind to the kind of existence that Blomkamp portrays in his movie.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 27 August 2013 11:55

Why Is the GOP Killing Off Its Own Base?

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Elephant skeletonAnd just how many of those desperately cash-strapped former students will be staunch and faithful Republicans? Party loyalty doesn't pay off at all these days.

And major funders of the GOP such as the Koch brothers, Goldman-Sachs, Citizens United, Chevron, the American Bankers Association and the Chamber of Commerce don't seem to have a moral bone in their body when it comes to straight-out greed. More GOP voters actually die because of greedy corporate behavior than the number of Americans who were killed in the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the Twin Towers combined. Too bad. But then most of these voters were old anyway.

And what about this new Super-NAFTA secret treaty called the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the Grand Old Party is pushing so hard through Congress right now? How is that going to effect seniors after even more of America's wealth is pumped out of our pockets and into the rich-dude Wall Street neo-con corporatist pipeline?

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT CREAMER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ImmigrationMarchFINALAs lawmakers prepare to return to Washington after Labor Day, a few inside-the-Beltway pundits have blithely predicted that, "immigration reform is dead."

This, in the face of headlines that uniformly declare that the forces of reform – and Progressives of all sorts – have dominated the August town meeting circuit. And the vaunted anti-immigration reform backlash is nowhere to be found -- except perhaps in the imagination of Congressman Steve King.

In fact, there are many good reasons to predict that the odds are very good the GOP House Leadership will ultimately allow a vote on an immigration reform bill containing a pathway to citizenship this year. If such a bill is called, the odds are close to one hundred percent that it will pass.

Click here to support courageous reporting and commentary by making a tax-deductible contribution to Truthout and BuzzFlash at Truthout! 

That is because, right now, there are more than enough votes on the floor of the House to pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship if it is given an up or down vote. The only question now is whether the House Leadership decides that it is in their political interest to call the bill.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

HinnFINALWhen it comes to being restored, re-ordained and returned to the pulpit after confessing to a four-year extramarital affair with a member of his congregation, Sam Hinn, the younger brother of well-known televangelist and faith healer Benny Hinn, may have set a new speed record for fallen evangelical leaders.

Older brother Benny is a big-time brand, squirrelling the spotlight for a good chunk of his professional life, and his ministry reels in extraordinary amounts of money. He's traveled the globe, bought mansions, and has lived the good life.

He's also experienced a fair amount of controversy along the way. His prophesies have been way off the mark, including one made in 1989 that Fidel Castro wouldn't outlast the 1990s; he was one of a group of televangelists whose financial shenanigans inspired an investigation by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa); and, two years ago, he was accused of being involved in a messy extramarital affair with Paula White -- another well-known televangelist -- an accusation that threatened his worldwide ministry. Hinn self-recovered and is back televangelizing.

Click here to support courageous reporting and commentary by making a tax-deductible contribution to Truthout and BuzzFlash at Truthout! 

Now, younger brother Sam, who compared to Benny is a minor figure in the world of evangelicals, is grabbing some kinky headlines of his own.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

McCarthyFINALThey keep coming back. It may seem at times as if they've moved on, that the war of words has been won, that sanity will prevail and intellect will count for something once again. Not so fast, dreamers. There are still enough hard-headed right-wingers to gum up the legislative works, and they keep up their stream of insulting, stupid comments.

Last weekend Cruz, Santorum and Trump spoke at a conservative event in Ames, Iowa trying to drum up enthusiasm for what could be future presidential runs. Interestingly, whenever Cruz has been questioned about the fact that he wasn't born in this country, supporters are told that doesn't matter because his mother is a U.S. citizen - - my how things change over time. Not long ago the president's citizenship was questioned even though not only were there documents verifying his birthplace, and his mother was a citizen, something that is never mentioned in the meaningless debate that seems to have a life of its own.

And Cruz insists that the single most important task before conservatives is the repeal of 'Obamacare,' although it is a law about which most listeners have little or no understanding. Swept into oblivion are issues that require something more than a knee-jerk response dictated by members of the far-right voting bloc, and its cadre of simpering supporters who laugh at any deprecating reference to President Obama. Some years ago Joseph Welch, representing the army, confronted Joseph McCarthy during the infamous House Un-American activities hearings over McCarthy's attack on decorated military personnel. "Have you no sense of decency? At long last have you no sense of shame," he thundered. Today we are reminded of his angry words by similar assertions from Michele Bachmann and Allen West that there are large numbers of Communists in Congress.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 15 August 2013 07:49

Obama’s Faith-Based Diplomacy

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AfghanistanFINALFrom its counterinsurgency strategy to Drone strikes, from paying off tribal leaders to training local security forces, from increasing troops to decreasing troops, the Obama Administration has tried almost every conceivable strategy to "successfully" end the war in Afghanistan.

Will the State Department's newly created faith-based office help turn the tide in Afghanistan and in other areas of violent conflict? Will it promote religious freedom for all, including minority religious groups? Will it treat non-believers with respect? Will it become a politicized money-pit for a chosen few religious organizations and institutions?

In its introduction to a wide-ranging discussion titled "Engaging religion at the Department of State," The Editors of the blog The Immanent Frame pointed out that while "There is great excitement in some quarters about the prospects for new partnerships .... this initiative also raises concerns regarding the intersection of religious freedom, religious establishment, and foreign policy."

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

StopFriskFINALStopping crime before it happens is a great idea, but stopping young men for "walking while black" — touted by true believers as the same thing — is a game played by an occupying army.

The tactic is called stop-and-frisk. As practiced by many police departments, including New York's, it amounts to blatant racial profiling. Stop-and-frisk makes it impossible for young men of color to lead normal lives, to walk outside without fear of preemptive police harassment. The long-term hatred and tension it engenders does far more harm to a community than all the questionable good that proponents ascribe to it. Security based on racism is a sham.

So I join in the celebration of Judge Shira A. Scheindlin's ruling Monday in Manhattan's Federal District Court, declaring the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional. She accused the city of "checkpoint-style policing" in minority communities and wrote in her decision, according to the New York Times: "Blacks are likely targeted for stops based on a lesser degree of objectively founded suspicion than whites."

That is, blacks will be stopped for carrying a wallet or cellphone in their pocket, because the bulge could be a gun. The same thing happens in Chicago, where I live, and throughout the country. A young man out walking changes direction; he's stopped and frisked. A young man parks his bike; he's stopped and frisked, accused of riding his bike on the sidewalk. A young man is wearing a hoodie...

Published in Guest Commentary

DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cannabis PlantFINALToday, New York City Comptroller John Liu announced the release of a report calling for a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use. The report, to be released tomorrow, comes two days after Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin condemned the city's police department's use of stop and frisk – which has resulted in 600,000 unlawful arrests for marijuana possession since 1997 – as racially-biased. That same day, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for Americans to rethink the "unintended consequences" of the war on drugs. Comptroller Liu's report details the problems associated with marijuana arrests in New York City -- including racial disparities and the impact of saddling young people with a permanent criminal arrest record -- and the overall financial costs of marijuana prohibition.

The report comes at a time when the federal government and states around the country are engaged in a significant review of drug policies generally and marijuana policies in particular. On Monday, Attorney General Holder noted that the war on drugs has resulted in "the decimation of certain communities, in particular of communities of color" and directed federal prosecutors to develop guidelines for some drug sentencing issues to be handled on the state or local level. Many states have already moved ahead with significant reforms to marijuana policy. Twenty states now permit the use of medical marijuana; fourteen states, including New York and, most recently, New Hampshire, have some kind of decriminalization law on the books; and voters in two states – Colorado and Washington – voted to end prohibition by taxing and regulating marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21. By creating a regulatory regime, Colorado and Washington are bringing under the rule of law the production, sale and use of marijuana. Recent national surveys find that a majority of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana.

Published in Guest Commentary
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