STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Many readers of this column will know of the movie "The Monuments Men." It received a huge build-up through previews and advertising, and also through personal appearances. (I saw John Goodman do an interview for "Morning Joe.") It is about a group of fine art and architectural experts who are assigned to closely follow allied forces through France and Northern Europe as they slowly push the Nazi Army back to Germany and then closing in with the Red Army coming from the East, force the German unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945.
Their assignment (and there was no "Mr. Phelps" to accept or reject it) was multifold: to try to prevent where possible damage to priceless and irreplaceable art and architecture by allied forces, prevent the theft of fine art by the Nazis and in the case of art already stolen, recover it.
As Manohla Dargis points out in her review in The New York Times, "The story's real life heroes were a group of curators, restorers, archivists and the like who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section, an Allied effort to protect Europe's cultural heritage."
The exploits (and there were many) of the real Monuments Men (and women) are recounted in several books, among them one by Robert Edsel with Bret Witter entitled "The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History." The actual number of monuments men and women was 345. For the purposes of his movie George Clooney whittled the number down to six.
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
has announced finalization of hotly contested taxpayer handouts for the two Vogtle reactors being built in Georgia. Another $1.8 billion waits to be pulled out of your pocket and poured down the radioactive sink hole.So the "all the above" energy strategy now deems we dump another $6.5 billion in bogus loan guarantees down the atomic drain. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz
A nuke-powered drone strike on fiscal sanity.
While Fukushima burns and solar soars, our taxpayer money is being pitched at a failed 20th century technology currently distinguished by its non-stop outflow of lethal radiation into the Pacific Ocean.
The money is to pump up a pair of radioactive white elephants that Wall Street won't touch. Georgia state "regulators" are strong-arming ratepayers into the footing the bill before the reactors ever move a single electron—which they likely never will.
Sibling reactors being built in Finland and France are already billions over budget and years behind schedule. New ones proposed in Great Britain flirt with price guarantees far above currently available renewables.
The Vogtle project makes no fiscal sense ... except for the scam artists that will feed off them for years to come.
BRIAN J. TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In one of his most famous writings, "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said of injustice, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." In other words, the very existence of injustice has implications for us all. Thus, we each have a responsibility to actively challenge unjust power structures wherever they should surface. According to the United Nations, "the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have never been more relevant than they are today."
Structural injustices are pervasive in the United States, perhaps more than in any other Western industrialized nation. They include record levels of economic inequality and mass incarceration and attempts to slash entitlement programs, restrict women's reproductive rights, and erode voting rights. Globally, injustice exists more frequently in other forms, such as poverty, hunger, worker exploitation, sex trafficking, resource privatization, and severe restrictions on women's and gay rights. In every corner of the world people's rights and dignity are under constant assault by different forces.
Numerous definitions of social justice can be found in the literature. Some are more comprehensive than others. An inclusive definition may draw from several perspectives. This piece integrates a few such perspectives – an approach which will inform the later discussion on the importance and significance of social justice. Hopefully this examination will grow our understanding of why we must strengthen progressive campaigns that are confronting various ongoing efforts to deny or strip fundamental rights. Such an understanding may help us build a stronger and more ubiquitous nonviolent social change movement.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"When you go to dig your fields, or make a pot from clay, you are disturbing the balance of things. When you walk, you are moving the air, breathing it in and out. Therefore you must make payments."
Oh, unraveling planet, exploited, polluted, overrun with berserk human technology. How does one face it with anything other than rage and despair, which quickly harden into cynicism? And cynicism is just another word for helplessness.
So I listen to the Arhuaco people of northern Colombia, quoted above at the Survival International website, and imagine — or try to imagine — a reverence for planetary balance so profound I am aware that when I walk I disturb it, so I must walk with gratitude and a sense of indebtedness. Walk softly, walk softly . . .
Instead, I live in this world:
"Deep sea ecosystems are under threat of mass industrialization, warned a panel of scientists on Sunday," according to Common Dreams.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Libre Initiative, and he was having success hunting around for funding.It was late-2011, and with the presidential election a little more than a year away, Daniel Garza, a former staffer in George W. Bush's White House public liaison office, was pretty darned optimistic. Garza had established a project called the
Garza hoped to raise $1 million by the end of the year. According to The Center for Public Integrity, high on Garza's list of prospects was "representatives of the Koch family." Ultimately, "Garza declined to say ... whether Koch interests ... committed any funds yet to the initiative, a 501 (c) (4) which is permitted to keep donors names secret."
Flash forward to the early days of this year, and with control of Congress at stake in November, the Koch Brothers, GOP officials and its surrogates and campaign funders, once again has their eyes on the Hispanic vote.
And, that's where Daniel Garza and his Mission, Texas-based Libre Initiative comes into play. And, as might be expected, he is again bubbling with optimism.
Veteran journalist Chris Moody recently reported in Yahoo News that "A group of Hispanic conservatives is ramping up an aggressive campaign to attract Hispanic voters as part of an ongoing effort on the right to bring more minorities into the fold."
PAUL BUCHHEIT ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Profit-seekinghas victimized Americans. Now it's b eginning to happen in education, with our children as the products.
There are good reasons - powerful reasons - to stop the privatization efforts before the winner-take-all free market creates a new vehicle for inequality. At the very least we need the good sense to slow it down while we examine the evidence about charters and vouchers.
1. Charter Schools Have Not Improved Education
The recently updated CREDO study at Stanford revealed that while charters have made progress since 2009, their performance is about the same as that of public schools. The differences are, in the words of the National Education Policy Center, "so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial." Furthermore, the four-year improvement demonstrated by charters may have been due to the closing of schools that underperformed in the earlier study, and also by a variety of means to discourage the attendance of lower-performing students.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Oh dear. The Republican Party's worst nightmare is coming true. Obamacare is working.
The news that nearly 1.2 million people signed up last month for insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges is highly inconvenient for GOP candidates nationwide. It looks as if the party's two-word strategy for the fall election -- bash Obamacare -- will need to be revised.
Wednesday's status report on the health insurance reforms was by far the best news for Democrats and the Obama administration since the program's incompetent launch. January was the first month when new enrollments surpassed expectations, as the balky HealthCare.gov website began functioning more or less as intended.
Cumulatively, 3.3 million people had chosen insurance plans through the state and federal exchanges by the end of January. That is fewer than the administration originally hoped, but well above the predictions of critics who believed -- or hoped -- that the program would never succeed. The Congressional Budget Office now projects that 6 million people will have chosen plans through Obamacare when the initial enrollment period ends March 31, down from a pre-launch estimate of 7 million. Not bad at all.
The numbers are even more encouraging when you look more closely. The proportion of young people -- from 18 and 34 -- who chose insurance plans through the exchanges increased slightly to 27 percent, compared with an average of 24 percent in previous months. This is important because premiums would have to rise if not enough young, healthy people enroll.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy."
This is how we talk about learning, growth and the human future?
Things are getting worse in the American classroom, not better. The experts and the special interests purporting to fix the educational system are continuing, instead, to asphyxiate it.
The grandiose quote, above, in which "our young people" show up as abstractions needing to be prepped for some simplistic, highly competitive imaginary future (fully understood by the experts), is part of the mission statement of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the Obama administration's showcase education reform initiative.
Just like the disastrous No Child Left Behind Act of the Bush era, in whose wake it follows, it's all about testing and uniform standards and the "rigorous" evaluation of schools and teachers; and it's clueless about the nature of childhood development, not to mention reality. Its primary mission, as with NCLB, is to pull education out of the hands and hearts of teachers and turn its administration over to politicians and their corporate sponsors. It both defunds and belittles the learning process.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Debtors Prisons, Once a 19th-Century Relic, Again Wreaking Havoc in US, I wrote: "The jailing of people unable to pay fines and court costs is no longer a relic of the 19th century American judicial system. Debtors' prisons are alive and well in one-third of the states in this country." Last week, I received a Press Release from the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union that appeared to strike a blow against this appalling phenomenon.Last April, in a column titled
The release stated that "the Supreme Court of Ohio distributed a new 'bench card' to all of the state's judges, giving much needed instructions to avoid the unconstitutional practice of sending people to jail when they owe the court fines and are unable to pay. The Ohio Supreme Court's "bench card" was a definite blow to what had become the routine jailing in several states of people who were not able to pay fines imposed for a relatively minor crime committed."
Now, however, a new report by Human Rights Watch has revealed another way that poor people are being unduly financially burdened and, in many cases, imprisoned for not having enough money to pay their court-imposed fines. According to Profiting from Probation: America's 'Offender-Funded' Probation Industry, privately owned companies handling the probation of offenders are "routinely jailing probationers" for not being able to pay fees owed to those companies.
Private companies are Profiting from Probation
"Every year, US courts sentence several hundred thousand people to probation and place them under the supervision of for-profit companies for months or years at a time," Profiting from Probation points out. "They then require probationers to pay these companies for their services. Many of these offenders are only guilty of minor traffic violations like speeding or driving without proof of insurance. Others have shoplifted, been cited for public drunkenness, or committed other misdemeanor crimes. Many of these offenses carry no real threat of jail time in and of themselves, yet each month, courts issue thousands of arrest warrants for offenders who fail to make adequate payments towards fines and probation company fees."
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Republican Party was supposed to be getting its act together for the midterm election. Instead, judging from the disarray on immigration reform, things may be getting even messier.
I'm referring to House Speaker John Boehner's embarrassing climb-down. After vowing for months that the House would finally take action on immigration, last week he surrendered. The bitterly divided Republican majority cannot agree on how to proceed. Apparently, this is supposed to be President Obama's fault.
If Boehner spilled gravy on his tie, he'd probably blame Obama. The fact is, Obama has done everything humanly possible to make it easier for Republicans to support sensible reform.
You know a party is dysfunctional when it can't take yes for an answer. Ostensibly, the GOP's big objection was to a sweeping, comprehensive bill such as the one passed by the Senate. Last fall, the Obama administration signaled its willingness to take a piecemeal approach, if necessary, in order to move forward. So what's the problem?
Um, Obama. And the Affordable Care Act. And, I don't know, maybe Jupiter and Saturn are in astrological misalignment.