ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
No matter how bad it gets, we can look inside ourselves and find hope, possibility . . . the future. And when we find that, we know what it means to build peace.
"It's like I'm in a never-ending battle with my brain," Kayla said. "They called me Crazy Kayla. I have anger problems. Someone messes with me, I lose it. I was molested, raped, physically and mentally abused. I was in 127 different homes. I have a 3-month-old baby . . ."
Peace isn't the avoidance of difficult topics but their thorough, unstinting examination, not with cynicism and despair but with the certainty that salvation is mixed into the pain. All we have to do is find it.
This is precisely what a good documentary film does for us, and there are so many of them out there these days. Thirty-one such films will be showcased next week at Chicago's sixth annual Peace on Earth Film Festival, an event I've been associated with since its beginning. The four-day festival, which will be held March 6-9 — free of charge, as always — at the Chicago Cultural Center, takes on a mélange of provocative subjects: Fukushima, agribusiness, gun violence, forgiveness in the wake of violence, hospice care for prisoners, childhood mental illness, and much more.
The festival's mission, which it accomplishes every year, is to "raise awareness of peace, nonviolence, social justice and an eco-balanced world."
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Diary of a Dying Country and The Poisoner's Reckoning), U.S. government officials not only will pat the oil-coal thugs on the back, they'll hand over a check worth millions of tax dollars for cleanup fees. And if that isn't insulting enough for you, the insurance companies will also allegedly pay the dirty energy oligarchs again for the same amount.If an oil or coal firm releases toxic chemicals that poisons every living thing it touches (Freedom Industries) and sends thousands of residents to the hospital from lethal exposure, (read Truthout's Editor William Rivers Pitt's recent pieces
No criminal charges, no one goes to jail, and to add insult to injury, they're actually paid twice for contaminating our drinking water, for putting thousands of Americans in the hospital from toxic poisoning, and for turning communities into real estate nightmares.
The insurance settlements represent a drop in the bucket to oil companies that receive close to a trillion dollars a year combined in profits, but those extra millions that the oil firms pocket can make a significant difference for cash-strapped states. It's like stealing a tiny piece of candy from a baby when your store is spilling over with tons of sweets.
Why are we, the taxpayers, paying for the oil oligarchs' hazardous toxic messes in the first place?
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
At the risk of repeating myself, the federal minimum wage is far too low and needs to be raised. Republicans who claim to be worried about lost jobs can dry their crocodile tears, because a few simple measures would get all those jobs back -- and lots more.
It has been amusing to watch GOP grandees try to paint themselves as champions of the working stiff. This new appreciation for the struggles of low-wage earners was prompted by a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which estimates that raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, as President Obama proposes, would result in the loss of 500,000 jobs.
Never mind that about 25 million workers would get raises, according to the report, or that 900,000 people would be lifted out of poverty. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released a statement saying that the CBO report "confirms what we've long known" and that "our focus should be creating -- not destroying -- jobs for those who need them most."
Boehner is consistent on the issue, at least, if at times a bit overdramatic: In 1996, when he was head of the House Republican Conference, he said in an interview with The Weekly Standard that "I'll commit suicide before I vote on a clean minimum wage bill."
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.