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Thursday, 08 January 2015 07:10

You Are Not Your Beliefs

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCharlieH(Photo: Aftermath of 2011 Charlie Hebdo firebombing. Photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin)It has been a day since I woke to the news that the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had been attacked by armed gunmen, leaving 12 dead. The magazine had last made international headlines back in 2011, when its office was firebombed after publishing an issue featuring cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, but it has a long and rich history of attacking pretty much anyone within reach.

It would be nice to imagine that the response to this will not follow a far too predictable pattern. The attacks will be, rightfully, deplored all around. Islam will be denounced. Radical Islam will be denounced. Richard Dawkins will shoot his mouth off. The entirely reasonable claim that the actions of two individual extremists do not represent the totality of the faith will be made. Charlie Hebdo will be attacked as racist and insensitive, and defended as a shining exemplar of free speech and satire.

And meanwhile 12 people are dead because offense was taken when someone’s beliefs were attacked.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMcConnellBoehner(Photo: EcoWatch)With Congress back in session, Republican leadership is putting at the top of its agenda an item that probably isn’t at the top of most Americans’ agenda: approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

Majority leader Kevin McCarthy said that the House of Representatives will vote on Keystone XL pipeline Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal. The House has voted ten previous times to approve the pipeline but each time, it failed to clear the Democratic-controlled Senate. Now, with Republicans in charge of the Senate and a larger Republican majority in the House, its passage is guaranteed. The last House vote was 252-16, and it’s sure to garner an even larger margin this time.

The Senate is scheduled to begin consideration of the pipeline bill tomorrow with hearings in the Energy and Natural Resource Committee, headed by Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a supporter of the project. Senate Democrats are pushing for an open process that would allow them to offer amendments, and incoming Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has said that will happen. That means a full vote on the Senate floor could be weeks away.

“Just about the only people who think the first thing Congress should do is force approval of Keystone XL are those working for oil and gas billionaires—which explains exactly why Congressional Republicans want to do it,” said Sierra Club’s legislative director Melinda Pierce. “For those in Congress who don’t share those pro-polluter goals, this first vote will be a chance to stand together and send the message to the public that we won’t go backwards. After all, Americans didn’t vote for dirty air, dirty water or dirty energy, even if Congress is committed to doing just that.”

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBushTerrorist(Photo: CharlieTPhotographic)The role of health care workers in facilitating torture is one of the sickening details uncovered by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's 500-page executive summary of its investigation of George W. Bush's administration's torture program. Much of the reporting related to health care professionals has focused on the roles played by Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, "two psychologists who ... [helped] develop and legitimize the torture program," New York magazine recently reported. Mitchell and Jessen's torture bounty added up to about $180 million for the company they founded -- $81 million for them -- prior to the termination of their contract in 2009.

However, according to a new report from Physicians for Human Rights, health care workers' involvement in Bush's torture project extended far beyond the work of only Mitchell and Jessen. "We now see clear evidence of the essential, integral role that health professionals played as the legal heat shield for the Bush administration — their get-out-of-jail-free card," Nathaniel Raymond, a research ethics adviser for Physicians for Human Rights and a co-writer of the organization's new report "Doing Harm: Health Professionals' Central Role in the CIA Torture Program," told Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate.

Regarding Mitchell and Jessen, "Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator," the Senate report notes, "nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa'ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise." Mitchell and Jessen "carried out inherently governmental functions, such as acting as liaison between the CIA and foreign intelligence services, assessing the effectiveness of the interrogation program, and participating in the interrogation of detainees in held in foreign government custody."

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSolartopia(Photo: NukeFree.org)The Vermont Yankee atomic reactor went permanently off-line on Dec. 29, 2014. Citizen activists have made it happen. The number of licensed U.S. commercial reactors is now under 100 where once it was to be 1,000.

Decades of hard grassroots campaigning by dedicated, non-violent nuclear opponents, working for a Solartopian green-powered economy, forced this reactor’s corporate owner to bring it down.

Entergy says it shut Vermont Yankee because it was losing money. Though fully amortized, it could not compete with the onslaught of renewable energy and fracked-gas. Throughout the world, nukes once sold as generating juice “too cheap to meter” comprise a global financial disaster. Even with their capital costs long-ago stuck to the public, these radioactive junk heaps have no place in today’s economy—except as illegitimate magnets for massive handouts.

So in Illinois and elsewhere around the U.S., their owners demand that their bought and rented state legislators and regulators force the public to eat their losses. Arguing for “base load power” or other nonsensical corporate constructs, atomic corporations are gouging the public to keep these radioactive jalopies sputtering along.

Such might have been the fate of Vermont Yankee had it not been for citizen opposition. Opened in the early 1970s, Vermont Yankee was the northern tip of clean energy’s first “golden triangle.” Down the Connecticut River, grassroots opposition successfully prevented two reactors from being built at Montague, Massachusetts, where the term “No Nukes” was coined. A weather tower was toppled, films were made, books were written, demonstrations staged and an upwelling of well-organized grassroots activism helped nurture a rising global movement.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 26 December 2014 07:13

Refusing to Wage War Is Possible

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHandsUp2(Photo: Jamelle Bouie)And so we grieve over another national tragedy.

Two New York City police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were shot as they sat in their patrol car this past weekend. Let the needlessness of their deaths rip our hearts open. Let the humanity come first.

"Now is a moment for empathy and deep listening."

The words are from a statement issued by #BlackLivesMatter, a grassroots movement emerging this year over the spate of police killings of young men of color. The murder of the officers is part of the same tragedy. Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. All lives matter. Any thinking that embraces less than this is part of the problem, not the solution.

"The family of Michael Brown condemns today's senseless killing of two NYPD officers," a family spokesman said. "We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement. It cannot be tolerated. We must work together to bring peace to our communities."

Far too many people, and far too many institutions, have vested interests in not working together. Bridging these artificial divides is the primary task of building peace. It requires setting aside our anger and our righteousness and walking toward one another with reverence, not with loaded weapons. If all lives matter, then we cannot declare war. With war you get nothing but losers.

Published in Guest Commentary

JOE CONASON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCubaValley(Photo: Gardenparty)Listen carefully to the Republican leaders and presidential hopefuls roaring with outrage over President Barack Obama's courageous decision to normalize relations with Cuba; listen very carefully, because no matter how long or how closely you listen to them, there is one thing you will surely never hear.

You will never hear a new idea — or any idea — about bringing liberty, democracy and prosperity to the suffering Cuban people.

Instead, the furious denunciations of the president's initiative from his adversaries reveal only an intellectual void on Capitol Hill, where the imperatives remain partisan and cynical. Everyone paying attention has known for decades that the frozen relationship between the United States and Cuba has accomplished nothing — except possibly the prolongation of the Castro regime, which has long considered the embargo a plausible excuse for its own economic failures and viewed the United States as a politically convenient enemy.

Anyone who has visited the island knows that the Cubans wish nothing more than to see the embargo lifted because they know it has done nothing to advance their liberty or prosperity — just the opposite.

Published in Guest Commentary

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBushFamily(Photo: Happyme22)Still recovering from the sonic bombshell dropped by Jeb Bush announcing he was officially upgrading his prospective candidate status from... considering the formation of an exploratory committee to investigate the feasibility of a possible run for the presidency to... actually authorizing the formation of an exploratory committee that will investigate the feasibility of a possible run for the presidency. Our little caterpillar is now one step closer to being a big bad beautiful butterfly.

No one will admit the obvious: that the efforts of this exploratory committee could boil down to a simple poll question asking potential voters to rate how deep is their well of Bush Fatigue, on a 1- 5 scale. With 1 being, "who cares what name is on the ballot, they're all big fat liars anyway" to 5 indicating; "read my lips, no new Bushes. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. Did I mention ever? Because I meant to say ever. Again." (long pause) "Ever."

John Ellis Bush, (Jeb for the initials) is son of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States and younger brother of George Walker Bush, (Gwibby) the 43rd President. And proving that all things are relative, the former Florida Governor is generally considered "the smart one."

Since sister Dorothy is a civilian, brother Marvin is retired, and other brother Neil's main claim to fame is miraculously not being indicted in the Silverado Savings & Loan debacle during the 80s, Jeb is the last great hope for the Bush Family to finally pull off a third invasion of Iraq and get it right.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTortureDog(Photo: US Army)I’m not drawing a parallel between the Holocaust that led to the deaths of six million tortured and murdered Jewish parents and their children under Hitler’s regime and the CIA Torture Report; to do so would diminish the unspeakable evils that were committed by S.S. operations. However, the question of torturing victims of US occupations in the Middle East is applicable here. Many of the same barbaric methods of torture that the S.S. used on their prisoners were also used on detainees in Iraq, Guantánamo Bay, and at secret CIA cells, many of whom were innocent people who met the tragic misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It’s important to remember, in the context of the CIA Torture Report, that the Bush administration invaded Iraq on the same false “pre-emptive attack” premises that Adolf Hitler, in part, used against his neighboring countries: that we have to “get them before they get us,” despite the fact that the Iraqi people were completely innocent and that they had absolutely nothing to do with the September 11th attack—nor did Saddam Hussein harbor weapons of mass destruction.

After WW II, the world acknowledged that heinous crimes of torture were committed by the Nazis. There was no debate. There was nothing “controversial” about condemning the horrific practice. No one argued in the media the pros and cons of torturing human beings.

No, the US did not commit a Holocaust after 9/11, but it did torture. I would like to ask the corporate network media defenders of the Bush-Cheney administration if they believe that the techniques of torture committed by the S.S. paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler should be discussed as a “controversial” and “debatable” issue?

Published in Guest Commentary

WENONAH HAUTER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrackingCuomo(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Fantastic news came from the state of New York this week when the Cuomo administration announced its decision to ban fracking in the state. This exciting decision is a tribute to everyone who has worked so hard in New York to protect the state from the ravages experiences elsewhere from fracking.

Here’s the full story: On Wednesday, the Governor convened a cabinet meeting where Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker presented the findings of the Department of Health’s review on fracking. He described the peer-reviewed studies showing that fracking contaminates air and water and harms health, and he highlighted that many of the long-term health effects are still unknown, as epidemiological studies have not been conducted. Comissioner Zucker ended his presentation by saying, “Would I live in a community that would allow fracking? The answer is no.”

Then in this real-time drama, Joe Martens, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation indicated the department would issue “legally binding findings to prohibit high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.” They will be included in the supplemental generic environmental impact study that will be released in the New Year, an approach that Governor Cuomo supports, and that will effectively ban fracking in New York.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaWarehouse(Photo: Warehouse, Green Logistics Co.)During the hectic holiday shopping season, Jeff Bezos' Amazon.com may seem like a great option, especially for us procrastinators. Anything you want can be shipped directly to your doorstep. All it takes is a few clicks on the Amazon website and — of course — some of your hard-earned money.

The media sings the praises of Bezos' concept and business. But what you may not know is that, as head of the Amazon beast, Bezos is hard on his labor force. In fact, this past May, he was awarded a less-coveted prize by the International Trade Union Confederation: "World's Worst Boss."

Consider one of the most difficult of Amazon jobs — the "picker." In each warehouse, hundreds of them are simultaneously scrambling throughout a maze of shelves, grabbing products. This is hard, physically painful labor, for two reasons. First, pickers must speed-walk on concrete an average of a dozen miles a day, for an Amazon warehouse is shockingly big — more than 16 football fields big, or eight city blocks — and pickers must constantly crisscross the expanse. Then, there are miles of 7-foot-high shelves running along the narrow aisles on each floor of the three-story buildings, requiring the swarm of pickers to stoop continuously. They are directed by handheld computers to each target. For example, "Electric Flour Sifters: Dallas sector, section yellow, row H34, bin 22, level D." Then they scan the pick and must put it on the right track of the 7 miles of conveyor belts running through the facility, immediately after which they're dispatched by the computer to find the next product.

Secondly, the pace is hellish. The pickers' computers don't just dictate where they're to go next, but how many seconds Amazon's time-motion experts have calculated it should take them to get there. The scanners also record the time each worker actually takes — information that is fed directly into a central, all-knowing computer. The times of every picker are reviewed and scored by managers who have an unmerciful mandate to fire those exceeding their allotted seconds.

Published in Guest Commentary
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