JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
This piece is dedicated to Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald for their attempt to preserve our liberties by law in the People's Bill of Rights.
In case you didn't catch the irony of the title, "Tear down this wall!" was the challenge issued by President Ronald Reagan to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall, June 12th 1987, as a demand to increase freedom in the Eastern Bloc, freedom to come and go as one pleases, and freedom from state controlled surveillance.
My, my, my—how the tables have turned, no?
Protesters around the world are demanding that President Obama fulfill his 2008 promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, a prison known for torture and abuse, and for its illegal "indefinite detention" practice.
Guantanamo Bay Prison stands as a blatant violation of Constitutional Laws. So how did it happen in the first place?
Worst still, Obama's National Defense Authorization Act made certain that American citizens can also be held indefinitely without trial or charge. The Patriot Act pales by comparison to the NDAA. President Obama used Executive Action to pass it into law on New Year's Day 2012—as if it were something to celebrate. He refuses, however, to take Executive Action for shutting down GITMO. Morally speaking, the president doesn't seem to know right from wrong.
As the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, put it: "Barack Obama is the first president ever in the United States to sign into law indefinite detention as part of the policy of the United States."
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
During this past week, in Scranton, Pa., a 16-year old put two bullets into the head of a taxi driver and then stole about $500 earned by the cabbie that evening.
The teen, who showed no remorse when arrested a few hours later, mumbled a few words about his reasons. He said he murdered the cabbie "'Cause that's what I do to people that don't listen." The teen thought the cabbie was taking too long to get him to his destination. The driver was a 47-year-old man with a wife and two children. The gun was an unlicensed 9-mm.
A few days later, in Payson, Ariz., a three-year-old boy found a loaded semi-automatic gun in the apartment of family friend, began playing with it, and accidentally killed his 18-month-old brother. Police recovered several other weapons from the apartment.
In Homestead, Fla., a 28-year-old man, who admitted he was drinking and using cocaine, was showing off an AK-47 at a picnic. His six-year-old nephew picked up the gun when no one was watching, played with it, and accidentally killed his own grandfather.
In Isla Vista, Calif., a 22-year-old man with a history of mental problems, stabbed his three roommates, and then drove near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. In about 10 minutes, he murdered three more students and wounded 13 more before committing suicide. Police say the killer had three 9 mm. weapons and about 400 rounds of ammunition, all of it purchased legally.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Although it has been one of the worst kept secrets in professional sports, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) is finally coming out of the closet with a series of monster slam-dunk marketing projects aimed at the LGBT community. The league recently announced that each of its teams would be turning its marketing efforts towards the LGBT community, becoming the first pro sports league to specifically recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fans to its games. At some point in the season, each team will stage an event acknowledging and honoring the LGBT community.
According to the Associated Press, "The launch of the effort coincides with a surge of political and legal advances for the gay-rights movement in the U.S., and shifting public opinion behind many of those advances."
As LGBT issues have gained wider support both politically and legally, the sports world has been part of the changing landscape. AP pointed out that "NBA player Jason Collins became the first player in men's professional basketball to come out and played with the Nets. Former Missouri football player Michael Sam, who came out in print and televised interviews earlier this year, was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. And Derrick Gordon, a UMass basketball player, recently described his experience as a gay Division I player."
The WNBA campaign "includes having teams participate in local pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups to raise awareness of inclusion through grassroots events and advertising with lesbian media. A nationally televised pride game will take place between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22. All 12 teams will also have some sort of pride initiative over the course of the season."
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The world withheld love and he went to war. He was an army of one — another army of one, laying out his plans in secret torment, plotting his "day of retribution."
"The rampage shooters see themselves as moralistic punishers striking against deep injustice," Peter Turchin wrote a year and a half ago, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. In his essay, ominously titled "Canaries in a Coal Mine," which was published at Social Evolution Forum, he notes the upward trajectory of mass murders. Since the '60s, they've increased more than tenfold. Something's going wrong in the world we've created.
The killers are always described as loners . . . monsters, psychopaths. They're not like us, and so the motives for the killings are sought only in the rubble of their lives — in the left-behind writings and YouTube videos, the psychological reports, the fragmentary reflections of acquaintances — and they're nothing more than sterile curiosities, with a sort of reality-TV entertainment value.
So it turns out that Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six UC Santa Barbara students, then committed suicide, last week in Isla Vista, Calif., was shut out of human connection, nailed into a coffin of isolation. He wrote in his journal some years earlier:
"I was desperate to have the life I know I deserve; a life of being wanted by attractive girls, a life of sex and love. Other men are able to have such a life . . . so why not me? I deserve it! I am magnificent, no matter how much the world treated me otherwise. I am destined for great things."
Unlike most lonely people — but like all the others who make screaming headlines out of their loneliness — he sought a military solution to his troubles. His enemies were wrecking his life, so he armed himself and went after them. He "went to war" and, in so doing, dignified his predicament and justified his course of action. Calling it "war" is a nearly airtight justification for violence — for murder.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
After Mitt Romney's crushing defeat in the 2012 presidential election, and the Republican Party's failure to capitalize on seemingly winnable Senate seats, Karl Rove and his financial community decided they'd had enough of flawed Tea Party-identified and backed candidates with predilections for saying outrageous ridiculous things.
In order to attain a Mitch McConnell-run Senate in January 2015, Rove decided to back so-called establishment conservatives in the 2014 primaries, that is, candidates who are far right ideologically, but wouldn't expound nonsensical gibberish when quizzed by the media. The Tea Party on the other hand, claiming that it wanted nothing more to do with McConnell and his capitulating ilk, fielded and supported more ideologically compatible candidates against Republican "establishment" figures.
Now that the dust has just about settled from the GOP primaries, Rove has built a roster of candidates he believes can win control of the Senate in November. And the Tea Party? After experiencing a number of losses in big races, many in the mainstream media, as is their wont, are writing them off, claiming that their influence has diminished.
The Wall Street Journal proclaimed, "GOP sees primaries taming the tea party." The Washington Post's conservative columnist, Jennifer Rubin, talked about "the tea party's demise," while the Post's Jaime Fuller said the Tea Party "isn't just losing; it's losing badly." Rick Sanchez, writing for Fox News Latino, said "Good Bye Tea Party, We Hardly Knew Ye." CNBC wondered if "the tea party was over" And Time magazine pointed out "GOP rolls tea party in primaries."
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Maria Bartiromo was a longtime financial market analyst for CNBC who recently left that channel and transferred over to the Fox Business Network. She appeared occasionally on CNBC's pre-market-opening show, "Squawk Box." On one of those occasions, she was engaged in a discussion about the problems that capitalism is facing. I believe that it was in the context of what one of Squawk Box's co-hosts, Andrew Ross Sorkin (also of The New York Times), was saying about the subject. In the course of it, she uttered a quite remarkable phrase, hailing what she termed "the moral imperative of capitalism."
The phrase came to mind in considering the current battle over climate change and what, if anything, to do about it. It is already affecting us. And of course, the degree of potential damage to the Earth as know it, physically, and for many of its species including ours in terms of long-term survival, is accelerating at ever-increasing rate. Indeed, there is a newly discovered major threat, the melting of a significant part of the Antarctic Ice Shelf, about which, apparently, nothing can be done. That is, in this case, even if there were a will, there is no way. For example, major parts of the State of Florida and of New York City, may well eventually be under water. Not fun, I should think. Nevertheless, there are some folks who [view this outcome from different perspective.
Of course, in the United States in particular there is a very large, very well-funded, and therefore very loud chorus that denies that global warming and one of its major consequences, climate change, is even taking place. And if it is taking place, human beings have nothing to do with it, and even if we did, doing anything to moderate the future certain changes, like enacting a "carbon tax" would just "ruin the economy" donchaknow. So where, you might be asking at this point, does the concept of "morality" come into all of this? Well, one kind of behavior that virtually everyone, atheist, theist, and everyone in-between, believes is immoral is stating as fact and truth something that you know to be false. This is where the "tobacco" in the title above comes in.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What's happening in the Republican primaries is less a defeat for the tea party than a surrender by the GOP establishment, which is winning key races by accepting the tea party's radical anti-government philosophy.
Anyone who hopes the party has finally come to its senses will be disappointed. Republicans have pragmatically decided not to concede Senate elections by nominating eccentrics and crackpots. But in convincing the party's activist base to come along, establishment leaders have pledged fealty to eccentric, crackpot ideas.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who easily won his primary this month against a weak tea party challenger, said Tuesday that there isn't "that big a difference between what you all call the tea party and your average conservative Republican. We're against Obamacare, we think taxes are too high, we think the government's too big."
That doesn't sound so crazy. But is it reasonable for Republicans to keep voting to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act -- more than 50 times, so far -- knowing full well that they have zero chance of success? Does it make sense, if taxes are excessive, to refuse President Obama's invitation to begin serious talks about tax reform?
If Boehner wanted to be honest, he'd have said his party is in favor of posturing and opposed to reality.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Europe has a special worry about a broken, uncaring economy.
Things rip apart. More and more people fall into desperation. Some of them decide it's the fault of immigrants. Or homosexuals. Or . . .
"Today, Nazi influences are growing in Europe for the same reasons they did back then. The social safety nets have been torn, and people are left behind. Left alone. The hopelessness is what comes first, then the hatred. It's never the other way around."
A campaign led by Sweden's Social Democratic Party (quoted above), in the run-up to the European Union elections on May 25 — which features Rainer Hoess, grandson of the commandant of Auschwitz, warning people that democracy and human rights can never be taken for granted — is called: NEVER FORGET. TO VOTE. Its point is that far right politics, including a blatant neo-Nazism bent on rekindling the old agenda of "blood purity," racial solidarity and loyalty to the homeland, is spreading across the EU just as unemployment and austerity are spreading and Europe's economy comes to resemble, more and more, the economy of the 1930s.
In other words, malignant racism combined with a bad economy can still foment social poison. Hatred seeks power and power seeks hatred, and they sometimes find each other. And what we call the "social safety net" might better, perhaps, be called the social immune system — because society is a living organism.
BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Transparency is the least you could hope for if you're against fracking for energy. If North Carolina Republicans get their way, such transparency could result in a felony.
Three state senators introduced a bill late last week that would charge people with a felony if they disclose what chemicals companies are using to extract dirty energy from shale formations. That might even include the officials who respond to the explosions and other emergencies caused by the dangerous process.
"The felony provision is far stricter than most states' provisions in terms of the penalty for violating trade secrets," Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations, told Mother Jones.
"I think the only penalties to fire chiefs and doctors, if they talked about it at their annual conference, would be the penalties contained in the confidentiality agreement. But [the bill] is so poorly worded, I cannot confirm that if an emergency responder or fire chief discloses that confidential information, they too would not be subject to a felony."
However, Wiseman believes "that appears to be the case" in some sections of the potential legislation.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Finally, an authentic scandal: incompetence and deception at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Given what we know so far, more heads need to roll — and a criminal investigation should be launched.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of so many faux scandals that it's hard to recognize the real thing. Yes, the Internal Revenue Service seems to have given extra scrutiny to conservative organizations, but it gave extra scrutiny to liberal groups, too. Yes, Operation "Fast and Furious" was a mistake, but it wasn't some kind of sinister plot. No, it doesn't matter whether the evil people who took four American lives in Benghazi , Libya, are called terrorists, militants or simply killers.
The VA situation, however, looks more serious day by day. If VA hospitals really are falsifying records to disguise lengthy waiting times — and if veterans are dying as a consequence — then President Obama needs to bring in new management to fix the problems and fast.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, speaking Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," described Obama as "madder than hell" about the VA scandal. By now, we should all be used to the fact that Obama is never what you would call demonstrative with his anger, at least publicly. No frothing, no foaming, no gnashing of teeth. I take McDonough at his word that the president is royally steamed.