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Friday, 29 August 2014 07:13

The Courage to Disarm

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAlbers(Photo: Darmokand)The Ferguson tragedy, like all those that preceded it and all that will follow — involving the trivial and panicky use of lethal force, by the police or anyone else — stirs up questions the social status quo doesn’t dare face.

My sister, Sue Melcher, put it this way: “I find myself also nauseated that another issue never seems to enter the discussion: the issue that a highly trained officer could make such a mistake with a gun demonstrates that just having the weapon present increased the danger of the situation. Had the citizens been armed, how many more casualties could there have been? None of us is ‘healthy’ enough to be trusted to use lethal force wisely — and is that even possible?”

The “wise” use of lethal force . . .

We’ve wrapped our global civilization around the certainty that we understand and revere life in all its vastness and mystery so completely that we know when to cut it short, indeed, that we — those of us who are officially sanctioned good guys — have a right to cut it short in, it would seem, an ever-widening array of circumstances. In so doing, we allegedly make life better for the social whole. This is called militarism. To keep this profitable lie going, we refuse to look deeply at its consequences.

When we inflict death on distant cultures, at the sterile remove that modern weapons grant us, we can avoid all but the most cursory awareness of the consequences of our actions. But when we do it at home, it’s not always so easy.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHomelessUSA(Photo: C.G.P. Grey)While weapon contractors, those ‘masters of war’, are raiding our treasury for multibillion dollar federal contracts, our middle-class economy is falling below the levels of third world countries.  Last night, ABC news did a report on homeless children in the United States.  Some American children are living out of cars with nothing more than green garbage bags to keep their small belongings in. These children were grateful to receive suitcases because living out of “garbage bags made them feel trashy.”  

Has it come to this? Shame on this government for turning the United States of America into a country that includes too many starving, homeless children, while less than a privileged group of companies is receiving billions of our tax dollars for weapons, and those weapons are used in turn to steal oil in the Middle East.

new report found that the nation's food pantries serve 620,000 families with a member in the military: “another troubling indication that service members battling against poverty must often rely on the generosity of our charities.”

Our tax dollars should provide adequate funding for middle-class and poor communities: schools, hospitals, roads, teachers, police, firefighters, and alternative energy among other expenditures that benefit the public good. However, when so many of our tax dollars are going directly into the bank accounts of weapon-surveillance contractors, and Wall Street banksters, you begin to understand why everyone else is left with a few scattered crumbs to fight over; you begin to see why the oligarchy encourages conflicts and divisions between blacks and whites, middle-class workers and immigrants, and so forth. After all, while everyone’s busy fighting, the biggest robbery in history is going down: big money is being stolen behind closed doors with the assistance of the White House and congressional friends of the oligarchy.

Published in Guest Commentary

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBaghdadBombed(Photo: Msgt. James M. Bowman, USAF)The Middle East, as a region, went sideways quite a while back, probably about the time a bunch of European countries decided to draw borders in a manner they found to be personally amusing. But if there is a point that future historians might look at, when trying to see when any semblance of coherence was lost, August 26th of 2014, the day Egypt and the United Arab Emirates dropped a few bombs on Libya, might not be a bad candidate.

We have civil wars in Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Lebanon having a wee bit of a problem with refugees. A simmering uprising in Bahrain. Continuing conflict in Yemen. And Israel continuing to do what Israel does so well. And, of course, those states that do seem to be pulling off relative stability are managing it without resorting to anything pesky like, say, democracy. And we're just fine with that, by the way. The soaring rhetoric that democracy in Iraq would spread throughout the region as a thousand flowers bloom is long gone. The promises of the Arab Spring are dead. Democracy, as it turns out, means that the people will elect governments who we don't like. Can't have that, can we?

It's all starting to resemble nothing so much as our policy during the Cold War, when the existential threat of Communism was so fundamentally terrifying that we would support any genocidal madman, so long as he was anti-communist, and would send the CIA in to "remove" those leaders who hinted at having anything approaching a pinkish hue. And so it is today: so long as a regime stands in opposition to the Islamist hordes, we're pretty much cool with them. Never mind that lumping ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas into one singular "Islamist horde" is basically moronic. That fact seems to have escaped us.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFukushimaEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)The impact of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown on the region's young people is starting to add up.

104 of the area's 300,000 young people who were under 18 at the time of the disaster have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shinbun reported yesterday. This form of cancer has been linked to radiation exposure.

But, government officials in Fukushima say they do not believe the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 104 young people are linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

It helps their denial that experts disagree on whether these cases of thyroid cancer can be traced back to the meltdown, which released radiation over a large area. While the slow-developing cancer only appeared in young people four years after the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine, radiation biology professor Yoshio Hosoi told The Asahi Shinbun that better tests allow earlier diagnoses.

"Many people are being diagnosed with cancer at this time, thanks to the high-precision tests," he said. "We must continue closely examining the people's health in order to determine the impact of radiation exposure on causing thyroid tumors."

Published in Guest Commentary

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFergusonProtest(Photo: Loavesofbread)To be young, male and black in America means not being allowed to make mistakes. Forgetting this, as we've seen so many times, can be fatal.

The case of Michael Brown, who was laid to rest Monday, is anomalous only in that it is so extreme: an unarmed black teenager riddled with bullets by a white police officer in a community plagued by racial tension.

African-Americans make up 67 percent of the population of Ferguson, Mo., but there are just four black officers on the 53-member police force -- which responded to peaceful demonstrations by rolling out military-surplus armored vehicles and firing tear gas. It is easy to understand how Brown and his peers might see the police not as public servants but as troops in an army of occupation.

And yes, Brown made mistakes. He was walking in the middle of the street rather than on the sidewalk, according to witnesses, and he was carrying a box of cigars that he apparently took from a convenience store. Neither is a capital offense.

When Officer Darren Wilson stopped him, did Brown respond with puffed-up attitude? For a young black man, that is a transgression punishable by death.

Published in Guest Commentary

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMcDonnell(Photo: Gage Skidmore)How far would you go to stay out of jail? Would you publicly humiliate your wife of 38 years, portraying her as some kind of shrieking harridan? Would you put the innermost secrets of your marriage on display, inviting voyeurs to rummage at will?

For Robert McDonnell, the former Virginia governor on trial for alleged corruption, the answers appear to be: "As far as necessary," "Hey, why not?" and "Sounds like a plan."

McDonnell's testimony this week in a Richmond federal courtroom about his wife Maureen's psychological turmoil has been both cringe-worthy and compelling. It has been clear for some time that McDonnell's strategy for winning acquittal amounted to what could be called the "crazy wife" defense. But only when he took the stand did it become apparent how thoroughly he intended to humiliate the "soul mate" he still claims to love.

McDonnell disclosed Thursday that he moved out of the family's home shortly before the trial began. "I knew there was no way I could go home after a day in court and have to rehash the day's events with my wife," he testified.

I guess not. Anyone who said such things in public about his or her spouse would be advised to clear out.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaKKK(Photo: Ras67)From the What-Is-Not-Surprising-About-This Department: USA Today is reporting that a local chapter of the Missouri Ku Klux Klan is holding a fundraiser for the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. "All money will go to the cop who did his job against the Negro criminal," according to New Empire Knights of the KKK.

Will there be a white sheet washing contest; a how-many-crosses-can-you-burn in a given time frame contest; a cross-construction competition; an AK-47 raffle?

"We are setting up a reward/fund for the police officer who shot this thug," the Klan group said in an email. "He is a hero! We need more white cops who are anti-Zog and willing to put Jewish controlled black thugs in their place. Most cops are cowards and do nothing while 90% of interracial crime is black (and non-white) on white."

According to USA Today, "Darren Wilson, the officer involved in the Aug. 9 shooting, has been a police officer for six years, four with Ferguson Police Department, and has never had any disciplinary action taken against him. There's no indication Wilson supports the KKK's efforts."

Published in Guest Commentary

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFireThisTime(Photo: Fir0002)The fire this time is about invisibility. Our society expects the police to keep unemployed, poorly educated African-American men out of sight and out of mind. When they suddenly take center stage, illuminated by the flash and flicker of Molotov cocktails, we feign surprise.

The proximate cause of the rioting in Ferguson, Mo., is the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was stopped, a witness has said, by a white policeman for walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk. Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown at least six times, according to a private autopsy and, reportedly, one conducted by the county medical examiner. Two of those bullets struck him in the head.

There we have the familiar narrative: another unarmed black man unjustly killed. Brown thus joins a long, sad list -- Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, etc. -- that seems to have no end.

This storyline is unassailable. Anyone who thinks race is not a factor in these fatal encounters should have to cite examples of unarmed young white men being killed by trigger-happy police or self-appointed vigilantes. Names and dates, please.

But the violence in Ferguson tells of a deeper, more fundamental narrative about what African-Americans have done, and what has been done to them, in the decades since the urban riots of the 1960s -- the fire last time.

Published in Guest Commentary

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDontShoot(Photo: Erinmiran)It's not terribly controversial to note that, in recent years, increased funding to police, across the country has led to what can only be termed a militarization of police activities. And this militarization just doesn't seem to go all that well. The recent debacle in Ferguson, Missouri is just the latest example. There was tear gas, there were arbitrary detentions of journalists, there was a freaking no fly zone. Things finally ended when the governor of Missouri stepped in to order the local police to stand down.

You could call this an isolated incident where things spiraled, very quickly, out of control. You would be wrong. While response to the (mostly) peaceful protests following the shooting of an unarmed, African American, 18 year old was noteworthy for its almost cartoonish excess, similar police actions are not uncommon. A similar, if less excessive, police response occurred in Albuquerque, NM, as protesters marched against APD's killing of an unarmed, mentally ill, homeless man who was in the process of surrendering. These protests, while again, not 100% peaceful, were met with disproportionate force. (And, as a cherry atop the whole thing, the APD wrapped up the night by killing yet another person who may or may not have had a weapon. The APD has an impulse control issue.)

But beyond the excessive reactions to public protest, let's take a quick look at the actions that people are actually protesting. It seems as though every few days, yet another incident in which a police officer kills a civilian. Often they're minorities. Often they're mentally ill. Rarely does the police action result in much more than a suspension with, of course, pay. And that tends to get people a little worked up, worked up enough to take to the streets, where they are met with police departments exercising their usual restraint.


Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCAwaterEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)California is suffering through a record drought. Water is being rationed and its usually fertile agriculture industry is suffering.

Meanwhile, someone in Minnesota or Kentucky or Maryland may be drinking a bit of California’s precious commodityMother Jones reported this week that at least four major bottled water companies—Aquafina, Dasani, Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead—use water from California, either ground (spring) water or tap water. Aquafina and Dasani both bottle and sell treated tap water, while Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead use spring water.

That’s partly because the brands are based or have plants there. In addition, California is the only western state that doesn’t regulate or manage groundwater use.

Mother Jones senior editorial fellow Julia Lurie reported that while the amount of water used to make bottled water pales in comparison to the 80 percent of California water used in agriculture, the idea that water is being directed away from the drought-stricken state is head-scratching. Even a spokesperson for Arrowhead told her that from an environmental standpoint, “tap water is always the winner.”

Published in Guest Commentary
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