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ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaLove2(Photo: Tatoli ba Kultura)It’s too easy to reduce acts of kindness to an “aw, isn’t that nice?” sort of irrelevance. What if we thought about them, instead, as templates for foreign policy?

For one thing, if we did, there would be no such thing as “foreign” policy — no segregation of most of humanity behind borders and labels, to be controlled and, most of all, feared. There would only be getting-to-know-you policy, not in a simplistic sense but with a deep and courageous curiosity . . . because our survival depends on it.

Another way to say this is: War doesn’t work. Bombing ISIS doesn’t work. Closing our border to Syrians — or Mexicans — doesn’t work. Yet “we,” by which I mean the whole world, or at least its community of nation states and terrorists (a single entity, as far as I can tell), go back to this suicidal behavior again and again and again. “France is at war.” We greet terror with revenge. It accomplishes nothing except to make matters worse — infinitely worse — but somehow it feels right at the time, so we keep doing it.

Why are we violent but not illiterate?

I ask this question all the time. It was originally posed some years ago by Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy. The answer is obvious, of course. We’re taught to read; originally, we taught ourselves to read. We invented written language. The human species is now in the process of inventing something just as crucial: how to love itself, how to engage with itself nonviolently. We’ve been organized for far too long in a state of only partial connection, relying on the presence of enemies to stay in solidarity with our neighbors. We’ve expended, especially in recent millennia, far more of our intelligence and treasure on the means to fortify ourselves from — and kill — the enemy than we have, perhaps, on anything else. Think nuclear weapons.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 02 December 2015 07:05

Building Monopolies, One Merger After Another

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonopoly(Photo: Tostie14)Corporate World is experiencing a surge in the urge to merge.

Control of market after market — from cable TV to chickens, banking to washing machines — has been seized by less than a handful of enormous corporations. Rather than compete, they collude to set prices, cut quality, shrink service and squeeze out any would-be competitors.

There was a time, not that long ago, when monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies were not only frowned upon by our public officials and watchdog agencies but also aggressively challenged and busted up. In recent years, however, corporate giants feel free to get ever-gianter by gobbling up their competitors, knowing that the watchdogs will barely bark, much less bite. In fact, now that the Supreme Court has turned corporate campaign donations into legalized bribes, our so-called "public" officials — including congress critters, governors, judges and even presidents — have become tail-wagging accomplices to the amalgamation of corporate power.

The Bush-Cheney regime was infamous for cheerleading this consolidation, including allowing the merger of AT&T and Verizon to capture 70 percent of all wireless phone subscribers. But this is not just a Republican phenomenon. Obama's Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Aviation Administration genially waved through American Airline's takeover of US Airways and United's consumption of Continental, effectively leaving air travelers to the brutish mercy of one or two bullies in every major airport — and no service at all in smaller cities.

Now come dominant health-care giants Aetna, Humana, Anthem and Cigna, as well as Walgreens and Rite Aid, demanding to merge into behemoths that would control the availability of health insurance and essential medicines to millions of Americans. Ironically, the very lawmakers, corporate lobbyists and pundits who push and praise each of these mergers are also the noisiest preachers of the virtue of competitive markets, small business and consumer choice.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFukuHotspot(Photo: Abasaa)As a follow-up to the Paris Climate Change Talks - the following commentary examines four alarming reports that received very little coverage in the media relating to the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima:

U.S. Navy sailors sue TEPCO for Fukushima radiation exposure: Rare cancers, blindness, paralysis of limbs, and deaths

The report came and went like a blip in the daily coverage of headline news over CBS network, KPIX, San Francisco, November 2014. It didn’t make the national news. Indeed, the worst nuclear disaster in history at TEPCO’s (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Fukushima has been hushed up and swept under the media radar as if it never happened that horrific day in May, 2011.

The media blackout on Fukushima is chilling to say the least because it’s a life-threatening crisis that has no ending, no solution, and yet no one is aware of the predicament due to the censorship of it. Not only has Fukushima been deleted in the newsrooms, nuclear power has been raised during the U.S. Presidential debates as a “safe, clean, alternative energy to address global warming.” Shamefully, the explosions at Fukushima were not even mentioned once or questioned. When Democratic candidate, Jim Webb, for instance, raved about the wonders of nuclear power, CNN’s Anderson Cooper experienced a convenient moment of amnesia of his extensive reports at Fukushima when the plants were exploding concrete walls before his very eyes. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also drew blanks on Fukushima.  

Fukushima’s nuclear hydrogen explosions, which occurred after the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan, blasted the strongest cement concrete containment facilities that could possibly be built into a pile of hot radiated ash. Radiation is immeasurably hot in terms of temperature. Mechanical robots that were sent into the blasted facilities melted in seconds. The hydrogen explosions that blew apart those buildings were the equivalent of four nuclear bombs, one after another, that released massive amounts of radioactivity.

Published in Guest Commentary

STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaParisShoes(Photo: EcoWatch)More than 2,300 events spread across 175 countries took place this weekend prior to the Paris climate talks, which begin Monday. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets demanding world leaders take urgent action on climate change.

The Global Climate March—including marches, concerts, rallies, workshops, bike rides and film screenings—had one clear message: “Keep fossil fuels in the ground and finance a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.”

“The scale and diversity of today’s events are astounding,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. “Worldwide people are ready for the end of fossil fuels and the dawn of renewables. World leaders can no longer ignore this urgent call for action as the climate crisis continues to unfold. It is time for them to stand on the right side of history.”

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaApotheosisWarKoehler(Photo: Vasily Vereshchagin)"Since the people are sovereign under our Constitution . . ."

Ralph Nader writes in a recent essay that we should demand acknowledgement of this fact from our presidential candidates and ask what they will do to restore this sovereignty to the American people, in their various manifestations as voters, taxpayers, workers and consumers.

"Regardless of their affiliation with either of the two dominant parties," he writes, "politicians are so used to people being spectators rather than participants in the run-up to Election Day that they have not thought much about participatory or initiatory democracy."

"Spectator," "participant" . . . these are trigger words for me. I deeply fear the reckless ascendance of that first word in our cultural and political structures, as world events are increasingly reduced to reality TV mélanges of celebrity and violence. Meanwhile, the second word shrivels. This is America the superpower, its management the province of a shadowy consensus of corporate militarists.

"It's hard to run for President as an opponent of the permanent U.S. security state," writes Jeffrey Sachs. "Being a card-carrying member of the U.S. security establishment is the mainstream media's definition of a 'serious' candidate."

Go Hillary?

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCruzDuh(Photo: Gage Skidmore)The Associated Press (AP) asked eight climate and biological scientists to grade (on a 0-100 scale) the comments of top presidential candidates for their scientific accuracy. To eliminate bias, the names of the candidates were removed from their comments, so the scientists were scrutinizing them merely on scientific grounds.

The Republicans did not fare as well. Jeb Bush was the only GOP candidate to receive a passing score of 64 percent. In dead last, at a mere 6 percent, was Ted Cruz.

“This individual understands less about science [and climate change] than the average kindergartner,” Penn State University professor Michael Mann wrote after reading Cruz’s statements before the candidates’ identities were revealed. “That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president.”

The other candidates’ percentages were as follows, according to the AP: Chris Christie, 54; John Kasich, 47; Rand Paul, 38; Carly Fiorina, 28; Marco Rubio, 21; Donald Trump, 15; and Ben Carson, 13.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTrumpCPACaaa(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Glendon Scott Crawford had an idea about how to deal with Muslims in America; build a weapon that would irradiate as many of them as possible. Pamela Geller is a professional anti-Muslim provocateur who in the spring, held a cartoon competition in Garland, Texas, to award the best cartoon mocking the Prophet Muhammad. While most conservatives aren't talking in "final solution" terms, and are not looking to intentionally provoke violence, the mindlessness of the marginalized is seeping into the mainstream. Ideas once thought of as unsuitable for serious discussion, anti-democratic and decidedly un-American are starting to take hold with the Republican Party.

Months ago, Donald Trump kicked off his campaign with slanderous comments about Mexican immigrants. Those comments played well with the base, and they became standard fare at his campaign events. However, since the horrific Paris murders, Trump has seized upon new actionable targets; Muslim Americans and Muslim refugees. Now, Trump is voicing support for shuttering mosques, creating a database for monitoring all Muslims, and re-instituting waterboarding. Ben Carson has declared no Muslim is worthy of being in his cabinet, let alone being elected president. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have advocated accepting only Christian refugees from Syria. And, just about every Republican Party presidential candidate, more than 30 governors (the vast majority from the GOP), and key sectors of the religious right are espousing their versions of keep the Syrian refugees out of the United States.

Ideas that were thought of as fringe, anti-American and anti-democratic are leading today's political debate within the Republican Party and, they seem to be gaining traction within the body politic.

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSyrianKids(Photo: Trocaire)Fear, laced with paranoia, is driving the American response against allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.

President Obama has said he would accept 10,000 refugees, all of them subjected to intense scrutiny before being admitted to the country. France, with a population about one-fifth that of the United States, despite the worst attack on its soil since World War II, will accept 30,000 refugees.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told the Senate, "We are not a nation that delivers children back into the hands of ISIS because some politician doesn't like their religion." Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), a Jew, said the nation should "not allow ourselves to be divided and succumb to Islamophobia," and that when "thousands of people have lost everything—have nothing left but the shirts on their backs - we will not turn our backs on the refugees."

They are among a minority. Only 28 percent of Americans believe the nation should allow Syrian refugees into the United States, according to an independent Bloomberg poll. Fifty-three percent say absolutely deny any Syrian refugee, and apparently anyone who is a Muslim, a place in the United States; 11 percent say admit only Christians; 8 percent aren't sure.

The governors of 30 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, have also said they don't want Syrian refugees in their states. Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) has even ordered his state agencies to deny residence to two Syrian families who had undergone extensive background checks by the FBI and other agencies and were scheduled to be relocated in Indianapolis. The governors' opinion, fueled by politics not compassion, really doesn't matter; the acceptance and relocation of refugees fleeing oppression is a federal, not a state issue.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHiSpeedRail(Photo: Smiley.toerist)(Photo: Smiley.toerist)Practically every wealthy nation today is making major investments in building high-speed rail networks to transport their people: Japan, Canada, France, Russia, India, England, Morocco, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Italy, China, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Brazil, Germany, South Africa, Turkey and more. But not us, the wealthiest nation, with dozens of cities dotted across a continent with millions of people who need fast, convenient rail connection.

Why are we stuck in traffic on roadways and runways and left with a pokey, out-of-date rail system while nations with a small fraction of our resources — such as Morocco, Poland and Turkey — are cruising on HSR networks? Because our leaders sold us out to corporate hucksters who fed us ideological lies. Their fairy tale was that mass transit is creaky, inherently inefficient, and socialist — and that Americans deserve the independence that comes from a one-person-one-car doctrine.

As early as the 1930s, giant corporate consortiums formed to buy out more than 100 of America's very effective networks of streetcars and interurban train systems. Not to run them, but to rip out the tracks and pave over the rail right-of-ways to make roads. Likewise, corporate profiteers mounted a new offensive in the 1990s to undermine the higher-speed potential of Amtrak's Acela trains, hiring such Koch-funded front groups as Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and Reason Foundation to spread hokey "analyses" that brand Amtrak as a slow train to collectivist hell. They also bought trainloads of politicians, who're still promoting the fabricated studies and talking points of the corporate-cabal to derail HSR proposals.

Despite attempts to kill the notion of a national passenger rail system, trains are only getting more popular. Here are just a few things that HSR would offer our county ...

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL McKIBBEN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBillMc2(Photo: EcoWatch)This letter to the future by Bill McKibben is part of the Letters to the Future campaign, a national effort to encourage people from all walks of life to write six generations into the future about climate change. The campaign puts a spotlight on the importance of world leaders agreeing to a global climate treaty at COP21 in Paris.

Dear Descendants,

The first thing to say is, sorry. We were the last generation to know the world before full-on climate change made it a treacherous place. That we didn’t get sooner to work slowing it down is our great shame, and you live with the unavoidable consequences.

That said, I hope that we made at least some difference. There were many milestones in the fight—Rio, Kyoto, the debacle at Copenhagen. By the time the great Paris climate conference of 2015 rolled around, many of us were inclined to cynicism.

And our cynicism was well-taken. The delegates to that convention, representing governments that were still unwilling to take more than baby steps, didn’t really grasp the nettle. They looked for easy, around-the-edges fixes, ones that wouldn’t unduly alarm their patrons in the fossil fuel industry.

Published in Guest Commentary
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