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internationcrimThe International Criminal Court in the Hague (Photo: ekenitr)

In an October 25 Los Angeles Times article, this question was asked about the International Criminal Court (ICC): Why have "only Africans have been tried at the court for the worst crimes on Earth"? The International Criminal Court began enforcement for "crimes against humanity" (among other charges) in 2002 in the Hague.

In 1999, Slobodan Milošević was brought to trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (IICTY); his prosecution preceded the ICC. Therefore, he was not an exception to the rule of the International Criminal Court, which thus far has been to only conduct prominent prosecutions against Africans.

It would take much more space than this commentary allows to fully explain the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, but suffice it to say, it is not limited to Africa. It includes almost every nation on the planet. Therefore, it is a bit curious as to why so much prosecutorial effort has been focused on the crimes of African leaders.

Luis Moreno Ocampo, the former ICC chief prosecutor, gave his opinion to the BBC:

Mr Ocampo argues that African leaders should use the "tools" of the court to develop a level playing field with the world's superpowers by holding countries like the US to account.

One way they should do this, he argues, is by supporting the ICC's preliminary examination into the alleged mistreatment of detainees by US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

It may be an academic point but it requires unanimity of purpose among the very leaders who are the biggest critics of the court.

That may be a bit of a challenge, because two nations who have not ratified the treaty creating the ICC are the United States and Israel. 124 other nations have signed onto the jurisdiction of the court.

It is also important to recall the history of contemporary Africa. The continent of Africa was divided up by European colonial powers and was a laboratory for the colonial torture and mass murder of Black people, as well as the capture of human beings who were then sold into slavery.


6621873843 aa27b53de6 zOur primary "national interest" should be nurturing a robust democracy, not engaging in millitarized conflicts around the world. (Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet )

I don't know how many times "the national interest" was mentioned in the three presidential debates, but if I were having one of those drinking contests where you down a shot of alcohol every time a word or phrase is mentioned, I would have ended with more vodka than blood pulsing through my veins.

I've discussed before how disingenuous it is of the pundits and the politicians to utter the words "the national interest" in intonations normally reserved for grave and somber responsibilities. In an officially secular nation, the phrase is often spoken with a sacredness that is reserved for divinities. After all, our democracy -- at least in federal elections -- is supposed to be focused on protecting and enhancing "the national interest"; even though politicians may think that it is the other way around.

That's because the phrase "national interest" is generally code for the sum total of the wealth and comfort of upper-middle-class and wealthy Americans. Keep in mind that the US accounts for more than 40 percent of the world's wealth. And according to a 2010 article in the New York Times, the US and Europe together have amassed 70 percent of the planets' financial assets. That's an important point, when you look at the presidential debates and how significant NATO is in Hillary Clinton's "national interest" worldview. The US "national interest" and European national interests represent not a thirst for spreading democracy, but the replacement of colonial ownership of less-developed countries with the more modern world of global financial dominance. This is essentially colonialism under a new economic framework, with independent governments that are beholden to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and financial subjugation by the West.

Given that "the national interest" of monetary and asset accumulation -- and ensuring, as just one example, the growth of such US mainstays as malls filled with merchandise to make the "haves" feel more prosperous -- is dependent upon a robust military. These forces are deployed around the world to ensure access to raw materials and suppress the emergence of true democracies that challenge US hegemony in the world. Therefore, it is completely understandable that so many candidates for national office link "the national interest" with a military deployment that spans the world. A 2015 article from TomDispatch (reprinted on Truthout) stated it quite succinctly: "The United States probably has more foreign military bases than any other people, nation, or empire in history." Of course, our most "reliable" allies are our partners in dividing the world's assets and cheap labor: European nations who participate in military coalition campaigns with the US. 


Article reprinted with permission of EcoWatch

16677857756 5475fe97a4 z 1A red wolf in the wild. (Photo: Victoria)

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

The same scientists who provided the population viability analysis to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for the red wolf have sent a rebuttal to the agency, accusing it of "many alarming misinterpretations" in its justification for removing most of the remaining animals in the wild.

Last month, the USFWS announced that it would recapture 32 of the 45 wolves in the wild and leave only those on federal lands. Currently, there are about 200 red wolves in captive breeding programs in the U.S. as part of the agency's Species Survival Plan (SSP).

The letter, released to the public today, bluntly counters the agency's proposal to recapture 32 wolves and place them in captive breeding programs:

"A singular focus on the SSP will no doubt result in extinction of red wolves in the wild."

On Sept. 29, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a preliminary injunction ordering the USFWS to stop capturing and killing—and authorizing private landowners to capture and kill—members of the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves.

"There's no need to capture wild wolves in an effort to save the captive population, which is what the service contends," said Defenders of Wildlife attorney Jason Rylander.


4122925426 07b8073529 zShould this building be renamed the GOP Supreme Court? (Photo: Matt Wade)

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

For the right wing, Justice Antonin Scalia was to the Supreme Court what Ronald Reagan was to the presidency: St. Anton. Before Scalia's body even got cold, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced that no judge nominated by President Obama to replace "the revered one" would be considered by the Senate. In fact, McConnell refused to hold Senate Judicial Committee hearings on any nominee put forth by Obama, and very few Senate Republicans would even consent to holding a conversation with Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

One doesn't need to fully support Judge Garland -- many progressives consider him a centrist on key issues -- to see how obstructionist the Republicans are being. It is as though they are hoping for some deus ex machina to appear to fill Scalia's vacant Supreme Court seat with another brash right-wing troglodyte: an individual with a masterful ability to make the most egregious defenses of assaults on justice and common sense sound like grandiloquent legalese. I frequently wrote about Scalia during his tenure -- including several commentaries about his role as the ring leader in a cult that stole the presidency and handed it to George W. Bush by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.

One of the most gruesome and ludicrous court opinions Scalia wrote concerned Troy Davis, who was eventually executed despite evidence that indicated he was innocent. Scalia wrote in a 2009 dissent on whether Davis should be retried:

This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is "actually" innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged "actual innocence" is constitutionally cognizable.

It's frightening to think that the current Congress won't give the time of day to a judge who is about as centrist as a Democratic president's nominee could be, but lauds a jurist who believes that the US Constitution doesn't outlaw executing a person who is probably innocent.

There is some speculation in the press that Garland may not be confirmed by the Senate even if Hillary Clinton wins the election in November. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) indirectly affirmed this possibility when he proclaimed this week that the GOP would oppose any Clinton nominee, if she becomes president.


oct2016obamamMichelle Obama understands that words matter. (Photo: Mike Baird)

Michelle Obama was responding to Donald's Trump's excuse that he was just engaging in "locker room banter" when he boasted about sexual assault in a 2005 "hot mic" videotape with Billy Bush. Later, in the second debate, Trump claimed words were not actions, and he specifically denied ever engaging in such heinous behavior.

However, Michelle Obama was having none of that. She drew a straight line to the heart of the matter when she declared, "I can't believe I'm saying a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women." She explained that she was "shaken to the core" by Trump's words and the misogynist nature of his entire campaign:

The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who -- over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign -- has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can't believe that I'm saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.

And I have to tell you that I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted. So while I'd love nothing more than to pretend like this isn't happening, and to come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream.

This is not something that we can ignore. It's not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a "lewd conversation." This wasn't just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV.

It now seems clear that this was not, however, just words. It's one of countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life. And I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, and I'm sure that many of you do too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman.

Thursday, 13 October 2016 08:00

Bullying Is Not Just a Problem in Schools

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

8208077880 b823b7647d z 1Bullying is systemic in the United States. (Image: Ken Whytock)

So frequently the media and people in social and political leadership positions focus on reforming problems on a micro-level, when the problems are actually part of a larger institutional structure. For instance, take the repeated focus on school bullying as an issue. The authors of Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society -- this week's Truthout Progressive Pick, which you can obtain with a donation by clicking here -- helped me understand that if we isolate school bullying from the larger US economic, military, political and cultural systems, efforts to combat it will be doomed to fail. Bullying in our schools is not an exception to our society; it is a consequence of it.

My interview with the authors of the book -- Charles Derber and Yale R. Magrass -- will be published on Sunday on Truthout. In it, the authors trenchantly lay out the conundrum of trying to halt the societal context in which this odious behavior occurs:

Bullying has been a means of controlling people, putting them in “their place,” for perhaps as long as there have been humans. Until about twenty years ago, it was dismissed as “normal,” a rite of passage that children and adolescents must go through and “get over.” Some endure relatively little of it – perhaps they are bullies themselves- and it leaves little long-term impact. For others, it is a trauma that leaves lifelong scars...

We live in militarized capitalism. Capitalism assumes competition -- winners and losers. Militarism requires violence, aggression and submission to authority. Bullying builds these very traits. Psychology is inadequate to understand the cause and power of bullying. Indeed, bullying is about power, and psychology hardly has a concept of power. It is all about individuals changing their attitudes. Sociology and politics are much better at understanding power. 1950s sociologist C. Wright Mills spoke of the “sociological imagination,” where he argued you cannot separate “personal troubles” from “public issues.” We need the sociological imagination to understand bullying -- how are children raised to blend into militarized capitalism? What kind of school system does militarized capitalism need? How do school authorities encourage a student culture which prepares for militarized capitalism and sees bullying as a “normal” part of life?

When you combine extreme capitalism with hyper-militarism, you end up with a culture that is very conducive to bullying. There should be no surprise that schoolchildren and teenagers pick up their cues from the culture at large. This also makes marginalized young people particularly vulnerable to bullying and violence in schools: The bullying of LGBTQ students, for instance, is an especially urgent problem. It is born of a larger cultural context that, in essence, values bullying in how its infrastructure works, even while denouncing it among young people.

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

21016octprescripFor many Americans, Big Pharma profiteering is a matter of life and death. (Photo: Thomas Hawk )

In spite of the recent scandals regarding predatory drug pricing for many vital medications, pharmaceutical companies and their CEOs are still engaging in wanton profiteering, as I noted a couple of months ago. If people have the money, they are going to pay whatever medication costs are necessary to save their lives, unless they are fortunate enough to have rare coverage for costly prescriptions. For individuals in medical need, it may be a matter of life or death, but for the drug industry it's just a matter of price-gouging to increase shareholder profits and the excessive compensation of CEOs.

That's the conclusion reaffirmed in a report, "Outrageous Fortunes: Big Pharma Executives Cash-In on High Drug Prices," conducted by the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy (IHSP), a research arm of National Nurses United. An October 10 news release from Nurses United summarized key findings:

Top pharmaceutical executives are making billions of dollars in compensation while implementing skyrocketing price increases for essential medications, according a new research report released today by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

In “Outrageous Fortunes,” the report finds that pharma executives were handed over $11 billion in compensation the past five years. In 2015, the most recent year for which the data is available, the ten highest paid pharma chief executive officers (CEOs) made $327 million....

The report finds a direct connection between executive pay, profiteering – through pay for performance arrangements based on profits and stock prices – and escalating drug prices that increasingly block patient access to affordable medication.

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

SamanthaBeeFeb2011 1Samantha Bee (Photo: Justin Hoch)

 In the middle of a Full Frontal segment on last month's bombings in New York and New Jersey, Samantha Bee launched into an excoriating attack on NBC "tacitly condoning a race-baiting demagogue." It's not just that NBC gave Trump a years-long platform on "The Apprentice" to position him as a credible authoritarian business leader. NBC even featured Trump, while running as a candidate for the GOP nomination, as host of "Saturday Night Live" on November 17, 2015.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Fallon has treated Donald Trump as a guest on "The Tonight Show" as an affable, playful potential president, even tousling his hair as if he were a friendly Golden Retriever. The YouTube clip of Fallon "messing" up Trump's hair -- as Trump plays the affable foil -- has received more than 8 million views, not to mention the vast audience across the United States who watched the original "The Tonight Show" farce. Yes, NBC terminated Trump's association with "The Apprentice" after he began his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants "rapists," but the network didn't terminate its association with him on other programming. It is still making money off of showcasing him to voters, expecting him to draw in big audiences (and increased advertising profits) whenever he appears on NBC.

When Trump was in his full birtherism bloom, accusing President Obama of not being a citizen, the station was fine with having Trump continue to enhance his brand on The Apprentice.  It didn't take x-ray vision to see that birtherism was both a real and symbolic movement to discredit Obama as an American because he is Black. Thus, NBC was fine with having Donald Trump, who was a leader in perpetuating a racist attack on the president of the United States, hosting "The Apprentice."


octvotingrightsVoting rights are being taken in away en masse, denying the most fundamental right of US citizenship. (Photo: Lauren Shiplett)

 On September 15, I wrote a commentary about how the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law filed a lawsuit to prevent Georgia from implementing an onerous "voter registration verification process." From the title, it may sound sounds like a benign vetting process, but is actually one of the many laws and regulations that Republican-controlled legislatures and governors have been using to place obstacles in the place of non-Republican voters.

This particular voter suppression strategy in Georgia requires voters to show that all the data on four pieces of official state and federal identification match before they are allowed to vote. It sounds harmless enough, but remember that there is virtually no individual voter fraud in the United States involving the casting of a ballot by a person isn't eligible to cast one. There are, however, plenty of instances of voter suppression: denying eligible people the right to vote, along with the possible hacking of vote-counting software, manipulation of final vote counts after the polls close and more.  

Requiring a process such as a four-ID-card data match to be able to vote can be directly traced back to the post-slavery efforts to keep Black people from voting. It provides the opportunity to deny large numbers of people the chance to vote, while not holding other groups of people to the same ultra-stringent requirements.

I offer my wife's ID card situation as an example of the insidious nature of the Georgia regulation. Her legal name is Teresa, but she goes by the name of Terry.  Sometimes she includes her middle name on IDs; sometimes she doesn't. Her passport has her full formal name listed, while her driver's license has her name as Terry. This means that, were she to live in Georgia, she might not be able to vote.  Exactly how consistently such a regulation -- and other non-Republican voter suppression laws -- are applied has not yet been the subject of large scale studies. However, one could speculate that primarily white suburban and rural districts are perhaps less "rigorous" in enforcing voter obstruction laws.

As we've mentioned, there are a multitude of laws and regulations aimed at making it difficult for non-Republicans to vote in Republican-run states. There are, of course, many issues on which the two major parties work as a duopoly, but -- in general -- Republicans in Congress and state legislatures try to prevent people of color and others who are likely to vote Democratic or for a third party from casting a ballot. In general, Democratic legislatures and elected officials in the federal government are for broader suffrage.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

octoberdicap33 copy

                      Photo courtesy of EcoWatch.

During an hour-long sit down about climate change at the inaugural South by South Lawn (SXSL) with President Obama and leading climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe on Monday, Leonardo DiCaprio made a clear dig at climate change deniers.

"The scientific consensus is in, and the argument is now over," the Revenant actor and environmental activist said in his opening remarks. "If you do not believe in climate change you do not believe in facts or science or empirical truths, and therefore in my opinion, you should not be allowed to hold public office."

Even though DiCaprio did not name names, the comment has been interpreted as an attack on Donald Trump, who believes climate change is "a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese" (even though the Republican presidential candidate denied what he actually said at last week's presidential debate)

The Oscar winner was at the White House to promote his new Fisher Stevens-directed documentary Before the Flood, which highlights the perils of a warming planet.

As The Guardian observed, Stevens said he plans to screen the film at college campuses and swing states such as Florida, where Marco Rubio is running for his Senate seat again.

"Rubio is a climate change denier, and we want to get these deniers out of Congress, to make them understand the Paris [climate] accords are important and that we need to do more," Stevens said.

Back at the SXSL stage, DiCaprio pressed the president to grade the global response on climate change thus far. While Obama said he was hopeful about some progress such as the Paris Agreement, more fuel-efficient cars and investment in clean energy, Obama warned that "obstructionist politics" are an obstacle in combating rising emissions.

"Climate change is happening even faster than five years ago or 10 years ago," Obama said. "What we're seeing is the pessimistic end of what was possible, the ranges that had been discerned or anticipated by scientists, which means we're really in a race against time. We can't put up with climate denial or obstructionist politics for very long, if we want to leave for the next generation beautiful days like today."

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