Guest Commentary (3566)
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
latest advances in green energy technology, there's absolutely no excuse for not legislating rapid shifts to clean energy by 2020.It's time for the public to start calling 19th century barbaric fossil fuels what it is: Energy of Mass Extinction. Dirty energy companies, including nuclear power plants, have been owned by a few rich white families from the start, which is why production of energy has remained in the Dark Ages even though clean renewable energy could have lit up the world easily, cheaply and without pollution twenty years ago. Given the
Instead, world leaders, primarily the US government, not only serve as "barriers" to the advancement of green energy, they're the fossil fuel industry's sleaziest salesmen on earth: Big Oil pays for their seats on the Hill for the sole purpose of selling Energy of Mass Extinction to world markets. Oil executives are given an open door invitation to the White House any time and day of the week.
By contrast, lawyers that represent the public's welfare and our environment are not welcomed, or they are put on a long waiting list. In short, the oil oligarchs operate from the White House where the polluters meet and draw up their plans. Judges are also owned by the oil firms. For example, read Buzzflash editor at Truthout Mark Karlin's recent commentary about a federal judge that blocked U.S. courts from being used to collect a $9 billion Ecuadorean judgment against Chevron for turning a beautiful rainforest into a putrid toxic waste dump Thanks to a thoroughly corrupt US government, another victory for Chevron's oil tyrants who don't have to clean up the toxic sludge they leave behind after they've contaminated everything in sight for Energy of Mass Extinction.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Hollywood has finally taken an unflinching look at slavery. It's past time for the rest of the country to do the same.
I wanted to wait a few days before writing about the best picture Oscar for "12 Years a Slave" to see if it still felt like an important milestone. It does. Academy Award recognition for one well-made movie obviously does not make up for a century of pretending that slavery never happened. But perhaps the movie industry's top prize can give impetus to the efforts of artists and scholars who are beginning to honestly confront this nation's Original Sin.
We tell ourselves that we know all about slavery, that it's ancient history. But we've never fully investigated its horrors, which means we've never come to terms with them, which means we've never been able to get beyond them. Where slavery is concerned, we are imprisoned by William Faulkner's famous epigram: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."
The success of "12 Years a Slave" may be a significant step toward our collective liberation.
The movie came just a year after "Django Unchained," the 2012 epic in which Quentin Tarantino reimagined slavery as a Southern-fried spaghetti Western. "Django" had one of those traditional hero-on-a-quest story lines that Hollywood can't get enough of, and Tarantino's blood-spattered style was perfect for capturing the unspeakable brutality that sustained American slavery. But "12 Years" is vastly more important, for two reasons: It won best picture, and it's based on a true story.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
in a compelling essay recently published at BillMoyers.com — a predatory consensus of money and political ideology that serves only its own endless growth and functions in pristine autonomy from any sort of democratic process — but defining it begs an enormous question: Can we actually build a world that isn't run by its shadow interests?There has always been a "deep state," as Mike Lofgren described it
And what is this going to take? Can good will and big principles stand up to Wall Street and the Washington consensus? Perhaps even more to the point, if it's even possible, how much time do we have before war and climate change rip the human experiment to shreds?
The significance of Lofgren's thesis is that we have to look well beyond the known world of governmental procedures, the electoral process and the mainstream media to begin effecting serious change. All of this has been effectively gamed and controlled by the deep state's interests. In other words, no matter how broke or paralyzed by partisan bickering the country is, there's always money available, without controversy or opposition, for war and overblown "security."
In recent years, as Lofgren points out, while headlines blared "austerity" and "debt ceiling" and "budget crisis," while our infrastructure was collapsing and schools were closing, the resources were available to overthrow the Gaddafi regime in Libya; help keep a civil war going in Syria and fund or engage in aggressive activities all over the planet; militarize local police departments; and finance a massive security state. None of this was subject to the least sort of democratic discussion. To the extent any of this was reported, it was reported as a done deal.
JP SOTTILE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The defense industry dreams of genies.
That’s because it is really hard to get the genie back into bottle after you let it loose.
Really, the only option after releasing a genie is to invent new, expensive ways to combat it. And that’s been the story of America’s persistent gift to posterity—the “nuclear genie.”
Just ask the people who refuse to return to the site of America’s most notorious above-ground nuclear test—the bombing of Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. That hydrogen bomb, codenamed “Shrimp,” remains the largest bomb ever tested by the United States. It’s also known as a “thermonuclear weapon” because it uses high temperatures to trigger four cascading stages, each magnifying the power of the explosion. It was an “advance” on the run-of-the-mill atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And it was a response to the Soviet Union’s emerging atomic weapon program, which was, in turn, a response to America’s pioneering effort to weaponize the atom.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Have you heard about High Frequency Trading? Get ready to be dazzled! HFT is sweeping, purely speculative financial transactions that have been made possible by huge leaps in technology. Done by super-fast computers, using mathematical algorithms, HFT searches millions of prices at lightning speeds and places bets automatically. Transaction times are measured in milliseconds, as the global network of "trading robots" never sleeps, and its sole function is to allow the wealthiest speculators to skim quick profits out of markets.
Guess how much in taxes folks pay on the sales in the HFT game? When I buy a $3 pack of toilet paper here in Austin, Texas, I pay an extra 8.25 percent in sales tax. But if a high roller in the HFT game buys $10 million worth of corporate stock, he or she pays zero tax on the sale.
So maybe we need an FTT on HFT. A Financial Transaction Tax is not an idea whose time has come, but simply returned. From 1914 to 1966, our country taxed all sales and transfers of stock. The tax was doubled in the last year of Herbert Hoover's presidency to help us recover from the Great Depression. Today, 40 countries have FTT's, including the seven with the fastest-growing stock exchanges in the world. Seven members of the European Union voted for an FTT (including France and Germany) to help blunt rising poverty, restore services and put people back to work.
DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Remember when President Obama was lambasted for saying "you didn't build that"? Turns out he was right, at least when it comes to lots of stuff built by the world's wealthiest corporations. That's the takeaway from this week's new study of 25,000 major taxpayer subsidy deals over the last two decades.
Entitled "Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent," the report from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First shows that the world's largest companies aren't models of self-sufficiency and unbridled capitalism. To the contrary, they're propped up by billions of dollars in welfare payments from state and local governments.
Such subsidies might be a bit more defensible if they were being doled out in a way that promoted upstart entrepreneurialism. But as the study also shows, a full "three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded and disclosed by state and local governments have gone to just 965 large corporations" — not to the small businesses and startups that politicians so often pretend to care about.
BRIAN J. TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Pentagon's budget proposal for next year was announced last week by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. In an interview with The New York Times, Hagel argued that to meet today's national security needs, the Department of Defense (DoD) must shift its focus and capabilities away from "fighting grinding ground conflicts" and towards "new arenas of combat." To achieve these ends, the budget calls for a realignment of the military that would reduce the total number of ground troops to its lowest level since 1940 and discontinue some military equipment deemed obsolete or unnecessary. According to Hagel, current levels of both assets are "larger than we can afford to modernize and keep ready." The proposed budget also includes reductions in personnel benefits and base services, as well as base closings. The targeted cuts, however, are only one aspect of the budget. The other involves the new sources of priority spending.
The budget plan includes a call for greater expenditures on computer-based technologies and special operations. The Nation's Bob Dreyfuss reports that the "cuts would fund new projects including cyberwarfare capabilities, $1 billion for a more fuel-efficient jet engine, and plans for a new Navy surface ship." Despite the cuts to traditional aspects of the military, the DoD has no plans to shrink or limit programs that would undermine America's ever-growing hegemonic objectives. Dreyfuss writes, "Major weapons systems that might have been cut were sustained, the US special forces units are being increased substantially from already high levels" and "the US Navy would maintain all eleven of its aircraft carriers."
According to National Priorities Project, a nonprofit, non-partisan federal budget research organization, even as Hagel is requesting "cutbacks in a number of military programs, the Pentagon isn't planning any major reductions in spending any time soon." While the cuts translate to savings in specific areas, "the new Pentagon budget does not project a commensurate decline in spending." In fact, the United States will continue to carry a defense budget which exceeds that of the next 10 countries combined.
JOE CONASON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Growing up in Jim Crow Arkansas, Bill Clinton saw how the state's dominant political and racial elite maintained power by suppressing the rights of minority voters who threatened its authority — and as a young activist, worked to bring down that illegitimate power structure. So when Clinton says, "There is no greater assault on our core values than the rampant efforts to restrict the right to vote" — as he does in a new video released by the Democratic National Committee — the former president knows of what he speaks.
In the segregationist South of Clinton's youth, the enemies of the universal franchise were Democrats, but times have changed. Not just below the Mason-Dixon Line but across the country, it is Republicans who have sought to limit ballot access and discourage participation by minorities, the poor, the young and anyone else who might vote for a Democratic candidate.
No doubt this is why, at long last, the Democratic Party has launched a national organizing project, spearheaded by Clinton, to educate voters, demand reforms, and push back against restrictive laws. Returning to his role as the nation's "explainer-in-chief," Clinton may be able to draw public attention to the travesty of voter ID requirements and all the other tactics of suppression used by Republicans to shrink the electorate.
His first task is to debunk the claims of "voter fraud," fabricated by Republican legislators and right-wing media outlets, as the rationale for restrictive laws. Lent a spurious credibility by the legendary abuses of old-time political machines, those claims make voter suppression seem respectable and even virtuous.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The dream of a comfortable retirement is dying for many Americans. It's being extracted as a form of tribute to the very rich, a redistribution of our nation's wealth, a "tax" imposed on the middle and lower classes and paid for with their retirement savings.
1. A $6.8 Trillion Retirement Deficit in America. But $8 Trillion in New U.S. Wealth Was Created in 2013.
The problem is that most of the new financial wealth went to the richest 10% (almost 90 percent of all stocks excluding fast-disappearing pensions). Basically you already had to be rich to share in the new wealth, and the people taking the wealth can defer taxes as long as they want, and then pay a smaller rate than income earners. Meanwhile, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security, Americans are at least $6.8 trillion short of what they need for a comfortable retirement.
2. $6,500 is the Median Retirement Fund for Upper-Middle-Class 50- to 64-Year-Olds.
That's based on an analysis of the second-highest quartile of Americans by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. It may get worse before it gets any better. The percentage of 75- to 84-year-old seniors falling into poverty doubled from 2005 to 2009. That was BEFORE the recession. And the number of elderly Americans, notes the Administration on Aging, is steadily rising, likely by 75 percent between 2010 and 2030, to almost 70 million people.
REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It seems every week or so you can hear language borrowed from the War On Terror, the Salem Witch Hunts and the McCarthy hearings. Some prosecutor is hurling invective at fossil fuel resisters, who sit in the courtroom with their pro bono lawyers, staring with the disbelief of newcomers to the evils of the plunderers of our Earth -- and the collusion of our government with them.
We know that there are heroes like the Sea Shepherd sailors, the Arctic 30, and Tim "Bidder 70" DeChristopher. Although some of these activists are young, we tend to think of them as veterans who are making a stand for the rest of us. But an increasing movement seems to be building, in which the heroes are people who might be described as local activists. These are volunteer citizens who oppose fossil fuel projects near where they live - who resist with their bodies because they don't have the money to pull the strings in government like the fossil fuel industry. Something about these under-equipped protesters is making Big Oil go crazy.
Three Michigan women - Lisa Leggio, Barbara Carter, and Vicci Hamlin - chained themselves to an excavator in the little town of Mason. They were polite in that Midwestern way throughout their protest of Enbridge, the Canadian firm that leaked 800,000 gallons of oil in their community, and can't seem to clean it up. After the conviction was read, Judge William Collette, a Republican and former bomber pilot, marched the ladies - one of them a great-grandmother - straight to jail from their defense table, despite their intentions to appeal.
Here we have a signature tactic of fossil fuel injustice. Call it "overcharging," accusing nonviolent defendants of felonious crimes that will later be dropped, but meanwhile holding them in prison because the bail is too high. In this way, the personal turmoil in the families of the accused is maximized.