Guest Commentary (5218)
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In the past year, we've seen a burst of audacious political assertiveness coming out of Old Dixie, and I'm not talking about those Trumpeteering, tiki-torch-brandishing, tinhorn KKKers the media focuses on. The real story is that a fresh, "Reclaim the South" movement of young African-American populists is emerging, kindling long-suppressed hope in the racially scarred Deep South and offering the possibility of real economic and cultural progress.
Guess who's mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, the state's capitol city? Chokwe Antar Lumumba — a black, 34-year-old lawyer who was raised in Jackson in a family and community of longtime Black Power activists. Last June, backed by Our Revolution and Working Families Party, Lumumba was elected with 93 percent (!) of the vote, and he promptly pledged to make Jackson "the most radical city on the planet." By radical, he means aggressively innovative in developing policies and programs focused directly on lifting up Jackson's middle-class and poor residents, rather than adopting the failed trickle-down model of nearly every other city. For example, instead of giving away government subsidies to lure rich corporations, Lumumba is trying to make the city a national showcase of home-grown cooperative enterprises owned by the people themselves.
ELLIOT D. COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Friday, February 9, President Donald J. Trump blocked release of the Democratic Party’s ten-page Russia memo that attempts to rebut the Republican Russia memo, and sent it back to the House Intelligence Committee for redaction. The President has alleged that the memo contains sensitive information that cannot be released. However, the President has a conflict of interest that arguably legally disqualifies him from making such a decision in the first place.
Trump released the Republican memo even though the FBI warned that it contained sensitive information that could jeopardize national security. In fact, he announced that he would release it apparently before he even read it. Then, after releasing it, he tweeted that it “totally vindicated” him and showed that there was “no collusion” between him and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Now, Trump refuses to release the Democratic memo which attempts to refute the validity of the Republican memo, alleging that it contains sensitive information that could jeopardize national security. However, Trump can’t have it both ways. His impartiality in deciding against releasing the Democratic memo can therefore be reasonably questioned in light of his double standard. It is not remarkable, therefore, that the question may be raised as to whether permitting a sitting president such authority is even legal. In fact, there is federal law that may disqualify Trump from attempting to make a decision involving even the appearance of such a conflict of interest.
According to paragraph (a) of 28 U.S. Code § 455 (‘Disqualification of justice, judge, or magistrate judge”), “any…magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Further, the President of the United States serves as the nation’s “Chief Magistrate.” The president is the chief magistrate of the United States just as the governors are the chief magistrates of their respective states. A Chief Magistrate is “the head of the executive department of government of a nation, state, or municipal corporation.” Indeed, this judicial, discretionary authority to make judgments within the confines of the Constitution was adopted from English law and asserted from the nation’s very inception by Alexander Hamilton and George Washington.
There is no doubt that in deciding whether it would even be lawful to release the Democratic memo, and if so, in what form, Trump would be exercising judicial discretion in his capacity as Chief Magistrate.
KEN JONES FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As the bus was taking our accompaniment delegation to Honduras to the airport for our return home, it stopped by the offices of Radio Progreso. Piling on to the bus came some twenty staff members of the station to bid us goodbye. Each of them greeted us with an embrace, a kiss, or a clasp of hands expressing heartfelt gratitude for our having come to be with them at this dangerous and chaotic time in their country. It was a striking gesture of affection that deeply touched us, the visiting delegates.
We came to this country at the urgent request of SHARE El Salvador, a humanitarian aid organization with a long history of solidarity work in Central America. Police and military repression in Honduras since the overtly fraudulent elections in November 2017 has been getting worse, with over thirty people killed and more than one thousand in jails. Death threats aimed at those who are raising their voices the loudest are getting more overt and intense.
ELLIOT D. COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In one of those rare occasions when politicians think no one is listening, we may hear what the proverbially fly on the wall hears. During such a candid camera moment, Paul Ryan and other Republican Party leaders have recently given us insight into what they really think about how the Russians are seeking to undermine the stability of democratic nations. What emerges is a picture of an intricate Russian game of political chess in which governments are turned against themselves in bloodless, invisible coups. What is most chilling is that Paul Ryan and company are willing to silently acquiesce as it happens in the United States.
On June 15, 2016, one month before Trump officially became the Republican presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, and Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers were recorded speaking after Ryan and McCarthy had come from a meeting with Ukraine Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman. "He has this very interesting riff," said Ryan, referring to Groyman,"people have said they have Ukraine fatigue and its really Russia fatigue because what Russia is doing is doing to us, financing our populists, financing people in our governments to undo our governments, you know, messing with our oil and gas energy, all the things Russia does to basically blow up our country, they're just going to roll right through us and go to the Baltics and everyone else."
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Why does Donald Trump constantly preface his outlandish lies with such phrases as: "To be honest with you," "To tell the truth" and "Believe me"?
Because even he knows that as a lifelong con-man, his voice takes on the tone of a snake-oil salesman when he starts exaggerating and prevaricating, so he reflexively tries to puff up his credibility with an extra dose of bluster: "No really, trust me, I never lie..." In fact, just in the past year, Trump's documented whoppers rank him as the lyingest president in U.S. history. And that included Nixon!
It's not the volume of his fabrications that is so gross, but their enormity. Most damnable of all has been his masquerading as a golden-haired billionaire "populist" who's standing up for America's hard-hit middle class against Wall Street, corporate lobbyists and moneyed elites — a carefully crafted PR pose that has duped many working stiffs into thinking he is their champion.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While hypocrisy runneth over at the White House on numerous fronts, it is particularly glaring when it comes to the issue of immigration. However, thanks to Jennifer Mendelsohn, the woman behind the #resistancegenealogy movement, we know a lot more about the immigrant experiences of the families of some of the administration's – and their media acolytes' -- most strident anti-immigrant voices. And those histories are chock full of the very things the administration has been critical of, including so-called chain migration, the inability to speak English, and the coming to this country to seek work, any kind of work.
In a mid-January Politico piece, titled "How Would Trump's Immigration Crackdown Have Affected His Own Team?", Mendelsohn, a Baltimore, Maryland-based free-lance writer, discussed her work tracking the family histories of anti-immigrant advocates. To put her work in perspective, she cited a comment – that appeared in a 2016 Chicago Sun-Times editorial -- by immigration historian Tyler Anbinder: "From the days of the Puritans to the present, every generation of Americans has believed that the latest wave of immigrants is completely different from—and inferior to—their own immigrant ancestors and could never become true Americans."
ROBERT F. DODGE MD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While elected officials of our increasingly dysfunctional democracy debated "memogate," the world became more dangerous as Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review was officially released on Friday, February 2. Ignoring scientific studies of the past decade and growing global sentiment by the world's non-nuclear states to abolish nuclear weapons, with this announcement the new arms race begins and the Cold War resumes.
Scientific studies have demonstrated the potential catastrophic global environmental effects following a limited regional nuclear war, using just 100 12-kiloton Hiroshima-size weapons (of the 16,300 in the arsenals of the nine nuclear nations, which is approximately one-half of just one percent) that would potentially kill two billion people.
This new Doctrine proposes the development of two new generations of nuclear weapons including "low-yield nukes," Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) and the long-term development of Submarine Launched Cruise Missiles (SLCM). These "low-yield nukes" are 20 kt—same as the larger Nagasaki size bombs that killed more than 70,000 people. Seemingly ignoring the fact that nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons regardless of size with the same horrific initial devastation and radioactive fallout, these weapons are proposed to demonstrate America's resolve in deterring nuclear attack.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
reported that up to 50 million American adults had negative wealth and thus numbered among the poorest 10% of the world's adults. This was disputed by Vox writer Matthew Yglesias, who said, "..that's absurd. The poorest people in the world are the people with rock-bottom material living standards."
It's difficult for many Americans to admit the truth about extreme poverty in our country. Our poorest citizens may not be living in a farming village where they eat millet soup and walk a mile for water. But they have to deal withhomelessness, alcoholism, mental health disease, opioid addiction, stress-inducing indebtedness and inequality, and pollution levels that are the highest in the developed world. All of that makes for rock-bottom living standards.
According to Credit Suisse data over the past three years, anywhere from 4 to 10 percent of the world's poorest decile are Americans. That's 20 to 50 million adults. It's likely that many of them are only temporarily in debt, and that they have a much better chance than a third-world villager to climb out of poverty. But it's just as likely that they'll be replaced by other impoverished Americans, especially with an aging population woefully unprepared for retirement, and with the great majority of new job prospects temporary or contract-based, without security or benefits.
BRYANT WILLIAM SCULOS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Ram ad in Sunday's Super Bowl has been widely denounced across left and liberal media for the use of a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. to sell a truck (even Fox News criticized the ad for not including MLK's advice to only buy affordable cars!).The
The ad raised eyebrows, to say the least, among many viewers for the instrumentalization of Martin Luther King Jr.'s words for commercial purposes. This simple fact did not sit well with people, but it is hardly the first time King's words (and likeness) have been licensed to sell products. Today though people are increasingly discomfited by the use of one of the US's greatest civil rights icon to sell products, and that is surely a sign of progress.
More critical viewers perceived a deeper contradiction at work. King was an outspoken critic of consumerism and, even more explicitly in his later years, of capitalism more generally. The USA Today, Vox, HuffPost and others went further. They discovered that the specific speech used in the commercial actually included a direct criticism of manipulative advertising practices, especially those used to sell cars! Ram's creative marketing team conveniently left that part of the speech out of the commercial.
The above criticisms have echoed across social media -- and completely justifiably so. Ram's use of King's speech to sell a truck is a gross misrepresentation and misuse of one of the greatest Black icons in US history (despite the shocking fact that the company which manages the licensing for King's estate approved the final ad before it aired). But Martin Luther King Jr. was not simply a powerful advocate for civil rights. He was not only a critic of the harms of consumer capitalism. He was also one of the US's greatest antiwar leaders and practitioners of nonviolent resistance.
TOM H. HASTINGS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“Somebody said 'treasonous.' I mean -- yeah I guess, why not. Can we call that treason? Why not. I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much.” -- Donald Trump on Democratic Senators and Congress members who didn’t clap for him in his State of the Union speech.
Really? We have a temporary resident of the White House whose definition of loyalty to the United States of America is loyalty to, and expressed enthusiasm for, his boneheaded ideas and false claims of greatness? We would expect such autocratic monomaniacal pronouncements from Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte, or any other egomaniac warlord. Hitler and Stalin were such demented oppressors. Saddam Hussein, Augusto Pinochet -- the anti-democratic autarchs are easy to name.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Here is a sobering thought: Brian Brown, the notoriously anti-LGBTQ president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), recently penned a fundraising missive to his supporters, claiming the Supreme Court is just one retirement away from banning same-sex marriage. While Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has indicated that she has no plans to retire, Brown speculated that Justice Anthony Kennedy could soon announce his retirement and, in any case, "it's no secret that most of the liberal justices are quite elderly and the cold reality of life is that nobody lives forever."
Over the past year, Brown has been pummeling his supporters with fundraising appeals. According to Fred Karger's February 2017 piece in The Advocate, "NOM filed both of its 990 IRS tax returns late, late last year, and they showed that revenue is way down, to well under $4 million for the combined NOM and the NOM Education Fund. This is down 400 percent from just four years ago when NOM raised and spent over $16 million."
DR. BRIAN MOENCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
$3 billion, and generates tens of billions for the overall economy. The Super Bowl is the country's iconic sports and cultural extravaganza, and I can no longer bring myself to watch it, or any other football game.The Super Bowl is the US's biggest TV night of the year, watched by over 100 million viewers every year. This one game earns the NFL about
I used to play football in little league, and as a teenager. I loved it; it was my favorite sport and I was pretty good at it. I enjoyed the contact, hitting other boys as hard as I could. As a running back, I especially enjoyed running over other boys to make touchdowns. Every Saturday was filled with the thrill of great expectations, every game was exhilarating, every time they handed me the ball I felt like I owned the world. Even when my team lost I felt like I was still on top of the world.
And then I got injured, and had to give up the game at the ripe old age of 13. I was devastated, almost inconsolable. My dreams were shattered. And it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
Maybe because I quit after only three years, I still have decent brain function left. Many others are not so fortunate. Football today has become the equivalent of Roman gladiators, the sacrificing of young men for the guilty pleasures and profit of others.
KEVIN MARTIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Militarism, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently asserted in 1967, is one of our society's "Triple Evils," along with racism and economic exploitation.
Were King alive today, he would surely decry not just the gargantuan nature of the US military, with our war budget over one-third the global total, but also how it's largely unchallenged by the public. Our tax dollars pay for nuclear and conventional military policies that practically guarantee armed conflict and nuclear weapons proliferation, making Americans and the whole world less safe.
With the coerced, cynical "support the troops" faux patriotism (to really support the troops, end the wars, bring them home, and give them better care) there is a psychological colonization at work as well. Given all this, it's hard to escape the reality that the US war machine more or less runs on autopilot.
Understandably, most Americans and even many progressive activists don't think there is much we can do about it, tacitly admitting there is precious little democracy in our foreign and military policies. Elites make decisions inimical to the interests of the vast majority of us, as the largesse lavished on the Pentagon prevents investments in domestic social and environmental priorities.
DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Did you hear the one about the "safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent"? There is, of course, nothing safe or secure about producing, maintaining, or threatening to use nuclear weapons. Nor is there evidence that they have ever deterred anything that the United States wanted deterred.
Trump's State of the Union gave this justification for building more weapons:
"Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values. In confronting these horrible dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict and unmatched power is the surest means of our true and great defense. . . . [W]e must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation or anyone else. Perhaps someday in the future, there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet, sadly."
Now, a rival is just something that you call a rival, and I suppose it can challenge your "values" merely by not sharing them. Perhaps it can challenge your "interests" and "economy" through trade agreements. But those are not acts of war. They don't require nuclear weapons unless you intend to get better trade agreements by threatening genocide. Moreover, there's nothing magical about the moment when the Nonproliferation treaty that the US violates was created, nor about the current moment when the majority of nations are in fact working on a new treaty to ban the possession of nuclear weapons.