ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“What struck me” journalist Christian Parenti said in a recent Truthout interview, referring to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, “was the fact that these local towns and states around the region were sending the only resources they had to New Orleans: weapons and militarized gear.
“After 30 years of the War on Drugs and a neoliberal restructuring of the state at the local level, which is not a reduction of the public sector but a transformation of the public sector, the only thing local governments had were weapons.”
Parenti’s observation summed up a deep sense of puzzled frustration I’ve been feeling for a long time, which has been growing in intensity since the Reagan era and even more so since 9/11 and the unleashed Bush agenda. Fear, exploited and unchecked, triggers a deep, “rational” insanity. We’re driving ourselves into a new Dark Age.
The driving force is institutional: government, the mainstream media, the military-industrial economy. These entities are converging in a lockstep, armed obsession over various enemies of the status quo in which they hold enormous power; and this obsession is devolving public consciousness into a permanent fight-or-flight mentality. Instead of dealing with real, complex social issues with compassion and intelligence, our major institutions seem to be fortifying themselves – with ever-increasing futility – against their imagined demons.
COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Caritas, a confederation of 165 Catholic charity and aid groups from around the world, holds a general assembly once every four years. This year’s meeting, the first under Francis’ helm, is taking place this week. The Pope used the forum as a time to yet again take a strong environmental stance.
“We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat,” Francis said. “But we must also remind the powerful of the Earth that God will call them to judgment one day, and it will be seen if they truly tried to provide food for him in every person, and if they worked so that the environment would not be destroyed, but could produce this food.”
More news came from the Vatican yesterday when Pope Francis’ closest adviser chastised climate deniers in the U.S., blaming capitalism for their views. Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga criticized groups in the U.S. that have already come out against Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical on climate change.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
President Obama's patronizing criticism of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's ongoing critique of the still officially secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was as illogical as it was sexist. The president's broadside against Warrenthis past Saturday - in which he called her complaints "absolutely wrong" - was a sign that the TPP fast-track trade authority he covets is in trouble.
Obama's fears of Warren's impact on fast-track TPP legislation were realized on Tuesday when the Senate failed to pass a filibuster-proof vote. According to the Associated Press,
Senate Democrats have dealt President Barack Obama a stinging setback [on May 12] on trade by blocking efforts to begin full-blown debate on his initiatives.
All but one Senate Democrat defied the president Tuesday by voting to prevent consideration of his request for "fast track" trade authority. Such authority would let Obama present trade agreements that Congress could ratify or reject, but not amend.
Proponents needed 60 votes to thwart a Democratic filibuster, but managed only 52 in the 100-member Senate.
It is highly likely that when Obama offered his belittling comments about Warren's position, his advisers had already informed him that virtually the entire Democratic Party Senate caucus was going to vote against granting fast-track TPP authority.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The number of people with mental illness who are locked up in US prisons is astounding. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report indicated that more than 700,000 prisoners in state prisons reported symptoms or a history of a mental health disorder at midyear 2005. Additionally, nearly 480,000 people with mental illnesses are incarcerated in city and county jails; nearly double the population of state mental hospitals held 50 years ago.
People with severe mental illness, including major depression, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia comprise up to 25% of local, state and federal prisoners. If prisoners with anxiety and personality disorders are included, the statistics rise to over 50%.
Prisoners, and prison authorities, are dealing with such issues as depressive disorder, manic-depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder.
A recent Urban Institute report titled "The Processing and Treatment of Mentally Ill Persons in the Criminal Justice System -- A Scan of Practice and Background Analysis" stated that, "All too often, they [prisoners with mental illnesses] cycle through the criminal justice system without appropriate care to address their mental health."
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Many of us wonder what possible reason could exist for the failure to invest in American infrastructure, to create millions of jobs as a result, and to help everyone in the long run. Analysis reveals personality traits and beliefs and misconceptions that might account for such behavior. Here's a look inside the billion-dollar brain:
1. It's All About Me
Several studies by Paul Piff and his colleagues have revealed that upper-class individuals tend to be narcissistic, with a clear sense of entitlement. Worse yet, they believe their talents and attributes - genius, even - have earned them a rightful position of status over everyone else.
Scarier yet, according to one study, the American sense of entitlement has been growing over the past 30 years, despite the fact that most of us have lost ground to the super-rich. And most disturbing is that 'upper-class' individuals tend to behave more unethically than average citizens.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Rabbi Daniel Lapin, once a most-favored conservative Rabbi of the Religious Right, has been out of the news cycle since the revelations that he was a close friend, and in a working relationship, with Jack Abramoff, the super-lobbyist who served time in federal prison for corruption. However, when you want to re-insert yourself into the good graces of the Religious Right, there’s nothing better than appearing on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” program, where you can make some pretty loopy claims about liberals and you won’t be challenged.
With redemption in mind, in April, Lapin offered up one of his golden oldies to FRC’s audience: there is a “sexual dimension” to how liberals relate to Islamic extremism, Lapin claimed.
“There are countless studies showing that feminine-type behavior produces an excess of estrogen in men and vice versa,” Lapin said. “Essentially, the left has fallen in love with the masculinity of Islam.”
Lapin went on: “Today, after a 30- or 40-year epidemic of leftism that has swept its sordid stain across America, we’ve become much more feminized and we are attracted to the masculine strength and brutality of Islam. This is the girl in the high school being attracted to the bad, tough guy and that’s really what’s happening. There is no other way that I know of to explain this utterly irrational — and as soon as I said to myself that it’s irrational, I said, where else do you see irrational behavior? When people are sexually attracted you see irrational behavior. On a spiritual level, the feminized American left, show business, politicians, particularly academia, all the people who love Islam, when Christianity and Judaism are exactly the reverse.”
Michael Blake died last week.
You probably don’t know the name.
You probably don’t know about his life.
You probably don’t know most of what he wrote. That’s probably because he didn’t write diet and exercise books. Or cookbooks. Or “feel good” books. Or books about celebrities. Or books that advanced junk science or conspiracy theories.
Michael Blake fused history and social issues, writing about social justice. Writing books that mattered. Writing screenplays that were never produced and then discarded.
He was born in Fort Bragg, N.C.; his father was in the Army, and later became a telephone executive. But it was his mother, Sally, who dominated his life. It was her last name, “Blake,” that he adopted as his own, pushing aside his father’s name, “Webb.”
Michael Blake studied journalism at the University of New Mexico, dropping out in his senior year; he would later study film at the Berkeley Film Institute.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
This year is the 50th anniversary of the rise of the Underground Press. The growth of alternative media across the country in the mid-to-late 1960s was a sudden and unexpected phenomenon. Newspapers appeared in all sorts of places, some, where they might be expected, including Berkeley, California’s The Berkeley Barb (1965), New York City’s The East Village Other (1965), and Chicago, Illinois’ The Chicago Seed (1967). Many other papers popped up in smaller cities and towns, some of which were attached to a college or university, such as Ann Arbor, Michigan’s The Ann Arbor Argus (1969), Madison, Wisconsin’s The Madison Kaleidoscope (1967), and Lawrence, Kansas’ Reconstruction (1969).
The need was manifest to political and social activists: Either the mainstream media ignored important issues of the times -- the growing Vietnam War protest movement, the civil rights movement, New Left politics, issues affecting students on college campuses, the counterculture’s music, drug use and alternative lifestyles -- or their coverage of them was inadequate and often incompetent.
Young people wanted to report the news as they experienced and understood it, and tell their own stories, and that is what they did.
Independent news services, such as Liberation News Service and the Underground Press Syndicate, were created to serve the mushrooming crop of newspapers. At the same time, political organizations, and a number of organizations involved with what was called “the party building movement,” founded their own publications.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The 21st century has skewed off plan and begun to break open. Its self-designated guardians and explainers look on, at times, confused.
“But at least 15 police officers have been hurt, 200 arrests, 144 vehicle fires — these are statistics. There’s no excuse for that kind of violence, right?”
This is CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewing DeRay Mckesson last week as Baltimore convulsed. Mckesson, an organizer and citizen-journalist — a young, former school administrator radicalized last summer by the death of Michael Brown — stared into the camera and refused to succumb to, or be ensnared in, the anchorman’s agenda. That agenda was obvious: to turn “the riot” into the news, to sever Baltimore’s fury and despair from its cause, a militarized police force and the casual, ongoing murder of African-Americans. The official agenda was to portray the protesters as terrorists.
“Yeah, and there’s no excuse for the seven people that the Baltimore City Police Department killed in the last year either, right?” McKesson answered, flipping the interview on its head.
The mainstream news is supposed to be delivered with a ho-hum and a smirk. It’s not supposed to be deep or intelligent. It’s deliberately superficial in most ways in order to avoid making awkward connections — you know, about police violence, militarized society, war. This stuff is all official and necessary (not to mention integral to our economy). The only connections the corporate media ever make are the ties that bad people — our enemies — have to one another, and to ISIS or al-Qaeda.
DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Less than three weeks into her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has already accomplished a stunning feat: She appears to have unified large swaths of the Democratic Party and its activist base to support the core tenets of the Citizens United decision — the one that effectively allowed unlimited money into politics.
That 2010 Supreme Court ruling declared that, unless there is an explicit quid pro quo, the fact that major campaign donors "may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt." The theory is that as long as a donor and a politician do not agree to an overt bribe, everything is A-OK.
When the ruling was handed down, Democrats were outraged, and Hillary Clinton herself has recently suggested she wants it overturned. Yet with revelations that firms with business before Clinton's State Department donated to her foundation and paid her husband, Clinton's campaign and rank-and-file Democratic activists are suddenly championing the Citizens United theory.
In campaign statements and talking points — and in activists' tweets and Facebook comments — the party seems to be collectively saying that without evidence of any explicit quid pro quo, all the Clinton cash is acceptable. Moreover, the inference seems to be that the revelations aren't even newsworthy because, in the words of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, "there's nothing new" here.
To advocates for limiting the influence of money in politics, this pushback from Democrats is particularly rich (pun intended) coming from a party that spent a decade asserting that Republicans raking in cash from Big Oil and pushing oil-friendly policies was rank corruption. The Democratic defense of their presumptive presidential nominee registers as especially disturbing to campaign finance reform advocates considering the mighty efficiency of the Clinton fundraising machine.
Consider a few undisputed facts that we surfaced in our reporting at the International Business Times...