Contributing writer Laura Flanders is the host and founder of GRITtv with Laura Flanders, a daily talk show for people who want to do more than talk. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso, 2004) and Blue GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (Penguin Press, 2007). A regular contributor on MSNBC, Flanders has appeared on shows from Real Time with Bill Maher to The O’Reilly Factor. Flanders is the editor of At the Tea Party: The Wing Nuts, Whack Jobs and Whitey-whiteness of the New Republican Right… and Why we Should Take it Seriously (October 2010, OR books). For more information, go to LauraFlanders.com or GRITtv.org.
August 6 marks the anniversary of the US bombing of Hiroshima – which makes it a day to consider power and vulnerability. Johnathan Schell, writing in Yes Magazine, reflects that, "During the Cold War, the principal objection in the United States to a nuclear-weapon-free world was that you could not get there." That objection melted away with the Soviet Union and then the arguments became that because nuclear weapons could not be disinvented, a world free of nukes is "at worst a mirage, at best, highly dangerous"
History shows the opposite, points out Schell. Just look at Iraq or Afghanistan: while the arms race imperils the planet, nuclear weapons haven't helped their possessors vanquish even tiny non-nuclear adversaries.
"If the nuclear powers wish to be safe from nuclear weapons," writes Schelll. "They must surrender their own. Then we will all work together to assure that everyone abides by the commitment."
Vanity Fair has released a cartoon cover online in response to the New Yorker's swipe at the media coverage of the Obamas. The fake Vanity Fair cover shows John McCain, in a walker with a bandaged head and Cindy with a bundle of pills giving her hubby a fist-jab. A portrait of George W. Bush hangs over the mantle-piece; the Constitution is burning in the grate.
Some are finding it funny. I'd say not so much. Worse, it's all wrong. If Vanity Fair's cartoonist wanted to flip the New Yorker cover on the GOP, they'd have to portray the media's lies about the candidate. Not the true stuff.
Sure, she's no drug addict, but the candidate's wife has been forced to admit that she was once addicted to prescription drugs. (She even stole the drugs from her own nonprofit medical relief outfit.) And while McCain doesn't use a walker, it's not as if the media misrepresent his age. Those aren't the media's wrongs where the McCains are concerned. It's not her looks, it's her wealth the media understate, and it's not his physique, it's his politics.
As the Bush administration unveiled a publicly-financed plan to "save" mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, local residents at a town hall forum in Miami were calling for criminal prosecutions of the loan-shark mortgage brokers and investment firms that profited from poor people's housing despair.
It would be hard to think of a better place to hold a public forum on the housing crisis and and sustainable development than Overtown, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Miami, Fla. While Overtown is just minutes from downtown geographically-speaking, it's worlds apart economically and culturally.
On Saturday, The Lyric Theater was host to the second of the five part nationally broadcast town hall series,. Hundreds of community members gathered to talk about how foreclosures, bad loans and gentrification had impacted their city-- and their lives -- and what could be done about it in a town hall forum dubbed, "Magic City; Hard Times."
Democrats and Republicans played out a partisan fight Wednesday over who is to blame for housing hurricane victims in toxic trailers.
Over one million people were displaced after hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Thousands were sent to live in emergency travel trailers that had poisonous levels of formaldehyde. Prolonged exposure can lead to breathing problems and is believed to cause cancer too.
On Wednesday, in Congressional hearings, Democrats said the manufacturers should have taken more tests. Republicans blamed the government for not having set sufficient standards.
U.S. doctors are wondering if this might be the first year since 2002 that Congress won't intervene to keep Medicare fully funded, since lawmakers failed to pass legislation before leaving for their July Fourth recess. The Bush administration said Monday that it will delay Medicare payments to doctors for ten business days to give Congress time to reach a deal to block the cut.
Meanwhile, just coincidentally (or maybe not) some - like Minnesota Senator NOrm Coleman are all steamed up about a GAO report that alleges that thousands of Medicare providers owe more than $2 billion in back taxes. "Crack down on Medicare scofflaws," run the headlines. "It's shocking" says Coleman.
Some Medicare facilities may not be paying out what they should in tax, but if we want to talk about who's making out in our medical system let's keep some perspective.
So much for the Government's much touted commitment to alternative energy. The New York Times reports that the Bush administration has placed a nearly two-year moratorium on the construction of new solar energy projects on public land. While the amount of oil drilling and gas drilling on public land has reached a new high -- the President approved a record 7,100 new licenses in 2007 alone --- the Bureau of Land Management is saying it needs until the spring of 2010 to study the environmental impact solar projects might have on land in Arizona, Nevada, California and other western states.
Meanwhile in other news, the Washington Post reports that the Defense Department is resisting orders to clean up Fort Meade, and two other military bases where "dumped chemicals pose an imminent threat to the public health and the environment." The Pentagon is also in violation of EPA orders to clean up twelve other military sites on the SuperFund list of most polluted spots. The Pentagon doesn't want to follow the law, and guess what, the EPA isn't going to push it. "Under executive branch policy, the EPA will not sue the Pentagon as it would a private polluter." According to the Post, military officials wrote to the DOJ last month to challenge the EPA's authority. And challenged it was.
Do you feel defended? Protected, Managed? I say it's time for some departmental renaming. What do you call a Defense Department that makes you sicker, an environmental protection agency that can't, and a bureau of Land Management that seems to care most about managing threats to the oil and gas industry. You can post your suggestions here.
Free trade... Free oil contracts... There it is again, that cute word "free."
Of 46 international oil companies, including firms from China, India and Russia that had their eye on the first major oil deals in post-Saddam Iraq, guess who got the gig? Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Total and BP!
The western giants got the first-of-a-kind no-bid contracts to service Iraq's biggest fields NOT because the US invaded Iraq for oil. Oh NO. According to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Total et al received the first-of-a-kind, no-bid deals because, of the years of "free" consultations those companies have been giving to the ministry. The ministry also cited a certain "comfort level" in their joint operations. That's the ministry's word.
In times like these, when many people's rights and benefits are shrinking, it's easy for the Right to set us at each other's throats. And if the past is any guide, that's just what we're in for, as Radical religionists fire up their engines against gay marriage. The arguments will be cast in terms of choices and morality, but what it is, make no mistake, is wedge politics.
As the attack on same sex marriage takes off, we're likely to hear all about difference: what entitles some people to the rights and benefits offered by the state -- and not others. But marriage isn't about difference. It's about a common longing to be part of communities that love and care for us. In stressed-out times, that longing for connection -- and protection -- grows particularly sharp. "Belonging's only for some," say some. "Let us in!" say scared-to-death outsiders.
Which brings us to wedge politics. It's great for the state of California to welcome a new group of people into the community of those whose partnerships the state helps and protects. Thanks to the Supreme Court of California and the movements that have pushed this issue forward, the door of belonging has been shoved open a bit. But winning marriage equality in order to access benefits and rights doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot if those longed-for benefits and rights are gurgling down the economic drain or entering the government's shredder.
If there was one topic that focused media attention this weekend, it was the death of one of the industry's own: Tim Russert. Russert's passing provoked praise and grief and mourning across all the media and a good amount of talk about journalism and its practitioners. It's no surprise. Over decades at NBC Russert, host of the flagship Sunday program Meet the Press had become a massively influential media presence.
For me one moment stood out. It was Friday, soon after the news of Russert's death broke. NBC anchor Brian Williams was interviewed on camera from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Calling Russert's death "an unfathomable loss", he appeared to choke up. You could hear the pain in his voice.
Watching him there -- in Afghanistan, but it could as well have been Iraq -- I couldn't help but think. After how many hundreds of thousands dead in the US's two assaults on those two countries -- what if Williams, or Russert or any of the big power news men ever expressed emotion about other deaths. What if we saw them pause and choke up – even once – at the slaughter of an Afghan family in a misguided US missile attack, or swallow hard while reporting the blowing-to-bits of an Iraqi father as he lined up to buy food or find work?
The Windfall Profits Tax Monster Is Back," so headlined the Houston Chronicle. The GOP's defeat of a bill that would have put a 25% excess, or "windfall" profits tax on oil profits led some wags among the oiligopoly to crow that "even a broken clock is right twice a day" (meaning the Senate.)
For a different perspective, listen to Dan Stormer, a lawyer who's representing Nigerian plaintiffs in a case against Chevron. With the economy on the dive and many blaming high oil prices, Stormer, says that when you tally in the blood that's spilled in oil production, oil's price may be far too low. As for "windfall" profits-- that's blood-money.
Ten years ago last month, Nigerian security forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators in the Niger Delta, killing two and injuring others. The people shot were protesting, says Stormer, for nothing more than what they'd been promised: jobs, schools, water they could drink, economic development. Now four Nigerian plaintiffs are suing Chevron in US federal court. Nigerian soldiers were paid by a subsidiary of Chevron, they say, and the company bears responsibility for the murders. Trial dates are set for September.