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Thursday, 13 March 2014 08:52

Ukraine, the Cheneyites, and Permanent War

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaUkraineCrisis2014(Photo: Amakuha)On March 5, 2014, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.com presented a very well-documented case for the hypothesis, long-standing on the Left in the U.S. and around the world as well, that the principal reason the U.S. invaded Iraq was for oil. (It had also been thought that the invasion had as a goal establishing permanent military bases in the Western Iraqi desert).

Of course it was known before the invasion that Iraq had no "weapons of mass destruction." That had been well-documented by the team led by the Chief UN Weapons Investigator Hans Blix. Thus it was widely known at the time that the reason(s) given for the invasion were bogus. (To its credit, in 2013 MSNBC also ran a documentary on the selling of the Iraq War).

Indeed, given the preoccupation with petroleum products and policy of the then chief driver of U.S. foreign policy, Dick Cheney, that it was really for oil (and bases) was a very reasonable proposition. Ms. Maddow has now provided much evidence that it was the case.

Nevertheless, for quite some time I have felt that beyond oil and bases the primary reason for the invasion, coming as it did on the relative heels of the Neo-cons' wished-for "next Pearl Harbor" 9/11, and with the (totally bogus) claim that "Saddam was behind 9/11," was to help establish a U.S. policy of Permanent War. And so we come to Ukraine.

 

Thursday, 13 March 2014 06:49

Detroit USA: Poster City for Abandonment

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AbandonedHouseDetroit(Photo: Notorious4life)White flight, corporate flight . . .

I grew up just outside Detroit and have felt an ache in my heart for this bleeding city for so many years now. It's long been one of the country's designated loser cities, beginning in the 1960s, when change hit it hard. The phrase at the time was "urban blight," a social cancer with unexamined causes that, in the ensuing years, has gotten progressively worse.

A year ago this week, the city, which is predominantly African-American, lost its self-governance when the Republican governor of Michigan appointed an emergency financial manager, an overboss with powers superseding that of all elected officials — including the ability to rewrite laws, break contracts, privatize services and much more — on the premise that only an autocrat could straighten out the city's disastrous finances. Four months later, Detroit made headlines as the largest city to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, but of course it wasn't "the city" that did so; it was the emergency manager.

The city, in all its soul and complexity, had been reduced to a single voice: the voice of austerity and, of course, corporate interests.

"If the city filed for bankruptcy, and was arguing in its own interest," activist Detroit pastor Bill Wylie-Kellermann wrote recently in The Catholic Worker, "the banks and the pensioners and the unions, would all be on a level playing field. Instead the banks have been dealt with up front, offered 80 cents on the dollar. The city pensioners were offered 10 cents."

JP SOTTILE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aukraineUkranian protests in late 2013 (Photo: Wikipedia)Everybody’s got an opinion about the “showdown” with Russia.

Some say it’s about freedom and the right to self-determination. Some say it’s about standing up to aggression and halting a dictator’s march. Some say it’s about the future of everything—from Syria to North Korea to Iran’s nuclear program—and, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, it all stems from Obama’s failure to kill the people who killed Americans at Benghazi.

But the most-revealing voice in the chorus is Condi Rice.

She penned a tension-filled op-ed on Ukraine for the Washington Post—the newspaper of broken records. Her nostalgic, “Baby, It’s a Cold War Outside” ditty on the “Ukrainian Problem” came just two days after a Teflon-coatedHenry Kissinger opined about the “art of establishing priorities” in his own Ukraine-themed op-ed for the Post.

As the world learned through painful experience, Condi Rice, much like Henry Kissinger, was all about establishing priorities. But now that she’s out of power, why should anyone waste any time considering Ms. Rice’s opinion about anything, much less about the “crisis” in Ukraine?

Why? Because it’s telling.

Like most American Exceptionalists, her bluster and posturing can be reverse-engineered to find the banal truth about U.S. foreign policy. For example, her steadfast belief that Ukraine “should not be a pawn in a great-power conflict but rather an independent nation” might have something to do with Chevron’s 50-year lease to develop Ukraine’s shale gas reserves.

Pipes for the Keystone pipeline in Nebraska, August 13, 2009. (Photo <a href=" http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pipes_for_keystone_pipeline_in_2009.jpg" target="_blank"> via Wikimedia Commons </a>)Pipes for the Keystone pipeline in Nebraska, August 13, 2009. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Office Of Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. State Department has determined that all of the corruption that was entailed in the preparation of the Hillary Clinton State Department's two Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) on the TransCanada corporation's proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, and that is still present in the John Kerry State Department's final EIS, was legal.

Prior to issuing that judgment, the Sierra Club (SC) and Friends of the Earth (FOE) had written to the IG alleging that the company that the Hillary Clinton State Department had chosen to write the second of the two draft EISs, Environmental Resource Management Group Inc. (ERM), and that was heavily involved in writing the John Kerry State Department's "Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Project," should have been disqualified from involvement in it, because:

"The State Department improperly selected ERM without conducting any independent inquiry into potential conflicts of interest, thus ignoring previous OIG [Office of the Inspector General] recommendations and its own Interim Guidance procedures."

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Archery(Photo: Traumrune)Despite being swatted around more in the past few years than any other time in its forty-plus year history, despite the organization's past and current operations finally becoming of interest to mainstream journalists, despite it's bleeding sponsors, and despite being directly linked to the odious and controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws in more than twenty states, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – a Republican Party-oriented lobbying group -- is launching an ambitious new initiative aimed at expanding its influence by providing model legislation to governments in villages, cities, towns and counties across the country.

The new ALEC-sponsored initiative is being called the American City County Exchange (ACCE). On the ALEC website the organization is already touting ACCE as "America's fastest-growing volunteer membership organization of policymakers from villages, towns, cities and counties. ACCE works with local officials to promote efficiency and minimize waste by implementing limited government, free market solutions."

According to the Guardian's Ed Pilkington, ACCE "is looking to take its blueprint for influence over statewide lawmaking and drill it down to the local level."

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aCrimeaCrisis(Photo: VOA)When the new Ukrainian prime minister visits the White House this week, President Obama should offer continued support -- but also ask pointedly why several far-right ultra-nationalists have such prominent roles in Ukraine's new government.

I don't know of any reason to doubt Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's commitment to democracy and pluralism. The same cannot be said for some other members of the provisional regime that is trying to reverse Russia's grab of the Crimean Peninsula.

Oleksandr Sych, one of three vice prime ministers, is a member of the controversial Svoboda party, whose leader charged that Ukraine was being controlled by a "Muscovite-Jewish mafia" before last month's revolution. Members of Svoboda also run the agriculture and environment ministries. Last year, the World Jewish Congress called on the European Union to consider banning what it considered neo-Nazi parties, including Svoboda.

The head of the National Security and Defense Council, in charge of the armed forces, is Andriy Parubiy, who founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine, an openly neo-fascist precursor to Svoboda. Parubiy's deputy is Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sector, a far-right paramilitary group that clashed violently with the security forces of deposed leader Viktor Yanukovych.

All of which is to say that the situation in Ukraine is not as simple as it might seem.

Worker drills for natural gas on high-efficiency flex rig. (Photo: <a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/energytomorrow/3459664743/"target="_blank"> EnergyTomorrow / Flickr</a>)Worker drills for natural gas on high-efficiency flex rig. (Photo: EnergyTomorrow / Flickr)WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The oil and gas industry, the nation's chambers of commerce, and politicians who are dependent upon campaign contributions from the industry and the chambers, claim fracking is safe.

First, close your mind to the myriad scientific studies that show the health effects from fracking.

Close your mind to the well-documented evidence of the environmental impact.

Focus just upon the effects upon the workers.

The oil and gas industry has a fatality rate seven times higher than for all other workers, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control. (CDC). According to the CDC, the death rate in the oil and gas industry is 27.1; the U.S. collective death rate is 3.8.

"Job gains in oil and gas construction have come with more fatalities, and that is unacceptable," said John E. Perez, secretary of labor.

Grand Canyon National Park. (Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/82763263@N00/2977674446/in/photolist-5x8mSA-8JAp9i-dMHPPW-dM1aSG-4Dwun9-4DsmRp-4DwQRd-4DwRN7-4DsmUr-4DshPx-4DwAej-4Dsj2K-4DsfwZ-4DwwAb-dLUBEn-4Dsdhn-bPQxaK-uB4ah-bAVVBC-bPQwHV-bAW1Sw-bAW1j3-bAW1B5-bPQC86-bAVVnu-bPQD9c-bAVYHJ-bAVZB5-bAVZQW-bPQCmi-bAVpUm-bAVTmW-9C7TED-fdyEtC-fdjkji-9vg3yH-5g6b6t-5gapVS-9vg46V-5g68zK-bZHouE-5gaut5-bZH8FC-9vg2yx-bZHmV7-9vj6vN-9vj5GE-9vg1R6-5garJo-9vg33z-5g66SV"target="_blank"> B Rosen / Flickr</a>)Grand Canyon National Park. (Photo: B Rosen / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We may have once believed that the darkest days were behind us, and that slow and steady progress for middle-class workers would continue to be made. But greed and good sense are forever in competition. Gains made in our country's progressive years are, a century later, once again in serious jeopardy.

1. The Commons: A Toll Gate in the Grand Canyon

In the early 1900s the Grand Canyon had been taken over by speculators, especially Ralph Henry Cameron, an entrepreneur and soon-to-be Arizona Senator who laid claim to much of the canyon land. He built a hotel on the main trail, set up a toll gate, and even charged exorbitant prices for water at the steamy canyon bottom.

We're heading back in that direction, and we don't have Teddy Roosevelt to knock some sense into Congress. Attempts to privatize federal land were made by the Reagan administration in the 1980s and the Republican-controlled Congress in the 1990s. In 2006, President Bush proposed auctioning off 300,000 acres of national forest in 41 states. Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity has proposed to sell millions of acres of "unneeded federal land," and the libertarian Cato Institute demands that our property be "allocated to the highest-value use." Representative Cliff Stearns recommended that we "sell off some of our national parks." Mitt Romney admitted that he didn't know "what the purpose is" of public lands.

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aOilRigChina(Photo: Phreakster)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 latest advances in green energy technology, there's absolutely no excuse for not legislating rapid shifts to clean energy by 2020.

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

aSlavesForSale(Photo: New York Public Library)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.

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