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Tuesday, 20 October 2015 07:40

Obama Cancels Arctic Drilling Leases


aaaArcticBears(Photo: Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs, US-Navy)It just keeps getting better and better for the Arctic. First, Shell Oil pulled the plug on its horrific current drilling effort there two weeks ago.

Now the Obama administration has taken its first concrete steps to reduce future threats. Yesterday, it cancelled new lease sales scheduled for next year and 2017 in our Polar Bear Seas—the Chukchi and Beaufort—off the north Alaskan coast. And just said “No” to extension requests from Shell and others holding existing leases in the region.

This is big. Up to now, the federal government has treated Arctic Ocean drilling as a done deal. As recently as last May, the President tweeted: “we can’t prevent oil exploration completely in region.”

His administration focused on excluding some high value areas and saying drilling would be subject to high standards. It tentatively proposed to allow more leasing in the Arctic Ocean (and the Atlantic) after 2017.

But the tide has changed. Shell made a spectacle of itself, rushing to drill. Mother Nature asserted herself. Human error propagated in the harsh conditions.

Kayaktivists spotlighted Arctic drilling as a climate issue—rightly, because huge new investments in dirty fuels can’t be harmonized with accelerating the shift to a clean energy future.


aaaaaaaaaaaaaaecinjuFour years after the Occupy uprising, economic inequality in the United States continues to soar. (Photo: Coco Curranski)


Bernie Sanders showed his outrage about inequality at the Democratic Debate, and more and more Americans are understanding his message. Indignation is likely to grow with new data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, which reveals the wealthy elite's continuing disdain for the poor, for the middle class, and for people all around the world. 

Some of the most troubling disparities are hidden in the myriad tables of this remarkably comprehensive publication. The purpose here is to translate the numbers into wealth gap realities that victimize the great majority of Americans. Details can be viewed at You Deserve Facts

1. At the Bottom: Of the Half-Billion Poorest Adults in the World, One out of Ten is an American

That seems impossible, with so many extremely poor countries, and it requires a second look at the data, and then a third look. But it's true. In the world's poorest decile (bottom 10%), one out of ten are Americans, many of whom are burdened with so much debt that any remnant of tangible wealth is negated. Other nations have high debt, most notably in Europe, but without an excessive burden on their poorest citizens. 

Incredibly, then, nearly 50 million of America's 243 million adults are part of the world's poorest 10%. In contrast, over 110 million American adults are among the world's richest 10%.  


aaaExxonOilSpill(Photo: Magnus Manske)I’m well aware that with Paris looming it’s time to be hopeful and I’m willing to try. Even amid the record heat and flooding of the present, there are good signs for the future in the rising climate movement and the falling cost of solar.

But before we get to past and present there’s some past to be reckoned with and before we get to hope there’s some deep, blood-red anger.

In the last three weeks, two separate teams of journalists—the Pulitzer-prize winning reporters at the website Inside Climate News and another crew composed of Los Angeles Times veterans and up-and-comers at the Columbia Journalism School—have begun publishing the results of a pair of independent investigations into ExxonMobil.

Though they draw on completely different archives, leaked documents and interviews with ex-employees, they reach the same damning conclusion: Exxon knew all that there was to know about climate change decades ago and instead of alerting the rest of us denied the science and obstructed the politics of global warming.

Thursday, 15 October 2015 07:02

Another US Nuke Bites the Dust


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The chain reactor operator Entergy has announced it will close the Pilgrim nuke south of Boston. The shut-down will bring U.S. reactor fleet to 98, though numerous other reactors are likely to face abandonment in the coming months.

But Entergy says it may not take Pilgrim down until June 1, 2019—nearly four years away.

Entergy is also poised to shut the FitzPatrick reactor in New York. It promises an announcement by the end of this month.

Entergy also owns Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 some 40 miles north of Manhattan. Unit 2’s operating license has long since lapsed. Unit 3’s will expire in December.

Meanwhile California’s two reactors at Diablo Canyon are surrounded with earthquake faults. They are in violation of state and federal water quality laws and are being propped up by a corrupt Public Utilities Commission under fierce grassroots attack. With a huge renewable boom sweeping the state, Diablo’s days are numbered—and hopefully will shut before the next quake shakes them to rubble.

2015.15.10 BF Koehler(Photo: www.ruffrootcreative.com)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

“The Pentagon said on Saturday that it would make ‘condolence payments’ to the survivors of the American airstrike earlier this month on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, Afghanistan, as well as to the next of kin of those who died in the attack.”

Such a small piece of news, reported a few days ago by the New York Times. I’m not sure if anything could make me feel more ashamed of being an American.

Turns out the basic payout for a dead civilian in one of our war zones is . . . brace yourself . . . $2,500. That’s the sum we’ve been quietly doling out for quite a few years now. Conscience money. It’s remarkably cheap, considering that the bombs that took them out may have cost, oh, half a million dollars each.

If we valued human life, we would never go to war. Everybody knows this. It’s the biggest open secret out there, buried under endless public relations blather and — since the bombing of the hospital in Kunduz on Oct. 3, and the killing of 22 staff members and patients — a sort of international legalese.

Is it “really” a war crime? Simply asking the question implies that the law has a certain objective reality.

“The mere fact that civilians are killed, that a hospital is damaged, doesn’t automatically mean that there has been a war crime,” according to John Bellinger, a former legal adviser to the State Department, as quoted last week by National Public Radio. “It only becomes a war crime if it is shown that the target was intentionally attacked.”


aaaBushObamaTPP(Photo: Eric Draper)The negotiations and the sales push behind Washington's latest (and biggest) "free trade" agreement amounts to Kabuki theater.

What theater? Kabuki. It's a 17th-century form of Japanese drama, featuring elaborate sets and costuming, rhythmic dialogue and stylized acting and dancing. That does, indeed, nicely sum up the White House's production of the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Its negotiations have been set in luxury resorts around the world, covered by elaborate secrecy; insiders wear the costumes of global corporate power; trade officials parrot rhythmic dialogue about high standards and incredible benefits for all. And the president himself is the main actor, dramatically proclaiming that TPP is "the most progressive" trade deal ever, and now he's doing a stylized political dance in hopes of winning congressional approval.

What a phenomenal show!

But it doesn't seem to be selling. Recent polls show broad public opposition to any more of these same old trade schemes, not only among Democrats, but independents and Republicans, too. Ten of the 2016 presidential candidates are against the deal. The counter movement is led by Democratic contender Bernie Sanders, who calls it flat-out "disastrous," and by GOP frontrunner Donnie Trump who dubs it "a horrible deal." Even corporate darling Carly Fiorina is "very uncomfortable with this deal." Congressional opposition is strong, and even Ford Motor Company — which was one of the corporate giants allowed inside the negotiations — has blasted it, calling on Congress to vote no.

Inexplicably, Obama views passage of this democracy-strangling corporate boondoggle as his "legacy-making" achievement, even though the only real support he has for it are Republican congressional leaders and the global corporate establishment. That's not just Kabuki; it's kooky. As the old aphorism puts it: "Tell me with whom you walk, and I'll tell you who you are."


aaaCAdroughtEcoWatch(Photo: Tomas Castelazo)The Center for Investigative Reporting has outed California's biggest residential water users in The Wet Prince of Bel Air: Who Is California's Biggest Water Guzzler? The report, published earlier this month, found 365 California households each used more than 1 million gallons of water from April 2014 to April 2015.

"One million gallons is enough for eight families for a year, according to a 2011 state estimate, and many of California's mega-users pumped far more than that," says The Center for Investigative Reporting. "Of the total, 73 homes used more than 3 million gallons apiece, and another 14 used more than 6 million." The biggest user used a shocking 11.8 million gallons of water. City Lab points out that's as much water as 90 households use in an average year and enough water to fill 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

State officials would not reveal the names or addresses of these users out of privacy concerns. They would only give their zip codes. Bel Air tops the list with four of the five biggest water users in the state. The wealthy LA neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Westwood round out the top 10.

"San Diego's posh La Jolla beachfront community" and the "affluent suburbs of Contra Costa County in the Bay Area" also have a high concentration of what The Center for Investigative Reporting refers to as "mega-users."

Tuesday, 13 October 2015 10:45

Another Tea Party Assault on Democracy


aaaCarlPopeTeaParty(Photo: EcoWatch)The House Freedom Caucus is correct in lamenting that the media have trivialized their true goals by focusing on the personality of the next Speaker of the House. They are wrong to believe that a focus on their deep agenda would help their cause—for that agenda is to restore minority, not democratic, control of the “People’s House.”

The Tea Party wing of the House Republican party is seeking changes in the rules and procedures, changes designed to strip the Speaker of the ability to assemble a majority within the House and enable that majority to govern. They cloak their demands in the language of bottom-up democracy—let members offer whatever amendments they desire, let committees choose their own chairs, deny the Speaker the ability manage the flow of legislation on the House floor.

But their complaints about John Boehner’s leadership give away the game. Boehner, they claim, has betrayed conservatism by seeking legislative outcomes like lifting the debt ceiling or funding highways. These bills transparently enjoyed not only the support of a majority of the House, but a support of a majority of the Republican caucus. But to the Freedom Caucus these are treasonous compromises.

What the Freedom Caucus seeks is not more democracy, but a House in which a minority – actually 10 percent—of the House can shut down the government and destroy the full faith and credit of the U.S. government—unless in response to this blackmail wildly unpopular policies like defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Affordable Health Care are part of the package.


aaaAmFlag(Photo: John P. Salvatore)American 'exceptionalism' exists in the minds of super-patriots who are more than willing to overlook their own faults as they place themselves above other people. The only question may be which of their self-serving hypocrisies is most outrageous and destructive. 

1. Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits, Asking Taxpayers to Pay Their Employees' Wages 

Citizens for Tax Justice just reported that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore for tax purposes, with estimated taxes due of over $600 billion. But high-profile businessmen Peter Georgescu and Warren Buffett both recently recommended that government subsidies be used to increase worker wages, and Marco Rubio agreed, suggesting that government should pay the sick leave for corporate employees. 

Georgescu proclaimed: "This country has given me remarkable opportunities.." In return, he concludes, taxpayers should "provide tax incentives to business." 

2. Mourning American Lives, But Not Foreign Lives 

Two days after President Obama expressed grief and anger about the Oregon school shootings, a hospital in Afghanistan was bombed by the U.S., killing 22 people. Our government admitted its mistake. But we haven't apologized for funding Saudi Arabia's attacks in Yemen, which are killing hundreds of civilians. Or for our drone strikes in Pakistan, which led one 13-year-old to say, "I no longer love blue skies...The drones do not fly when the skies are gray." 

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman assured us that "If necessary, the President would implement changes that would make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future." But these are empty words. Professor Marc Herold'sresearch has shown that "as the U.S. bombs get smarter, civilian casualties increase." The military is encouraged to "drop bombs on sites which previously might not have been hit for fear of causing widespread civilian deaths."


aaaAR15MassShootings(Photo: TheAlphaWolf)Shortly after the mass murders at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Ore., President Obama predictedthe extreme right wing would crank out press releases declaring the nation needs fewer gun control laws and more guns.

The rabid pro-gun lobby didn’t disappoint him.

Shortly after the mass murders in a Charleston, S.C., church in June, NRA board member Charles Cotton, an attorney who fired his first shot when he was four years old, had claimedif the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator “had voted to allow gun owners to carry their own weapons [into churches], eight of his church members  . . . might be alive.” After the shootings in Oregon, Cotton saidhad the students been carrying guns, there would have been no mass murder. “How carefree do you have to be with all of the mass shootings that are going on throughout America to not have something as simple and convenient as a small knife when you go to class, let alone a gun with which to protect yourself?” Cotton asked.

The Republican presidential herd called for even more guns in a culture that has made Americans inured to violence. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush said, “Stuff happens.”

One absurdity of arming all of America is that there are no requirements that anyone with a gun needs to know how to use that gun. The possibility of any one person with a hand gun being able to react faster than the shooter, be more accurate than the shooter, or not accidentally wounding or killing others is high. Heavily armed police, better trained in weapons than most Americans, did not kill the shooter, who wore body armor; the shooter killed himself.

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