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EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDroneReaper(Photo: Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)In our growing reliance on armed drones as instruments of war, how slippery is the slope we're sliding on? Imagine that Vladimir Putin began using drones to kill Ukrainians who opposed Russia's annexation of Crimea. If Putin claimed the targets were "members of anti-Russian terrorist groups," what credibility would the United States have to condemn such strikes?

This scenario is outlined in a chilling new report released Thursday by a bipartisan panel of military experts. The use of drones against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, begun by the George W. Bush administration and greatly expanded by President Obama, risks becoming "a long-term killing program based on secret rationales," the report warns.

In the hypothetical Ukraine example, the world would demand proof that the individuals killed were indeed terrorists. The report notes that "Russia could simply repeat the words used by U.S. officials defending U.S. targeted killings, asserting that it could not provide any evidence without disclosing sources and methods."

The report was commissioned by the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank, and written by a panel that no one would consider a bunch of woolly-headed pacifists. Co-chairs of the group are retired Gen. John Abizaid, the former head of U.S. Central Command, and Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor. Included are former defense and intelligence officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Thursday, 26 June 2014 09:25

The Loathsome Legacy of Dick Cheney

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCheneySucks(Photo: Magnus Manske)As I started thinking about what I was going to say about Dick Cheney this time around, I also started thinking about how many times in my time with BuzzFlash have I written about one aspect or another of the man's political and policy being. It added up to quite a few. Indeed I have devoted more column space to Cheney than I have to any other US politician, living or dead. The topics have included the CheneyBush war policy in Iraq, "What Cheney is Really About," "Cheney and the Iraq "Surge," the Dick Cheney Torture Defense, Cheney and "bombing the Constitution," what I called [the pernicious legacy of Cheneyism, the permanence of Permanent War (which is the centrepiece of the Cheney Doctrine), and what I called "The Incredible Lightness of Dick Cheney," that is how cleverly the man has been able to get away with everything he has gotten away with. And there were others too.

So all of that on Dick Cheney. "My-oh-my," I said to myself, "how come so many?" The conclusion that I have come to is that Dick Cheney has in fact been the most important U.S. politician and overall policy-maker of the first 14 years of the 21st century. And just now, once again, he has come to the defense of himself and the policies that he has made in his now-famous diatribe against President Obama published recently. It was entitled "The Collapsing Obama Doctrine: Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."

Indeed, rarely has a former Vice-President so bitterly and viciously attacked a sitting US President, a President who just happens to have two very serious foreign policy crises on his hands, in Ukraine and the Middle East. But Cheney is very worried about his legacy. He is very worried about the political future of the one daughter that he has who might, despite her recent bitter loss in Wyoming, be able to carry it on for him. (He is obviously grooming her to be the next Cheney standard bearer on the Republican Right, even to the extent of allowing her to publicly dis her own gay sister and her sister's family.) But most important is what Cheney, as perhaps the most prominent representative of the currently dominant sector of the US ruling class, is so concerned about in terms of national policy. If you want to embody what has become the Military-Industrial-Fossil-Fuels Complex in one person, Cheney is as good as any other. He is fighting very hard to maintain its present hammerlock on the political economy of the United States.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMarinesIraqKoehler(Photo: Lance Corporal Kevin C. Quihuis Jr.)The video opens with a few bars of adrenalin-pumping music. We see a topsy-turvy camera angle, sky, trees, darkness, then a staccato pop pop pop that blends rhythmically with the music, but of course it's gunfire, lots of gunfire, followed by a few urgent words in Arabic, then English. "Down here! Down here!"

This chaotic excitement is Iraq, the evening's International Hot Spot, brought to us by ABC. It's the news, but it's also reality TV and big league sports, rolled into an entertainment package of shocking cluelessness. OMG, ISIS is on the move. It's winning. Stay tuned!

Iraq, Iraq. This is a disaster stamped "made in USA." Worse than that. It's a bleeding stump of a nation that we destroyed in our pursuit of empire, at the cost of multi-trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands or perhaps a million Iraqi lives, and spiritual and physical damage to American troops so profound a new phrase had to be coined: moral injury. And now, our official, moneyed media serve up what's left of Iraq to us as geopolitical entertainment: the moderates (our guys, sort of) vs. the insurgents. Go, U.S.-trained troops! Stand tough and die for American interests, OK?

Of course, as the Washington Post reported earlier this month: "Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the western bank of the city (of Mosul) overnight after U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants."

At some point this year, Schleswig-Holstein is expected to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes. (Photo: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/derohlsen/10405943953/in/photolist-nzxXPH-m7BpBi-6B9omY-iusky6-gRxbAM-m7Bz4z-6GvTeA-jyfSb1-8pXWj5-jyeWht-aFN9fx-2bwKpp-6KEmgq-m7CsTK-anWs9S-6KAdva-aiPd5H-2dq1pj-6KAdcM-9wUh24-f4aonT-cUpwxU-9vzsin-arXs4o-arUNk2-5vpQjM-c4dLMf-e53CSf-69Svzx-arXsh5-8WqdQC-fvBHeA-6CQZVJ-arUKMt-arUTu4-arXvwN-arUTpF-arXvru-arXvoh-arXvhm-arUT58-arUT1z-arXv5b-arXuZU-arUSNH-arXuT1-arUSJz-arUSGX-arUSEn-arUSBX" target="_blank">Stephan Ohlsen / Flickr</a>)At some point this year, Schleswig-Holstein is expected to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes. (Photo: Stephan Ohlsen / Flickr)

BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

While some countries around the world try to figure out how to deploy more clean energy, one German state is planning on having enough renewables for exportation.

Known as Germany’s windiest area, Schleswig-Holstein believes it could provide 100 percent renewable energy at some point this year, Renewables International reported. Producing as much renewable energy as it consumes in total electricity would go a long way toward Schleswig-Holstein meeting the 300-percent renewable goal the state’s Minister-President Torsten Albig announced at an energy conference two years ago.

If Schleswig-Holstein could meet 300-percent renewable energy, it would account for about 8 percent of Germany’s total electricity needs, said Dr. Matthias Lang, who keeps a German energy blog. What’s more, Schleswig-Holstein’s wind growth has taken place in the face of a national energy plan that the state’s energy minister, Robert Habeck, believes isn’t aggressive enough in displacing nuclear power.

(Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/politicalpulse/2800159908/in/photolist-5grxZ7-5gnc7Z-5grxEU-aaAzCA-5g3uwY-5g3pTU-a46PWE-5grxUb-4qziJY-h8vT3E-6tMzEv-7GWScr-8QFXqA-7GWSc4-7GWSd8-yTtoG-mdNPHA-7a1kyg-6LeNbr-5gx8qL-6LeJpr-6LiSz9-6LiTXY-6LiUFE-dqBGf-cDhhgq-cDhfJd-aAjPgj-3ACVWn-5ghYiz-4GnQRy-cDLReb-aAjSbQ-cDLMGy-7a1kRB-4GnQQ7-aAh9XB-6tRHPQ-cDMK3A-cDbKF7-cDhSZ3-cDbML1-cDbMjh-cDMNW5-cDhUch-cDMQcs-cDLZro-cDMSLd-cDMRps-cDMMzq" target="_blank">WEBN-TV / Flickr</a>)(Photo: WEBN-TV / Flickr)

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Let's check our weaponry: 93,000 machine guns — check! — 533 planes and helicopters — check! 180,000 magazine cartridges — check! 44,000 night-vision goggles — check! 432 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles — check! OK, let's roll!

Only, this is not the U.S. military getting ready to head into battle in a foreign land. It's our local police departments patrolling our cities, towns and college campuses. Remember "Officer Friendly," the beat cops who were known as "peace officers" and were counted on to uphold our domestic laws, detect and investigate crimes, and be a helpful, non-threatening presence in our communities? The friendlies have largely been transformed into militarized forces, literally armed with and garbed in war gear and indoctrinated in military psychology, rather than the ethic of community policing.

From 1776 forward, Americans have wisely opposed having soldiers do police work on our soil, but in recent years, Pentagon chiefs have teamed up with police chiefs to circumvent that prohibition. How? Simply by militarizing police departments.

BRIAN J. TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaColored(Photo: John Vachon)Voting rights was a priority of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. The struggle to secure these rights achieved real traction and impact in the early 1960s. While the Jim Crow South was rife with voter suppression, there was no place more in need of voting reforms than Mississippi. Although black Mississippians comprised nearly 50 percent of the state's population in 1960, less than 7 percent of its eligible black constituency was registered to vote, representing the lowest percentage in the union. In some counties, no blacks were registered to vote. Despite ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment ninety years early, terrorist tactics – from fear and intimidation to beatings and lynchings – prevented blacks from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Later, legislation in several states, i.e., the passage of state constitutional amendments beginning in 1890, severely restricted black voter participation – through measures such as poll taxes, background checks and literacy tests. By 1960, the southern black population had been politically disenfranchised for almost a century.

To effect social and political change for equality in voting, civil rights leaders understood that the Movement needed to challenge the status quo of racial intolerance being advanced by groups like the Citizens' Councils, a national network of pro-segregationists formed in 1954 following the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education. The mission of Citizens' Councils was to preserve white power and oppose racial integration. To protect the voting rights of black citizens, the deep-rooted white segregationist and supremacist establishment, which considered African Americans second-class citizens and preserved this racist ideology with violence, had to be confronted directly. It was decided that there was no better place to embark on this monumental task than Mississippi, arguably the country's poorest and most violent and segregated state.

In 1961, building on the service and sacrifice of countless civil rights workers in initiatives aimed at ending racial segregation and unjust voting restrictions, Robert (Bob) Moses, a local field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), became the head of SNCC's voter education and registration operations in the state. Moses' seminal leadership over the next couple of years was instrumental in the formation of strong coalitions among SNCC leaders and other civil rights leaders as well as sympathetic whites. In 1963, Moses and SNCC carried out a mock election called "Freedom Vote," with the intention of demonstrating both the will of black residents to vote and that in the absence of violence and unfair administrative red tape they would be participating in the electoral process. To accommodate interested black Mississippians, organizers opened polling places in black churches and businesses all over the state, including in Jackson, the state capital and final stop of the "Freedom Rides" of 1961. For most, this was the first time in their lives they felt empowered to contribute to a free, democratic institution. Tens of thousands voted.

Erin Brockovich. (Screen grab <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ia5tfgt6iE" target="_blank">via YouTube</a>)Erin Brockovich. (Screen grab via YouTube)BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If the name Erin Brockovich only reminds you of a 2000 feature film starring Julia Roberts, you’ve got some catching up to do.

The Lawrence, KS native is a consumer advocate and environmental activist who took it upon herself to create a national reporting registry map where Americans can keep record of various health concerns and ailments brought on by the environments they live in. She did so simply because the government never made such a comprehensive tool available.

Brockovich, a consultant for Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York-based mesothelioma and asbestos law firm, loves galvanizing people to stand up for their beliefs. She told as much to IAMECO Warrior when the site saw her at the annual Captain Planet Foundation Gala, where she received the Protector of the Earth award.

Protest and support for San Francisco’s Archbishop Cordileone. (Photo: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/ari/8360718663" target="_blank">Steve Rhodes / Flickr</a>)Protest and support for San Francisco's Archbishop Cordileone. (Photo: Steve Rhodes / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone spent Thursday in Washington D.C., at the second annual March for Marriage, speaking to a crowd estimated to have been between 2,000 and 5,000. The event, which was supposed to bring tens of thousands of anti-same-sex marriage activists to Washington, was co-sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage and The Washington Times, who served as the official media sponsor, and had put together a special supplement for the rally.

According to news reports, some of the participants were bussed in from New York under the guise of a "free ride" to the nation's capital to view the monuments. And, as the day progressed, the thin crowd got thinner, perhaps taking the opportunity to visit some of D.C.'s memorials. And while March organizers had hoped for tens of thousands of "traditional marriage" supporters, Slate's J. Bryan Lowder pointed out that Brian Brown, NOM's president, had trouble "get[ting] a chant going."

Despite public opinion having shifted sharply in favor of same-sex marriage, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins had his rose-colored glasses in place. He wrote in his daily Washington Update that "After months of hearing the courts' opinion on marriage, today America heard from the voters those courts trampled. Thousands of people from states all across the country descended on Washington, D.C. to show the nation that we care about protecting marriage and will do anything to stand up and fight for it."

BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrackingPrinceton(Photo: EcoWatch)Pennsylvania already has a fracking problem groups struggle to inspire politicians to address. Now, a Princeton University study shows that hundreds of thousands of abandoned oil wells are adding to the state's pollution.

CO2, Methane, and Brine Leakage through Subsurface Pathways: Exploring Modeling, Measurement and Policy Options is a first-of-its-kind study from Mary Klang that describes how abandoned oil wells serve as leakage pathways for carbon dioxide, methane, brine and more.

Based on records, Kang estimates that between 280,000 and 970,000 abandoned wells account for 4 to 13 percent of the state's methane emissions.

Three of the 19 wells measured by the team are considered high emitters. Leakage was found in both plugged and unplugged wells.

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFloodDamage(Photo: Proud Novice)Persons living in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states will experience increased rainfall and floods if data analysis by a Penn State meteorologist and long-term projections by a fisheries biologist, with a specialty in surface water pollution, are accurate.

Paul Knight, senior lecturer in meteorology at Penn State, compiled rainfall data for Pennsylvania from 1895—when recordings were first made—to this year. He says there has been an increase of 10 percent of rainfall during the past century. Until the 1970s, the average rainfall throughout the state was about 42 inches. Beginning in the 1970s, the average began creeping up. "By the 1990s, the increase was noticeable," he says. The three wettest years on record since 1895 were 2003, 2004, and 2011. The statewide average was 61.5 inches in 2011, the year of Tropical Storm Lee, which caused 18 deaths and about $1.6 billion in damage in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, and devastating flooding in New York and Pennsylvania, especially along the Susquehanna River basin.

Dr. Harvey Katz, of Montoursville, Pa., extended Knight's data analysis for five decades. Dr. Katz predicts an average annual rainfall of about 55 inches, about 13 inches more than the period of 1895 to 1975. The increased rainfall isn't limited to Pennsylvania, but extends throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England states.

Both Knight and Dr. Katz say floods will be more frequent. The industrialization and urbanization of America has led to more trees being cut down; the consequences are greater erosion and more open areas to allow rainwater to flow into streams and rivers. Waterway hazards, because of flooding and increased river flow, will cause additional problems. Heavy rains will cause increased pollution, washing off fertilizer on farmlands into the surface water supply, extending into the Chesapeake Bay. Sprays on plants and agricultural crops to reduce attacks by numerous insects, which would normally stay localized, will now be washed into streams and rivers, says Knight.

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