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Tuesday, 01 October 2013 07:30

Warm Enough for You?

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ClimateSkeptics and deniers can make all the noise they want, but a landmark new report is unequivocal: There is a 95 percent chance that human-generated emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are changing the climate in ways that court disaster.

That's the bottom line from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which Monday released the latest of its comprehensive, every-six-years assessments of the scientific consensus about climate change. According to the IPCC, there is only a 1-in-20 chance that human activity is not causing dangerous warming.

You may like those betting odds. If so, let's get together for a friendly game of poker, and please don't forget to bring cash.

The squawking from naysayers has recently been all about a supposed "pause" in global warming. They say there has been no detectable warming in the past 15 years and claim that any temperature rise that scientists attribute to human activity is really part of some grand natural cycle -- probably nothing to worry about, and, in any event, nothing we can control.

One look at the data indicates that the skeptics' view is wishful thinking, at best. It is true that if you look at the period 1998-2013, there is very little warming. But that is because 1998 was an extreme outlier -- a sharp spike on the graph. That year was much warmer than the preceding or subsequent few years.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 27 September 2013 07:12

Fessing Up to Our Imperial Footprint

DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

JointcolorsIs America an empire or not? It is a loaded question because in the modern age, that word — empire — is not a moniker citizens proudly embrace in the way we might imagine the Ottomans or the Romans did during their reins. Instead, the word today evokes images of the Death Star. And so we shirk the term's implications and insinuations, much as President Obama did this week at the United Nations.

"The United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries," he declared in his speech to the General Assembly. "The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn't borne out by America's current policy."

The rhetoric sounds nice and it deftly portrays the United States as the sympathetic victim of an international conspiracy. The problem is that it glosses over how current U.S. policies do, in fact, create an imperial footprint.

This is most easy to see when it comes to our military. According to a 2010 report by the Pentagon, the United States has 662 overseas bases in 38 different countries. Additionally, the United States recently invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and helped invade Libya. It is also prosecuting undeclared wars in Yemen and Pakistan, while propping up dictators in most of the Middle East. Oh, and we are also the world's biggest exporter of weapons and spend more on our military than most of the world combined.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

HallibillboardOn September 19th, 2013 Halliburton, an oil and construction company that rose to a multibillion dollar industry under Dick Cheney’s supervision, pled guilty to federal charges of destroying critical evidence concerning British Petroleum’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Halliburton shredded the evidence because it proved that the company had committed gross negligence pertaining to cuts in safety maintenance decisions in order to increase profits. Shredding evidence: that’s probably a felony crime, right? Only if you did it or if I did it, but oil tycoons need not have to worry; the laws are conveniently shredded along with the evidence.

As Ring of Fire radio reported:

Oil giant Halliburton pled guilty on Thursday to destroying evidence related to the 2010 BP oil spill. However, unlike the other companies involved in the oil spill, Halliburton, the company responsible for cementing the well, was not charged with a crime related to the causes of the disaster.

Halliburton agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of unauthorized destruction of evidence. US District Judge Jane Triche-Milazzo in New Orleans accepted Halliburton’s plea agreement, and charged the company with the maximum-allowable fine of $200,000 and a 3-year probation term.

The company also agreed to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

 

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 26 September 2013 06:57

Poison Gas, Poison Values, Poison History

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ChemWepsPoison gas is not only a "moral obscenity" — one the United States stockpiled for decades after its use was banned in warfare — but a metaphor for human recklessness and wasted science.

Like it or not, we're forced to think about it these days, since it's still an enticing pretext for war. And the more I think about it, the more I marvel at the persistent insanity of its existence. The "red line" that the so-called civilized world crossed over a century ago was not in the use of poison gas but in its creation, because it's lethal whether it's used or not. Attempting to get rid of it — by burying it, burning it, dumping it — has consequences almost as deadly as firing it off in battle.

The enormous toxic mess that encircles the globe needs serious and sustained attention, something present-day governments are, seemingly, incapable of. The fact that this mess of our own making exists at all ought to inspire not missiles and self-righteousness but the deepest questions we know how to ask. And the first question is this: How in God's name do we untangle ourselves from this mess collectively?

The 1925 Geneva Protocol, in response to the horrors of World War I, banned the use of asphyxiating and poisonous gases in war, but not, incredibly, their development or manufacture. It took the civilized world, the one John Kerry referenced in his condemnation of Bashar al-Assad, another seven decades to do that. In the meantime, there was plenty of manufacturing, developing and stockpiling of poison gas weaponry going on, including in the United States, up to and well beyond World War II.

One factual tidbit I find fascinating is that Otto Ambros, a Nazi scientist and co-inventor of Sarin, convicted of crimes against humanity at Nuremberg, came to the United States in 1951, after serving half his term, and began advising the U.S. Army on its own chemical weapons program in the '50s. Could the reality of geopolitics be exposed in starker relief? For all the moral pretenses of war and militarism, the game has no moral boundaries whatsoever.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 24 September 2013 07:41

The "Discriminating Taste" of Racism and Sexism

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

RaceMixingFor years, my father, a federal employee with a top secret clearance, carried a copy of his birth certificate when he went into Baja California from our home in San Diego. Many times, when he tried to reenter the U.S., he was stopped by the Border Patrol.

My father had thick black hair and naturally dark skin, and the Patrol thought he was a Mexican brazenly trying to sneak back into the country by claiming to be married to the black-haired, blue- eyed, light-skinned woman he claimed was his wife. It was annoying.

It was also annoying that once back home, he faced discrimination because neighbors thought he was Mexican. Because we lived in an urban area, not many discriminated against my parents because they were Jews, but there were a few with hatred as great as their ignorance.

When I was 11 years old, we moved two hours North, near Los Angeles, and my parents bought a house in a new tract of about 150 houses, all owned by Whites and a few Hispanics. Three or four years later, a Realtor came by, plastering flyers on all the houses, announcing he had a special real good, one-time only deal. A few wouldn't sell their houses at any price if it was a Black who was planning to move into the area. Someone in the tract took up the offer, and a Black family--he was a mechanical engineer--moved in. It didn't take long before other White families began putting their houses up for sale. Only this time, they weren't getting as much as the first family that sold out. Soon, the prices began tumbling as other Blacks and Hispanics moved in.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 24 September 2013 07:28

Learning From a Thousand-Year Flood

DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BoulderfloodTwo months before my Colorado community was overwhelmed this week by epic rains, our state's chief oil and gas regulator, Matt Lepore, berated citizens concerned about the ecological impact of hydraulic fracturing and unbridled drilling. During his speech, Lepore insinuated that those advocating a first-do-no-harm posture toward fossil fuel development are mostly affluent and are therefore unconcerned with the economic impact of their environmental advocacy. Coming from an industry lawyer-turned-regulator, it was a deceptive attempt to pretend environmental stewardship is merely a rich person's luxury.

After this week's flood, of course, "thousands of oil and gas wells and associated condensate tanks and ponds" are underwater in Colorado, according to the Boulder Daily Camera. Already, there is at least one confirmed oil pipeline leak. At the same time, the Denver Post reports that "oil drums, tanks and other industrial debris mixed into the swollen (South Platte) river."

In short, there's a serious possibility of an environmental disaster that should concern both rich and poor.

In retrospect, the deluge illustrates the problem with officials pretending that environmental stewardship and the precautionary principle are just aristocratic priorities. They are quite the opposite — they are priorities for everyone.

Published in Guest Commentary

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AbdulhaiKabulWe, the Afghan Peace Volunteers, are finding strength amidst our dark nights because, in the daylight of a global awakening, we see people throughout the world refusing to comply with oppressive systems.   We see that we aren’t alone in rejecting governments and militant groups that wage wars and make deals at the expense of ordinary people.

Artificial borders may attempt to divide us, but through connections with ordinary people worldwide, we are affirmed as free human beings, free to nurture ways of living that aren’t monopolized by a few.

Daylight, in our hearts and everywhere, is laying bare the abusive, authoritarian power and wealth amassed by elitist hoarders who control governments and militaries. These elite secure the interests of the privileged and neglect the interests of commoners who need food, water, education, decent shelter and employment, and peaceful relationships.

“The leaders of the world, like Assad, Obama and others, should not involve the people in their wars,” said Ghulamai, age 16, as we talked together last night “We people are very tired of the games that politicians play, killing the people while they profit. They are killing us.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 19 September 2013 09:56

Corporatizing Animals: From Cuteness to Cruelty

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Kitten2Both the old and new media agree on this: If you need a story that's guaranteed to be wildly popular — go with animals. "Kute kittens," for example, are surefire winners, as is the entire p-group: puppies, porpoises, penguins and polar bears. And don't forget baby chicks, goats and other farm animals — they can be awfully cute and cuddly, too.

One group that's noticed this is corporate America, and some of the biggest corporations have jumped on the animal ploy as a way to push some of their ugliest profiteering schemes. For example, the Keystone XL pipeline, a project involving TransCanada Corp. and such oil giants as Exxon Mobil. They want to shove this massively polluting, ozone-depleting, wildlife-threatening pipeline from Alberta, Canada, down through the very center of America, carrying a toxic petro-sludge called tar sands oil all the way to export terminals on the Gulf Coast.

This is not exactly a popular idea in our country, and it was made less popular by a couple of recent, very nasty spills of this tar from existing pipelines — one into Michigan's Kalamazoo River, and the other in the town of Mayflower, Ark. So, cue the animals!

Larry Kudlow, a shameless, corporate-hugging host of his eponymous TV show on CNBC, proclaimed in an August episode that — by gollies — Keystone would be terrific for wildlife. Why? Because, explained this noted expert on the habits of beasts in the wild, the loveable bears, deer, and such "like to snuggle under the pipeline (for) warmth." An economist at the American Petroleum Institute — the chief lobbying group for big oil — immediately agreed with Kudlow, asserting that, "animals like the Alaskan crude oil pipeline quite a bit."

How darling! And how wrong.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Tomahawk"Imagine if we sent 5,000 well-trained nonviolent peacekeepers from throughout the world to protect civilians and work with local civil society in building the peace."

Indeed, imagine if we knew that doing this was an option.

Mel Duncan, cofounder of an organization called Nonviolent Peaceforce, was talking about Syria, the country we almost bombed and maybe still will. In lieu of tossing godlike lightning bolts at Bashar al-Assad, "The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration," the Washington Post reported last week.

"The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria's civil war."

So our war with Syria is only partially averted, apparently. It plunges back into something covert, minimally publicized, silently lethal, silently insane: our normal relationship with so much of the world. ". . . the efforts have lagged because of the logistical challenges involved in delivering equipment in a war zone and officials' fears that any assistance could wind up in the hands of jihadists."

The aim of peacebuilding is peace, not strategic advantage. It's not an "international chess game" or any other sort of game. It's basic humanity. With an extraordinarily small commitment of money — and a large commitment of courage — we could have peace and stability on this planet in relatively short order.

Published in Guest Commentary

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

GoldCoinImagine that you get up every morning, go off to work, work your butt off all week and then wait in happy anticipation for your paycheck on Friday. And then it arrives. But instead of getting the full amount that you'd been eagerly expecting, you only get one-third of it. "Yikes!" you exclaim in dismay. "What happened to the rest!"

"But don't you remember," says your company's payroll clerk with a yawn, having heard all this stuff before from other employees time and again, "that you spent all the rest of your money on guns." Guns? I bought guns? "Sure you did."

"But what am I going to do about my rent money and my cable bill and paying off student loans and my trips to the mall and, er, not to mention food?"

"Sorry, guy, but our records show that for the past 60 years, you have definitely -- and apparently voluntarily -- spent at least two-thirds of your income on guns." 60 years? The last whole freaking 60 years? I did?

"But how come I've never noticed it before?"

Published in Guest Commentary
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