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Thursday, 04 December 2014 06:55

Beyond M.A.D.: Reviving Nuclear War

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBoom1(Photo: United States Department of Energy)“Some of the key technocrats and scientists of the Cold War say the nation has become overly confident about its nuclear deterrence. The nuclear enterprise, they say, ‘is rusting its way to disarmament.’”

Let’s meditate on this irony — that disarmament, finally, means no more than growing old and weak and pathetic.

What brilliant Cold War Revival propaganda, masquerading, in theLos Angeles Times last week, as objective reporting. Let’s meditate on the dark chuckles of the Cold War technocrats, as they attempt to summon an extra trillion dollars or so from the national coffers to restore America’s nuclear weapons program to the glory of the 1960s and push on vigorously with the design and development of the next generation of nukes: our national strength, the foundation of our security. All that’s missing from the article — “New nuclear weapons needed, many experts say, pointing to aged arsenal” — is Slim Pickens screaming “Ya-hoo!” as he rides the bomb into human oblivion at the end of Dr. Strangelove.

The ostensible focus of the article, as well as a second article published two weeks earlier, both by Ralph Vartabedian and W.J. Hennigan, is the decrepitude of the American nuclear arsenal, with its myriad sites and delivery systems hampered with out-of-date technology and indifferent maintenance, e.g.: “Today, the signs of decay are pervasive at the Pantex facility in Texas, where nuclear weapons are disassembled and repaired. Rat infestation has become so bad that employees are afraid to bring their lunches to work.”

Oh, the horror. Rats and nukes. Next up, Godzilla? Any serious challenge to nuclear weapons as the ultimate manifestation and symbol of national strength is absent from these articles; so is any rational account of the danger their hair-trigger presence poses to humanity — not to mention the insanity of their ongoing development.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 02 December 2014 07:20

Fracking Frenzy Threatens Developing Nations

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrackingFrenzy1(Photo: EcoWatch)Fracking is both a temptation and a curse for developing nations, says a new report released today by Friends of the Earth Europe as governments meet in Lima to make meaningful commitments to speed up the transition away from dirty energy sources. Fracking Frenzy: How is the fracking industry threatening the planet? details the impacts of developing shale reserves in new regions of the world unprotected by political power to ward off bad policies that favor fossil fuel extraction companies over communities.

The report looks at a selection of countries identified in the U.S. Energy Information Administration's 2013 World Shale Gas and Shale Oil Resource Assessment that analyzed potential shale resources in 42 countries and 95 shale basins around the world. It identifies 11 countries it says are prime targets for the fracking industry to focus on in depth: Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, South Africa, China, India, Indonesia and Russia. It analyzes the potential gas and oil reserves (often over-estimated), available water resources, area's geology, country's policies on drilling, local opposition to fracking and environmental, ecological and social impact of fracking in each.

"While much has been written about fracking in North America and in the EU, this report provides a global overview of shale gas development in the rest of the world," the report says. "These countries include seven of the EIA's top ten countries for technically recoverable shale gas resources and are among the leaders in shale development on their respective continents. These countries also reveal the variety and specificity of the dangers associated with the expansion of the fracking industry, including environmental, social and health consequences which extend beyond the borders of individual countries."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaKKK2(Photo: American Memory Collection)Surely you remember the five-step color-coded terrorism alert system – ranging from green (go shopping to defeat terrorism) to red (stay at home and defeat terrorism by shopping online) -- devised by the Bush Administration to keep Americans on its collective toes.

If this system hadn't been phased out by President Barack Obama's then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, it would probably be flashing red. Not because of actions by homegrown self-described patriots who threaten to shoot children crossing the country's southern border, or anti-abortion fanatics who maintain they're doing god's work by killing doctors who perform abortions and bombing abortion clinics, or because of the shoot-em-up actions of disgruntled domestic white anti-government xenophobes, but rather because these days, it's all about the threat to the homeland posed by ISIS and other jihadist groups.

Last week, in about ten minutes time, Larry Steve McQuilliams, 49, of Austin, Texas, shot off an estimated 100 rounds of ammunition throughout Austin's downtown area; firing at the federal courthouse and the Mexican consulate. No one was killed or wounded other than McQuilliams, who was shot and killed by a police officer.

Early media accounts reported that McQuilliams may have had "anti-government" and "anti-immigration motives."

You think?

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 01 December 2014 10:15

Slap-in-the-Face Wealth Gap Images

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBenjaminJust 70 individuals now own as much wealth as half the world. In the U.S., the richest 40 individuals own as much as half the country, and the 16,000 American households in the top .01% have accumulated an average net worth of over a third of a billion dollars. As extreme wealth continues to grow out of control, inequality worsens for the rest of us, plaguing our country and our world, spreading like a terminal form of cancer. It should be a major news item in the mainstream media. But the well-positioned few are either oblivious to or uncaring about its effect on less fortunate people.

The data and charts (citations here) come from Forbes, Credit Suisse, and a recent study by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

1. Just 70 Individuals Own As Much Wealth As Half the World

SaezZucman2014 1

 

Less than a year ago, Oxfam reported that the richest 85 individuals owned as much wealth as half the world. But recently updated calculations reveal that the richest 70 individuals now own $1.842 trillion, more than the poorest half of the world.

We're drawing nearer to the fulfillment of Charles Koch's dream: "I want my fair share and that's all of it."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPeacefulProtest(Photo: Bartosz Brzezinski)Police officers should approach Ferguson protestors with caution and fully respect their constitutional rights. That is the clear message from recent court awards and settlements against police force abuses against demonstrators.

New York City just paid out $17.9 million to more than 1800 protestors arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention, according to CNN.

An Iraq War veteran injured by police during Occupy protest in Oakland has been awarded $4.5 million after being struck in the head by a beanbag fired by police.

UC Davis paid out $1 million to 21 demonstrators who were pepper sprayed during Occupy protests November 2011. This was $30,000 per demonstrator and $250,000 in attorney fees. The University apologized and the officer who pepper sprayed the protestors was fired.

Oakland paid $1.1 million to members of the Occupy movement for police misconduct during the protests.

Published in Guest Commentary

Kelly HayesChicago police block a Ferguson solidarity march on November 2, 2014. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Here’s a story for you. My uncle-in-law is a good man. He’s 73, a twice decorated Vietnam veteran, and lives with his wife in New Mexico, a few miles south of the Colorado border. She suffers from an autoimmune condition so, every month, he drives her 150 miles south, to Albuquerque, where she receives the infusion that keeps her alive. This past week, due to some bureaucracy and miscommunication, he found himself making that drive on a license that had been suspended. And, as luck would have it, he was pulled over for driving a few miles an hour under the speed limit. The officer ran his license, saw that it had been suspended, and listened to my uncle explain that he was simply trying to take his wife to the hospital for lifesaving treatment. At that point, the officer had a choice. She could have written my uncle a warning. She could have written him a ticket. She could have let him drive off with nothing more than a friendly admonition.

She chose to put him in a double pair of handcuffs, place him in back of her police car, and haul him off to the county jail, leaving my aunt to make her own way to Albuquerque. I showed up an hour later and, after I posted his bail, they made him sit in a concrete cell for another two hours for reasons that were never actually divulged.

Here’s another story, albeit less of a personal one. The city council of Santa Fe, NM, where I live, recently voted to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. This was followed by a non-binding referendum, in support of decriminalization, that overwhelmingly passed. Now here’s the funny thing: when police officers in Santa Fe stop someone who turns out to be in possession of marijuana, they are often choosing to file charges under the old state law, which comes with a heftier penalty. As the city police department has yet to issue any directive on the new law to its officers, it falls to the discretion of the arresting office, and it is, ultimately, his choice which law to charge the offender under.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 20 November 2014 06:29

Ferguson and the "Us vs. Them" Illusion

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBrownDontShoot(Photo: Jamelle Bouie)As the grand jury’s decision on whether nor not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson loomed, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told a TV reporter “he’s preparing for peace and war.”

What the governor did, in the tense uncertainty preceding the decision, was pre-declare a state of emergency and activate the Missouri National Guard to help contain the possibility of violent, anti-police protests. He also appointed 16 people, including several of the protesters, to a newly created “Ferguson Commission” to recommend solutions to the racial problems plaguing that community, which the killing of Michael Brown last August made unavoidably apparent.

Meanwhile, gun sales at local shops are through the roof and the local Klan is stirring, distributing fliers warning protesters that they’ve awakened a sleeping giant.

America, America . . .

Before we proceed further, let’s stir in a little Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

That level of thinking — the political, governmental and media consensus of who we are — is blind and deaf to history and locked into us-vs.-them thinking. Security, whether domestic or international, is a game played against presumed and, often enough, imagined enemies. Thus, prior to the governor’s decision to call out the Guard, the FBI had issued an intelligence bulletin warning local officials that “the announcement of the grand jury’s decision … will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure,” according to the Washington Post.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 18 November 2014 10:15

Which Side Are You On?

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaConflictAkira(Photo: Hans Holbein the Younger)Ever get the feeling that things are spiraling out of control? Yes, apocalyptic thinking seems to be a hardwired human impulse, but it’s hard to deny that, of late, events are trending in an ever more unhinged direction. On issue after issue, stark contrasts may be drawn between opposing sides as the rhetoric becomes ever more forceful.

Item: House Republicans have seized upon the “mandate” offered by the recent midterm elections to pass a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline, an enterprise that will support the carbon emissions-heavy extraction of oil from the Alberta tar sands, have little positive impact on domestic energy costs, and create, in the end, a whopping 50 permanent jobs. In an attempt to secure her political legacy, or perhaps a post-political consulting career, the soon to be ex-Democratic senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu, is pushing for a vote in the Senate on a similar bill. Meanwhile, the Rosebud Sioux, through whose reservation the pipeline will run, have denounced the authorization as an “act of war.”

Item: President Obama issued an entirely sensible statement calling for net neutrality, something that has been long overdue, and something that enjoys overwhelming public support. Senator Ted Cruz, who I am increasingly convinced is the product of a failed collaboration between a third-rate cloning facility and an adolescent performance artist, immediately denounced net neutrality as the “Obamacare of the internet,” following this fascinating claim with a collection of other words that offered the outward appearance of meaning and coherence while demonstrating little more than a profound lack of understanding of the issue.

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPollingStation(Photo: Man vyi)The leadership of the Republican Party knows that, except in a few very high income neighborhoods, it cannot win elections running on its real program of tax cuts for the wealthy, bread-crumbs (if any) for everyone else, and ending government regulation of every sector of the economy from the banking industry to the production of energy. So ever since Nixon, and most especially since Reagan, they have necessarily engaged in what I have for quite some time described as "The Rightward Imperative." This means attracting voters to the GOP through religious determinism, enhancing bigotry, demonization, and so on and so forth.

However, the true leadership of the GOP, of many of whom we have little or no knowledge, knew that someday this movement would run out of gas. Yes, after Ted "Damn the Law" Cruz has come Joni "Shoot the Law" Ernst, and you have Louie Gohmert and Steve "immigrant children carry bags of dope across the desert" King, not all that many voters are going to go that way in national elections, as especially as the general economy stagnates. And so, the true, big money, leadership knew that they were going to have to go in a different direction. Rove's "Permanent Republican Majority" would never appear. But a "Permanent Republican Government" could.

Which brings us to the Republicans' Grand Plan to achieve that end. It began back in 1992 with the hatching by the then, now defunct, Republican political ally, the Christian Coalition, of something they called "The 15% Solution." (I wrote a book with that title, on the theme of what the GOP/Religious Right would do if they were ever to attain significant power in US government. Originally published in 1996, the current edition is to be found here. "The 15% Solution" itself is to be found on p. 17 of that book). It was a strategy designed to lower voting participation, down to a level where the loyal rightist "15%" could win elections, all by themselves. As Paul Weyrich, one of the creators of the Republican-Religious Right Alliance, a founder of ALEC (see below) and a founder of the Heritage Foundation, famously said: "We don't want everyone to vote. Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the voting population goes down" (see p. 18).

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 14 November 2014 08:47

Shell Oil Loses Arctic Drilling Lawsuit

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaExxon(Photo: EcoWatch)Shell Oil seems to be on a losing streak these days.

In early October it was announced that the Greenpeace campaign to get Danish toy company LEGO to sever its nearly 50-year partnership with the oil giant was successful. Its Arctic drilling has been plagued with misadventures such as a drilling rig running aground on New Year’s Eve 2012. It was forced to abandon its drilling plans for 2013 and 2014, although it has said it plans to try again for 2015.

And yesterday, in a decision sure to be a relief to activist and advocacy groups of all stripes, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a lawsuit brought by Shell that was primarily an effort to block potential lawsuits from environmental groups who opposed its drilling operations in the Arctic.

Two years ago, Shell filed a preemptive lawsuit against 13 environmental, indigenous and community groups to prevent them from possibly suing Shell at some time in the future over its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. The 9th Circuit Court panel yesterday called the legal maneuver “novel”and said that it was unconstitutional.

Published in Guest Commentary
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