EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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
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!"The
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."
BRIAN J. TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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.
BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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
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.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you had to take America's temperature, predictably it would be raging hot.
Across the courts of America, citizens are being pushed off the cliff by corporate greed. There is practically no legal compensation for victims of pollution produced by oil and coal disasters.
Court rulings, with their lopsided scales heavily favoring the defense of corporate polluters, eliminate any hope for victims, leaving them in the ditch of poisonous toxins, polluted water, and contaminated lands. Once the land and water have been permanently polluted, there is no possible way residents can sell their homes. If homeowners get sick, they're out of luck—thanks to corrupt judges, big polluters don't even have to pay for the victims' medical bills.
When the government sows the seeds of injustice and corporate greed, it puts the country at risk; it's a recipe for upheavals and disaster.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
about the rise of Debtors' Prisons in the U.S. The piece focused on how regular people, convicted of relatively minor crimes, were assessed fines by the court that they could not afford to pay, and subsequently were sent off to jail. At this point in this story, I might write something like "meet so and so," one of the many people caught up in the criminal justice system. In this case, however, you will never meet Eileen DiNino.Last year, I wrote a piece
On June 7, Eileen DiNino, 55, a mother of seven, was found dead in a Berks County, Pennsylvania jail cell.
DiNino's crime? Unemployed, on welfare, and trying to raise seven kids by herself, DiNino was unable to pay several thousand dollars "in fines relating to her children's truancy from schools in the Reading, PA. area," Think Progress' Alan Pyke reported. The fines weren't solely based on her children's truancy. Once individuals get caught in the cycle of fines, it can tend to spin out of control.
According to a World Socialist Web Site report by Samuel Davidson, "An Associated Press examination of Ms. DiNino's fines shows that for one truancy violation $10.00 was added for postage, $60.00 for the county constables and $8.00 for a "computer project."
The 48 hours DiNino was to spend in jail would have supposedly eliminated her debt, Christine DiGangi reported at blog.credit.com.
BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While the president recognized that coal-fired power plants are responsible for about 40 percent of the country's emissions, he didn't denounce oil and gas. His federal Interior Department on Friday gave us all a reminder of that when it announced its first step in selling offshore oil and gas leases that would allow companies to explore the nation's waters for energy sources.
Perhaps anticipating pushback, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Acting Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Walter Cruickshank stated early that Friday's announcement was only the first step toward a lease auction. It was simply a "Request for Information and Comments on the Preparation of the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program."
Still, the thought of offshore drilling upset many environmental groups.
"Our beaches and coastal wildlife, like seabirds, dolphins and turtles are too precious to be threatened by oil spills," said Anna Aurilio, director of the Washington D.C. office of Environment America. "President Obama should not open new areas to drilling. Instead, he should be protecting all our coasts from the kinds of environmental and economic devastation the 2010 BP oil spill brought to the Gulf of Mexico."
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Were wars since Vietnam won or lost by the US? The answer to those questions may not appear to be the obvious ones. If the unspoken government objectives of the various wars are taken into account, indeed they aren't. Let us start with Vietnam.
The standard interpretation of the US War on Vietnam is that the US lost it. The classic picture is of that last helicopter taking off from the roof of the soon-to-be former US Embassy in Saigon. But if one considers the original US objectives of the intervention-to-become-war in Southeast Asia, it was actually a win.
The French-Vietnamese War ended in 1954. The Geneva Conference of that year produced a treaty signed by the French and the Vietnamese and guaranteed by Great Britain and the Soviet Union. It brought hostilities to an end, temporarily divided the country in two, and provided for national elections to be held in 1956 -- elections that everyone knew would be won by Ho Chi Minh and his people. Pointedly, the US refused to sign or recognize the treaty.
They knew that if the plan in it were allowed to proceed, the chances were very good that Vietnam would peacefully progress to socialism and could be an economic success. If that happened, the same thing might well peacefully occur in other Southeast Asian countries, were democracy to be given a chance. Even as certain US analysts attempt in hindsight to disavow it, the "domino theory" about the spread of "socialism with a national face," distinguished from and not necessarily allied with the Soviet Union, and certainly not with the traditional enemy, China, communist or not, was quite correct.