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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."

Published in Guest Commentary

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.

Published in Guest Commentary

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.

Published in Guest Commentary

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.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAnger(Photo: Tanya Little)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.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPrisonCell(Photo: Morty)Last year, I wrote a piece 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.

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.

Published in Guest Commentary

BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEcoWatchOilRig(Photo: Wikipedia Commons via EcoWatch)If President Barack Obama's historic carbon emissions rules made you forget about his "all of the above" energy policy, well, it shouldn't have.

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."

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaIraqTank(Photo: Sgt. Paul L. Anstine III)  

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.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAvarice(Photo: Jesus Solana)Examples of extreme inequality are becoming easier to find. Progressive leaders have us thinking about revolution. If a revolution is to take place, Americans - especially young Americans - need to know the facts, and they need to know how they're getting cheated, and they need to get angry. The following should help.

1. $1,000,000,000,000,000 in Sales. Not One Cent for Sales Tax

The trading volume on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) reached an incomprehensible $1 quadrillion in notional value in 2012. That's a thousand trillion dollars. In comparison, the entire U.S. GDP is $17 trillion.

On that quadrillion dollars of sales CME imposes transfer fees, contract fees, brokerage fees, Globex fees, clearing fees, and contract surcharges, many of them on both the buyer's and seller's side. As a result, the company had a profit margin higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation from 2008 to 2010, and it's gotten even higher since then.

But not a penny in sales tax for the taxpayers who provide publicly-funded infrastructure, technology, systems of law, and security to help them process billions of financial transactions.

Instead -- incredibly -- CME complained that its taxes were too high, and they demanded and received an $85 million tax break from the State of Illinois.

Published in Guest Commentary

BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoalHole(Photo: Kjetil Ree)The newest innovation of the climate denying machine, it turns out, is the lawsuit.

Despite the fact that President Barack Obama's emissions rule remains a proposal for at least a year, the mere idea of a limit on carbon has incensed an Ohio coal executive to the point of threatened litigation. Robert E. Murray, founder of Murray Energy Corp., said he would sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for spreading what he believes to be misinformation and attempting to enforce legislation based on it—violations of the federal Data Quality Act in Murray's view.

"Under the act, they are obligated to tell the truth, and they are not telling the truth about global warming," Murray said of the EPA in an interview with West Virginia Executive. "They are not telling hardly any truth about the science.

"The earth has actually cooled over the last 17 years, so under the Data Quality Act, they've actually been lying about so-called global warming," he continued. "This lawsuit will force them to not just take data from the environmentalists and publish it, as they have been doing, but to review that data and make sure it's accurate."

Clearly, the EPA doesn't "just take" data from environmentalists. If that were the case, a project like Keystone XL would have been nixed a while ago. Instead, the agency considers information like the study of nearly 12,000 abstracts concluding with 97 percent of scientists agreeing that climate change is manmade.

Published in Guest Commentary
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