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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaClown(Photo: Graeme Maclean)Ah, August — that time of year when the going gets tough ... and Congress gets going.

On vacation that is. And, to be fair, maybe Congress needs a vacation. All the stress of not passing laws and constantly thwarting any attempt by President Obama to fix America's problems seems to be straining their sanity.

For starters, if you thought that, surely, partisan posturing by far-right congress critters couldn't get any nuttier, you'd be wrong. Last month, the GOP claimed that all the talk about impeaching President Barack Obama is being led by — guess who? — Barack Obama!

If you'll recall, the top Republican leader, John Boehner (having discovered that the larger public is appalled that his party would even consider wasting time on such extremist nonsense) tried to do a political backflip. Impeachment talk, he fumed, is "a scam started by Democrats at the White House." No Republican lawmakers, he barked to the media, are even discussing it.

Boehner, Boehner, Boehner! Apparently he didn't hear Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who's No. 2 on his own GOP leadership team, tell Fox News that he refuses to rule out impeachment. Or Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, exult that "it would be a dream come true" to impeach Obama, and that he has pursued advice from experts on how to proceed. Or Iowa's Rep. Steve King, saying flatly, "We need to bring impeachment hearings immediately." How about Randy Weber of Texas, who put it unequivocally: "The president deserves to be impeached, plain and simple." And Georgia's Jack Kingston confirmed that: "Not a day goes by when people don't talk to us about impeachment."

Published in Guest Commentary

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFailTrain(Photo: Epheterson)More fun than fourteen barrels of flunkies watching our elected officials exit Washington like scared rats streaming out of a sewer to escape Godzilla. And really, who can blame them. Anybody who's ever spent a summer in DC can tell you the climate is real similar to Hell. With humidity. Then again, not sure even Hell has winged insects the size of footstools. It's not called Foggy Bottom because that's the first thing that springs to mind when Diane Feinstein walks away, you know.

Funny thing is, this is the same Congress that lies on the verge of breaking all previous records for complete and utter futility. The Zero Zip Zilch Crew. Who have ridden lethargy into the ground and taken loitering to bold new heights. Or is it depths? Folks who would need hydraulic mechanical assists to raise their attitudes from stuporous to torpid. From the lair of the drugged slugs. Debi Does Drowsy.

In essence, they're taking a vacation from nothing. Which is a lot like waking up to take a nap. Topping breakfast off with a sleeping pill. Floating off to a loafing, lay- about layoff. Playing hide and seek with the mirror. And losing.

The 113th Congress is destined to go down in history as the most Do- Nothingest Congress of all time. Accomplishing less than all the other Do- Nothing Congresses combined. Which is saying something, because there were plenty.

"Proud to Put the Nothing in the Do- Nothing Congress." Enshrined as the undisputed heavyweight champion of Indolence. The Friends of Inertia. Slouching towards SlouchVille. The Slacker Congress.

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REV. STEPHEN H. PHELPS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTrident(Photo: Fastfission)I asked a White House correspondent from the Middle East what would happen if during a press conference with the POTUS someone put this question:

Mr. President, given that since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, any non-nuclear nation which we treat as an adversary may be reasonably terrified that the U.S. will invade it too, and perhaps on false pretexts; and given that no nation in possession of a nuclear weapon has ever been attacked by any of its foes; and given that you have declared that Iran must never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon; what is the U.S. doing to give Iran absolute confidence that neither the U.S. nor any other nation will ever attack it "preemptively," if it agrees to abide without a nuclear defense?

"What would happen?" the correspondent shrugged. "The questioner would never put another question in the White House briefing room. His editor would take him off the desk, maybe fire him. You cannot get an answer to a question like that."

Regardless the accuracy of the correspondent's surmise, it corresponds with a feature of American policy toward other nations: Their pursuit of their self-interest is a priori excluded from the foreign-policy calculus—if they are considered enemies. Like seven-year-olds in a playground fight, our media and masters claim that the motives of foes are malign and ours benign; that they started it, and we only defend ourselves. The fact that Americans believe these constructions has tragic consequences in violence. The fact that leaders who know it is spin spin it anyway can best be explained by the seductions of power that dance in the heads of those who prepare for more war.

Published in Guest Commentary

RON SCHALOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDerail(Photo: B.A.)In a February 24, 2014, article, Think Progress said "Bakken shale crude oil is also the most explosive compared to oil from 86 other locations worldwide."

North Dakota leaders need to take immediate responsibility for the Bakken crude oil train explosions, and require producers to remove all explosive natural gas liquids (NGL's) from Bakken crude before shipping.

The Dot-111 tanker car is not suited for hauling watered down skim milk. It should go, but it is not the main reason for the violent and deadly explosions that have occurred over a 10 month period, from July 2013 to April 2014. The newer 1242 model cracked open during the Lynchburg, VA, derailment going 24 mph.

And, there can never be enough inspections and upgrades of the railroad tracks, and oversight of train movements, but we've been trying to keep trains on the tracks in this country for nearly 200 years, and there were still 1,260 derailments in the U.S. in 2013. Everything helps, but trains will continue to derail.

The explosions - the 300 foot fireballs, walls of fire, incinerated buildings, vaporized humans, fouled water, and poisoned soil - are primarily due to one simple fact, and it has to stop.

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ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBombCloud(Photo: US Department of Energy)Before nuclear weapons, after nuclear weapons . . .

"The latter era, of course," writes Noam Chomsky, "opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but — so the evidence suggests — not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts."

We're not even close. Or so it seems on a bad day. "Why are we violent but not illiterate?" asked columnist Colman McCarthy. Well, for one thing, we don't wrap illiteracy in a shroud of glory and call it war or self-defense or national security; nor have we developed a multi-trillion-dollar industry called the Illiteracy Industrial Complex (or maybe we have, and call it television). In any case, the human race has a demonstrated ability to pull itself out of an instinct-driven existence — but now finds itself at a suicidal impasse, unable, or uncertain how, to commit to taking the next step upwards, beyond violent conflict resolution and the mentality of "us vs. them," and into a fuller connection with the universe.

This moment, as we straddle the anniversaries of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is a time to reflect on what happens next. Violence — disorganized and, of course, highly organized and extraordinarily sophisticated — remains humanity's obsession, preoccupation and primary distraction. Despite the ability we now possess to destroy ourselves and most life on this planet, we have barely begun to question our reflexive violence. Doing so requires looking courageously inward.

Published in Guest Commentary

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAkiraTorture(Photo: "We tortured some folks.")With all the awesome things that have happened in the past week, a small bit of positivity may be found in the news that the Senate will finally be releasing its report on CIA torture. It's been a long strange trip to get us to this point, complete with a Diane Feinstein freakout that the CIA had dared to shift its surveillance focus from ordinary folk to Real Important People. But now it's on its way, and President Obama had a few thoughts on the upcoming report.

"We tortured some folks."

Full stop, as head explodes from cognitive dissonance.

Let's break this sentence down, shall we?

"We." No problems there. The usage of first person plural is a good move. It acknowledges a sort of collective responsibility. We're all guilty. Actually, I don't feel all that guilty, since I've managed to go 38 years without ever torturing anyone, but moving right along.

"Tortured." Also good. No Newspeak terms like enhanced interrogation techniques. Just tortured. Blunt and to the point. The past tense is slightly troubling. Some of the activities currently going on in Guantanamo are, at best, questionable. But that's outside the scope of this report.

So far, so good...

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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAmericanPoverty(Photo: Poverty and urban decay)Three-quarters of conservative Americans say poor people have it easy.

The degree of ignorance about poverty is stunning, even for people far removed from the realities of an average American lifestyle. Both oilman Charles Koch and Nicole Miller CEO Bud Konheim have suggested that we should compare ourselves to poor people in China and India, and then just shut up and be happy. The Cato Institute informs Americans that "The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work." And entrepreneur Marc Andreessen explains, rather incomprehensibly, that "Technology innovation disproportionately helps the poor more than it helps the rich, as the poor spend more of their income on products."

1. We Spend Relatively Little on Poverty Programs

The Economic Policy Institute stated, "The United States stands out as the country with the highest poverty rate and one of the lowest levels of social expenditure." It's a national disgrace that we allow just a few people to take more of the country's wealth than the millions of productive people who can't find living-wage jobs.

Just two men made more investment income in 2013 than the entire year's welfare budget (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly referred to as 'welfare').

Just 400 individuals made more investment income in 2013 than the entire safety net (SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, TANF, and Housing).

And the richest 1% made more from their investments in 2013 than the total cost of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the entire safety net.

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TOM WEISS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaRejectProtect(Photo: "Reject and Protect," via EcoWatch)We've got this.

Thanks to the courageous and indefatigable efforts of pipeline fighters everywhere, the tide has finally turned on Keystone XL. As it becomes increasingly clear that Keystone XL's northern leg is not going through, it is time to set our sights on ending all tar sands exploitation.

The Obama administration's latest election year delay on Keystone North is not a victory, but the dominoes continue to fall. Earlier this year, a citizen lawsuit denied TransCanada a route through Nebraska. Last month, it lost its permit through South Dakota. Now it faces a gauntlet of "Cowboys & Indians" vowing to stop it in its tracks.

We cannot let up until Keystone North is vanquished, but all signs point to President Obama nixing TransCanada's cross-border permit after the November elections. Don't just take my word for it.

On April 23, Rolling Stone contributing editor Jeff Goodell wrote: "I was told recently by members of the administration that the pipeline would, in fact, be rejected." On June 18, former Vice President Al Gore wrote in this same magazine: "[Obama] has signaled that he is likely to reject the absurdly reckless Keystone XL-pipeline proposal."

Both pronouncements come on the heels of former President Jimmy Carter pointedly warning the president that Keystone XL "will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced—climate change."

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REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGazaGirlWill this Gazan girl survive or be added to the death toll of children? (Photo: Muhammad Sabah)Our last remaining bit of shame is being dot-commed, with a young girl's pixilated eyes looking back at us from her murder.

I'm watching this atrocity with up to date technology, as I sit here typing. I remember a time when some techno-utopians thought that the global village would tilt us toward peace, as the violence became so vividly fore-grounded, the bleeding too painfully bright red, the searching for loved ones too real, and the eyes. Her eyes are more piercing than ever.

But reports of war's death were greatly exaggerated. Our acceptance of violence has grown with our consuming of deadly products. We watch wars, produced at great expense, with thousands of special effects engineers and Oscar-winning death scenes by trained method actors. And when a real war sneaks onto our screen, what can we do? Continue to watch.

Victims come to us as information, across the landscape of information, in the age of information consumption. And this makes the viewing experience of this child not different than the many children that we have watched burned and cut toward death. We are image predators, sitting in traffic, in trains, at home in our techno-cockpits, saving the bombed schools and hospitals to clouds overhead...

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAR15dupe(Photo: Zgauthier)Cliven Bundy, the Nevada-based rancher who refused to pay the over $1 million he owes in fees for having his cattle graze on public lands for twenty years, and who then assembled a posse of armed militia and antigovernment activists for a stand off against officers of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, may -- by virtue of his openly aired racist remarks about the "Negro" -- already be sitting atop history's trash heap, but there are numerous wannabes out there waiting to Cliven Bundy themselves into the headlines.

According to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, "The Bundy standoff has invigorated an extremist movement that exploded when President Obama was elected, going from some 150 groups in 2008 to more than 1,000 last year."

Alabama's Mike Vanderboegh, who heads the III Percent Patriots, wrote the following on his blog: "It is impossible to overstate the importance of the victory won in the desert today. The feds were routed — routed. There is no word that applies. Courage is contagious, defiance is contagious, victory is contagious. Yet the war is not over."

Armed militia groups are currently responding to the influx of thousands of immigrants – mostly women and children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – by arming themselves and "standing guard" at the U.S.-Mexico border. Pictures of members of militia groups, carrying semi-automatic rifles and wearing masks, camouflage and tactical gear can be found here.

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