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JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPumpjack(Photo: Eric Kounce)Two major stories are happening simultaneously that carry a predictably distinct odor of oil & gas: US control of Nigerian oil, and Ukrainian control of natural gas.

While climate change escalates to an emergency crisis, a growing national security concern, the US OILigarchy-government is on a "search and seize mission" for the very product that is obliterating our earth: Polluting Oil.

The earth is burning up before our eyes from trapped CO2 green house emissions—but that means very little to a government that is literally owned by oil firms. If a country is cursed with having oil, such as Nigeria or Venezuela, expect to see CIA-military intervention, deliberate incitements of violence, arrests of oil opponents, surveillance, PSYOPS,Blackwater (now operating under the new name , Academi LLC,) and drone attacks—all put into practice in the name of either "national security" or "humanitarian efforts."

In addition to South America, the Middle East and Africa, the US is also a new target for oil and gas drilling. With increased production, Americans have become the victims of Obama's "energy independence" agenda, which has produced an unprecedented number of oil and gas disasters that have poisoned our oceans, our rivers, our water supplies, and our agricultural lands due to gross negligence and a lack of regulatory oversight.

If US oil-gas companies have admitted to having former military psychological operations, or PSYOPs, specialists to counter opponents of drilling in the United States, you can be sure that they're applying the same techniques extensively in foreign oil-regions.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 15 May 2014 09:24

The Fascinating Bedlam of Creationism

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArk(Photo: Michel Wolgemut, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff)Recently, while preparing a review of the movie Noah, knowing that the Christian Right had their collective noses bent out of shape by the movie, I sought to gather some background on creationism. And so, I thought, what better place to go than the website that bears that name Creation.com. And what a fascinating visit it turned out to be.

Now, I should think that there are those of you who might have only a foggy remembrance of the creation story from the Judeo-Christian Bible (JCB). Be that as it may, you should know that there are almost as many variants on the JCB creation story as there are translations of the original Hebrew text with subsequent variants in Greek and Roman which then underwent further translations into many languages running into the hundreds.

At any rate, in summary it goes something like this...

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSlaveryKoehler(Photo: Eastman Johnson)Step on the gas, step on a man . . .

Writing recently in The Nation, Chris Hayes drew an intensely unnerving parallel between the use of fossil fuels as an energy source and the use of slave labor — not a moral parallel, but a financial one, though money and morality have a perversely symbiotic relationship. Where there's money to be made — especially enormous quantities of it — moral justifications come awfully cheap.

Hayes points out that the movement to end dependence on fossil fuels, drastically reduce carbon emissions and reverse global warming faces a financial hurdle of staggering proportions: ". . . the total amount of known, proven extractable fossil fuel in the ground at this very moment is almost five times the amount we can safely burn," he writes. Possession of this unexcavated carbon is claimed by global corporations: It's theirs to pull out of the ground, and it's worth . . . uh, somewhere between $10 and $20 trillion.

But there is, it turns out, a precedent for divesting rich and powerful people of a comparable amount of wealth, Hayes says. It was called the abolition movement.

By the time of the Civil War, some 4 million human beings were in bondage in the South — "owned," for God's sake: legally possessed and controlled to the last heartbeat. The precedent of slavery goes back to the beginning of human history, of course. Before the industrial era and the releasing of the energy of fossil fuels, the relatively privileged gained control over their environment by putting animals and other human beings to work for them. The moral and legal justifications for doing so accompanied the practice.

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBraschFracking(Photo: Joshua Doubek)Among the mission statements of the University of North Dakota Department of Geology and Geological Engineering is that it "strives to develop in its engineering graduates keen insight and abilities to design an environmentally sound and sustainable future for humanity."

Like most college mission statements, it's a broad and vague goal, one that may not reflect reality. The Department is one of the better ones in the country, especially in training students to work in areas of gas and oil exploration and processing. However, their training—and research by the faculty—may be tainted by an industry bias, fueled by a $14 million gift.

The Department is now the Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Science. Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, the ninth largest oil producer in the United States, provided $5 million to the renamed School; his company provided an additional $5. The other $4 million came from the Industrial Commission/Oil and Gas Research Program, a merger of the state of North Dakota and several gas and oil corporations.

Continental Resources, which had revenue of $3.65 billion and a net profit of $764.2 million in 2013, had opened up the oil shale in North Dakota, site of the Bakken Shale, and is currently the top producer of oil production in the country. Continental, which uses the controversial practice of high volume hydraulic horizontal fracturing (known as fracking) to extract the oil, predicts to produce 62.5–65.5 million barrels of oil, an increase in production of 26-32 percent.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrancis(Photo: Edgar Jiménez)Unlike the National Football League, which took a small but significant step forward towards inclusiveness with the drafting of the openly (and proudly) gay Michael Sam, several Archdioceses around the country are taking giant leaps backwards.

Last September, Pope Francis made what many considered to be an extraordinary statement when in an interview "he criticized the church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized," The New York Times reported. Throughout his first year, Francis has clearly been concerned with expanded the church, not further contracting its membership. It appears, however, that Archdioceses in Cincinnati, Ohio, Oakland, California, and the state of Hawaii have either not gotten the message or are being just plain ornery. Those districts are demanding that their teachers at Catholic schools pledge fealty to Catholic doctrine in their actions inside and outside the workplace.

Pope Francis told the interviewer, a fellow Jesuit: "It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

"We have to find a new balance," the Pope continued, "otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel." In words, if not church doctrine, Pope Francis was making a clear distinction from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Now, less than a year later, Archdioceses in Cincinnati, Ohio, Oakland, California, and the state of Hawaii are pressing teachers, employed in Catholic schools, to sign contracts, which can be read as loyalty oaths to Catholic doctrine.

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPSU(Photo: George Chriss)Two of the reasons Pennsylvania has no severance tax and one of the lowest taxes upon shale gas drilling are because of an overtly corporate-friendly legislature and a research report from Penn State, a private state-related university that receives about $300 million a year in public funds.

Opponents of the tax cited a Penn State study that claimed a 30 percent decline in drilling if the fees were assessed, while also touting the economic benefits of drilling in the Marcellus Shale. What wasn't widely known is that the lead author of the study, Dr. Timothy Considine, "had a history of producing industry-friendly research on economic and energy issues," according to reporting by Jim Efsathioi Jr. of Bloomberg News. The Penn State study was sponsored by a $100,000 grant from the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an oil and gas lobbying group that represents more than 300 energy companies. Dr. William Easterling, dean of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, said the study may have "crossed the line between policy analysis and policy advocacy."

The Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research (MCOR), a part of Penn State, announced that with funding provided by General Electric and ExxonMobil, it would offer a "Shale Gas Regulators Training Program." The Center had previously said it wasn't taking funding from private industry. However, the Center's objectivity may have already been influenced by two people. Gov. Tom Corbett, who accepted more than $2.6 million in campaign funds from oil and gas company personnel, sits on the university's board of trustees; billionaire Terrence (Terry) Pegula, owner of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team, was CEO of East Resources, which he had sold to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion in July 2010.

Pegula and his wife had also contributed about $380,000 to Corbett's political campaign. On the day Pegula donated $88 million to Penn State to fund a world-class ice hockey arena and support the men's and women's intercollegiate ice hockey team, he said, "[T]his contribution could be just the tip of the iceberg, the first of many such gifts, if the development of the Marcellus Shale is allowed to proceed." At the groundbreaking in April 2012, Pegula announced he increased the donation to $102 million.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaWWI(Photo: Gsl)"Peace, as we have seen, is not an order natural to mankind: it is artificial, intricate and highly volatile. All kinds of preconditions are necessary." — Michael Howard, The Invention of Peace

And here comes World War I, wrapped in World War II, wrapped in the Cold War: tremors on one of Planet Earth's human fault lines.

We have enough angry, manipulable people on this planet to carry out the game plan of the political ideologues and war profiteers, who are always on the lookout for the next war, the one that's too volatile and "inevitable" to stop. As David Swanson, author of War Is a Lie, put it: "The search for a good war is beginning to look as futile as the search for the mythical city of El Dorado. And yet that search remains our top public project."

And the searchlight stops at Ukraine, full of neo-Nazis, corrupt oligarchs, nuclear reactors, an unelected government, a wrecked economy, a simmering civil war. God help us. Old animosities and ideological divisions come back to life. The United States and NATO stand off against Vladimir Putin's Russia. Thirty-one people — maybe more — die in a burning building in Odessa. This kind of thing could be the pretext for a world war. Sanity is up in flames.

"The crisis in Ukraine is serious," Floyd Rudmin writes at Common Dreams. "At some point soon, reality needs to become the priority. No more name-calling. No more blaming. If there are any adults in the room, they need to stand up. The crisis in Ukraine is going critical, and that is a fact."

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAbuGhraib(Photo: US Army)Ten years ago, photos of the crucifixion — and worse — were released to the American public. The media still call it "the Abu Ghraib scandal," as though, oops, the awkward repercussions for Team Bush were the torture photos' primary horror.

No one talks about "the Auschwitz scandal." The depth of our moral wrong has yet to be plumbed.

Ten years later . . . the hooded man with arms outstretched, electrodes attached to his fingers, revisits the national conscience. Iraq is in a shambles. The prison itself was closed in mid-April because Sunni insurgents are too much of a threat in the region. We wrecked and contaminated two countries in reckless pursuit of revenge and national interest.

Ten years later, a 6,300-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on the U.S. detention and "enhanced interrogation" program is due to be released, or partially released, at some point in the near future — pending declassification, i.e., censorship, of its findings by the White House and even the CIA itself.

McClatchy DC, to which portions of the still-secret report were leaked, recently reported: "The investigation determined that the program produced very little intelligence of value and that the CIA misled the Bush White House, the Congress and the public about the effectiveness of the interrogation techniques, committee members have said."

In other words, the pain and degradation we inflicted on detainees — including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, extreme stress positions, wall-slamming and so much more ("working the dark side," as Dick Cheney infamously put it) — yielded little or no information we were actually able to use. We tortured, we strip-mined, these men and women for nothing.

Published in Guest Commentary

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNeedle(Photo: Biggishben)No one who supports the death penalty should have the slightest problem with the way Clayton Lockett died.

Lockett, a convicted murderer, spent 43 minutes in apparent agony Tuesday night as the state of Oklahoma tried to execute him by injecting an untested cocktail of drugs. Instead of quickly losing consciousness, he writhed in obvious distress and attempted to speak. Witnesses described what they saw as horrific.

Prison authorities halted the procedure -- they were going to revive Lockett so they could kill him at a later date, presumably in a more aesthetically pleasing manner -- but the condemned man suffered a heart attack and died.

The state postponed a second execution that had been scheduled for the same night, but I wonder why. We fool ourselves if we think there is a "humane" way to way to kill someone. Sure, the second inmate, Charles Warner, probably would have suffered an equally agonizing death. But isn't this the whole point?

When I read about the crimes Lockett committed, I wish I could support capital punishment. When I read about what Warner did, I want to strangle him with my own hands. But revenge is not the same thing as justice, and karmic retribution is not a power I trust government to exercise. The death penalty has no place in a civilized society.

Published in Guest Commentary

JOE CONASON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaThomPiketty(Photo: Sue Gardner)It has been a long, long time since Americans accepted the advice of a French intellectual about anything important, let alone the future of democracy and the economy. But the furor over Thomas Piketty's stunning best-seller, "Capital in the 21st Century" — and especially the outraged reaction from the Republican right — suggests that this fresh import from la belle France has struck an exposed nerve.

What Piketty proves, with his massive data set and complex analytical tools, is something that many of us — including Pope Francis — have understood both intuitively and intellectually: namely, that human society, both here and globally, has long been grossly inequitable and is steadily becoming more so, to our moral detriment.

What Piketty strongly suggests is that the structures of capitalism not only regenerate worsening inequality, but now drive us toward a system of economic peonage and political autocracy.

The underlying equation Piketty derives is simple enough: r>g, meaning that the return on capital (property, stock and other forms of ownership) is consistently higher than economic growth. How much higher? Since the early 1800s, financiers and land-owners have enjoyed returns of roughly five percent annually, while economic growth benefiting everyone has lagged, averaging closer to one or two percent. This formula has held fairly steady across time and space. While other respectable economists may dispute his methodology and even his conclusions, they cannot dismiss his conclusions.

Published in Guest Commentary
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