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COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaacalecodrought(Photo: EcoWatch)

The California State Water Resources Control Board on Friday ordered the largest cuts on record to “farmers holding some of the state’s strongest water rights,” according to The Guardian. Water officials told senior water rights holders, some of whose rights date back to 1903, to stop pumping water in California’s Sacramento, San Joaquin and delta watersheds.

It’s the first time the state has mandated such a large number of senior rights holders to curtail water use. “It will affect thousands of farmers,” says The Guardian. The last time any restrictions were placed on senior rights holders was during the 1976-77 drought, but “those curtailments were not as geographically widespread as Friday’s,” reports The New York Times. The move has been anticipated for weeks. Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of California, Davis, told The Guardian, “The order was both expected and necessary.”

In April, Gov. Jerry Brown issued unprecedented water restrictions for the state, mandating 25 percent water reduction for cities and towns. 

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaainequality(Image: craftivist collective)

It's a vicious circle of hypocrisy: Americans dependent on the safety net are urged to "get a job" by the same free-market system that pays them too little to avoid being dependent on the safety net. 

Theft, Part 1: The Average U.S. Household Pays About $400 for Safety Net Programs for Low-Wage Workers

According to the Economic Policy Institute, $45 billion per year in federal, state, and other safety net support is paid to workers in the bottom 20 percent of wage earners. Thus the average U.S. household is paying almost $400 to employees inlow-wage industries such as food service, retail, and personal care. 

Blame: Accusing the Poor

Paul Ryan said that social programs "turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency." But 63 percent of eligible working-age poor Americans are employed, and 73 percent are members of working families. Yet in a show of hypocrisy by some of the leading safety net critics, Congress has killed or blocked or ignored numerous attempts to create better jobs for underemployed Americans. 

Greed: Profits for Stockholders, Poverty Wages for Workers

Demos study found that raising wages to $25,000 per year (about $12.50 per hour) for full-time retail workers would lift 734,075 people out of poverty. 

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asantabarbaraSunset west of Santa Barbara. (Photo: Sourav Das)

On May 19th, it was announced over breaking news that an onshore oil pipeline, owned by Plains All American Pipeline, a Houston Texas company led by ex-Flint Resources (Koch Industries) ruptured at Refugio Beach, north of Santa Barbara. An estimated 105,000 gallons of crude oil gushed into the Pacific Ocean, five times worse than the initial estimated 21,000 gallons.

I live three hours away from Refugio Beach. This quiet, isolated shoreline is a favorite beach for campers, hikers and surfers. When I was earning my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara, I used to walk the trails and watch whales, shorebirds and sea otters bop in and out of the turquoise waters; tiny crabs would scuttle in between the black rocks and tide pools. Our California beaches are bristling with wildlife, including rare endangered species. The central coast is a habitat for seals, sea lions and whales, a variety of fish, which are migrating north this time of the year.

Oil kills every living thing it covers. Imagine being drenched from head to toe with thick, gooey tar: Toxic suffocation is an extremely painful way to die. That’s what happens to dolphins, whales, pelicans, otters that, unbeknownst to them, swim into the devil’s poison.

The national networks neglected to say that Plains transports oil for Exxon-Mobil. According to Miyoko Sakashita of BiologicialDiversity.org, the Houston-based company has had “175 devastating oil spills nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California,” documented by federal authorities.

Published in Guest Commentary

INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT NEUSTADT ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abordersongs214 year old Josseline Janiletha Hernandez Quinteros, from El Salvador, was a victim of US border policy who died in the Sonoran Desert. (Photo: Rex Koningsor for Border Songs)

Today's BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary is an interview with Robert Neustadt – a professor of Spanish at Northern Arizona University - who cofounded Border Songs, a group that supports saving the lives of migrants from Mexico who often perish from the harsh desert conditions trying to make it into Arizona. 

MARK KARLIN: Why do so many migrants die trying to cross into the US through Arizona? Hasn't the US created border enforcement strategies that force people to cross through a broiling desert?

ROBERT NEUSTADT: Yes, there is no question that US government border enforcement strategies have resulted in an enormous increase in border crosser deaths. In 1994, the US government explicitly adopted a strategy called “enforcement through deterrence”, which was outlined in a Border Patrol position paper. The strategy was to seal off the easy-to-cross urban areas near El Paso, Tijuana and Nogales by building walls, ramping up Border Patrol presence, adding more sensors, technology, and recently, patrolling with drones, while leaving open swaths of remote, hazardous back country. By closing the urban areas where people traditionally crossed, enforcement pushes undocumented border crossers into desert and mountain terrain in Arizona (and Texas). This “funnel effect” is clearly a primary factor that results in migrant deaths, and has been acknowledged by everyone from policy makers to humanitarians.

During the early 1990’s, the number of border crosser deaths examined per year by the Pima County Medical Examiner in Arizona varied between 5 and 11. In the year 2010, following construction of almost 700 miles of wall and a huge increase in the number of Border Patrol agents and enforcement technology, they examined 225 human remains in the same office. I find it profoundly disturbing that most people have no idea of the scope of this crisis. These statistics are all readily available and confirmable, but you have to seek them out because the media does not cover the issue sufficiently. Since 1994, they have found over 7,000 human remains in the borderlands, the majority of these in Arizona, and this number only represents the number of bodies found! The actual number of border crosser deaths is almost certainly significantly higher though the bodies were never found.

Currently, the morgue in Tucson houses over 900 unidentified human remains of presumed border crossers. Marc Silver’s documentary film, Who is Dayani Cristal (with Gael Garcia Bernal, 2013) emphasizes the severity of the issue.

This situation is a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe, and US government border enforcement strategy is directly implicated in the dramatic increase in deaths. Even more disturbing is the fact that the number of undocumented border crossers has dropped precipitously while the rate of deaths has remained relatively steady. This means that the chance that someone will die while crossing the border has sky-rocketed, and this is a direct result of our efforts to “secure the border.” This is compounded by the fact that we have deported over two million people since Obama has been in office. Many of these people will attempt to cross to rejoin their families.

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSniperRifle(Photo: USMC)“American Sniper” has stirred up the Right (see Fox ”News” and etc.) and it has stirred up the Left. The Right sees the movie as one about a “patriotic American,” “doing his duty to protect our country and the freedoms it stands for.” The Right sees any critic of the film, as a commie, as a traitor, as “un-American,” if not “un-Christian” (for after all, sniper Chris Kyle was fighting the Muslims, wasn’t he?) The Left, and of course I include myself in that group, see the movie in much more complex, much starker terms, which I shall address.

In terms of the standard Right-wing propaganda lines, oddly enough, Kyle didn’t see himself as “fighting to protect the American way of life” at all. Rather, when asked a direct question on a Fox ”News” show, he said that he did what he did in order to protect his buddies. Then, there is the well-discussed historical fallacy that the Iraq War had anything to do with 9/11. The old canard that a representative of Saddam Hussein’s government went to Prague, Czech Republic, to meet with a representative from al Qaeda and that meant that they were hooking up has long since been disposed of as a unproven and unlikely rumor. Do you really think that a secular Hussein, already facing strong threats from the United States, would have formed an alliance with a religiously-based terror organization that had originally been formed in Afghanistan by the same United States? The historical distortions are a minor tragedy, but a tragedy nevertheless.

Then there are the questions that have been raised about the movie’s definition of heroism. There was a great 2001 film about the Battle of Stalingrad (one of very few US films about the Soviet role in winning World War II) called Enemy at the Gates. The hero is a Red Army sniper. The villain is a Wehrmacht sniper. But hero/villain depends very much whose side you are on, doesn’t it? It’s whose side he is on. To many U.S., he’s a hero, but a sniper on the other side he would a wicked villain, killing people with abandon.

Published in Guest Commentary

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abilly76 In Grand Central Station, Rev. Billy Talen was a victim of the criminalization of dissent. (Photo: Erik McGregor)

A 24-Hour vigil at Grand Central Station organized by the group "We Will Not Be Silent" was held on on Monday, January 5, through Tuesday, January 6. "We Will Not Be Silent" publically memorialized people of color killed by the police with placards of their names on the floor, and condemned the epidemic.

I arrived to speak to the group, introduced by "Justice Jester," at noon on Tuesday. 

By time I spoke, law enforcement officials from various agencies swamped Grand Central station, and I was arrested and charged with "obstruction" and "disorderly conduct.” They had been demanding that the names of victims be picked up, and the protesters refused. I began speaking at about the time that the police intended to confiscate the signs.

After 20 hours in the New York City correctional called The Tombs, I was released and found that a completely fictional story about the arrest was planted in the Murdoch papers (the Post and the Wall Street Journal) as well as a popular liberal blog called The Gothamist. The media meme was that Reverend Billy “got physical” and “attacked a policeman.” The head of security for Grand Central Station was quoted as a source for the accusation, which was entirely untrue.

Published in Guest Commentary

2015.1.28.Marcus.BFA breached oil pipeline in Montana has spilled as many as 50,000 gallons of crude oil in and around the Yellowstone River. (Screen grab via DAHBOO77 / YouTube)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Members of both Houses that are owned by the Koch brothers should be forced to clean up Bridger Pipeline’s devastating oil disaster.  An estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the frozen Yellowstone River, one of America’s great wildlife treasures, for a second time.  It’s too painful for words to describe. As reported in Al Jazeera:

When an oil pipeline burst in July 2011 and poured 63,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River 200 miles upstream from Dena Hoff’s farm of wheat, beans and corn on the Great Plains in Glendive, she felt disgusted. When it happened again Saturday, she felt terror. This pipeline breach was underneath the Yellowstone River, just a few feet from her sheep pasture. The new spill poured out some 50,000 gallons of crude oil. And that’s on top of the 63,000 gallons of oil that spilled in the same area in 2011. Leaders of this small riverside farming and ranching community in northeastern Montana warned residents not to drink their tap water, because benzene, a carcinogen, was found in the municipal water system. Oil slicked the river for dozens of miles, almost to the border with North Dakota. Hoff’s property smelled sickeningly like diesel.

In addition to poisoning the drinking water and vital farmland, one can only imagine how many precious endangered species, birds and animals, will die from this devastating spill.

Published in Guest Commentary

GARY WOCKNER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ecoquake(Image: EcoWatch)

This falls in the “You Can’t Make This Shit Up” category in Colorado.

Yesterday it was reported that a fracking waste company—NGL Water Solutions DJ LLC—that was linked to causing earthquakes is allowed by Gov. John Hickenlooper’s appointed oil and gas commission to increase their fracking waste injection operations, and it was determined that the company did not violate any law or rule when they likely caused the earthquakes.

Further, not only are the fracking waste injections increasing, but the earthquakes are continuing, the biggest of which, in May 2014, was a 3.4 on the richter scale that shook homes and rattled nerves across the region. And, the director of the Governor’s oil and gas commission stated, “We have actively managed this particular circumstance in a way that we feel comfortable with.” 

You can read the latest on this Colorado earthquake morass in the BizWest newspaper.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

 ahydra(Photo: Andrew Jian)

For those of you who can’t recall your Greek mythological beasts, the hydra is mentioned in the tale of the twelve labors of Hercules. It is a dragon-like monster that has many heads. There is no point in slaying the dragon because the heads grow back if they’re cut off.  If one head is eliminated, two heads grow back in its place. It can’t be killed because, as legend has it, the middle head is immortal and that’s the one that’s most dangerous when it breathes its poisonous venom at its victims.  The monstrous serpent would often rise from the murky waters and terrorize the people.

In a recent New York Times article, The Bushes, as Distinct and Alike as Brothers Can Be, the author attempted to draw a distinction between W. and Jeb Bush.  Jeb Bush, who is gearing up for a possible campaign for the presidency, would like Americans to know that he is not one of the Bush heads linked to his brother, George. In other words, he really hates to carry the bad luggage left behind from W.

But as we all know, a hydra is a hydra, and a Bush is a Bush, no matter how many times you cut the head off, the same Bush serpent will grow back again, the same Bush policies of profiting from oil and wars will emerge again and again.

No matter what Jeb says on the campaign trail, he will be burdened with the family’s hydra-albatross around his neck, especially W.’s albatross that carries enormous “torturous” weight, beginning with the mass destruction of Iraq that left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and thousands of our own soldiers, either dead, homeless, maimed or poisoned from depleted uranium, a country, incidentally, that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks, followed by the shocking CIA Torture Report, under the Bush-Cheney administration’s orders, barbaric torture practices were used on detainees at the US illegal prison,Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  As explained in a NY Times editorial, former military officers described this evil facility as a “betrayal of American values.”

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aviolenceprob(Photo: Robert F.W. Whitlock)

Yes, by all means, the VA is failing American veterans terribly, with wholesale claim denials and scandalous waiting times and a general, contemptuous dismissal of the psychological and physical wounds American vets are coming home with — that is, a rich man’s investment in the waging of war, to the tune of many trillions of dollars, but a pauper’s investment in its aftermath. Something else is going on here as well, however, that’s deeper and darker and not limited to the failure of government programs.

In a column I wrote almost a decade ago, I reflected: “Bush’s war to promote terror — the perfect self-sustaining fear machine — isn’t just generating an endless supply of hardened enemies beyond our borders. It is also creating the conditions of social breakdown and psychological blowback within our borders. Guess what? Under Plan Bush, we’ll never be safe.”

This seems to be coming to pass. If a word like “disgruntled” — which describes, at worst, an everyday sense of being mistreated or snubbed — can flow seamlessly into “mass killing,” then America is at a serious precipice. We’re becoming a heavily armed, mentally ill society. And our primary institutions are either contributing directly to the situation or, at best, failing to notice it.

The obvious mega-contributor to our social breakdown is the unending War on Terror, of course. It’s a war cynically waged in two directions: at the enemies beyond our borders that we’ve manufactured and the collateral-damage-in-waiting who live with them; and at the lower and middle classes (the 99 percent) here at home, who have the nerve to expect a reasonable share of the empire’s wealth.

Published in Guest Commentary
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