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149739864 8174b36b57 o(Photo: bws front)All this talk of a new cold war is just a lot of political blather coming out of DC due to the re-emergence of the neocons.

The reality is that there will be no war with the Russian Federation because Russia is now a raffish capitalist nation. Let us just remember Vladimir Putin was a lieutenant colonel in the KGB (for 16 years) at a time that they might have surpassed the CIA for lacking scruples, although probably not by much.

Since Putin assumed power in Russia in 2000, he has served as either president or prime minister of the Russian Federation, effectively being the most powerful man in the nation for the past 13 years.

There is no ideological conflict with Russia now, no wall to bring to down, no communism to overthrow.  Under Putin, the Russian Federation has become a full-fledged member of the global capitalist system, only with the sleight variation that the Russian mafia plays an open role in the free market system. Instead of bankers crushing people with financial maneuverings, the Russian oligarchs allegedly prefer using their friends "Smith and Wesson" to resolve business disputes.


aaaPistol(Photo: Augustas Didzgalvis)"It was loaded with meaning and death."

Oh lethal, ticklish topic. So many people love guns and swear by them — many of them people with whom I am otherwise in essential political agreement. And it's not like I relish a debate about "gun control," a tug-of-war about limits that offends most gun lovers and causes weapon-buying sprees after every mass murder.

But the topic is unavoidable. The gun industry is part of the military-industrial complex and its advertising war aimed at the American reptile brain is centered around a permanent state of fear and, even more significantly, helplessness. Most people, or at least most gun owners, think "disarmed" means "disempowered" and the debate, such as it is, ends there.

The quote above is from an extraordinary essay by poet Judy Juanita, which gets at the spiritual dimension of the matter:

"The Gun as steel metaphor carrying the human urge to dominate and lay waste to an enemy or perceived threat. Guns as import and export. Hollywood's Gun, its cinematic ordnance, is the United States' international calling card.

"The Gun is oh-so-social as it erases human inequality. Anyone can obtain one and point . . . shoot . . . kill."

Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington DC, and receiving the "Defender of the Constitution Award." (Photo:<a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/22007612@N05/5446750004/in/photolist-9ij21Q-9igpwi-9ijfqY-5J6mF6-4CVKux-4CZZYh-4CVKyc-4CVKxz-4CVKwB-4CZZXL-hKnhp-9kg11n-82ouaz-9uz9E8-EesT-593s-5tw3WJ-azgQCv-mAMRN-5PhpTj-ayVajU-ayVacs-fCnSQo-9EA3Cc-dtByNU-ksYE9v-dY8vFi-azCRgw-6UJK7j-8iAtt-avc1pt-6hoPRa-t7ZQx-tGSxS-5DDZyf-5DEcP9-5DzV5P-5DzUTZ-6fTQa6-9cywV3-9hqGoj-9ijuw5-9ifWpZ-9ig9hR-9igpkB-9igpHT-9ig986-9igoVR-3K8Heh-593u-4CZZWh"> Gage Skidmore / Flickr</a>)Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington DC, and receiving the "Defender of the Constitution Award." (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In a January 2005, story titled "Rumsfeld's Bloody Paths of Glory," I wrote: "Invoke the name of Donald Rumsfeld and these are the associations: failure to provide enough U.S. troops for Iraq; torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo; extended tours of duty and stopgap orders; worn out reservists and National Guard members; hubris worthy of the Greek chroniclers of the wars of the Peloponnesus; and infamous Rumsfeldian remarks including his recent, you go to war 'with the army you have.'"

In Errol Morris' Oscar-winning Fog of War, the filmmaker was able to get Robert McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense who guided America through the dreadful Vietnam War, to reflect on the war's failures and apologize for the disastrous mistakes he made. In his new film, The Unknown Known, Morris allows George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to be Rumsfeld; smug, self-satisfied, and unremorseful about the disastrous invasion of Iraq.

The other evening, Morris was a guest on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher". He was there to discuss and promote The Unknown Known, based in large part on Rumsfeld granting Morris more than thirty hours with him.


6870878979 159c7e6104 m1(Photo: 401K 2012)Lost in the coverage of America's tale of two economies (the 1% who have recieved 95 percent of the financial gains since they busted the economy in 2008 -- and the rest of us), is that seniors are especially hard hit by the disparity between so-called savings account interest (currently .01 percent at most banks) and inflation.

Yes, there still is inflation. It is relatively modest, but is still there and has a palpable impact on those on low fixed incomes - such as Social Security.  According to a website that covers inflation:

Over the longer period from December 2012 to December 2013, the US inflation rate rose 1.5 percent. That increase compares to the 1.2 percent advance in the 12 months ended November. Inflation in 2012, as another comparison, rose 1.7 percent. Noted specifically by the Labor Department, it is the first time that inflation has been under 2 percent for consecutive years since 1997-98.

Wrapping everything up, core annual inflation in 2013 rose 1.7 percent, which is the same 12-month increase noted in each of the prior three CPI reports. The total in 2012 was 1.9 percent.

Yes, it is true that Social Security recipients received a 1.7 percent increase in 2013 payments. But given that the banks (ostensibly based on the overnight interest charged by the Federal Reserve) are only paying - in general - .01 percent interest on what are falsely called "savings accounts," seniors  are losing money.

 (Photo:<a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/18090920@N07/5188351708/in/photolist-8UtEcN-79QHCb-4ePHGY-bG1D-3mgwvF-bYzcNL-aEig4v-6X4H6w-7r4t2p-359usj-aDX8Eu-9JMewz-7r8egh-b6MCQF-9Q4JcT-ACEJk-jtn5k-gWyiTb-gWy3QY-6aw6wD-4R6bcC-4R6sn3-bu6u7Q-cEHWEh-8BG6Na-6p5wct-9S31ng-5gALDb-6v5av4-cM9Urj-aNnXzP-cEHJ9d-eHjD7V-aiMS1v-aiMSFF-8L9Us6-cEHCT3-5kNn1n-fbyWhJ-pqe6t-9xvkDy-ohMst-RiC6a-5KX7mM-N7Sdk-7tNrdW-aNnXJe-jCdSx4-4nrZVW-n2eYB-ateAPP"> Sean MacEntee / Flickr</a>) (Photo: Sean MacEntee / Flickr)


If one obscure college professor dies, does it make any difference? If you're Margaret Mary Vojtko, yes.

Margaret Mary died last summer at age 83 — and her death has turned her name into an emotional rallying cry for adjunct college teachers who're seeking justice from their schools.

Vojtko had taught French classes for 25 years at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, earning high marks from her students. Their praise helped make up for Duquesne's poor pay and lack of respect. Like most teachers there, Margaret Mary was part of the adjunct faculty — a group that now teaches more than half of all U.S. college courses, yet has no tenure or bargaining power, thus allowing schools like Duquesne to take advantage of them. And, boy, do they ever!


aaaRapture(Photo: Phillip Medhurst)If you've been waiting for someone to link the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 to The Rapture, thanks to the Reverend Billy Graham's daughter, your wait is over. According to Anne Graham Lotz, the disappearance of the Boeing 777 over the Indian Ocean could be a sign that The Rapture might be around the corner.

Ms. Graham Lotz's Malaysian Airlines theorizing, coupled with her brother Franklin's recent declaration of support for the way Russia's Valadimir Putin is dealing with gays in his country, makes one think that March Madness extends far beyond the nation's premier basketball tournament.

Graham Lotz, a Christian evangelist, begins her piece, titled "Malaysian Airliner Disappearance Offers Snapshot of Post-Rapture World Shock," by citing 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."

She then poses a series of questions that many have been asking:

"How could a modern airliner drop out of sight so quickly and completely? What happened to the plane itself? Was it hijacked? Was it blown out of the sky? Did something happen to the pilots so that without guidance the plane plunged intact into the depths of the sea?"

"Bottom line," she writes, "Where are all the people?"


aclimatejust(Photo: Rainforest Action Network)The fossil fuel companies commit so many egregious crimes against life and the planet - and the federal government is so complicit in playing down the damage - that a numbing sets in for most of the United States population.  In an age of riding the surf of pulsating news, it is hard to recall the seemingly unending incidents of fossil fuel company pollution and ravaging of the Earth - from minor spills to massive despoiling of the planet.

Even the largest offshore oil spill in US history -- the BP Gulf blowout -- is now pretty much forgotten (or is only vaguely remembered) by the average American.

However, the devastation caused by the fossil fuel drilling frenzy now being sanctioned by the federal - and most state governments - will have the long term impact of destroying our planet and causing untold deaths. Furthermore, in the short term, it is reaping a death knell to many species on earth, including causing cancer and other terminal illnesses in humans. 

That includes the disappearance of many species on Earth, as detailed in Truthout's Progressive Pick of the Week: The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert.  Even if a species is not already eradicated, the toxic impact of oil spills is extremely wide-ranging. The Washington Post yesterday posted an article, "Deepwater Horizon oil left tuna, other species with heart defects likely to prove fatal." It is one of the kinds of stories that doesn't get a lot of mileage other than the original post because it is a small piece in a big puzzle of an incremental catastrophe, lost amidst wall-to-wall coverage of a sensationalistic story, such as the mystery of what happened to Malayasin Airlines Flight 370.


aaaSoupKitchen(Photo: Skeezix1000)Blaming poverty on the mysterious influence of "culture" is a convenient excuse for doing nothing to address the problem.

That's the real issue with what Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said about distressed inner-city communities. Critics who accuse him of racism are missing the point. What he's really guilty of is providing a reason for government to throw up its hands in mock helplessness.

The fundamental problem that poor people have, whether they live in decaying urban neighborhoods or depressed Appalachian valleys or small towns of the Deep South, is not enough money.

Alleviating stubborn poverty is difficult and expensive. Direct government aid -- money, food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance and the like -- is not enough. Poor people need employment that offers a brighter future for themselves and their children. Which means they need job skills. Which means they need education. Which means they need good schools and safe streets.

The list of needs is dauntingly long, and it's hard to know where to start -- or where the money for all the needed interventions will come from. It's much easier to say that culture is ultimately to blame. But since there's no step-by-step procedure for changing a culture, we end up not doing anything.


adropwater(Photo: ERIO)

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You cannot live without water, but the fossil fuel industry is counting on squeezing the last drop out of the Earth to extract oil and natural gas.

On March 21, Bloomberg news ran an article, "Global Energy Thirst Threatens Water Supplies, UN Says." It's rather grim to foresee that when the fresh water runs out or becomes too polluted to drink -- and desalination plants can only provide a small portion of drinking water -- the only option that the fuel industry may leave us with is imbibing toxic oil sludge.

According to Bloomberg News coverage of the latest United Nations World Water Development Report on which its article is based:

Shale gas and oil production as well as biofuels “can pose significant risks” to water resources, pitting energy producers against farmers, factories and providers of drinking and sanitation services, the agency said....

Water-related needs for energy production have tripled since 1995, according to GE Water, while more than half of the global cotton production is grown in areas with high water risks. Electricity demand is forecast to rise at least two-thirds by 2035, driven by population growth.

"Significant risks" is perhaps an understatement as to the threat posed by such oil and other fossil fuel extraction processes that threaten a global non-salt water supply that is already inadequate and is highly likely to decrease due to global warming.  

(Image: <a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/42269094@N05/8432382363/in/photolist-dR9auP-bu7YWi"target="_blank"> Jared Rodriguez / Truthout</a>)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT  

Gallup headlined on March 20th, "Americans Again Pick Environment Over Economic Growth: Partisan Gap Over Priority Largest [Ever] Recorded." Their report showed that, whereas by a margin of 51% to 41%, all Americans place higher priority on "protection of the environment" than on "economic growth," the partisan gap on this issue is now at a record 34% of the electorate: 66% of Democrats favor the environment, whereas only 32% of Republicans do. In 2013, that was 55% to 27%. In 2012, it was 50% to 27%.

Back in 2000, 75% of Democrats favored the environment, and 60% of Republicans did, for a mere 15% partisan gap.

Between those two periods, a 14-year stretch, there was a massive money-funnel into conservative politics, operated by the largest owners of the Alberta Canada tar sands, Charles and David Koch, to attack the credibility of the growing climatological consensus, that the world is dangerously heating up due to the burning of fossil fuels, especially of the most-carbon-laden ones: coal and tar-sands oils.

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