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AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOverpass Logan International Hannah Bowman(Photo: Hannah Elise Bowman)When we're not actively engaged in killing each other, watching TV, or occupied in other such entertaining diversions, one of humanity's favorite hobbies is imagining that we live in the end times, with extinction lurking around every corner. I've never been a huge fan of this sort of thing. I tend to hold that, as Copernicus explained, we don't occupy a privileged position at the center of the universe, nor do we occupy a privileged position in time, either at the beginning or end of humanity's lifespan. But lately? Perhaps it's because I don't spend enough time perusing sites featuring cats and their regrettable tattoos, or places that promise to ram a positive mood down my throat, but lately I find that voice of imminent doom to be a lot louder and far more persuasive.

I'm not a betting man, but if I had to choose the horse that our destruction will ride in on, I'd go with climate change (if you want debate the for vs. against of climate change, look elsewhere; that debate involves everyone yelling the same thing over and over. I will treat the notion of climate change as the settled science that it, you know, is). And here's the thing about climate change: while we tend to focus on the big, sexy, Hollywood disasters – the IPCC's latest includes fun things like increased global conflict, health catastrophes, and mass extinction - the climate can kill us in ways that are far more prosaic and even a little boring.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

3103989161 6503bd6ff3 z(Photo: David Moir)Truthout posted an inspiring article today about two Oberlin College students who were arrested for blocking a road in efforts to stall strip mining expansion in southern Illinois:

Police arrested two activists at a blockade set up on Rocky Branch Road in Harrisburg, Illinois, early on March 28, 2014, to stop Peabody Energy from continuing logging operations as part of the company's strip mine expansion.

Daniel Goering, 20, and Alice Fine, 19, laid down a tarp on the road to block the route to be used for logging that day. Along with other environmental activists and with the support of community residents directly impacted by Peabody's operations, the two tried to forestall and possibly prevent further strip mining and the proposed closure of Rocky Branch Road. 

Peabody is the largest private coal company in the US and world and it "finished the year with a total liquidity of $2.1 billion and $444 million cash, the company's 2013 annual report stated."  It is notoriously anti-union and not particularly welcoming of government safety regulations.

Coal remains a primary energy source in the United States and is also a primary factor in increasing global warming as it is extracted and processed.  Southern Illinois coal has characteristics that cause additional air pollution as it is utilized.  

2014.Eastwood.BFClint Eastwood at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010. (Photo: Gordon Correll / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Clint Eastwood, Gary Sinise, Kelsey Grammer, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Voight, Dennis Miller, Patricia Heaton, Robert Duvall, Pat Boone, and David Mamet are all members of Friends of Abe.

When Sinise founded it in 2004 -- with help from longtime screenwriter, producer and director, Lionel Chetwind -- Friends of Abe was a secretive and quasi-underground operation. Until recently, little was known about the organization other than it is named after Abraham Lincoln, and, that its events brought such top-shelf conservatives as Ted Cruz, Karl Rove, Scott Walker, Antonin Scalia, Liz Cheney, Rick Perry, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Ryan and Ann Coulter, out to Hollywood to meet up with conservatives in the entertainment industry.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz "suggested to the Hollywood Reporter that IRS's reluctance to immediately ordain FOA as a nonprofit tax-free charity was a left-wing government conspiracy," AlterNet's Adam Parfrey recently reported.

Now, after nearly three years of battling the Internal Revenue Service over its tax-exempt status, the Friends of Abe (FOA), which claims to have no political agenda and considers itself an educational fellowship, was granted 501(c)(3) status.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

4543884606 2e9421d584 zThe United States and North Korea lead the world in imprisoning people. (Photo: Mark Kwakman)

In a recent New York Times (NYT) column, Nikolas Kristof used a 12 question test to point out some of the tragic absurdities of posturing by the big powers and claims to moral legitimacy. He entitled it, "Do You Speak Dictator?"

For instance, if the United States is number one in anything, it is literally the first in the world in the percentage of its population incarcerated.  Kristof, in one of his questions, points out, however, that North Korea probably comes in second or maybe even a tie in this dubious distinction award (exact numbers of those imprisoned in North Korea are not available). That's a rather horrifying ranking to possibly share with the world's most isolated dictatorship.

President Obama and all of his predecessors are always claiming that we go to war and aid pro-democracy movements (as a guise for securing free market hegemony), so why then, as Kristof asks, "Equipment from which country is primarily used to suppress the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain?" The answer of course is the United States. Why? Because Bahrain has oil, large deposits in US banks, and is a "moderate" Arab nation. Therefore, democracy is dispensable there.

In fact, historically, democracy is fine with US foreign policy only if the results of an election lead to a pro-free market economy.  Democracies in this hemisphere and in countries throughout the world have been overthrown if they threaten US commerce or access to natural resources.  We only support democracies that allow US corporations open access to their markets, fossil fuels and the maintenance of an oligarchy. 

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaObjectivist(Photo: Michael Greene)If you've been following politics over the past few years, you are undoubtedly familiar with the political machinations, maneuvering, and the ongoing efforts by the conservative billionaires, Charles and David Koch, to bend democracy to their will and turn the political landscape into their own personal playground. The Koch Brothers' major league funding of right-wing candidates and campaigns (big and small) across the country, have become one of the most toxic elements on America's political scene.

Chances are, however, you do not know anyone who actually knows any of the Koch brothers. You are even less likely to know anyone who, as a teenager, actually spent some time with one of the Koch Brothers in their hometown of Wichita, Kansas.

By the rules of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," I should acknowledge my link to the man, who, as a teenager, hung around the John Birch Society bookshop in Wichita, and met Charles Koch!

Meet Gus diZerega, blogger, political theorist, and author.

I met diZerega while we attended the University of Kansas in the 1960s. It was a long time ago, but if I remember correctly, we clashed – politically, not physically -- a few times during our college years. There were some heated exchanges. Our relationship these days, which is via e-mail exchanges, is not only civil, but also enjoyable and informative; at least I feel informed by his writing.

In a post titled "A Meditation on Charles Koch, Classical Liberalism, and Global Warming," diZerega wrote that he first met Charles Koch while he was in high school in Wichita, Kansas: "I had become a young conservative attracted to right-wing conspiracy theories. One afternoon I was in the American Opinion Bookstore, a John Birch Society operation filled with books on the Communist conspiracy."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apreckwinkleA recent poll indicates Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle could defeat Rahm Emanuel for mayor of Chicago.  (Photo: Wikipedia)Although the Chicago Democratic mayoral primary is a little less than a year off (February of 2015), already the polls have begun to test how he would fare against a Democratic opponent. Emanuel is widely viewed by progressives as a corporatist mayor with an anti-union, pro charter schools, privatization, pro-wealth bias.  

Paying relatively little attention to neighborhoods in need in a city that is now an international service and financial hub, Emanuel has largely been considered to be invincible for reelection due to his alleged $6 million political war chest -- and his unstinting support from the business community.

The first public poll (released last week) indicates that he would lose next year's primary to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.  Preckwinkle is a progressive who would represent the 99% against Emanuel's 1% backing and political viewpoints.  The poll results, for whatever they are worth at this point, conclude that Preckwinkle would win by 40 percent to 32%, with a large undecided vote at this time.

Chicago mainstream media is questioning the credibiity of the poll based on it being conducted by a lesser-known firm -- and the distance in time to the actual race.  Both of these are valid points, and isolated polls -- without others to establish trending -- should be judged with caution.

Furthermore, Preckwinkle is running for re-election as Cook County Board President in November. She has indicated that she wants to (given that her re-election is a lock-in) fill out her next four-year term.

However, as Chicago's ABC television affiliate notes online, Preckwinkle "has not ruled out challenging Emanuel in February 2015."

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSchool(Photo: M. Rehemtulla)The education privatizers are trying to convince us that parental 'choice' will solve all the problems in our schools. But the choice they have in mind is to dismantle a once-proud system of education that was nurtured and funded by a society of Americans willing to work together.

The wealthiest among us seem to have forgotten how important it is to cooperate, as most Americans did in the post-WW2 years, in order to forge new paths of productivity and inventiveness. A vibrant society makes great individuals, not the other way around. Education must be at the forefront of such cooperative thinking. Here are four good arguments for it.

1. Equal Opportunity is an American Mandate

In the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. the Board of Education, Chief Justice Earl Warren said that education "is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." Equally eminent future Justice Thurgood Marshall insisted on "the right of every American to an equal start in life."

But now, as The Economist points out, "Whereas most OECD countries spend more on the education of poor children than rich ones, in America the opposite is true." Poverty, of course, is of all colors, but it's disproportionately black. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA shows that "segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities," while the Economic Policy Institute tells us that "African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago." New York City is the best example of that.

Charters and vouchers are the 'choice' of the free market. But the National Education Policy Center notes that "Charter schools...can shape their student enrollment in surprising ways," through practices that often exclude "students with special needs, those with low test scores, English learners, or students in poverty." Stanford's updated CREDO study found that fewer special education students and fewer English language learners are served in charters than in traditional public schools.

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

avera2.jpa(Photo: James Pitarresi)Vera Scroggins of Susquehanna County, Pa., will now be allowed to go to her hospital, supermarket, drug store, several restaurants, and the place where she goes for rehabilitation therapy. She can now go to the county’s recycling center, which is on 12.5 acres of land the county had leased to Cabot Gas & Oil Corp., one of the largest drillers in the country.

Common Pleas Court Judge Kenneth W. Seamans, Friday, revised a preliminary injunction he issued in October against the anti-fracking activist. That injunction had required the 63-year-old grandmother and retired nurse’s aide to stay at least 150 feet from all properties where Cabot had leased mineral rights, even if that distance was on public property. Because Cabot had leased mineral rights to 40 percent of Susquehanna County, about 300 square miles, almost any place Scroggins wanted to be was a place she was not allowed to be. The injunction didn’t specify where Scroggins couldn’t go. It was a task that required her to go to the courthouse in Montrose, dig through hundreds of documents, and figure it out for herself.

The injunction, says Scott Michelman of Public Citizen was “overbroad and violates her constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of movement.” Public Citizen, the Pennsylvania ACLU, and local attorney Gerald Kinchy, represented her Monday when she sought to vacate the order. At that hearing, Cabot wanted the buffer zone extended to 500 feet, but couldn’t show any reason why 500 feet was necessary.

Seamans’ revised order prohibits Scroggins from going within 100 feet of any active well pad or access roads of properties Cabot owns or has leased mineral rights. Land not being drilled, but which Cabot owns mineral rights, is no longer part of the injunction. That 100 feet separation is still far more than most injunctions call for; even abortion clinics typically have 15 feet exclusion zones to prevent violence, according to the brief filed in Scroggins’ behalf. Even the revised order probably violates her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

5396283920 1afc9b137b z(Photo: Liquefied Natural Gas tanker Paul Johnston)

In a BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary yesterday, "The Major Reason There Will Be No War With Russia: They Are Rasputin Capitalists Now," we speculated that there would be no armed conflict between the United States and Russia, because Moscow under Putin has become a full-fledged gangster capitalist nation -- a country Wall Street can love and admire for its brashness in being openly proud of its thuggishness oligarchy.  

However, that does not mean that there is not competition within the pantheon of titan capitalists.  Such is the case occurring in the United States using the Ukarine-Crimea "crisis" to launch an all out fossil fuel face-off with Russia's Gazprom, the number one natural gas supplier in the world. Europe and the Ukraine and many other nations depend upon Gazprom for a good percentage of their natural gas supply.

The United States may now be, or so the government claims, the largest producer of oil and natural gas combined, but the production frenzy of the US (and Canadian) fossel fuel industry is reaching a grand finale of maximum Earth destroying extraction, before global warming will force a possible too-late reduction of oil and gas production ravaging of the Earth.

So, what are US politicians doing in response to Russian incursion into Crimea? Why, crying for undercutting Russian natural gas exports by increasing US shipments to Europe and former Soviet Union republics, now independent nations.  

In fact, President Obama is encouraging not only increased shipment of natural gas overseas, but more fracking in Europe -- all destined to ratchet up the Earth's climate change, putting residents of the planet in perilous risk.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBerlinWall(Photo: Noir)I had no idea so many Republicans were nostalgic for the Cold War. President Obama should dust off the zinger he used in a campaign debate against Mitt Romney: "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back."

Poor Mitt. It seems he never got over Obama's putdown of his view that Russia is the "number-one geopolitical foe" of the United States. Since Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from neighboring Ukraine, Romney has been crowing "told you so."

Other hawkish GOP luminaries, either out of ideology or opportunism, are loudly echoing Romney's criticism. Speaking of hawks, Sen. John McCain of Arizona accused the president of conducting a "feckless" foreign policy. And speaking of opportunists, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said the United States has "receded from leadership" in the world and speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "openly laughing" at Obama.

I think it's much more likely that Putin finds humor in all the armchair generals who fail to suggest a single course of action that would have prevented him from snatching Crimea -- or a course of action that would make him give it back. Loud, content-free bluster can be amusing.

Obama's words and actions matter, however, and his handling of the Ukraine crisis has been firm, steady and realistic. These are not the 1980s and this is not the Cold War. I believe most Americans realize this, and perhaps someday the hawkish wing of the Republican Party will catch up.

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