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Thursday, 13 March 2014 08:52

Ukraine, the Cheneyites, and Permanent War

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaUkraineCrisis2014(Photo: Amakuha)On March 5, 2014, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.com presented a very well-documented case for the hypothesis, long-standing on the Left in the U.S. and around the world as well, that the principal reason the U.S. invaded Iraq was for oil. (It had also been thought that the invasion had as a goal establishing permanent military bases in the Western Iraqi desert).

Of course it was known before the invasion that Iraq had no "weapons of mass destruction." That had been well-documented by the team led by the Chief UN Weapons Investigator Hans Blix. Thus it was widely known at the time that the reason(s) given for the invasion were bogus. (To its credit, in 2013 MSNBC also ran a documentary on the selling of the Iraq War).

Indeed, given the preoccupation with petroleum products and policy of the then chief driver of U.S. foreign policy, Dick Cheney, that it was really for oil (and bases) was a very reasonable proposition. Ms. Maddow has now provided much evidence that it was the case.

Nevertheless, for quite some time I have felt that beyond oil and bases the primary reason for the invasion, coming as it did on the relative heels of the Neo-cons' wished-for "next Pearl Harbor" 9/11, and with the (totally bogus) claim that "Saddam was behind 9/11," was to help establish a U.S. policy of Permanent War. And so we come to Ukraine.

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aharperobamaNorth American "Petro-Machismo" Leaders Barack Obama and Stephen Harper (Photo: Wikipedia)

Anyone in the US who is still under the illusion that the Canadian national government is enlightened and progressive has not been following the right-wing policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party.

Harper makes George W. Bush look like a moderate. 

Nothing represents how far Canada has gone from being a government for the people -- and a good citizen of the world -- than Harper's relentless drive to develop Alberta tar sands oil production, build new high-volume pipelines in Canada and the US (including, of course, the northern section of the Keystone XL) and steadfastly support the large Canadian extraction industry, known for its exploitation of labor and toxic pollution domestically and particularly in Latin and South America.

Yet, it is still a bit shocking that the government of Canada is sponsoring (and paying for with Canadian taxpayer money, one can assume) a deceitful public relations campaign to push for the Keystone XL northern route and tar sands production as environmentally friendly.  You can find the website version of this propaganda as click-throughs in publications such as The Hill, filled with jingoistic articles such as the first one: "America and Canada: Standing together for energy independence." A writer in a progressive publication recently called this kind of fossil fuel bragging "petro-machismo."

Thursday, 13 March 2014 06:49

Detroit USA: Poster City for Abandonment

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AbandonedHouseDetroit(Photo: Notorious4life)White flight, corporate flight . . .

I grew up just outside Detroit and have felt an ache in my heart for this bleeding city for so many years now. It's long been one of the country's designated loser cities, beginning in the 1960s, when change hit it hard. The phrase at the time was "urban blight," a social cancer with unexamined causes that, in the ensuing years, has gotten progressively worse.

A year ago this week, the city, which is predominantly African-American, lost its self-governance when the Republican governor of Michigan appointed an emergency financial manager, an overboss with powers superseding that of all elected officials — including the ability to rewrite laws, break contracts, privatize services and much more — on the premise that only an autocrat could straighten out the city's disastrous finances. Four months later, Detroit made headlines as the largest city to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, but of course it wasn't "the city" that did so; it was the emergency manager.

The city, in all its soul and complexity, had been reduced to a single voice: the voice of austerity and, of course, corporate interests.

"If the city filed for bankruptcy, and was arguing in its own interest," activist Detroit pastor Bill Wylie-Kellermann wrote recently in The Catholic Worker, "the banks and the pensioners and the unions, would all be on a level playing field. Instead the banks have been dealt with up front, offered 80 cents on the dollar. The city pensioners were offered 10 cents."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abankbonus(Photo: A. Golden)It was a banner year for Wall Street bonuses in 2013, a Reuters March 12th article reports:

Wall Street's average cash bonus swelled last year to its highest since the financial crisis and the third largest on record, New York State's budget watchdog said on Wednesday.

The cash bonus pool jumped 15 percent to $26.7 billion in 2013, pushing the average cash bonus was $164,530, according to the New York state comptroller's annual estimate based on personal income tax trends.

The increased bonuses came as Wall Street posted a fifth consecutive year of profits after record losses during the 2008 financial crisis. 

The uptick in bonuses reflects statistical evidence that 95 percent of revenue and asset gains in the economy since the bust of 2008 have gone to the top one percent. According to an Associated Press analysis:

The gulf between the richest one percent and the rest of America is the widest it's been since the Roaring '20s....

JP SOTTILE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aukraineUkranian protests in late 2013 (Photo: Wikipedia)Everybody’s got an opinion about the “showdown” with Russia.

Some say it’s about freedom and the right to self-determination. Some say it’s about standing up to aggression and halting a dictator’s march. Some say it’s about the future of everything—from Syria to North Korea to Iran’s nuclear program—and, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, it all stems from Obama’s failure to kill the people who killed Americans at Benghazi.

But the most-revealing voice in the chorus is Condi Rice.

She penned a tension-filled op-ed on Ukraine for the Washington Post—the newspaper of broken records. Her nostalgic, “Baby, It’s a Cold War Outside” ditty on the “Ukrainian Problem” came just two days after a Teflon-coatedHenry Kissinger opined about the “art of establishing priorities” in his own Ukraine-themed op-ed for the Post.

As the world learned through painful experience, Condi Rice, much like Henry Kissinger, was all about establishing priorities. But now that she’s out of power, why should anyone waste any time considering Ms. Rice’s opinion about anything, much less about the “crisis” in Ukraine?

Why? Because it’s telling.

Like most American Exceptionalists, her bluster and posturing can be reverse-engineered to find the banal truth about U.S. foreign policy. For example, her steadfast belief that Ukraine “should not be a pawn in a great-power conflict but rather an independent nation” might have something to do with Chevron’s 50-year lease to develop Ukraine’s shale gas reserves.

Pipes for the Keystone pipeline in Nebraska, August 13, 2009. (Photo <a href=" http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pipes_for_keystone_pipeline_in_2009.jpg" target="_blank"> via Wikimedia Commons </a>)Pipes for the Keystone pipeline in Nebraska, August 13, 2009. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Office Of Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. State Department has determined that all of the corruption that was entailed in the preparation of the Hillary Clinton State Department's two Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) on the TransCanada corporation's proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, and that is still present in the John Kerry State Department's final EIS, was legal.

Prior to issuing that judgment, the Sierra Club (SC) and Friends of the Earth (FOE) had written to the IG alleging that the company that the Hillary Clinton State Department had chosen to write the second of the two draft EISs, Environmental Resource Management Group Inc. (ERM), and that was heavily involved in writing the John Kerry State Department's "Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Project," should have been disqualified from involvement in it, because:

"The State Department improperly selected ERM without conducting any independent inquiry into potential conflicts of interest, thus ignoring previous OIG [Office of the Inspector General] recommendations and its own Interim Guidance procedures."

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Archery(Photo: Traumrune)Despite being swatted around more in the past few years than any other time in its forty-plus year history, despite the organization's past and current operations finally becoming of interest to mainstream journalists, despite it's bleeding sponsors, and despite being directly linked to the odious and controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws in more than twenty states, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – a Republican Party-oriented lobbying group -- is launching an ambitious new initiative aimed at expanding its influence by providing model legislation to governments in villages, cities, towns and counties across the country.

The new ALEC-sponsored initiative is being called the American City County Exchange (ACCE). On the ALEC website the organization is already touting ACCE as "America's fastest-growing volunteer membership organization of policymakers from villages, towns, cities and counties. ACCE works with local officials to promote efficiency and minimize waste by implementing limited government, free market solutions."

According to the Guardian's Ed Pilkington, ACCE "is looking to take its blueprint for influence over statewide lawmaking and drill it down to the local level."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asinpay(Photo: niXerKG)Here are two basic facts to remember about the health care system in the United States. First, there is the high cost, as noted in a 2012 report on PBS: 

How much is good health care worth to you? $8,233 per year? That’s how much the U.S. spends per person.

Worth it?

That figure is more than two-and-a-half times more than most developed nations in the world, including relatively rich European countries like France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. On a more global scale, it means U.S. health care costs now eat up 17.6 percent of GDP....

Whether measured relative to its population or its economy, the United States spends by far the most in the world on health care.

The U.S. spent $8,233 on health per person in 2010. Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland are the next highest spenders, but in the same year, they all spent at least $3,000 less per person. The average spending on health care among the other 33 developed OECD countries was $3,268 per person.

That statistic brings up the much-beloved free market criteria of return on investment (ROI), at which the US performs abysmally according to many studies when it comes to health.  

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aCrimeaCrisis(Photo: VOA)When the new Ukrainian prime minister visits the White House this week, President Obama should offer continued support -- but also ask pointedly why several far-right ultra-nationalists have such prominent roles in Ukraine's new government.

I don't know of any reason to doubt Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's commitment to democracy and pluralism. The same cannot be said for some other members of the provisional regime that is trying to reverse Russia's grab of the Crimean Peninsula.

Oleksandr Sych, one of three vice prime ministers, is a member of the controversial Svoboda party, whose leader charged that Ukraine was being controlled by a "Muscovite-Jewish mafia" before last month's revolution. Members of Svoboda also run the agriculture and environment ministries. Last year, the World Jewish Congress called on the European Union to consider banning what it considered neo-Nazi parties, including Svoboda.

The head of the National Security and Defense Council, in charge of the armed forces, is Andriy Parubiy, who founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine, an openly neo-fascist precursor to Svoboda. Parubiy's deputy is Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sector, a far-right paramilitary group that clashed violently with the security forces of deposed leader Viktor Yanukovych.

All of which is to say that the situation in Ukraine is not as simple as it might seem.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adetroitShould Detroit annex itself to the Ukraine to receive US financial aid? (Photo: dreaming_of_rivers)

Biting satire, as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report so uproariously reveal, is often closer to the heart of reality than the "packaged reality" it mercilessly skews. 

In the BuzzFlash at Truthout e-mail this weekend, we received our weekly quips from Howard Albrecht, an octogenarian comic writer who staffed many of the top shows of the golden age of comedy during the '50s and '60s.  Retired now, Albrecht's audience is his list serve.  This Saturday, his package of one-liners included this one: "To help stabilize the region, the US is giving a billion dollars to Ukraine. In an effort to uplift their city, Detroit just declared war on Russia."

Like the cutting remarks on Comedy Central, there is a ring of absurdist truth in Albrecht's sarcastic proposition: if we want to save an American city decimated by national and corporate financial neglect and abandonment, then instead of declaring the city bankrupt, why don't the remaining citizens of Detroit issue a declaration of war against Putin's Russian Federation?

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