EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We now have even more proof that our burgeoning intelligence agencies, which were given unprecedented latitude to wage war against terrorists, are dangerously out of control.
Not that further evidence was needed: Months of stunning revelations about the National Security Agency's massive domestic surveillance, thanks to fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden, should have been more than enough. But this week, one of the intelligence community's staunchest defenders in Congress took to the Senate floor to announce that even she has had it up to (BEG ITAL)here(END ITAL).
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the Senate intelligence committee, trained her fury on the CIA, which has waged a five-year campaign of bureaucratic guerrilla warfare to keep the committee from doing a crucial job: fully investigating the torture, secret detention and other appalling excesses committed under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Feinstein accused the CIA of improperly searching computers that intelligence committee staff members were using to review CIA documents about "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding -- in plain language, torture.
"The CIA just went and searched the committee's computers," Feinstein said. "I have grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation-of-powers principle embodied in the United States Constitution." She said she believed the agency might also have violated the Fourth Amendment, a federal law and a presidential executive order.
This is not just a bunch of rhetoric. It's a very big deal.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR AT BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
FORTUNE). Public Citizen sent out an email excoriating the federal action:Perhaps what best explains why the US government restored BP's right to federal contracts and drilling the other day is this fact: It is the sixth largest corporation in the world in revenues (as calculated by
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today [March 13] that it had reached a settlement with BP to allow the oil giant to once again secure new federal government contracts and drilling leases. Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, issued the following statement:
Today’s announcement lets a corporate felon and repeat offender off the hook for its crimes against people and the environment. This is a company that was on criminal probation at the time of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and it has failed to prove that it is a responsible contractor deserving of lucrative taxpayer deals.
The EPA’s condition of the retention of an independent auditor to ensure the company complies as a responsible contractor is inadequate protection for taxpayers. While we applaud the EPA for initiating the ban, it is premature to end it. BP has failed to demonstrate that the corporate culture that allowed the Alaskan pipeline spill, the Texas City refinery explosion, the propane market manipulation and the Gulf Coast tragedy has changed.
Given that the BP Gulf spill was the largest accidental oil pollution of a body of water in history, one would think that the company (which earned a $13.4 billion profit in 2014) would be on its best behavior. That is hardly the case.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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).On March 5, 2014, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.com
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
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."
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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
Reuters March 12th article reports:It was a banner year for Wall Street bonuses in 2013, a
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
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.
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
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
there is the high cost, as noted in a 2012 report on PBS:Here are two basic facts to remember about the health care system in the United States. First,
How much is good health care worth to you? $8,233 per year? That’s how much the U.S. spends per person.
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.