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By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
On July 30, the Republican minority of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, headed by Sen. David Vitter, released a report titled "The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA."
Democracy...going, going gone: Leaving Brennan as CIA Director Means the Triumph of Secret Government
By Dave Lindorff
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says that John Brennan, the director of the CIA who has finally admitted that he lied when he angrily and repeatedly insisted that the agency did not spy on staff members of the Senate committee charged with oversight US intelligence agencies, “has a lot of work to do,” before she can forgive him for lying to and spying on her committee.
Whoops! What crisis?: Time to Go on the Offensive to Improve, not just Save Social Security and Medicare
By Dave Lindorff
The wind has suddenly been knocked out of sails of those critics of Social Security and Medicare in Washington -- Republican and Democrat -- who have for years been warning direly that the two programs were going bust. Suddenly their favored “rescue” plans for these crucial programs -- turning to a stingier way of calculating the annual inflation adjustment, raising the retirement age, and even reducing benefits for Social Security, and cutting benefits for Medicare -- don’t make sense to anyone.
Washington DC – Today, the House of Representatives overwhelming passed the bipartisan McGovern-Jones-Lee resolution which requires the President to seek Congressional authorization before deploying armed services engaged in combat operations in Iraq.
“This resolution reclaims Congressional responsibility in matters of war and peace. In 2001, Congress gave the Administration a blank check for endless war and it’s long past time for Congress to take back that authority,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Enough is enough. After more than decade of war, the American people are war-weary; we must end the culture of endless war and repeal the AUMFs.”
Recent polling by Public Policy Polling found seventy-four percent of American voters oppose military action in Iraq.
“There is no military solution in Iraq,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Any lasting solution must be political and respect the rights of all Iraqis.”
“This resolution is a step in the right direction but Congress needs to repeal the AUMFs that serve as a blank check for endless war,” added Congresswoman Lee.
Congresswoman Lee authored H.R. 3852 to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. Congresswoman Lee joined Congressman Rigell in a bipartisan letter signed by more than 100 Members of Congress calling on President Obama to seek Congressional authorization before taking military action in Iraq.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Deploying the age-old "Friday news dump," President Barack Obama's Interior Department gave the green light on Friday, July 18 to companies to deploy seismic air guns to examine the scope of Atlantic Coast offshore oil-and-gas reserves.
Barbecuing the Palestinians: Once it was Nazis Leveling the Warsaw Ghetto, Now it’s Israel’s IDF Leveling Gaza
By Dave Lindorff
About six years ago, as part of his Bar Mitzvah, my son Jed did a project on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, producing his own graphic novel about the undergound fighters who used courage, creativity and the city’s sewer system to, in some small way, offer resistance to the murderous program of the Nazis to exterminate Poland’s Jews.
By John Grant
In Spanish, the word hondura means “depth; profundity.” The related word hondomeans “deep, low; bottom.” Hondon means “dell, glen, deep hole.” An example given in my dictionary is meterse en honduras, “to go beyond one’s depth.”
Talk Nation Radio: Paul Findley, 93, Key Author of the War Powers Resolution on How It Might Be Complied With
Paul Findley served as a Republican member of United States House of Representatives from Illinois for 22 years. He was a key author of the War Powers Resolution and a leader in securing its enactment by overriding the veto of President Richard Nixon. The federal building in Springfield, Ill. is named for him. He discusses the legality, or lack thereof, of recent wars and proposals for wars, including in Syria and Iraq.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
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As this is being written, Israel is once again bombing the Gaza Strip. There are a few key points that the U.S. government, and the populace, seem to constantly overlook:
· Palestine has no army, navy or air force.
· All of the borders of the Gaza Strip are controlled by Israel. Only goods and people that Israel allows can cross those borders, and the restrictions are extreme.
· In the West Bank, occupied by Israel illegally in the eyes of the international community, Israel-controlled internal check points make the simple task of going to the market an hours-long ordeal.
A majority of conservative old Catholic men: What’s Next? A Ruling that Workers’ Insurance Doesn’t Have to Cover Transfusions?
By Dave Lindorff
The vote by the US Supreme Court’s five conservative Catholic male members in the Hobby Lobby case, declaring that companies substantially owned by people who on religious grounds believe that contraception is a sin can not be compelled to offer coverage for it in any health plan provided to their employees raises a few important questions.
By John Grant
When lo! An angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, . . .
The media is reporting that three teenagers living in illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine are missing, and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated, on evidence he has not chosen to share, that they have been kidnapped by Hamas. In response, he has unleashed a new level of terrorism against Palestinians living in the West Bank, with mass arrests and a new level of harassment that is shocking even for his IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists.
At this point the whereabouts of the three missing people is unknown; how and why they left, whether or not there is a criminal component and, if so, who is responsible, are also unknown. One hopes they are found safely. However, the outrage that Israel and the United States is demonstrating by this event is somewhat puzzling at best, and wildly hypocritical at worst.
On ThisCantBeHappening! radio: Dave Lindorff and Vietnam Vet and Long-Time Peace Activist John Grant Discuss the Bowe Bergdahl
By Dave Lindorff
Bowe Bergdahl, the POW held for five years by the Taliban in Afghanistan who was recently traded for the release of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, has been convicted in the halls of Congress and in most of the media as a deserter -- even a traitor or a Taliban convert -- all without any trial or even any evidence. John Grant, a veteran of the Vietmam War, where desertions were common, says it's an old story: As America's losing wars wind down, those who advocated the in the first place and pushed for their continuation try to create a "stabbed in the back" narrative to explain the humiliating defeat of US military forces.
In 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan. The invasion was purported to be a response to the Taliban’s refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States, but probably had a lot more to do with enabling the construction of an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. Today, thirteen years later, U.S. soldiers continue to fight there.
Two years later, the U.S, the most powerful country in the world, unleashed its terrorism on Iraq, due, it was said, to the dubious then and later unproven charge that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was moments away from using them to destroy the American way of life (whatever that is). It wasn’t until 2011 that something that President Barack Obama and his minions decided to call ‘victory’ was sufficient to withdraw U.S. troops.
A lead article on CNN today reads as follows: ‘Fellow soldiers call Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, not a hero.’
It seems that one is defining the term ‘hero’ in a rather odd way, if one can’t consider a deserter a hero. Let’s look first at what desertion from the U.S. military means, in terms of actions and possible consequences, and then more specifically at Mr. Bergdahl’s particular situation, or at least what is currently known of it.
By Dave Lindorff
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
On Friday May 30, just a few days before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced details of its carbon rule proposal, the Obama Administration awarded offshore oil leases to ExxonMobil in an area of the Gulf of Mexico potentially containing over 172 million barrels of oil.
USA Freedom Act has nothing to do with freedom: House-Passed Phone Surveillance ‘Reform’ Bill is an Obscene Joke
By Alfredo Lopez
It just wasn't a very good week for phones or for freedom.
By Dave Lindorff
I was shocked to find myself in almost perfect agreement today with a recent column by the neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer.
Usually Krauthammer has me groaning, but yesterday his column nailed it.
By John Grant
I don’t believe in the dogmatic postulates of Marxist revolution. I don’t accept that we are living in a period of proletarian revolutions. Reality is telling us that every day. But if I am told that because of that reality you can’t do anything to help the poor, then I say, “We part company.”
-Hugo Chavez, 2004
The hypocrisy of the government of the United States seems to know no limits. The current posture it’s taking toward the elected government of Venezuela is simply shameful.
The media is awash with information about a potential presidential run by Hillary Clinton. She has the overwhelming support of Democrats, unparalleled name-recognition, and the assurance of more money for her campaign than either candidate had in the historically-expensive Obama-Romney match-up of 2012. Her credentials – mastermind of her husband’s comeback campaign for Governor of Arkansas, former first lady, former senator from a heavily populated state, presidential candidate, former Secretary of State – look very impressive, if one doesn’t look too closely. However, it is high time one did so.
A hallway dispute that could become a real public debate: Companies and FCC in Net Neutrality Scuffle
By Alfredo Lopez
As the FCC hurtles towards what seems like an approval this coming Thursday of new proposed rules that would, effectively, allow establishment of a second high-speed, higher-cost Internet, we've caught a glimpse of an interesting and infrequently noted split in the circles of power.
It's a minor scuffle but, if it continues, it could open up debates that would involve genuine free-Internet forces and that would quickly put the need to protect the Internet on the national agenda.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Bipartisan Members, Introduce the War Authorization Review and Determination Act
... to Limit Executive Branch’s ‘Blank Check’ for Military Force
Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the bipartisan War Authorization Review and Determination Act (WARD Act), to reinsert Congressional oversight and determination into any future use of military force, as well as repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). As the House prepares to take up the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act, Congresswoman Lee introduced this legislation to end the executive branch’s “blank check” for military action.
Since her lone vote against the AUMF in 2001, Congresswoman Lee has consistently called for the repeal of this legislation, which has been used as legal justification for a wide range of activities, including targeted drone killings, warrantless surveillance and wiretapping, and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA), a member of the Homeland Security Committee, joined Congresswoman Lee in introducing the WARD Act and advocating for stronger congressional oversight in authorizing military force.
“As the only Member of Congress to vote against the AUMF on September 14th, 2001, I have been deeply concerned about this overly-broad blank check for endless war,” said Congresswoman Lee. “I knew then, as I know now, that it gives any president the nearly unlimited authority to wage limitless war at anytime, anywhere, for any reason, in perpetuity. Regardless of how you perceive the AUMF, the fact remains that it is overly broad in scope and runs contrary to Congress’s constitutional role in war making and oversight.”
“The AUMF has been the underlying legal justification for countless acts of federal overreach and abuse, including: targeted drone killings of American citizens, broad warrantless surveillance and wiretapping activities, and indefinite detention. This attack upon our Constitutional liberties must stop – and I was pleased to work across the aisle to put forward a bill which would curb these instances of gross federal overreach,” said Congressman Broun. “While the AUMF originally passed in 2001 to allow the government to pursue Al Qaeda – it has expanded far beyond its originally intended scope. The WARD Act works to address this dramatic growth of power by restoring transparency and the Congressional oversight role. I urge my colleagues to work immediately to pass this common-sense, bipartisan bill.”
According to a CRS report from July 2013, there are 30 known instances where the AUMF has been invoked by Presidents Bush and Obama for the purposes of deploying troops in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Georgia, and Yemen, justifying detentions at Guantanamo Bay, and conducting military commissions.
Original sponsors of the WARD Act include Representatives Louis Slaughter (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Rules, Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), a member of the House Rules Committee, John Garamendi (D-CA), a member of the Committee on Armed Services, Ted Yoho (R-FL), a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Thomas Massie (R-KY), a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Steve Stockman (R-TX), a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Washington's Pivot to Ignorance: Will the State Department Torpedo Its Last Great Program? By Ann Jones
Often it’s the little things coming out of Washington, obscured by the big, scary headlines, that matter most in the long run. Items that scarcely make the news, or fail to attract your attention, or once noticed seem trivial, may carry consequences that endure long after the latest front-page crisis has passed. They may, in fact, signal fundamental changes in Washington’s priorities and policies that could even face opposition, if only we paid attention.
Take the current case of an unprecedented, unkind, under-the-radar cut in the State Department’s budget for the Fulbright Program, the venerable 68-year-old operation that annually arranges for thousands of educators, students, and researchers to be exchanged between the United States and at least 155 other countries. As Washington increasingly comes to rely on the “forward projection” of military force to maintain its global position, the Fulbright Program may be the last vestige of an earlier, more democratic, equitable, and generous America that enjoyed a certain moral and intellectual standing in the world. Yet, long advertised by the U.S. government as “the flagship international educational exchange program" of American cultural diplomacy, it is now in the path of the State Department’s torpedoes.
Right now, all over the world, former Fulbright scholars like me (Norway, 2012) are raising the alarm, trying to persuade Congress to stand by one of its best creations, passed by unanimous bipartisan consent of the Senate and signed into law by President Truman in 1946. Alumni of the Fulbright Program number more than 325,000, including more than 123,000 Americans. Among Fulbright alums are 53 from 13 different countries who have won a Nobel Prize, 28 MacArthur Foundation fellows, 80 winners of the Pulitzer Prize, 29 who have served as the head of state or government, and at least one, lunar geologist Harrison Schmitt (Norway, 1957), who walked on the moon -- not to mention the hundreds of thousands who returned to their countries with greater understanding and respect for others and a desire to get along. Check the roster of any institution working for peace around the world and you’re almost certain to find Fulbright alums whose career choices were shaped by international exchange. What’s not to admire about such a program?
Yet the Fulbright budget, which falls under the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), seems to be on the chopping block. The proposed cut amounts to chump change in Washington, only $30.5 million. But the unexpected reduction from a $234.7 million budget this year to $204.2 million in 2015 represents 13% of what Fulbright gets. For such a relatively small-budget program, that’s a big chunk. No one in the know will say just where the cuts are going to fall, but the most likely target could be “old Europe,” and the worldwide result is likely to be a dramatic drop from 8,000 to fewer than 6,000 in the number of applicants who receive the already exceedingly modest grants.
For the U.S., that’s not a saving, it’s a foolish blunder. Only about 1% of American college students ever study abroad. Fewer than 20% speak more than one language -- a figure that includes immigrants for whom English comes second or third -- but all students benefit from the presence of international “Fulbrighters” on their campuses and the return of their own professors and grad students from study and teaching in other countries. Those Fulbrighters chosen according to standards of academic excellence may seem to be an elite group, but their presence on campuses from North Dakota State to Notre Dame is thoroughly democratic. Their knowledge gained abroad, unlike money in our economy, trickles down and spreads out.
Cutting the Fulbright budget also sends a dangerous message to allies around the world: that the U.S. is not truly committed to its biggest and best international exchange program. That news comes as a kick in the teeth to 50 partner countries that have established Fulbright commissions of their own to fund their share, or more than their share, of the mutual exchange. (Norway, for one, funds 70% of it.) What are good friends to make of “cultural diplomacy” like this?
Developing a Twitter-Worthy Worldview
Given what the program achieves, and what it contributes to American prestige abroad, the budget cut is a terrible idea, but the scheme behind it is worse. It hinges on the difference between thinking long and thinking short. With decades of experience, the Fulbright Program clearly welcomes the positive effects of the regular exchange of scholars and educators of proven excellence on broad issues of cultural diplomacy like peace, the progress of democracy, and economic cooperation over time. But it’s not so heedless of history as to think it can determine those outcomes.
The State Department, on the other hand, is headed largely by short-term political appointees, many without specialized experience, most fixated on their own competitive careers. Their thinking leans quite naturally toward the quick fix consistent with an alarmist and historically suspect worldview, quite possibly derived from CNN, inscribed in the justification of the federal budget proposed for 2015: “Global events and trends now start, spread, and shape countries in an instant.” For them, history now only happens on the fast track.
Given this Twitter-worthy worldview, the laggard State Department had to make some “strategic shifts,” according to Susan Pittman, a spokesperson for State’s ECA, the office now responsible for all of America’s “cultural diplomacy.” She claimed the shifts had to be made “in order to be able to take a different angle of doing some short-term targeted programs” in instantaneous crises like that now occurring in Ukraine. “To that end,” Pittman said, “there was the desire to be able to redistribute things.”
What the State Department desires to redistribute is Fulbright funding. It can’t kill the program, but it can starve it. Ukraine, however, is a bad example to cite as a target for redistributed fast-action funds, since the Fulbright Program, thinking long, has been operating in Ukraine for all 23 years of that country’s independence, exchanging about 1,200 scholars and educators. The spokesperson did not seem to know that, or chose not to mention it. Or perhaps Ukraine sprang to mind because her brand-new boss, Evan Ryan, a former special assistant to Vice President Biden and now -- as if by magic -- assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, happens to be married to President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, who had just appeared on all the Sunday talk shows speaking about... you guessed it: Ukraine. Well, I’m just guessing, too, but such things happen in the crowded and intimate little space inside Washington’s Beltway.
Anyway, the State Department actually has its eye on other prizes. In fact, the “strategic shifts” in State Department programming coincide miraculously well with the Obama administration’s militarized “pivots” in foreign policy. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will spend $10 million in Southeast Asia and $20 million in Africa on brand new quick-fix programs to “increase outreach” to “young leaders... shaping the... future.” That’s $30 million drawn from the Fulbright budget and dispatched instead to follow the ships, drones, Navy SEALs, and other Special Forces types to unpublicized points in Asia (for the containment of China) and Africa (for who knows what).
These new ECA programs speak of “partnership,” but they are not like the Fulbright Program’s mutual exchanges. They are unilateral projects whose aim is to identify and cultivate the locals we can do business with in countries that may or may not welcome our outreach, or our handpicked young leaders either. Recall that Captain Amadou Sanogo, who led the 2012 coup that overthrew the elected government of Mali, started a war, and destabilized a vast region of Africa, was selected and trained in the United States under another State Department scheme: the International Military Education and Training program.
The ECA also plans to spend $2.5 million next year in Vietnam on what seems to be a consolation prize: a new American Fulbright University, named in honor of Senator J. William Fulbright who created the flagship program that bears his name and ushered it through Congress back in 1946. Fulbright, an Arkansas Democrat, was then a first-term senator whose experience as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford had fostered his international perspective. He went on to spend 30 years in the Senate, becoming the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the twentieth century’s most influential senators. Yet if the State Department has its way, the proposed university to be named in his honor will be paid for by money cut from the international exchange program he considered his most important achievement.
In fact, there’s no good reason why the ECA budget should be balanced on the back of the Fulbright Program in the first place. Overall, the federal budget for international exchange programs will actually increase by 1.6% in 2015, to a proposed $577.9 million, while the total proposed budget for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will be $46.2 billion.
Surely that’s money enough to fully fund the Fulbright Program as well as those short-term, shortsighted, potentially explosive unilateral ones. So you have to ask: Why, with all those billions in pocket, must $30 million be snatched from Fulbright and its priceless reputation discounted?
At her confirmation hearing, Evan Ryan gave the game away, signaling to the senators that she knows perfectly well what she’s doing. She assured them that her office was “working closely with regional bureaus to ensure exchange programs are in line with U.S. foreign policy priorities and that they meet the needs of the changing global landscape.”
Soldiers, Not Scholars
There, of course, is the catch. The Fulbright Program was never meant to be a tool of foreign policy, much less a tactic of military intervention. It was and still is “designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” Senator Fulbright himself thought Americans had the most to learn. Asked near the end of his life what he had intended by the exchange program, he said, “Aw, hell, I just wanted to educate these goddam ignorant Americans!”
In the aftermath of World War II, he hoped that both the educational and humanizing effects of an international exchange program would promote peace and that within peace would be found authentic security for everyone. At the time, all nations counted and the world was round.
Now the landscape has shifted, and the globe has tilted to match the slant of America’s exceptional (and mostly classified) interests, as well as a version of “national security” dependent upon secrecy, not exchange, and war, not peace. You can see how the land lies today by tracing the dispersal of U.S. troops around that badly bashed and lopsided globe or tracking the itinerary of President Obama, just back from an Asian trip that included a new agreement extending the reach of soldiers, not scholars.
You can search hard and find little trace of those quaint old notions of international understanding and peace on the American agenda. Consider it a sign of the times that a president who, from his Nobel acceptance speech putting in a good word for war to his surges in Afghanistan to the “kill list” he regularly mulls over in the White House, has hardly been a Nobel Prize-quality executive, yet must still repeatedly defend himself against charges that he is too slow and far too wussy to go to war, perhaps as a result of his own “un-American” international childhood.
This is scarcely the moment for Washington to knock one nickel off its budget for international exchange. Longstanding educational partners of the U.S. in Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and elsewhere now have other excellent opportunities for intellectual, scientific, and artistic exchange. Meanwhile, the dysfunctional, militarized, pistol-packin’ United States has lost much of its global allure. It was precisely this sort of isolation from the ideas and experiences of other cultures -- self-imposed by our own overweening ignorance -- that Fulbright feared. In his classic book The Arrogance of Power, published in 1966 in the midst of another unnecessary American war, he warned against the historic tendency of powerful nations to mistake military might for moral and intellectual strength and, by overreaching in an attempt to impose their views upon the world, to bring themselves to ruin.
Fulbright was hopeful that the United States might avoid this trap by “finding the wisdom to match her power,” but he was not confident because, as he wrote, “the wisdom required is greater wisdom than any great nation has ever shown before.” It is certainly greater than the wisdom in evidence in Washington today.
Ann Jones, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Kabul in Winter, and War Is Not Over When It’s Over, among other books, and most recently They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story, a Dispatch Books project (Haymarket, 2013). She encourages interested readers to check out the website http://www.savefulbright.org.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook and Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Ann Jones’s They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story.
Copyright 2014 Ann Jones
About the Author: Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She was one of three U.S. diplomats who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Platts confirmed CSX Corporation's train that exploded in Lynchburg, Virginia was carrying sweet crude obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin. CSX CEO Michael Ward has also confirmed this to Bloomberg.
On Sunday, April 27, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on U.S. television, denouncing progress made in reconciliation talks between Fatah, which ostensibly controls the West Bank, and Hamas, the democratically-elected government in the Gaza Strip.
According to CNN: “Netanyahu said he and Secretary of State John Kerry recently applauded that some progress was being made toward a peace agreement. ‘And then the next day, we were both shocked, there's no other word, we were absolutely stupefied that President Abbas embraced the terrorist organization Hamas that seeks Israel's destruction,’ he said on ‘Face the Nation.’”
Drone Strikes and Transparency
The craven U.S. Senate has stripped from a bill a requirement that the president disclose casualties resulting from his murderous, almost indiscriminant drone strikes. The original wording of the bill, authorizing intelligence operations for fiscal year 2014, required an annual report stating the number of ‘combatants’ and ‘non-combatant civilians’ that were either killed or injured by drone strikes.
By Alfredo Lopez
When a federal court trashed its "net neutrality" compromise policy in January, the Federal Communications Commission assured us that the Internet we knew and depended on was safe. Most activists didn't believe federal officials and this past week the FCC demonstrated how realistic our cynicism was.