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What’s done abroad can be done at home too...: Is NSA spying really about blackmail?

By Dave Lindorff


A revealing page-one article in today’s New York Times (“Tap on Merkel Provides Peek a Vast Spy Net”) reports on how the NSA’s global spying program, dating back at least to early in the Bush/Cheney administration, was vacuuming up the phone conversations (and no doubt later the internet communications) of not just leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but opposition leader Merkel before her party took power in Germany.


Twittered Out: Washington Does Not Like Snarky

By John Grant


To: Jofi Joseph, Washington DC

Dear Mr Joseph:

I read of your firing as a national security adviser in the White House thanks to your “snarky” tweeting about various White House officials above you in the pecking order.

US may be committing robotic war crimes: Two Human Rights Groups Blast US for Drone Killing Campaigns

By Dave Lindorff


Last week President Obama was largely successful at blacking out from the American public word that Nobel Peace Prize Malala Yousafzai, the courageous Pakistani advocate of girls’ education nearly killed by Taliban gunmen a year ago, used a photo-op invitation to the White House to ask the president to halt to his drone killings of Pakistanis. But Obama cannot so easily silence the condemnations today of his remote drone “Murder, Inc.” program by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.


Protesting pot prohibition while black: Angered by Racist Prosecutions, Activist Makes Inflammatory Name Change Request

By Linn Washington Jr.


Ed Forchion, recognized as America’s foremost black marijuana legalization activist, freely admits that he “agitates” people – powerful people from prosecutors to politicians and even more mainstream anti-pot prohibition advocates who bristle at his antics.

The activism of Forchion, often outrageous like his March 2000 stunt of smoking a marijuana joint inside the New Jersey State Assembly chamber while dressed in bold black and white stripped jailhouse garb, has drawn praise and prison terms.

Shot down like a dog: Why We Should Not Forget Miriam Carey

By John Grant

 

For the past week I’ve been talking with anyone I could shoehorn about the shooting death of Miriam Carey on the streets of Washington DC. As with any homicide -- and that’s how it would be classified for the autopsy -- there are differing opinions and mitigating circumstances to consider.

For instance, the mitigating circumstance most articulated by officialdom and the media to justify the killing of Miriam Carey is that the threat of terrorism is in the forefront of the minds of police officers in the nation’s capital, where 17 days earlier a random gunman had murdered 12 people at the Navy Yard.

US Court: Transcanada's Keystone XL Profits More Important than Environment

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In a major ruling that's flown under the radar, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit - based in Denver, Colorado - decided not to grant the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Future Oklahoma a temporary injunction on the construction of the southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline

The Court's decision hinged on an "injury" balancing test: Would Transcanada be hurt more financially from receiving an injunction? Had it lost, it would be stuck with one until Sierra Club, et al receive a U.S. District Court decision on the legality of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant Transcanada a Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for construction of what's now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline in February 2012. 

Or would ecosystems suffer even greater and potentially incalculable damage from the 485-mile, 700,000 barrels per day pipeline crossing 2,227 streams?

In a 2-1 decision, the Court sided with Transcanada, and by extension, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Court ruled, "the threatened environmental injuries were outweighed by the financial harm that the injunction would cause Transcanada."

Commenting on the case brought by Sierra Club, et al, Judge Jerome A. Holmes and Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr. - appointees of President George W. Bush and President George H.W. Bush, respectively - shot down the arguments sharply.

U.S. Appeals Court for the 10th Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes; Photo Credit: The White House

Holmes and Kelly ruled that Sierra Club, et al failed to show how the pipeline will have a significant environmental impact despite the fact it's been deemed a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet" by retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen. 

Construction of Keystone XL's southern half - subject of significant grassroots activism by the Tar Sands Blockade and others - is now nearly complete. Tar sands dilbit is slated to begin to flow through it in early 2014. 

NWP 12: "New Normal" for Tar Sands Pipeline Approval

After protestors succeeded initially in delaying Keystone XL, Big Oil has chosen a "new normal" stealth approval method: the non-transparent NWP 12. 

This avoids the more strenuous National Environmental Protection Act permitting process overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires public hearings and public comments for major federal pipeline projects. NEPA compels the EPA to take comments into account in response throughout the Environmental Impact Statement phase, allowing robust public participation in the process.

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes explained in an interview with DeSmogBlog that NWP 12 is for utility projects with up to a half an acre of stream or wetland impacts, and has never been used for tar sands pipelines before Keystone XL's southern half.

The southern half of the pipeline was approved via Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012, directly after Obama gave a speech in front of a Cushing, OK pipeyard.

President Barack Obama speaks in Cushing, OK in March 2013; Photo Credit: White House

"The Corps is abusing the nationwide permit program. Nationwide permits were intended to permit categories of projects with truly minimal impacts, not tar sands oil pipelines crossing several states," said Hayes. 

Utilizing tricky legal loopholes, Transcanada used NWP 12 to push through Keystone XL's southern half in February 2012, calling each half acre segment of Keystone XL's southern half a "single and complete project." The Army Corps of Engineers agreed despite the fact that Transcanada refers to the pipeline at-large as the "Gulf Coast Pipeline project."

"What the Corps is doing is artificially dividing up these massive pipelines, treating them as thousands of individual projects to avoid environmental review," Hayes explained. "In this case, there were 2,227 crossings of federal waterways, so the Corps has treated the Gulf Coast Pipeline as 2,227 'single and complete projects,' each of which qualifies under NWP 12."

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes; Photo Credit: Sierra Club

Why, I asked Hayes? 

"The Corps artificially treats these massive pipelines as thousands of individual projects so as to qualify under NWP 12 and avoid NEPA compliance."

NWP 12 has also been utilized by Enbridge for the Flanagan South Pipeline, a 600-mile, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline set to shuttle tar sands crude from Flanagan, IL to Cushing, OK, crossing over 2,000 streams. That pipeline is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2014, demonstrating how NWP 12 is the "new normal" way to fast-track domestic tar sands pipelines. 

Dissent: Laws Violated, Economic Harm Transcanada's Fault

Perhaps the biggest irony of the Appeals Court decision is that Judges Holmes and Kelly barely grappled with the central issue of the legal challenge to begin with: using NWP 12 rather than going through the NEPA process. 

"The majority opinion avoided addressing the legal questions that are central to this lawsuit - whether the Corps violated the law in permitting this pipeline - and instead it was based on how much money a delay in construction would cost TransCanada," said Hayes. 

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly stayed mum about these issues, dissenting U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez - an Obama appointee - did not, pulling no punches in doing so. 

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez; Photo Credit: Judgepedia

"Given the totality of the circumstances...I believe the...Gulf Coast Pipeline required a comprehensive NEPA analysis," Martínez wrote.

"There are also no specific findings in support of the Corps' conclusion that the Gulf Coast Pipeline, as a whole, would have minimal cumulative impact. The failure to consider the cumulative effects of all of the water crossings involved in the Gulf Coast Pipeline violates the terms of NWP 12, and, therefore, the approval of the use of NWP 12 for construction of the Gulf Coast Pipeline violated the law." 

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly grappled with the issue of water crossings - belittling the amount of water Keystone XL's southern half would cross over - Martínez said it's about much more than just water. 

There is "real and signifcant harm caused by the actual construction of the pipeline, including the clearing of trees and vegetation, removing topsoil, filling wetlands, building access roads, and clearing an eighty-five foot construction right-of-way for the length of the pipeline," he stated.

Hayes agreed with this assessment, pointing to examples of things the Judges simply ignored in their assessment. 

"[T]he court's balancing test ignored the host of environmental impacts associated with this pipeline, including the risks of tar sands oil spills," said Hayes.

"Remember that the 2010 tar sands pipeline spill in Michigan is still being cleaned up, and so far has cost over a billion dollars. It's a bit of a Catch-22 to say that this is all just about a few acres of wetlands loss, when the whole point of this lawsuit is that the Corps avoided analyzing any of the pipeline's environmental impacts as required by NEPA."

Lastly, Martínez put the onus on Transcanada for its economic decision-making.

"Transcanada chose to incur its economic harm by entering into contracts for services before the Gulf Coast Pipeline was approved, even in light of the controversial nature of the Pipeline," said Martínez (emphasis his).

U.S. District Court Decision Forthcoming, Activism Persists 

Sierra Club, et al now await a summary judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on whether Keystone XL failed the dictates of NEPA. It's a key decision, Hayes says, because "a ruling in our favor could prevent the Corps from doing this in the future."

While they await this lower court judgment, activists continue efforts to fend off these pipeline projects. 

"This decision yet again demonstrates why direct action is necessary. The permitting process for Keystone XL's southern leg was illegal, yet regulators, inspectors, Obama, and the courts are failing to do what is necessary to protect the people and ecosystems threatened by this toxic pipeline," said Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesman

"If all the branches of government are so helplessly captured by industry that they will do nothing to stave off climate change, then the people must rise up and take the defense of the environment into their own hands."

Photo Credit: tankist276 | ShutterStock

Over 865K Gallons of Fracked Oil Spill in ND, Public In Dark For Days Due to Government Shutdown

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

 Photo Credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Wikimedia Commons

President Pivot prepares to screw the old and infirm: Whatever Happened to ‘No negotiations’ with Debt Ceiling ‘Hostage Takers’

By Dave Lindorff


President Obama ran for president promising change. What his backers didn’t realize was that he wasn’t talking about changing America for the better. He was talking about changing his position whenever he found himself in a confrontation with Republicans. There’s a reason that beginning with Obama’s 2008 campaign, and on through the past five years of his presidency, we have gotten used to a presidential behavior called “pivoting.”  


Don’t say you weren’t warned: Stallman, FOSS and the Adobe Nightmare

By Alfredo Lopez

 

Recently, Richard Stallman published an article in Wired about Free and Open Source Software [1] and its alternative, "Proprietary Software". As he has for 30 years now, he vigorously called for the use and defense of FOSS and warned about the nefarious nature of Proprietary.

Park rangers ‘punked’: Government Shuts Down But Perversions Persist

By Linn Washington, Jr.


On the first day of the federal government shut-down, as hundreds of tourists were turned away from the shuttered Liberty Bell and other fabled sites within the Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia, Richard Dyost stood near the building housing the Bell and received a big laugh.

Here's one battle we can win: Help One Women's Rights Hero Defeat Anti-Abortionists Trying to Steal Her Family Farm

By Dave Lindorff

 

The family farm in America may be going the way of the dodo, thanks to the corrupt political influence of corporate agribusiness, but here's a chance for us all to concretely save at least one family's farm.

Israel, Palestine and Iran It's Time To Feed the Hungry Peace Wolves

By John Grant

 


All we are saying is give peace a chance
        - John Lennon
 

Whether war or cooperation is the more dominant trait of humanity is one of the oldest questions in human discourse. There are no satisfying answers for either side exclusively, which seems to suggest the answer is in the eternal nature of the debate itself.

Congress should stop blowing smoke: Weed to the Rescue in Budget Crisis?

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Imagine U.S. House Speaker John Boehner blasted on weed.

Given Boehner’s teary-eyed trait, he’d probably cry uncontrollably when high on pot alternating his crocodile tears with hysterical laughter…perhaps even laughing at some of that dumb shi-tuff he and his GOP colleagues constantly do on Capitol Hill.

‘Freedom’s just another word...’ The Police State of America

By Dave Lindorff


I no longer recognize my country.

Back in 1997, after two years living in China, and five more living in Hong Kong, during which time, as a correspondent for Business Week magazine, I slipped in and out of China regularly as a journalist to report on developments there, I got a good dose of life in a totalitarian society. When I alit from the plane in Philadelphia where my family and I were about to start a new chapter of our lives, I remember feeling like a big weight had been lifted off my chest.

After decades US still has huge poison gas stash: Washington Demands Syria Destroy Chemical Weapons Lickety-Split

By Dave Lindorff

 
The US is demanding, in negotiations at the UN, that all Syrian chemical weapons, stocks and production facilities be eliminated by June 30 of next year. This has an element of hypocrisy, because the US itself has been incredibly slow about eliminating its own stocks of chemical weapons.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to Syria as having one of the largest chemical stockpiles in the world. But the US and Russia both still have stocks of chemicals many times as large. Syria’s neighbor Israel, which refuses to admit it has the weapons and has yet to ratify the treaty banning them, is suspected of also having a large arsenal.

We don’t gas children, we shred them: Obama’s Grotesque Hypocrisy over Cluster Munitions

By Dave Lindorff


Syrian civilians and children should count themselves lucky that mass opposition in the US, the UK and much of the rest of the world to the idea of a US bombing blitz aimed at punishing the Syrian government for allegedly using Sarin gas in an attack on a Damascus neighborhood forced the US to back off and accept a Russian deal to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons.


A fight against the very essence of the Internet: Attacking Net Neutrality Once Again

By Alfredo Lopez

 

Last week, Verizon, the telephone giant, went to court to accuse the Federal Communications Commission of "overstepping its authority" and reverse the authority's over-step. It's a legal wrangle that, bottled and distributed, would be a safe substitute for sleeping pills.

Is Dithering Always Bad?: Trust and Verify and Vomit

By John Grant


The media didn’t waste time lining up US leaders to trash Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent op-ed in The New York Times. There was the expected outrage that such a “dictator” and “tyrant” had the gall to lecture the United States of America. Bill O’Reilly referred to Putin as “a criminal monster.” Charles Krauthammer kept it real and called Putin "a KGB thug.”

New Video Short about the Cancerous Militarization of the US, produced by Class War Films

For a timely explanation of the crisis of the militarization of America, days after popular opposition, in a historic first, blocked a US war -- in this case against the sovereign nation of Syria -- check out this film by Lanny Cotler and Paul Edwards of Class War Films

To view the film, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net

Call Waiting: Peaceful Syrian Opposition Ignored by Peace Laureate Obama

Interview by Dave Lindorff

 

As Syrian expatriate Dr. Rim Turkmani was watching President Barack Obama give his brief nationally televised address to the American people and the people of the world last night, she says she had two contradictory feelings. “I felt good that it was not a war speech,” says this British-based member of the political office of an organization called The Syrian State Current, a movement that is seeking non-violent democratic change in Syria. “But what upset me was his repeated referring to what is happening in Syria as a ‘civil war.’ There is an element of civil war in the violence in Syria, but more importantly it is a proxy war between the US and Russia, and it has to be acknowledged that the US and Russia are the key players.”

Nobel Laureate president defends unprovoked war against Syria: Obama Offers No Evidence Assad Ordered Syria Poison Gas Attack

By Dave Lindorff


In what NPR called “perhaps President Obama’s last best chance” to make his case for launching a war against Syria, the president tellingly didn’t make a single effort to present hard, compelling evidence to prove that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had been behind the alleged Sarin Aug. 21 attack on residents of a suburb of Damascus.


Not one piece of evidence.

A people’s victory over Syrian attack plan: In Historic First, American Empire is Blocked at the Starting Line

By Dave Lindorff


Let’s be clear here. The people of the US and the world have won a huge victory over a war-obsessed US government and an administration that was hell-bent on yet again launching a criminal war of aggression against a country that poses no threat to the US or its neighbors. Overwhelming public opposition in the US and the nations of Europe, as well as most of the rest of the world to a US strike on Syria have forced the US to falter and to accept the idea of a compromise deal offered by Russia.


White House lies to launch the next illegal war: There is no Justification for Obama’s War on Syria

By Dave Lindorff 


The Obama administration’s campaign for war against Syria is so flagrantly wrong, so ill-advised and so illegal, that it is making a fool of both the president and his secretary of state, John Kerry.


Hopeful and disturbing signs in an unscientific neighborhood survey: Anti-War Conservatives and War-Monger Liberals

By Dave Lindorff


I just had two discussions with neighbors in my suburb of Philadelphia that offer both a hope that the Republican-run House may block President Obama’s war on Syria, and a warning that liberal Democrats could hand him the narrow majority he needs to claim Congressional backing for his war.

The Big Dog and Its Tail: Who’s Hiding Behing the ‘Making Assad Accountable’ Mask?

By John Grant


Responses to wrongdoing must not exacerbate problems.
            - Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute
 
 
Watching news coverage of the debate over bombing Syria, one realizes there’s more going on than Barack Obama or John Kerry are telling Congress and the American people. Kerry may have sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- but that doesn’t mean he has to tell the whole story.

Busted for Playing Banjo on Independence Mall: Park Rangers Brutally Arrest Iraq War Vet at Anti-Syria Bombing Demo

By Dave Lindorff


Independence Mall, Philadelphia -- The US has yet to launched President Obama’s latest war crime of massively bombing Syria -- a country that does not threaten this nation -- and already federal police thugs, in this case National Park Service Rangers, have brutally arrested an Iraq War Veteran who was peacefully playing her banjo in the shade on Independence Mall in Philadelphia following an anti-war protest and march.


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