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Shifting from Defense to Offense: Americans Want Improved Social Security and Medicare and less Military Spending

By Dave Lindorff


A tectonic shift is occurring in the US body politic. Ignore the media-driven sideshow about the 2014 contest for control of the House or about the screwed-up Obamacare insurance-market website. The real political battle is over Social Security and Medicare, and there the story is a historic turn from fighting against Washington efforts to cut those programs to demanding that both be expanded.


Fracking Lobby’s Tax Forms: Big Bucks to Media, “Other ALECs,” Democratic PR Firms

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) - the public relations arm of the oil and gas fracking industry - has released its 2012 Internal Revenue Services (IRS) 990 form, and it's rich with eye-opening revelations, some of which we report here for the first time. 

'Bombs in the Basement' -- a new TCBH! poem by resident poet GARY LINDORFF

Today my toast looks like Christ, 

like planet earth, 

like Venus

like me in a dinosaur-proof suit,

bristling with spikes

that I invented when I was afraid to fall asleep. 

But I don’t have time for visions. Christ, 

In the US Social Security’s ‘just a floor’: In Finland Saunas are Hot, Retirement is Cool

By Dave Lindorff


Helsinki—Mikko Kautto, impeccable in a blue suit and open-collared shirt, was sitting at a table in the cafeteria of the modern Centre for Pensions building on the outskirts of Finland’s capital city, answering questions about the operation of his Nordic country’s retirement system.


Public Citizen: Dents, Holes in Keystone XL Southern Half Weeks Before Planned Startup

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is supposed to begin pumping up to 700,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day through the Cushing, OK to Port Arthur, TX route within weeks. But is it ready to operate safely?

Public Citizen has released a chilling report revealing that the 485-mile KXL southern line is plagued by dents, faulty welding, exterior damage that was patched up poorly and misshapen bends, among other troubling anomalies.

In conducting its investigative report, "Construction Problems Raise Questions About the Integrity of the Pipeline," Public Citizen worked on the ground to examine 250 miles of the 485 mile pipeline's route. The group and its citizen sources uncovered over 125 anomalies in that half of the line alone. These findings moved Public Citizen to conclude the southern half of the pipeline shouldn't begin service until the anomalies are taken care of, and ponders if the issues can ever be resolved sufficiently.

MSNBC "Leans Forward" Into Running "Native Ads" Promoting Fracking

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Three years into its "Lean Forward" re-branding campaign, MSNBC has given new meaning to the catchphrase, leaning forward into running branded content promoting hydraulic fracturing ("fracking)

Coal Baron and Major Ken Cuccinelli Campaign Donor Sues Blogger for Defamation, Invasion of Privacy

Robert Murray, owner of the Ohio-based coal giant, Murray Energy Corporationfiled a defamation lawsuit against a prominent liberal blogger and The Huffington Post

Revealed: Never Before Seen Photos of Tesoro Fracked Oil Spill in North Dakota, Pipeline Restarted Today

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A month after over 865,200 gallons of oil spilled from Tesoro Logistics' 6-inch pipeline near Tioga, North Dakota, the cause of the leak is still largely unknown to anyone but Tesoro. The pipeline resumed operations today.

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

Obama, Palestine and the United Nations – September 24, 2013

Today, President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations. Much of his talk concerned the current situation in Syria, but he also touched on the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Yet even Mr. Obama’s pretty words and soaring oratory were unable to camouflage his extreme pro-Israel bias, as he spouted nonsense that he and his predecessors have all said before. A look at just a few of his statements is informative.

  • “I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.”

This apparently means that, unlike Syria, which isn’t allowed by the U.S. to use chemical weapons, the U.S.’s commitment to Israel is unconditional: Israel can commit the most shocking and brutal human rights violations, and the U.S. will still continue to give it billions of dollars every year.

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.

Interview: Students, Faculty Protest Presence of David Petraeus at CUNY Honors College

Cross-Posted from FireDogLake

On September 9, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus -- who also formerly headed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) International Security Assistance Force for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and co-wrote the Counterinsurgency Field Manual -- began a new job as an adjunct professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College.

Obama’s and Kerry’s Big Lie: White House Document “Proving” Syria’s Guilt Doesn’t Pass Smell Test

By Dave Lindorff

 

The document released on the White House web site to “prove” to the American people that the Syrian government had used poison gas -- allegedly the neurotoxin Sarin -- to kill hundreds of civilians, is so flawed and lacking in real proof that if it were being used to make a case against a terrorist group it would be too weak to justify an indictment.


Of Principalities and Powers ~ “Those Crazy Conspiracy Theories"

  The routine never varies here, so I was startled when there was a knock, followed immediately by a key turning in the door.  “It’s not time for breakfast yet,” I told Henry, the massive attendant.

 

“Get dressed anyway,” he told me.  “The Director wants you in his office in fifteen minutes.”

 

Manning get’s slammed; a mass-murderer got sprung Crimes and Punishment (or Not)

By Dave Lindorff


Right now I’m thinking about William Laws Calley. 


America’s assault on a free press moves into high gear: Detention of Greenwald Partner in London Clearly Came on US Orders

By Dave Lindorff


It is becoming perfectly clear that the outrageous detention of American journalist Glenn Greenwald’s Brazilian partner David Miranda by British police during a flight transfer at London’s Heathrow Airport was, behind the scenes, the work of US intelligence authorities.


Russia vs. U.S. Gas “Cold War” Underlying Edward Snowden Asylum Standoff

Cross-Posted from Mint Press News

450

Nearly two months ago, former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden handed smoking-gun documents on the international surveillance apparatus to The Guardian andThe Washington Post in what’s become one of the most captivating stories in recent memory.

700 dead and counting in Egypt: Despite Hand Wringing, Massacres Suit US Policy

By John Grant

 
Watching the White House squirm over the on-going massacres in Egypt one doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry or resort to the vaudevillian method and throw rotten vegetables at them.

President Obama's “condemnation” of the Egyptian military’s massacre of civilians sounded like obligatory ass-covering. Then there was the slippery boiler-plate verbiage spouted by the White House’s new spokesman with the wonderfully apropos name of Josh Earnest. I wouldn't josh you, that's his name. And trust me, he’s the personification of earnestness.

I helped to end my dad’s life: Prosecution of People Who Assist the Dying Must End

By Dave Lindorff


Okay, I admit it. I helped my father last year to die quicker in a Connecticut rehab center, and I was also witness to an assisted suicide in New York.


It’s time that we put this stuff out in the open and stopped the brutal prosecutorial nonsense around this issue.

Lynne Stewart Petitions for Release

 

Lynne Stewart Petitions for Release

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

A personal note. Lynne's a friend. So is husband Ralph Poynter. Before her imprisonment, they came on my radio program. We discussed her case.

 

Ralph's been on several times since. He's invited back any time on short notice. Justice for Lynne matters most. She's one of America's best. 

 

Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden: Whistleblowers as Modern Tricksters

By John Grant


Every generation occupies itself with interpreting Trickster anew.

                      -Paul Radin

 

Kerry and Drones

 

CNN reported on August 2 that Secretary of State John Kerry made some rather startling remarks regarding drone strikes. A look at a few of these remarks is instructive

Remark 1:  “Following talks with the Pakistani government, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is making progress in the war on terror, and hopes to end the use of drone strikes ‘very soon.’”

This apparently means that the U.S., which has waged a war of terror for several years now, is making so much progress in doing so that drone strikes will no longer be required to kill and terrorize innocent people.

Remark 2: Regarding ending the strikes, Mr. Kerry said this: “We hope it's going to be very, very soon.” In this statement, he seems to indicate that ending the strikes is something outside of the control of the U.S. government; he ‘hopes’ the strikes will end soon.

Manning, Snowden and Swarz: America’s Police State Marches On, Media in Tow

By Dave Lindorff


The New York Times, in an editorial published the day after a military judge found Pvt. Bradley Manning “not guilty” of “aiding the enemy” -- a charge that would have locked him up for life without possibility of parole and could have carried the death penalty -- but also found him guilty on multiple counts of “espionage,” called the verdict “Mixed.” Not guilty of aiding the enemy, guilty of espionage.


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