ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The urgency I feel isn’t any longer to stop a particular war but to interrupt endless war: to interrupt the narrowly focused geopolitical conversation, conveyed to us over and over by media stenographers, in which lethal intervention — wherever — is always the first and only choice. The uncertainty is never a matter of “if.” It’s only a matter of “when.”
For instance: “The West needs to bolster deterrence in Ukraine by raising the risks and costs to Russia of any renewed major offensive. That requires providing direct military assistance — in far larger amounts than provided to date and including lethal defensive arms.”
The quote, which appeared in the New York Times, is from a recently issued report signed by “eight former senior American officials.” It comes with an assumed certainty and seemingly impenetrable authority. “The report was issued jointly by the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.” One of the insiders who put her name on it was Michèle A. Flournoy, “a former senior Pentagon official who is a leading candidate to serve as defense secretary if Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected president.”
And that’s that. It’s all so pristine and scientific-seeming. Never are the consequences of military action discussed, alluded to or acknowledged in the mainstream media, even though the wreckage of our wars is all around us. That doesn’t matter because grotesque, medieval hostility — beheadings, immolation — emerge from the wreckage. Unlike America’s impersonal, high-tech and regrettably necessary killing, our enemies perpetrate Evil Itself. The over-the-top drama of what they do continually supplants any motivation we have to engage in political self-examination. Fear rules, but fortunately we have the technology and the bottomless budget to defend ourselves.
“What’s truly ‘exceptional’ in twenty-first-century America is any articulated vision of what a land at peace with itself and other nations might be like,” William J. Astore, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, wrote recently at TomDispatch.com. “Instead, war, backed by a diet of fear, is the backdrop against which the young have grown to adulthood. It’s the background noise of their world.”
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
How many people have died, are dying now and will continue to die in the name of religion?
Extremely few religions can claim bragging rights that other religions have been more brutal. Look at history, even the tamest of religious followings have historically had their benighted moment of barbaric conquest.
Mark Morford of The San Francisco Chronicle recently spoke to how religion, which is revered by most societies (as long as it is the dominant religion of that nation or social order) will, according to Morford, "be the death of us":
The main reason we’re on the fun train to self-extermination, and can’t/won’t get off.
It’s not climate change. Not overpopulation. Not war, or disease, or resource abuse. Those are all very real, but they’re also merely the consequence, the end result of centuries of blind, dogmatic adherence to, well, to God.
With this book I thee rule and control. Like, forever.
That’s right, the biggest problem humanity faces – and has faced for just about ever – is religion. Rabid tribalism, delusory moral laws and aggressive, antagonistic superstition that pits us against each other, against nature, against science, against anyone who might have invented a different god (or gods than ours).
Add race, tribalism and nationality to religion and you've got a historical bloodbath that has left bodies in its wake that could probably be piled to the moon.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
This is a story about drones. It is not about how Amazon and Alibaba are experimenting with drones to deliver goods to customers, or how the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, while still trying to develop overarching regulations for the use of drones, continues to hand out exemptions for their commercial use, or a bill (the Secure Our Borders First Act) that would allow for the use of drones "24 hours per day and for 7 days per week," or the acquisition of drones by police departments around the country, or how several media companies intend to use them for news-gathering purposes, or how it came to pass that a small drone crashed on White House grounds not to long ago, or the fact that the FAA issued a 30 mile no-fly zone around Sunday's Super Bowl.
Consider the drone, because drone warfare is here to stay.
While torture, rendition, secret prisons, and the hell hole that is Guantanamo can be placed directly at the doorsteps of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, the accelerated use of drones - originally mapped out by the Bush administration - is a direct outgrowth of the policies of President Barack Obama.
ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF
The third annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook released today documents the continuing dramatic changes in how the U.S. produces, delivers and consumes energy, and makes some projections and predictions about the direction of the energy sector in the future. The report was researched and produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and commissioned by The Business Council for Sustainable Energy.
“To single out just a few tell-tale headlines from the hundreds of statistics presented in this report: over the 2007-2014 period, U.S. carbon emissions from the energy sector dropped 9 percent, U.S. natural gas production rose 25 percent and total U.S. investment in clean energy (renewables and advanced grid, storage and electrified transport technologies) totaled $386 billion,” the report said.
The report backs up what other studies have been showing—that despite strong resistance on the part of the fossil-fuel sector and some policymakers, a new way of thinking about energy is taking hold. The factbook points to four significant trends:
- the advance in infrastructure projects and technology to accommodate new forms of energy;
- more capital flowing to projects aimed at sustainable energy development with the U.S. attracting the second highest number of dollars after China;
- companies with high energy-related costs gravitating to the U.S.; and
- government policies that favor the development of clean energy sources.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
One day after BuzzFlash at Truthout posted an interview about how the draconian US migration policies across the Mexican border are causing countless deaths in the Sonoran Desert, The Guardian ran an article entitled, "Mexico deports record numbers of women and children in US-driven effort: Tens of thousands fleeing violence and poverty deported to Central America after pressure from the US to prevent migrants reaching American border."
Unfortunately, these two facets of US brutal enforcement of brutal immigration enforcement toward Mexican and Latin Americans who are struggling to survive are only a small part of the bigger picture. It is estimated that more than 800,000 men, women and children have been deported annually in recent years, kept from entering or dying trying to get into the United States during the peak of militarized and kangaroo court deportations and border turnbacks.
What the Obama administration has done is the least of the setbacks for generally poor Latinos fleeing poverty, in large part caused by NAFTA, and violence that has been, in great part, a byproduct of the sham US "war on drugs" and the deportation of violent criminals back to their home countries. In essence, the US policy of cruel rejection of Mexico and Central America migrants in dire need and under threat of violence from gangs, the police and the military is tossing them back into a cage in which barely surviving or violent death are two of the most dire alternatives.
INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT NEUSTADT ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Today's BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary is an interview with Robert Neustadt – a professor of Spanish at Northern Arizona University - who cofounded Border Songs, a group that supports saving the lives of migrants from Mexico who often perish from the harsh desert conditions trying to make it into Arizona.
MARK KARLIN: Why do so many migrants die trying to cross into the US through Arizona? Hasn't the US created border enforcement strategies that force people to cross through a broiling desert?
ROBERT NEUSTADT: Yes, there is no question that US government border enforcement strategies have resulted in an enormous increase in border crosser deaths. In 1994, the US government explicitly adopted a strategy called “enforcement through deterrence”, which was outlined in a Border Patrol position paper. The strategy was to seal off the easy-to-cross urban areas near El Paso, Tijuana and Nogales by building walls, ramping up Border Patrol presence, adding more sensors, technology, and recently, patrolling with drones, while leaving open swaths of remote, hazardous back country. By closing the urban areas where people traditionally crossed, enforcement pushes undocumented border crossers into desert and mountain terrain in Arizona (and Texas). This “funnel effect” is clearly a primary factor that results in migrant deaths, and has been acknowledged by everyone from policy makers to humanitarians.
During the early 1990’s, the number of border crosser deaths examined per year by the Pima County Medical Examiner in Arizona varied between 5 and 11. In the year 2010, following construction of almost 700 miles of wall and a huge increase in the number of Border Patrol agents and enforcement technology, they examined 225 human remains in the same office. I find it profoundly disturbing that most people have no idea of the scope of this crisis. These statistics are all readily available and confirmable, but you have to seek them out because the media does not cover the issue sufficiently. Since 1994, they have found over 7,000 human remains in the borderlands, the majority of these in Arizona, and this number only represents the number of bodies found! The actual number of border crosser deaths is almost certainly significantly higher though the bodies were never found.
Currently, the morgue in Tucson houses over 900 unidentified human remains of presumed border crossers. Marc Silver’s documentary film, Who is Dayani Cristal (with Gael Garcia Bernal, 2013) emphasizes the severity of the issue.
This situation is a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe, and US government border enforcement strategy is directly implicated in the dramatic increase in deaths. Even more disturbing is the fact that the number of undocumented border crossers has dropped precipitously while the rate of deaths has remained relatively steady. This means that the chance that someone will die while crossing the border has sky-rocketed, and this is a direct result of our efforts to “secure the border.” This is compounded by the fact that we have deported over two million people since Obama has been in office. Many of these people will attempt to cross to rejoin their families.
STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
it has stirred up the Left. The Right sees the movie as one about a “patriotic American,” “doing his duty to protect our country and the freedoms it stands for.” The Right sees any critic of the film, as a commie, as a traitor, as “un-American,” if not “un-Christian” (for after all, sniper Chris Kyle was fighting the Muslims, wasn’t he?) The Left, and of course I include myself in that group, see the movie in much more complex, much starker terms, which I shall address.“American Sniper” has stirred up the Right (see Fox ”News” and etc.) and
In terms of the standard Right-wing propaganda lines, oddly enough, Kyle didn’t see himself as “fighting to protect the American way of life” at all. Rather, when asked a direct question on a Fox ”News” show, he said that he did what he did in order to protect his buddies. Then, there is the well-discussed historical fallacy that the Iraq War had anything to do with 9/11. The old canard that a representative of Saddam Hussein’s government went to Prague, Czech Republic, to meet with a representative from al Qaeda and that meant that they were hooking up has long since been disposed of as a unproven and unlikely rumor. Do you really think that a secular Hussein, already facing strong threats from the United States, would have formed an alliance with a religiously-based terror organization that had originally been formed in Afghanistan by the same United States? The historical distortions are a minor tragedy, but a tragedy nevertheless.
Then there are the questions that have been raised about the movie’s definition of heroism. There was a great 2001 film about the Battle of Stalingrad (one of very few US films about the Soviet role in winning World War II) called Enemy at the Gates. The hero is a Red Army sniper. The villain is a Wehrmacht sniper. But hero/villain depends very much whose side you are on, doesn’t it? It’s whose side he is on. To many U.S., he’s a hero, but a sniper on the other side he would a wicked villain, killing people with abandon.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In an age when shows like "The Daily Show" and the late "Colbert Report" use irony to make the horrifying and ludicrous convincingly humorous, sometimes it is hard to believe that reality is not its own parody.
Consider a recent news conference given by New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton, in which he proudly announced that a new police unit would prevent terrorist attacks and patrol protests with machine guns. The NYPD commissioner went out of his way to essentially equate terrorists with protesters (implying that the latter group included the recent wave of protesters who publicly condemned the killing of Eric Garner).
According to the January 29 Gothamist:
Police Commissioner Bratton made the announcement earlier today at an event hosted by the Police Foundation at the Mandarin Oriental. He said that the new 350 cop unit, called The Strategic Response Group, will be dedicated to "disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities" against attacks like the hostage situation in Sydney, which the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller said was an inevitability in NYC.
This new squad will be used to investigate and combat terrorist plots, lone wolf terrorists, and... protests. "It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris," Bratton said....
ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTTONY IALLONARDO OF
Reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
A new study finds expecting mothers who were exposed to a flame retardant chemical may have been more likely to have a premature birth. That’s a concern because premature babies may have more health problems and may need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born later. They also may have long-term health problems that can affect their whole lives.
Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch have determined that maternal exposure to high levels of flame-retardants may be a contributing factor in preterm births. The study was recently published in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology. The researchers focused on PBDEs, a class of flame retardants that have been banned in several states and are used less. But, the industry has substituted PBDEs with other brominated flame retardants that continue to raise health concerns.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Chicago is being privatized. Assets are being sold off, Wall Street debt is mounting, and the mayor conducts business with multi-millionaire donors who often reap benefits from their connections to City Hall. The people of Chicago, who will be electing their next mayor on February 24, need to know the facts about their city's financial problems. Some of these facts won't be found in the mainstream media.
Like Detroit in 2013, Chicago is becoming a symbol of a divided nation, of a society crippled by a 35-year-old notion that the "public good" is somehow un-American. Other U.S. cities have learned that their people and their public services are not products to be bought and sold. Chicago, under Rahm Emanuel and Richie Daley and an assortment of Illinois Governors, has been headed in the other direction.
Schools For Sale
It starts with the public schools, the anchors of their communities and centers of equal opportunity for our children. Illinois cut education spending by a greater percentage than any other state in fiscal 2012, and for 2013 it was third-worst in cuts per student. Privatizers rushed in and blamed the public system. As a result, 50 neighborhood schools were closed in Chicago, opening the way for charter schools, which take taxpayer money but have little accountability to the public and an obligation only to their investors.