Foreign Corporation (TransCanada) Using Eminent Domain to Steal Private Land

Right now in Texas, a foreign corporation, TransCanada, is using our government’s 5th Amendment right of eminent domain to confiscate private land belonging to Americans, to build a massive oil pipeline so TransCanada can ship oil from the Gulf of Mexico to non-Americans around the world. Oil, by the way, that will accelerate our planet’s plunge into global warming-induced catastrophe. So the question is, “Why?

Under the Reading Lamp — 2/8/2012

The Great Carbon Bubble

image03Bill McKibben, Op-Ed: “It’s no secret where this denialism comes from: the fossil fuel industry pays for it. (Of the 16 authors of the Journal article, for instance, five had had ties to Exxon.) Writers from Ross Gelbspan to Naomi Oreskes have made this case with such overwhelming power that no one even really tries denying it any more. The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.”

Right-Wing Media Aren’t Concerned About Helping the Poor, but They Sure Want to Help the Rich

image07News Analysis: As income disparities continue to increase, and the effective tax rate paid by the rich remains at historic lows, right-wing media figures work hard to make sure none of that changes. They routinely attack the poor and programs designed to assist them, while simultaneously extolling the rich and defending them against any attempt to get them to pay their fair share of taxes.

BP Made $3 Million an Hour In 2011, While Spill Victims Continued to Suffer

image01Rebecca Leber, News Report: “BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill is still affecting the lives of many Americans, particularly the tens of thousands that have not settled lawsuits with the company. Yet the company has bounced back from the billions it lost in the wake of the spill. BP announced today that its 2011 profit totaled $26 billion, a 114 percent jump from the year before, when the company’s ‘failure of supervision and accountability’ caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history.”

The Downward Mobility of the American Middle Class, and Why Mitt Romney Doesn’t Know

image06Robert Reich, Op-Ed: January’s increase in hiring is good news, but it masks a bigger and more disturbing story – the continuing downward mobility of the American middle class. Mitt Romney says he’s not concerned about the very poor because they have safety nets to protect them. He says he’s concerned about the middle class. Romney doesn’t seem to realize how much of the middle class is becoming poor.

Report Finds Millions of Families Three Months From Poverty

image05Susannah Nesmith, News Report: According to America’s Youngest Outcasts, a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million children in the United States were homeless at some point in 2010, the most recent statistics available. During the recession, from 2007 to 2010, child homelessness spiked 38 percent nationwide. According to the 2011 Council on Homelessness report, Florida’s public school districts identified over 49,000 Florida school-age children as homeless during the 2009-2010 school year.

Debt, Toll Roads, and Patents

image11Dean Baker, Op-Ed: It’s budget time, again. This means that the deficit hawks will be out in force warning us about the devastating debt burden that we are passing on to our children. So that this Halloween fright gang doesn’t needlessly cause any kids to lose sleep, here’s what parents can tell their children. First, it is important to tell your kids that the national debt is not in any way a measure of intergenerational transfers from the young to the old. Debt is also an asset to the people who own the bonds.

Meet the Obscure Federal Regulator Who’s Not Helping Homeowners

image04Cora Currier, News Analysis: Last week, ProPublica and NPR raised questions about a risky investment strategy at Freddie Mac that would pay off if homeowners stayed trapped in expensive mortgages. It’s just the latest example of how government-owned Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have frustrated many by not putting homeowners first. Fannie and Freddie are required to help homeowners while earning profits so they can pay back the taxpayers who bailed them out.

The Citizens United Catastrophe

image02E.J. Dionne Jr., Op-Ed: We have seen the world created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it doesn’t work. Oh, yes, it works nicely for the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics behind shell corporations. It just doesn’t happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy.

Offshore Everywhere

image08Tom Engelhardt, Op-Ed: “Think of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden as a harbinger of and model for what’s to come. It was an operation enveloped in a cloak of secrecy. There was no consultation with the “ally” on whose territory the raid was to occur. It involved combat by an elite special operations unit backed by drones and other high-tech weaponry and supported by the CIA. A national boundary was crossed without either permission or any declaration of hostilities.”

Save the Babies

image09Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “After 20 years of delay forced by lobbyists for utilities, the Environmental Protection Agency finally came out in December with regulations to control the mercury emissions from power plants. Hallelujah — save the babies! But wait, the lovers of the unborn aren’t celebrating this move to stop industry from doing gratuitous damage to children’s IQs. Far from it. GOP lawmakers are now howling to overturn the EPA’s mercury regulations.”

The Battle for Vermont’s Health

image10Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “Health insurers were not able to stop the state’s drive last year toward a single-payer health care system, which insurers have spent millions to scare Americans into believing would be the worst thing ever. Despite the ceaseless spin, Vermont lawmakers last May demonstrated they could not be bought nor intimidated when they became the first in the nation to pass a bill that will probably establish a single-payer beachhead in the U.S.”

California’s Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional – Again

image12Mike Ludwig, Truthout: “A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a federal judge’s ruling that California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, setting the stage for a potential Supreme Court showdown that could set a national precedent on same-sex marriage.”

Opponents of Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, react after news of the ban being knocked down in court, outside the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, February 7, 2012. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

Want to Cut the Federal Budget? Cut DOD!

This week, the National Priorities Project (NPP) released a snapshot of U.S. “defense” spending since September 11, 2001.   I hope you’re sitting down, because we’ve spent $7.6 trillion on the military and homeland security since 9/11.  Plus, the Pentagon’s base budget, which doesn’t include the costs of fighting this or that war, has increased by 81% during that timeframe.  That’s 43% larger than DOD’s pre-9/11 budge, when adjusted for inflation. The costs of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have now reached $1.26 trillion. But that only scratches the surface; it doesn’t include the long-term costs of caring for war-ravaged and PTSD suffering soldiers.

We, as a nation, need to rethink our priorities.  Is it our responsibility to serve as the world’s army?  Is it our responsibility to spread Democracy to every nation?  Should we be staffing bases around the globe as though the Cold War is still taking place?  Is it appropriate to continue buying items for forms of warfare that are not effective in reducing risks posed by terrorist organizations?

An article published on Truth-Out talks about 5 eye-popping opportunity costs related to our bloated military spending:

  1. Post-9/11 Defense Hikes Equal Five Times the “Medicare Gap”
  2. Afghanistan Costs Alone Could Pay for 15.6 Years of Head Start
  3. The costs of the Afghanistan conflict alone could cover every uninsured American for 1.7 years.
  4. The supplemental requests for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan this year ($170B) would more than cover the total budgetary shortfalls of 46 state ($130B total) with money leftover.
  5. The Iraq war may be over, but we’ll still spend $50B for “non-combat.”

It’s well passed the time we should consider closing some of the more than 1000 US Military bases on foreign soil and bring some of those 370,000 soldiers home, including 268 bases in Germany, 124 bases in Japan and 87 bases in S Korea.  Instead of cutting programs so many Americans depend upon, it’s time to reduce our military footprint across the globe.  It’s time to invest in the American people instead of investing in the seeds of war and destruction.

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Lies built upon Mis-Information built upon Lies

The other day I came across an eye opening documentary by German director Marc Eberle, called “The Most Secret Place on Earth.”    The film covers the secret operation waged by the CIA throughout the sixties and early seventies against communist guerrillas in Laos, particularly in the city of Long Chen.  It’s currently available on YouTube for viewing:

A large number of readers of this blog most likely have watched the 1990 feature film “Air America,”  starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr., where young pilot finds himself recruited into a covert and corrupt CIA airlift organization operating in Vietnam War era Laos.  Most of us associated the film’s content with Vietnam.  This documentary speaks to the actual effects of the CIA’s secret war.

Marc Eberle talks to the protagonists of Laos civil war – on both sides. The film features interviews with State Department, CIA and Air America officials, as well as Hmong general Vang Pao and some of his critics – Fred Branfman and Professor Alfred McCoy.

Despite being the center of the covert operation and, at its peak, one of the world’s busiest airports with a population of 50,000 people, Long Chen’s location was never marked on any map.  Long Chen remains off limits to foreigners and most Lao due to clashes with remnants of the CIA’s Hmong army. Until recently it formed part of a special administrative zone under the direct control of the Lao army.

What I found most interesting is that the lies and misinformation promoted as fact didn’t just start with President Bush.  Lies and misinformation were used to wipe out an entire culture on the ‘Plain of Jars’ in Laos.  Lies and misinformation were promoted to escalate the Vietnam war.  Lies and misinformation were used to get us into the Iraq and Afghanistan war.  Who truly is behind all these lies and information?  We are not the policemen for the world.  We are not the world’s army. And – it is not our job to do nation-building to create democracies throughout the globe.

It’s time to bring our troops home and close some of our bases overseas.  Like other nations around the globe, we also need to stop funding and staffing the Department of (War) Defense as though we were still fighting some evil enemy.  Going forward, fighting terrorism is going to take a whole different type of defensive operation, not one with nuclear weapons, tanks, rockets, etc.  The Department of Defense currently consumes a major portion of our financial resources.  It’s time that we re-allocate those resources for the betterment of our nation’s citizens.  We need to keep up the pressure on President Obama to end the wars in the middle east as he promised he would during his campaign for President.