IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: The long national shutdown is over --- for now --- and environmental services and protections are returning; PLUS: Australia erupts in 'freakishly early' bushfire season; AND: The 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Air pollution definitively linked to cancer; Lloyd's of London warns on warming, mocks deniers; Minimata Mercury Convention signed by world governments; Why Supreme Court taking on greenhouse gases isn't as bad as it looks; US shale boom shows signs of permanent decline; Uneven enforcement at US nuclear plants; Wisconsin opens wolf hunting season; ND farmers sue over natural gas flares; BP Oil Spill Trial update; World's first climate refugee seeks asylum in NZ; Kauai moves to restrict GMOs; PLUS much, MUCH more!...
EXCLUSIVE: Legendary 'Pentagon Papers' whistleblower offers frank comment on the NSA whistleblower; the dangers of our privatized surveillance state; the failure of Congressional oversight; and journalists 'discrediting their professions'...
"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America," Church said, "and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
On Wednesday, during a fascinating interview on The BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio, Ellsberg said directly, in the wake of Snowden's disclosures: "We're in the abyss. What he feared has come to pass."
The Guardian has asserted that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden "will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning," do it seemed the perfect time to chat with Ellsberg about all of this.
He offered a number of thoughts about Snowden himself, from one of the few people in the world who may have real insight into what the 29-year old leaker must be thinking and dealing with right about now, and why he may have chosen to both leave the country and then come out publicly. He describes Snowden as "a patriotic American, and to call him a traitor reveals a real misunderstanding of our founding documents."
"What he has revealed, of course, is documentary evidence of a broadly, blatantly unconstitutional program here which negates the Fourth Amendment," Ellsberg said. "And if it continues in this way, I think it makes democracy essentially impossible or meaningless."
As usual, Ellsberg pulled no punches in his comments on the dangers of our privatized surveillance state; the failure of our Congressional intelligence oversight committees (which he describes as "fraudulent" and "totally broken"); and on those who have been critical of Snowden and of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist from The Guardian who has broken most of the scoops on Snowden's leaked documents.
He said that folks like attorney Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker and author Thomas Friedman at New York Times and Senator Dianne Feinstein "are being very strongly discredited," by their attacks on Snowden. "The criticisms they're making, I think, are very discreditable to them in their profession," he says.
And, while answering to my request for a response to Josh Marshall's recent piece at TPM, in which Marshall weights his own conscience on this matter and frankly revealing his natural tendency to support the government over whistleblowers in cases like this, Ellsberg was particularly pointed. "Marshall has a lot to be said for him as a blogger," he said, before adding: "I think what he said there is stupid and mistaken and does not do him credit." He went on to describe some of Marshall's comments as "slander" against Snowden.
One other point that merits highlight here for now, before I let ya listen below. The difference between Ellsberg's circumstances and those in play today.
Ellsberg noted that after leaking top secret Defense Department documents to the New York Times in 1971, detailing how the Johnson Administration had lied the nation into the Vietnam War, President Nixon, at the time, ordered a break-in of his psychiatrist's office and discussed having Ellsberg "eliminated".
"All the things that were done to me then," he noted chillingly, "including a CIA profile on me, a burglary of my former psychiatrist's office in order to get information to blackmail me with, all of those things were illegal, as one might think that they ought to be."
"They're legal now, since 9/11, with the PATRIOT Act, which on that very basis alone should be repealed. In other words, this is a case right now with Snowden that shows very dramatically the dangers of that PATRIOT Act, used as it is. So the fact is, that all these things are legal. And even the one of possibly eliminating him"...
Had Karl's error --- compounded by his "cover-up" even more than his original "crime" --- contained news that falsely appeared good for Democrats instead of for Republicans, he would have been hammered and forever discredited by the Right until finally fired by ABC News. But, alas, his completely false report on Benghazi benefited Republicans rather than Democrats, so no biggie, it seems. He gets to keep his career!
ABC's Karl, however, wasn't the only top-tier network newsman who blew it big time, further tarnishing the profession over the past week, not by a long shot.
Lisa Graves, of The Center for Media and Democracy [CMD], is "asking citizens to contact their Senator and demand hearings on the way 'dark money' has stealthily influenced the election." The CMD's proposal includes a specific demand that Charles and David Koch be subpoenaed to testify --- something which, Graves explains, the oil and chemical magnate brothers evaded some 15 years ago when U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) blocked efforts to force them to testify about their use of front groups to influence elections.
Unlike the GOP, whose calls for "Watergate-style" Benghazi hearings have been described as "political theater," the incoming 55-member Senate Democratic Caucus is in a position to conduct a broad and thorough set of hearings that could expose the ever-present threat to the very survival of democratic governance by what former Vice President Henry A. Wallace described as "the American fascist."
Coming within the context of near universal opposition to the flood of corporate money that drown out the voices of ordinary citizens, such hearings could also serve to catapult growing calls to not only overturn the infamous Citizens United decision but to end the concept of "corporate personhood" and establish that money is not "free speech."
As we mark the passing of a progressive icon, three-term U.S. Senator George McGovern (D-SD), and the last true anti-war candidate to be nominated for the Presidency by the Democratic Party, one can't help but think back to what Stephen Victoria labeled in his documentary as One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern (see video segments replayed by Democracy Now! below).
As a young college student and Vietnam veteran, this writer has not forgotten the hope of that summer, the disappointment of the Richard Nixon landslide, the ensuing Watergate scandal, the "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for McGovern" bumper stickers, or how difficult it was to find anyone by the end of 1973 who would admit they voted for Nixon. How different our circumstances might be today if America had appreciated the wisdom of this great man of peace back then.
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Democracy Now! excerpts from One Bright Shining Moment follow...
"If we play Russian Roulette with the Supreme Court," Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, "if we confirm a nominee who has not demonstrated a commitment to core constitutional values, we jeopardize our rights as individuals and the future of our nation."
"We cannot undo such a mistake at the next election or even in the next generation," he warned. Too bad more of his Democratic colleagues failed to listen.
With four of the nine Supreme Court Justices now in their seventies, and the GOP Senate minority having bottled-up the Obama administration's nominations to the federal trial and intermediate appellate courts, the decision by the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, to select Robert Bork (see video below), founder of the ultra-radical, right-wing billionaire-funded Federalist Society as his chief legal adviser has turned the 2012 Presidential election into a new, and far more serious game of "Russian Roulette" --- one that would give the same forces that were behind the Bush v. Gore judicial coup and the infamous Citizens United decision a super majority on the Supreme Court.
The harm to the rule of law that would accompany the expansion from four
Supreme Court radicals in robes to seven could not be remedied, as Kennedy warned, by "the next election or even in the next generation"...
Even a glimpse at the statistics leads knowledgeable sources, like Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, to describe the 'War on Drugs' as a "failed prohibitionist policy."
"Over the last 40 years, more than 45 million drug-related arrests have cost an estimated $1 trillion," Amy Goodman reported on Democracy Now! "Yet drugs are cheaper, purer and more available today than ever."
And that's just in the U.S.
According to the United Nations' 2011 World Drug Report [PDF], "in 2009, between 149 and 272 million people...aged 15-64 used illicit substances at least once in the previous year." The UN estimated that Cannabis was "consumed by between 125 and 203 million people worldwide in 2009," adding:
Drug traffickers and organized criminals are forming transnational networks, sourcing drugs on one continent, trafficking them across another, and marketing them in a third. In some countries and regions, the value of the illicit drug trade far exceeds the size of the legitimate economy.
But Nadelmann's description of the 'War on Drugs' as a "failed prohibitionist policy" is derived from the supposition that the 'War on Drugs', at least here in the U.S., was actually formulated with a desire to suppress or eliminate drug abuse.
In PART 1 of this series, we examined the question of whether the U.S. Government's effort to challenge legalization of marijuana in California and elsewhere was akin to shutting down the competition, given the CIA's long-documented history of profiting from the world-wide drug trade. In PART 2 we posited that an end to the 'War on Drugs' could deliver a devastating blow to the bottom line of American corporations who have come to depend upon the Prison Industrial Complex in the U.S. and its huge pool of slave laborers --- most, non-violent drug offenders.
So now, we must examine the hypothesis that, if accurate, should rock us all to our core.
What if the horrific consequences of the worldwide drug trade, which, per the UN 2011 World Drug Report, includes an annual death toll of 200,000, are precisely what President Nixon and the covert branches of U.S. Empire had in mind when formulating a policy that would enhance the domination of the 1% over the 99%? Are we now living in a form of Aldus Huxley's Brave New World in which "Failure is Success" can be added to the three slogans from George Orwell's 1984 --- "War is Peace," "Freedom is Slavery" and "Ignorance is Strength" --- a world in which a vote against legalization is actually a vote in favor of illicit distribution by organized crime and their allies in the CIA?...
This is the second of our three-part series advancing the hypothesis that one must turn to economics to make sense of the so-called 'War on Drugs' and the U.S. government's seemingly irrational obsession with shutting down something as innocuous as medicinal marijuana dispensaries.
PART 1 examined both historical and recent links between the CIA and the illicit drug trade. It explored the extent to which the so-called 'War on Drugs' has been used as cover for the CIA's covert import of narcotics, both into the U.S. and other nations, in order to fund the mischief the Agency engages in on behalf of U.S. Empire. It postulated that the government’s opposition to controlled legalization, taxation and medical, educational and psychological assistance in avoiding substance abuse is the product of an illicit supplier shutting down the competition.
Here, we will examine the profitability of the Prison Industrial Complex in the U.S. and the extent to which the world's largest prison population provides a ready source of slave labor for some of the world's largest corporations…
We recently detailed how legal documents reveal that prosecutors in Wisconsin are painstakingly examining evidence that may well place Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) at the center of a criminal conspiracy to illegally utilize employees within the Milwaukee County Executive Office to engage in fundraising and campaign activities. We observed that a recall may therefore be the least of Walker's worries.
The relationship between Walker's potential criminal liability and his recall vulnerability has not gone unnoticed by the WI Democratic Party. Asserting that Walker "has given a blizzard of contradictory statements about what he knew and when he knew it," WI Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate released an ad which refers to the pending criminal scandal as "Walkergate" (see video below) and draws an analogy to Richard Nixon's role in Watergate.
Simultaneously, the embattled governor on Monday abandoned his effort to challenge the more than one million signatures submitted on the Recall Walker petition...
Recall Walker ad comparing Scott Walker to Richard Nixon follows...
In light of GOP Presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich's recently revitalized attacks on the judiciary as, apparently, not yet extreme or activist enough for his tastes --- though he finds, like most of the other GOP candidates, Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito to be "pretty darn good" --- it's worth taking note of just some of the recent behavior, judicial temperament and fundamental principles of those far-Right extremist Supreme Court Justices he apparently does approve of.
The day the Supreme Court gathered behind closed doors to consider the politically divisive question of whether it would hear a challenge to President Obama’s healthcare law, two of its justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, were feted at a dinner sponsored by the law firm that will argue the case before the high court.
While basic canons of judicial ethics suggest that judges should avoid even the appearance of impropriety, it remains exceedingly doubtful that the gathering of signatures on a Credo Action Petition will prompt either of these two "radicals in robes" to recuse themselves...
Contrary to the Republican Party's recently launched, all-out War on the EPA, the 40-year old Environmental Protection Agency, founded during the Richard Nixon Administration with strong bi-partisan support, is a job creator, according to a newly released report by the Majority Staff of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), the committee's 29-page report [PDF] touts "essential contributions that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and landmark environmental laws" contribute towards "protecting public health and promoting economic growth."
It also highlights quotes from radical leftists like George W. Bush's Republican EPA Director, Christie Todd Whitman ("[I]t is easy to forget how far we have come in the past 40 years. We should take heart from all this progress and not, as some in Congress have suggested, seek to tear down the agency that the president and Congress created to protect America’s health and environment.") and President Gerald Ford ("Nothing is more essential to the life of every single American than clean air, pure food, and safe drinking water").
The Democrats' report excoriates the deceptive partisan attacks embodied in recently introduced GOP House legislation meant "to weaken EPA's authority to regulate toxic emissions," and concludes by underscoring the EPA's role in promoting both environmental and economic health in the nation...
This November, California voters will be afforded a rare opportunity to directly decide whether to legalize and tax the lawful cultivation, processing, distribution, sale, and consumption of marijuana by and to individuals over 21 years of age.
By approving Proposition 19, formally labeled the "Regulate, Control, Tax Cannabis Act of 2010" [PDF], voters will take an important first step towards ending the costly, hypocritical, and liberty-destroying "war on drugs" which, like its predecessor (Prohibition), has created a lucrative niche for criminal organizations --- hypocritical because the covert agencies of the U.S. government have long engaged in drug trafficking in support of Empire even as the so-called "War on Drugs" has provided a convenient excuse for supporting brutal dictatorial puppet regimes whose function it is to serve the interests of what John Perkins described in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man as the "corporatocracy"...
Paul Conrad, winner of three Pulitzer Prizes, whose poignant political cartoons were so effective in speaking truth to power that the criminal cabal inside the Nixon White House placed Conrad on its "Enemies List," has passed at the age of 86. Conrad regarded placement on the Nixon's enemies list as a badge of honor. He lampooned the ethically challenged former President in this biting cartoon.
Amidst exploding bombs, smoke billowing from sinking battleships and dead bodies floating atop the oil slicked waters of Pearl Harbor, it was not all that difficult to appreciate the damage wrought by a surprise attack launched by the Empire of Japan. The same was true when we watched in horror as the smoldering twin towers of the World Trade Center precipitously collapsed on September 11, 2001.
Like these two earlier pivotal events, January 21, 2010 is, "a date which will live in infamy." Yet, unlike Pearl Harbor and 9/11, most Americans do not recognize it as such. This attack came not by way of planes or bombs delivered by some foreign menace. It came from within courtesy of what Professor Cass Sunstein aptly described as "radicals in robes" --- four directly connected to the Robert-Bork founded, billionaire-funded Federalist Society; all five as appointees of the Reagan and two Bush administrations. Men bent on unraveling the very constitution they had all solemnly sworn to uphold.
Their assault, though subtle, wrought far greater devastation than either Pearl Harbor or 9/11. They did not merely attack planes, ships and buildings. They assaulted the very foundations of our constitutional democracy...
"Somehow this madness must cease."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Beyond Vietnam" April 4, 1967.
On Jan. 18, 2010 our nation will observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, commemorating the extraordinary life of an intellectual and moral giant. The corporate media will fill the airwaves with excerpts of his uplifting August 28, 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech in which Dr. King called upon us to judge one another by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. And, during that same holiday, the corporate media can be counted upon to ignore his April 4, 1967 "Beyond Vietnam" speech just as they have every year since the first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1986.
Why? Because the egalitarian principles enunciated in "I Have a Dream" challenged only the now (largely) defunct Jim Crow regime.
While de facto, race-based economic inequality stubbornly remains as a vestige of slavery and Jim Crow, the elimination of de jure segregation posed no threat to the stark economic inequality created by an increasingly brutal form of U.S. capitalism and imperialism. It was the brutal reality of corporate Empire which led Dr. King, in "Beyond Vietnam," to describe his own government as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" --- a point which exposes the hypocrisy in that same government's celebration of the life of a man singularly devoted to non-violence.
If you have not read "Beyond Vietnam" in its entirety, you should. If you have, you should read it again, for Dr. King's message is as applicable today as it was then.
Particularly, as we deconstruct the empty words used by our Harvard-educated President to justify an escalation of what Robert Scheer aptly describes as a "War of Absurdity," and as we look "Beyond Afghanistan"...