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This evening's music features Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy. Enjoy!
2012 Kennedy Center Honors: Salute to Buddy Guy
“As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the – you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we would do."
-- John Brennan
News and Opinion
CIA admits to spying on Senate staffers
The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, issued an extraordinary apology to leaders of the US Senate intelligence committee on Thursday, conceding that the agency employees spied on committee staff and reversing months of furious and public denials.
Brennan acknowledged that an internal investigation had found agency security personnel transgressed a firewall set up on a CIA network, which allowed Senate committee investigators to review agency documents for their landmark inquiry into CIA torture.
Among other things, it was revealed that agency officials conducted keyword searches and email searches on committee staff while they used the network.
CIA director reverses himself on Senate spying
After Senate leaders learned about the intrusion in January and protested, the CIA made a criminal referral to the Justice Department, alleging improper behavior by Senate staffers. That referral, CIA inspector general David Buckley found, was based on inaccurate information and was not justified.
When internal investigators interviewed three CIA computer specialists, they exhibited "a lack of candor," the IG report said. ...
The CIA conducted the search after it began to suspect that Senate aides had obtained a draft internal review that the CIA believed the Senate was not entitled to see. The review included comments from CIA officers describing misgivings about the treatment of al-Qaida detainees.
As it turned out, the Senate staffers got the review thanks to a glitch in the CIA's firewall, several officials said.
The findings of the investigation by the CIA's inspector general were shared with the Justice Department, which declined to pursue criminal charges against the CIA employees, officials said. ...
The summary of the inspector general's report does not say who ordered the CIA search of Senate computers or who conducted it.
.@CIA broke into Senate computer files. Then tried to have Senate staff prosecuted. Absolutely unacceptable in a democracy.— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) July 31, 2014
It’s About the Lying
I don’t want to understate how seriously wrong it is that the CIA searched Senate computers. Our constitutional order is seriously out of whack when the executive branch acts with that kind of impunity — to its overseers, no less.
But given everything else that’s been going on lately, the single biggest — and arguably most constructive — thing to focus on is how outrageously CIA Director John Brennan lied to everyone about it.
“As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth,” Brennan told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in March. “We wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the, you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we do.”
Earlier, he had castigated “some members of the Senate” for making “spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts.” He called for an end to “outbursts that do a disservice to the important relationship that needs to be maintained between intelligence officials and Congressional overseers.”
And what compelled Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein to make a dramatic floor speech in the first place, bringing everything out in the open, was that Brennan had responded to her initial concerns not by acknowledging the CIA’s misconduct — but by firing back with an allegation of criminal activity by her own staff.
Not coincidentally, the document the CIA was hunting for, that Senate staffers were accused of purloining, and that Brennan was now lying about, was a big deal precisely because it exposed more lies.
CIA director John Brennan lied to you and to the Senate. Fire him
Private apologies are not enough for a defender of torture, the architect of America’s drone program and the most talented liar in Washington.
After the CIA inspector general’s report completely contradicted Brennan’s statements, it now appears Brennan was forced to privately apologize to intelligence committee chairs in a “tense” meeting earlier this week. Other Senators on Thursday pushed for Brennan to publicly apologize and called for an independent investigation. ...
The latest row isn’t the lone CIA-spying-on-the-Senate scandal on Brennan’s watch. In a little noticed story last week, McClatchy reported that the CIA has also been spying on emails from whistleblower officials and Congress:The CIA got hold of the legally protected email and other unspecified communications between whistleblower officials and lawmakers this spring, people familiar with the matter told McClatchy. It’s unclear how the agency obtained the material.The National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency have been allowed to lie brazenly to Congress, the courts and the public for far too long. It’s far past time for the Obama administration to bring a little accountability to the intelligence community. It’s time for Barack Obama to fire John Brennan.
Pelosi Hesitates To Criticize CIA: 'They Really Come After You'
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is being a bit more careful these days in her criticism of the Central Intelligence Agency, claiming the group has "come after" her over comments in the past.
After CIA Director John Brennan apologized to members of the Senate on Thursday, acknowledging that some CIA employees inappropriately hacked into Senate computers, Pelosi condemned the CIA's behavior in that instance. But she stopped short of criticizing the entire agency, citing fear of retaliation.
"In the past I have made my statements about the CIA, and they really come after you," she told a group of reporters, chuckling. "There's a price to pay."
We tortured some folks ¯_(ツ)_/¯— Xeni Jardin (@xeni) August 1, 2014
Obama: Senate report will show ‘we tortured some folks’Dear President Obama,
President Barack Obama somberly warned on Friday that a forthcoming Senate Intelligence Committee report will show that the United States “tortured some folks” before he took office. But he dismissed “sanctimonious” calls to punish any individuals responsible and rejected calls for CIA Director John Brennan’s resignation.
“When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques — techniques that I believe, and I think any fair-minded person would believe, were torture — we crossed the line,” Obama declared in the White House briefing room.
“And that needs to be understood. And accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so that hopefully we don’t do it again in the future,” the president said.
Eat my shorts. People calling for accountability for war crimes, like torture, are not being "sanctimonious," fella. They are telling you to do your fucking job.
Thanks for your attention.
State Dept. 'Torture Talking Points' Reveal White House PR Machine Ahead of Senate ReportThanks to whoever forwarded State's talking points to the AP, we can see what sort of bovine excremental locutions we are going to have to endure the discussion of. Note that there is no "talk" in the talking points about accountability, i.e., actions that are required by law to be enforced by Obama's Justice Department.
Obama administration to argue that revelation of CIA torture program is an example of "America's democratic system"
A State Department document obtained by the Associated Press reveals part of the Obama administration's attempt to ready its public relations response to an upcoming Senate report on the CIA's torture program.
Due to be declassified in the coming days, the report is said to criticize the agency for its post-9/11 illegal torture of detainees in secret prisons. The document details some of the administration's prepared talking points to be used once a White House-approved version of the report is released.
Reportedly sent by accident via email to the AP, the State Department memo describes the report as a demonstration of American democracy, rather than as an indictment of the CIA's torture practices. The document states that "no American is proud" of the CIA's tactics, but that "the story" of illegal, indefinite torture and imprisonment is part of a larger message, one in which "America's democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values." That story, the document proclaims, is one in which Americans can take pride.
In this case, "democratic values" do not seem to refer to the humane treatment of prisoners, but to the CIA no longer being able to hide its illegal operations from the public.
State Department Talking Points on Torture
Topline Messages (as proposed by State)
· The 9/11 attacks presented a threat to the security of the American people that was unprecedented in our history. Our government and people responded to that threat in ways that were mostly smart, principled and effective. But we also made mistakes that we must acknowledge, learn from, and never repeat – including the use of interrogation techniques that were contrary to our values and traditions.
· The fundamental facts about this program have been known for some time. The U.S. government is committed to transparency and has released much of this information to the public before. This report adds additional details which confirm the wisdom of our national decision not to use such interrogation methods again
· The report may not settle every debate: there may still be disagreement in our society about some aspects of what happened. But the report leaves no doubt that the methods used to extract information from some terrorist suspects caused profound pain, suffering and humiliation. It also leaves no doubt that the harm caused by the use of these techniques outweighed any potential benefit.
· This report tells a story of which no American is proud. But it is also part of another story of which we can be proud. America’s democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values.
· These interrogation methods were debated in our free media, challenged in our independent courts, and, just two years after their introduction, restricted by an act of our Congress sponsored by Senator John McCain and overwhelmingly backed by members of both of our political parties. In 2008, both the Democratic and Republican candidates for president disavowed the use of torture.
· In the first executive order he issued, President Obama directed that individuals detained in any armed conflict shall in all circumstances be treated humanely and shall not be subjected to torture or cruel treatment, and he revoked previous executive directives, orders and regulations to the extent inconsistent with that order. The American people have stood by this decision, and there is no serious effort in our country to reconsider it.
· America can champion democracy and human rights around the world not because we are perfect, but because we can say that our democratic system enables us to confront and resolve our problems through open and honest debate. Our Congress issued this report, and the Obama administration strongly supported its declassification, in that spirit. This report will help the American people can understand what happened in the past, and that will help to guide us as we move forward.
Gaza ceasefire collapses as fighting breaks out after two hours
The humanitarian truce in Gaza has collapsed after two hours with fierce fighting in the south of the enclave, the capture by Hamas of an Israeli soldier and a formal Israeli announcement that it would resume its military operation.
Israeli tank fire on the southern town of Rafah was reported to have killed at least 40 Palestinians on Friday, turning what was intended to be the first day of calm into one of the deadliest days in Gaza so far. Hamas launched rockets towards Israel, while fierce small-arms fire and artillery shelling erupted at Beit Hanoun and Gaza’s northern end. ...
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel’s military coordinator in the Palestinian territories told the UN envoy, Robert Serry, that as far as Israel was concerned the ceasefire – announced on Thursday night after lengthy behind-the-scenes negotiations – was over. Israel claimed that the truce was first broken by an ambush by Palestinian militants on Israeli forces near Rafah.
Dissent is quieted with most Israelis behind Gaza war
Despite Israeli casualties and world criticism, a near-consensus in Israel supports the government’s conduct of the Gaza war, views Hamas as the aggressor and considers outsiders’ moralizing as hypocritical, ignorant or both. And in an echo-chamber fed by ubiquitous updates on Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, the minority of local voices that do agonize over Gazans’ suffering are being silenced in a way rarely seen in a country long proud of its spirited, democratic debate. ...
Opposing views, coming primarily from leftist activists and intellectuals, have been met with threats, insults and charges of treason both in social media and face-to-face.
“We are faced with the false, anti-democratic equation that argues that aggression, racism and lack of empathy means love of the homeland,” wrote Israeli author Etgar Keret in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper. Opinions that do not encourage “the use of power,” he added, are derided as “nothing less than an attempt to destroy and annihilate Israel as we know it.” ...
A number of anti-war protests held in Israel’s liberal hub, Tel Aviv, have been met by hard-line counter-protesters, who pelted insults and shouted calls for the doves to leave for Gaza. ... A popular comedian who expressed sympathy for Gazan women and children was unceremoniously dropped from a cruise line’s ad campaign. And a public service announcement created by an activist group was rejected by Israel’s state-owned broadcaster, even though the group was paying for the airtime.
In the ad by the group B’Tselem, a solemn voice reads the names and ages of Palestinian children who were killed in the war. Hagai El-Ad, B’Tselem’s director, said it was meant to “re-humanize” Palestinians in the eyes of Israelis. He said the ad was rejected because it was deemed controversial.
Israel is killing the dead twice! A cemetery west of Khan Younis was just hit. #Gaza— F. (@Palestinianism) August 1, 2014
The United States is Not Just a Bystander in Israel-Gaza Violence
This past week, Israel has been carrying out air strikes and other military operations that have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of them civilians not directly participating in hostilities.
The U.S., as the largest foreign supplier of weapons, munitions, police equipment and devices, as well as training and techniques to Israel, bears a particular responsibility for the deployment of the weapons it provides.
Amnesty International is calling for a U.N.-mandated international investigation into violations committed on all sides amidst ongoing Israeli air strikes on Gaza and continuing volleys of indiscriminate rocket fire from Palestinian armed groups into Israel. Amnesty is also calling for a UN-imposed comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups.
In conjunction with that effort, Amnesty International USA urges the U.S. government to suspend transfers of munitions, weapons, crowd control devices, and military training to Israel.
U.S. arms transfers should not resume until and unless Israel stops violating human rights across the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel must put in place effective mechanisms to ensure that these transfers will not be used to commit or facilitate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Israel must also put in place credible accountability processes for past violations.
Senate blocks aid to Israel
A last-ditch effort to deliver aid to Israel during its war with Hamas died on the Senate floor, as Republicans blocked the proposal over concerns that it would increase the debt.
After Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ $2.7 billion border aid package, which also included $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and $615 million to fight Western wildfires, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to split off the Israel and wildfire money as a standalone bill, hoping to put aside the dispute over border funding and appeal to Republicans’ deep ties to Israel. ...
It didn’t work. ...
The stumble on delivering $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which is used to shoot down rockets aimed at Israel, infuriated GOP hawks who’d been pushing Reid to break the Israel funding from the border bill.
Gaza Conflict Divides Congressional Progressives
[M]embers of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have been divided over the conflict, with some commending Israel's military for its use of precision weapons and others outraged by the conflict’s mounting Palestinian civilian causalities.
The division was clear on July 29 when caucus co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who has visited Gaza three times since 2009 and previously condemned the Israeli blockade of Gaza, published an op-ed in the Washington Post that highlighted recent Palestinian civilian casualties—including four children who were "blown up on a beach" by an Israeli attack. He noted that most Gaza residents "aren't rocket shooters or combatants. ... Yet this is not the consensus view within the 65-member Progressive Caucus that Ellison co-leads. In recent weeks, other caucus members have focused on the rocket attacks launched against Israel and lent their support to its aggressive military reaction.
Toward the start of Israel's air campaign in Gaza, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a stalwart liberal representing Manhattan's Upper West Side, issued a statement condemning Gaza's rocket attacks and calling for the public to support Israel "to take whatever measure she deems necessary to defend the population against the attempted murder by these terrorists." ... Two days later, on July 16, caucus member Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) issued a statement with Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) calling for solidarity with Israel.
On July 18, Ellison and five other representatives—all progressive caucus members—signed a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry calling for the White House and the State Department to "redouble your efforts" to press for a cease fire in Gaza. Contrast that to 2009, when 54 House Democrats signed a letter drafted by Ellison and McDermott urging the president "to work for tangible improvements to the humanitarian concerns" in Gaza.
Fighting near site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 leaves 14 dead
Fourteen people have been killed, including at least 10 Ukrainian soldiers, in fighting overnight close to the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, a Ukrainian military spokesman has said.
"In total it is known that 14 people died but the bodies of four of them have not been identified and could be Ukrainian soldiers or terrorists," Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky said on Friday.
He added that "so far we are talking about 10 Ukrainian servicemen dead" in the clash, in the town of Shakhtarsk 15 miles from the MH17 site.
The Hidden Hands Behind East-West Tug of War in Ukraine
On both sides of the Atlantic, leaders are playing out a strategy in league with two powerful actors who they have managed to keep quietly in the background so far - the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The World Bank and the IMF's primary interest in Ukraine is the agricultural sector. Sometimes referred to as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine's ample fields of rich black soil allow for such high production volumes of cereals and grain that it is the world's third-largest exporter of corn and fifth of wheat.
It is a very big prize for whoever ends up with control. The IMF and World Bank are clear they are on the side of the West, a club that includes western agricultural corporations. The Bank and the IMF have a long history of pressuring economies the world over to make themselves into more profitable environments for large corporations; it is essentially their one-size-fits-all model for development. Ukraine is just their latest target, and their fingerprints are all over this crisis.
Ukraine's relationship with World Bank and the IMF changed swiftly under the new, pro-EU government. Just a week after it took office, the IMF rushed a mission to Kiev. ... Then, announcing a $3.5bn aid package on May 22, Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank President, praised the Ukrainian authorities' determination for developing "a comprehensive program of reforms, which they are committed to undertake with support from the World Bank Group."
This programme includes reforms to the public provision of water and energy and, critically, aims at addressing what the World Bank says are the "structural roots" of the economic crisis in Ukraine, including the high cost of doing business in the country. By "business", they do not mean domestic, let alone small businesses - they mean corporate business. In other words, the World Bank has imposed conditions that rig the game in favour of large western interests, and even demanded that the government limit its own power by "removing restrictions that hinder competition and by limiting the role of state 'control' in economic activities."
So when we read the headlines and grand rhetoric about Russian aggression and human rights abuses, we should remember that what is being fought for in Ukraine is the ability for western leaders and institutions to impose the neoliberal trickle-down economic model. A model that has proved to devastate small businesses and farms, fuel inequality all over the world and concentrate wealth and power in ever fewer hands.
The Causes of World War III
The worldwide commemoration of the World War I centenary is celebrated amongst eerie circumstances, as the world’s most powerful nations are locked in the dangerous type of embrace which preceded past conflagrations. Most Americans learn a litany of shallow and simplistic explanations for the first great war such as the assassination of an archduke and the sinking of the Lusitania. The textbook explanations omit that the quest for expansion and economic competition among the powerful nations led the world into disaster. That cycle ominously appears to be repeating itself in 2014. ...
Now the United States and European nations aren’t content to attack the weak. They openly declare war on Russia. When they backed a coup in Ukraine they happily threw gasoline onto a fire but the fantasy was easier than the reality. Russia is a tough nut to crack and the instigation of civil war in Ukraine brought more than the West anticipated.
The alliances between Germany, Austria and the Ottoman empire on one side and France, Britain and Russia seem quaint in comparison to the United States upending regimes all over the world as its allies follow dutifully along. Malaysian airlines flight MH17 may be the Lusitania of the modern era. Had the West not caused conflict on Russia’s doorstep the incident would not have taken place but the propagandists are hard at work evading responsibility and assigning blame they ought to share.
It is impossible to look into the future and see how these conflicts will end. It is clear that they can’t go on forever and that great changes are coming. Only defeat will stop massacres in Gaza and regime change around the world. Of course those defeats will bring great suffering to the masses of people. Ironically, that suffering is the only certainty as the chaos continues.
Think everything on a dollar menu costs a dollar? Think again.
Fast food workers claim public assistance at more than twice the rate of other employed people; McDonald’s workers alone receive $1.2 billion in federal assistance each year. About one out of every three retail workers gets public assistance. After analyzing Medicaid data, the Democratically led House Committee on Education and the Workforce estimated a single 300-person Wal-Mart in Wisconsin costs taxpayers $5,815 per associate in public assistance paid. Overall, American taxpayers subsidize the minimum wage with $7 billion in public assistance, which is what makes it possible for huge companies to get away with paying people so little. Add in the taxes you’re paying, and there’s nothing on the dollar menu that actually costs only a dollar.
Why else do many large companies like food stamps? Because poverty is big business.
Public benefits are now a huge part of corporate profits. The CEO of Kraft admitted that the mac n’ cheese maker opposed food-stamp cuts because beneficiaries were “a big part of our audience.” One-sixth of Kraft’s revenues come from food-stamp purchases. Pepsi, Coke, and the grocery chain Kroger also lobbied against SNAP cuts, an indication of how much they rely on the money.
How much profit does Wal-Mart make from public assistance? In one year, nine Wal-Mart Supercenters in Massachusetts received more than $33 million in SNAP dollars, more than four times the SNAP money spent at farmers’ markets nationwide. In two years, Wal-Mart received about half of the $1 billion in SNAP expenditures in Oklahoma. Overall, 18 percent of all food benefits money is spent at Wal-Mart. That’s about $14 billion.
Others also profit well from food stamps. Food stamps are distributed via Electronic Benefits Transfer or EBT (some recipients claim the acronym really means “Eat Better Tonight.”) JPMorgan Chase holds the contracts in half the United States to handle the transactions. In Florida, JPMorgan’s contract is worth $83 million, and in New York, it’s worth more than $112 million. Meanwhile, until recent changes, customer service for the JP Morgan EBT program was done via offshore call centers in India and Mexico who paid far below domestic wages.
So don’t believe anyone who says raising the minimum wage will automatically drive prices up. Whatever you think you are saving at the cash register in Wal-Mart (or at McDonald’s, KFC, Target…), you are paying in taxes to feed the woman ringing you up.
A Grand Unified Theory of Terribleness: Money Laundering by Banks, Terrorism, Genocide, and Tax Cuts
Major multi-national bank BNP Paribas just pleaded guilty to money-laundering a little less than $200 billion over the course of the last ten years. According to New York Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky, “BNPP employees – with the knowledge of multiple senior executives – engaged in a long-standing scheme that illegally funneled money to countries involved in terrorism and genocide.” ...
So what happened to the employees who did this? 13 of them were fired, including 5 senior executives. According to Lawsky’s office, a total of 45 were disciplined in some way by the bank, with cuts in pay or demotions. 27 employees who would have been fired had already left the bank, so they were untouchable because, wait a second, what about jail time?Only days before U.S. authorities reached a landmark $8.97 billion settlement with BNP Paribas over the bank’s dealings with countries subject to U.S. sanctions, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo intervened to ensure the state government got a much bigger share of the proceeds, according to three people familiar with the situation…So basically, the bankers actually bought get out of jail free cards.
The state’s general fund was already set to receive $2.24 billion from a state regulator’s piece of the settlement, and the eleventh-hour deal pushed the state’s take up to $3.29 billion. That change was contained in a side agreement signed by Vance on June 29, and a lawyer for Cuomo on June 30.
The Evening Greens
We Can Reverse Climate Change by Changing The Way We Grow Food
The overall global food system -- including land-use changes, feed, fertilizer, transportation, refrigeration, processing and waste -- is estimated to be responsible for 30 to 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Over the last decade, agricultural emissions have increased by approximately 1 percent per year.
Researchers at the World Bank Group estimated intensive livestock production alone is the largest single contributing factor to climate change. Industrial animal agriculture is also one of the largest polluter of air, water and land, and the largest consumers of fossil fuels and water and yet feed only a relatively small percentage of the world's population, compared with those fed by small-scale farmers who continue to be the major producers of the world. ...
According to cutting edge agricultural research, including that outlined in the Rodale Institute's white paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change, "recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term "regenerative organic agriculture."
As well as sequestering carbon, regenerative organic and agro-ecological systems can mitigate the chaotic effects brought about by climate change, such as flooding. Healthy soils have structure that allows them to retain large quantities of water. This structure not only holds soil in place preventing erosion, it also allows plants to be more tolerant of weather extremes. Regenerative systems increase the amount of carbon in soil while maintaining yields. In fact, research shows that yields under organic systems are more resilient to the extreme weather which accompanies climate change.
Conventional agricultural practices have resulted in a loss of 30-75 percent of original organic soil carbon, as well as being heavily reliant upon synthetic fossil fuel-based nitrogen fertilizer, mono cropping and toxic pesticides. Regenerative, organic agriculture on the other hand refrains from using fossil-fuel based inputs and instead utilizes cover crops, integrated pest management systems, residue mulching, composting, and crop rotation, and conservation tillage. Organic agriculture also uses 30-50 percent less fossil fuel energy than industrial farms.
As Keystone XL Dominoes Fall, Time to Arrest Tar Sands Industry
I recently had the honor of viewing the Fort Laramie Treaty with Shane Red Hawk and his family in the National Archives vault. There wasn’t time to read every word of the hand-written document, but there was time to absorb the meaning of the “bad man” clause in Article I on the faded first page:If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the agent, and forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington city, proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States.Because Keystone North would cross treaty territory, its construction would blatantly violate the “bad man” clause, an arrestable offense the Great Sioux Nation will not abide. President Obama knows this because the presidents of the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes declared on national television their people are “willing to die” to stop it. He also knows this because his senior counselor, John Podesta, visited the “Reject and Protect” tipi encampment on the National Mall in April where this declaration of nonviolent civil resistance was made.
As fate would have it, I found myself standing next to Mr. Podesta at this historic event. I thanked him for his public opposition to Keystone, then asked him to urge the president to use his bully pulpit to speak out against all tar sands exploitation (this includes preventing the tar sands barons from gaining a foothold in Utah’s pristine red rocks country).
We should not be doing business with a misanthropic industry that knowingly poisons First Nations communities in Canada, with immoral disregard for its climate impacts on humanity. Fortunately, the U.S. is in a strong position to help starve Alberta’s landlocked tar sands beast by stopping the flow of tar sands crossing our border.
Subsidy Spotlight: Paid to Pollute and Poison
The charge that [the BP Deepwater Horizon] oil spill would probably not have happened without government largesse is fact, not supposition. There are in fact at least two major subsidies that BP took advantage of both before and after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon.
When a spill happens, it is not the companies that pay, but rather the taxpayers. A tax deduction for oil spill remediation costs allows companies to deduct costs of oil spill clean-up from tax payments as a “standard business expense”. The most notable example occurred in 2010 when BP claimed a $9.9 billion tax deduction due to clean-up costs for the Deepwater Horizon blowout and resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
A second subsidy responsible for increased offshore drilling is not only employed in case of an accident, but rather is a regular part of the oil business. Drilling expenditures, which result in billions of oil industry costs annually, are handled by current tax law in such a way to give a break to oil companies in order to recover these costs quickly. Intangible drilling costs include wages, fuel, and repairs and in 2013 the federal government provided about $3.5 billion in support through intangible drilling cost recovery.
The main lobbying group for the oil industry has argued that without this tax break, most offshore oil drilling would not be economically feasible. According to research published in July 2013 by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the tax deduction for intangible drilling costs represent about 60 to 90% of a well’s total costs. Because deep offshore oil wells, like the one run by BP, are so far out at sea, they are much more expensive to operate and drilling expenses consume about 80% of total costs. Without this tax break, API says, many “projects will no longer meet investment criteria” and will not be drilled.
The IRS has provided companies with the ability to write off these expenses since 1918, when climate change and the social costs of oil drilling were barely on the radar. API’s analysis finds that one of the areas most helped by current tax law is drilling in deep waters off the Gulf of Mexico. The industry argues that drilling in deep water is much more costly and removing the tax break for intangible drilling costs would not only reduce the number of oil rigs in the deep waters of the Gulf but could also curtail exploration for future oil wells.
This type of tax deduction arguably made sense in 1918, for a fledgling industry that was struggling to establish itself, and needed government help to defray upfront costs. But if an activity is too costly and risky for one of the wealthiest industries on the planet to undertake without government assistance, one wonders if it is indeed a wise use of public funds.
Maine port city's ban on crude exports prompts oil industry threats
The decision by a small coastal city in Maine to ban the export of crude oil from its harbor brought threats of lawsuits from the oil industry Tuesday and put South Portland on the front lines of a battle over development of Canada’s huge and controversial tar sands deposits. ...
The city’s action came in response to an oil company’s plan to reverse the flow of an import pipeline that takes oil from the South Portland harbor, the New England hub for importing crude oil and distributing fuel. ...
Canada sells nearly all its tar sands crude to the U.S. at a steep discount from global petroleum prices. Exporting to other countries would boost prices and spur tar sands extraction, generating more money and jobs for Canada. Pipeline companies and the Canadian government are eager to build routes to both U.S. coasts. Towns and environmentalists along the proposed routes increasingly have mobilized to try to seal them off. ...
South Portland does not plan to use tax revenues to protect its ordinance, given how divisive the issue has been, Mayor Jerry Jalbert told reporters in a conference call. The town plans to establish a legal defense fund that could receive money from North American environmental groups and other donors, he said.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
Buddy Guy - Damn Right, I've Got the Blues
Buddy Guy - First Time I Met The Blues
Buddy Guy - Mustang Sally
Buddy Guy - Out of Sight
Buddy Guy & Junior Wells - HooDoo Man Blues
Buddy Guy - Come and See About Me
Buddy Guy - Hoochie Coochie Man
Buddy Guy + Junior Wells - Ten Years Ago
Buddy Guy + Junior Wells - A Man Of Many Words
Big Mama Thornton with Buddy Guy's Blues Band - Ball And Chain
Buddy Guy - Five Long Years
Buddy Guy + Junior Wells - Little By Little
Buddy Guy - I got a strange feeling
Buddy Guy - My Time After A While
Buddy Guy - Long Way From Home
Buddy Guy - Who's Been Foolin' You
Buddy Guy - Sweet Home Chicago
Buddy Guy Live From Red Rocks 2013
It's National Pie Day!
The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.
Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.
Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us? Well you'll see why very soon. So what are you waiting for?! Head on over now and be one of the first!