Archive for category Disaster

More Awfulness From Congress

Hell no we won't go
Hell no, we won’t go!!

The must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a 449-page package of public lands riders. As you might expect from this Congress, it’s a stinker full of corporate giveaways. It transfers 110,000 acres of our public lands into private ownership. Part of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona will be given to Rio Tinto for a copper mine, including sacred Apache lands. Coal reserves in the Bull Mountains of Montana will be given to Great Northern Properties, a Houston-based coal company. Sealaska Corporation gets 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest for clear-cutting timber that used to belong to all Americans.

There’s a stealth provision removing existing Wilderness Study Area (WSA) protections for two areas in eastern Montana, without any public input whatsoever.

The legislation also mandates automatic renewals of livestock grazing on our public lands, even where grazing operations are degrading wildlife habitat and fouling streams and rivers — without the evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that’s currently required. The so-called “Grazing Improvement Act” also automatically extends grazing permits on public lands from 10 to 20 years. The exemption of grazing permits from NEPA basically puts public land management agencies out of business with regard to ecosystem management. That is a heavy hit with far-reaching consequences.

Ten right-wing Tea-GOPers including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma had objected to including parks and wilderness bills in a defense bill. They were joined by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkeley (OR), Ron Wyden (OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT). On December 11, the Senate voted 85-14 to break the filibuster.

As a “Christmas tree” bill enjoying widespread bipartisan support, the NDAA passed the House by a vote of 300-119 last Thursday and the Senate by 89-11 yesterday. The package of legislation is expected to be signed by the President soon.

On the plus side, the NDAA riders would add 250,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, establish or expand national parks, and designate more than 100 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. But the losses far outweigh the wins.

More info:
Some Context on the Defense Bill Riders: Public Lands Losses Far Outweigh Any Wins
Top 5 Offensive Provisions of the Public Lands Rider
Defense bill with wilderness & parks plus land giveaways beats cloture 85-14. 3 Dems & Sanders no
Congress Protects New National Parks And Wilderness Areas For The First Time In 5 Years
Defense Bill Passes, Giving Sacred Native American Sites To Mining Company

19 Comments

Media Fail: New Climate Change Report Ignored

Superstorm Sandy global view
NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite captured this image of the massive Superstorm Sandy on October 28, 2012.

Ari Phillips on Think Progress:

[O]n Sunday, the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change released a Synthesis Report detailing the dangers of climate change. Hundreds of scientists spent the last five years preparing this final report, which says that carbon pollution must be slashed now or risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

None of the network Sunday shows mentioned this latest report or its stark findings.

It’s not just a media fail. Has any candidate in tomorrow’s election mentioned climate change as a campaign issue?

Take a look at the damage from Superstorm Sandy in the before-and-after aerial imagery. This one storm two years ago impacted more than a dozen states along the eastern seaboard, causing $65 billion in damage. A major factor in the disaster was the higher sea level. Climate models predict that sea level will rise an additional two to three feet over the next century.

More info:
New UN Climate Report Calls For End Of Fossil Fuel Use By 2100

8 Comments

Fourth Generation Wars Don’t End Unilaterally

ISIS Abrams
Iraqi Army M-1 Abrams tank captured by ISIS

Here’s a military and foreign policy lesson that is being driven home by recent events in Iraq. In fourth-generation warfare (4GW), it’s not over when the USA says it’s over. Remember that whole populations are involved, and unlike foreign expeditionary forces from halfway around the world the local populace isn’t going anywhere. There is no nation state to be defeated, and no peace treaty will ever be signed.

The American military is nevertheless engaged in 4GW in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this means we are faced with the decision to (1) stay committed to an open-ended conflict without any hope of a decisive result, or (2) let the war we started (or got into while in progress) go on without us, possibly with results counter to our foreign policy goals.

There was a third option, (3) spend tens of billions of dollars to train and equip friendly(?) local government(?) forces to take over for U.S. soldiers. That was tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, and failed (most spectacularly in Iraq). Somebody please tell the Obama administration, because they are planning to try this again.

DSWright on FDL comments on the Pentagon’s latest plans:

A multiyear campaign that requires more assistance – in other words, the US is back in the nation building business in Iraq. Of course we just saw the results of a multiyear campaign to provide military assistance – total capitulation. So why not do it again? It’s only the age of austerity for domestic spending.

…The American people gave Barack Obama the presidency largely based on his promise to get out of Iraq – the more we learn how worthless our actions are in Iraq the clearer it is that that’s a promise worth keeping.

Apparently the Washington politicians of both major parties are up for another round of war in the Middle East, only this time we’re fighting in Syria too. Does anybody think this is a good idea?

More info:
Too much money spent in Iraq for too few results
Veterans not surprised Iraq’s Army collapsed
Economic Costs Summary: $4.4 Trillion and Counting
Everyone in America Could Go to College for Free for the Amount of Money Spent on Mideast Wars

UPDATE:

U.S.: Ground Offensive Against Islamic State Still Months Away

“Until the Abadi government can get on its feet and kind of deliver some small successes, I don’t think, I don’t think we’re in a position to make any promises on behalf of that government,” the official said.

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‘Thomas Eric Duncan was a victim of a broken system’

A guy shows up in the ER, has symptoms of Ebola, and says he just came from Liberia. But from the hospital’s point of view, the most important fact about this patient is he has no health insurance!

Josephus Weeks:

On Friday, Sept. 25, 2014, my uncle Thomas Eric Duncan went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. He had a high fever and stomach pains. He told the nurse he had recently been in Liberia. But he was a man of color with no health insurance and no means to pay for treatment, so within hours he was released with some antibiotics and Tylenol.

…Thomas Eric Duncan was a victim of a broken system.

Of course, we know how this story ends. Mr. Duncan became the first person to die from Ebola in America. The whole letter is worth reading.

Isn’t it astounding to learn that 13 years after the 9/11 attacks and Anthrax, out of all the hospitals in the entire USA there are just four level 4 biohazard facilities with a combined capacity to handle nine (9) Ebola patients at a time? Right now four of those beds are occupied, and there are five available. Didn’t anybody see “Contagion” (2011)?

Why don’t the cable news channels report that the Tea-GOP cut NIH funding, delaying the development of an Ebola vaccine? This is not something Big Pharma cares about, because they make their biggest profits from drugs that treat long-term chronic diseases, not epidemics that kill people (especially poor people in Africa).

Finally, where is our nation’s Surgeon General during all this? Oh that’s right, we don’t have one because the Tea-GOP has been blocking the nomination of Vivek Murthy for the past year.

More info:
I’m a Hazmat-Trained Hospital Worker: Here’s What No One Is Telling You About Ebola
11 People Who Should Really Shut Up About Ebola
The Smoking Ebola Gun: Rand Paul’s Senate Hold Is Why The Nation Has No Surgeon General

10 Comments

Tom Engelhardt: ISIS Can Thank Washington

ISIS

At this point, I think everyone has finally realized that following the al-Qaeda game plan post-9/11 didn’t turn out well. The aim of strategy is to force the enemy to conform to your will. Al-Qaeda had a strategy, and we really didn’t. The Bush administration sent our military to chase after who-knows-who in some 60 countries. When President Obama says, “we don’t have a strategy yet” to avoid spending more trillions and more American lives to give ISIS exactly what they want, he is stating a fact.

Tom Engelhardt (emphasis added):

Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington. Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy — and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing U.S. counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation. In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise. After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington’s weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who would oppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country.

“Blowback” can’t even begin to describe a strategic failure of this magnitude. It would be nice to think that the Obama administration has the intelligence and fortitude to design a new strategy that goes beyond “don’t do stupid shit.” I don’t think that. Nobody in Washington is prepared to call the Global War on Terror an utter failure, or admit that ISIS could not have triumphed without our help. It’s reasonable to predict the USA will keep doing the same thing (if only for lack of a better idea), hoping for different results.

UPDATE:
ISIS Is Beheading Journalists to Lure America Into Another Ground War. Remember the Iraq War’s Lessons

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Iraq Update – Depends On Who You Believe

ISIS truck column

The Iraqi Army is either locked in a stalemate in the battle for Tikrit and surrounding areas about 100 miles northwest of Baghdad, or (according to a claim by ISIS) has completely lost the city and Camp Speicher, a nearby military post and helicopter base.

Here’s the story according to The Long War Journal:

The Iraqi military made its first effort to retake Tikrit in late June, when it airlifted commandos into Tikrit University in an effort to gain a toehold north of the city. An advance on the city from the south was defeated. Then, on July 16, the Iraqi military launched Operation Decisive Sword. A large column of military and militia units entered southern Tikrit and thought they liberated the city, but as they celebrated they were ambushed with suicide bombers, IEDs, and conventional attacks. The Iraqi forces then withdrew from the city.

After the Iraqi military withdrew from southern Tikrit on July 16, the Islamic State immediately began its assault on Camp Speicher, as the base was the last remaining holdout of Iraqi forces near the city (Iraqi forces were withdrawn from Tikrit University sometime before the second offensive was launched).

The loss of Camp Speicher, and perhaps more importantly, the loss of the helicopters and its pilots if the Islamic State’s claims are true, is a serious blow to both the morale and the operational capabilities of the Iraqi military. The Iraqi military, which has failed to retake major cities and towns from the Islamic State and its allies, now may find it more difficult to support and defend the Bayji oil refinery just to the north, which has been largely resupplied by helicopters.

The Daily Beast cast doubt on the ISIS claim of victory in Tikrit:

On Friday, multiple news reports claimed that ISIS had won a major victory, seizing control of a vital army base outside of Tikrit and killing or capturing the hundreds of soldiers stationed there. If true, ISIS’s capture of Camp Speicher would signal a crucial turning point in the battle for the city and a humiliating setback for the Iraqi Army.

But the reports are false according to multiple Iraqi sources, who say Speicher was attacked on Friday but that ISIS never entered the base. According to an Iraqi Army soldier, who said he is currently stationed at the base: “Ten suicide bombers tried to blow themselves up at the gate so 15 more ISIS fighters in support could enter the base but we killed all of them. Only one Iraqi soldier was killed.”

Even if neither side is in control of Tikrit, the Iraqi government remains in deep serious trouble. A week ago The Long War Journal estimated that half of Iraq’s 15 army divisions have become ineffective or have completely disappeared.

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Kerry Caught On Hot Mic Mocking Precision Of Israeli Strikes As Gaza Operation Intensifies

Air strike on Gaza

Via FDL:

Secretary of State John Kerry, who was on every network political show over the weekend justifying Israel’s actions in Gaza, was caught on a hot mic giving a very different assessment. Kerry said “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” while talking to an aide on the phone, mocking the accuracy of Israel’s weapons strikes which Israel claims are limited and precise.

Precision is of course one thing, while accuracy is another thing. A bomb, missile, or tank round can precisely hit the wrong target. Which is what is happening, inevitably, in Gaza. Israeli air strikes and artillery fire have hit civilian homes, mosques, and hospitals. Ambulances have been destroyed.

More info:
In Gaza, whatever the target, children often the victims
Panicked residents flee Gaza City neighborhood hit by tank fire as Israel widens offensive
CNN: Israeli Airstrike Hits Cafe Packed With People Watching World Cup
Four dead at Gaza hospital hit by Israeli strike
Three More Children Killed in Latest Air Strike on Gaza
More than 30 members of two Palestinian families are killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza
Israeli Airstrikes Injure Three Journalists in Gaza

UPDATES:
Hamas Offers Reasonable Truce, Greeted by Deafening Silence

The 7-year Israeli/Egyptian blockade of Gaza is a violation of international law, an act of war, and a crime against humanity.

Graphic Photos From The Gaza Strip Show Destruction And Death
“This is not war, this is annihilation”
US Only Country To Vote No On UN Resolution Against Killing Civilians In Gaza

The result of the resolution – which passed despite the US’ no vote – will be a UN probe into how Israel is using force in Gaza, particularly against civilians. Of the 732 Palestinians now reported killed from Operation Protective Edge an estimated 80% have been civilians.

Gaza Death Toll Over 1,000

More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 have been wounded over the past 19 days, al-Kidra said. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.

35 Comments

Raise Your Silent Voice By A Notch

As a young child, I remember taking my first look at a telephone book. Close to the first listing there was a number you could call to get information. As a twelve year old, I was stunned that such a thing existed and imediatedly called to ask a scientific question I had. I can’t remember what the question I had was, but the answer was very dissapointing. “I’m sorry, (polite laughter), but I can only find a phone number for you”.

That was 1964. Somehow, Al Gore and Google happened in America.

You had to sift through piles of crap, designed to throw you off, but my original dream of being able to have questions answered had actually happened, just decades later.

And now, I refer you to a plea from Howard Dean. Please, just send your feelings about this to the FCC.

Try to protect your freedom to speak here.

UPDATE: The FCC’s site crashed because there were so many comments coming in opposing the former public advocate’s terrible proposal, that they were forced to extend the comment deadline until Friday. Please tell them how much they suck nowadays – in a nice way, if you can.

Here’s the best argument I’ve seen for “net neutrality”!

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ISIS Declares Caliphate In Syria And Iraq

ISIS caliphate
ISIS declares caliphate – those little derrick symbols represent oil fields.

Osama bin Laden’s vision of a Muslim caliphate in the Middle East is now a reality, thanks in large part to the USA. On Sunday morning, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) pronounced the reformation of the caliphate—the historical Islamic state that once stretched over much of the modern-day Muslim world—with ISIS emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as the man in charge.

DSWright on FDL:

Al Qaeda’s strategy of trying to force a US overreaction with the 9/11 attack has proved considerably successful in destabilizing the regional regimes that opposed establishing a caliphate and promulgating fundamentalist Islamic law. …12 million people are estimated to live under the control of ISIS already and if the now declared caliphate continues its expansion it could be considerably more.

…Apparently using the US military to topple secular leaders did little to thwart the rise of Islamic extremism. In fact, it seems to have had the opposite effect.

Add to the “no one could have anticipated…” file. Which is getting pretty thick by now.

More info:
ISIS Declares Themselves an Islamic State
The Beginning of a Caliphate: The Spread of ISIS, in Five Maps

UPDATES:
According to Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, the proclamation of a caliphate was “a controversial move that is sure to send shockwaves throughout the jihadist world.”

59 Comments

Calculated Risk Blog Retires The Scary Jobs Graph

Scary jobs graph

With the May jobs report, the U.S. economy is now back to pre-recession levels of employment. It took more than six years to climb out of the hole George W. Bush put us in (by “us” I mean everyone except the Wall Street millionaires and billionaires who are guilty of precipitating the collapse of the financial sector). That’s nearly as long as it took to recover from the Great Depression in the 1930s. On the Calculated Risk Blog, Bill McBride says, “I’ll be retiring the graph many called the ‘scariest jobs chart ever’.”

Although employment numbers have come back, (1) That only gets us to the same number of jobs we had in 2007, not to where we would have been without Bush’s Great Recession; (2) Unemployment would be higher than 6.3% if we counted the discouraged workers; and (3) Our economy has replaced too many living-wage jobs with low-wage jobs.

Jim Hightower, on AlterNet:

Employment rose by 217,000 jobs in the month of May, according to the latest jobs report — and that brought us up to 8.7 million. That is how many new jobs the American economy has generated since the “Great Recession” officially ended in 2009 — and it also happens to be the number of jobs that were lost because of that recession. You can break out the champagne, for the American economy is back, baby — all of the lost jobs have been recovered!

…Now, let’s move on to the value of those jobs that have economists doing a happy dance. As a worker, you don’t merely want to know that 217,000 new jobs are on the market; you want to know what they’re worth — do they pay living wages, do they come with benefits, are they just part-time and temporary, do they include union rights, what are the working conditions, etc.? In other words, are these jobs … or scams?

So, it’s interesting that the recent news of job market “improvement” doesn’t mention that of the 10 occupation categories projecting the greatest growth in the next eight years, only one pays a middle-class wage. Four pay barely above poverty level and five pay beneath it, including fast-food workers, retail sales staff, health aids and janitors.

…To measure the job market by quantity — with no regard for quality — is to devalue workers themselves. Creating 217,000 new jobs is not a sign of economic health if each worker needs two or three of those jobs to patch together a barebones living — and millions more are left with no work at all.

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Insurgents Seize Iraqi City of Mosul as Security Forces Flee

Map of northern Iraq

I’ve been watching cable TV news for any sign of this story. Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran most of Mosul yesterday. Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the insurgents.

Mosul is Iraq’s third-largest city. ISIS already controls Fallujah and part of Ramadi in Anbar Province. The same group has taken over several cities in eastern Syria. Today it is being reported that a half million people have fled Mosul and ISIS has seized Iraq’s biggest oil refinery in Baiji. Other advances have been reported in areas west and south of the city of Kirkuk.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced a “general mobilization” of the country’s security forces and asked parliament to declare a state of emergency. He is asking the Kurdish Peshmerga forces for help. Meanwhile, reports indicate that ISIS has captured helicopters and significant stocks of U.S. – made weapons.

It would take a long time to list all of the errors that led to this point. Sunni insurgents, bought off by U.S. taxpayers in the so-called “surge” during the Bush administration, are back because the al-Maliki regime didn’t give them any concessions. Last year, they raided Abu Ghraib prison and liberated up to a thousand fighters. In January, they took Fallujah. Iraqi Army counter-attacks have failed thus far.

More info:
One Of The World’s Scariest Terrorist Groups Now Controls Major City In Iraq
ISIS: The group too extreme for al-Qaida that is taking over Iraq
ISIS Now Controls A Shocking Percentage Of Iraq And Syria

UPDATE:
ISIS Militants Seize Iraqi City Of Tikrit

BAGHDAD (AP) — Al-Qaida-inspired militants seized effective control Wednesday of Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, expanding their offensive closer to the Iraqi capital as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts following clashes with the insurgents.

UPDATE:
Iraq Asked The White House For Air Support Against Militants — But They Said No

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked last month for the U.S. to consider carrying out air strikes against its growing insurgency and the White House turned him down, The New York Times reports.

UPDATE:
Iraqi Kurds ‘fully control Kirkuk’ as army flees

“The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” Kurdish spokesman Jabbar Yawar told Reuters. “No Iraq army remains in Kirkuk now.”

UPDATE:
President Obama Puts Military Option on the Table With Iraq

64 Comments

Less Than A Quarter Of The Unemployed From Bush’s Great Recession Had Steady Jobs 5 Years Later

Unemployed pie chart

Via Think Progress:

Just 22 percent of those who ended up unemployed for six months or longer during the 2008 recession found steady, full-time work by the beginning of 2013, according to a new analysis from Princeton professor Alan Krueger as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Looking at a Census Bureau survey of households between 2008 and 2013, he found that the rest of the long-term unemployed weren’t faring very well. The largest share, 35 percent, had dropped out of the labor force altogether, either giving up on finding a job, going back to school, retiring, or choosing some option other than job hunting. While 28 percent had found some employment, it wasn’t steady or full time. Another 14 percent were still unsuccessfully job hunting five years after they lost their jobs.

Republican economic sabotage is working. They killed public sector jobs. They cut off unemployment benefits six months ago. They are constantly crying about “The Obama Economy” (if only Dems knew how to frame issues that effectively!) Most of the new jobs being created are low-wage jobs with no benefits. It’s been 7 years since the last time Congress raised the minimum wage. President Obama has to go beyond giving speeches about job growth, and hoping corporations will do the right thing.

That said, let’s remember that the Obama administration has created more than 8.7 million jobs, compared to 1.1 million during Bush’s entire two terms. Bush was the first President since Herbert Hoover to have a net loss of jobs. GDP was going down when Bush left office. Republicans in Congress have prevented the Obama administration from doing enough to repair the economic devastation left by Bush.

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