Monday, December 31, 2012

Obama Quietly Signs Abusive Spy Bill He Once Vowed to Eliminate

Published on Monday, December 31, 2012 by Common Dreams

Obama Quietly Signs Abusive Spy Bill He Once Vowed to Eliminate

After Senate rejects oversight amendments, bill sails into law

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Under the cover of holiday weekend slumber, President Obama signed into law a five-year extension of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, successfully solidifying unchecked surveillance authority for the remainder of his presidency.

Known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law extends powers of the National Security Agency to conduct surveillance of Americans’ international emails and phone calls without obtaining a court order for each intercept.

The spying bill would have expired at the end of 2012 without the president's approval, the Associated Press reports.

According to a statement (PDF) by the ACLU, "the law's effect—and indeed the law's main purpose—is to give the government nearly unfettered access to Americans' international communications."

On Friday, the Senate voted overwhelming (73-23) to pass a renewal of the bill (H.R. 5949), voting down four separate oversight amendments that would have gone "a long-way in curbing the law’s worst abuses," writes the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor Timm.

Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald remarked that passage of the law, ushered to the president's desk with broad Democratic support, represented one of the "defining attributes of the Obama legacy" in which a previously radical right-wing policy—in this case warrantless eavesdropping—is meekly accepted by empowered Democrats and then codified as law with "bipartisan consensus".

You can see a breakdown of how each Senator voted, here. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski sadly voted for the legislation and against the Constitution.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Chris Hedges Explains How Entire Regions Within the US Are Treated Like Exploited Colonies

Published on Alternet (

AlterNet [1] / By Vince Emanuele [2]

Chris Hedges Explains How Entire Regions Within the US Are Treated Like Exploited Colonies

December 29, 2012

The following is a recent interview conducted with Chris Hedges surrounding his latest bookDays of Destruction, Days of Revolt: [3]

Emanuele: In Chapter One of your new book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, you describe the horrendous conditions endured by the Native American population living in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. This population earns, on average, anywhere from $2,600-$3,500 a year, with 49% of the total population living in official poverty status. However in a broad sense, and to inject a historical context, you describe the systematic destruction of Native culture and society; namely, through the practices of physical termination and cultural genocide. Can you talk about why you began this journey in South Dakota and the importance of recognizing previous national injustices?

Hedges: Well, it's important because that's where the project of limitless expansion and exploitation, especially the plundering of natural resources, began. There you had the timber merchants and the railroad magnates, mine speculators, and land speculators seizing territory on the western plains and exterminated the native populations who resisted. Many of which did not even resist. Then, herding the remnants into what were originally prisoner of war camps, which then finally became tribal residencies and eventually reservations--breaking the natives capacity for self-sufficiency, while creating a culture of dependency. Remember, all of this is for profit. This became the template for which the American Empire expanded: the Philippines, Cuba and all throughout Latin America. And today, places like Iraq and Afghanistan. So that's why we wanted to examine where this ideology first took root; where it was first formed; and what happened to these peoples, because in an age of corporate capitalism, where there are no impediments left, what happened to them, is going to happen to us. In the end, we're all going to be herded on some form of a reservation.

This book is about these "sacrifice zones." Whether its in Pine Ridge, or southern West Virginia in the coal mines, or whether that be urban decay such as Camden, New Jersey, which is per capita the poorest city in the country, and on target this year to be the most dangerous, per capita in the country. As we've reconfigured American society, there's no longer any mechanisms to restrain these forces. And I think the other reason Pine Ridge is important, is because the native communities were structured very differently. People who hoarded and kept everything for themselves were disposed; everything was communal; there was an understanding that all forms of life, including the natural world, were sacred. This is unacceptable in a capitalist society where human and natural life are commodities that you exploit for money until exhaustion or collapse. We see the devastation visited on the western plains now being visited in places like the Arctic, where 40% of the summer sea-ice now melts, and the response is that it's a business opportunity, where people go and slam down half a billion dollar drill bits. It's insanity of course, because in the end, these forces will not only kill us off, but they'll kill themselves off as well. That is the awful logic behind it. I think Pine Ridge provides a window into how this ideology took root, and how it works.

Emanuele: Now, you mention that throughout the 20th Century the US government systematically destroyed native cultures and continued to take their lands. Later in Chapter One, you mention the Indiana Reorganization Act of 1934, and the US government's relocation program in the 1950s. Conversely, you highlight the Wounded Knee uprising of 1973, and subsequent crackdown waged by the FBI ,and various other governmental organizations, on Native American activists from the 60s and 70s. You mention that the majority of those who fought in the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee were products of the US government's relocation and reeducation programs of the 20th Century. Can you talk about the importance of Wounded Knee 1973?

Hedges: The series of laws, treaties and decrees that were passed out of Washington, some four hundred of them, and in every single case were essentially violated, or subverted by further decrees and laws which stripped American Indians of more and more of their land and created mechanisms by which they were utterly disempowered. By the 1970s you had a tribal system in place. You know, these people function the same as a colonial system: They take a native aristocracy and use them to further the interests of the colonial power. This is what happened at Pine Ridge, and as well as other reservations around the country where you had quislings: many of these people weren't full-bloods. In the name of American Indian society, they served the interests, in the case of Pine Ridge, of the ranchers and the FBI. So, Pine Ridge became particularly violent, coming out of the 60s there were there were movements and activists, included the American Indian Movement, and the repression akin to the case of Philadelphia, the police chief Rizzo, who conducted horrific acts of violence and repression on the African American community.

You know, constant beatings and abuse led to a response, which, for the Native American community culminated in a 73 day occupation of Wounded Knee, where they were surrounded by federal marshals, FBI agents and several people were killed. But it was a consequence of the State being utterly tone-deaf. Again, by the way, you saw the same sort of violence erupt in Philadelphia, or Chicago with the Black Panthers. The State was completely tone-deaf to legitimate cries for justice on the part of oppressed communities, and exclusively imposed force. This gave way to a response of violence, or force. And that's what Wounded Knee was about. That's what the Black Panther party was about. Then, we saw a series of trials and persecutions of American Indian activists. Of course Leonard Peltier is still sitting in prison, and anybody who's read through his trial transcripts will tell you there were so many questionable and mendacious tactics used by government prosecutors, that if used in a fair court of law, that trial would be thrown out. Yet he still sits in a prison in Florida, very, very far away from South Dakota. This is important to recognize in a society that has become politically paralyzed. We are seeing the government respond to discontent by criminalized political dissent, and using harsher and harsher forms of control that eventually, as in Wounded Knee, or as in Chicago and Philadelphia, or Oakland, or anywhere else, violence ultimately provokes counter violence.

Emanuele: In Chapter Two, "Days of Siege," your commentary is focused around the city of Camden, New Jersey. However, for many of us, including myself, who grew up in the "Rust Belt," you could have easily switched Camden, New Jersey for Gary, Indiana; Detroit, Michigan; Cleveland, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Indiana; South Bend, Indiana, or so many other post-industrial areas in the United States. So, why Camden, New Jersey? Was there a symbolic and practical purpose for moving from the Native American population to a largely African American population?

Hedges: Well, I think we wanted to show this was something happening in both rural and urban areas, and that it was the same system: i.e. the reconfiguration of American society into a Corporate State. We didn't consciously set out to profile different ethnic groups in the chapters, but it just came out that way. Camden of course being largely African American; Native communities in Pine Ridge; poor white communities in southern West Virginia; and Latino communities in the produce fields in Florida. These are all manifestations of the same process. And it's a process by which the American citizen is politically and economically disempowered as the Corporate State creates an Oligarchy, where a tiny percent amass vast fortunes and workers around the globe, in sort of a neo-feudalism, are told that in a global marketplace they must essentially compete with sweatshop workers in Bangladesh who make 22 cents an hour, or prison labor in China. That's the world we've created. We have allowed our manufacturing base to be dismantled because it's more profitable for these corporations to employ sweatshop workers in southern China, who work 70 hours a week, without any sort of protection, or rights. Remember, that's 700,000 workers for Apple, none of them are in the United States. They live in Dickinsonian, 19th Century conditions. That's the world that has been cemented into place by these forces, and the consequences are that whole cities, such as Camden, are virtually abandoned.

At one point, Camden was an industrial center: Campbell Soup was made there; RCA Victor was there; the ship yards there, by the middle of the century, employed over 36,000 people--it's all gone. There's nothing. Whole city blocks are abandoned. And of course people are trapped within these internal colonies, by both the very visible, and not so visible walls of the Prison-Industrial-Complex. So people fall into a kind of despair: the abuse of narcotics and alcohol, in all of these places, was absolutely rampant. In southern West Virginia people would retreat into Oxycontin, or what they call "Hillbilly Heroin." In Camden, on the streets they use a drug called "Wet," which is a mixture of marijuana and PCP; Pine Ridge has an 80% rate of alcoholism. So all of this physical devastation brings with it a kind of human devastation. If they rest of us don't wake up, and begin to resist, the forces that carried out these assaults within these internal colonies, or these sacrifice zones, since they have now been unleashed on the rest of us, we will of course replicate what happened in Biblical terms to our "neighbor." There has been a failure on the part of the Left in this country to stand up to the assault carried out by both the Democrats, and Republicans. Of course, Clinton was one of the worst: he destroyed the welfare system, which under the original welfare system, 70% of the recipients were children; NAFTA, of course, 1994, the greatest betrayal of working class people in this country since the Taft-Hartley Act of 1948, which makes it difficult to organize. You know, the Left, or the Liberal-Class, sort of busied itself with the boutique activism of multiculturalism and gender politics--all of which I support--but forgot about the primacy of justice. And because of that, what's happened to our "under-classes," is now happening to the middle-class.

Emanuele: Now, you write in that same chapter, "The Civil Rights Movement was a legal victory, not an economic one. And the economic barriers remain rigid and impenetrable for the bottom 2/3 of African Americans, whose lives are worse today, than when King marched in Selma." You go on the mention that 1/3 of African American males, at some point in their lives, will go to prison within the United States. While the school system in Chicago is now more segregated than during the Civil Rights Era. Can you talk about the difference between "legal" and "economic" victories? In addition, further along in the chapter you mention the work of theologian James Cone, and his work The Cross and the Lynching Tree, and further along, the work of Father Doyle and the Sacred Heart School. Can you talk about the importance of religion and theology in the African American community?

Hedges: Well, what a lot of white Christians don't grasp, and this is the importance of the theologian such as James Cone, is that the black Christian tradition is radically different from the white Christian tradition. I, as a former seminarian, would argue that the Gospel was written by the oppressed, for the oppressed, as was the Hebrew Bible. These were communities that endured horrific repression, and were deeply sensitive to what it meant to be oppressed. So, Cone writes in The Cross and the Lynching Tree, about the long nightmare of terror, through lynching, that was unleashed on the African American community, and how that embodied, for African Americans, the crucifixion. And yet white churches and white theologians were utterly unable to see the connection between an innocent body on a tree, in their midst, and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The whole story of Moses leading forty-years into the wilderness--that carried a whole different import if you were a slave, or suffering in the South, being disposed by Jim Crow laws. I think Cone is right: I think while it uses the same language, iconography and even symbols, it means something very different to African Americans.

I think Cone is also right that this interpretation is a far more genuine rendering of the Christian narrative than the sterilized narrative adopted by the white-elites, that identify with systems of power, and ultimately systems of oppression. People in all of these communities tended to fall on two sides of the divide: One, there was the use of alcohol, narcotics and drugs to cope with horrific human suffering and pain, and the other was faith--not necessarily Christian faith. For example, in Pine Ridge, those people who managed to pull it together recovered their identities as Lakota--through their language, sweat-lodges, sun-dances and various other rituals. I went to one over the summer. It was deeply moving, with four days of fasting, and dancing, and sort of flesh offerings. They take pegs with ropes attached to them and at the end of the four days will pull them out, leaving small scars on their chests. Many of these men were just out of prison. So, when you fall that low, when life is desperate, you can hang on by building a structure of belief, or you often disintegrate. That was very common. There were very few people in the middle.

Emanuele: Can you talk more specifically about the difference between "legal" and "economic" victories?

Hedges: Sure, well, King recognized this towards the end of the Civil Rights Movement. Of course he was killed while supporting a garbage workers strike in Memphis. Remember, King kept saying that there would be no racial justice if there is not economic justice. And that is where the white liberals walked out on him. They were willing to support legal mechanisms by which African Americans were theoretically granted equality before the law. But economic justice was something totally different. So they managed to get that legal victory, however it's been subverted: I was just in Alabama, and 34% of African American males in Alabama are disqualified and subsequently disenfranchised from the voting rolls because of prior convictions. It's essentially a resurrection of Jim Crow. So, once people got the right to vote, they created mechanisms to take away that right. And I think the Occupy Movement is important in this regard, because it recognizes the issue of inequality as one that has effectively been used to keep the majority of the poor, and especially African Americans, trapped in what King and Malcolm X called "Internal Colonies." Again, places like Camden, New Jersey, where the upper 1/3, or elite within the African American community, were integrated into white culture and society, the way Michelle and Barrack Obama have been. But for the bottom 2/3 of African American society life is worse than when King marched in Selma, Alabama.

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. He has reported from over 50 countries around the world. Hedges is currently a senior fellow at the Nation Institute in New York City and has taught at New York University, Columbia University and Princeton University. He currently teaches inmates at a correctional facility in New Jersey. He has written twelve books, his latest, written with illustrator Joe Sacco, is entitled Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. This transcribed interview covers the first two chapters in Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - Part 2

26] Visit Van Hollen’s office – Dec. 31

27] Marc Steiner on WEAA – Dec. 31 – Jan. 3

28] Interfaith Service – Dec. 31

29] Progressive New Year’s Celebration – Dec. 31

30] Correct reading of the Mayan Prophecy – Jan. 1

31] End the Wars vigil – Jan. 3

32] Enjoy GMO-free dinner – Jan. 3

33] MUPJ Conference – Apr. 12 & 13, 2013

34] Spacious apartment available

35] Do you possess any Tom Lewis artwork?

36] Sign up with Washington Peace Center

37] Did You Vote?

38] Join Fund Our Communities

39] Submit articles to Indypendent Reader

40] Donate books, videos, DVDs and records

41] Do you need any book shelves?

42] Join Global Zero campaign

43] Digital Information and the Criminal Justice System

44] War Is Not the Answer signs for sale

45] Click on The Hunger Site

46] Fire & Faith

47] Join Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil

26] – Help ring in the New Year for peace, justice and the middle class! Join Progressive Maryland and community allies in delivering hundreds of signatures to Rep. Chris Van Hollen urging real cuts to Pentagon waste and preserving Social Security, Medicare... You can sign the Progressive Maryland petition at ?

The visit to the office of Rep. Van Hollen, ranking member of the House Budget Committee, 51 Monroe St., Rockville (2 blocks south of Rockville Metro) is on Mon., Dec. 31 at 1 PM. RSVP to at Kate Planco Waybright at

27] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Thursday from 5 to 7 PM on WEAA 88.9 FM, The Voice of the Community, or online at The call-in number is 410-319-8888, and comments can also be sent by email to All shows are also available as podcasts at

28] – St. Ignatius Church will host its annual Interfaith Service which includes Jewish, Christian, and Muslim members of the clergy. Rev. Deborah McEachern of Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church will give the reflection. A reception will follow the service on Mon., Dec. 31 at 8 PM at St. Ignatius, 740 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21202. Call 410.727.3848.

29] – On Dec. 31 at 9 PM, join the Baltimore progressive community's annual potluck New Year's Eve celebration. RSVP to 443-604-2298 for details. Enjoy music, talking and feasting.

30] – There was a misreading of the Mayan Prophecy. The actual translation was that on Tues., Jan. 1, peace would break out all over the universe. All guns, weapons and armaments would be turned into plowshares. As a result, there are major programs to eliminate poverty, hunger, violence and racism. People everywhere begin to work hard to save the planet from climate chaos.

31] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore will host an End the Wars vigil on Thurs., Jan. 3 from 5 to 6:30 PM in Mount Vernon at Centre & Charles Sts. The Pledge gathers in Mount Vernon on the first Thursday of the month to protest U.S. wars. Call Max at 410-366-1637.

32] – You're Invited... on Thurs., Jan. 3 from 6 to 8 PM to a GMO Free D.C. Dinner & Discussion. Join Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association executive director, Alexis Baden-Mayer, OCA political director, Emilianne Slaydon, GMO Free DC and Adam Eidinger, Occupy Monsanto, for a debriefing of the past year's events and planning a course of action for the New Year over a casual, organic, vegetarian dinner by Green Plate Catering. Come to Friends Meeting House, 2111 Florida Ave. NW, WDC 20008. RSVP Email

33] – The 28th Annual Maryland Peace, Justice and the Environment Conference [] will take place Fri., Apr. 12 and Sat., Apr. 13 at the Turner Memorial AME Church, 7201 16th Place, Hyattsville. Save these dates. Email

34] – There is a spacious and affordable two-bedroom apartment on the second floor above the apartment where Vince Tola resides. It is located in the Pen Lucy community, 501 1/2 East 43rd St., and rent is $575/month plus utilities. But the price could be negotiable. It is owned by David Greene, who is friendly. Contact Dave at 410-599-3730 or Vince can be reached at 443-414-2425 or

35] – Stephen Kobasa is hoping to do an exhibit of the work of Tom Lewis opening in May 2013 in New Haven, CT. It would include a variety of his paintings, drawings, silkscreen prints, book illustrations, posters, banners and sketchbooks. This would not only be a display of objects on a gallery wall, but would also involve events which would return Tom's art to the streets where it was originally meant to make conscience visible.

Contact Stephen if you are in possession of original work and would consider loaning it for a month long display. You can reach him at stephen.kobasa at or 203-500-0268.

36] – The Washington Peace Center has a progressive calendar & activist alert! Consider signing up to receive its weekly email:

37] – See an infographic which highlights and illustrates how voter turnout could have easily changed the outcome of the election. The title is Did You Vote? Go to This comes from Contact Chloe at chloecarter180 at

38] – Fund Our Communities campaign is a grass roots movement to get support from local organizations and communities to work together with their local and state elected officials to pressure Congresspersons and senators to join with Congresspersons Barney Frank and Ron Paul, who have endorsed a 25% cut to the federal military budget. Bring home the savings to state and county governments to meet the local needs which are under tremendous budget pressures. Go to

39] – MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD. Baltimore's Indypendent Reader is looking for individuals interested in creating media - written, photo, audio, or video - that relates to issues like...economic justice, race, prisons & policing, environment, gender & sexuality, war & peace and more! If you would like to create social justice media, then email Visit

40] – If you would like to get rid of books, videos, DVDs or records, contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

41] – Can you use any book shelves? Contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

42] – Join an extraordinary global campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons: A growing group of leaders around the world is calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons and a majority of the global public agrees. This is an historic window of opportunity. With momentum already building in favor of Zero, a major show of support from people around the world could tip the balance. When it comes to nuclear weapons, one is one too many.

43] – Visit the Digital Information and the Criminal Justice System at This link presents a wide range of insightful articles for criminal justice and legal professionals, both current and future. The project aims to be an objective, authoritative resource in the ever-changing court system.

44] – WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER signs from Friends Committee on National Legislation are again for sale at $5. To purchase a sign, call Max at 410-366-1637.

45] – The Hunger Site was initiated by Mercy Corps and Second Harvest, and is funded entirely by advertisers. You can go there every day and click the big yellow "Give Food for Free" button near the top of the page; you do not have to look at the ads. Each click generates funding for about 1.1 cups of food. So consider clicking.

46] – Go online for FIRE AND FAITH: The Catonsville Nine File. On May 17, 1968, nine people entered the Selective Service Offices in Catonsville, Maryland, and burned draft records in protest against the war in Vietnam. View

47] – Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil takes place every day in Lafayette Park, 1601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 24 hours a day, since June 3, 1981. Go to; call 202-682-4282.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better" - Daniel Berrigan

A Maginot Line in the Mind

A Maginot Line in the Mind

Monday, 31 December 2012 12:32 By David Krieger, Waging Peace

Nuclear weapons were born in the crucible of war. Their parents were fear and science.

The Manhattan Project, under the military leadership of General Leslie Groves and scientific leadership of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, was the first significant harnessing of the insights of physicists to the military ends of mass annihilation.

The Manhattan Project scientists feared that Germany would succeed in developing an atomic bomb, and that an Allied bomb would be needed to deter Germany from using its bomb. While the Germans never succeeded in developing a Nazi nuclear weapon, the Allied scientists did succeed and almost immediately used two atomic weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Only one Manhattan Project scientist left the project as a matter of conscience. Joseph Rotblat, a Polish born physicist, withdrew in late 1944 when he came to understand that the Germans would not succeed in developing an atomic weapon. Rotblat was a beacon of scientific integrity. After the war he was a leader in the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which brought together scientists from East and West. Fifty years after the first use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, Joseph Rotblat and the Pugwash Conferences shared the Nobel Peace Prize. On his 90th birthday in 1998, Rotblat declared that his short-term goal was the abolition of nuclear weapons and his long-term goal was the abolition of war.

Prior to World War II, the French built a concrete and steel structure along the French border with Germany to prevent the invasion of France. It was called the "Maginot Line," named after the French Minister of War André Maginot who promoted it. But, when World War II came, the Maginot Line did not prevent the Germans from going around the French fortifications to invade and occupy France. The Maginot Line has become a term of derision that reflects strategic failure of unsuccessful reliance on technology to defend a country.

For a very long time I have thought of missile defenses as a Maginot Line in the Sky, a high-tech defensive system designed to shoot down incoming missiles, but one highly likely to fail under real world conditions. Now, I take one further step in my thinking to recognize that nuclear deterrence itself is a Maginot Line in the Mind. Nuclear deterrence is no more than a theory that the threat of nuclear retaliation will prevent a nuclear attack, a theory that is located in the mind, not in reality. Nuclear deterrence theory requires rational opponents, a condition that may not be present in the real world where all political leaders are not rational at all times. It also requires a territory to retaliate against, and thus cannot work against terrorist organizations that have no territory. Irrational leaders and nuclear-armed terrorists can simply circumvent this Maginot Line in the Mind.

This means that nuclear weapons cannot and do not protect their possessors. They do not make their possessors safer or more secure. If they did, missile defenses would not be needed. Nuclear deterrence threatens vengeance in response to an attack – massive retaliation that is both illegal and immoral. Rather than safeguarding the future, nuclear weapons threaten to foreclose the future for human beings and other forms of complex life.

These weapons could be used by accident or design. The US and Russia each keep some 1,000 thermonuclear weapons on high-alert status, ready to be fired with a few moments notice. This is no way to live. As John F. Kennedy said, "Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness."

The only way to be secure from nuclear threat is to abolish nuclear weapons. This must be the cry that rises from humanity if we are to survive the Nuclear Age. Some say that humanity has never given up a powerful weapon of its own accord. In fact, countries have agreed on a Biological Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention to eliminate these weapons.

Now, we must continue to advance and agree upon a Nuclear Weapons Convention for the phased, verifiable, irreversible, and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons. This would be to the advantage of all nations and peoples, providing an opportunity to eliminate the Maginot Line in the Mind and move from Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) to Planetary Assured Security and Survival (PASS).

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. His latest book is "The Path to Zero: Dialogues on Nuclear Dangers."

Related Stories

Outlawing Nuclear Weapons: Time for a New International Treaty?

By David Krieger, Truthout

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Robin Hood Rising: Grassroots Campaign Spurs EU Parliament to Tax Financial Speculation

Published on Alternet (

YES! Magazine [1] / By Sarah Anderson [2]

Robin Hood Rising: Grassroots Campaign Spurs EU Parliament to Tax Financial Speculation

December 13, 2012

Under pressure to address a massive deficit, legislators voted overwhelmingly this week in favor of a tax on financial speculation. This really happened, I swear.

OK, it was in Europe, not the United States. But it could happen here—and it should.

The vote in the European Parliament on December 10 was the latest in a series of victories by international campaigners for a tax on trades of stocks, bonds, and derivatives. Often called a “Robin Hood Tax,” the goal is to raise massive revenues for urgent needs, such as combating unemployment, global poverty, and climate change.

A financial transaction tax would also discourage the senseless high frequency trading that now dominates our financial markets. Recently, the chief economist of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the top U.S. derivatives regulator) found [3] that such trading practices are hurting traditional investors.

In reaction to the Parliamentary vote, David Hillman, of the U.K. Robin Hood Tax campaign, said that the tax “will raise at least 37 billion euros per year for the countries involved whilst reining in the worst excesses of the financial sector.”

Nicolas Mombrial, a Brussels-based policy adviser for Oxfam, added that “The European Parliament’s overwhelming support reflects the will of Europe’s people. In cash-strapped times, an financial transactions tax is a no-brainer that is morally right, technically feasible, and economically sound.”

What the European Parliament specifically voted on was whether to give the green light to a coalition of governments that want to pioneer the tax. The countries that have committed to participate are Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Estonia. The Netherlands is interested, too, but they want to negotiate an exemption for their pension funds.

Not sure Europeans would use this term, but the vote was a slam dunk. Yeas outnumbered nays by a margin of 6-to-1. The next step will be a vote in the European Council, which is likely to happen in early 2013. (On the off chance you’re not an expert on European Union governance structures: the Council represents national governments, while E.U. Parliamentarians are elected directly by voters). Then, participating governments will negotiate the details, working off a proposal for a tax of 0.1 percent on stock and bond trades and 0.01 percent on derivatives.

Once revenues start rolling into European coffers, policymakers here are likely to take the idea more seriously. But many U.S. progressives aren’t waiting around. A wide range of union, consumer, global health, and environmental groups are pushing for such taxes to be included in the current deficit negotiations. On December 10, National Nurses United, a union representing registered nurses, organized actions in 20 cities [4] to call on Congress to support a Robin Hood Tax.

Taxing financial speculation is just one step we can take towards re-orienting our national priorities in ways that will be good for people and the planet. At the Institute for Policy Studies, we’ve put together a broad agenda [5] of revenue-raisers and spending cuts that would address our current fiscal challenge while helping to make our economy more equitable, green, and secure.

There’s no denying that our current political divisions make it difficult to get anything done in Washington. But we can learn some lessons from Europeans on consensus-building. Their political spectrum is arguably even wider than ours—from Green and Left parties to hard-core conservatives. And yet the Parliament’s overwhelming vote in favor of financial transaction taxes is a reminder that such divisions can be overcome.


Sarah Anderson wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. is Global Economy Project Director of the Institute for Policy Studies [6].


• Nurses Fight for a Dose of Tax Justice [7]

Before there was Occupy, thousands of nurses were already taking on Wall Street to demand a financial transaction tax.

• Seeding Small Business: 5 Ideas from Detroit [8]

Detroit entrepreneurs are learning to rely on each other, finding the seeds of a new economy in resources discarded by corporate America.

• What About the People’s Budget? [9]

There are better—and more fair—budget ideas out there. Why aren’t they being heeded?

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Anti-Fracking Activist Discusses the Connection Between Human Rights and the Environment

Anti-Fracking Activist Discusses the Connection Between Human Rights and the Environment

Saturday, 29 December 2012 11:33 By Maureen Nandini Mitra, Earth Island Journal

Sandra Steingraber’s gentle voice belies her fierce outrage at the destruction of Earth and human life, a rage that has driven her to devote herself to combating the chemical contaminants that endanger our well-being. An ecologist, cancer survivor, poet, and mother, Steingraber has authored three critically acclaimed books that explore the environmental toxins that permeate our land, air, water, and food. In Living Downstream she documented her struggle with bladder cancer at age 20 and supplied a data-driven analysis of the relationship between cancer and industrial and agricultural pollutants. Her second book, Having Faith, explored the ecology of motherhood and the alarming ways environmental hazards threaten infant development. With Raising Elijah, her latest book, she explains how our children face an environment more threatening to their health than any generation in history. Steingraber’s skillful interweaving of personal stories and lucid, almost lyrical explanations of chemical and biological processes has earned her comparisons to Rachel Carson.

Most recently, she has become a vocal opponent of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, which she believes is prolonging America’s “ruinous dependency on fossil fuels in all their forms.” Steingraber spoke with the Journal about her transition from a field biologist to an environmental activist fighting for what she says is the “biggest human rights issue of our time.”

How did the experience of battling cancer and having children affect the way that you work and the kind of work that you do?

Having cancer at 20 derailed my idea about going on to medical school. I was always really good at biology in school and was part of this elite group of biology majors who were being groomed for medical school, and suddenly I was a cancer patient and had no desire to make a hospital my workplace. That was a kind of crisis for me. Then I discovered field biology and went into research. Eventually the women’s cancer movement caught up with me in the late ‘80s. It was a radicalizing movement in which women, especially with breast cancer, and especially lesbian women, were insisting that science address the role of the environment in causing women’s cancers.

As somebody who was very quiet at that point about my cancer but knew that my cancer, namely bladder cancer, is almost always attributable to environmental exposure to carcinogens, I just got very swept up in that movement. It kind of opened my eyes and gave me a voice. I ended up quitting my job as a biology professor. I wanted to build a bridge between what we in the scientific community knew about environment and cancer and what cancer patients are told about that connection. So that became my life’s work.

What’s the connection between the crisis of toxic chemical exposure and climate change?

The environmental crisis we popularly talk about is really two twin crises. One has to do with melting icecaps and rising seas and so forth that come with a destabilizing climate caused by us using the atmosphere as a waste dump for fossil fuel combustion. The other is the crisis of toxic chemicals where we have to worry about pollution, pesticide residues in food linked to learning disabilities in children, about toxic chemicals from oil and gas exploration, especially fracking, some of which are reproductive toxins and can lead to miscarriage risks. Really the toxic crisis and the climate change crisis are two branches of the same tree. They share a common trunk – and that is our ruinous dependency on fossil fuels. When you light [fossil fuels] on fire to make energy, you threaten to destabilize the climate; when you take those hydrocarbons and use them as feedstocks for pesticides, fertilizers, plastics and all kinds of other petrochemicals, then you poison kids, you poison animals, and you have a toxic problem.

You talk about this also as a human rights problem.

It is a human rights problem because it’s poisoning and killing people through toxic contamination and it’s also degrading the ecology of the planet on which future generations will depend. We are violating the rights of future generations to have the biological resources that they need. They need pollinators. One-sixth to one-third of all the food we eat is brought to us by insect pollination and those systems are now falling to pieces. We need plankton in the ocean. Plankton provides us half the oxygen we breathe and those plankton stocks are now in trouble because of warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. It’s our responsibility as members of this generation to safeguard all these things for our children.

What led you to become concerned about fracking?

As with a lot of people, it arrived at my doorstep. Forty percent of the land in my county is leased to the gas industry, including some fields very near our house. And this is in a state [New York] where our governor has not yet lifted the moratorium on fracking. I don’t know how that battle’s going to turn out, but I’m in the middle of it. I live on top of the Marcellus Shale. The bedrock under my feet is full of bubbles of methane. The biggest industry in the world would like me to move away so that they can have it and turn the land inside out. The industry calls everything between the surface of the earth and their area of economic interest “overburden.” I call it my home, and I’m not going to let them come into my community.

Could you talk a bit about the toxic links between plastics and natural gas?

Natural gas is methane, some of which we burn and some of which is actually a feedstock for making stuff that can include plastic. PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, begins as natural gas, although you just need a source of carbon as a starting point. (In China they use coal to make PVC, but here in the US it’s natural gas.) Natural gas is also the starting point for anhydrous ammonia, which is a synthetic fertilizer that is responsible for the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and also a water pollutant that causes miscarriages and reproductive problems for people. In addition, the shale below our feet contains not only natural gas, but also bubbles up other hydrocarbons and those include butane, propane, and ethane. These collectively are called “liquefied petroleum gases” and are feedstocks for all kinds of stuff. Ethane is used to make ethylene, which is a building block for lots and lots of kinds of plastics.

PVC is especially dangerous because it’s full of chlorine and when you burn it you get hydrochloric acid, which can liquefy your lungs. You also get dioxin, which is very toxic. It causes cancer, is an endocrine disrupter, it messes around with our liver and enzymes and it lasts in the body for 35 to 50 years. Plastic in general, whether it’s PVC or not, it just never degrades.

You talk about how people feel helpless in the face of the scale of the environmental crisis. How do you try to move them from this “place of inaction”?

We can’t change the scale of the problem, so that means you have to change the scale of your actions. I don’t tell people what those [actions] should be or what they should do. Everybody has to find their own path. I use autobiography to talk about some of the big things that I’ve done and by doing something big I try to inspire other people to do big things, too.

When I became one of the lucky recipients of the Heinz Awards last year, I chose to donate the cash prize that came with it – $100,000 – to the anti-fracking movement. I tell people that the check far exceeded my bank balance. In fact, it exactly equaled the amount of money that I paid for my house. I live in a little $100,000 house. My son shares a bedroom with me because we just don’t have enough space. But I’m not interested in buying a bigger house or a bigger car. (I never owned a car.) None of my plates match. My furniture comes from Goodwill. I’m not interested in acquisition because we are in the middle of a crisis. The people who come after us are going to be inheriting a planet that’s not suitable for life.

I’ve been moved by some of the writings of an environmental attorney, Joseph Guth, who wrote that a functioning biosphere is worth everything we have. So that’s what I’m going to be investing in. I’m investing my love, my money, my future in preserving the abiding ecology of the planet. And I think that’s a hard road, but it’s an inspiring road. I feel really honored at this moment in history to be playing this role. This is the human rights movement of our time. I’m getting on the bus and I want other people on that bus with me.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Maureen Nandini Mitra is managing editor of the Earth Island Journal.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bob Auerbach, 92, Lived a Life of Activism

• Obituaries

Bob Auerbach, 92, Lived a Life of Activism

The 92-year-old former Maryland Green Party candidate is remembered for his work in politics and his peaceful nature.

• By Sonia Dasgupta

• Email the author

• December 21, 2012

Bob Auerbach for U. S. House of Representatives marches in Greenbelt Labor Day parade on Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. Credit Andrew Jones

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When news broke that 92-year-old "Bob" Auerbach had passed away, many Greenbelters took to Patch and social media to share memories of the man they said was known for his peaceful demeanor and affirmative action.

Robert Shipley Auerbach, of Ridge Road in Greenbelt, was born in 1919 in New York City and throughout his lifetime was an activist for various progressive causes—including civil rights, non-violence and the environment, the Maryland Green Party said in a statement.

Auerbach moved to Greenbelt in 1960 and since then had run for office four times as a Green Party candidate, first for Congress in 2002, The Gazette reported. He ran again in 2004 and most recently in 2012 for the US House of Representatives in the Fifth Congressional District, which covers Greenbelt and Bowie. He also won the Green Party nomination for the comptroller of Maryland in 2006, The Gazette reported.

According to his campaign website, he was anti-war, wanted funding for programs that helped fellow citizens like education, housing and health care and sustainable energy.

But "Bob"—how most Greenbelters and others recognized him—was not only known for his political aspirations.

The man was tenacious and always looked for the positive. Even on a cold Election Day this November he focused on the things he could do with his life.

He had 12 operations on his left knee and was 95 percent blind in his right eye. He had hearing aids in both ears and a metal plate in his left hip, but he walked to the polls to hand out information about his campaign to voters. He was just glad he had more support this year.

"Bob was an activist for our cause right up until the very end, having just completed a run for the 5th Congressional district," current Maryland Green Party co-chair Tim Willard said in a release. "He will be greatly missed."

Auerbach received more than 4,660 votes (1.5 percent of the vote) in November, Patch reported.

"Truly, a voice for alternative action and always thought provoking, he will be greatly missed," Patch reader Earl Kepler said. "A bright light has been extinguished in our community."

According to Greenbelt Police, Auerbach was the victim of a hit-and-run near Hanover Parkway on the evening of Dec. 12. The suspect's vehicle was described as a silver Mercedes.

Police spokeswoman Kelly Lawson said both the car and driver have been identified. However, Lawson said Friday police will not release the name of the driver until the case is screened by the State's Attorney's Office.


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Stunned Community Mourning the Loss of Renowned Environmental Leader Rebecca Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network

Published on Alternet (

AlterNet [1] / By Tara Lohan [2]

Stunned Community Mourning the Loss of Renowned Environmental Leader Rebecca Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network

December 28, 2012

Rainforest Action Network released news today of the unexpected death of Executive Director Rebecca “Becky” Tarbotton [3], one of the country’s most renowned environmental leaders and the first woman executive director in the organization’s 25-year history. A statement from RAN [4] described Tarbotton, 39, as a “self-proclaimed ‘pragmatic idealist,’” and said she “was admired by environmentalists and climate change activists for her visionary work protecting forests, pushing the nation to transition to a clean energy economy and defending human rights.”

Sierra Club’s Executive Director Michael Brune said, “Becky reshaped Rainforest Action Network, and was a force against deforestation and corporate greed. She was a rising star. We need more women to be leading environmental organizations, and losing a leader and friend like Becky is especially painful."

Just after being selected as ED AlterNet interviewed [5] her in 2010. AlterNet’s Don Hazen described [5] Tarbotton as, “Charismatic, articulate and straightforward, and seemingly possessing the infamous RAN chutzpah gene.” She “seems the perfect person to grapple with the conflicting needs and aspirations of environmentalists who may be feeling on the edge of despair.” wrote Hazen. “She has the intellectual chops to take on major policymakers and corporate leaders, while she is hip and crunchy enough to be a role model for the idealistic young RAN campaigners.” (Read the whole interviewhere [5].)

An already successful organization, Tarbotton helped lead RAN to even greater heights in the last few year. "Becky was a leader's leader. She could walk into the White House and cause a corporate titan to reevaluate his perspective, and then moments later sit down with leaders from other movements and convince them to follow her lead,” said Ben Jealous, Executive Director of the NAACP and a close friend. “If we had more heroes like her, America and the world would be a much better place."

“Our hearts are broken. We lost a powerful, transformative leader this week. The Rainforest Action Network was her home, but the world was her stage, and her future was so incredibly bright. We can do nothing more right now than love her, her family, her husband, and her friends and colleagues. We know how much she meant to so many,” said Andre Carothers, Chair of the Board of Directors at Rainforest Action Network.

A statement released by RAN said:

Becky Tarbotton died on Wednesday on a beach in Mexico north of Puerto Vallarta while vacationing with her husband and friends. The coroner ruled cause of death as asphyxiation from water she breathed in while swimming. She was thirty nine years old.

Ms. Tarbotton was born in Vancouver, BC on July, 30, 1973. Her commitment to the environment dates back to her youth. Just after college she interned with the David Suzuki Foundation, working on the first letter from Nobel Laureates warning of the dangers of inaction on global warming.

Ms. Tarbotton is survived by her husband, Mateo Williford; her brothers Jesse and Cameron Tarbotton, and her mother, Mary Tarbotton, of Vancouver, BC.

Ms. Tarbotton’s ashes will be scattered off of Hornby Island in British Columbia where her family owns a cabin and where she spent much time with family and friends. Public memorial services will be held in San Francisco, CA and in Vancouver. Dates are still to be determined.

“Becky was an emerging star who was galvanizing an ever-growing movement of people demanding environment and social change. She believed that to protect forests and our communities we must protect our climate, and to protect our climate we must protect the forests,” said Nell Greenberg, spokesperson for the Rainforest Action Network. “RAN is heartbroken by our loss of Becky, but we are committed to continuing the course that she set for us. Focusing on our core purpose of protecting forests, moving the country off of fossil fuels and defending human rights through effective, innovative and hard-hitting environmental corporate campaigns.”

Tarbotton‘s work has inspired countless others to take action. Her own words, given during a keynote this fall, sum up her work and the beliefs that guided it:

We need to remember that the work of our time is bigger than climate change. We need to be setting our sights higher and deeper. What we're really talking about, if we're honest with ourselves, is transforming everything about the way we live on this planet…We don't always know exactly what it is that creates social change. It takes everything from science all the way to faith, and it's that fertile place right in the middle where really exceptional campaigning happens--and that is where I strive to be.

Below is a video of Tarbotton speaking last month at REVEL 2012.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Friday, December 28, 2012

Senate Votes to Extend Sweeping Bush Era Surveillance Powers

Published on Friday, December 28, 2012 by Common Dreams

Senate Votes to Extend Sweeping Bush Era Surveillance Powers

Even modest attempts to reign in domestic spying law fail as Senators defend sweeping powers for NSA

- Jon Queally, staff writer


The US Senate on Friday voted to reauthorize the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a spying bill that critics say violates the Fourth Amendment and gives vast, unchecked surveillance authority to the government.

The move extends powers of the National Security Agency to conduct surveillance of Americans’ international emails and phone calls.

The FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5949), passed on a 73-23 vote.

“It’s a tragic irony that FISA, once passed to protect Americans from warrantless government surveillance, has mutated into its polar opposite due to the FISA Amendments Act,” said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel at the ACLU. “The Bush administration’s program of warrantless wiretapping, once considered a radical threat to the Fourth Amendment, has become institutionalized for another five years.”


Earlier: Oversight Amendments to FISA Crumble in US Senate: Obama, Democrats Push to Make Bush Spying Laws Permanent

Four separate amendments designed to install oversight mechanisms into the National Intelligence Agency's vast spying capabilities enshrined in the 2008 FISA Amendments Act all failed Thursday with the majority of US Senators insisting that secrecy continues to trump civil liberties in the post 9/11 era.

With a final vote for full passage of the bill expected Friday, the defeat of the amendments spells near complete legalization of domestic spying practices which would have previously been found criminal. First uncovered during the Bush years and slammed by Democrats, the FISA law passed in 2008 gave retroactive immunity to the Bush era abuse and strove to codify the program going forward.

Though he ran against such measures during his first run for president, the secret spying laws have now been embraced fully and championed by President Obama.

Rights groups and advocates of the amendments voiced outrage with the votes.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor Timm, who summarized each amendment here, predicted that a complete re-authorization of the law would likely pass the Senate but argued the amendments "would go a long-way in curbing the law’s worst abuses."

Describing the FISA law in brief, Timm explained that

the law allows the government to get secret FISA court orders—orders that do not require probable cause like regular warrants—for any emails or phone calls going to and from overseas. The communications only have to deal with "foreign intelligence information," a broad term that can mean virtually anything. And one secret FISA order can be issued against groups or categories of people—potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans at once.

EFF marked each successive amendment's defeat via Twitter:

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald responded to Thursday's vote with a scathing indictment of the Senate, saving particular criticism for the role played by Democratic Chair of the Intelligence Oversight Committee Diane Feinstein (D-CA) who repeatedly used fear and visions of terrorist threats to defend an unaltered FISA re-authorization. He writes:

It's hard to put into words just how extreme was Feinstein's day-long fear-mongering tirade. "I've never seen a Congressional member argue so strongly against Executive Branch oversight as Sen. Feinstein did today re the FISA law," said Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. Referring to Feinstein's alternating denials and justifications for warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer observed: "This FISA debate reminds of the torture debate circa 2004: We don't torture! And anyway, we have to torture, we don't have any choice."

Worse than this, according to Greenwald, was the role played by the Obama White House.

Just four or five years ago, objections to warrantless eavesdropping were a prime grievance of Democrats against Bush. The controversies that arose from it were protracted, intense, and often ugly. Progressives loved to depict themselves as stalwartly opposing right-wing radicalism in defense of Our Values and the Constitution.

Fast forward to 2012 and all of that, literally, has changed. Now it's a Democratic President demanding reform-free renewal of his warrantless eavesdropping powers. He joins with the Republican Party to codify them. A beloved Democratic Senator from a solidly blue state leads the fear-mongering campaign and Terrorist-enabling slurs against anyone who opposes it. And it now all happens with virtually no media attention or controversy because the two parties collaborate so harmoniously to make it happen. And thus does a core guarantee of the founding - the search warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment - blissfully disappear into nothingness.

Here we find yet again a defining attribute of the Obama legacy: the transformation of what was until recently a symbol of right-wing radicalism - warrantless eavesdropping - into meekly accepted bipartisan consensus. But it's not just the policies that are so transformed but the mentality and rhetoric that accompanies them: anyone who stands in the way of the US Government's demands for unaccountable, secret power is helping the Terrorists. "The administration has decided the program should be classified", decreed Feinstein, and that is that.

And the Huffington Post adds:

The program, which the Bush administration started without congressional authorization shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, collects intelligence on Americans who are communicating abroad with foreign "targets" designated by spy agencies like the CIA and National Security Agency. Critics, including NSA whistle-blowers, have raised fears that law-abiding Americans' communications are getting caught up in a vast, electronic dragnet of phone calls and emails.

The lopsided, bipartisan votes against the amendments dealt a blow to civil liberties advocates, who have argued that Congress should curb the scope of the wiretapping program or at least disclose key information about how it is being used. President Barack Obama has said he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

Before the votes, a handful senators mounted a strenuous effort from the chamber's floor to demand more information about whether the foreign surveillance program is being used to spy on Americans. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, went so far as to compare the NSA to the British officials who used broad royal writs to invade colonists' homes prior to the American Revolution, eventually prompting the passage of the Fourth Amendment with its prohibition on unreasonable government searches.

"It is never okay, never okay for government officials to use a general warrant to deliberately invade the privacy of a law-abiding American," Wyden said. "It wasn’t okay for constables and customs officials to do it in colonial days, and it’s not okay for the National Security Agency to do it today."

While conceding that the bill could use some oversight improvements, Sen. Dianne Feinsten (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged passage of the bill without alteration to avoid prompting both a fight with the House of Representatives, which has already passed a "clean," unamended version of the bill, and also the program's expiration.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

On a Wyoming Ranch, Feds Sacrifice Tomorrow's Water to Mine Uranium Today

On a Wyoming Ranch, Feds Sacrifice Tomorrow's Water to Mine Uranium Today

Friday, 28 December 2012 09:44 By Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica
News Analysis

Aerial view of open-pit uranium mines in the Gas Hills of central Wyoming. (Photo: John Amos / Flickr)Gillette, Wyoming - On a lonely stretch at the edge of the Great Plains, rolling grassland presses up against a crowning escarpment called the Pumpkin Buttes. The land appears bountiful, but it is stingy, straining to produce enough sustenance for the herds of cattle and sheep on its arid prairies.

"It's a tough way to make a living," said John Christensen, whose family has worked this private expanse, called Christensen Ranch, for more than a century.

Christensen has made ends meet by allowing prospectors to tap into minerals and oil and gas beneath his bucolic hills. But from the start, it has been a Faustian bargain.

As dry as this land may be, underground, vast reservoirs hold billions of gallons of water suitable for drinking, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Yet every day injection wells pump more than 200,000 gallons of toxic and radioactive waste from uranium mining into Christensen's aquifers.

What is happening in this remote corner of Wyoming affects few people other than Christensen — at least for now.

But a roiling conflict between state and federal regulators over whether to allow more mining at Christensen Ranch — and the damage that comes with it — has pitted the feverish drive for domestic energy against the need to protect water resources for the future. The outcome could have far-reaching implications, setting a precedent for similar battles sparked by the resurgence of uranium mining in Texas, South Dakota, New Mexico and elsewhere.

Twenty-five years ago, the EPA and Wyoming officials agreed that polluting the water beneath Christensen Ranch was an acceptable price for producing energy there.

The Safe Drinking Water Act forbids injecting industrial waste into or above drinking water aquifers, but the EPA issued what are called aquifer exemptions that gave mine operators at the ranch permission to ignore the law. Over the last three decades, the agency has issued more than 1,500 such exemptions nationwide, allowing energy and mining companies to pollute portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers.

When the EPA granted the exemptions for Christensen Ranch, its scientists believed that the reservoirs underlying the property were too deep to hold desirable water, and that even if they did, no one was likely to use it. They also believed the mine operators could contain and remediate pollution in the shallower rock layers where mining takes place.

Over time, shifting science and a changing climate have upended these assumptions, however. An epochal drought across the West has made water more precious and improved technology has made it economically viable to retrieve water from extraordinary depths, filter it and transport it.

"What does deep mean?" asked Mike Wireman, a hydrologist with the EPA who also works with the World Bank on global water supply issues. "There is a view out there that says if it's more than a few thousand feet deep we don't really care … just go ahead and dump all that waste. There is an opposite view that says no, that is not sustainable water management policy."

Federal regulators also have become less certain that it is possible to clean up contamination from uranium mining. At Christensen Ranch and elsewhere, efforts to cleanse radioactive pollutants from drinking water aquifers near the surface have failed and uranium and its byproducts have sometimes migrated beyond containment zones, records show.

In 2007, when the Christensen Ranch mine operator proposed expanding its operations, bringing more injection wells online and more than tripling the amount of waste it was injecting into underground reservoirs, Wyoming officials eagerly gave their permission, but the EPA found itself at a crossroads.

If the agency did what Wyoming wanted, it could destroy water that someday could be necessary and undermine its ability to protect aquifers in other places. If it rejected the plan, the agency risked political and legal backlash from state officials and the energy industry.

The EPA declined interview requests from ProPublica for this story and did not respond to a lengthy set of questions submitted in writing. After learning that ProPublica contacted several EPA employees directly involved in the debate over Christensen Ranch, the agency instructed staffers not to discuss the matter without agency approval.

For the last five years, as regulators have vacillated over what to do, John Christensen has experienced a similar ambivalence.

His property is speckled with thousands of small, mysterious black boxes. From each dark cube, a mixture of chemicals is pumped into the ground to dissolve the ore and separate out the uranium so that it can be sucked back out and refined for nuclear fuel.

Horses graze behind a gate on a dirt road that winds across this 35,000-acre tract, 50 miles south of Gillette. Nearby, a small metal sign is strung to a cattle guard with chicken wire: "Caution. Radioactive Material."

Christensen still places a tenuous trust in the system that promises to keep his water safe and leave his ranch clean. He relies on the royalty income and believes the national pursuit of energy is important enough to warrant a few compromises.

Yet if he had it to do over again, he's not sure he would lease out the rights to put a uranium mine on Christensen Ranch.

"It's probably worthwhile for this generation," he said. "You just don't know about future generations."

* * *

John Christensen's grandfather, Fred, first allowed uranium exploration on the family's ranch in the 1950s.

Fred Christensen had come to Wyoming from Michigan as a homesteader in 1906, finding work as a ranch hand and settling on a small tract at the base of the northernmost Pumpkin Butte. The Christensens farmed sheep, selling their meat and their wool, and used the proceeds to buy up more land. Through marriage and business, the family amassed some 70,000 acres, coming to rank among the largest private landowners in the United States.

Yet droughts plagued the region, making agriculture difficult. Tapping into Wyoming's resource wealth, the Christensens staked claims on the property, selling mining and drilling rights to companies that helped transform the Powder River Basin into the energy basket of America.

Uranium was discovered underneath Christensen Ranch in 1973. In 1978, after the property had been divided between cousins, Westinghouse Electric launched the first large-scale uranium mine on John Christensen's portion.

Modern mining for the radioactive ore inevitably pollutes water.

To avoid digging big holes in the ground, operators inject a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, hydrogen peroxide and oxygen into the rock to separate out the minerals and bond to the uranium. Then, they vacuum out the uranium-laden fluids to make a fine powder called yellowcake. The process leaves a toxic mix of heavy metals and radioactive ions floating in the groundwater and generates millions of gallons of waste that need to be dumped deeper underground.

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act, implemented in the early 1980s as mining began in earnest on Christensen Ranch, posed a potential hurdle to such ventures because it prohibited disposal of waste in aquifers. But the law allowed regulators to exempt aquifers if they determined that water was too dirty to use, or buried too deep to be worth pumping to the surface, or unlikely to be needed.

In 1982, when Wyoming officials anticipated the need for an aquifer exemption at Christensen Ranch, the state's then-governor, Ed Herschler, wrote to urge EPA officials to streamline their review of such requests and not to delay energy projects or interfere with Wyoming regulators. Steven Durham, the EPA's regional administrator at the time, wrote back to assure the governor the EPA would not second guess state officials, and that he had adjusted the rules so that they "should assure a speedy finalization of any exemptions."

Wyoming environment officials issued the first permit exempting several deep groundwater aquifers on the ranch from environmental protection in 1988. It said the water was of relatively poor quality, and was too deep and too remote to be used for drinking. The permit did not address the possibility that usable aquifers could lie in even deeper rock layers beneath the site.

The EPA confirmed the state's exemptions and issued separate ones allowing the mine operator to contaminate the shallow layer of groundwater closest to the surface, where anyone who needed water — including John Christensen — was likely to go for it first.

Even as they gave their stamp of approval, EPA officials noted that the mine operator's application had not set precise boundaries for the depth or breadth of the exempted area. "The information contained in the submittal does not specifically delineate the area to be designated," the EPA's Denver chief administrator acknowledged in a letter to Wyoming regulators in August 1988.

Still, Christensen, who continued to run stock on his land, saw the pollution as an inconvenience, not a threat. He was assured that the mine operator could steer contaminants toward the center of the exemption zone by manipulating pressure underground. Monitoring wells surrounded the perimeter of the mining site like sentries, checking if pollutants were seeping past the border.

Drilling new water wells beyond the mine's boundary was expensive, but Christensen took comfort from rules obliging the mine operator to restore contaminated water within the exempted area to its original condition once mining was complete.

"That was our best quality water," Christensen said. "I've been given to believe that it is not sacrificed, that they will restore the groundwater quality."

The mining proceeded in fits and starts, stalling in 1982 with a collapse of the uranium market, picking up five years later, stopping again in 1990, and then restarting in 1993. Ownership of the facilities changed hands at least five times.

By 2000, mining activity seemed to be over for good, and restoration efforts geared up under the supervision of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The restoration wouldn't go entirely as planned.

* * *

In July 2004, contaminants were detected in one of the monitoring wells surrounding the mining facility at Christensen Ranch.

This wasn't that unusual, mining and regulatory officials say. Other excursions, as they are called, had occurred over the years. The monitoring wells are an early warning system, detecting benign chemicals long before more dangerous toxins can spread.

"It's sort of like a smoke detector," said Ron Linton, who oversees the licensing for Christensen Ranch for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "They will go back in and adjust their flow with their production practices within their ore zone to get those levels down."

But according to documents from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Cogema — the company then handling the restoration effort — could not fix the problem or identify its cause. The company tested water from the area and examined their injection wells for defects, but told state officials they believed the contaminants had occurred naturally and were not from the mine.

For six years, the contaminants continued to spread, disappearing for short periods as the restoration progressed only to reappear again, records show.

"This really shouldn't happen," said Glenn Mooney, a senior state geologist who oversaw the Christensen Ranch site for Wyoming from the late 1970s until last July.

Mooney observed that the concentration of contaminants at the boundary had leveled, but "showed no hint that they may drop," and warned that some of the chemicals found posed a considerable risk.

"The increase in uranium levels, a level over 70 times above the maximum contaminate limit for uranium, in a well that is located at the edge of the aquifer exemption boundary, is a major concern to WDEQ," he wrote in a 2010 letter.

Christensen said he was never told about the excursions beneath his property and that, as far as he knew, several of the minefields had been fully restored. He said he expected to use the shallow aquifer polluted by the mining as a source of drinking water in the future.

Restoration is the most important backstop against the risk that contaminants will spread from the mining site after the mining is finished. Polluted water is pumped from the ground, filtered using reverse osmosis, and then re-injected underground. The worst, most concentrated waste is disposed of in deeper waste wells.

Yet the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Cogema's restoration of minefields associated with Christensen Ranch even as the excursion remained unresolved.

The commission deemed nine mining fields there successfully "restored" even though records show that half of the contaminants in the aquifer, including the radioactive byproduct Radium 226, remained above their natural levels.

Studies by the NRC, the U.S. Geological Survey and private consultants have found that similar cleanups elsewhere have rarely been fully successful.

The Geological Survey's study of uranium restoration in Texas found that no sites had been completely restored to pre-mining levels, and the majority had elevated uranium when the restoration was finished. The 2008 NRC review concluded that each of 11 sites at three mines certified by the agency as "restored" had at least one important pollutant above baseline levels recorded before mining began. The report concluded that restoring water to baseline levels was "not attainable" for many of the most important contaminants, including uranium.

Some regulators and mining industry executives call attempts to fully restore aquifers at uranium sites idealistic. Such water was often contaminated with uranium before mining began, they contend.

"When you restore it … you bring each individual ion down to a level that is within the levels that occurred naturally," said Richard Clement, the chief executive of Powertech Uranium, which is currently applying for permits for a new mine in South Dakota. "It depends what you mean by 100 percent successful. Are people saying it is different than what it was? Yes it is. But is it worse? No."

Efforts to restore the groundwater at Christensen Ranch had other consequences. While the water was supposed to be filtered and re-injected, millions of gallons were removed and disposed of permanently as a result of the process, lowering the ranch's water table.

Water wells outside of the mine area that had routinely produced 10 gallons a minute struggled to produce a single quart, Christensen said. The water levels in the aquifer also dropped — in some places by 100 feet.

"They have always claimed that they could restore the groundwater," Christensen said. "The main concern is there isn't much water left when they get it to that quality. It never came back."

* * *

In 2007, as uranium commodities skyrocketed and a new mining boom began, Cogema applied to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permits to restart and expand its operations at Christensen Ranch.

To do it, the company would need to use two additional deep injection wells, making four total, to dispose of waste produced from ongoing restoration efforts and absorb the byproducts of drying and refining yellowcake. The plan called for more than tripling the amount of waste the company could pump into the Lance aquifer, more than 3,000 feet under Christensen Ranch.

Wyoming had permitted the additional wells years earlier, which it can do under authority delegated to states by the EPA to enact the Safe Drinking Water Act. But Cogema's request required something more — a change to past exemptions — that only the EPA had the power to grant.

Earlier exemptions issued for Christensen Ranch had only indirectly addressed the deep aquifers underlying the Lance.

In November 2010, Wyoming officials asked the EPA to exempt every layer of water below the Lance, regardless of its quality or whether it was being used by the mine, and without additional study. The water quality at those depths was "not reliably known," they wrote. The EPA should apply the exemptions to all of the deep aquifers, they said, "whether or not they meet the definitions of 'underground sources of drinking water.'"

For the EPA, Wyoming's request opened up a morass of legal and environmental concerns.

In the eight years since the agency had approved the last exemption at the ranch, its scientists had grown increasingly convinced that the deep layers of aquifers beneath the property might contain one of the state's largest reserves of good water. One layer, the Madison, is described in a state assessment as "probably the most important high-yield aquifer in Wyoming" and supplies drinking water to the city of Gillette.

Some within the EPA worried that approving Wyoming's request would create a damaging precedent, several EPA employees told ProPublica. It would write off billions of gallons of water in perpetuity, stripping them of legal protections against pollution, even though they were not necessary to the mining process.

Also, arguments that nobody would ever pay to pull water from aquifers below Christensen Ranch seemed more tenuous as scarcity made every drop of clean water more valuable and changing technology made deeper resources economically viable.

"Where do we get that water?" asked Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who has received a National Science Foundation grant to look at energy and water issues. "Right now we want to get it from the near surface because it's cheaper. The question is, is that going to change in the future?"

If the EPA rejected Wyoming's request, it opened itself to other problems, however.

The EPA had granted exemptions allowing the two injection wells already operating at Christensen Ranch based on the notion that the aquifers below them did not qualify as sources of drinking water. If the agency reversed itself on this, it could make the existing mine operations illegal.

"I don't think that you could argue very strongly that it was the intent of the law to routinely use these exemptions to get around complying with the law," Wireman said.

"The law is very clear," he added, referring to the prohibition against allowing injection wells for toxic waste above aquifers. "That was done for a reason."

The process slowed to a crawl as federal officials from Denver to Washington considered the matter.

In December 2010, the EPA sent a letter to Wyoming's chief groundwater supervisor saying the agency saw no justification for granting new exemptions at Christensen Ranch and asked the state to make a stronger scientific argument.

The EPA also informed Wyoming regulators it planned to publish the exemption requests in the Federal Register, a move that would open them up for public comment and push back their potential approval date.

Infuriated, Wyoming officials approved the renewal permit on their own authority on Aug. 7, 2012, and decided the new injection wells did not need EPA permission because they were covered by past exemptions that could not be reversed.

"We were pretty disappointed with the amount of time it was taking to get a determination, and of course the operator was as well," Kevin Frederick, groundwater manager for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, told ProPublica. "The delay… really kind of caused us to rethink what we were asking EPA to consider. We recognized that we were essentially issuing a permit that had already been approved."

Wyoming's top elected official punctuated the state's position on the case by complaining to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson about the agency's interference.

"Wyoming is the number one producer of uranium in the United States. The industry provides the nation with a reliable, secure source of domestic uranium," Gov. Matthew Mead wrote in a stern Aug. 29 letter. The EPA's review was having a "direct impact on operations, planning, investment and jobs. This has resulted in a standstill which has been the situation for far too long."

* * *

The problems and pressures the EPA is facing at Christensen Ranch are not unique.

With uranium mining booming, the agency has received a mounting number of requests for aquifer exemptions in recent years. So far, EPA records show, the agency has issued at least 40 exemptions for uranium mines across the country and is considering several more. Two mines are expanding operations near Christensen Ranch.

In several cases, the EPA has struggled to balance imposing water protections with accommodating the industry's needs.

In South Dakota, where Powertech Uranium is seeking permits for a new mine in the Black Hills, state regulations bar the deep injection wells typically used to dispose of mining waste. The EPA is weighing whether to allow Powertech to use what's called a Class 5 well — a virtually unregulated and unmonitored shallow dumping system normally used for non-toxic waste — instead.

Powertech officials say they will voluntarily meet the EPA's toughest construction standards for injection wells and will treat waste before burying it to alleviate concerns about groundwater.

"It's not going around the process," said Clement, the company's CEO. "It's using the laws the way they were designed to be used."

Environmental groups say the EPA should not be letting mining companies write their own rules.

"It's disturbing that such a requirement would be so easy to get around," said Jeff Parsons, a senior attorney for the Western Mining Action Project, which is representing the Oglala Sioux in a challenge to stop the Powertech mine. "There is a reason that South Dakota prohibited Class 1 wells; it's to protect the aquifers."

Similar disputes are erupting across the country.

In Goliad County, Texas, a proposal for a new uranium mine has triggered a bitter fight between state officials and the EPA.

In 2010, Texas regulators gave a mining company preliminary permission to pollute a shallow aquifer even though 50 homes draw water from wells near the contamination zone.

EPA scientists were concerned by the mining area's proximity to homes and believed the natural flow of water would send contaminants toward the water wells. At first, the agency notified Texas officials it would deny an exemption for the mine unless the state did further monitoring and analysis.

Texas regulators refused. "It appears the EPA may be swayed by the unsubstantiated allegations and fears of uranium mining opponents," Zak Covar, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, wrote in a May 2012 letter to William Honker, acting director of the EPA's local Water Protection Division.

As the case dragged on without a final determination, some within the agency worried that the EPA would go back on its initial decision and capitulate to appease Texas authorities, with whom it has clashed repeatedly.

"This aquifer exemption issue in Goliad County might become a sacrificial lamb that the federal government puts on the altar to try to repair some relations with the state," said a former government official with knowledge of the case.

On Dec. 5, the EPA approved the exemption in Goliad County.

Many disputes over aquifer exemptions focus on water people might need years in the future, but in Goliad County the risk is imminent. People already rely on drinking water drawn from areas close to those that would be polluted.

"This is a health issue as much as a water supply issue," said Art Dohmann, president of the Goliad County Groundwater Conservation District, a local agency that manages water resources.

As of now, it's unclear how the EPA will answer Wyoming's challenge to its authority at Christensen Ranch.

Meanwhile, uranium mining has resumed on the property.

Uranium One, a Canadian-based company with majority Russian ownership that bought the facility from Cogema in 2010, is moving forward with the added injection wells to expand the operation.

For Christensen, it's the same old story. "I'm going to be dead before it's turned back into grazing land," he said of the ranch. "I'm almost 63 years old... so you know, it's gone on my whole life."

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Abrahm Lustgarten is a former staff writer and contributor for Fortune, and has written for Salon, Esquire, the Washington Post and the New York Times since receiving his master's in journalism from Columbia University in 2003. He is the author of the book China’s Great Train: Beijing’s Drive West and the Campaign to Remake Tibet, a project that was funded in part by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

No Glory, No Spoils, No Closure: The Double Whammy of Rip-off Wars

No Glory, No Spoils, No Closure: The Double Whammy of Rip-off Wars

By Robert S. Becker

Today's easy riddle: what will cost more, last longer, and accomplish less than our troop-heavy, anachronistic, perpetual overseas occupations? Nothing, nada—certainly not annual deficits, Bush tax cuts, or formal defense budgets. Put aside human suffering and unbelievable dislocation: we've all shouldered a four trillion dollar price tag on two failed wars, plus the double whammy that both Iraq and Afghanistan remain unstable havens for mayhem. Is any fiscal cliff that might happen worse than two indeterminate rat holes that have happened?

When outcomes are set against costs, would not every payoff-to-price ratio indict our Asian land wars as absurd, if not obscene, devoid of socially redeeming value? You'd think by now anti-war rage would defy the yet-to-be-rejected, neo-con mindset of shoot-first, ask-questions-later belligerence. Widely perceived as continuing crusades against Muslim populations, these wars send "messages to evil-doers" all right, but they only wither our prestige, fuel a generation of anti-American fury and taint our national soul.

What von Clausewitz justified as an "extension of politics by other means" is now a crude bludgeon that should be openly condemned, then dumped on the garbage heap. Right, next to Birtherism is creationism, homophobia, taxation hysteria (by hawks!), Biblical literalism and the hoax of climate change. Yet these wars are treated like invisible elephants, AWOL across two full years of a three-ring election circus. Where's the Constitutional amendment chatter not against overdrawn budgets nor abortions but indefensible wars? These days, I'd take a modest New Year's resolution from any major official: how about one year without invasions?

Bomb, Occupy, Sit Like Ducks

What war of choice (that is, all of them) since Vietnam doesn't felt creepy within months of the first wave? After bombing some unfortified nation into submission, we then sit tight, inviting ambushes as conditions disintegrate. Is that a plan or insanity? The Iraq war eviscerated any old war cries of "no guts, no glory:" for without heroism, losing your guts or legs becomes a nightmarish joke, with a delayed stinger that impoverishes the next generation. All that John Wayne soldiering withers when there's no glory or spoils, vindication or closure. A reincarnated Frank Capra, whose WWII film cheered on "Why we fight," must re-title, something like "Why war sucks" because no one wins anymore and the gross enterprise stinks.

Not so long ago, when gore and mayhem dissipated, survivors and sponsors on the winning side lined up for "spoils of war." Though wars always spoiled far more than they won, "spoils of war" is not without irony. Former payoffs spanned security from attack, exploitable land and resources, cheaper slaves, workers or wider marketplaces, golden trinkets or movable art treasures. Instead, exhausted taxpayers get empty returns, or worse, like "democracy and freedom" far away along with invasive Patriot Acts, with fewer rights at home. Forget about homecoming victory parades, let alone soaring rhetoric praising the moral superiority of the triumphant.

Withdrawal takes so long now few feel relief, only anguish that America has fallen so far. Why, we oldsters remember when "losers" actually "surrendered," in prehistoric times when wars had beginnings, middles, and ends, thus psychological closure. Today, war is hellish but unlike the disease-ridden trench warfare or jungle madness of world wars. Occupations simply grind on and on, reminiscent of H. L. Mencken's biting put-down of President Harding's oratory: "It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean-soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights."

Better to rename wars as "indeterminate, intervening clashes" that don't even end with "peace talks," for these too are obsolete. Yes, forget any truce as we endure the dogs of war "barking idiotically through endless nights." Yet the moral and political quandary from endorsing such expensive violence remains. How do leaders justify carnage against millions when noble "liberations" flatten nations, without benefits, to them or us? Are not both Iraq and Afghanistan decimated, alongside our moral, diplomatic and financial stability? What positives assure grieving parents that entombed children "shall not have died in vain"? The era of defending wars on principle, as Lincoln did when promising a "new birth of freedom," is over, as Vietnam put the last nail in that coffin. No heroic wars are about brutal, geo-political power, empire, and sending fouled up messages to would-be enemies who used them to attract more suicidal operatives.

When Big Lies Fail

Though W. dared justify Iraq in terms of "freedom and democracy," he was too insular, plaint or oblivious to realize this meme had lost all credibility, a sitting duck of a failed Big Lie that redounded against him. Marking a profound shift, we no longer expect to win wars, just batter enemies "over there" and sustain some fabricated status quo delusion. In one sense, wars of empire are about freedom, the arrogant capability to freely attack because we can. Who needs a "new birth of freedom" when Washington already has free global reign?

As our no-good, rotten wars grind away, few feel solace or relief, and who feels safer than before 9/11? Even as political theater, modern war flops big-time, bereft of payoffs. Compare the positives from WWII: we overcame the Depression, eased into desegregation of the military, set up the greatest socio-economic mobility plus wealth production in history. Indeed, post WWII provided the greatest good for the greatest number. No family did not benefit from new war technologies: the breakout of computer science, the advance of radar and sonar (advancing flight safety for all), jet and turbine engines, helicopters, missiles informing space exploration, antibiotics, medical and surgical breakthroughs, synthetic rubber, aerosol cans (bug spray) and, alas, nylon stockings. Payoffs are galore; with dividends to this day going back eight decades.

Failed Wars, Failed Payoffs

Other than drone technology, and superior body and vehicle armor, where are any real civilian payoffs from over a decade of war? Any one, suggestions open? What did we gain from the treasure lost in Afghanistan, other than getting slammed firsthand, here is definitively the graveyard of empires -- plus blundering Asian land wars kill the invaders plus millions of others. How do we calculate the incalculable -- helping destroy a wide swath of a half-dozen regions, destroying education, medical delivery, infrastructure and whatever cultural cohesion there was? The inconvenient, if massive costs we pay are marginal compared to the bitter, permanent, unimaginable penalties locals have paid and will pay.

Add to this to the war and immense divisions at home form. With major wars, not winning, nor gaining declared objectives, is losing, however you measure it. Certainly four trillion dollars, equaling years of heavy national deficits, would have funded our education, infrastructure, research or innovation, and programs to fight poverty and joblessness. All in all, the total in losses and squandered opportunity present the most distressing question. When do we begin to acknowledge, then grieve and begin to resolve Iraq and Afghanistan as not just our worst, avoidable foreign policy disasters but, next to the Civil War, our worst political, economic, and military misadventures? Denial keeps resolution at bay and that leads to further misery and hostility.

Finally, we fortunate non-veterans can sidestep having to press a V.A. system behind the times and the demands of often traumatized survivors. As one wounded soldier captured the double tragedy of an underfunded V.A., the result is "Delay, deny, until we die." Two-thirds of the 860,000 applicants for treatment, according to CNN, wait twice as long as the four month V.A. target goal: "On average, the V.A. said veterans wait more than eight months -- 256 days -- before their claim is resolved." Sounds like soldier abuse to me adding insult to injury and no metaphor intended. A fitting end to our worst national fiasco, and yet the final wound looms as deafening silence.

This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs