Volume 13 Issue 7 March 2015
John Scales Avery, David Barsamian, Robert J. Burrowes,
Ghada Chehade, Noam Chomsky, Gary Corseri,
Steven D, Erica Etelson, Gustavo M. GALLIANO, Glenn Greenwald,
Thom Hartmann, Michael T. Klare, Daily Kos, Alison Rose Levy,
KADIMA KADIMA oliver, Anastasia Pantsios, Dr Gideon Polya, Robert Reich, Eric Zuesse
John Scales Avery, Quick Action Is Needed To Save The Long-Term Future
Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian, The World of Our Grandchildren
Robert J. Burrowes, Terrorism: Ultimate Weapon Of The Global Elite
Ghada Chehade, Evil Assad, Evil Gaddafi, Now Evil Putin: How the West Sells War (and Makes a Killing)
Gary Corseri, War Is The Failure Of Humanity
Steven D and Daily Kos, The Megadrought Is Coming: Climate Scientists Predict Decade Long Droughts For Much of America
Erica Etelson Can 7 Billion Humans Go Paleo?
Gustavo M. GALLIANO, PAZ IN ETERNUM PAIX ETERNITE PEACE FOREVER PAZ PARA SEMPRE МИР НАВСЕГДА
Glenn Greenwald, Hailed as a Model for Successful Intervention, Libya Proves to be the Exact Opposite
Thom Hartmann, Free Trade Deals Have Devastated the U.S.: Now Obama Pushes Through Biggest One Yet
Michael T. Klare, Keystone XL, Cold War 2.0, And The GOP Vision For 2016
Alison Rose Levy, Will the Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Deepen Our Climate Change Nightmare?
KADIMA KADIMA oliver, Stop à la guerre Stop the war Parar a guerra Остановить войну Detener la guerra
Anastasia Pantsios, Burlington, VT Becomes First City to Run Entirely on Renewable Electricity
Dr Gideon Polya, Biochemical Targets Of Plant Bioactive Compounds: Moral & Utilitarian Reasons To Stop Ecocide, Speciescide, Omnicide & Terracide
Robert Reich, Robert Reich: Obama Shouldn't Just Halt the Keystone Pipeline -- He Should Toss It in the Trash ,
Eric Zuesse, Crimea: Was It Seized By Russia, or Did Russia Block Its Seizure By The U.S.?
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|February 14, 2015||
The World of Our Grandchildren
by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian , Information ClearingHouse
acobin is proud to feature an interview with journalist David Barsamian and Professor Noam Chomsky. In it, Chomsky explains the roots of ISIS and why the United States and its allies are responsible for the group’s emergence. In particular, he argues that the 2003 invasion of Iraq provoked the sectarian divisions that have resulted in the destabilization of Iraqi society. The result was a climate where Saudi-funded radicals could thrive.
The interview also touches on Israel’s most recent massacre in the Gaza Strip, putting it in the context of the vital role Israel has always played for the United States. Chomsky then turns to today’s racist scapegoating of Guatemalan immigrants, tracing the conditions that lead them to leave their homes to the Reagan administration’s brutal destruction of the country.
Finally, Chomsky shares his thoughts on the growing movement for climate justice and why he thinks it is the most urgent of our time. The full exchange will be broadcast by Alternative Radio.
There are few voices more vital to the Left than Professor Chomsky’s. We hope you read and share the interview widely.
February 14, 2015 "ICH" - "Jacobin Magazine "
- The Middle East is engulfed in flames, from Libya to Iraq. There are new jihadi groups. The current focus is on ISIS. What about ISIS and its origins?
There’s an interesting interview that just appeared a couple of days ago with Graham Fuller, a former CIA officer, one of the leading intelligence and mainstream analysts of the Middle East. The title is “The United States Created ISIS.” This is one of the conspiracy theories, the thousands of them that go around the Middle East.
But this is another source: this is right at the heart of the US establishment. He hastens to point out that he doesn’t mean the US decided to put ISIS into existence and then funded it. His point is — and I think it’s accurate — that the US created the background out of which ISIS grew and developed. Part of it was just the standard sledgehammer approach: smash up what you don’t like.
In 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq, a major crime. Just this afternoon the British parliament granted the government the authority to bomb Iraq again. The invasion was devastating to Iraq. Iraq had already been virtually destroyed, first of all by the decade-long war with Iran in which, incidentally, Iraq was backed by the US, and then the decade of sanctions.
They were described as “genocidal” by the respected international diplomats who administered them, and both resigned in protest for that reason. They devastated the civilian society, they strengthened the dictator, compelled the population to rely on him for survival. That’s probably the reason he wasn’t sent on the path of a whole stream of other dictators who were overthrown.
Finally, the US just decided to attack the country in 2003. The attack is compared by many Iraqis to the Mongol invasion of a thousand years earlier. Very destructive. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, millions of refugees, millions of other displaced persons, destruction of the archeological richness and wealth of the country back to Sumeria.
One of the effects of the invasion was immediately to institute sectarian divisions. Part of the brilliance of the invasion force and its civilian director, Paul Bremer, was to separate the sects, Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd, from one another, set them at each other’s throats. Within a couple of years, there was a major, brutal sectarian conflict incited by the invasion.
You can see it if you look at Baghdad. If you take a map of Baghdad in, say, 2002, it’s a mixed city: Sunni and Shi’a are living in the same neighborhoods, they’re intermarried. In fact, sometimes they didn’t even know who was Sunni and who was Shi’a. It’s like knowing whether your friends are in one Protestant group or another Protestant group. There were differences but it was not hostile.
In fact, for a couple of years both sides were saying: there will never be Sunni-Shi’a conflicts. We’re too intermingled in the nature of our lives, where we live, and so on. By 2006 there was a raging war. That conflict spread to the whole region. By now, the whole region is being torn apart by Sunni-Shi’a conflicts.
The natural dynamics of a conflict like that is that the most extreme elements begin to take over. They had roots. Their roots are in the major US ally, Saudi Arabia. That’s been the major US ally in the region as long as the US has been seriously involved there, in fact, since the foundation of the Saudi state. It’s kind of a family dictatorship. The reason is it has a huge amount oil.
Britain, before the US, had typically preferred radical Islamism to secular nationalism. And when the US took over, it essentially took the same stand. Radical Islam is centered in Saudi Arabia. It’s the most extremist, radical Islamic state in the world. It makes Iran look like a tolerant, modern country by comparison, and, of course, the secular parts of the Arab Middle East even more so.
It’s not only directed by an extremist version of Islam, the Wahhabi Salafi version, but it’s also a missionary state. So it uses its huge oil resources to promulgate these doctrines throughout the region. It establishes schools, mosques, clerics, all over the place, from Pakistan to North Africa.
An extremist version of Saudi extremism is the doctrine that was picked up by ISIS. So it grew ideologically out of the most extremist form of Islam, the Saudi version, and the conflicts that were engendered by the US sledgehammer that smashed up Iraq and has now spread everywhere. That’s what Fuller means.
Saudi Arabia not only provides the ideological core that led to the ISIS radical extremism, but it also funds them. Not the Saudi government, but wealthy Saudis, wealthy Kuwaitis, and others provide the funding and the ideological support for these jihadi groups that are springing up all over the place. This attack on the region by the US and Britain is the source, where this thing originates. That’s what Fuller meant by saying the United States created ISIS.
You can be pretty confident that as conflicts develop, they will become more extremist. The most brutal, harshest groups will take over. That’s what happens when violence becomes the means of interaction. It’s almost automatic. That’s true in neighborhoods, it’s true in international affairs. The dynamics are perfectly evident. That’s what’s happening. That’s where ISIS comes from. If they manage to destroy ISIS, they will have something more extreme on their hands.
And the media are obedient. In Obama’s September 10 speech, he cited two countries as success stories of the US counterinsurgency strategy. What were the two countries? Somalia and Yemen. Jaws should have been dropping all over the place, but there was virtual silence in the commentary the next day.
The Somalia case is particularly horrendous. Yemen is bad enough. Somalia is an extremely poor country. I won’t run through the whole history. But one of the great achievements, one of the great boasts of the Bush administration counterterror policy was that they had succeeded in shutting down a charity, the Barakat charity, which was fueling terrorism in Somalia. Big excitement in the press. That’s a real achievement.
A couple of months later the facts started leaking out. The charity had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism in Somalia. What it had to do with was banking, commerce, relief, hospitals. It was sort of keeping the deeply impoverished and battered Somali economy alive. By shutting it down, the Bush administration had ended this. That was the contribution to counterinsurgency. That got a few lines. You can read it in books on international finance. That’s what’s being done to Somalia.
There was a moment when the so-called Islamic courts, they were called, an Islamic organization, had achieved a kind of a measure of peace in Somalia. Not a pretty regime, but at least it was peaceful and people were more or less accepting it. The US wouldn’t tolerate it, and it supported an Ethiopian invasion to destroy it and turn the place back into horrible turmoil. That’s the great achievement.
Yemen is a horror story of its own.
Going back to National Public Radio and Morning Edition, the host, David Greene, was doing an interview with a reporter based in Gaza, and he prefaced his interview with this comment: “Both sides have suffered tremendous damage.” So I thought to myself, does this mean Haifa and Tel Aviv were reduced to rubble, as Gaza was? Do you remember the Jimmy Carter comment about Vietnam?
Not only do I remember it, I think I was the first person to comment on it, and am probably to date practically the only person to comment on it. Carter, the human rights advocate, he was asked in a press conference in 1977 a kind of mild question: do you think we have some responsibility for helping the Vietnamese after the war? And he said we owe them no debt — “the destruction was mutual.”
That passed without comment. And it was better than his successor. When a couple years later George Bush I, the statesman, was commenting on the responsibilities after the Vietnam War, he said: there is one moral problem that remains after the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese have not devoted sufficient resources to turning over to us the bones of American pilots. These innocent pilots who were shot down over central Iowa by the murderous Vietnamese when they were spraying crops or something, they have not turned over the bones. But, he said: we are a merciful people, so we will forgive them this and we will allow them to enter the civilized world.
Meaning we’ll allow them to enter trade relations and so on, which, of course, we bar, if they will stop what they’re doing and devote sufficient resources to overcoming this one lingering crime after the Vietnam War. No comment.
One of the things that Israeli officials keep bringing up, and it’s repeated here in the corporate media, ad nauseam, is the Hamas charter. They don’t accept the existence of the state of the Israel, they want to wipe it off the map. You have some information about the charter and its background.
The charter was produced by, apparently, a handful of people, maybe two or three, back in 1988, at a time when Gaza was under severe Israeli attack. You remember Rabin’s orders. This was a primarily nonviolent uprising which Israel reacted to very violently, killing leaders, torture, breaking bones in accordance with Rabin’s orders, and so on. And right in the middle of that, a very small number of people came out with what they called a Hamas charter.
Nobody has paid attention to it since. It was an awful document, if you look at it. Since then the only people who have paid attention to it are Israeli intelligence and the US media. They love it. Nobody else cares about it. Khaled Mashal, the political leader of Gaza years ago, said: look, it’s past, it’s gone. It has no significance. But that doesn’t matter. It’s valuable propaganda.
There is also — they don’t call it a charter, but there are founding principles of the governing coalition in Israel, not some small group of people who are under attack but the governing coalition, Likud. The ideological core of Likud is Menachem Begin’s Herut. They have founding documents. Their founding documents say that today’s Jordan is part of the land of Israel; Israel will never renounce its claim to the land of Jordan. What’s now called Jordan they call the historical lands of Israel. They’ve never renounced that.
Likud, the same governing party, has an electoral program — it was for 1999 but it’s never been rescinded, it’s the same today — that says explicitly there will never be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan. In other words, we are dedicated in principle to the destruction of Palestine, period.
This is not just words. We proceed day by day to implement it. Nobody ever mentions the founding doctrines of Likud, Herut. I don’t either, because nobody takes them seriously. Actually, that was also the doctrine of the majority of the kibbutz movement. Achdut Ha-Avodah, which was the largest part of the kibbutz movement, held the same principles, that both sides of the Jordan River are ours.
There was a slogan, “This side of the Jordan, that side also.” In other words, both western Palestine and eastern Palestine are ours. Does anybody say: okay, we can’t negotiate with Israel? More significant are the actual electoral programs. And even more significant than that are the actual actions, which are implementing the destruction of Palestine, not just talking about it. But we have to talk about the Hamas charter.
There is an interesting history about the so-called PLO charter. Around 1970 the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshafat Harkabi, published an article in a major Israeli journal in which he brought to light something called the PLO charter or something similar to that. Nobody had ever heard of it, nobody was paying any attention to it.
And the charter said: here’s our aim. Our aim is it’s our land, we’re going to take it over. In fact, it was not unlike the Herut claims except backwards. This instantly became a huge media issue all over. The PLO covenant it was called. The PLO covenant plans to destroy Israel. They didn’t know anything about it, nobody knew anything about it, but this became a major issue.
I met Harkabi a couple years later. He was kind of a dove, incidentally. He became pretty critical of Israeli policy. He was an interesting guy. We had an interview here at MIT, in fact. Incidentally, at that time there was material in the Arab press that I was reading saying that the Palestinians were thinking about officially throwing out the charter because it was kind of an embarrassment.
So I asked him, “Why did you bring this out for the first time just at the time when they were thinking of rescinding it?” He looked at me with the blank stare that you learn to recognize when you are talking to spooks. They are trained to pretend not to understand what you’re talking about when they understand it perfectly.
He said, “Oh, I never heard that.” That is beyond inconceivable. It’s impossible that the head of Israeli military intelligence doesn’t know what I know from reading bits and pieces of the Arab press in Beirut. Of course he knew.
There’s every reason to believe that he decided to bring this out precisely because he recognized, meaning Israeli intelligence recognized, that it would be a useful piece of propaganda and it’s best to try to ensure that the Palestinians keep it. Of course, if we attack it, then they’re going to back off and say: we’re not going to rescind it under pressure, which is what’s happening with the Hamas charter.
If they stopped talking about it, everyone would forget about it, because it’s meaningless. Incidentally, let me just add one more thing. It is now impossible to document this, for a simple reason. The documents were all in the PLO offices in Beirut. And when Israel invaded Beirut, they stole all the archives. I assume they must have them somewhere, but nobody is going to get access to them.
What accounts for the almost near unanimity of the Congress in backing Israel? Even Elizabeth Warren, the highly touted Democratic senator from Massachusetts, voted for this resolution about self-defense.
She probably knows nothing about the Middle East. I think it’s pretty obvious. Take the US prepositioning arms in Israel for US use for military action in the region. That’s one small piece of a very close military and intelligence alliance that goes back very far. It really took off after 1967, although bits and pieces of it existed before.
The US military and intelligence regard Israel as a major base. In fact, one of the more interesting WikiLeaks exposures listed the Pentagon ranking of strategic centers around the world which were of such significance that we have to protect them no matter what, a small number. One of them was a couple of miles outside Haifa, Rafael military industries, a major military installation.
That’s where a lot of the drone technology was developed and much else. That’s a strategic US interest of such significance that it ranks among the highest in the world. Rafael understands that, to the extent that they actually moved their management headquarters to Washington, where the money is. That’s indicative of the kind of relationship there is.
And it goes way beyond that. US investors are in love with Israel. Warren Buffet just bought some Israeli enterprise for, I think, a couple billion dollars and announced that outside the US, Israel is the best place for US investment. And major firms, like Intel and others, are investing heavily in Israel, and continue to. It’s a valuable client: it’s strategically located, compliant, does what the US wants, it’s available for repression and violence. The US has used it over and over as a way of circumventing congressional and popular restrictions on violence.
There’s a huge fuss now about children fleeing Central America, say, from Guatemala. Why are they fleeing from Guatemala? You can see a photo of one of them here in my office. They’re fleeing from Guatemala because of the wreckage of Guatemala, of which a large part was the attack on the Mayan Indians, which was really genocidal, in the early 1980s. That’s a Mayan woman in the photo, in fact. They’ve never escaped this, and many of them are fleeing.
Reagan, who was extremely brutal and violent and a terrible racist as well, wanted to provide direct support for the Guatemalan army’s attack, which was literally genocidal on the Mayan Indians. There was a congressional resolution that blocked him, so he turned to his terrorist clients.
The major one was Israel. Also Taiwan, a couple of others. Israel provided the arms for the Guatemalan army — to this day they use Israeli arms — provided the trainers for the terrorist forces, essentially ran the genocidal attack. That’s one of their services. They did the same in South Africa. Actually, this led to an interesting incident with the great hero Elie Wiesel.
In the mid-1980s, Salvador Luria, a friend of mine who is a Nobel laureate in biology and politically active, knew about this. It wasn’t a big secret. He asked me to collect articles from the Hebrew press which described Israel’s participation in genocidal attacks in Guatemala — not just participation, it’s a leadership role — because he wanted to send it to Elie Wiesel with a polite letter saying: as a fellow Nobel laureate, I would like to bring this to your attention. Could you use your influence — he didn’t ask him to say anything, that’s too much, but privately could you communicate to the people you know well at a high level in Israel and say it’s not nice to take part in genocide. He never got a response.
A couple of months later, I read an interview in the Hebrew press, where they really dislike Wiesel. They regard him as a charlatan and a fraud. One of the questions in the interview was, “What do you think about Israel’s participation in the genocidal assault in Guatemala?”
The report says Wiesel sighed and then said: I received a letter from a fellow Nobel laureate bringing to my attention these actions and asking me if I could say something privately to try to restrict them somehow, but, he said: I can’t criticize Israel even privately. I can’t say anything even privately that might impede Israel’s participation in genocide. That’s Elie Wiesel, the great moral hero.
Even this story is astonishing. Now children and many other refugees are fleeing from three countries: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Not from Nicaragua, about as poor as Honduras. Is there a difference? Yes. Nicaragua is the one country in the 1980s that had a way of defending itself against US terrorist forces — an army. In the other countries the army were the terrorist forces, supported and armed by the US, and its Israeli client in the worst cases. So that’s what you had.
There is a lot of upbeat reporting now saying the flow of children has reduced. Why? Because we’ve turned the screws on Mexico and told them to use force to prevent the victims of our violence from fleeing to the US for survival. So now they’re doing it for us, so there are fewer coming to the border. It’s a great humanitarian achievement of Obama’s.
Incidentally, Honduras is in the lead. Why Honduras? Because in 2009 there was a military coup in Honduras which overthrew the president, Zelaya, who was beginning to make some moves towards badly needed reform measures, and kicked him out of the country.
I won’t go through the details, but it ended up with the US, under Obama, being one of the very few countries that recognized the coup regime and the election that took place under its aegis, which has turned Honduras into an even worse horror story than it was before, way in the lead in homicides, violence. So, yes, people are fleeing. And therefore we have to drive them back and ensure that they go back into the horror chamber.
In the current situation, it seems that this is an opportunity for the Kurdish population of Iraq to realize some kind of statehood, some kind of independence, something that they’ve wanted for a long time, and which intersects, actually, with Israeli interests in Iraq. They have been supporting the Kurds, rather clandestinely, but it’s well known that Israel has been pushing for fragmentation of Iraq.
They are. And that’s one of the points on which Israeli and US policy conflict. The Kurdish areas are landlocked. The government of Iraq has blocked their export of oil, their only resource, and of course opposes their statehood bid. The US so far has been backing that.
Clandestinely, there evidently is a flow of oil at some level from the Kurdish area into Turkey. That’s also a very complex relationship. Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader, visited Turkey about a year ago, I guess, and made some pretty striking comments. He was quite critical of the leadership of the Turkish Kurds and was plainly trying to establish better relations with Turkey, which has been violently repressing the Turkish Kurds.
Most of the Kurds in the world are in Turkey. You can understand why, from his point of view. That’s the one outlet to the outside world. But Turkey has a mixed attitude about this. An independent Kurdistan in, say, northern Iraq, which is right next to the Kurdish areas of Turkey, or in the Syrian Kurdish areas, which are right by them, potentially, from the Turkish point of view, might encourage separatists or even efforts for autonomy in the southeastern part of Turkey, which is heavily Kurdish. They’ve been fighting against that ever since modern Turkey arose in the 1920, very brutally, in fact. So they have a mixed kind of attitude on this.
Kurdistan has succeeded somehow in getting tankers to take Kurdish oil. Those tankers are wandering around the Mediterranean. No country will accept it, except probably Israel. We can’t be certain, but it looks as though they’re taking some of it. The Kurdish tankers are seeking some way to unload their oil in mostly the eastern Mediterranean. It’s not happening at a level which permits Kurdistan to function, even to pay its officials.
On the other hand, if you go to the Kurdish so-called capital, Erbil, apparently there are high rises going up, plenty of wealth. But it’s a very fragile kind of system. It cannot survive. It’s completely surrounded by mostly hostile regions. Turkey is sort of unclear because of the reasons that I mentioned. So, yes, they do have that in mind. That’s why they took Kirkuk as soon as they could.
There are a couple of questions I want to close with, actually from our latest book, Power Systems. I ask you, “You’ve got grandchildren. What kind of world do you see them inheriting?”
The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim. The major concern ought to be the one that was brought up in New York at the September 21 march. A couple hundred thousand people marched in New York calling for some serious action on global warming.
This is no joke. This is the first time in the history of the human species that we have to make decisions which will determine whether there will be decent survival for our grandchildren. That’s never happened before. Already we have made decisions which are wiping out species around the world at a phenomenal level.
The level of species destruction in the world today is about at the level of sixty-five million years ago, when a huge asteroid hit the earth and had horrifying ecological effects. It ended the age of the dinosaurs; they were wiped out. It kind of left a little opening for small mammals, who began to develop, and ultimately us. The same thing is happening now, except that we’re the asteroid. What we’re doing to the environment is already creating conditions like those of sixty-five million years ago. Human civilization is tottering at the edge of this. The picture doesn’t look pretty.
So September 21, the day of the march, which was a very positive development, an indication that you can do things, it’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re going to wipe everything out, that same day one of the major international monitoring scientific agencies presented the data on greenhouse emissions for the latest year on record, 2013. They reached record levels: they went up over 2 percent beyond the preceding year. For the US they went up even higher, almost 3 percent.
The Journal of the American Medical Association came out with a study the same day looking at the number of super hot days that are predicted for New York over the next couple of decades, super hot meaning over ninety. They predicted it will triple for New York, and much worse effects farther south. This is all going along with predicted sea-level rise, which is going to put a lot of Boston under water. Let alone the Bangladesh coastal plan, where hundreds of millions of people live, will be wiped out.
All of this is imminent. And at this very moment the logic of our institutions is driving it forward. So Exxon Mobil, which is the biggest energy producer, has announced — and you can’t really criticize them for it; this is the nature of the state capitalist system, its logic — that they are going to direct all of their efforts to lifting fossil fuels, because that’s profitable. In effect, that’s exactly what they should be doing, given the institutional framework. They’re supposed to make profits. And if that wipes out the possibility of a decent life for the grandchildren, it’s not their problem.
Chevron, another big energy corporation, had a small sustainable program, mostly for PR reasons, but it was doing reasonably well, it was actually profitable. They just closed it down because fossil fuels are so much more profitable.
In the US by now there’s drilling all over the place. But there’s one place where it has been somewhat limited, federal lands. Energy lobbies are complaining bitterly that Obama has cut back access to federal lands. The Department of Interior just came out with the statistics. It’s the opposite. The oil drilling on federal lands has steadily increased under Obama. What has decreased is offshore drilling.
But that’s a reaction to the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Right after that disaster, the immediate reaction was to back off. Even the energy companies backed off from deep-sea drilling. The lobbies are just pulling these things together. If you look at the onshore drilling, it’s just going up. There are very few brakes on this. These tendencies are pretty dangerous, and you can predict what kind of world there will be for your grandchildren.
|February 16, 2015||
Hailed as a Model for Successful Intervention, Libya Proves to be the Exact Opposite
by Glenn Greenwald, Information ClearingHouse
When Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003 by U.S. forces, Iraq War advocates boastfully celebrated the event as proof that they were right and used it to mock war opponents (Joe Lieberman and John Kerry, for instance, gleefully exploited the event to demand that Howard Dean admit his war opposition was wrong). When Muammar Gaddafi was forced by NATO bombing in August, 2011 to flee Tripoli, advocates of U.S. intervention played the same game (ThinkProgress gleefully exploited the occasion to try to shame those who objected to the illegality of Obama’s waging the war even after Congress voted against its authorization: as though Gadaffi’s fleeing could render legal Obama’s plainly illegal intervention).
Once Gadaffi was brutally killed by a mob, advocates of intervention threw a giddy party for themselves, celebrating their own rightness and righteousness and declaring Libya a model for future western interventions. Upon Gadaffi’s fleeing, The New York Times, which editorially supported the war, published a front-page article declaring: “U.S. Tactics in Libya May be a Model for Other Efforts.” While acknowledging that “it would be premature to call the war in Libya a complete success for United States interests,” the paper noted that events had given “Obama’s senior advisers a chance to claim a key victory for an Obama doctrine for the Middle East that had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind.”
Leading war advocates such as Anne-Marie Slaughter and Nick Kristof celebrated themselves as humanitarian visionaries and chided war opponents for being blinkered and overly cynical about the virtues of American force. British and French leaders descended upon Libya to strut around like some sort of conquering heroes, while American and Canadian officials held pompous war victory ceremonies. Hillary Clinton was downright sociopathic, gloating and cackling in an interview when told about Gadaffi’s death by mob: “We came, we saw, he died.” Democratic partisans were drowning in similar bravado (“Unlike the all-hat-no-cattle types we are increasingly seeing over there, [Obama] may take his time, but he does seem to get his man”).
From the start, it was glaringly obvious that all of this was, at best, wildly premature. As I wrote the day after Gadaffi fled, the Democratic claims of vindication were redolent in all sorts of ways of war hawk boasting after Saddam was captured, and was just as irrational: “the real toll of this war (including the number of civilian deaths that have occurred and will occur) is still almost entirely unknown, and none of the arguments against the war (least of all the legal ones) are remotely resolved by yesterday’s events.”
Since 2011, Libya has rapidly unraveled in much the way Iraq did following that invasion: swamped by militia rule, factional warfare, economic devastation, and complete lawlessness. And to their eternal shame, most self-proclaimed “humanitarians” who advocated the Libya intervention completely ignored the country once the fun parts – the war victory dances and mocking of war opponents – were over. The feel-good “humanitarianism” of war advocates, as usual, extended only to the cheering from a safe distance as bombs dropped.
The unraveling of Libya is now close to absolute. Yesterday, the same New York Times editorial page that supported the intervention quoted the U.N.’s Libya envoy Bernardino León as observing: “Libya is falling apart. Politically, financially, the economic situation is disastrous.” The NYT editors forgot to mention that they supported the intervention, but did note that “Libya’s unraveling has received comparatively little attention over the past few months.” In other words, the very same NATO countries that dropped bombs on Libya in order to remove its government collectively ignored the aftermath once their self-celebrations were over.
Into the void of Libya’s predictable disintegration has stepped ISIS, among other groups. ISIS yesterday released a new video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, which they carried out in Libya. This, in turn, led to all sorts of dire warnings about how close ISIS now is to Europe – it “established a direct affiliate less than 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the southern tip of Italy,” warned AP – which in turn has produced calls for re-intervention in Libya.
Yesterday, the U.S.-supported Egyptian regime bombed targets in Libya. Meanwhile, “Italy warned that ISIS is at Europe’s doorstep as France and Egypt called for the United Nations Security Council to meet over the spiraling crisis in Libya.” It’s only a matter of time before another western “intervention” in Libya becomes conventional wisdom, with those opposed being accused of harboring sympathy for ISIS (just as opponents of Libya intervention the first time around were accused of being indifferent to Gadaffi’s repression).
What we see here is what we’ve seen over and over: the west’s wars creating and empowering an endless supply of enemies, which in turn justify endless war by the west. It was the invasion of Iraq that ushered in “Al Qaeda in Iraq” and ultimately ISIS. It has been the brutal, civilian-slaughtering drone bombing of Yemen which spawned Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in that country. As Hillary Clinton herself acknowledged, the U.S. helped create Al Qaeda itself by arming, recruiting and funding foreign “Mujahideen” to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (“the people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago”). And now it is the NATO intervention in Libya which has laid the groundwork for further intervention.
That the U.S. would end up intervening in Libya again as a result of the first intervention was painfully obvious. A primary argument of intervention opponents was that the same destruction sown in Iraq from “regime change” would be sown in Libya, and that the U.S. would end up empowering factions that it would later claim it was “obligated” to fight. In October, 2012, as Libya was disintegrating, I wrote:
One can debate whether all of this is done by design or by “accident”: if you realize that U.S. actions create further pretexts for war, then those who do this for a living must realize it, too (their own studies say this); and how many times does something have to happen before “accident” is no longer a viable explanation (as in: oops, our bombing policies keep killing large numbers of civilians, but we keep doing it anyway, and keep claiming it’s all just a terrible “accident”)? But whatever else is true about motive, there is no question that U.S. militarism constantly strengthens exactly that which it is pitched as trying to prevent, and ensures that the U.S. government never loses its supply of reasons to continue its endless war.
Far from serving as a model, this Libya intervention should severely discredit the core selling point of so-called “humanitarian wars.” Some non-governmental advocates of “humanitarian war” may be motivated by the noble aims they invoke, but humanitarianism is simply not why governments fight wars; that is just the pretty wrapping used to sell them.
Finally, Democrats (with validity) love to demand that Iraq War advocates acknowledge their errors and be discredited for their position (unless those advocates happen to be Obama’s Vice President, his two Secretaries of State, his Pentagon chiefs, etc.). We are rapidly approaching the point, if we are not there already, where advocates of “intervention” in Libya should do the same.
Email the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
|February 21, 2015||
Evil Assad, Evil Gaddafi, Now Evil Putin: How the West Sells War (and Makes a Killing)
by Ghada Chehade , Information ClearingHouse
As the conflict in Ukraine persists and as peace talks between Putin and western European leaders (Merkel and Hollande) continue, it is important to look at the economic actors/interests that benefit from conflict and regime change in the Ukraine and how this compares to situations like Syria, Libya and Iraq. There are under-reported angles and interests to these conflicts that we hear little about in western mainstream media and that many do not look for because they are too caught up in political or human dramas. For instance, mainstream media spend so much time demonizing a single enemy, be it Putin in the Ukraine situation, Assad in Syria, Gaddafi in Libya or Saddam Hussein in Iraq, etc., that they do not also critically explore how external actors may exploit or bolster such conflicts and situations in order to secure politic-economic motives such as access to oil, making way for destructively conditional IMF loans, or quashing domestic policies that undermine foreign imperial and economic interests.
In western media, a dangerously false binary exists; wherein opposition to western imperial and corporate agendas for a particular region equals support for “evil men” like Putin or Gaddafi, for instance. This is part of what I call distraction politics or conflation politics, where opposition to neoliberal and imperial policies—such as IMF loans with austerity conditions that devastate and impoverish a nation, its people and its agriculture—is conflated with support for certain tyrants (as defined by the west).
In the case of regime change and concomitant conflict in Ukraine, western media is so fixated on the demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin over annexation of Crimea that little attention is being given to what JP Sottile calls “the corporate annexation of Ukraine.” Commenting on the economic plan for the country Sottile notes that, “for American companies like Monsanto, Cargill and Chevron, there’s a gold mine of profits to be made from agri-business and energy exploitation.”
Some European lawmakers view the Ukraine conflict as a smokescreen to allow the IMF/World Bank/European Bank for Reconstruction financed agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology business to steal Ukraine’s highly valued and coveted farmland. The distraction politics around the conflict in Ukraine—e.g., the west versus the evil Vladimir Putin—hides the reality of massive farmland seizures that will greatly enrich western agribusiness corporations while ushering in poisonous policies and practices such as GMO crops. With Yanukovych ousted, the new government in Ukraine has agreed to austerity reforms in exchange for IMF and World Bank “aid.” In addition to the devastating impact these reforms will have on poverty levels and Ukrainians’ standard of living, the austerity measures will also allow western agribusiness corporations to side-step Europe’s hitherto tight restrictions on GMO production. As Lendman explains Ukraine has long been considered Europe’s “bread basket.” “It’s rich dark soil is highly valued” and “ideal for growing grain.” With one third of Europe’s agricultural farmland, Ukraine’s agricultural potential is vast, making it an ideal target for western agribusiness giants that seek to amass massive economic wealth through altering and poisoning the food supply of the region. For many analysts these economic prospects underlie the Ukraine conflict.
This is somewhat reminiscent of the economic motives for the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the “war on terror.” It is now widely known that the Bush administration lied about Saddam Hussein—the US’s former ally and partner in (war) crime turned public enemy number one—having weapons of mass destruction in order to have a pretext to invade the country. As I explain in an upcoming book, the motives for war on Iraq were overwhelmingly economic, with US mega-corporations winning massive contracts—largely paid for by US tax payers—to “rebuild” a country (i.e., infrastructure, privatizations of public services, etc) the US military had just destroyed. In addition to development contracts, massive profits were made by US oil and oilfield services firms such as Halliburton and Chevron. Halliburton alone, which was once CEO-ed by none other than former vice president Dick Cheney, reportedly made $39.5 billion on the Iraq War.
Similarly, NATO’s involvement in Libya was largely for economic reasons. Like Saddam, Gaddafi was an ally—and former foe—of the west that fell back out of favour before the 2011 rebellion against him. While the US hypocritically claimed that NATO’s involvement in Libya was humanitarian, many analysts feel it had more to do with oil and protecting the global monetary system. Indeed, as Newman explains, Gaddafi’s regime went from a “a model” and an “important ally” of the west to an enemy and target of regime change in a period of just a few years. This sudden shift in popularity may have something to do with Gaddafi’s plan “to quit selling Libyan oil in U.S. dollars — a plan that would be “especially devastating for the U.S. economy and the American dollar.”
Similarly, is has been noted that the plan for intervention in Syria was/is fueled by oil interests, not humanitarian concerns. In his comprehensive analysis of the situation, Nafeez Ahmed explains that violence and the killing of civilians—by either side of the conflict—is “being exploited for narrow geopolitical competition to control Mideast oil” and gas pipelines. His report draws on numerous official sources, including leaked government documents, retired NATO officials and former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, to demonstrate how the situation in Syria is tied to long-standing western desires to secure control over Middle East oil and pipelines, with the US-UK training Syrian opposition forces since 2011 in order to elicit collapse of the Syrian regime “from within.”
While a western oil grab is a major factor in Iraq, Libya and Syria (in addition to protecting the dollar and European banks, in the case of Libya), in Ukraine it is largely about land grabs and western agribusiness’ GMO plans—ushered in through a $17 billion conditional IMF loan—for the rich and fertile soil of the country. It is interesting to note, as Joyce Nelson of the Ecologist does, that in late 2013, then president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, rejected a European Union association agreement tied to a $17 billion IMF loan, opting instead for a Russian aid package worth $15 billion plus a discount on Russian natural gas. As Nelson explains, “his decision was a major factor in the ensuing deadly protests that led to his ouster from office in February 2014 and the ongoing crisis.” This means that the present-day IMF loan—and its voracious economic conditions—was on the table before the ouster of former president Yanukovych, and that regime change in the country conveniently made it possible for the loan to take hold.
In addition to opening up Ukraine’s rich farmland to western agribusiness giants and GMO production, IMF loans typically come with strict economic restructuring conditions in the form of structural adjustment programs (SAPs). These programs essentially force the borrowing nation to restructure its economy by cutting public spending and subsidies in areas such as employment, income support, health and education as well as privatizing (previously accessible) services such as health. If these IMF conditions are applied in Ukraine, it will devastate and impoverish the country.
Such important politico-economic issues and agendas in Ukraine are rarely covered at length, if at all, in western mainstream media. As the conflict in Ukraine continues and as western mainstream media focus mainly on the human and political dramas of the conflict and the Minsk 2 ceasefire agreement, one can only hope the people of Ukraine will not suffer the same long-term political and economic fate as the people of Iraq, Syria or Libya.
|February 8, 2015||
War Is The Failure Of Humanity
by Gary Corseri , Countercurrents
There are no “good” wars!
Despite what Tom Brokaw writes, there was no “greatest generation” that fought World War II. (IMO, the generation of the 60s, that protested the Vietnam War, was far more aware, and, in that sense, “greater.”)
Every war is a failure—of leadership; common sense; “policy”; concepts of “manhood” or “courage”; of “loyalty” and “patriotism; of imagination.
Despite what the court historians like Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss, ... propagate on PBS, etc., there are no great leaders—Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt, Wilson—who agonize over the best ways to conduct warfare and invariably choose what’s best for their nations… and prevail.
Every war is a failure of empathy, a triumph of dehumanization: we cannot identify with our enemy. He (and, increasingly, she) is “barbaric,” “an animal,” “savage.” (“They” rape, pillage, torture, brainwash—even their kids. “We,” the techno-wizards of the centuries, would never stoop that low!) Every war represents a failure of our species to free itself from the shackles of expansionism, greed, colonization, exploitation, ignorance and violence. Every war is a failure of humanity.
There are no good wars, but there are an abundance of bad “peace treaties.” This should surprise no one since the men—mostly men—who write and sign the treaties are basically the same ones who prosecute the wars. The most infamous of “peace treaties,” perhaps, was the Versailles Treaty that ended the “Great War,” (or—take your pick—“The War to End All Wars”), raging yesterday—i.e., a mere 100 years ago. In various ways, the Versailles Treaty merely provided a brief hiatus between Great War I and Even Greater Great War II—followed by all the sputtering cataclysms we’ve “enjoyed” ever since.
Americans have been “sold” on war since our colonial days. We were happy to help our Mother Country—the British Empire—fight the French Empire during the so-called “French and Indian War” (1754-1763). We were even happier to turn on our “Mother Country” and ally with our former enemies during our so-called “War of Independence.” Most Americans know as much about our Revolutionary War as they know about the wars and “revolutions” now devastating the Middle East. (I put a lot in quotes these days to signify that things are seldom what they’re called. Defense Secretary McNamara deemed his own and his country’s confusion about the Vietnam War a result of the “fog of war.” Today, we might talk about the “fog of memes.”)
If you’re a “war-baby” or younger, you’ve grown up with a fog of memes. Coca-Cola: “It’s the real thing.” “America, the Beautiful.” “The Red Menace.” “The Yellow Peril.” “We must fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” Madison Avenue. TV (“the guest in the living room”… who took over the living room and everything else—often with guns!). “The American Dream.” Davy Crockett—“king of the wild frontier.” The New Deal. The Fair Deal. The New Frontier. Reaganomics. The Cold War. Blah, blah, blah.
When the French and Indian War ended in 1763, the population of the 13 American colonies was 1.6 million—almost 1/3 of whom were black slaves. The figure does not include “Indians”—who were deemed “savages” in the US Declaration of Independence—only worth mentioning derogatively. By the time the “Revolution” began, some 13 years later, the population had swelled to 2.9 million—an extraordinary increase of 50 percent –the greatest percentage increase in American history! Most of these newcomers were English, some were wealthy Scotsmen, a fair number were Germans. Moravians and other strange sects came seeking religious freedom. Many sought to establish themselves in the opening western territories of the colonies—i.e., the “Indian” territories!
Most Americans don’t know the extent to which “westward expansion” played a major role in our “Revolution.” It was, in fact, a Civil War as much as a Revolution, with more liberal (expansionist) Whigs against more conservative (non-expansionist) Torries to begin with, soon replaced by “Patriots” vs. “Loyalists.” It was also a generational war: most of the “patriots” in Washington’s Continental Army or the various militia groups were teenage boys who were “third wheels” on unproductive farms, or could not be apprenticed in the burgeoning “cities” of the time; they had nothing better to do and they sought a pay-check (usually delayed or cancelled), food and provisions, and “adventure.” Most of the Loyalists were older men and women of some property, with established means of support. The “Indians” were caught in the middle!
“Indians” were Cherokees, Choctaw, Shawnee, Oneida, Tuscarora, Mohicans, Mohawks, Iroquois, Chickamauga and others—poetic names lost to history; hardly worth mentioning in the stories of the “great men,” the “founding fathers.” Both Loyalists and Patriots solicited the support of the Indian tribes: they bribed the chiefs; threatened, ambushed, killed, imprisoned the “braves,” the older men and women. And the various tribes took sides; allied with one group of whites or the other according to who offered the best bribes, or threatened the most. When formerly friendly tribes attacked each other at the behest of the whites, scalps were taken and a circle of vengeance was created. The biggest losers of the American Revolution were not the Loyalists and the British, but the Indians, whose tribes were scattered, whose land was confiscated despite all the “treaties” made with the manipulative, deceptive whites on one side or the other.
The names we hear now are also poetic: Sunni, Shiite, Kurds, Syrians, Palestinians, Gazans, Iranian, Persian, Iraqi, Egyptian, Ukrainian. The wars fought in North America centuries ago were proxy wars between the French and British Empires. Wars fought now are proxy wars and limited total wars between the Global Empire (US, Britain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the EU) and those who resist its hegemony—chiefly, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Eastern Ukraine—and the tribal groups on the ground—the Islamic State (or ISIL or Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda in Iraq or Yemen or whatever the designation of the moment). What should be clear is that the supposed reasons for the conflict are strands in a complex tapestry.
Individuals rarely rise above the prejudices of their tribe, rarely perceive beyond the tribal framing. This was true in ancient Israel and it is true in contemporary America. Tribes are organized to maintain the power structure of those at the top. A pilot is burned alive by ISIL—a horrendous crime that leads to the immediate execution of prisoners in Jordan and a pledge of “revenge” from the king of Jordan.
Torture begets torture. The US sanctions torture to end the “War on Terror.” Isn’t torture, terror? Where does it end, where does it begin?
One wonders: how many civilians have been burned alive by illegal white phosphorous weapons during Israel’s recent wars in Gaza?
For that matter: how many civilians of a prostrate, eager-to-surrender Japan were burned alive when bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—during what was surely the worst 3-day period in the history of warfare on our weeping Mother Earth? (Hundreds of thousands died immediately and in the aftermath of the years.)
So… every war is a failure of humanity—a triumph of prejudices and ignorance; the innocents caught in the vises and machinations of the more clever, the more manipulative, the more immoral; the more “savage.”
As Pete Seeger used to sing, “When will we ever learn?”
Gary Corseri has published 2 novels, 2 collections of poetry, a literary anthology (edited) and articles, fiction and poems at Countercurrents, Pressenza, CounterPunch, Veterans News Now, The New York Times, Village Voice and hundreds of periodicals and websites worldwide. His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. He has taught in US public schools and prisons and in US and Japanese universities. Contact: email@example.com.
|February 11, 2015||
Terrorism: Ultimate Weapon Of The Global Elite
by Robert J. Burrowes , Countercurrents
The usual definition of a 'terrorist' is simple: a person who uses violence in the pursuit of a political objective.
By this definition, the two major categories of terrorist are those political leaders who perpetrate state terror by attacking other countries (ranging from launching a war, perhaps following a false flag operation, to conducting a drone strike) – see the classic book 'The Real Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda'
http://www.amazon.com/The-Real-Terror-Network-Propaganda/dp/0896081346 – and those political leaders who use military violence in defense of a political objective. For insight into the damaged psychology of violent political leaders, see 'Understanding Obama and other People Who Kill'
http://www.countercurrents.org/burrowes070513.htm For much greater detail, see 'Why Violence?'
However, the narrower Western public perception of a 'terrorist' is someone who attacks civilian targets usually, but not always, in the West (that is, far away from any war zone). This is why US drone strikes on civilians in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, for example, do not attract similar condemnation. Nor is there any condemnation of the Western use of terrorist groups as proxies in the war against the Syrian government. Consequently, groups like al Qaeda, Islamic State, al-Shabab and Boko Haram are labelled 'terrorist', essentially because they are presented as targeting and attacking 'our' civilians (or, as in the case of the girls kidnapped in Nigeria in 2014, ones with whom we are allowed to identify).
In his extensive research in the discipline of critical terrorism studies, Professor Richard Jackson recently concluded that 'every major terrorist attack on Western targets since 2001, including the attacks in Bali, Madrid, London and Boston, has been claimed by the perpetrators to be revenge for Western military intervention in the Middle East. Even the beheadings of Western hostages were justified by Islamic State captors as a response to US bombing. In fact, every major academic study of the past ten years has confirmed that Western military intervention and its policies in the Middle East, including support for the state of Israel, is the primary motivation for anti-Western terrorist attacks. In 1996, a major study by the CATO Institute concluded that U.S. military intervention overseas was the primary driver of anti-American terrorism. The Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism has drawn the same fundamental conclusion.'
Professor Jackson goes on to say 'There is plenty of good research and information which could help to make reasonable and effective policies'. But, as Professor Jackson also knows, we would be naïve to believe that Western elites have any interest in such policies. And here's why.
Terrorism is the global elite's ultimate weapon and a primary instrument for achieving its policies. That is, terrorism enables the elite to manipulate geostrategic events in order to extend and consolidate its political, economic and social control over national societies and their resources. Here's how it works.
Western elites and their allies wage war, in one form or another, on countries in other parts of the world (the Middle East and Africa being the preferred targets at the moment) specifically in order to induce a violent retaliation, including by groups which are secretly supported, materially and militarily, by these elites. See, for example, 'A Shameless Movement: Boko Haram and the Politics of Terror'
Elites also conduct false flag operations, such as 9/11 – see, for example, 'The Destruction of the World Trade Center: Why the Official Account of 911 Cannot Be True' http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=32392
– and the attack on Charlie Hebdo – see, for example, 'Charlie Hebdo Massacre: Another Staged Event to Incite War and Destroy Freedom?'
http://www.veteransnewsnow.com/2015/01/11/514231charlie-hebdo-massacre-another-staged-event-to-incite-war-and-destroy-freedom/ – to provoke public outrage. They then use the public outrage generated by these retaliations and the false flag operations to justify the continuation of their military attacks. This enables them to expand elite control both in the regions under attack and also domestically.
By harping on the 'threat of terrorism' to scare domestic populations, Western elites and their allies are able to maintain their perpetual war in pursuit of control of essential diminishing natural resources – particularly fossil fuels, strategic minerals and water – while increasing their social control of domestic populations through increasingly repressive domestic legislation that guts human rights and civil liberties, including those in relation to dissent, while increasing the powers of 'intelligence' services and the police as they consolidate the surveillance state. See, for example, 'How Australia just became a "national security state"'
Needless to say, the elite makes good use of its paid agents in academia, think tanks, the corporate media and elsewhere to make sure that you are kept carefully misinformed and told what to think and how to react.
If you are inclined to resist the elite use of terror against the rest of us, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of 'The People's Charter to Create a Nonviolent World'
Terrorism is intended to frighten and kill fellow human beings. Those who conduct terrorism and those who endorse it are badly psychologically damaged.
Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of 'Why Violence?' http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is at
|February 11, 2015||
Quick Action Is Needed To Save The Long-Term Future
by John Scales Avery , Countercurrents
Several long-term threats face human civilization and the biosphere. But the window of opportunity for averting catastrophe is not long. If we do not act promptly, it will be too late.
It is a characteristic of human nature to be more concerned about dangers that affect us today or in the very near future than about what will happen hundreds or thousands of years from now. In particular, economists and politicians tend to be extremely short-sighted.
Most economists deliberately limit their time-horizon to a few decades. Their reason for doing so is their cult-like quasi-religious devotion to the mantra of growth. This is closely connected with the fact that our fractional-reserve banking system is stable only as long as the economy is growing. But never-ending, resource-using, pollution-producing industrial growth on a finite planet is a logical impossibility. To be truly sustainable in the long term, a process must be cyclic. It cannot have sources, because in the long run they will be exhausted; nor can it have sinks, because in the long run, they will be overfilled.
To avoid the logical contradictions inherent in the concept of never-ending growth, economists say, “We are practical people. We are only concerned with the next few decades. Prediction of the long-term future is too speculative.” Politicians do not dare to challenge the economists or the associated corporate and banking oligarchy. Furthermore, their main concern may be the next election, so their time-horizon is often even shorter than that of the economists.
But what are the long-term dangers that require rapid action? The first of these is the danger of catastrophic climate change. Scientists are unanimous in warning us that unless we very rapidly reduce CO2 emissions, we risk passing a tipping point beyond which we will be powerless to prevent uncontrollable global warming. We risk a human-produced extinction event comparable to the Permian-Triasic thermal maximum, during which 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrates became extinct.
The excellent videos of Thom Hartmann and his co-workers tell us very clearly a fact of which the scientific community is very conscious, but which the mass media refuse to discuss. The fact is this:
Arctic seas are warming very rapidly, and they will soon be free of ice in the summers. The warming of Arctic seas and tundra threatens to release vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere by melting methane hydrates. This in turn threatens to warm the remainder of the world so much that methane hydrates in all offshore deposits will be destabilized. If this happens, the result will be a major extinction event, which will threaten not only human civilization, but also much of the biosphere.
The worrying thing about the threat of an out-of-control methane hydrate feedback loop is that the quantity of methane hydrates is so vast. There are roughly 10,000 gigatons. of these ice-like crystals on ocean floors, an amount of carbon greater than all of the world's deposits of fossil fuels. To put this huge quantity into perspective, we can remember that the total amount of carbon that humans have released into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution is only 337 gigatons. Methane hydrates or clathrates are stable at ordinary temperatures, but if oceans warm, they will melt, releasing the potent greenhouse gas methane.
In 2012, the World Bank issued a report warning that without quick action to curb CO2 emissions, global warming is likely to reach 4 degrees C during the 21st century. This is dangerously close to the temperature which initiated the Permian-Triassic extinction event: 6 degrees C above normal.
Although climate change is already starting to do appreciable damage in the form of hurricanes, floods and droughts, its worst effects will come in hundreds or thousands of years, if action is not taken within a few decades. The complete melting of the Greenland icecap would raise ocean levels by 7 meters, and the melting of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet would add a further 7 meters, drowning coastal cities and important agricultural land throughout the world; but these events would take several centuries to happen.
The Permian Mass Extinction, which is thought to have been caused by the worldwide destabilization of methane hydrate crystals on ocean floors, occurred roughly 80,000 years after the massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia that initiated it. So these are long-term threats. But actions to prevent climatic disaster must be taken quickly.
Before irreversible climatic feed-back loops take over, making human action useless, we must replace fossil fuels completely by renewable energy. This is by no means a hopeless task. The technology needed is already in place, and many forms of renewable energy are able to compete in price with energy from fossil fuels. Renewables now supply 19 percent of our total global energy consumption, and wind energy, for example, is growing at the rate of 30 percent per year. Because of the remarkable properties of exponential growth, it is entirely possible for us to replace fossil fuels by renewables quickly enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. The main obstacle to be overcome is the greed of the fossil fuel industries. They will use any method, fair or foul, to cash in on the vast deposits of fossil fuels which they own.
Although the contrast between potentially catastrophic dangers and the quick actions needed to prevent them is most striking when we are discussing climate change, we can obtain valuable insights into other dangers by thinking of the long-term future: Linked to climate change, exhaustion of non-renewable resources, environmental degradation and population growth, is the long-term threat of a very widespread global famine.
As climate change becomes more pronounced, heat and aridity will reduce the productivity of many regions of the world that presently supply much of our grain, while in other regions, floods will damage food production. As glaciers in the Himalayas and the Andes melt, China, India, Viet Nam and parts of South America will be deprived of their summer water supplies. As sea levels rise, valuable rice-producing lands will be drowned. As the prices of oil and gas become prohibitively high, modern petroleum-dependent agriculture will be dealt a severe blow. As populations continue to increase, the risk of severe famine will grow.
Rapid actions are needed to prevent a catastrophic future famine: The steps towards preventing drastic climate change, discussed above, must be taken with a sense of urgency. Furthermore, urgent efforts must be made to prevent loss of topsoil, salanation and desertification of agricultural land. Finally, global population must be stabilized, and later reduced.
The danger of nuclear war also becomes clearer when we look at far ahead. Suppose that each year there is a certain finite chance of a nuclear catastrophe, let us say 2 percent. Then in a century the chance of survival will be 13.5 percent, and in two centuries, 1.8 percent, in three centuries, 0.25 percent, in 4 centuries, there would only be a 0.034 percent chance of survival and so on. Over many centuries, the chance of survival would shrink almost to zero.
Thus by looking at the long-term future, we can clearly see that if nuclear weapons are not entirely eliminated, civilization will not survive. Rapid actions are also needed to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. Threats of wars that could potentially escalate into nuclear conflicts are present today, both in the Middle East and in the war that has been created by the US-sponsored coup in Ukraine. The leaders of the European Union are starting to realize the danger and come to their senses, but civil society throughout the world must make its will felt.
All of us have a duty to act quickly, with dedication and urgency. We must save the long-term future of our beautiful planet, not only for ourselves, and our children and grandchildren, but also for all future generations of humans, and for the dazzlingly diversity of plants and animals with which we share the gift of life.
|February 22, 2015||
Biochemical Targets Of Plant Bioactive Compounds: Moral & Utilitarian Reasons To Stop Ecocide, Speciescide, Omnicide & Terracide
by Dr Gideon Polya , Countercurrents
Man is causing mass extinction of species and massive ecosystem destruction in our present Anthropocene Era. However in addition to aesthetic arguments about respect for irreplaceable complexity, there is a powerful utilitarian argument for preserving natural ecosystems in that they contain a wealth of bioactive plant compounds of potential pharmaceutical utility as documented in my huge 860-page book “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds” .
Kew Royal Botanic Gardens comments thus on the threat to plant diversity: “One of the most challenging questions facing scientists is 'how many species are there in the world?'… Using expert analysis, scientists from Kew generated a more accurate estimate of 352,000 in a paper published in 2008. However, many flowering plant groups have yet to be assessed and the true number is likely to be just over 400,000. New plant species continue to be discovered, too, while others are under threat of extinction… We know that 22% of plant species already face the threat of extinction. Research also tells us that it is the impact of human actions and activity that poses the greatest threat to plant diversity today. A global analysis of extinction risk for the world's plants conducted by Kew has revealed that the world's plants are as threatened as mammals, with one in five of the world's plant species threatened with extinction. In some areas and in certain groups of plants the figure is much higher. For example half of Madagascar's 188 palm species were discovered by Kew experts in the last 20 years, and 90% of these are threatened with extinction” .
The Guardian records the current plant and animal diversity (2010): “As well as the likely 400,000-odd flowering plants, there are thought to be 15,000 species of ferns and their allies, 1,000 gymnosperms such as conifers, and 23,000 mosses and allies making up the plant kingdom. For comparison there are more than 1 million species of insects listed by science, 28,000 living species of fish, 10,000 birds and 5,400 mammals” .
Mycologists David Hawksworth and Amy Rossman have commented on fungal diversity (1997): “The hypothesis that there are 1.5 million fungal species on Earth, of which only about 70,000 are described, implies that 1.43 million remain undescribed. The recognition that many new species have yet to be found is of fundamental importance to plant pathologists, agronomists, and plant regulatory officials, among others, who continue to encounter diseases caused by previously unknown or understudied fungi. Unexplored habitats with their arsenal of unknown fungi are also of interest to those searching for novel organisms for use in biological control or for their pharmaceutical attributes. This paper presents data on the expected numbers of fungi in some relatively unexplored habitats, such as tropical forests, and those obligately associated with plants, lichens, and insects” . Plants , animals and fungi are Eukaryotes whereas bacteria are Prokaryotes. Estimates of the number of bacterial species range from 5 million to 1 billion .
However burgeoning human population, and neoliberal greed have had a huge impact on Nature. Biologists Dr Phillip Levin and Dr Donald Levin (2002): “The numbers are grim: Some 2,000 species of Pacific Island birds (about 15 percent of the world total) have gone extinct since human colonization. Roughly 20 of the 297 known mussel and clam species and 40 of about 950 fishes have perished in North America in the past century. On average, one extinction happens somewhere on earth every 20 minutes. Ecologists estimate that half of all living bird and mammal species will be gone within 200 or 300 years. Although crude and occasionally controversial, such statistics illustrate the extent of the current upheaval, which spans the globe and affects a broad array of plants and animals… The current losses are, however, exceptional. Rates of extinction appear now to be 100 to 1,000 times greater than background levels, qualifying the present as an era of "mass extinction"” .
Civilized people respect beauty and irreplaceable complexity. They are appalled when works of art are stolen, damaged or destroyed. However, while modern technology means that drawings, paintings and even large sculptures are essentially replaceable, the remorseless exigencies of economic growth are destroying things that we cannot reproduce, unique species and the complex ecosystems in which they live. This mass destruction of ecocsystems (ecocide) and species (speciescide) is now compounded by worsening, man-made climate change through industrial and agricultural generation of greenhouse gas (GHGs). Thus, for example, huge forest ecosystems and fisheries are now moving towards the poles. Indeed the international consensus basis of the latest IPCC Summary for Policymakers (2014) has resulted in a report that softens the present acute seriousness of unaddressed man-made climate change. Thus the IPCC Summary argues for a limitation of temperature rise to 2oC through limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution of the atmosphere to 450 ppm CO2-equivalent but hard evidence says that we have already reached 478 ppm CO2 -equivalent, that 2oC is dangerous and essentially inevitable, and that the world will use up its terminal Carbon Budget for a 75% chance of avoiding plus 2oC within about 4 years .
Powerful utilitarian, economic arguments have been advanced for the preservation of what remains of wild nature. Thus Dr Andrew Balmford and numerous colleagues (2002): “On the eve of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, it is timely to assess progress over the 10 years since its predecessor in Rio de Janeiro. Loss and degradation of remaining natural habitats has continued largely unabated. However, evidence has been accumulating that such systems generate marked economic benefits, which the available data suggest exceed those obtained from continued habitat conversion. We estimate that the overall benefit:cost ratio of an effective global program for the conservation of remaining wild nature is at least 100:1” . The economic benefits from preserving what remains of wild nature include contentment, recreation, tourism, sustainable economic development, and sustenance of insect pollinators crucial for agriculture. However, as briefly outlined below, a major utilitarian argument for preservation of remaining ecosystems relates to huge potential chemical resources for lead compounds for pharmaceutical development.
Plants contain secondary metabolites that are not involved in the primary plant processes of plant structure, metabolism and reproduction but are elaborated for defence against plant-eating organisms such as animals and fungi (eukaryotes) and bacteria (prokaryotes). Indeed many animals, fungi and bacteria can also generate bioactive secondary metabolites. Many of the plant secondary metabolites are exploited by humans to give taste to food, in herbal medicines, as perfumes, and for psychoactive properties.
The diversity of secondary metabolites expands greatly when they can be covalently modified in vivo by addition of sugars (glycosylation) or other chemical compounds. In the case of bioactive proteins (amino acid polymers or polypeptides) the diversity expands greatly through evolution of different functional sequences, gene duplication within a species and the possibilities of covalent modification in vivo (e.g. by glycosylation, acylation and proteolytic processing).
The total number of unique bioactive secondary metabolites that could be potentially isolated from the circa 3 million eukaryotes (plant, fungi and animals) could be of the order of millions. Of this huge diversity of bioactive compounds, thousands have already been isolated, chemically characterized and shown to have biochemical targets e.g. particular proteins, notably receptors and specific enzymes (protein catalysts crucial for cellular function) . The potential chemical complexity of potential use to Humanity is made even greater if such bioactive compounds are used as “lead compounds” for the chemical synthesis or derivatizing (semi-synthesis) to yield novel derivatives with useful pharmacological properties.
Thus, for example, according to WHO: “About 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world's population – are at risk of malaria. In 2013, there were about 198 million malaria cases (with an uncertainty range of 124 million to 283 million) and an estimated 584 000 malaria deaths” . The natural product artemisinin (quinghaosu) from the plant Artemisia annua (Asteraceae) is of major importance as an antimalarial drug and numerous artemisinin analogues with anti-malarial activity have now been synthesized and studied .
Unique ecosystems and their constituent organisms must not be destroyed for 3 fundamental kinds of reasons:
(1) aesthetic reasons that we should not destroy unique ecosystems (ecocide) and the plant, animal, fungal, and bacterial species within them (speciescide) – civilized people cannot destroy what they cannot replace;
(2) utilitarian reasons based on the economic value of what remains of wild Nature  and particularly potential pharmacological resources within such ecosystems – thus thousands of chemical compounds have been isolated from plants and other organisms and shown to have specific biochemical targets with potential pharmaceutical applicability ; and
(3) intergenerational justice and intergenerational equity reasons – we are destroying the irreplaceable biological complexity of the Earth and in doing so are robbing future generations of their birthright.
All civilized people – and especially young people [12-14] – must take action against the remorseless, neoliberal omnicide and terracide by (a) informing everyone they can, and (b) applying Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all people, politicians, parties, companies, corporations and countries disproportionately involved in this terminal environmental vandalism. We are badly running out of time to stop this relentless, neoliberal speciescide, ecocide, omnicide and terracide.
|February 12, 2015||
Keystone XL, Cold War 2.0, And The GOP Vision For 2016
by Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch.com, Countercurrents
How Energy Coordination on One Continent Could Bring the Planet to Its Knees.
It's a ritual long familiar to observers of American politics: presidential hopefuls with limited international experience travel to foreign lands and deliver speeches designed to showcase their grasp of foreign affairs. Typically, such escapades involve trips to major European capitals or active war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, however, has broken this mold. Before his recent jaunt to London and into the thickets of American vaccination politics, he chose two surprising destinations for his first trips abroad as a potential Republican candidate. No, not Kabul or Baghdad or even Paris, but Mexico City and Alberta, Canada. And rather than launch into discussions of immigration, terrorism, or the other usual Republican foreign policy topics, he focused on his own top priority: integrating Canada and Mexico into a U.S.-led “North American energy renaissance.”
By accelerating the exploitation of fossil fuels across the continent, reducing governmental oversight of drilling operations in all three countries, and building more cross-border pipelines like the Keystone XL, Christie explained, all three countries would be guaranteed dramatic economic growth. “In North America, we have resources waiting to be tapped,” he assured business leaders in Mexico City. “What is required is the vision to maximize our growth, the political will to unlock our potential, and the understanding that working together on strategic priorities... is the path to a better life.”
At first glance, Christie's blueprint for his North American energy renaissance seems to be a familiar enough amalgam of common Republican tropes: support for that Keystone XL pipeline slated to bring Canadian tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, along with unbridled energy production everywhere; opposition to excessive governmental regulation; free trade… well, you know the mantra. But don't be fooled. Something far grander -- and more sinister -- is being proposed. It's nothing less than a plan to convert Canada and Mexico into energy colonies of the United States, while creating a North American power bloc capable of aggressively taking on Russia, China, and other foreign challengers.
This outlook -- call it North Americanism -- is hardly unique to Christie. It pervades the thinking of top Republican leaders and puts their otherwise almost inexplicably ardent support of Keystone XL in a new light. As most analysts now concede, that pipeline will do little to generate long-term jobs or promote U.S. energy independence. (Much of the tar sands oil it's designed to carry will be refined in the U.S., but exported elsewhere). In fact, with oil prices plunging globally, it looks ever more like a white elephant of a project, yet it remains the Republican majority's top legislative priority. The reason: it is the concrete manifestation of Christie-style North American energy integration, and for that reason is considered sacred by Republican proponents of North Americanism. “This is not about sending ‘your oil' across ‘our land,'” Christie insisted in Calgary. “It's about maximizing the benefits of North America's natural resources for everybody.”
While North American energy integration may, in part, appeal to Republicans for the way it would enrich major U.S. oil companies, pipeline firms, and some energy-industry workers -- the “everybody” in Christie's remarks -- its real allure lies in the way they believe it will buttress the more hawkish and militarized foreign policy that so many in the GOP now favor. By boosting fossil fuel production in North America, Keystone's backers claim, the U.S. will be less dependent on imports from the Middle East and so in a stronger position to combat Russia, Iran, ISIS, and other foreign challengers.
Authorization for Keystone XL and related energy infrastructure is important “not just for economic development, not just for jobs and growth,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas declared in January, “but also for the enormous geopolitical advantages that it will present to the United States [by strengthening] our hands against those who would be enemies of America.”
Brace yourself. This combination of fossil fuel optimization and North American solidarity against a potentially hostile world is destined to become the core of the Republican economic and national security platforms in the 2016 presidential election. It will similarly govern action in Congress over the next two years. So, if you want to understand the dynamics of contemporary American politics, it's crucial to grasp the new Republican vision of an energy-saturated North America.
Exxon's Neo-Imperial Vision
Republican-style North Americanism is, in fact, an amalgam of two intersecting urges. The first of them involves a quest by U.S.-based giant oil companies to gain greater access to the oil and natural gas reserves of Canada and Mexico; the second, a drive by neoconservatives and national security hawks in Washington to rev up Cold War 2.0, while stepping up combat with both Iran and the Islamic State.
Let's start with the altered world energy order once dominated by privately owned giants like BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil -- a.k.a. the international oil companies, or IOCs. For most of the twentieth century, these companies controlled a majority of the world's oil and gas reserves and so almost completely dominated the global trade in hydrocarbons. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, many of their overseas assets were systematicallyappropriated by governments in oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Venezuela, and placed under the control of state-owned, national oil companies, or NOCs. In response, the IOCs sought to increase their production from reserves in Canada and the U.S., as well as in Mexico, which has its own state-owned oil company but was facing declining output. This led those big companies to believe that, in the long run, Mexico would be forced to open its doors to greater foreign involvement.
Their strategy proved widely successful in the U.S., where the application of new technologies, including hydro-fracking, horizontal drilling, and deepwater drilling, has led to spectacular increases in oil and gas output. According to the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy, U.S. field production of crude oil jumped from five million barrels per day in 2008 to 8.6 million barrels in the third quarter of 2014. Over the same period, the production of natural gas similarly rose from 21.1 to 25.7 trillion cubic feet. The current plunge in oil prices is expected to slow the pace of U.S. drilling, but not prevent further gains.
Stepped-up investment by the big energy companies led to a comparable increase in production from Canada's tar sands (also called oil sands). According to BP, Canadian crude output climbed from 3.2 million barrels per day in 2008 to nearly 4.0 million barrels by the end of 2013, thanks purely to those tar sands. But the producers of all this added oil have run into a major obstacle to its successful commercialization: there are not enough pipelines to transport this particularly carbon-dense crude to refineries in the United States, where it can be processed into usable petroleum products. Hence, the need for additional pipelines, beginning with Keystone XL. Indeed, with the recent fall in oil prices, Keystone has become even more important, as other modes of transport, including delivery by rail, are far more costly.
Mexico presents a different set of obstacles. Under the Mexican Constitution, all hydrocarbon deposits are the property of the Mexican people and their exploitation is reserved solely for the state-owned company, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex). The country's expropriation of foreign oil assets on March 18, 1937, is considered a pillar of Mexican sovereignty and that day is still celebrated as a national holiday (Día de la Expropiación Petrolera). As a result, the only way the giant oil companies could gain access to Mexico's vast reserves of oil and gas would be if its leaders were willing to amendexisting laws to allow the involvement of foreign firms in the development of these assets.
In response to such obstacles, the major U.S.-based oil companies and their financial backers have developed a strategy to promote North American energy interdependence, while stressing the beneficial value of increased U.S. participation in Canada's and Mexico's energy industries and the elimination of barriers to cross-border pipelines and other transnational energy infrastructure.
Although oil company executives have rarely discussed such strategic planning in public, there was an exception. In 2012, before the Council on Foreign Relations, Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, gave its North American strategy an unusually candid airing. “Canada has a huge resource endowment,” he noted. “The United States has a huge resource endowment; Mexico has a huge resource endowment.” In that light, he suggested that the major U.S. energy firms coordinate the full-scale exploitation of all three countries' fossil fuels. “[If] we approach energy policy and energy security from a North American perspective, the resource base, the technologies that are available, and the like-minded policies that could be put in place could rapidly achieve that energy security that we have been in quest of for all of my career.”
Canada and the U.S., he pointed out then, were already moving to embrace such “like-minded policies,” but Mexico still had a long way to go. “We're hopeful,” he added, “that Mexico, as it continues its pathway to reforms around how it manages its own oil and natural gas resources... will open up opportunities for greater partnerships and collaborations [while] bringing technology to bear on the huge resources that Mexico has as well.”
The task, then, was simply to persuade the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. to harmonize their energy policies. As Tillerson explained, “It's my hope that at some point energy security can become a policy issue in our foreign policy discussions with Mexico, Canada, and the United States.” In this Big Oil view of how North America should work lay the foundations for the new Republican strategic vision that Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, and other presidential candidates for 2016 are going to turn into an overarching political mantra.
The New Cold War
Now, imagine a second river of energy exuberance flowing into Big Oil's strategic vision. This would be the reinvigorated Cold War stance of Republican hawks and neocons. Led by Senator John McCain (now chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee), these advocates for an ever more aggressive foreign/military policy are pushing the idea that a series of foreign adversaries -- Russia, China, Iran, and Islamic terrorists -- are ratcheting up the dangers for this country and that the Obama administration's response is woefully feeble.
The president's failure to effectively resist belligerent moves by Russia in the Crimea and Ukraine, McCain argues, has “fed a perception that the United States is weak,” and for figures like Russian President Vladimir Putin, “vacillation invites aggression.” Not only has the president's claimed policy weakness invited further assaults from Russia in Eurasia, but it has also “emboldened other aggressive actors -- from Chinese nationalists to al-Qaeda terrorists and Iranian theocrats.”
As McCain, other Senate and House war hawks, and their neocon allies see it, there is only one appropriate response to such threats: a vigorous counterattack, involving beefed-up support for NATO, copious arms deliveries to the Ukrainians, and increased defense expenditures at home. “When aggressive rulers or violent fanatics threaten our ideals [and] our interests,” McCain typically asserted last November, the country needs “not good intentions, or strong words, or a grand coalition, [but] the capability, credibility, and global reach of American hard power.”
While “hard power” may be the preferred response of such hawks, most do recognize that the direct use of military force by the United States in Ukraine and a number of other places is unlikely, even under a future Republican administration. Public fatigue over American wars in the Greater Middle East coupled with mounting budget woes and a lack of support from Washington's allies rules out such moves. This means another powerful form of pressure is needed -- and here's where energy enters the picture.
As McCain and his allies see it, an energy-based North Americanism could prove to be an effective tool in the new Cold War. Noting that many of Washington's NATO allies are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas and so -- it is claimed -- vulnerable to future political pressure from Moscow, they are, for instance, promoting the production of ever more natural gas via hydro-fracking to ship off to Europe in the form of liquefied natural gas(LNG). This, they insist, should be one of the country's top future priorities. “Today, the U.S. has the leverage to liberate our allies from Russia's stranglehold on the European natural gas market,” McCain and fellow Republican Senator John Hoeven wrote in July. All that is needed, they insist, is to eliminate government obstacles to drilling on federal lands and the approval of the construction of additional LNG export facilities.
The Republican Grand Strategy
This approach has been embraced by other senior Republican figures who see increased North American hydrocarbon output as the ideal response to Russian assertiveness. In other words, the two pillars of a new energy North Americanism -- enhanced collaboration with the big oil companies across the continent and reinvigorated Cold Warism -- are now being folded into a single Republican grand strategy. Nothing will prepare the West better to fight Russia or just about any other hostile power on the planet than the conversion of North America into a bastion of fossil fuel abundance.
This strange, chilling vision of an American (and global) future was succinctly described by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a remarkable Washington Post op-ed in March 2014. She essentially called for North America to flood the global energy market, causing a plunge in oil prices and bankrupting the Russians. “Putin is playing for the long haul, cleverly exploiting every opening he sees,” she wrote, but “Moscow is not immune from pressure.” Putin and Co. require high oil and gas prices to finance their aggressive activities, “and soon, North America's bounty of oil and gas will swamp Moscow's capacity.” By “authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline and championing natural gas exports,” she asserted, Washington would signal “that we intend to do exactly that.”
So now you know: approval of the Keystone XL pipeline isn't actually about jobs and the economy; it's about battling Vladimir Putin, the Iranian mullahs, and America's other adversaries. “One of the ways we fight back, one of the ways we push back is we take control of our own energy destiny,” saidSenator Hoeven on January 7th, when introducing legislation to authorize construction of that pipeline.
And that, it turns out, is just the beginning of the “benefits” that North Americanism will supposedly bring. Ultimately, the goals of this strategy are to perpetuate the dominance of fossil fuels in North America's energy mix and to enlist Canada and Mexico in a U.S.-led drive to ensure the continued dominance of the West in key regions of the world. Stay tuned: you'll be hearing a lot more about this ambitious strategy as the Republican presidential hopefuls begin making their campaign rounds.
Keep in mind, though, that this is potentially dangerous stuff at every level -- from the urge to ratchet up a conflict with Russia to the desire to produce and consume ever more North American fossil fuels (not exactly a surprising impulse given the Republicans' heavy reliance on campaign contributions from Big Energy). In the coming months, the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton's camp will, of course, attempt to counter this drive. Their efforts will, however, be undermined by their sympathy for many of its components. Obama, for instance, has boasted more than once of his success in increasing U.S. oil and gas production, while Clinton has repeatedly called for a more combative foreign policy. Nor has either of them yet come up with a grand strategy as seemingly broad and attractive as Republican North Americanism. If that plan is to be taken on seriously as the dangerous contrivance it is, it evidently will fall to others to do so.
This Republican vision, after all, rests on the desire of giant oil companies to eliminate government regulation and bring the energy industries of Canada and Mexico under their corporate sway. Were this to happen, it would sabotage efforts to curb carbon emissions from fossil fuels in a major way, while undermining the sovereignty of Canada and Mexico. In the process, the natural environment would suffer horribly as regulatory constraints against hazardous drilling practices would be eroded in all three countries. Stepped-up drilling, hydrofracking, and tar sands production would also result in the increased diversion of water to energy production, reducing supplies for farming while increasing the risk that leaking drilling fluids will contaminate drinking water and aquifers.
No less worrisome, the Republican strategy would result in a far more polarized and dangerous international environment, in which hopes for achieving any kind of peace in Ukraine, Syria, or elsewhere would disappear. The urge to convert North America into a unified garrison state under U.S. (energy) command would undoubtedly prompt similar initiatives abroad, with China moving ever closer to Russia and other blocs forming elsewhere.
In addition, those who seek to use energy as a tool of coercion should not be surprised to discover that they are inviting its use by hostile parties -- and in such conflicts the U.S. and its allies would not emerge unscathed. In other words, the shining Republican vision of a North American energy fortress will, in reality, prove to be a nightmare of environmental degradation and global conflict. Unfortunately, this may not be obvious by election season 2016, so watch out.
Crimea: Was It Seized By Russia, or Did Russia Block Its Seizure By The U.S.?
by Eric Zuesse, Countercurrents
Both before and after Crimea left Ukraine and joined Russia in a public referendum on 16 March 2014, the Gallup Organization polled Crimeans on behalf of the U.S. Government, and found them to be extremely pro-Russian and anti-American, and also anti-Ukrainian. (Neither poll was subsequently publicized, because the results of each were the opposite of what the sponsor had wished.) Both polls were done on behalf of the U.S. Government, in order to find Crimeans' attitudes toward the United States and toward Russia, and also toward Ukraine, not only before but also after the planned U.S. coup in Ukraine, which occurred in February 2014 but was actually kicked off on 20 November 2013, the day before Ukraine's democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych publicly announced that Ukraine had received a better economic offer from Russia's Eurasian Economic Community than from America's European Union. (The EEC subsequently became the Eurasian Economic Union, now that it was clear that Ukraine was going with the EU.) That decision by Yanukovych in favor of the EEC was mistakenly thought by him to be merely an economic one, and he didn't know the extent to which the U.S. Government had set up an operation to overthrow him if he didn't go along with the EU's offer. (If some of these basic historical facts don't come through from merely the wikipedia articles alone, that's because the CIA is among the organizations that edit wikipedia articles, and so wikipedia is unwittingly a political propaganda vehicle. It is especially used for propaganda by the CIA and FBI.)
More recently, a poll of Crimeans was issued on 4 February 2015, by the polling organization GfK, and paid for this time by the pro-American-Government Canadian Government, via its Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, and via Free Crimea, which is itself funded by the latter organization. However, the Canadian Government got no better news than the U.S. Government had gotten: 82% of Crimeans Fully endorse Crimea's having become part of Russia (of which it had been part between 1783 and 1954, and which the public there had never wanted to leave); 11% Mostly endorse it; 2% Mostly disapprove; 3% Don't know; and only 2% Fully disapprove. Or, to put it simply: 93% approve; 3% don't know, and 4% disapprove. This poll was publicly issued only in the polling organization's own report, which was made available only in Russian (the Ukrainian Government's main language for international business) and therefore not comprehensible to English-speakers. It was titled, ?????????-???????????? ?????????? ??????? ????? ???????????? ??????????? GfK Ukraine ?? ?????? ???????? or "SOCIO-POLITICAL SENTIMENTS IN CRIMEA: Research conducted by GfK Ukraine on the order of the company. On February 10th, an English-language article reported and summarized the poll's findings.
During the 16 March 2014 public referendum in Crimea, 96% voted to rejoin Russia. One question on the post-referendum, April 2014, U.S.-sponsored Gallup poll in Crimea, was headlined, Perceived Legitimacy of March 16 Crimean Referendum (on page 28 of the poll-report), and 82.8% of Crimeans agreed with the statement, The results of the referendum on Crimea's status likely reflect the views of most people here. 6.7% disagreed. According to the newer poll (4 February 2015), 96% were for annexation to Russia, and 4% were opposed, which happens to be exactly what the 16 March 2014 referendum had actually found to be the case. But, continuing now with the description of the April 2014 Gallup poll: its Views of Foreign Parties' Role in the Crisis Crimea (p. 25), showed 76.2% of Crimeans saying that the role of the U.S. was Mostly negative, and 2.8% saying the U.S. role was Mostly positive; while Crimeans' attitudes towards Russia were the exact opposite: 71.3% said Russia's role was Mostly positive, and 4.0% said it was Mostly negative.
An accurate reflection of the reason why Crimeans, during the lead-up to the referendum, were appalled by America's extremely violent and bloody takeover of the Ukrainian Government (as the EU itself had confirmed), was given on Crimean television shortly before the referendum, when a former criminal prosecutor in the Ukrainian Government, who lived and worked in Kiev and saw with her own eyes much of the violence but was not personally involved in the events, quit her office, and got in her car and drove back to her childhood home in Crimea, now unemployed, because she was so revulsed at what had happened to her country. On this call-in show, which was watched by many Ukrainians, she explained why she could no longer, as a lawyer and a supporter of the Ukrainian Constitution, support the Ukrainain Government that it was now an illegal Government. She closed her opening statement, just before taking the calls from people over the phone, by saying, Despite that our great politicians' who seized power by bloodshed, are now claiming that we don't have the right to decide our own future citizens of Crimea, you have every right in the world. Nobody is allowed to ururp power. She subsequently became a criminal prosecutor in the new Crimean government, enforcing now the Russian Constitution, in Crimea.
However, anyone who says that Russia seized Crimea, is clearly lying or else is fooled by people who are.
Here, then, are highlights from a typical Western news' report about Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, in the issue of TIME magazine (December 10th online, December 22nd issue on newsstands), headlining Vladimir Putin, The Imperialist," in which Putin was a runner-up as the Person of the Year a year when, actually, Obama overthrew Ukraine's Government and replaced it with one run by racist-fascist (or nazi) haters of Russia, who were setting up to yank the remaining years on Russia's lease of its crucial Black Sea Naval Base in Crimea, and the Crimeans were imminently fearing a Ukrainian invasion (the author was Simon Shuster):Here is an article about (and linking to) U.S. President Barack Obama's "National Security Strategy 2015, in which Obama uses the term aggression" 18 times, 17 of them referring to Russia. Obama never once cites a reason for appying that term; for example, unlike Simon Shuster, he doesn't even so much as mention Crimea.
Nothing was said about the Black Sea fleet, nor about any strategic issue. Nothing was provided in order to help readers understand what was happening. Readers' Cold-War buttons were being pushed; that is all. America's aristocracy despises its public, whom they merely manipulate and control.
And, here is the best video that has yet been issued on Obama's February 2014 coup, the coup that installed the Ukrainian regime that has been carrying out the ethnic cleansing operation, which Ukraine calls their Anti Terrorist Operation,' in the Donbass region, though it's really the anti-resident operation there.
That fate of ethnic cleansing or local genocide the fate which befell the residents of Ukraine's Donbass region, the region that's shown in dark purple in this election-map for the man whom Obama overthrew in February 2014 and which is the area that voted 90% for him is the fate that Crimeans were protected from when they rejoined Russia.
Russia's using its troops, who were permanently stationed in Crimea already and didn't need to invade' anything in order to protect the residents in Crimea so that they could hold their referendum in peace, is what blocked the seizure of Crimea by the newly installed Ukrainian regime.
The invader was the United States, in its typically sneaky post-1950 way: a coup d'etat. What Dwight Eisenhower's, Allen Dulles's, and Kermit Roosevelt's CIA operation had done to Iran in 1953, Barack Obama's and Victoria Nuland's operation did to Ukraine in 2014: a violent coup installing a far-right government in Obama's case, even a nazi government (and see this and this and this).That and the firebombings and other horrors that Washington's Brookings Institution think tank want U.S. taxpayers to finance yet more of in Donbass is what Russia protected Crimeans from.
The aggressor here is not Vladimir Putin; it is Barack Obama. All honest news media (such as and here are reporting that. For economic analysis and reporting on these and other events, here is an excellent general news source. (It autotranslates if viewed in google's chrome browser.) As for dishonest news' media, such as TIME and Fox News,' they serve a different purpose than truth; so, none of them will be listed here, where the only interest is truth.
PS: For further insights into the lying that is prevalent in the West regarding Crimea, Ukraine, and Russia, see this remarkably honest testimimony to the U.K. House of Lords' 20 February 2015 Committee report, The EU and Russia: before and beyond the crisis in Ukraine, linked there on p. 108 as RUS0012 and titled Irina Kirillova MBE Written evidence, in which that Cambridge university professor describes the profound disappointment of ordinary people she had encountered in Russia, as they saw the misrepresentations in the West regarding the situations in Russia, Ukraine and Crimea. Outside of the English-speaking world, and especially in the regions that are not controlled by the U.S., the fakery of journalism' in the English-speaking world is becoming shockingly more evident than it formerly was. As usual, however, the House of Lords' final report ignored these realities; and, throughout, it starts with the assumption that Russia is aggressive and that the West is merely responding to that. This professor's written testimony was thus ignored. Most of the other individuals in the Appendix 2: List of Witnesses were the Anglo-aristocracy's usual Russia-haters, such as Ian Bond, Director of Foreign Policy, Center for European Reform, saying that, The most important thing is that the EU, as a rules-based organisation, should follow a rules-based approach to Russia, as if that would be something alien to Russians. This type of bigoted condescenscion was rife throughout the report. If those people are as blind to evidence and science as they put themselves forth as being, they are dangerous in any governmental role; and to call the U.K. a democracy' is questionable, at best. Britain is an aristocracy, not a democracy. And the U.S. is at least as bad. In regards to the relationships between Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea, the West might be as bad as Ukraine, and should just quit the entire matter and try to start over from scratch, which means to let the nazis whom Obama placed into power there sink, not provide them with more weapons. Or, if more weapons are provided to them, then the rest of the West should issue sanctions against any nation that does that. Under liars and fools the West is drifting towards a totally unwarranted nuclear conflict with Russia.
|February 21, 2015||
Robert Reich: Obama Shouldn't Just Halt the Keystone Pipeline -- He Should Toss It in the Trash
by Robert Reich, RobertReich.org, AlterNet
The President says he’ll veto the Keystone XL pipeline. He should do more, and put an end to the project altogether. He has the authority. Oil from Alberta’s tar sands is the dirtiest in the world – causing not just serious environmental damage when it’s extracted but also when and if it leaks out along its route from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Please tell the White House to veto it permanently.
Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He also served on President Obama's transition advisory board. His latest book is "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." His homepage is www.robertreich.org.
|February 5, 2015||
Free Trade Deals Have Devastated the U.S.: Now Obama Pushes Through Biggest One Yet
by Thom Hartmann, AlterNet
Our economy has gone into the toilet over the past 30 years, and President Obama and his advisors think "free trade" is the solution. Like Bill Clinton and both George Bush, he's so enamored with it he's backing the biggest trade agreement in world history, the Trans Pacific Partnership.
At the House Democrats’ retreat in Philadelphia last weekend, President Obama once again urged lawmakers to support the infamous trade deal. He argued that the TPP will improve the “status quo” for workers and businesses, and he promised to work with leadership to ensure that members have better access to the information being negotiated.
In his remarks at the retreat, the President said he recognizes previous trade deals were not perfect. However, what he doesn’t seem to recognize is that free trade is a guaranteed ticket to the poorhouse for any nation. The evidence is overwhelming that tariffs on foreign imports and subsidizing domestic manufacturing are the proven ways to build a strong economy for the middle class.
The concept of free trade was introduced by Henry VII, as something England should encourage other countries to do while it maintained protectionism; a process known as the 1485 Tudor Plan led to the rapid industrialization of England and the deeper impoverishment of its trading "partners."
With no evident irony or understanding of how South Korea went about becoming a modern economic powerhouse, back in 2009, President Obama lectured the countries of Africa. According to The New York Times:
In the same day's newspaper, the New York Times' lead editorial echoed the mantra that so-called free trade is the solution to a nation's economic ills.
South Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang's book Bad Samaritans describes South Korea's economic ascent in detail. In 1961, South Korea was as poor as Kenya, with an $82 per capita annual income and many obstacles to economic strength. The country's main exports were primary commodities such as tungsten, fish and human hair for wigs.
Interestingly, some of its largest modern-day producers of technology began by producing these basic commodities. Samsung started out exporting fish, fruits and vegetables. But by throwing out free trade and embracing "protectionism" during the 1960s, in roughly 50 years South Korea managed to do what it took the United States 100 years and Britain 150 years to do.
This economic development of South Korea started following a military coup in 1961, where General Park Chung-Hee began South Korea's economic assent by implementing short-term plans for economic development. He instituted the Heavy and Chemical Industrialization program, and South Korea's first steel mill and modern shipyard went into production. In addition, South Korea began producing its own cars. Electronics, machinery, chemicals plants soon followed, all sponsored or subsidized by the government.
Between 1972 and 1979 the per capita income grew over five times. In addition, new protectionist slogans were adopted by South Korean citizens. For example, it was viewed as civic duty to report anyone caught smoking foreign cigarettes.
All money made from exports went into developing industry. South Korea enacted import bans, high tariffs and excise taxes.
In the '80s South Korea was still far from the industrialized west, but it had built a solid middle-class. South Korea's transformation was as if, in 40 years, to quote Chang, "Haiti had turned into Switzerland."
This transformation was accomplished through protecting fledgling industries with high tariffs and subsides, and only opening itself to global completion slowly and when ready. In addition, the government ran many of the larger industries, although private industry was allowed. Private industry, when allowed, was monitored carefully and taken over by the state if found to be inefficient.
The government ran or tightly regulated the banks and therefore the credit. It controlled foreign exchange and used its currency reserves to import machinery and industrial imports.
On the other hand, the government tightly controlled foreign investment in South Korea, and largely ignored enforcement of foreign patent laws. Korea focused on exporting basic goods to fuel and protect its ‘high-tech' industries with tariffs and subsides.
Had South Korea adopted the "free trade" policies being espoused by President Obama, it would still be exporting fish and still have a per-capita income like Kenya's.
Another great example of this is Toyota's success with its luxury car the Lexus. Toyota has been touted by free traders as a clear example of why free trade works. But at a closer look, the reality is the opposite.
In fact, Japan subsidized Toyota not only in its development but even after if failed terribly in the American markets in the late 1950s. In addition, early in Toyota's development, Japan kicked out foreign competitors like GM.
Thus, because the Japanese government financed Toyota at a loss (for roughly 20 years), built high tariff and other barriers to competitive imports, and initially subsidized exports, auto manufacturing was able to get a strong foothold and we now think of Japanese exports being synonymous with automobiles.
For about 200 years, we understood this in the United States. Had the fathers of the United States like Lincoln, Washington, Jackson or Grant applied for IMF loans, they would have been denied: All of them believed in high tariffs and a heavy control of foreign investment, and considered "free trade" to be absurd.
In 1791, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton submitted his Report on the Subject of Manufactures to the US Congress. In it he outlined the need for our government to subsidize new industries and subsequently protect them from the international markets until they become globally competitive.
Additionally, he proposed a roadmap for American industrial development. These steps included protective tariffs on imports, import bans, subsides, export bans on selected materials, and the development of product standards.
Since Reagan blew out our tariffs in the 1980s (and Clinton kicked the door open with GATT, NAFTA, and the WTO), our average tariffsare now around 2 percent. The predictable result has been the hemorrhaging of American manufacturing capacity to those countries that do protect their industries through high import tariffs but allow exports on the cheap, particularly China and South Korea.
If President Obama and our Congress don't soon learn the lessons Alexander Hamilton taught us in 1791, which he learned from Henry VII and were borrowed by Japan, South Korea, and China, the TPP may soon become reality. This massive trade deal will likely be the death of American industry. And with it will go the American middle class.
|February 14, 2015||
The Megadrought Is Coming: Climate Scientists Predict Decade Long Droughts For Much of America
by Steven D and Daily Kos, AlterNet
A recent research article published in the online journal Science Advances by 2050 major portions of the Southwestern and Great Plains states will suffer from droughts much, much worse than the ones we have seen over the last 15 years. If you think things are at a crisis point, now, just wait. According to the researchers:
Let's put that in non-specialist terms, shall we.
When someone starts talking about mega droughts that would dwarf any ever experienced in the region in nearly a thousand years, I sit up and take notice. And just to be clear, the droughts in the region during the Medieval era were significant, and likely were a major contributor to the end of one of the longest lasting Pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas, the "Ancient Pueblo peoples."
For those of you unfamiliar with the "Ancient Pueblo peoples," its civilization in what is now the Southwestern United States lasted for over a thousand years, from at least 100 B.C.E. (some scholars place them in the area as early as 1500 B.C.E.) until roughly 1300 C.E. Their pueblo communities extended throughout the mountains, mesas and grasslands of Southwestern Colorado, Southeastern Utah, Northern New Mexico and Arizona. The most famous of their cliff dwelling sites are ruins found in Mesa Verde National Park.
Their civilization, based on a mix of dry land farming, hunting and trade in pottery goods collapsed sometime around 1300 C.E. in part due to a series of severe droughts that hit the region following a large increase in their population between 700 B.C.E. and 1100 B.C.E. when rainfall patterns were above average for an extended period of time. The loss of water resources was a major factor in their abandonment of their pueblo communities, along with other stresses believed to include including competition from peoples migrating into their traditional range, and increased warfare among various groups of Ancient Pueblo peoples Anasazi themselves.
Nonetheless, there is little doubt of the severity of the droughts the region endured during that time.
So, how extreme will be these mega droughts that are being predicted for much of the Western United States, including the regions that provide most of the crops we produce? Pretty damn severe, in the nature of apocalyptic severity. That is not hyperbole from me. It's what the scientists are saying about our future prospects:
We are talking about extreme drought conditions that will extend from the Mississippi River to California that will last for thirty, forty or more years, literally leave our highly populated, water dependent society in uncharted territory, threatening our civilization's ability to adapt to what will be a radically altered future environment.
That is a very frightening thought, particularly since our political and business leaders seemed to be doing their best to ignore or deny the existence of this threat. If we want our children and grandchildren to have any kind of hope for a sustainable future, one that does not risk total societal collapse, we need to change the way in which our nation currently functions at all levels. Political goals, economic policy and cultural valuers all must change, and that change cannot come soon enough. The current devastation and economic disruption caused by the droughts out West are just a taste of what is to come.
|February 14, 2015||
Will the Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Deepen Our Climate Change Nightmare?
by Alison Rose Levy, AlterNet
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke recently at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington DC, she said that if she had to pick one case to undo, her choice would be the 2010 Citizens United ruling. Two years after that decision, one poll found that 62% of Americans also opposed it. Among progressives, there is even broader consensus that it represented a sea change for democracy.
Bader remains optimistic that one day, there will be more sensible campaign finance restrictions. She quoted her late husband, Georgetown law professor Martin Ginsburg, who said, “The true symbol of the United States is not the eagle, it’s the pendulum. When it swings too far in one direction, it will swing back.”
But while that has been true throughout American history, it can only continue to happen if the pendulum doesn’t get into the wrong hands. That’s why maintaining democracy in the post-Citizens United era demands a higher order of vigilance.
That brings us to the new breed of global trade deals, the first of which is slated to come up in the Senate some time this month. Until recently, these deals have eluded public notice, shrouded in secrecy, dense with complex provisions and branded with obscure initials like TPP and TTIP. But if their critics are right, these deals are slated to function as the next logical step in a deconstruction of democracy on the same continuum as Citizen United.
Most people assume that both Congressional and public oversight will occur prior to signing. Not true. Bypassing that evaluation via “Fast Track,” a straight up or down vote, without any debate, review, or changes, is core to the strategy for passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). That is why Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is asking the President to “make the full text of all pending trade agreements public.
The deals have been secretly negotiated by multinational corporations in treaty language that runs to thousands of pages. They have been leaked in bits and pieces. This makes it easy for mainstream media pundits like Paul Krugman to miss crucial issues. They typically zero in on a specific aspect (such as trademark law or generic medicines) while missing the key provisions that alarm environmentalists— ones that contravene grassroots initiatives on climate change, food quality, fracking, and toxic chemical regulation.
“To a certain extent these international agreements are about trade but they are even more about deregulation, about rolling back the health and environmental safeguards that we depend upon to take care of ourselves and the planet,” says William Waren, the former policy director at the Forum on Democracy and Trade, currently a senior trade analyst at Friends of the Earth.
The treaties provide corporations with a golden opportunity to make unilateral global agreements to permanently remove “barriers to trade.” All major corporations have their wish lists. Here are just a few samples of what is on the table:
“This is a climate change nightmare,” says Jason Kowalski, policy director for 350.org. “These are trade deals written in the backroom by oil companies. We need a transparent process that brings the provisions into the light of day. Once this becomes more public, the public will oppose it.”
Given that Fast Track may be launched this month, to get the treaties ratified before the public knows what’s in them, people need to get familiar quickly.
First, a primer on the problems with tinkering with the American democratic pendulum.
Nearly all advocacy initiatives function by pressuring elected officials to act on the public will via laws, regulations, local ordinances, bans, referenda, and subsidies. When vested parties flood elections with untraceable cash, it shifts power toward the donors and away from the people. As activists on many fronts have found, that’s how the Citizens United ruling has eroded the U.S.’ 250-year-old democratic process.
Since FDR’s time, the ultra-right has sought deregulation, rolling back Roosevelt-, Kennedy-, Johnson-, and Carter-era laws. According to an article in the New Republic, near the top of the Republican wishlist for the new Congress is axing the EPA, with its unwelcome potential to nix hazardous industrial activities and limit carbon pollution.
Still from let’s say, the Koch perspective, it’s less efficient to lobby for (or against) each and every one of the thousands of bills filed each year, than it is to buy the officials and craft legislation for them, which ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) does. According to the website ALECexposed, ALEC hosts “global corporations and state politicians [who] vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws…. These so-called 'model bills' reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit huge corporations.”
To my untrained eye, the biggest difference between ALEC’s working M.O. and the treaty negotiations are that the former are more likely to occur in Nevada, and the latter in Brussels. The former seek to modify American law, the latter to overrule it.
If you have ever wondered why elected officials are less responsive to public opinion than in the past, it may be because their ears are swiveled toward those who put them in office. Thanks to political advertising, PR and media influence, public opinion can be bought. This was seen in the 2014 Oregon GMO labeling referendum. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) spent $20 million on misleading television advertising to defeat the vote to label by a mere 857 votes.
The public opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, the recent fracking ban in New York State, and the campaign to preserve net neutrality reveal that, despite Citizens United, the pendulum of democracy may still be in motion. Currently, the public still has the power to interfere with multinational corporations’ well-laid plans. Deal critics say the uber-treaties represent a long-term strategy to permanently override that power, by allowing corporations to nullify the public will wherever it lessens their profits.
To see how this works, consider the passage of the 2014 bill to label GMO foods in Vermont. The GMA, the same food industry trade group that defeated labeling in Oregon, decided to sue the state of Vermont. The GMA, which includes General Mills, ConAgra, Nestle, Kellogg, SynGenta, Dupont, Pepsico, Merck, and Monsanto, claims the new law undermines these corporations’ right to free speech.
Now that a corporation is designated a person, its product information is supposed to be governed by the First Amendment. In the aftermath of Citizens United, each new incursion must be understood as more than just another bad idea. It must be seen as to whether or not it advances the ongoing movement toward corporate encroachment—the seizing of the pendulum.
In a recent phone call with advocacy groups, Naomi Klein, the author of This Changes Everything (and a board member of 350.org) says the new treaty playbook can be also be seen in recent events in Quebec.
Heeding a grassroots citizen movement to protect from fracking, the National Assembly of Quebec issued a moratorium on fracking in the St. Lawrence River. A Canadian fracking company called Long Pine Resources used a corporate address in the US to claim status as a U.S. investor in Canada under the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.) This allowed Long Pine to file suit before an investor-state tribunals, asking for tens of millions of dollars in compensation.
Suits like these could deter or outright prevent fracking bans, labeling bills, and a host of other protections and initiatives, in ways difficult to foresee. Many now common initiatives could simply be prohibited by the secret deals.
“The investor-state tribunals, these treaties will instate, replace our courts. Only corporations have access to them. The new agreements will give these companies the right to claim damages in the millions and billions of dollars in compensation for their current and future lost profits,” says Friends of the Earth’s William Waren. (Listen to my complete interview with him.)
Citizens United, ALEC, the GMA, and Long Pine examples make it clearer why the details of agreements negotiated in secret by multinational corporations must be subject to public scrutiny—before they pass into law. Why the fear of revealing them? Perhaps the deals are totally kosher. Or maybe not.
|February 4, 2015||
Can 7 Billion Humans Go Paleo?
by Erica Etelson, Earth Island Journal, AlterNet
After decades of obscurity, Paleo is now one of the fastest-growing diet trends. A 2013 survey found that one percent of Americans eat Paleo, which is based on the premise that our diets should be based on animals and plants, the way we ate when we were hunter-gatherers. Bestselling books like Grain Brain have redeemed meat’s nutritional profile and convinced many people that their high-carb diets promote unhealthy levels of brain and gut inflammation. I count myself among the throngs of Paleolistas who have benefited from adhering, more or less, to its principles.
Many paleo advocates recommend eating organic, pastured, holistically grazed animal protein. But there’s simply not enough grazing land on the planet to feed enough livestock to put sustainable meat and eggs in front of all seven billion of us three times a day.
But what happens when Paleo really starts catching on, and millions of ill and overweight people eliminate grains and start eating animal protein with every meal? This leads to questions the Paleo community has yet to address: How many inhabitants of our small planet can regularly eat meat without despoiling the environment? And how do we decide who gets to eat Paleo and who’s stuck with grains and tofu?
Many Paleo advocates and consumers are no doubt aware of the environmental issues associated with factory-farmed livestock and commercial fishing — the enormous quantities of water, fossil fuels and pesticides needed to grow cattle, pig and chicken feed, livestock’s fecal contamination of fresh water, aquatic dead zones caused by pesticide runoff, the depletion and collapse of fisheries, heat-trapping methane emissions from the front and back-ends of farm animals … I could go on.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that global meat production uses one-third of the world’s fresh water and that more than 1.3 billion tons of grain are consumed by farm animals each year. In the Gulf of Mexico, aquatic dead zones from pesticide, fertilizer and manure runoff now total an area the size of Connecticut. Much of the runoff originates on heartland farms that produce corn for cattle feed.
Conventionally grown grains and vegetables are an ecological disaster too, but conventional meat production is substantially more resource-intensive, polluting and wasteful. The United Nations Environmental Programme cites meat production as one of the top three causes of ecological problems and one of the main drivers of climate change.
Many paleo advocates recommend eating organic, pastured, holistically grazed animal protein. Holistic grazing mimics the herd activity of wild animals, grouping the animals together to graze on perennial grasses for strictly controlled periods before rotating them to a new area. Though it has its skeptics, many ranchers have found that holistic grazing restores soil fertility and reduces their use of water, pesticides, and feed grain. Meanwhile, emerging research indicates that holistically grazed grasslands sequester large amounts of carbon, more than negating the warming effect of the animals’ methane emissions.
Paleo guru Robb Wolf, producer of a weekly podcast and several books is, as far I can tell, the only prominent Paleo advocate who talks publicly about the sustainability of the diet. Wolf promotes pastured protein and denounces government grain subsidies that prop up factory-farmed meat. He understands that most Paleo wannabes cannot afford pastured meat and advises them to “do the best that they can.”
Wolf’s stance begs the question: How many people can afford pastured meat, assuming it’s even available at their local grocery store or farmers’ market? And what is the national and global production capacity for this kind of meat? An hour of googling suggests that no one really knows, but my hunch is there’s not enough grazing land on the planet to feed enough livestock to put meat and eggs in front of all seven billion of us three times a day.
And there’s certainly not enough fish. According to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization 53 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, and 32 percent are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. More to the point, “The global fishing fleet is 2-3 times larger than what the oceans can sustainably support.” Most of the developed world now relies heavily on aquaculture, but farmed fish still requires feed made with wild fish.
For indigenous coastal communities, fish is their dietary and cultural heritage; we are taking it away from them by eating fish unsustainably harvested by commercial fisheries. What a sad irony is transpiring — Paleos are contributing to the destruction of the very way of life that inspired the Paleo diet.
The environmental impact of the Paleo diet has not escaped the notice of climate hawks such as Elizabeth Kolbert, chronicler of the tragic and terrifying mass extinction currently underway (The Sixth Extinction: An Unusual History). She argues in The New Yorker that “paleo’s ‘Let them eat steak’ approach is a [greenhouse gas] disaster.”
Another critic of meat-eating is Nicholas Stern, former World Bank vice-president and author of the widely-respected “Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change” prepared for the British government. He advocates a vegetarian diet as part of a global strategy to prevent runaway climate change.
If there’s not enough animal protein to go around without cooking the planet, who should be first in line? Diabetics? Children? Celiacs? Cancer patients? Seniors? Pregnant women? Traditional hunters? A case could be made for any of these groups but, living in a free-wheeling market economy, there is one and only one basis for determining who gets the goods and that is — whoever can afford it.
I don’t know what the answer is. But I find it troubling to see the Paleo community grow — and evangelize — without discussing these issues. Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Hot Planet, shares this concern: "Any diet that encourages high levels of meat consumption without acknowledging the reality of American meat production is irresponsible. Nearly all of the meat we find in supermarkets and restaurants in the United States today comes from industrial operations and, especially when it comes to beef, is the most energy-intensive, water-intensive, greenhouse gas-intensive way to put protein on your plate."
Paleo dieters are in it for their health… fair enough. But it’s critical to understand that human health is inextricably bound to the health of Earth’s ecosystems. Humans are but one link in the web of life, and that web is being polluted and stretched to the breaking point.
If Paleos want to eat a lot of meat and fish, I’d like to see them get engaged in figuring out how to sustainably produce it. Wolf, to his credit, serves on the board of the Savory Institute, a research and training center for ranchers wishing to transition to holistic management. The next edition of his cookbook will encourage consumers to choose fish that are lower on the food chain and, when I suggested he plug Seafood Watch, he promised to consider it.
Wolf incorporates sustainability issues into his talks but says his audience generally doesn’t want to hear it. “The vast majority want to know about protein, carbs and fat, so they can have abs and fit into their skinny jeans,” Wolf laments. He says that Paleo thought leaders tend to steer clear of the sustainability issue because it negatively impacts book sales. “It’s a buzzkill,” says Wolf.
Which brings me to Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth, an important albeit uber-doomy book that gives new meaning to the word “buzzkill.” Keith, a vegan-turned-omnivore, argues that choosing a plant-based diet out of concern for the environment is a tragically misinformed choice based on ignorance of the critical role predators and farm animals play in the food web.
Keith is the first to admit that there’s not enough land to graze enough animals to feed everyone and adamantly calls for population control, a radical agrarian overhaul and the dismantling of patriarchy as the only hope for human survival. Like Wolf, she believes that livestock, properly managed, are essential for restoring topsoil that has been ruined by millennia of plowing and planting vegetables, grains and legumes. And the only way we can arrange to have animals stamping their organic manure into the earth is if we pay ranchers to raise and slaughter those animals for meat. Which brings us back full circle: Our food can and must be produced in ways that restore degraded ecosystems, but there isn’t enough of this kind of food, nor is there any large-scale movement in this direction.
Paleo’s sustainability contradictions aren’t limited to meat. Palm oil is a Paleo pantry staple. A while back, I sent an email to the Weston A. Price Foundation (WPF) criticizing their promotion of palm oil. (WPF doesn’t consider itself Paleo, but its nutritional advice is heavy on animal protein and palm oil). WPF President Sally Fallon Morell fired back a curt reply, referring me to the “Coconut Information Center”. This website claims that the soy industry has duped environmental groups into believing that palm oil plantations are destroying rainforests when, in reality, the palm industry plays a “protective” role. As EIJ readers are aware, palm plantations spur deforestation just as surely as ruminants belch, but these are inconvenient truths for people with a myopic view of human health.
Paleos obviously don’t want to bring about ecological collapse, but they ignore the unfolding catastrophe at their own peril. Wolf says Paleos are slowly embracing the notion of sustainability and that he gets less pushback now than he did five years ago, but the community is still a long ways from seriously grappling with the unintended consequences of their diet. They should pull their heads out of the sand and start discussing these issues pronto. With so many great minds no longer addled by carbohydrates, they may hit upon some solutions.
Research assistance for this article was provided by Christopher Cook, author of Diet for a Dead Planet.
|February 11, 2015||
Burlington, VT Becomes First City to Run Entirely on Renewable Electricity
by Anastasia Pantsios, EcoWatch, AlterNet
Republished with permission from EcoWatch.
Burlington, Vermont is that state’s largest city, with a population of 42,000 people. It describes itself as “forward-thinking” which is what you’d expect from a city that once elected Senator Bernie Sanders as its mayor. So it’s no surprise that it recently became the first U.S. city of any decent size to run entirely on renewable electricity.Renewable electricity generation isn’t the only way this forward-thinking city is addressing climate change, the environment and sustainability. Burlington Electric Department has aggressive energy efficiency programs and boasts that it uses less electricity now than it did in 1989. Photo credit: Burlington Electric Department
“Climate change is the biggest problem we face, maybe the biggest problem we’ve ever faced,” University of Vermont environmental science professor Taylor Ricketts told NPR. “But there’s no silver bullet to fix it. It’s gonna be a million individual solutions from all over the place. And this is one of Burlington’s, right?”
The city’s publicly owned utility, the Burlington Electric Department (BED), says in its mission statement, “BED will continue to be a leader in sustainability by producing power that is as clean and as locally produced as possible. BED will continue to treat the environment with the utmost respect and will continue to influence decisions and public policy that enhance environmental quality, the use of renewable resources, and the sustainability of Burlington.”
The city lives up to that mission by acquiring its energy in diverse ways, including biomass, hydroelectric, solar and wind. Its biggest power generator is hydro, which the city acquires from dams both locally and elsewhere in the region. Its biomass facility, the McNeil generating station, provides another 30 percent of its power. It runs on burning wood chips, although it can run on natural gas or oil on an interruptible basis. The wood chips are the residue of the region’s logging industry and come primarily from within 60 miles of the city, reducing transportation costs. Wind turbines and solar panels provide another 20 percent of its electricity.
In addition, BED says, “McNeil is equipped with a series of air quality control devices that limit the particulate stack emissions to one-tenth the level allowed by Vermont state regulation. McNeil’s emissions are one one-hundredth of the allowable federal level. The only visible emission from the plant is water vapor during the cooler months of the year.”
Renewable electricity generation isn’t the only way this forward-thinking city is addressing climate change, the environment and sustainability. BED has aggressive energy efficiency programs and boasts that it uses less electricity now than it did in 1989. And despite its small size, Burlington already has nine charging stations for electric vehicles.
And contrary to those who insist that renewably generated electricity is an expensive luxury that only a bunch of Phish-loving Vermont hippies will pay for, Ken Nolan of BED told NPR that the switch to renewables was initially driven by economic concerns and will likely save the city $20 million over the next decade.
“Greenhouse gas reduction is a major thing that we’re concerned about and we are always trying to improve on,” he said. “But in looking at whether to buy renewable power, we really were focused on an economic decision at the time. Our financial analysis at that time indicated to our—actually, to our surprise–that the cheapest long term financial investment for us with the least amount of risk was to move in this direction.”
Editor's note: The original PBS report on which this article is based said that the biomass plant burned only scrap wood and that smokestake emissions contained only water vapor. AlterNet is following PBS's lead and making corrections to these claims. The biomass plant, which supplies 30% of Burlington's power also uses some trees that are specifically logged for fuel. PBS has also determined that the biomass plant does emit some pollutants into the atmosphere. Viewers of the PBS Newshour report argued that it gave the overstated impression of the environmental attributes of the plant, so PBS removed those two specific references.
|February 4, 2015||
Stop à la guerre Stop the war Parar a guerra Остановить войну Detener la guerra
by KADIMA KADIMA oliver , RD CONGO
Stop à la guerre
Nous voulons la paix
Au Nord,au Sud ainsi qu'à l'Est et à l'Ouest
Evitons de verser le sang pour un monde de beauté
Et une terre de paix pour toi et pour moi
Ecouter les cris des âmes innoncentes
Pères,Mères,Frères et Soeurs
Massacrés à cause de la guerre
Touchent le plus fond du coeur
Comprendre que la guerre est ravageuse pour nous tous
Et pour le bien de tous
Stoppons la guerre
C'est le moment de changer
Et déposer toutes les armes
Eloigner le danger
Et essuyer les larmes
Pour qu'une vie paisible règne
Pourquoi autant de guerres?
Pourquoi autant de malheurs?
Stop aux massacres et vies sacrifiées en vain,
Pour une paix durable et sans fin,
Arrêtons la guerre,
Stop the war
We want peace
To the North, in the South as well as East and West
Let us avoid shedding blood for a world of beauty
And a land of peace for you and for me
Listen to the cries of souls innoncentes
Fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters
Massacred because of the war
Affect the most heartfelt
Understand that war is devastating for us all
And for the good of all
Stop the war
It's time to change
And drop all weapons
Keep away the danger
And wipe the tears
So a peaceful life reigns
Why so many wars?
Why so many woes?
Stop the massacres and lives sacrificed in vain,
For a lasting peace and without end.
Stop the war
Parar a guerra
Nós queremos paz
Ao norte, no Sul, bem como leste e oeste
Deixe-na evitar derramamento de sangue para um mundo de beleza
E uma terra de paz para você e para mim
Ouvir os gritos das almas innoncentes
Pais, mães, irmãos e irmãs
Massacrados por causa da guerra
Afetam os mais sinceros
Entender que a guerra é devastador para todos nós
E para o bem de todos
Parar a guerra
É hora de mudar
E soltar todas as armas
Afastar o perigo
E limpa as lágrimas
Então uma vida pacífica Reina
Por que tantas guerras?
Por que tantas desgraças?
Parar os massacres e vidas sacrificadas em vão,
Para uma paz duradoura e sem fim.
Parar a guerra
Мы хотим мира
На севере, на юге, а также Восток и Запад
Давайте Избегайте пролития крови за мир красоты
И земля мира для вас и для меня
Слушать крики души innoncentes
Отцы, матери, братья и сестры
Убиты из-за войны
Влияют на самые искренние
Понять, что война является разрушительным для всех нас
И на благо всех
Пришло время для изменения
И все оружие
Держать вне опасности
И вытрите слезы
Так что царит мирная жизнь
Почему так много войн?
Почему так много беды?
Остановить массовые убийства и жизнь в жертву напрасно,
Для прочного мира и без конца.
Detener la guerra
Queremos la paz
Hacia el norte, en el sur así como hacia el este y oeste
Evitemos derramando sangre por un mundo de belleza
Y una tierra de paz para ti y para mí
Escuchar los gritos de las almas innoncentes
Padres, madres, hermanos y hermanas
Masacraron a causa de la guerra
Afectan la más sentida
Comprender que la guerra es devastador para todos nosotros
Y para el bien de todos
Detener la guerra
Es hora de cambiar
Y soltar todas las armas
Alejar el peligro
Y limpie las lágrimas
Así que impera una vida pacífica
¿Por qué tantas guerras?
¿Por qué tantos problemas?
Detener las masacres y vidas sacrificadas en vano,
Para una paz duradera y sin fin.
Detener la guerra
|February 10, 2015||
PAZ IN ETERNUM PAIX ETERNITE PEACE FOREVER PAZ PARA SEMPRE МИР НАВСЕГДА
by Gustavo M. GALLIANO Argentine
PAZ IN ETERNUM
Hubo tiempos en los cuales
las guerras templaron aceros,
y entre montañas de muerte,
se erigieron noveles templos.
Hubo tiempos en los cuales
se traicionaron hermanos,
y entre fragores de suerte,
se moldearon altruistas sueños.
Entonces sude soñar una paz tan silente,
que se arraigó en nuestros cuerpos,
cual ventura más causal, sincera en mente.
Y opté defender, la paz por sobre el Khrónos,
poniendo a prueba mi constancia, mi fe más enorme,
y a cambio de todo acero entregué,
el compromiso de pacificar almas, por doquier.-
Il y a parfois
les aciers trempés des guerres,
entre les montagnes de la mort,
nouveaux temples qui ont été érigés.
Il y a parfois des
parmi la clameur de la chance,
rêves altruistes moulés.
Sueur alors rêvée de la paix si silencieuse,
qui s'est emparée de notre corps,
quelle aventure plus causale, sincère à l'esprit.
Et j'ai choisi de défendre, la paix au-dessus
en testant ma constance, ma foi plus énorme,
et j'ai donné en échange
l'engagement pour apaiser les âmes, dans le monde.
There are sometimes
hardened wars, steel
between the mountains of death,
new temples that have been built.
Sometimes there is a
among the clamor of the chance,
molded altruistic dreams.
Sweat then great if silent peace,
which has gripped our body
What more causal, honest adventure in mind.
And I chose to defend peace above
testing my constancy, my hugest faith,
and I gave in Exchange
commitment to appease the souls in the world.
PAZ PARA SEMPRE
Há, por vezes
guerras endurecidas, aço
entre as montanhas da morte,
novos templos que foram construídos.
Às vezes há um
entre o clamor da chance,
moldado sonhos altruístas.
Suor paz ótimo se em silêncio,
que assola o nosso corpo
Que aventura mais causal, honesta em mente.
E eu escolhi para defender a paz acima
testando minha constância, minha fé maior,
e eu dei em troca
compromisso para apaziguar as almas do mundo.
закаленные войн, сталь
между горами смерти,
новые храмы, которые были построены.
среди рвутся шанс,
формованные альтруистические мечты.
Пот, то большой, если молчание мира,
который охватил наше тело
Что более причинных, честный приключений в виду.
И я выбрал, чтобы защитить мир выше
тестирование моего постоянства, мой огромнейший веры,
и я дал в обмен
приверженность успокоить души в мире.
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