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Volume 8       Issue 10    October  2010
Politics and Justice without borders

Theme this month, and to the end of August 2011:

Urgent priority
Flooding triggered by the annual monsoon rains: help the people of Pakistan
List of medicines needed List of medicines
(visit September Newsletter for original request September Newsletter)
Contact person:
Mariam Khan
Global Community
Human Rights Wing Pakistan
Inspired Sisters Pakistan
Visit webpage for articles and photos at: http://globalcommunitywebnet.com/GlobalFiles/2009MariamKhan.htm
Phone in Pakistan: 011923125545997
Email: mariam.inspiredsisters@gmail.com
Check drop off sites at Pakistan Floods 2010
Webpage: http://pakistanfloods.blogspot.com/
Global Community Emergency, Rescue and Relief Centre

Table of Contents

This is the way     Message from the Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
Message from the Editor    GIM  Message from the Editor
Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for
Message from the President of Global Parliament, the Federation of Global Governments    Message from the President of Earth Government
History of the Global Community organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Governments History of the Global Community Organization and Interim Earth Government Since its beginning in 1985, many accomplishments can be claimed by the Global Community: History of the Global Community organization and Earth Government
The Global Community days of celebration or remembering during the year
A reminder of her passing away. Virginie was a great global citizen, and we all owe her something that's forever. GIM  Message from the Editor
Life Day Celebration on May 26. Participate. Life Day Celebration May 26. Participate.
Participate now in Global Dialogue 2011, no fees  Participate now in Global Dialogue 2011
Global Dialogue 2011 Introduction Global Dialogue 2011 Introduction
Global Dialogue 2011 Program  Global Dialogue 2011 Program
Global Dialogue 2011 OVERVIEW of the process   Global Dialogue 2011 OVERVIEW of the process
Global Dialogue 2011 Call for Papers Global Dialogue 2011 Call for Papers

Portal of Global Dialogue 2011
Visit the original website of the Global Community organization Continue your visit of Global Dialogue 2011  Main Index of the Global Dialogue
Family and community planning for world population

Achievements of Global Community WebNet Ltd.
by Germain Dufour
Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
Global Parliament
Federation of Global Governments
(Short Bio)

Family and community planning for world population in PDF format
The following is a zip folder. The folder has a PDF file and other info files concerning colors and text of the images. Adobe Reader 9 is best for reading the PDF file.
PDF file (9 pages, 8 MB) Family and community planning for world population in PDF format

Moratorium on world population, the fertility rate and immigration applications

The Global Community is declaring a moratorium on immigration all over the world, on all applications for immigration, until applicants from any religious or cultural background have satisfied completely the Global Community standard for a population fertility rate of 1.3 children per family. The problem with world overpopulation is everybody’s problem. We are all responsible. Until tangible progress is made no immigrants should be accepted. That is Global Law.

Population warfare

It is the use of a very high fertility rate to conquer a nation, and that could mean as many as or more than 2.1 children per family. It is a form of cultural and/or religious aggression and invasion by having a much too high number of new born babies. For instance, there has been a rapid increase in population among Muslims to the extent that in fifty years all of Europe and North America are expected to be mostly Islamic. The influx of Latino immigration into the western states of the USA will also have the effect of a population warfare.

The fundamental definition of the Global Community, the Scale of Global Rights and immigration

"The Global Community is defined as being all that exits or occurs at any location at any time between the Ozone layer above and the core of the planet below. It is defined around a given territory, that territory being the planet as a whole, as well as a specific population, which is all life forms on Earth." This definition includes all people, all life on Earth. And life claims its birthright of ownership of Earth, and so does the Soul of all Life. That makes the Global Community the 21st century framework for Earth governance, and the only legitimate body with the power to make the laws of the land and to make the rules for the territory of the Earth.

The Scale of Global Rights contains six (6) sections. Section 1 has more importance than all other sections below, and so on. Concerning Sections 1, 2, and 3, it shall be the Global Community highest priority to guarantee these rights to Member Nations and to have proper legislation and implement and enforce global law as described in Global Parliament Constitution.

Section 1.
Global [ environmental, ecological, protection of life-support systems ] rights

Section 2. Primordial human rights :
safety and security, have shelter, 'clean' energy, a 'clean' and healthy, environment, drink fresh water, breath clean air, eat a balance diet, basic clothing, universal health care and education, and employment for all.
Section 3. Global [ecological, environmental, protection of life-support systems ] rights and the primordial human rights of future generations.
Concerning Sections 4, 5 and 6, it shall be the aim of the Global Community to secure these other rights for all global citizens but without immediate guarantee of universal achievement and enforcement. These rights are defined as Directive Principles, obligating the Global Community to pursue every reasonable means for universal realization and implementation.
Section 4. Community rights, the rights of direct democracy and global voting, the right that the greatest number of people has by virtue of its number (50% plus one) and after voting representatives democratically.
Section 5. Economic rights (business and consumer rights, and their responsibilities and accountabilities) and social rights (civil and political rights).
Section 6. Cultural rights and religious rights.

Now, obviously what immigration does is to infringe into the most important rights on the Scale of Global Rights: Sections 1, 2, and 3. It amounts at creating the world overpopulation problem which is way far more destructive than conducting military warfare. The Global Community condemns all types of warfare we see in the world today: military, economic and population. Surely the rights to protect the existence of all life on our planet are more important than cultural and religious rights.

Earth Environmental Governance can only be achieved successfully within the larger context of Sustainable Development and Earth Management. All aspects are inter-related and affect one another. A healthy environment is essential to long term prosperity and well-being of Global Community citizens. That demands a high level of ecological protection. This is the 'raison d'etre' of the Scale of Global Rights.

Primordial human rights are those human rights that individuals have by virtue of their very existence as human beings: to live, eat, drink fresh water, breath clean air, have shelter, safety and security, 'clean' energy, a 'clean' and healthy environment, universal health care and education, and employment for all.

Ecological and primordial human rights are separate categories than the rights of the greatest number of people, economic rights, social rights, cultural rights and religious rights.

Ecological and primordial human rights are the only rights that have existed unchanged throughout the evolutionary origin of our species. Any major change would have threatened our very existence. All other human rights are rights created by human beings and can be changed depending of new circumstances; they are not stagnant but are rather flexible and adaptive, and they can evolve. Ecological and primordial human rights of this generation and of future generations are therefore much more important than any other human rights existing now and in the future.

In this way the Scale of Global Rights gives us a sense of direction for future planning and managing of the Earth. Earth management is now well defined and becomes a goal to achieve.

Earth management includes problems with immigration in the world. We have shown that all aspects are inter-related and affect one another. Population warfare amounts to increasing demands for more resources but nations are already fighting for what is left of natural resources on the planet. Today, we need five healthy Earths to feed the world population. And population warfare also amounts to a specific cultural or religious group of a population trying to gain control of a nation by increasing its size and affecting the political outcomes of government in power.
All about control!

We seek more symbiotical relationships with people and organizations We seek more symbiotical relationships
Note concerning personal info sent to us by email Note concerning personal info sent to us by email
We have now streamlined the participation process in the Global Dialogue We have now streamlined the participation process in the Global Dialogue


GIM daily proclamations main website

Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month

Rady Ananda, Mark Engler, Mark Leon Goldberg, Jaymi Heimbuch, Mari Herreras, Robert Jensen, Chalmers Johnson, Frances Moore Lappé, Stephen Leahy, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Raj Patel, John Perkins, Stephanie Rogers, Devinder Sharma, Michael Schwartz, Sarah van Gelder

Rady Ananda, Alien Forest, Alien Ocean, Alien Sky Alien Forest, Alien Ocean, Alien Sky
Mark Engler, Labor Day: Immigrants Help Build Our Economy Labor Day: Immigrants Help Build Our Economy
Mark Leon Goldberg, The Top 5 Most Ignored Humanitarian Crises The Top 5 Most Ignored Humanitarian Crises
Jaymi Heimbuch, We Waste How Much Water On Coal?! We Waste How Much Water On Coal?!
Mari Herreras, Why Becoming a Legal Immigrant Is Next to Impossible Why Becoming a Legal Immigrant Is Next to Impossible
Robert Jensen, There Are No Heroes In Illegal And Immoral Wars There Are No Heroes In Illegal And Immoral Wars
Chalmers Johnson, 10 Needed Steps for Obama to Start Dismantling America's Gigantic, Destructive Military Empire 10 Needed Steps for Obama to Start Dismantling America's Gigantic, Destructive Military Empire
Frances Moore Lappé, The City That Ended Hunger The City That Ended Hunger
Stephen Leahy, Arctic Ice In Death Spiral Arctic Ice In Death Spiral
Helena Norberg-Hodge, Stories Of Belonging Stories Of Belonging
Raj Patel, Mozambique's Food Riots – The True Face Of Global Warming Mozambique's Food Riots – The True Face Of Global Warming
John Perkins, A New Age Of People Power: Lessons From The Dongria Kondh A New Age Of People Power: Lessons From The Dongria Kondh
Stephanie Rogers, 10 Ways Your Taxes Pay For Environmental Devastation 10 Ways Your Taxes Pay For Environmental Devastation
Devinder Sharma, Hunger Proliferates In A Democracy; India Tops The Chart Hunger Proliferates In A Democracy; India Tops The Chart
Michael Schwartz, Endless War, Humanitarian Crisis, And Perpetual Resistance: U.S. Foreign Policy In The 21st Century Endless War, Humanitarian Crisis, And Perpetual Resistance: U.S. Foreign Policy In The 21st Century
Sarah van Gelder, Five Ways You Can Help Pakistan (and the Rest of Us) Five Ways You Can Help Pakistan (and the Rest of Us)

Research papers and articles on global issues for this month
 Date sent  Theme or issue  Read
 September 21, 2010   Arctic Ice In Death Spiral
by Stephen Leahy, Countercurrent,
Inter Press Service

UXBRIDGE, Canada - The carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have melted the Arctic sea ice to its lowest volume since before the rise of human civilisation, dangerously upsetting the energy balance of the entire planet, climate scientists are reporting.

"The Arctic sea ice has reached its four lowest summer extents (area covered) in the last four years," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the U.S. city of Boulder, Colorado.

The volume - extent and thickness - of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month, Serreze told IPS.

"I stand by my previous statements that the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It's not going to recover," he said.

There can be no recovery because tremendous amounts of extra heat are added every summer to the region as more than 2.5 million square kilometres of the Arctic Ocean have been opened up to the heat of the 24-hour summer sun. A warmer Arctic Ocean not only takes much longer to re-freeze, it emits huge volumes of additional heat energy into the atmosphere, disrupting the weather patterns of the northern hemisphere, scientists have now confirmed.

"The exceptional cold and snowy winter of 2009-2010 in Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic," James Overland of the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States told IPS in Oslo, Norway last June in an exclusive interview. ' Paradoxically, a warmer Arctic means "future cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather than the exception" in these regions, Overland told IPS.

There is growing evidence of widespread impacts from a warmer Arctic, agreed Serreze. "Trapping all that additional heat has to have impacts and those will grow in the future," he said.

One local impact underway is a rapid warming of the coastal regions of the Arctic, where average temperatures are now three to five degrees C warmer than they were 30 years ago. If the global average temperature increases from the present 0.8 C to two degrees C, as seems likely, the entire Arctic region will warm at least four to six degrees and possibly eight degrees due to a series of processes and feedbacks called Arctic amplification.

A similar feverish rise in our body temperatures would put us in hospital if it didn't kill us outright.

"I hate to say it but I think we are committed to a four- to six-degree warmer Arctic," Serreze said.

If the Arctic becomes six degrees warmer, then half of the world's permafrost will likely thaw, probably to a depth of a few metres, releasing most of the carbon and methane accumulated there over thousands of years, said Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and a world expert on permafrost.

Methane is a global warming gas approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

That would be catastrophic for human civilisation, experts agree. The permafrost region spans 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe and contains at least twice as much carbon as is currently present in the atmosphere - 1,672 gigatonnes of carbon, according a paper published in Nature in 2009. That's three times more carbon than all of the worlds' forests contain.

"Permafrost thawing has been observed consistently across the entire region since the 1980s," Romanovsky said in an interview.

A Canadian study in 2009 documented that the southernmost permafrost limit had retreated 130 kilometres over the past 50 years in Quebec's James Bay region. At the northern edge, for the first time in a decade, the heat from the Arctic Ocean pushed far inland this summer, Romanovsky said.

There are no good estimates of how much CO2 and methane is being released by the thawing permafrost or by the undersea permafrost that acts as a cap over unknown quantities of methane hydrates (a type of frozen methane) along the Arctic Ocean shelf, he said.

"Methane is always there anywhere you drill through the permafrost," Romanovsky noted.

Last spring , Romanovsky's colleagues reported that an estimated eight million tonnes of methane emissions are bubbling to the surface from the shallow East Siberian Arctic shelf every year in what were the first-ever measurements taken there. If just one percent of the Arctic undersea methane reaches the atmosphere, it could quadruple the amount of methane currently in the atmosphere.

Abrupt releases of large amounts of CO2 and methane are certainly possible on a scale of decades, he said. The present relatively slow thaw of the permafrost could rapidly accelerate in a few decades, releasing huge amounts of global warming gases.

Another permafrost expert, Ted Schuur of the University of Florida, has come to the same conclusion. "In a matter of decades we could lose much of the permafrost," Shuur told IPS.

Those losses are more likely to come rapidly and upfront, he says. In other words, much of the permafrost thaw would happen at the beginning of a massive 50-year meltdown because of rapid feedbacks.

Emissions of CO2 and methane from thawing permafrost are not yet factored into the global climate models and it will be several years before this can be done reasonably well, Shuur said.

"Current mitigation targets are only based on anthropogenic (human) emissions," he explained.

Present pledges by governments to reduce emissions will still result in a global average temperature increase of 3.5 to 3.9 C by 2100, according to the latest analysis. That would result in an Arctic that's 10 to 16 degrees C warmer, releasing most of the permafrost carbon and methane and unknown quantities of methane hydrates.

This why some climate scientists are calling for a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels, recommending that fossil fuel emissions peak by 2015 and decline three per cent per year. But even then there's still a 50-percent probability of exceeding two degrees C current studies show. If the emissions peak is delayed until 2025, then global temperatures will rise to three degrees C, the Arctic will be eight to 10 degrees warmer and the world will lose most its permafrost.

Meanwhile, a new generation of low-cost, thin-film solar roof and outside wall coverings being made today has the potential to eliminate burning coal and oil to generate electricity, energy experts believe - if governments have the political will to fully embrace green technologies.

  Read Arctic Ice In Death Spiral
 September 20, 2010   The City That Ended Hunger
by Frances Moore Lappé , Countercurrent,
Yes! Magazine

A city in Brazil recruited local farmers to help do something U.S. cities have yet to do: end hunger.

“To search for solutions to hunger means to act within the principle that the status of a citizen surpasses that of a mere consumer.”

In writing Diet for a Small Planet, I learned one simple truth: Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but a scarcity of democracy. But that realization was only the beginning, for then I had to ask: What does a democracy look like that enables citizens to have a real voice in securing life’s essentials? Does it exist anywhere? Is it possible or a pipe dream? With hunger on the rise here in the United States—one in 10 of us is now turning to food stamps—these questions take on new urgency.

To begin to conceive of the possibility of a culture of empowered citizens making democracy work for them, real-life stories help—not models to adopt wholesale, but examples that capture key lessons. For me, the story of Brazil’s fourth largest city, Belo Horizonte, is a rich trove of such lessons. Belo, a city of 2.5 million people, once had 11 percent of its population living in absolute poverty, and almost 20 percent of its children going hungry. Then in 1993, a newly elected administration declared food a right of citizenship. The officials said, in effect: If you are too poor to buy food in the market—you are no less a citizen. I am still accountable to you.

The new mayor, Patrus Ananias—now leader of the federal anti-hunger effort—began by creating a city agency, which included assembling a 20-member council of citizen, labor, business, and church representatives to advise in the design and implementation of a new food system. The city already involved regular citizens directly in allocating municipal resources—the “participatory budgeting” that started in the 1970s and has since spread across Brazil. During the first six years of Belo’s food-as-a-right policy, perhaps in response to the new emphasis on food security, the number of citizens engaging in the city’s participatory budgeting process doubled to more than 31,000.

The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers. It offered local family farmers dozens of choice spots of public space on which to sell to urban consumers, essentially redistributing retailer mark-ups on produce—which often reached 100 percent—to consumers and the farmers. Farmers’ profits grew, since there was no wholesaler taking a cut. And poor people got access to fresh, healthy food.

When my daughter Anna and I visited Belo Horizonte to write Hope’s Edge we approached one of these stands. A farmer in a cheerful green smock, emblazoned with “Direct from the Countryside,” grinned as she told us, “I am able to support three children from my five acres now. Since I got this contract with the city, I’ve even been able to buy a truck.”

The improved prospects of these Belo farmers were remarkable considering that, as these programs were getting underway, farmers in the country as a whole saw their incomes drop by almost half.

In addition to the farmer-run stands, the city makes good food available by offering entrepreneurs the opportunity to bid on the right to use well-trafficked plots of city land for “ABC” markets, from the Portuguese acronym for “food at low prices.” Today there are 34 such markets where the city determines a set price—about two-thirds of the market price—of about twenty healthy items, mostly from in-state farmers and chosen by store-owners. Everything else they can sell at the market price.

“For ABC sellers with the best spots, there’s another obligation attached to being able to use the city land,” a former manager within this city agency, Adriana Aranha, explained. “Every weekend they have to drive produce-laden trucks to the poor neighborhoods outside of the city center, so everyone can get good produce.”

Another product of food-as-a-right thinking is three large, airy “People’s Restaurants” (Restaurante Popular), plus a few smaller venues, that daily serve 12,000 or more people using mostly locally grown food for the equivalent of less than 50 cents a meal. When Anna and I ate in one, we saw hundreds of diners—grandparents and newborns, young couples, clusters of men, mothers with toddlers. Some were in well-worn street clothes, others in uniform, still others in business suits.

“I’ve been coming here every day for five years and have gained six kilos,” beamed one elderly, energetic man in faded khakis.

“It’s silly to pay more somewhere else for lower quality food,” an athletic-looking young man in a military police uniform told us. “I’ve been eating here every day for two years. It’s a good way to save money to buy a house so I can get married,” he said with a smile.

No one has to prove they’re poor to eat in a People’s Restaurant, although about 85 percent of the diners are. The mixed clientele erases stigma and allows “food with dignity,” say those involved.

Belo’s food security initiatives also include extensive community and school gardens as well as nutrition classes. Plus, money the federal government contributes toward school lunches, once spent on processed, corporate food, now buys whole food mostly from local growers.

“We’re fighting the concept that the state is a terrible, incompetent administrator,” Adriana explained. “We’re showing that the state doesn’t have to provide everything, it can facilitate. It can create channels for people to find solutions themselves.”

For instance, the city, in partnership with a local university, is working to “keep the market honest in part simply by providing information,” Adriana told us. They survey the price of 45 basic foods and household items at dozens of supermarkets, then post the results at bus stops, online, on television and radio, and in newspapers so people know where the cheapest prices are.

The shift in frame to food as a right also led the Belo hunger-fighters to look for novel solutions. In one successful experiment, egg shells, manioc leaves, and other material normally thrown away were ground and mixed into flour for school kids’ daily bread. This enriched food also goes to nursery school children, who receive three meals a day courtesy of the city.

“I knew we had so much hunger in the world. But what is so upsetting, what I didn’t know when I started this, is it’s so easy. It’s so easy to end it.”

The result of these and other related innovations?

In just a decade Belo Horizonte cut its infant death rate—widely used as evidence of hunger—by more than half, and today these initiatives benefit almost 40 percent of the city’s 2.5 million population. One six-month period in 1999 saw infant malnutrition in a sample group reduced by 50 percent. And between 1993 and 2002 Belo Horizonte was the only locality in which consumption of fruits and vegetables went up.

The cost of these efforts?

Around $10 million annually, or less than 2 percent of the city budget. That’s about a penny a day per Belo resident.

Behind this dramatic, life-saving change is what Adriana calls a “new social mentality”—the realization that “everyone in our city benefits if all of us have access to good food, so—like health care or education—quality food for all is a public good.”

The Belo experience shows that a right to food does not necessarily mean more public handouts (although in emergencies, of course, it does.) It can mean redefining the “free” in “free market” as the freedom of all to participate. It can mean, as in Belo, building citizen-government partnerships driven by values of inclusion and mutual respect.

And when imagining food as a right of citizenship, please note: No change in human nature is required! Through most of human evolution—except for the last few thousand of roughly 200,000 years—Homo sapiens lived in societies where pervasive sharing of food was the norm. As food sharers, “especially among unrelated individuals,” humans are unique, writes Michael Gurven, an authority on hunter-gatherer food transfers. Except in times of extreme privation, when some eat, all eat.

Before leaving Belo, Anna and I had time to reflect a bit with Adriana. We wondered whether she realized that her city may be one of the few in the world taking this approach—food as a right of membership in the human family. So I asked, “When you began, did you realize how important what you are doing was? How much difference it might make? How rare it is in the entire world?”

Listening to her long response in Portuguese without understanding, I tried to be patient. But when her eyes moistened, I nudged our interpreter. I wanted to know what had touched her emotions.

“I knew we had so much hunger in the world,” Adriana said. “But what is so upsetting, what I didn’t know when I started this, is it’s so easy. It’s so easy to end it.”

Adriana’s words have stayed with me. They will forever. They hold perhaps Belo’s greatest lesson: that it is easy to end hunger if we are willing to break free of limiting frames and to see with new eyes—if we trust our hard-wired fellow feeling and act, no longer as mere voters or protesters, for or against government, but as problem-solving partners with government accountable to us.

Frances Moore Lappé wrote this article as part of Food for Everyone, the Spring 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Frances is the author of many books including Diet for a Small Planet and Get a Grip, co-founder of Food First and the Small Planet Institute, and a YES! contributing editor.

The author thanks Dr. M. Jahi Chappell for his contribution to the article.

Walking Through Fear: interview with Frances Moore Lappé.

YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

  Read The City That Ended Hunger
 September 20, 2010   Hunger Proliferates In A Democracy; India Tops The Chart
by Devinder Sharma, Countercurrent,
Ground Reality

This is a chart that should put every Indian into shame. Not only an Indian, but also those who swear in the name of democracy. How can people's representatives remain immune to the growing scourge of hunger? Shouldn't this provoke you to ask the basic: why should hunger exist in a democracy?

The illustration above [released ahead of the Sept 20-22 Summit of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)] reflects the monumental failure of the global leadership to address the worst tragedy that a democracy can inflict. Amartya Sen had said that famine does not happen in a democracy, but let me add: hunger perpetuates in a democracy.

The hunger map above is also a reflection of the dishonesty shown by the international leadership to fight hunger. Hunger is the biggest scandal, a crime against humanity that goes unpunished. At the 1996 World Food Summit, political leaders had pledged to pull out half the world's hungry (at that time the figure was somewhere around 840 million) by the years 2015. This commitment was applauded by one and all, including the academicians, policy makers, development agencies and charities, and you name it.

This commitment alone demonstrated the political indifference to mankind's worst crime. Considering FAO's own projections of the number of people succumbing to hunger and malnutrition at around 24,000 a day, I had then said that by the year 2015, the 20 years time limit they had decided to work on, 172 million people would die of hunger. And when the world meets for the MDG Summit in a few days from now, almost 15 years since the WFS 1996, close to 128 million people have already died from hunger.

And you call this an urgency?

No one across the world stood up to call the bluff.

Hunger has instead grown. By 2010, the world should have removed at least 300 million people from the hunger list. It has however added another 85 million to raise the tally to 925 million. In my understanding, this too is a gross understatement. The horrendous face of hunger is being kept deliberately hidden by lowering the figures. In India, for instance, the map shows 238 million people living in hunger. This is certainly incorrect. A new government estimate points to 37.2 per cent of the population living in poverty, which means the hunger tally in India is officially at 450 million. Even this is an understatement. The poverty line is kept so stringent in India (at Rs 17 per person per day) that in the same amount you cannot even think of feeding a pet dog. I wonder how can the poor manage two-square meals a day under this classification.

Hunger is also growing in major democracies. In the US, it has broken a 14-year record, and one in every ten Americans lives in hunger. In Europe, 40 million people are hungry, almost equivalent to the population of Spain. Interestingly, most of the countries in the hunger chart are following democratic forms of governance. And yet, the only country which has made a sizable difference to global hunger is China, which as we all know is not a democracy.

Is it so difficult to remove hunger? The answer is No.

While there is no political will to fight hunger, the business of hunger is growing at a phenomenal rate. The economic growth paradigm that the world is increasingly following in principle aims at minimising hunger, poverty and inequality. But in reality acerbates hunger and inequality. Economists have programmed the mindset of generations in such a manner that everyone genuinely believes that the roadmap to remove hunger passes through GDP. The more the GDP the more will be the opportunities for the poor to move out of the poverty trap. Nothing could be further away from this faulty economic thinking. This is the biggest economic folly that a flawed education system has inflicted.

And it is primarily for this reason that after the 2008 economic meltdown, the international leadership pumped in more than $ 20 trillion to bail out the rich and crooked. On the other hand, removing hunger and poverty from the face of the Earth would cost the world only $ 1 trillion at the most, for which the resources are unavailable. But there is all the money in the world to fill the pockets of the rich, hoping that it would one day trickle down to the poor. Privatising the profits, and socialising the costs. Isn't this political and economic dishonesty?

Hungry stomach offers tremendous business opportunities. Rich economies are buttressed by speculation and free trade in food and agriculture. Opening up of the developing economies provides them opportunities to sell unwanted technologies/goods in the name of development. Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector sees the poor as a business opportunity to bail out the companies from sluggish growth. Micro-finance steps in to empty the pockets of the poor, again in the name of development. So much so that even Climate Change provides tremendous scope to milk the poor.

All this is happening in a democratic world.

  Read Hunger Proliferates In A Democracy; India Tops The Chart
 September 14, 2010   A New Age Of People Power: Lessons From The Dongria Kondh
by John Perkins , Countercurrent,
Yes! Magazine

With greater power to build alliances across boundaries, the Davids of the world are having more success throwing off the Goliaths

It was the kind of fight in which the power seems so one-sided that the conclusion is foregone. The indigenous Dongria Kondh of Niyamgiri, India, saw their homeland and their sacred mountains threatened by Vedanta Resources, an international mining company that planned to build an enormous bauxite mine in the heart of their land. The Dongria used themselves as roadblocks to keep Vedanta employees away, but it was hard to imagine that their resistance would have long-term effects.

But as word of their struggle spread, so did the resistance to the mine: Celebrities took up the cause, and shareholders from major firms to the Church of England and the Norwegian government withdrew their investments from Vedanta. The Indian government began to take a closer look at the project.

Last week, the government withdrew its permission from the mining proposal. The Indian environment ministry also accused a Vedanta subsidiary of violating conservation and environmental regulations. In reaction to this news, Vedanta stock plummeted almost 6 percent.

Improbable Victories

The Vedanta decision is just the most recent of many seemingly improbable victories by indigenous and environmental groups around the planet. Collective actions by ordinary people—increasingly aided by sophisticated use of information networks to connect people across distances—have stopped destructive practices by industries around the world.

In Ecuador and Peru, tribes like the Shuar and Achuar provide a powerful example—once enemies, they have now have joined forces with each other, as well as with NGOs like the U.S.-based Pachamama Alliance, to block the destruction of their homelands by foreign oil companies. In addition to organizing the largest environmental lawsuit in history (against Chevron/Texaco) in Ecuador, their actions forced the government of Peru to turn back two of decrees that would have opened large areas of the rainforest to investment and allowed projects to be permitted without an opportunity for indigenous review.

Indeed, throughout the Amazon, tribes have united—to a large degree by employing modern technologies—in order to halt the auctioning off and destruction of large parts of the rainforest. Ambrosio Uwak, an indigenous leader, was cited in a London Times article stating that two-way radios enabled his group to mobilize more than 15,000 people to blockade roads and resist oil drilling.

The triumphs of indigenous and green movements clearly demonstrate the importance of forming alliances, of proactively combining groups and resources in order to send a clear message to the corporatocracy. The recent successes also point out the role that global communications can play in uniting allies around a common cause.

Local Movements Go Global

A few years ago, I was standing beside a glacier high in the Himalayas, listening to the leader of a nomadic clan lamenting the fact that his people would never have telephones because the lines could not reach them. Several months later, I heard a similar complaint from a tribal chief deep in the Amazon. Today, they both have access to satellite cell phones—and they are using them to organize their people in their fight against social injustice and environmental destruction.

For the first time in history, we are all talking to each other. The significance of this cannot be overstated. Just as the invention of the printing press took control of published texts in Europe out of the hands of the Catholic Church, today the Internet and social networking are allowing people to share information and strategies directly with each other, challenging the power of the mainstream media. From the frozen Arctic to the scorching Sahara, we are connecting with each other in ways that could not have been imagined a decade ago.

The threat the bauxite mine posed to the Dongria Kondh tribe was exposed to the wider world when a video of people dressed as Na’vi (from the film Avatar) protesting at Vedanta’s London shareholder meetings was posted on YouTube; it highlighted the struggle against Vedanta Resources by comparing the company’s operations to the devastation portrayed in the movie. Something similar happened after a rally of Ecuador’s indigenous people, organized around the showing of Avatar in Quito, was posted on blogs across the planet. When residents of the Brazilian Amazon marched against the Belo Monte dam, Survival International reported that over 500 indigenous people from 27 tribes converged near the Xingu River to proclaim a message that was flashed around the globe on Twitter: “Defend the Xingu: Stop Belo Monte.”

Success Is Contagious

We’re now able to better share our victories as well as our struggles and strategies for resistance. It is easy to get caught up in all the negativity distributed by the mainstream media, to believe that we the people are powerless. The corporatocracy—the owners of those media—want us to believe just that. But the victories are many, for indigenous peoples as well as for others who seek to sever the shackles of corporate imperialism. Examples of our strength, our ability to force change, are becoming more prevalent every day. To cite just a few more recent victories:

> Kenya passed a referendum that strengthens indigenous peoples and their rights; it also changed its constitution to curb authoritarian presidential powers and place more control in the hands of the people;

> The Karuk of California joined forces with fishermen and environmental groups to win a moratorium on suction dredge mining, thus preventing further damage to salmon runs;
Ecuador ratified a new constitution granting inalienable rights to nature;

> In a resolution ratified by more than 90 percent of its citizens, Iceland refused to pay off debts the IMF and other international banks claim it owes—saying the people had been hoodwinked by economic hit men;

> Greeks took to the streets to protest harsh austerity measures imposed by the European Union and IMF;

> Argentine workers re-opened and successfully ran factories closed by owners who refused to pay fair wages;

> WikiLeaks continued to expose war crimes allegedly committed by the U.S. military, despite pressure brought by the CIA and the U.S. and other governments.

> University students in the U.S. convinced their schools not to renew their contracts with Nike until the company compensated jilted workers in Honduras—which it agreed to do.

The recent and continuing triumphs of indigenous, environmental, and other movements in support of people and nature demonstrate that we the people hold more power than we often believe. In proving that victory is possible, the Dongria Kondh offer each of us the inspiration to work for a world that our children and grandchildren will want to inherit. In the light of their achievements, we see a path we all can follow.

John Perkins wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. John is the author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman and, most recently, Hoodwinked: An Economic Hitman Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded—and What We Need to Do to Remake Them.

Research and editorial input provided by Nettie Hartsock.


Tribes Unite to Fight BP
Indigenous leaders from Ecuador travel to Louisiana to share their knowledge from a decade-long fight against Texaco.

Who Will Rule?
Citizen movements are proving that we can take on corporate power, and together build a future that works for all life.

What's Wrong With Avatar?
James Cameron's Avatar has its pluses, but it elevates violence instead of depicting a real path to peace and cultural transformation.

YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

  Read A New Age Of People Power: Lessons From The Dongria Kondh
 September 10, 2010   Stories Of Belonging
by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Countercurrent

In the industrialised world today, most of us feel overwhelmed by a seemingly endless series of crises. The climate is changing; conflicts rage around the world; the global economy may be on the verge of collapse. On a more personal level, we are experiencing what appears to be an epidemic of psychological disorders. Few of us are completely untouched by the increasing rates of depression and a pervading sense of isolation and low self-esteem.

It is clear that something needs to happen quite soon, and on a large scale, if we are to avoid further social, economic and ecological breakdown. I am convinced that the solutions are simpler and more easily attainable than most people believe, but unfortunately, certain deeply held assumptions prevent us from seeing some rather obvious truths. So in order to be part of the solution we first need to be able to look at the situation with open eyes. This requires a" big picture" approach, one that is not so readily available.

The dominant view promoted in mainstream media and academia is narrow and reinforces the notion that the problems we face are rooted in an innate human tendency towards competitiveness, dissatisfaction and greed. I grew up believing this to be true—thinking that in order to make any positive changes we had to somehow overcome these “faults” in our human nature. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I had an experience that helped me to question these assumptions. I came to realise that the source of the problem was not human nature; it was a consumer culture that was being imposed on people. This commercial culture, which is central to our economic system, is being foisted on societies all over the world, generating insecurity and greed and contributing to a whole range of social and environmental problems.


I was living in Paris in 1975, when I was asked to go out as part of a film team to Ladakh or "Little Tibet". In my work as a linguist, I had travelled to many parts of the world including Africa, North and South America and all over Europe. Nothing had prepared me for what I encountered in Ladakh. High up on the Tibetan plateau, I came to know a people who had not been colonized and were still living according to their own values and principles. Despite a harsh and barren environment of extreme temperatures, the Ladakhis were prospering materially, but also, and even more importantly, emotionally. Over time, I came to realise that they were among the freest, most peaceful and joyous people I had ever met. I also discovered that their happiness translated into a remarkable tolerance, an acceptance of difference and of adversity.

Ladakh belongs politically to India and had been sealed off from the modern world for strategic reasons. But around the time that I arrived, the region was opened up to economic development. Suddenly, the Ladakhis were exposed to outside influences they had not encountered before: advertising and corporate media, tourism, pesticides, western-style schooling, and consumer goods. The process of development centralised political power in Leh, the capital, and created dependence on an outside money economy to meet even the most basic needs. Because of standardised education, tourism and glamourised images in the media, Ladakhis began to think of themselves and their culture as backward and inferior. They were encouraged to embrace a Western urban lifestyle at all costs. Over the next twenty years I watched Leh turn into an urban sprawl. The streets became choked with traffic, and the air tasted of diesel fumes. ‘Housing colonies’ of soulless, cement boxes spread into the dusty desert. The once pristine streams became polluted, the water undrinkable. For the first time, there were homeless people.

Within a few years, unemployment and poverty, pollution and friction between different communities appeared. All of these things had not existed for the previous 500 years. Fundamental to these negative changes was a shift away from an economy based on local resources and local knowledge to a global economy based on capital and technology from the outside. Countless similar examples can be found in every country in the world. In some cases, as in industrialised countries, the process is more difficult to discern because it began so long ago. It is partly because of this that the example of Ladakh is so important to the outside world. It is a vivid illustration of how the global economy undermines the connections vital to sustaining life on earth. It equally helps us see how we can make the shift from the current system towards local economies and real cultures that are based on belonging to each other and the earth.

Belonging to Place

When I first arrived in Ladakh, I found a culture so attuned to the needs of people and the environment that it was unlike anything I had ever known. An important factor in the environmental balance in Ladakh was undoubtedly the fact that people belonged to their place on earth. They were bonded to that place through intimate daily contact, through knowledge about their immediate environment with its changing seasons, needs and limitations. For them, ‘the environment’ was not some alien, problematic sphere of human concern; it was where they lived. They were aware of the living context in which they found themselves. The movement of the stars, the sun, and moon were familiar rhythms that influenced their daily activities. The understanding that was gained through a life rooted in the natural world seemed to create a sense of kinship with plants and animals that nurtured a profound respect for the humble creatures that shared the world of the Ladakhis. Children and adults who witnessed the birth, rearing, mating and death of the animals around them were unable to view those animals as merely a “natural resource” to be plundered.

For the Ladakhis, there was no need to “manage” their resources; they themselves were a part of the natural balance and, out of this belonging came the knowledge that enabled them to survive and prosper in such a harsh setting. For example, virtually all the plants, shrubs, and bushes that grew wild, either around the edges of irrigated land or in the mountains—what we would call “weeds”—were gathered and served some useful purpose. Burtse was used for fuel and animal fodder; yagdzas, for the roofs of houses; the thorny tsermang, for building fences to keep animals out of fields and gardens; demok, as a red dye. Others were used for medicine, food, incense, and basket weaving. The soil in the stables was dug up to be used as fertilizer, thus recycling animal urine. Dung was collected not only from the stables and pens, but also from the pastures. Even human night soil was not wasted. Each house had composting latrines consisting of a small room with a hole in the floor built above a vertical chute, usually one floor high. Earth and ash from the kitchen stove were added, thus aiding chemical decomposition, producing better fertilizer, and eliminating smells. Once a year the latrine was emptied at ground level and the contents used on the fields. In such ways Ladakhis traditionally recycled everything. There was literally no waste. With only scarce resources at their disposal, the Ladakhis managed to attain almost complete self-reliance, dependent on the outside world only for salt, tea, and a few metals for cooking utensils and tools.

Yet, they enjoyed more than mere subsistence. Through adapting their activities to the exigencies of their natural environment and the rhythm of the seasons, the Ladakhis had a remarkably high standard of living. No one was poor; no one went hungry. Although Ladakhis spent a long time accomplishing each task, they worked at a gentle pace and had a surprising amount of leisure. The traditional way of life was based upon and continually fostered a deep connection with place, which in turn supported community. Ladakhis were thus raised in an enveloping network of extended family, friends, plants and animals.

Growing up and Aging

I became close friends with a young Ladakhi woman named Dolma, who had just given birth to her first child. Spending time with her family, I saw something of how children were brought up. Dolma spent more time with little Angchuk, who was six months old, than anyone else did. But caring for the baby was not her job alone. Everyone looked after him. Someone was always there to kiss and cuddle him. Men and women alike adored little children, and even the teenaged boys from next door were not embarrassed to be seen cooing over little Angchuk or rocking him to sleep with a lullaby. Taking responsibility for other children as one grows up has a profound effect on a child’s development. For boys in particular, it is important since it brings out their ability for caring and nurturing. In traditional Ladakh, masculine identity was not threatened by such qualities; on the contrary, it embraced them.

Children were never segregated into peer groups; they grew up surrounded by people of all ages, from young babies to great-grandparents. With the exception of religious training in the monasteries, the traditional culture had no separate process called "education." Education was the product of an intimate relationship with the community and its environment. Children learned from grandparents, family, and friends. They learned about connections, process, and change, about the intricate web of fluctuating relationships in the natural world around them. When villagers gathered to discuss important issues, or had festivals and parties, children of all ages were always present. Even at social gatherings that ran late into the night with drinking, singing, dancing, and loud music, young children could be seen running around, joining in the festivities until they simply dropped off to sleep.

Old people also participated in all spheres of life. For the elderly in Ladakh, there were no years of staring into space, unwanted and alone; they were important members of the community until the day they died. Old age implied years of valuable experience and wisdom. Grandparents were not so strong, but they had other qualities to contribute; there was no hurry to life, so if they worked more slowly it did not matter. One of the main reasons old people remained so alive and involved was their constant contact with the young. The relationship between grandparent and child was different from that between parent and child. The very oldest and the very youngest formed a special bond; they were often best friends. In the West, we would say the children were being “spoiled,” but in fact very soon, by the time they were five or so, Ladakhi children learned to take responsibility for someone else, carrying infants on their backs as soon as they were strong enough.

Comparing what I have just described with the experience of growing up and aging in the West, the differences are obvious. And our children are bearing the brunt of it. From the technology and pharmaceutical-based hospital birth to the crowded day care center, from the Ritalin prescriptions to the television babysitter, from standardized, segregated education to video games—growing up in the West is a world away from what I saw in Ladakh. We cannot lay the blame on Western parents; for they too are victims of the global economy and, in most cases, are doing the best they can. As corporations scour the world for bigger subsidies and lower costs, jobs move with them, and families as well. For example, the typical American moves eleven times during a lifetime, constantly severing connections between relatives, neighbours and friends. Within almost every family, the economic pressures on parents systematically rob them of time with their children. As a consequence more and more young children are relegated to the care of strangers in crowded day-care centres. Older children are often left in the company of violent video games or the corporate sponsors of their favourite television shows. Globalisation and the spreading consumer culture thus work to displace the flesh-and-blood role models - parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbours - that children once looked up to, replacing them with media and advertising images: rakish movie and rock stars, steroid-enhanced athletes and airbrushed supermodels. Time spent in nature - fundamentally important to our psychological wellbeing - is increasingly rare. But it hasn't always been this way. Only about 50 years ago, child-rearing in the West was much more of a community endeavour.

Through economic and societal pressures we have been segregated into smaller and smaller social units. Those who are not fortunate enough to be part of a nuclear family are often isolated and alone. This is most apparent during holidays—Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day—but it is actually the case every day of the year. Being single is usually a much more lonely experience in the industrialised world than in a culture where the community is like a close-knit extended family. My husband and I have no children and we feel a much greater sense of loss when we are in the West than we do in Ladakh. There, we are integrated into the larger community and become part of the wider network of caregivers for the children.

Living Harmoniously

Having lived in many different cultures, I have become convinced that we are shaped by culture to a far greater extent than we realise. And this influence extends throughout our entire lives. I discovered that my husband and I would regularly spend many months in Ladakh without having a single argument. But within hours of leaving Ladakh, finding ourselves in New Delhi or London, tensions would have built up enough to cause friction between us. In Ladakh, we lived in a human-scale community where people were seen and heard and recognized as individuals, deeply connected to the people around us. We belonged to a community and benefited from daily exercise in the fresh air and beautiful natural surroundings. Our pace of life was based on natural rhythms; on the rhythms that we, as human beings, have evolved with.

In my daily life in Ladakh, almost everything I needed to have or to do was within walking distance. Going back and forth to Ladakh, I have come to value this more and more. I can walk out of the house and go uphill for about twenty minutes and I’m in complete wilderness. En route, I would have said hello to some smiling cows and sheep, maybe a few donkeys, crossed some lively streams and said hello to one or two people. When I walk twenty minutes downhill, encountering perhaps a dozen friendly faces along the way, I find myself in the centre of town.

The importance of exercise and fresh air for our wellbeing and for a sense of belonging to life cannot be overestimated. Modern scientific research is beginning to back this up: a recent UK study showed that 90 percent of people suffering from depression experienced an increase in self-esteem after a walk in a park. After a visit to a shopping centre, on the other hand, 44 percent felt a decrease in self-esteem and 22 percent felt more depressed.

One of the most important factors contributing to a greater sense of wellbeing is living at a slower pace, with the spaciousness it provides. In traditional Ladakh, time pressures were non-existent. Even at the peak of harvest season, everything was done at a leisurely and gracious pace. There was time for laughter and celebration and constant song. Humans and animals set the speed, not machines. In the West, we have come to belong less to life and more to technology. Instead of saving time, our machine-dependent way of life leaves us less and less time for our families and ourselves.

Yet, Ladakh is not as it was when I first arrived. As “development” got underway, I began to see more of the same trends we take for granted in the West. Village life itself was radically transformed. Subsidies for imports destroyed the local market for local producers, creating a cascade of negative effects. This one shift simultaneously destroyed livelihoods and cultural traditions, undermined cooperation and community, created competition and poverty and severed the connections between people and the land. Losing their sense of connection and belonging meant a concurrent loss of self-esteem. The young were particularly vulnerable. The previously strong, outgoing women of Ladakh were replaced by a new generation - unsure of themselves and desperately concerned with their appearance. Young men rushed after the symbols of modernity: sunglasses, walkmans and blue jeans—not because they found those jeans more attractive or comfortable, but because they were symbols of modern life. I have seen Ladakhis wearing wristwatches they cannot read, and heard them apologising for the lack of electric lighting in their homes – electric lighting which, in 1975, when it first appeared, most villagers laughed at as an unnecessary gimmick. Even traditional foods were no longer a source of pride; when I was guest in a Ladakhi village, people apologised if they served the traditional roasted barley, ngamphe, instead of instant noodles. These changes eroded both the material and cultural richness of the villages.

Some consequences were more serious, even deadly. As I mentioned earlier, because of the political and economic changes in Ladakh, inequalities arose. Although the majority of Ladakhis are Buddhist, there is also a significant number of Muslims. For more than 500 years these two communities lived side by side with no recorded instance of group conflict. They helped each other at harvest time, attended one another's religious festivals, even intermarrying. But within a decade of the imposition of western-style `development', Buddhists and Muslims were engaged in pitched battles — including the bombing of each other's homes — that took many lives. The modern economy had centralized jobs and capital, creating tremendous competition for employment, while simultaneously creating what can best be described as cultural inferiority complex. Because people felt both economically and psychologically insecure, religious and ethnic differences escalated into group rivalry. Fortunately, the conflict in Ladakh has now subsided, but the forces of the global economy are still at work worldwide, contributing to a massive increase in ethnic friction, fundamentalism and violence.

Learning from Ladakh

As painful as it was for me to experience these changes, it was what forced me to understand the root cause of so much of the bloodshed and violence we see in the world.
I became convinced that it is the need to be loved rather than innate greed that drives us as human beings, driving even our desire for the products of the consumer culture. People not only need love but need to give love and they have a great capacity for contentedness, cooperation and generosity. Yet the globalised consumer culture undermines these qualities at every turn. Advertising and the media promise people that they will “belong' and be loved and admired if they wear a certain brand of clothing or have the latest techno-gadget. Children and youth are especially vulnerable to these messages. They hanker after the latest trends in the hopes of gaining the respect and love of their peers. In reality, consuming leads to greater competition, envy, and eventually, separation. The globalised consumer culture disconnects us from one another and from the natural world. It blinds us to what is essential for happiness and wellbeing. It takes away our sense of belonging—to community, to place, to the earth—and replaces it with feelings of insecurity, inferiority and disconnectedness. This in turn fuels greed and increased consumerism. In fact, most of our crises stem from the breakdown of community and our spiritual connection to the living world.

Recognising this truth empowers us. Realising that it's not human nature that is to blame, but rather an in-human system is actually inspiring. Looking at the bigger picture in this way is essential to effecting long-lasting change; it can also help us to realise that the same economic policies that are breaking down community are destroying our environment. As more people become aware of this, we are seeing broad-based support - from social as well as environmental movements - for a fundamental shift in direction.

Awareness is growing. Each year, there are more and more projects demonstrating that deeper human needs are about belonging - not competing or acquiring. And these needs can be fulfilled.

Localisation - Reweaving the Fabric of Belonging

All around the world, people are beginning to understand that we need to localise, rather than globalising, our economies. In order to create the structures that support a sense of belonging we need to rebuild community, and that means rebuilding ways of meeting our needs that allow us to see our impact on others and on the natural world. In other words, we need to adapt economic activity to place - shortening the distance between producers and consumers. In this way producers can respond to the needs of the consumers, and take responsibility for what they produce as they see the effects immediately before them.

Localisation means greater self-reliance, but it doesn't mean eliminating long distance trade; it simply means striking a healthier balance between trade and local production. It is a process that inherently nurtures a sense of connection to community and to the earth. Strong local economies are essential for helping us to rediscover what it means to belong to a culture, to belong to a community, to belong to a place on earth.

In traditional cultures like Ladakh the spiritual teachings are a constant reminder of belonging: a reminder of our inextricable interdependence one with another and with everything in the cosmos. This reminder is ever present in daily affairs, in rituals and in words of wisdom, passed on from the elders to the young ones.

Over the last thirty years my organization has worked with Ladakhi leaders to protect and rekindle these connections. We have collaborated with the youth and with farmers, with traditional doctors and women’s organizations, with politicians and business owners to rebuild a sense of pride in the Ladakhi culture and way of life. We have set up appropriate technology projects that use Ladakh’s natural resources sustainably, such as small-scale hydro and solar energy, greenhouses and solar ovens. We also run educational campaigns that provide the Ladakhis with a fuller picture of life in West, including the negative sides not shown in the media. Although these are small steps and the work goes slowly, we are beginning to see the benefits of our efforts. More and more Ladakhis are interested in keeping their spiritual and ecological values alive. Farmers are now more aware of the risks of chemical agriculture and genetically modified crops. There has also been a resurgence of interest in traditional methods of healing. One of our most successful collaborations has been with the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh, which is now one of the most powerful forces for positive change in the region. Recent efforts have included banning plastic bags, leading courses on traditional handcrafts and opening an organic, local food café.

The story of tradition, change and renewal in Ladakh has captured the hearts and minds of countless people from Mongolia to the USA, from Burma to my native country of Sweden. As a consequence, I’ve been in touch with literally thousands of individuals and projects that are reweaving the fabric of connection, of belonging to place. These movements are rooted in people’s desire to preserve the bonds to family, community, and nature that make life meaningful. At a fundamental level, these are movements for “localisation”—for reweaving the fabric of place-based culture.

Around the world, people are demonstrating incredible wisdom, courage and perseverance and have shown me that feelings of fear, of isolation, of discontent are actually a natural reaction to a system gone awry. From these feelings springs the search for what is real, healthy and essential for life. They give us the inspiration to work together with those who have already started the journey to reclaim their contentment, security and joy.

Helena Norberg-Hodge is an analyst of the impact of the global economy on cultures and agriculture worldwide and a pioneer of the localisation movement. She is the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC). He book Ancient Futures has been described as an "inspirational classic" by the London Times and together with a film of the same title, it has been translated into 42 languages. She is also co-author of Bringing the Food Economy Home and From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture. In 1986, she received the Right Livelihood Award, or the "Alternative Nobel Prize" as recognition for her work in Ladakh
  Read Stories Of Belonging
 September 7, 2010   Alien Forest, Alien Ocean, Alien Sky
by Rady Ananda , Countercurrent

Imagine our declining pollinators ? bees, moths, butterflies and bats ? coming upon thousands of acres of toxic trees, genetically engineered so that every cell in the tree exudes pesticide, from crown to root. Imagine a world without pollinators. Without seed dispersers. Without soil microbes.

It would be a silent forest, a killing forest, an alien forest. No wonder Vandana Shiva scoffs at the moniker, biotechnology. ?This is not a life technology. It's a death science.?

Genetically engineered forests are a holocaust on nature. An award-winning documentary, A Silent Forest: The Growing Threat, Genetically Engineered Trees (2005, 46 mins) details the appalling effects. (You can buy the full length film at Amazon. )

Global Justice Ecology Project director, Ann Petermann defines the issue: ?Genetically engineered trees are the greatest threat to the world's remaining forests since the invention of the chainsaw.?

Jim Hightower calls them, ?wildly invasive, explosively flammable, and insatiably thirsty for ground water.?

If planting a sterile, killer forest isn't freaky enough, some GM trees will be viable and can and will contaminate natural species. Tree pollen can travel over 600 miles , according to a model created by Duke University, reported Petermann in 2006. Another study found pine pollen 400 miles from the nearest pines. This year, a scientist was surprised to find viable seeds 25 miles offshore .

?Sterile trees would also be able to spread their transgenes through vegetative propagation,? notes Petermann . Unlike with animals, being sexually sterile does not preclude reproduction when it comes to plants.

GM contamination occurs around the globe, as documented by GM Watch and the GM Contamination Register (among others). The technology cannot be contained. Genetically modified organisms are dominant over natural species and will forever alter Earth's natural plants.

By the way, the latest batch of approved GM trees ? 200,000 eucalyptus for seven southern states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina) ? are engineered to be cold tolerant. A lawsuit has been filed to overturn their approval.

Chemically altering the atmosphere to be cooler

Not only are the powers-that-be genetically altering trees, food crops and animals, they're also chemically altering the atmosphere. In 1976, the United Nations banned hostile environmental modification , after investigative reporter Jack Anderson uncovered its use in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Next month, October 2010, the UN will vote on a resolution to stop all EnMod activities.

While the thought police label chemtrails a ?conspiracy theory,? it's unlikely that the UN scientific body calling for their termination would base such a recommendation on fiction. Those interested in scientific and legal proof can review the sources in my piece on atmospheric geoengineering .

Climate change is still being debated, especially after the University of East Anglia was caught publishing false data showing temperature increases. Significant errors in a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), where it also falsely asserted as fact that Himilaya glaciers would melt by 2035, also fuel the debate.

Recently, an independent investigative body told the IPCC to stop lobbying on behalf of global warming programs. Members of the IPCC were also ordered to reveal their financial connections to such programs.

The temperature of the planet is characterized as too warm, and so the wealthy and powerful want to cool down the planet. If they do, those cold-tolerant GM trees will survive.

Altering the chemistry of the hydrosphere

Governments also support altering the chemistry of the hydrosphere. There is still much debate as to whether iron-seeding the oceans can remove enough carbon from the atmosphere to actually cool the planet. But, like the Cap and Trade scam, profit can be made so policy makers still support the idea.

Beyond deliberate attempts at geoengineering, we also have industry to blame for doing so. For over a century, humanity has been conned into poisoning the environment with toxic chemicals that end up in our streams, lakes and oceans. ?Conventional? agriculture and industrial pollution is killing us .

Corporations profit by this, of course, enabled and protected by governments. The most recent example, allowing BP to spray at least two million gallons of toxic oil dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico, is a case in point. This is after the Earth Day Blowout that released up to 350 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. Those dispersants enable oil to more readily penetrate the bodies of sea life, and they interfere with oil-eating microbes .

They're destroying an ocean and the US Senate is giving BP a pass. It refuses to grant subpoena power to investigate, let alone criminally prosecute. Forget partisanship, says Dateline Zero , ?they are the same party, and they get their money from the same people, they get their orders from the same people ? and that includes big oil.?

The actions of the corporations involved and the governmental agencies charged with regulating them have caused an ongoing Extinction Level Event.

This is happening all over the world. Corporations are destroying the planet under the guise of seeking profit. But their ecocidal activities are so horrendous and so ubiquitous that profits seem hardly plausible as authentic motive.

When taken together ? chemically altered skies and waters and genetically altered plants and animals ? reasonable minds cannot but wonder at the alien transformation of Planet Earth that we are witnessing.

  Read Alien Forest, Alien Ocean, Alien Sky
 September 6, 2010   Mozambique's Food Riots – The True Face Of Global Warming
by Raj Patel, Countercurrent,
The Guardian

The violence in Maputo is just the latest manifestation of the crippling shortcomings of the global economy

It has been a summer of record temperatures – Japan had its hottest summer on record, as did South Florida and New York. Meanwhile, Pakistan and Niger are flooded and the eastern US is mopping up after hurricane Earl. None of these individual events can definitively be attributed to global warming. But to see how climate change will play out in the 21st century, you needn't look to the Met Office. Look, instead, to the deaths and burning tyres in Mozambique's "food riots" to see what happens when extreme natural phenomena interact with our unjust economic systems.

The immediate causes of the protests in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, and Chimoio about 500 miles north, are a 30% price increase for bread, compounding a recent double-digit increase for water and energy. When nearly three-quarters of the household budget is spent on food, that's a hike few Mozambicans can afford.

Deeper reasons for Mozambique's price hike can be found a continent away. Wheat prices have soared on global markets over the summer in large part because Russia, the world's third largest exporter, has suffered catastrophic fires in its main production areas. These blazes, in turn, find their origin both in poor firefighting infrastructure and Russia's worst heatwave in over a century. On Thursday, Vladimir Putin extended an export ban in response to a new wave of wildfires in its grain belt, sending further signals to the markets that Russian wheat wouldn't be available outside the country. With Mozambique importing over 60% of the wheat its people needs, the country has been held hostage by international markets.

This may sound familiar. In 2008, the prices of oil, wheat, corn and rice peaked on international markets – corn prices almost tripled between 2005-2008. In the process, dozens of food-importing countries experienced food riots.

Behind the 2008 protests were, first, natural events that looked like an excerpt from the meteorological section of the Book of Revelation – drought in Australia, crop disease in central Asia, floods in south-east Asia. These were compounded by the social systems through which their effects were felt. Oil prices were sky-high, which meant higher transport costs and fossil fuel-based fertiliser prices. Biofuel policy, particularly in the US, shifted land and crops from food into ethanol production, diverting food from stomachs to fuel tanks. Longer term trends in population growth and meat consumption in developing countries also added to the stress. Financial speculators piled into food commodities, driving prices yet further beyond the reach of the poor. Finally, some retailers used the opportunity to raise prices still further, and while commodity prices have fallen back to pre-crisis levels, most of us have yet to see the savings.

Is this 2008 all over again? The weather has gone wild, meat prices have hit a 20-year high, groceries are being looted and heads of state are urging calm. The view from commodities desks, however, is that we're not in quite as dire straits as two years ago. Fuel is relatively cheap and grain stores well stocked. We're on track for the third-highest wheat crop ever, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). While all this is true, it misses the point: for most hungry people, 2008 isn't over. The events of 2007-2008 tipped more than 100 million into hunger and the global recession has meant that they have stayed there. In 2006, the number of undernourished people was 854 million. In 2009, it was 1.02 billion – the highest level since records began. The hardest hit by these price rises, in the US and around the world, were female-headed households.

Not only are the hungry still around, but food riots have continued. In India, double-digit food price inflation was met by violent street protests at the end of 2009. The price rises were, again, the result of both extreme and unpredictable monsoons in 2009 and an increasingly faulty social safety net to prevent hunger. There have been frequent public protests about the price of wheat in Egypt this year, and Serbia and Pakistan have seen protests too.

Although commodity prices fell after 2008, the food system's architecture has remained largely the same over the past two decades. Bill Clinton has offered several mea culpas for the international trade and development policies that spawned the food crisis. Earlier this year, he blamed himself for Haiti's vulnerability to price fluctuations. "I did that," he said in testimony to the US Senate. "I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did. Nobody else." More generally, Clinton suggested in 2008 that "food is not a commodity like others… it is crazy for us to think we can develop a lot of these countries [by] treating food like it was a colour television set."

Yet global commodity speculators continue to treat food as if it were the same as television sets, with little end in sight to what the World Development Movement has called "gambling on hunger in financial markets". The recent US Wall Street Reform Act contained some measures that might curb these speculative activities, but their full scope has yet to be clarified. Europe doesn't have a mechanism to regulate these kinds of speculative trades at all. Agriculture in the global south is still subject to the "Washington consensus" model, driven by markets and with governments taking a back seat to the private sector. And the only reason biofuels aren't more prominent is that the oil they're designed to replace is currently cheap.

Clearly, neither grain speculation, nor forcing countries to rely on international markets for food, nor encouraging the use of agricultural resources for fuel instead of nourishment are natural phenomena. These are political decisions, taken and enforced not only by Bill Clinton, but legions of largely unaccountable international development professionals. The consequences of these decisions are ones with which people in the global south live everyday. Which brings us back to Mozambique.

Recall that Mozambique's street protests coincided not only with a rise in the price of bread, but with electricity and water price hikes too. In an interview with Portugal's Lusa news agency, Alice Mabota of the Mozambican League of Human Rights didn't use the term "food riots". In her words: "The government… can't understand or doesn't want to understand that this is a protest against the higher cost of living." The action on the streets isn't simply a protest about food, but a wider act of rebellion. Half of Mozambique's poor already suffer from acute malnutrition, according to the FAO. The extreme weather behind the grain fires in Russia transformed a political context in which citizens were increasingly angry and frustrated with their own governments.

Yesterday, I reached Diamantino Nhampossa, the co-ordinator of Mozambique's União Nacional de Camponeses (National Peasants Union of Mozambique). "These protests are going to end," he told me. "But they will always come back. This is the gift that the development model we are following has to offer." Like many Mozambicans, he knows full well which way the wind blows.

  Read Mozambique's Food Riots – The True Face Of Global Warming
 August 29, 2010   Endless War, Humanitarian Crisis, And Perpetual Resistance: U.S. Foreign Policy In The 21st Century
by Michael Schwartz , Countercurrent,
War Is A Crime .org

In 2009, the mainstream U.S. media reported with satisfaction that the Pakistani government had finally responded positively to the United States and NATO's demands[1] for an aggressive military policy aimed at depriving the resurgent Taliban of ?safe havens? in Pakistan.[2] The subsequent offensive, featuring a Pakistani invasion of these areas and aerial assaults by the U.S. and its NATO allies, and has become just another unexceptional element of the open-ended military campaign formerly known as GWOT (the ?Global War on Terror?), but which, under the Obama administration has continued without a name. It receives little attention from the mainstream media, which is focusing its limited attention on Afghanistan, to the exclusion of the other ?hot wars? the U.S. is currently conducting in Iraq and Pakistan.

In neglecting to cover the process and impact of the Pakistan war, the U.S. media has ignored or recorded in a perfunctory manner (often as add-ons to Afghanistan coverage) major developments in this war, particularly the humanitarian crisis it has created.

One vivid, pregnant, and immensely significant instance of this casual treatment of events that alter the history of the host country was the coverage of a recent United Nations report focused on a single campaign in the Pakistan war. The Associated Press[3] reported it thusly: ?More than 200,000 people have fled Pakistan's latest offensive against Taliban militants in the northwest, the United Nations said Monday, as fresh clashes in the remote region killed 41 insurgents and six soldiers.? Later in the article, it emerged that this major displacement in a single region?running at about 50,000 displaced per month?was matched by other campaigns in nearby areas, with a total, according to the United Nations, of 1.3 million refugees ?driven from their home by fighting in the northwest and unable to return.?

But even this 1.3 million refugee figure was still a partial number, because it did not include the impact of the various earlier and parallel campaigns carried out by Pakistan, NATO special forces, and the increasingly infamous drone attacks piloted by remote control from thousands of miles away. These offensives had produced, by June of this year, about 3.5 million displaced persons, including several hundred thousand rendered homeless for more than a year.[4] This humanitarian disaster was therefore one magnitude greater than the agony of Darfur, which in mid-2010 was estimated to have displaced 2.7 million people,[5] though Pakistan's disaster still lagged behind the Iraqi total, which had reached or exceeded five million.[6]

What never appears in the U.S. media is the process by which these military offensives translate into massive displacement. Unlike our unformed image of these wars, which pictures people fleeing the fighting and then returning when (and if) peace and/or security returns, these military campaigns leave permanent damage behind that usually?at least given the current goals and policies of the United States?have little chance of being repaired. Therefore, the displacement is likely to be long term for a substantial proportion of its victims, with all the misery that refugee status implies.

Take the casually reported offensive in the tribal regions of Afghanistan. Kathy Kelly, an independent reporter and human rights activist with years of experience in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region[7] described to Democracy Now one facet of the degradation process[8] that she witnessed in her last trip to the tribal areas of Pakistan The linchpin of this particular disaster was the systematic targeting of electrical facilities by the NATO and Pakistani military, considered necessary to disabling the resistance. Soon after the beginning of the offensive, the affected cities were delivering electricity for only part of the day, creating a chain reaction:

The textile industry can't function if their factories are closed down with eight hours' loss of electricity every day. And so the numbers of people that are jobless, homeless, and out on the streets and willing to demonstrate, which is very risky to do in a country with so much military control. But we spent a long time sitting with the Pakistani Clerks Association, who were out demonstrating. They were in their third month. Students were in their tenth day of demonstrating, saying that they had all been summarily dismissed from their jobs, and what would they do?

Situations like those created in Pakistan therefore generate both protests?which becomes more and more insistent as the immiseration deepens?and displacement?in which people search for a location with better prospects. Some do both. Others will seek to wait out the crisis and hope for a better day. But since these kinds of disasters do not go away, people's patience is soon exhausted. They will not sit still when their children are starving or without shelter at night, or without sufficient clothes.

The displaced people come to constitute the visible humanitarian crisis that the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees investigates and seeks to ameliorate. In the meantime, the collateral protests are regularly interpreted (often correctly) as anger against the military, the local government, and the foreign occupation. Whatever form the protests take (ranging from petitions to demonstrations to angry mobs to systematic insurgency to terrorist attacks) they become justification for renewed military onslaughts, thus bringing the process full circle.

This cycle of military aggression, immiseration, displacement and protest, leading to new military offensives aimed at definitive pacification, characterizes the visible (Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) and less visible (Somalia, Yemen) interventions undertaken by the United States as part of the military strategy formerly known as GWOT.

But why doesn't the U.S. and its client governments move quickly to repair the damage caused by the attack, thus damping the protest and ending mass displacement? In Pakistan, then, one might look for a rapid restoration of electrical service in affected cities, followed as quickly as possible by revival of the textile industry, leading to revival of the local economy and, in the middle term perhaps, improvement over the pre-war conditions. This strategy, currently labeled as Counterinsurgency Warfare, is the official goal of all current U.S. campaigns.

But what actually happens is quite the reverse: a further erosion of local living conditions that it an inevitable part of the strategy formerly knows as GWOT. In pacified areas, where resistance is quiescent or absent, the process of U.S. sponsored reconstruction has a kind of reverse Midas touch, contributing to the immiseration of the local community. Take the example of the Iraqi electrical system, which was also a major military target, both in the earlier Gulf War (in 1990) and in the 2003 invasion. By the time the Hussein regime was overthrown in spring of 2003,[9] electrical generating capacity had been reduced by almost 50% from a 1990 high of 9000 megawatts to less than 5000 megawatts, leading to daily outages everywhere in the country. In the six subsequent years the U.S. invested over five billion dollars in the electrical system aimed at restoring and expanding the system to cover the dramatically increased demand from newly introduced electrical appliances and newly built U.S. facilities. Nevertheless, capacity stagnated at 5000 megawatts, barely above the prewar total, and far less than half the needed output (estimate in 2010 at 14,000 megawatts). All over Iraq, cities suffered with as little as two hours of electricity per day, far less than was available even after the destruction wrought by the 2003 overthrow of the Ba'athist regime.

This failure was not a result of ongoing fighting that prevented reconstruction; in fact, most of the five billion dollar U.S. effort had been invested in areas where there had been very little fighting, though many of these areas became insurgent centers as the electrical and associated crises continued.

The failure to rebuild the electrical system was, instead, a consequence of the ambitious goals that the Bush Administration had for its occupation of Iraq, goals that have become central to the policies of the Obama administration as well. They were summarized succinctly in the 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States, the official statement of U.S. military goals: ?We seek a Middle East of independent states, at peace with each other, and fully participating in an open global market of goods, services, and ideas,? which would ?ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade?[10] The goals were summarized by retired army colonel Douglas Macgregor?a West Point class mate of ousted Afghanistan commander David McChrystal?as an attempt to ?reshape the culture of the Islamic world.?[11]

And they were embraced by President Obama in his major policy statement about Afghanistan when he promised a ?dramatic increase in our civilian effort? designed to ?To advance security, opportunity, and justice -- not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces -- we need agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers. That is how we can help the Afghan government? develop an economy that isn't dominated by illicit drugs.?[12]

In short, a fundamental goal of the full scale U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?and the aerial and Special Forces invasion of the tribal regions of Pakistan?is political, social, and economic transformation.

In Iraq, the electrical system reconstruction was part of this larger goal of transforming Iraqi society. In this instance a major feature of the campaign involved destroying the Ba'athist government and replacing its state controlled economic and physical infrastructure with a privatized system integrated into the globalized economy. This meant dismantling state-owned electrical and construction companies and contracting with international businesses to replace the existing facilities with proprietary technology, replace Iraqi professionals with their own technicians, and replace Iraqi workers with their own imported labor force. In implementing this transformation with no-bid cost-plus contracts and no oversight by either the U.S. government or the Iraqis, the politically connected?aptly called ?beltway bandits?[13] by journalist Ann Jones? contractors were rewarded for maximizing profit on every element of the operation, creating vast cost overruns, and leaving the work incomplete if and when supplementary funds were not made available.

One incredible example in the reconstruction of the Iraqi electrical grid involved the U.S. based construction company Bechtel, which removed 26 functioning Iraqi oil driven generators and replaced them with new proprietary gas driven turbines rated at twice the megawatt output.[14] However, since Iraq does not capture its natural gas, all but seven of the turbines could not be activated. With no new contracts to remedy the problem Bechtel walked away, taking its profits back to the United States. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers then gerryrigged the turbines so that they could use fuel oil, though this fix-up reduced output by 50%, making the new turbines no more productive than the one that had been ripped out. Iraqi technicians, excluded from the construction process and untrained in operating and repairing Bechtel's proprietary turbines, struggled to maintain the half-capacity output, but the fuel oil clogged the system and?over a two year period?one after another went off line, temporarily or permanently. Ultimately the newly installed system produced far less output than the one it replaced.

What the Iraqi electrical system debacle exemplified is how the effort to rebuild Iraq (and/or Afghanistan or Pakistan) ?through free markets and free trade? produced the opposite of reconstruction and revival. The areas served by the Bechtel turbines experienced a further degradation of their living conditions, as the absence or shortage of electricity undermined the viability of local industry and commerce, made household living difficult and sometimes impossible, and led to all manner of social pathologies as desperate people turned to desperate measures. The five billion dollar investment by the United States in the Iraqi electrical system produced ample profits for international businesses and continued immiseration for Iraqis.

The impact of U.S. sponsored reconstruction thus produces a second vicious cycle intermingled and complementary to the military-impelled cycle of pacification, destruction, immiseration, resistance, and re-pacification experienced by the NATO/Pakistani offensive in Orakzai region. In this pattern, pacification?violently accomplished or unresisted?is succeeded by an effort to deconstruct the old system and replace it with service from globalized enterprises. Instead of vivifying local life, this effort produces deconstruction and immiseration, followed by displacement and resistance, leading to new efforts at pacification.

Throughout the six years, the reverse Midas touch applied to the Iraqi electrical system?and to other key targets of U.S. reconstruction, including the provision of potable water, the westernization of education, and the privatization of medical care? has been the focus of discontent and resistance, ranging from peaceful demands for service, siphoning off electricity for private purposes, sabotage when facilities were seen as being misused, and various forms of violent protest. In one dramatic moment, the heat of the summer in 2010 triggered nationwide protests against electrical shortages and prices. In Baghdad, where prices were doubled at the start of the summer, families complained about being charged 100 dollars per month (about a third of average monthly income) for two hours of electricity per day.[15] Protests, especially in the hard hit poorer neighborhoods became a daily event. In Basra, the second largest city in Iraq, police ?opened fire on a mob enraged by power cuts that reduced electricity availability to below two hours per day,? killing two and wounded many others. In Nasiriyah, a town with little history of violent resistance to the occupation, police used water cannon to repel demonstrators after they injured 17 police while ?trying to storm provincial headquarters.?

The protests produced small but significant concessions from the Iraqi government, including the resignation of the Electricity Minister, price cuts in some areas, and promises of increased output in specific localities where protests had been particularly ferocious The larger structural issue remained unaddressed, with the Iraqi government announcing contracts with multinational electrical companies (General Electric and Siemens) to increase capacity to approximately 70% of demand in the next few years. The new contracts, like that signed by Bechtel, contained all the same incentives that led to the Bechtel debacle six years earlier.

The two concentric cycles?pacification-immiseration-resistance-pacification and deconstruction-immiseration-protest-deconstruction?work together to create a cycle of misery. With or without violent confrontations between indigenous groups and occupation forces, each cycle creates larger masses of destitution, as the social, physical, and economic infrastructure continues to decline?under the weight of military occupation and/or the impact of globalized deconstruction. The double weight of military campaigns and contracts with multinational companies, aimed at reshaping the ?culture of the Islamic world?[16] and vivifying the host economies ?through free markets and free trade?[17] works only to further the immiseration of the targeted communities, and to guarantee wave after wave of protest. And, in embedded in these cycles of misery are the ever-enlarging humanitarian crises, made visible by growing armies of the displaced, deprived of the basic necessities of human life.

[1] AssociatedPress 100217 ? Pakistan Blasted for creating Taliban Safe Haven http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,494446,00.html Pakistan Blasted for Creating Taliban Safe Haven With Islamic Law Deal, Tuesday , February 17, 2009

[2]AssociatedPress 091018 ? Taliban vow to defeat Pakistan offensivehttp://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33367064/

[3] AssociatedPress 100412 ? Abbot ? Pakistan Taliban offensive causes over 200,000 to felle.

Pakistan Taliban Offensive Causes Over 200,000 To Flee

SEBASTIAN ABBOT | 04/12/10 08:06 PM |

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/12/pakistan-taliban-offensiv_n_533 ... - #

[4] DemocracyNow 100610 ? Kelly ? US secret war in Pakistan

June 10, 2010 Peace Activist Kathy Kelly on the Secret US War in Pakistan http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/10/peace_activist_kathy_kelly_on_the

[5] http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/Resettling-Darfurs-Displaced-Raises ...

[6] Citation for Iraq.

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/index.php?author=kathy-kelly

[8] http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/10/peace_activist_kathy_kelly_on_the

[9] NYT 100801 ? Myers ? a benchmark of progress

August 1, 2010 A Benchmark of Progress, Electrical Grid Fails Iraqis By STEVEN LEE MYERS


[10] National Security Council, 2006, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, March, 2006 (DC, White House, U.S. Government) found at
http://www.intelros.org/lib/doklady/usa_nss_2006.html and at

http://books.google.com/books?id=ke0FKjVsvIUC&pg=PA38&lpg=PA38&dq=%22we+ ... (download June, 21, 2010)

[11] Michael Hastings, 2010, ?The Runaway General,? Rolling Stone"(June 22), found at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25796.htm (July 7, 2010). Macgregor saw this effort as hopeless: "The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people?. The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.?

[12] ?A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan? (Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama Friday 27 March 2009); Transcript ; White House Press Office , Washington, DC http://www.truthout.org:80/032709R

[13] Ann Jones, 2009, ?The Afghan Reconstruction Boondoggle,? Tom Dispatch (January 11), found at http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175019/ann_jones_the_afghan_reconstructi ...

[14] This discussion is taken from Schwartz, 2008, pp. 155-159.

[15] AsiaTimes 100626 = McDermid and Waleed

Jun 26, 2010

Dark days for Iraq as power crisis bites By Charles McDermid and Khalid Waleed


[16] Michael Hastings, 2010, ?The Runaway General,? Rolling Stone"(June 22), found at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25796.htm (July 7, 2010). Macgregor saw this effort as hopeless: "The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people?. The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.?

[17] National Security Council, 2006, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, March, 2006 (DC, White House, U.S. Government) found at
http://www.intelros.org/lib/doklady/usa_nss_2006.html and at

http://books.google.com/books?id=ke0FKjVsvIUC&pg=PA38&lpg=PA38&dq=%22we+ ... (download June, 21, 2010)

  Read Endless War, Humanitarian Crisis, And Perpetual Resistance: U.S. Foreign Policy In The 21st Century
 August 26, 2010   The Top 5 Most Ignored Humanitarian Crises
by Mark Leon Goldberg, Countercurrent,
UN Dispatch

The sluggish international response to the Pakistan floods emergency is actually not all that sluggish, at least compared to these humanitarian crises. Introducing the five most under-funded and ignored humanitarian crises:

1) Iraqi Refugees

The invasion, occupation and subsequent civil war in Iraq war caused one of the biggest refugees crises in recent history. According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are 1.7 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria and Jordan. There are another 1.5 million Iraqi IDPs. The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released its regional response plan for Iraqi refugees in January. The appeal called for $367 million to support the refugees. So far, though, only 17.9% or $65 million is funded. The United States has contributed $17 million to the fund.

2) Guatemala -- Tropical Storm Agatha

Remember Tropical Storm Agatha? Not many people outside of Central America do either. Nearly 200 people were killed when the first storm of the hurricane season made landfall in Guatemala on May 31. The storm caused extensive damage--most dramatically, it opened up a 200 foot deep sinkhole in the middle of Guatemala's capital. To make matters worse, the storm hit just a day after a major volcanic eruption.Thousands were displaced. An international appeal was launched. The international appeal was ignored. Today, only $5 million of the $15 million has been donated.

3) Uganda

A 20 year civil war in Northern Uganda largely ended in 2006. Still, 400,000 2 million people remain displaced and [nearly 2 million] reliant on humanitarian aid. The so-called "consolidated appeal" for Uganda warned that the humanitarian gains achieved since the cessation of hostilities is in danger of unraveling "due to diminishing humanitarian programming that is unmatched by a significant increase in recovery programs." Only $64 million of the $184 million appeal has been received.

4) Central African Republic

The civil war may have ended in Northern Uganda, but the same group responsible for the destruction in Uganda has reconstituted itself, this time in Central African Republic. Attacks on border villages by the Lord's Resistance Army has left at least 50 villages burned or emptied, according to the UN. But they make up only a relatively small portion of the nearly 200,000 IDPs in CAR. The country also suffers from being in a terrible neighborhood and has suffered from the spill over effects of both the Darfur conflict and conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In fact, over 18,000 refugees from the DRC fled to the Central African Republic last year alone. But despite all these needs, funding for humanitarian operations in CAR remains critically low. It is the fourth most under-funded crisis in the world at $53 million received out of a requested $144 million.

5) Civil Unrest in Kyrgyzstan

In June, the UN launched a $96 million emergency appeal following an anti-Uzbek pogrom in Kyrgyzstan. 100,000 people were displaced in a very short period of time, most across the border to Uzbekistan. Now, they are returning and in need of assistance. Many homes were destroyed livelihoods lost. To date, the UN has received 35 million, or 36% of the total funding needed to care for the humanitarian needs of the displaced.

  Read The Top 5 Most Ignored Humanitarian Crises
 August 23, 2010   There Are No Heroes In Illegal And Immoral Wars
by Robert Jensen , Countercurrent

When the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division rolled out of Iraq last week, the colonel commanding the brigade told a reporter that his soldiers were “leaving as heroes.”

While we can understand the pride of professional soldiers and the emotion behind that statement, it’s time for Americans -- military and civilian -- to face a difficult reality: In seven years of the deceptively named “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and nine years of “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan, no member of the U.S. has been a hero.

This is not an attack on soldiers, sailors, and Marines. Military personnel may act heroically in specific situations, showing courage and compassion, but for them to be heroes in the truest sense they must be engaged in a legal and morally justifiable conflict. That is not the case with the U.S. invasions and occupations of Iraq or Afghanistan, and the social pressure on us to use the language of heroism -- or risk being labeled callous or traitors -- undermines our ability to evaluate the politics and ethics of wars in a historical framework.

The legal case is straightforward: Neither invasion had the necessary approval of the United Nations Security Council, and neither was a response to an imminent attack. In both cases, U.S. officials pretended to engage in diplomacy but demanded war. Under international law and the U.S. Constitution (Article 6 is clear that “all Treaties made,” such as the UN Charter, are “the supreme Law of the Land”), both invasions were illegal.

The moral case is also clear: U.S. officials’ claims that the invasions were necessary to protect us from terrorism or locate weapons of mass destruction were never plausible and have been exposed as lies. The world is a more dangerous place today than it was in 2001, when sensible changes in U.S. foreign policy and vigorous law enforcement in collaboration with other nations could have made us safer.

The people who bear the greatest legal and moral responsibility for these crimes are the politicians who send the military to war and the generals who plan the actions, and it may seem unfair to deny the front-line service personnel the label of “hero” when they did their duty as they understood it. But this talk of heroism is part of the way we avoid politics and deny the unpleasant fact that these are imperial wars. U.S. military forces are in the Middle East and Central Asia not to bring freedom but to extend and deepen U.S. power in a region home to the world’s most important energy resources. The nation exercising control there increases its influence over the global economy, and despite all the U.S. propaganda, the world realizes we have tens of thousands of troops on the ground because of those oil and gas reserves.

Individuals can act with courage and compassion serving in imperial armies. There no doubt were soldiers among the British forces in colonial India who acted heroically, and Soviet soldiers stationed in Eastern Europe were capable of bravery. But they were serving in imperial armies engaged in indefensible attempts to dominate and control. They were fighting not for freedom but to advance the interests of elites in their home countries.

I recognize the complexity of the choices the men and women serving in our military face. I am aware that economic realities and the false promises of recruiters lure many of them into service. I am not judging or condemning them. Judgments and condemnations should be aimed at the powerful, who typically avoid their responsibility. For example, a journalist recently asked Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, to reflect on U.S. culpability for the current state of Iraqi politics. Crocker was reluctant to go there, and then refused even to consider the United States’ moral responsibility: “You can ask the question, was the whole bloody thing a mistake?” he said. “I don’t spend a lot of time on that.”

It’s not surprising U.S. policymakers don’t want to reflect on the invasions, but the public must. Until we can tell the truth about U.S. foreign policy, and how the military is used to advance that policy in illegal and immoral ways, we will remain easy marks for the politicians and their propagandists.

Part of that propaganda campaign is suggesting that critics of the war don’t support the troops, don’t recognize their sacrifices, don’t appreciate their heroism. We escape the propaganda by not playing that game, by telling the truth even when it is painful.

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009); Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film “Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing,” which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. Information about the film, distributed by the Media Education Foundation, and an extended interview Jensen conducted with Osheroff are online at http://thirdcoastactivist.org/osheroff.html.

Jensen can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/index.html. To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to http://www.thirdcoastactivist.org/jensenupdates-info.html.

  Read There Are No Heroes In Illegal And Immoral Wars
 September 4, 2010   Labor Day: Immigrants Help Build Our Economy
Mark Engler , AlterNet

[This post first appeared at the "Arguing the World" blog at Dissent magazine.]

Undocumented immigrants streaming into this country from south of the border drive down wages and steal jobs that could otherwise go to out-of-work Americans. Right?

Wrong. As it turns out, immigrant workers play an important role in building our economy and bolstering institutions such as social security. In other words, they’re raising your wages and paying for your retirement. So this Labor Day might be a good opportunity to show a little gratitude.

Just in time for the holiday weekend, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco released a research summary entitled, “The Effect of Immigrants on U.S. Employment and Productivity.” Its conclusion was not what most people (or at least most people who attend Glenn Beck rallies) expect.

The author, Giovanni Peri, writes:

Statistical analysis of state-level data shows that immigrants expand the economy’s productive capacity by stimulating investment and promoting specialization. This produces efficiency gains and boosts income per worker. At the same time, evidence is scant that immigrants diminish the employment opportunities of U.S.-born workers.

The paper compares states in the United States with high immigration to those with lower rates of immigration. It then controls for other factors such as spending on research and technology adoption. In the end, the paper concludes, “there is no evidence that immigrants crowd out U.S.-born workers in either the short or long run.”

What’s more, the effect of immigration on wages has been markedly positive—equivalent to a $5,100 annual raise for workers on average between 1990 and 2007 (as measured in constant 2005 dollars).

A $5K-per-year salary bump sounds pretty good to me. But I did have some skepticism. Even coming from a pro-immigrant rights perspective, I was wary of an argument saying that a large influx of low-skilled labor into a given area wouldn’t drive down wages for the people at the lower end of the pay scale there. Wouldn’t such a pool of unorganized labor undermine union standards, for example?

I chatted with an economist friend about it. He noted that the paper did not address distribution—meaning that the well off are likely to be collecting a lot more than their $5,100 share of wage benefits, while selected groups of workers might feel a more negative impact. But overall, he was not surprised by the paper’s conclusion, particularly about immigration creating more demand and more employment in the economy. That broadly benefits working people.

Here’s the paper’s explanation of how it works:

As young immigrants with low schooling levels take manually intensive construction jobs, the construction companies that employ them have opportunities to expand. This increases the demand for construction supervisors, coordinators, designers, and so on. Those are occupations with greater communication intensity and are typically staffed by U.S.-born workers who have moved away from manual construction jobs. This complementary task specialization typically pushes U.S.-born workers toward better-paying jobs, enhances the efficiency of production, and creates jobs.

On a somewhat similar theme, the United Farm Workers (UFW) ran a “Take Our Jobs!” campaign this summer. At the www.takeourjobs.org Web site, they invited U.S. citizens in need of work to take over for them in the fields:

Farm workers are ready to welcome citizens and legal residents who wish to replace them in the field. We will use our knowledge and staff to help connect the unemployed with farm employers.

Of course, the union notes in the fine print:

Job may include using hand tools such as knives, hoes, shovels, etc. Duties may include tilling the soil, transplanting, weeding, thinning, picking, cutting, sorting & packing of harvested produce. May set up & operate irrigation equip. Work is performed outside in all weather conditions (Summertime 90+ degree weather) & is physically demanding requiring workers to bend, stoop, lift & carry up to 50 lbs on a regular basis.

They didn’t expect a huge wave of applicants, and they didn’t get one. The basic idea: immigrants are doing work that others will not, and are helping the economy as a whole in the process.

Obviously, these sort of conclusions present big problems for Minutemen and other anti-immigration folks who want to believe that unless we seal off the border, our economy is headed for ruin. A lot of these people are also deficit hawks who believe that liberal spenders are destroying social security. But once again, looking at the facts presents serious risk of cognitive dissonance.

A few years back, the New York Times ran a story detailing how “Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions.” Basically, workers using fake social security numbers to get jobs here are paying into the system, yet they are never collecting the benefits. As a result,

…the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year….Illegal immigration, Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, co-director of immigration studies at New York University, noted sardonically, could provide “the fastest way to shore up the long-term finances of Social Security.“

In tough economic times, undocumented immigrants are convenient scapegoats for stagnation and unemployment. But the economic reality doesn’t match up. And there’s no better time than Labor Day to set the record straight.

Mark Engler is a freelance journalist, senior analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus, and author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy. An archive of his work is available at www.DemocracyUprising.com.
  Read Labor Day: Immigrants Help Build Our Economy
 September 5, 2010   Why Becoming a Legal Immigrant Is Next to Impossible
Mari Herreras, AlterNet
Many wrongly assume there is a process you can easily go through to become legal. In reality, our immigration system is a bureaucratic nightmare.

The young woman sitting at a kitchen table with her father looks like any other Arizona teenager. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and she's wearing jeans and a T-shirt emblazoned with a large silver peace sign.

Moments ago she was running around her family's house in slippers being chased by a little black puppy her family got her -- a perfect distraction from her family's worries that her father faces deportation back to Mexico, where the family came from more than 14 years ago.

At the request of the family's attorney, the Tucson Weekly will not identify her or her father or mother. The family is undocumented, in the country illegally. But this 18-year-old wants you to know a few things about her. She wants you to know that she works extra hard to be a good person. She obeys the law, works hard in school and cares about her community. She is in almost every way a model U.S. citizen.

"I've always had to work harder than most of the other kids I know, kids who have their papers, kids who are here legally and always getting into trouble," she explains.

She entered the United States when she was three years old. Now she plays a bit of a waiting game, hoping for the passage of the Dream Act legislation, which would allow young adults who entered the U.S. illegally as young children to stay in the country and be able to eventually apply for citizenship.

"We've been here for 14 years. My father came here -- jumped over the fence. My brother and I came here in a car with friends, and my mother came over in a different car," she says with just a slight accent.

"We've been here most of my life. I don't remember anything about Mexico."

Part of the waiting game for her also centers on her father, who was apprehended in early July during a traffic stop and spent three weeks in detention while his family figured out the process to post bond and have him released.

Eventually, her father may face deportation proceedings, although she says an attorney is working with the family to help him avoid deportation or at least slow the process to allow him to continue staying with his family as long as possible.

Her father says he was going to work in a truck with two other people for a job he had doing drywall. He was driving in a construction zone that changed the speed limit abruptly to 25 miles per hour and he wasn't able to slow down fast enough. The police officer who stopped him gave him a ticket for speeding and another ticket for a problem with the car and then another for an expired drivers' license. The cop also asked the other two people in the car for their identification and asked about their legal status.

"The (SB 1070) law hadn't (taken effect) yet, but the police asked if they were Mexican. They didn't have any ID. At that instant my dad showed them a G-28 paper that indicates he has an attorney representing him. I think it's what eventually helped us get him released on bond."

She also thinks what helped her father was the information she has learned being involved in local immigration organizations, such as Tierra Y Libertad. Through Tierra, she says she's learned what to do if she's stopped and asked about immigration status. She taught this to her parents and other members of the community. Her father followed her advice, while the two men with him did not.

When the Border Patrol showed up, an officer asked all the men to sign a document regarding their legal status, but her father didn't sign anything and only presented a copy of the G-28 form. The two men with him signed the forms and went through immediate deportation proceedings. Her father went to detention in Florence and because there wasn't enough room he was transferred to a facility in Pinal County, where he waited almost a month before he finally saw a judge.

His daughter says it was difficult because they knew he had been arrested, but when they called Border Patrol they were told his name wasn't in the system. It took a long time to figure out where he was and get his proper identification number so an attorney could begin working on his case.

Her father tells her that the best thing to do right now isn't to worry, but continue to work, go to school and move forward. She takes that advice to heart, as he took her advice on getting stopped by police.

"But don't get me wrong, when this happened, when I was out of this house people saw me as a strong person, confident and getting out there, but when I got home I would fall apart. I cried almost every night," she says.

"It is hard, and at the same time you have to suck it up and continue. My dad is a really strong person. 'You shouldn't worry. If it is going to happen, we have to continue our lives.' I'm going to use this experience to help people out. I want to tell them what I know because it is a really hard situation to be in. Be prepared."

Rachel Wilson, a Tucson immigration attorney who represented the father when he was first detained, says the man and his 18-year-old daughter are an example of why most perceptions of the current immigration process are false.

"Out there, there is this perception that there is a process you can easily go through to become legal, but let's say you're Mexican as an example, since most of the immigrants in Tucson are from Mexico. You decide you want to move to the U.S. for economic opportunity, but if you don't have any family members here ... that will sponsor a visa for you, there is no way for them to come legally to the U.S."

The U.S. immigration process can be frustrating for her and her clients, as well as the dozens of people who walk into her office seeking help only to be told that there is nothing she can do because of the way the law is set up and how the individual arrived in the country.

If a person wants a work visa in the U.S., and eventually to become a citizen, it's easier if they have a relative in the country who has legal status and can file a petition on their behalf. In those instances there are lines of people waiting -- a wait that can go from a period of a few years to sometimes almost a decade.

"If you have an immediate relative who lives in the United States that is your spouse or a child over 21, then you can apply for a visa relatively quickly. It has to be your immediate relative and that person has to be a citizen. So then let's say you have a spouse who is a legal permanent resident; then you have to get in line and wait probably three or four years. Or you go all the way down to the farthest relative away who can invite a person in, who is a brother or sister who is a citizen, and that line for Mexican citizens is long. There are different lines based on what country you are from. There are some countries that have extra long lines because the United States has determined that there are too many people from that country already," Wilson explains.

Wilson sits at her computer scrolling through the U.S. State Department website that has all the immigration status information, including what's called the visa bulletin, a section that immigration attorneys and immigrants often check to find out when their waiting period is going to end.

On the bulletin posted for September 2010 is an explanation of the different visa categories -- employment-based visas and family-based visas are all based on specific numbers of visas allotted each year for each category and five countries that have a specific visa quota. Mexico is included in that list, as well as China (mainland born), India, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines.

Every category also has a limit to the number of visas that can be issued, but what's more troubling for Wilson and other immigration attorneys in Tucson isn't really the limit on the number of visas, but the backlog that prevents immigration from happening in a timely manner.

Mexico happens to be the most backlogged of all the countries on the bulletin. For example, next month the State Department will look at petitions of brothers and sisters of adult citizens that were filed in January 1994, but if you are from China, they are going to be getting to petitions filed in October 2001.

"It's really complicated. When they are talking about the preferences they are talking about the degree to the relationship you have and what preference you are in the visa system. So then let's say you're Mexican and you have a brother or sister in the United States who petitions for you. Here we are in 2010, and they are processing petitions that were filed in 1994. So that's a wait of 16 years," Wilson says.

Rather than wait, many people come over illegally because the system can be daunting and complicated. For example, Wilson says if someone filed paperwork for a relative before April 30, 2001, and they come here illegally and don't get caught before their visa comes up, they can get a green card. "If, however, your relative filed an application for you after 2001, if you stay here, even if you don't get caught until your visa comes up, you can't get a green card because you made an illegal entry."

The 2001 cutoff comes from 1996 immigration reforms that the U.S. Congress kept renewing and grandfathering, but stopped in 2001 -- six months before Sept. 11. The father she helped with the 18-year-old daughter who is also here illegally is also an example of the backlog problem. His U.S. citizen brother filed a petition for him long before 2001, but it will probably be another six years before he finally gets a green card.

"It took us three weeks to get him out of detention, and as far as I can tell, he has no relief from deportation except to leave voluntarily, and then in six years when his visa comes up he'll have to apply for permission to enter ... which at this point I don't know if he can do," Wilson says.

Is the immigration system and backlog like a bureaucratic mess from a scene in the movie Brazil?

"Oh yes," Wilson answers. "Some judges have compared it to the tax code, and it's just as complicated and its crazy and it doesn't make any sense. Like for example, if you are an asylum seeker and you present yourself at the border and say, 'I'm seeking asylum,' they will immediately take you to detention, because that person is what is called an arriving alien. Arriving aliens are subject to mandatory detention and can't get bond. There is no provision for bond. But if you cross the border illegally and are apprehended somewhere inside the border, then you're not considered an arriving alien and are eligible for bond. Does that make any sense?"

Wilson says the system is so frustrating because it often goes against all the values that guided her to law school to become an attorney.

"Representing people on a one-by-one basis, it is hard to make any real change in the system; it's more like just trying to shepherd people through it. I went into law school to fight the man, but I'm not fighting the man, I'm fighting a bureaucracy," Wilson says.

"I've found that a lot of the people who work in the immigration service don't even want to enforce the law this way, and don't want the rules to be like this, but they are. And a lot of times it's not even the law that gets in the way; a lot of times it's just the bureaucracy. For example, let's say the law is on your side. You have the correct relationship with a U.S. citizen ... you can file your paperwork, and it gets sent back to you because of some clerical error. It doesn't get resolved right away. Meanwhile that person doesn't have authorization to work and have the documents they need to get a job, even though it's just a little clerical error. ... They may not be able to work for three to six months."

If anything does work in the system it is deportation. Wilson says people who argue that the government isn't doing its job and deporting people are wrong. "It's a flat-out lie. ... The government is deporting people left and right, and immigration courts are backed up two or three years in deportation hearings. The detention centers are full of people, and Immigration has to rent out space in other facilities. For example, everyone is scattered now between the detention center in Eloy and the detention center in Florence, and the Pinal County Jail and the Central Detention Center, and women are sometimes sent out to (the Goodyear prison) Perryville."

"What the government isn't good at is processing people's (applications) -- people who have a right to be here, people who have the ability to get their green card."

Wilson says this is due to an inefficient system that isn't funded properly and is now a hot potato for any politician who suggests more funding for immigration services. Right now the only way immigration services are funded is through the collection of fees. People who are eligible for immigration have to pay $1,010 for a green card, and a citizenship application costs $675.

"I think that people who are here and have been here for a long time need to have a way to come out of the shadows and work legally," Wilson says.

Another lie Wilson often hears is that people who hire illegal workers pay them legal wages.

"Undocumented workers are coming here working for less than a legal wage, which in turn causes more businesses to want to hire more undocumented people because they can get away with paying them less than the legal wage. In my view of it, we don't have as much of an immigration problem so much as we have a labor problem. We have lax enforcement of our laws and if you go to those legislators in Phoenix and talk about law enforcement, 'What part of illegal don't you understand? Tell me, Senator (Russell) Pearce, about the employers who pay less than the legal wage. Why aren't you cracking down on employers who pay less than the legal wage?'" Wilson asks.

"If we were to enforce our labor laws, there would be less incentive to come here because employers would have to pay the same to everybody regardless of documentation -- then there would be no incentive to hire anyone undocumented. At the same time, if we had fewer undocumented people, gave people a chance to get their documentation in some fashion, that would cut down on the exploitation as well."

Immigration, Wilson says, is a straw man that keeps people from focusing on the real problems. If people are worried about crime, she says that there are already many laws against crimes. "Immigration is just a handy scapegoat for all these other problems, so going after immigration doesn't solve any of those problems."

Real immigration reform was bantered about in the past during a different economic and political climate, even by the likes of U.S. Sen. John McCain, who pushed for reform legislation with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Now, if you want a job in politics, it's best to keep reform off the table.

Immigration attorney Maurice "Mo" Goldman says he wonders if Kennedy were still alive if he'd sit McCain down and persuade him to take up reform again. But real comprehensive immigration reform isn't about creating a guest-worker program and calling it a day.

"People would come here for five years, but not stay here and have no path for a green card," Goldman says. "That does not make sense to me. The employer isn't going to want them to go and will have grown attached to individuals and the individuals plant roots here and have children going to school here. I know there will be checks making sure people will have to leave, but we will be in the same boat we are in now with a bunch of people who don't want to leave."

Instead, he says, we have to make it easier for people to get their visas, and that will ultimately help benefit the U.S. It puts into practice the philosophy that comes from a country built by immigrants. The argument that other countries, including Mexico, treat their immigrants differently and wouldn't put up with the problem the U.S. does is also ridiculous, according to Goldman.

"First, this country was really built by immigrants. The U.S. didn't really have an identity until people were coming across the world. Sometimes they were brought here and enslaved, but our country has flourished because of our acceptance of others in this country. A lot of people come here and do great things," he says.

Rather than focus on those great things, Goldman says in the past decade people have focused on the bad because of Sept. 11. The argument becomes about security, but most statistics he's seen have shown that terrorists enter legally from other areas, but not Mexico.

Goldman thinks that rather than using immigrants to distract us from the country's real problems, people should read a study by Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, a UCLA associate professor of Chicano and Chicana studies, who determined that immigration benefits the economy.

According to Hinojosa-Ojeda's report (), comprehensive immigration reform would increase the country's gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. If the country continues on the same path with detention and deportations, it will change the GDP to negative $2.6 trillion.

Besides the economics of immigration, Goldman says we need to consider that as a society we are allowing families to be torn apart and destroying people's lives; that in itself is un-American.

"As Americans we are a country that opens our arms to people and allows them to pay for their faults. People have to pay a fine or be pardoned for different reasons. We are a forgiving country, but lately not when it comes to immigration," Goldman says.

For young people who came into the country illegally as infants or toddlers and are now in high school or fresh out of college trying to get jobs, it is an especially unfair system that needs to be changed with legislation like the Dream Act, Goldman says.

"(They) just want to go to college to better themselves and our society. They don't want to go out and commit crimes. They want to go out and be nurses and doctors. We need that. We need people to go out and be nurses, we need people who are going to join the military. Our military is thin and needs to be increased exponentially," Goldman says.

"I wonder what guys like Jesse Kelly or Jonathan Paton would say if you proposed that to them. Being military guys, how do they argue against that? ... They'd probably say it would benefit the parents eventually, or we're going to allow a law-breaker to receive some sort of benefit. But I don't think that kind of argument is justified when you look at the full picture."

Sometimes the only way to sway people who are against immigration reform, or who argue based on myths rather than fact, is for them to personally experience the immigration system. When Goldman worked as an attorney in New York, where there is a more varied population of immigrants entering legally and illegally, he found it interesting that people who were typically conservative would change their minds when it involved a nanny or someone else who worked for them.

"Then they finally seemed to get it," he says.

Jennifer Allen, executive director of Border Action Network, an immigration advocacy and education organization that supports immigration reform, says she thinks lawyers have it the most difficult because their job is to work through a system that doesn't have a lot of options.

"In my field at least I get to work with people, and sometimes we win -- well, sort of," Allen says.

Goldman serves as chair of the Border Action Network board. Allen says she has seen him provide services pro bono, services for which, she says, many in the community are most grateful.

But besides the legal issues, Allen says her organization also teaches immigrants how to develop political skills to be leaders in their community and in the state in order to reform immigration policies.

"Clearly many of us are frustrated and challenged by the existing system," Allen says. But she says immigrants get involved with the organization and get over their fears because they realize there is "an enormous disconnect about who immigrants are, their role in this country, and what they want. People are willing to step up and say 'Whoa, none of that is true. Here's who I am, here's who we really are. We want the same things that every other family wants ... we want to participate and be part of this country.'"

As it is for Wilson and Goldman, the misinformation regarding undocumented immigrants is troubling for Allen. She often travels to Phoenix to keep tabs on the Legislature and any bills that address immigration. Usually the vitriolic rhetoric comes from Senator Russell Pearce, along with members of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. Their presentation equates immigrants with murderers and crime.

"This whole myth of criminality is constantly propagated even though criminologists all over the country over and over again say the opposite, which is why cops are often on the same side as immigrant activists, because they have found that a safe community has a high immigrant population," Allen says.

Immigrant communities often go to great lengths to be law-abiding and respectful. Pearce and other politicians use myths to justify laws that are "meant to address some perceived problem that is not actually the problem," she says.

Also at issue is how politicians take separate problems -- people who cross over illegally, national security, and criminal activity -- and blur them together to create greater problems to support legislation like SB 1070. Militarizing the border isn't the way to deal with these issues, Allen says, but separating the issues and creating policy responses for each problem is.

Ultimately, what will make it better for everyone and prevent politicians from dehumanizing and criminalizing immigrants through false information is immigration reform, Allen says.

What a relief it would be for immigrant communities and the lawyers who represent them. Wilson says she knows that when someone is caught and faces deportation there is little she can do to help them, even if they have U.S.-born children they might have to leave behind.

"There are people who have been living here 10, 20 to 30 years and have entire families here. There's nothing I can do for them," Wilson says. "They can ask to remain, but to win that case they have to show that they have U.S. citizen children or spouse and that their family will suffer extreme and unusual hardship if they are deported."

However, separation from family or loss of that person's income is not enough. If the child or wife is disabled, that could actually help.

"So I'm constantly asking about that -- 'Does your child have a learning disability? Does your child have all their limbs?' I'm just hoping for anything," Wilson says.

But despite the challenges, once in a while there are a few miracles. Goldman points to a case that occurred in March 2008 when the state raided a Tucson Panda Express restaurant and changed the lives of 11 workers (See "The Panda Express 11," Nov. 6, 2008), separating them from their families and infant children.

Included among the 11 people was Omar Espino-Lara, who was working as a Panda Express assistant manager when the raid occurred. Now 27, Espino-Lara first came to Tucson at the age of nine. After two years, he says his family moved back to Guanajuato, but returned to Tucson permanently when he was 14.

He was a soccer star at Sunnyside High School and was working at Panda Express because he had to support his family after his father got hurt in an accident, so he had to drop out of Pima Community College.

"I'm back at Pima," Espino-Lara says. "I'm trying to finish my certification for an A.A. in accounting, and then transfer to the UA."

After the Panda Express raid, he says he went to the detention center in Florence first, and then spent five months at the center in Eloy. He had applied for a visa in 2000 that would allow him to get his green card, but he had to wait five years. Then the raid.

"When I was taken to detention I didn't think I'd be able to stay. I thought I was headed back to Mexico, even though I haven't been there since I was 14," Espino-Lara says. "After I got out it was stressful. I had to go to court. I didn't know what was going to happen. Was this the last time I was going to see my family? Was the judge going to send me back to Mexico? Instead, the judge allowed me to prove I wasn't a dangerous person."

His permanent visa was finally approved on July 26, 2010. Still, even with a permanent visa, SB 1070 has taken a toll on his family, including all five of his U.S.-born children.

"Even though my wife is a U.S. citizen and I have this visa, my kids are scared. I like to play the radio in the car in Spanish, but my kids would yell at me to turn it down. 'I don't want the cop to stop us,' my daughter told me. I told her nothing can happen to them. 'You're citizens.' 'Yeah, but you're not. I'm scared for you,'" he says they told him.

Some of his children's friends didn't come back to school this year and left Arizona because of the new law, and their neighborhood has changed, too.

"Yeah, even though I have (a permanent visa) I still feel like a target, since it is based on how you look. But you keep going. I'm almost done with school. I've been working at the same time and doing this kind of slow, but I have most of the credits I need."

Wilson's 18-year-old client, whom the Weekly agreed to not identify, is trying to get back on track with her application to Pima. Her plan to start college this fall was derailed when her father was put in detention and she spent most of her time rallying the community to help her get him released.

She attended all of her elementary school years at Hollinger Elementary, middle school at Wakefield, and graduated from Pueblo Magnet High School.

"This set me back, but I had to help him, and I felt like I was under pressure because I was the middle man. All the information had to go through me," she says.

She's getting ready to take the assessment test and take classes this spring. She wants to attend a four-year college and major in agriculture and Latin American studies. She says she's also counting on the Dream Act.

"I cannot become a U.S. citizen with my parents; I have to find a different way. My way is going to be the Dream Act," she says.

"After this happened to my father and after SB 1070, I asked my parents if we should leave. They said, 'Why? This is our home and we are going to continue to live here.' Even when my father was in detention, my mother kept working (as a house cleaner). We respect the laws. We respect Border Patrol. We respect the police. We don't do anything stupid. We follow the rules just like any other person."

  Read Why Becoming a Legal Immigrant Is Next to Impossible
 September 3, 2010   Five Ways You Can Help Pakistan (and the Rest of Us)
Sarah van Gelder , AlterNet
The Pakistani people need our help. Here's what we can do today, and how to reduce the number of future disasters.

As the world comes to terms with the mind-boggling scale of the tragedy in Pakistan, many Americans are asking what we can do to aid the flood victims.

Some may hesitate to contribute to flood relief because we associate Pakistan with qualities we don’t admire—nuclear proliferation, religious fundamentalism, the oppression of women, and a corrupt and powerful military. But the people of Pakistan are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of these problems, and above all else, they are fellow human beings in dire need.

So how can we distance ourselves from the qualities we don’t like while offering solidarity to the people of Pakistan?

1. Support Independent Pakistan-based Relief Efforts

Independent, Pakistan-based charities are struggling to get the resources to help their fellow citizens. These groups offer a much-needed alternative to the fundamentalist groups seeking to increase their influence, to the military, and to international groups without a base in Pakistan. One of the most effective of these independent groups, according to Grassroots International, is the Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation. This foundation has networks across Pakistan, a long history in the country, and a top-notch reputation for effectiveness. You can contribute by sending a check to their U.S. office, noting that your donation is for “flood relief”:

The Edhi Foundation
42-07 National Street
Corona, New York 11368

2. Support Women

Women are the most vulnerable part of the population, and the progress of women is key to the progress of the country. Aid to women helps with the immediate crisis, helps alleviate poverty for the whole family, empowers women—just 3 percent of whom are literate—and lays the foundation for greater freedom and autonomy.

The U.S. based Global Fund for Women is working with women’s groups on the ground in Pakistan. The fund can be counted on to support groups that are part of Pakistani culture and that have a long-standing reputation for effectiveness. You can make a tax-deductible donation to Global Fund for Women on their secure server here

Contributing money is a critical and immediate way to help. But there are also key policies that will help Pakistan both with immediate needs and with the long period of recovery ahead.

3. Call for Debt Relief

Pakistan will need to devote its resources to relief and recovery for months and years to come. The Jubilee Network is calling for aid for flood relief to be made in the form of grants rather than loans. The Network—which is comprised of religious, human rights, and development groups—is also calling for a moratorium on debt repayments and for eventual debt cancellation. The U.S. government has a key role to play in this, so your voice on this issue matters.

4. Convert Military Aid to Humanitarian Aid

Pakistan is among the top recipients of U.S. military aid, receiving nearly twice as much for the military as it receives in economic aid. Now is the time to reverse the priority. A major U.S. relief effort would be a powerful statement of solidarity with the Pakistani people, demonstrating to them that the American people care about more than counteracting terrorism ... and real solidarity would be a more effective strike against terrorism than missiles and drone attacks. American religious groups, peace organizations, human rights groups, and ordinary citizens can call for the conversion of military aid to aid that can alleviate human suffering and support rebuilding.

5. Confront the Climate Change Disaster

The Pakistan flood is just one of a growing number of humanitarian and ecological crises related to a heating planet. The disruption in rainfall patterns caused by climate change leads to food disasters and hunger. Megastorms, fed by rising ocean temperatures, mean larger and more destructive storms and flooding. Disappearing glaciers and exhausted rivers and aquifers mean water shortages. We should be prepared to respond to humanitarian crises around the world, and when possible, help people return home so they don’t become climate refugees.

But even more important is prevention. Around the world we must restore the natural systems that buffer storms and preserve water—like wetlands that release water slowly and reduce flooding, coastal marshes that offer protection from storm surges, and healthy forests that avert landslides and flooding. We should support efforts at local resilience—growing food for local consumption and buildings that can protect from storms and heat waves.

At the same time, we must get serious about reducing the emissions that are disrupting the climate stability our civilizations depend on. We can't allow oil company-financed climate deniers to continue driving the climate debate. Any further dithering is irresponsible and potentially catastrophic. Along with responding to the disasters caused by a heating planet, we simply must do everything we can to address the causes of the climate crisis.

Sarah van Gelder, wrote this article for YES! Magazine, an independent media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions for a just and sustainable world.
  Read Five Ways You Can Help Pakistan (and the Rest of Us)
 August 28, 2010   10 Ways Your Taxes Pay For Environmental Devastation
Stephanie Rogers , AlterNet
Despite recent green investments, an array of government subsidies pay big dirty industries like oil, coal and factory farms to destroy the environment in every way possible.

Urban sprawl, pollution, over-consumption, deforestation…like it or not, U.S. taxpayers are still paying for all of these things to occur in America and beyond. Despite recent investments in green jobs and technology, an array of government subsidies pay big dirty industries like oil, coal and factory farms to destroy the environment in every way possible while greener, healthier industries like solar power and vegetable farms get a pittance.

10. Highways

When gas prices rose dramatically in 2008, Americans began flocking to mass transit in droves, resulting in declining revenues for the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Naturally, the Bush Administrations response was to take money from already underfunded mass transit and use it to pay for highways that are already, as Slate put it, paved with gold. Billions of dollars are pumped into the highway system every year, which encourages the polluting car culture and leads to further sprawl, while mass transit continues to fall by the wayside.

9. SUVs

In case you arent already taking optimal advantage of the polluting power of our nations sprawling web of highways, the government would like to make your impact even greater by setting you up in a nice gas-guzzling subsidized SUV. A portion of the tax code revised in 2003 gives business owners a huge deduction for up to 30% of a large vehicles cost, which can add up to $25,000 in the case of a Hummer far more than the credit given to individual purchasers of energy-efficient vehicles. Attempts to axe this provision in 2007 failed.

You only get the credit if it seats more than 9 passengers or weighs more than 14,000 pounds, but they dont really care whether your business actually requires such a vehicle. So, by all means, get the Escalade.

8. Paper Mills

Paper mills cut down trees while sucking up massive amounts of fossil fuels and get big money from the government to do it all through a loophole in a law that was supposed to benefit renewable energy. A law enacted in 2005 contains a section that gives businesses an incentive to mix alternative energy sources with fossil fuels. To qualify for the tax credit, paper companies started adding diesel fuel to black liquor, a pulp-making byproduct that they were already using to generate electricity on its own.

But time might be running out for this egregious misuse of taxpayer money: the unemployment extension bill approved by the Senate and on its way to the House would eliminate this loophole and use the funds for health care. (Editors note: Weve contacted both the editor and writer of this story at BusinessWeek to confirm that this loophole will still be closed in the bill just passed by the Senate, and will update if more information becomes available. In the meantime, theres this resource which seems to confirm the loophole is in fact being closed.)

7. Commercial Fishing

About half of the $713 million in subsidies given to the U.S. fishing industry directly contributes to overfishing, according to a new study by the Environmental Working Group. The subsidies which equal about a fifth of the value of the catch itself lower overhead costs and promote increased fishing capacity, meaning more fish are caught than can be naturally replaced.

Overfishing is a huge environmental problem up to 25% of the worlds fishery stocks are overexploited or depleted, according to the UNs Food and Agriculture Organization.  But thats not the only result of the subsidies; because roughly half of the money goes toward fuel costs, other consequences include wasteful fuel consumption as well as air and water pollution.

6. Nuclear Power

The nuclear industrys decade-long, $600 million lobbying effort finally paid off as President Obama agreed to grant loan guarantees for nuclear power plants.  Obama has been promising since the early days of his campaign that he would find a way to safely harness nuclear power, but the $55 billion taxpayer-backed loan guarantees are going forward despite continued reservations about uranium mining and the storage of radioactive waste.

5. Factory Farming

American factory farms are literally filthy cesspools of their own making, and who else is cleaning up all that shit but American taxpayers? Giant factory farms make up just 2% of the livestock farms in the U.S. yet raise 40% of all animals in the U.S., and they do it using practices that are not only harmful to workers and the animals themselves, but to the environment.

The government heavily subsidizes factory farms so they can provide über-cheap meat and dairy, raising as many animals as possible in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of care. And why should they care about finding better ways to manage manure when the government hands them $125 million annually to deal with the consequences, and then doesnt bother to check up on them?

Despite the backwards funding given to clean them up, gaping lagoons of livestock waste packed with pollutants continue to be one of the biggest environmental problems in America, fouling our water and causing those depressing dead zones in our oceans.

4.  Corn Ethanol

In the quest to beat back fossil fuels, cleaner fuels that we can grow seemed like a good idea until we realized that some, like corn, make a huge dent in the worlds food supply. But that isnt stopping the U.S. government from giving billions in subsidies to the corn industry in general, and corn ethanol in particular.

Corn-based ethanol gobbled up 76% of federal government renewable energy subsidies in 2007, leaving little for more environmentally sound renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Worse yet, its a huge drain on water resources, gulping down up to 2,138 liters of water per liter of ethanol.

This isnt just an unwise investment its also destroying the rainforest. As American farmers have abandoned soy for subsidized corn, soy prices have risen worldwide and led to an increase in Amazon deforestation. Brazil is the worlds second-largest producer of soy next to the U.S., and growing demand has meant more clear-cutting for soy plantations.

3. Processed Foods

Ethanol isnt the only product that comes to us courtesy of U.S. corn subsidies. Theres also plenty of craptastic processed food products packed with multiple subsidized ingredients: wheat, sugar, soy and of course, corn. Gee, could the obesity epidemic have anything to do with the fact that our government makes junk food cheap, and encourages its consumption through the food stamp program?

Its a sad state of affairs when a Twinkie costs less, calorically speaking, than a carrot. Meanwhile, farmers who produce fruits and vegetables (aside from corn), dont get a dime in government subsidies. While the government is considering junk food taxes, a change to the Farm Bill might be more efficient.

2. Coal

You would think that the coal industrys long-held dominance of the American energy market would have eliminated the need for subsidies. After all, the industry spent $47 million last year on PR alone. But the fact is, coal companies are milking the government for all its worth while continuing to pump greenhouse gases and carcinogens into the air and turn the Appalachian Mountains into post-apocalyptic hellholes.

Coal subsidies have survived this long because of the industrys staggering influence on lawmakers, and because constituents in coal states often fear the economic repercussions of a scaled-back coal industry more than they fear the harm to their health and homes. And on top of the federal coal subsidies lumped in under ‘fossil fuels, the industry gets untold breaks on a state and local level in places like Kentucky, where the coal industry netted $115 million in subsidies in 2006.

1. Oil

Climate change: brought to you by the U.S. government! According to a study by the Environmental Law Institute, fossil fuels received over $70 billion in subsidies between 2002 and 2008, while traditional sources of renewable energy were given just $12.2 billion.

But the oil industry wont even admit that the direct spending and tax breaks they get are subsidies they prefer to call them incentives, and claim that attempts to roll back some of those subsidies are actually new taxes.

As Grist notes, the ELI report is actually pretty conservative it didnt include things like military spending to defend oil in the Middle East or infrastructure spending. But the fossil fuel industrys free ride is almost over: President Obamas new federal budget proposal wipes out these breaks and increases funding for clean energy research (and, unfortunately, nuclear power).

  Read 10 Ways Your Taxes Pay For Environmental Devastation
 August 25, 2010   10 Needed Steps for Obama to Start Dismantling America's Gigantic, Destructive Military Empire
Chalmers Johnson, AlterNet
The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment will condemn the U.S. to devastating consequences.

The following is an excerpt from Chalmers Johnson's new book, Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope (Metropolitan Books, 2010).

However ambitious President Barack Obama's domestic plans, one unacknowledged issue has the potential to destroy any reform efforts he might launch. Think of it as the 800-pound gorilla in the American living room: our longstanding reliance on imperialism and militarism in our relations with other countries and the vast, potentially ruinous global empire of bases that goes with it. The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will, sooner rather than later, condemn the United States to a devastating trio of consequences: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.

According to the 2008 official Pentagon inventory of our military bases around the world, our empire consists of 865 facilities in more than 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories. We deploy over 190,000 troops in 46 countries and territories. In just one such country, Japan, at the end of March 2008, we still had 99,295 people connected to U.S. military forces living and working there -- 49,364 members of our armed services, 45,753 dependent family members, and 4,178 civilian employees. Some 13,975 of these were crowded into the small island of Okinawa, the largest concentration of foreign troops anywhere in Japan.

These massive concentrations of American military power outside the United States are not needed for our defense. They are, if anything, a prime contributor to our numerous conflicts with other countries. They are also unimaginably expensive. According to Anita Dancs, an analyst for the website Foreign Policy in Focus, the United States spends approximately $250 billion each year maintaining its global military presence. The sole purpose of this is to give us hegemony -- that is, control or dominance -- over as many nations on the planet as possible.

We are like the British at the end of World War II: desperately trying to shore up an empire that we never needed and can no longer afford, using methods that often resemble those of failed empires of the past -- including the Axis powers of World War II and the former Soviet Union. There is an important lesson for us in the British decision, starting in 1945, to liquidate their empire relatively voluntarily, rather than being forced to do so by defeat in war, as were Japan and Germany, or by debilitating colonial conflicts, as were the French and Dutch. We should follow the British example. (Alas, they are currently backsliding and following our example by assisting us in the war in Afghanistan.)

Here are three basic reasons why we must liquidate our empire or else watch it liquidate us.

1. We Can No Longer Afford Our Postwar Expansionism

Shortly after his election as president, Barack Obama, in a speech announcing several members of his new cabinet, stated as fact that "[w]e have to maintain the strongest military on the planet." A few weeks later, on March 12, 2009, in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington DC, the president again insisted, "Now make no mistake, this nation will maintain our military dominance. We will have the strongest armed forces in the history of the world." And in a commencement address to the cadets of the U.S. Naval Academy on May 22nd, Obama stressed that "[w]e will maintain America's military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has ever seen."

What he failed to note is that the United States no longer has the capability to remain a global hegemon, and to pretend otherwise is to invite disaster.

According to a growing consensus of economists and political scientists around the world, it is impossible for the United States to continue in that role while emerging into full view as a crippled economic power. No such configuration has ever persisted in the history of imperialism. The University of Chicago's Robert Pape, author of the important study Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (Random House, 2005), typically writes:


"America is in unprecedented decline. The self-inflicted wounds of the Iraq war, growing government debt, increasingly negative current-account balances and other internal economic weaknesses have cost the United States real power in today's world of rapidly spreading knowledge and technology. If present trends continue, we will look back on the Bush years as the death knell of American hegemony."

There is something absurd, even Kafkaesque, about our military empire. Jay Barr, a bankruptcy attorney, makes this point using an insightful analogy:


"Whether liquidating or reorganizing, a debtor who desires bankruptcy protection must provide a list of expenses, which, if considered reasonable, are offset against income to show that only limited funds are available to repay the bankrupted creditors. Now imagine a person filing for bankruptcy claiming that he could not repay his debts because he had the astronomical expense of maintaining at least 737 facilities overseas that provide exactly zero return on the significant investment required to sustain them… He could not qualify for liquidation without turning over many of his assets for the benefit of creditors, including the valuable foreign real estate on which he placed his bases."

In other words, the United States is not seriously contemplating its own bankruptcy. It is instead ignoring the meaning of its precipitate economic decline and flirting with insolvency.

Nick Turse, author of The Complex: How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books, 2008), calculates that we could clear $2.6 billion if we would sell our base assets at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and earn another $2.2 billion if we did the same with Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. These are only two of our over 800 overblown military enclaves.

Our unwillingness to retrench, no less liquidate, represents a striking historical failure of the imagination. In his first official visit to China since becoming Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner assured an audience of students at Beijing University, "Chinese assets [invested in the United States] are very safe." According to press reports, the students responded with loud laughter. Well they might.

In May 2009, the Office of Management and Budget predicted that in 2010 the United States will be burdened with a budget deficit of at least $1.75 trillion. This includes neither a projected $640 billion budget for the Pentagon, nor the costs of waging two remarkably expensive wars. The sum is so immense that it will take several generations for American citizens to repay the costs of George W. Bush's imperial adventures -- if they ever can or will. It represents about 13% of our current gross domestic product (that is, the value of everything we produce). It is worth noting that the target demanded of European nations wanting to join the Euro Zone is a deficit no greater than 3% of GDP.

Thus far, President Obama has announced measly cuts of only $8.8 billion in wasteful and worthless weapons spending, including his cancellation of the F-22 fighter aircraft. The actual Pentagon budget for next year will, in fact, be larger, not smaller, than the bloated final budget of the Bush era. Far bolder cuts in our military expenditures will obviously be required in the very near future if we intend to maintain any semblance of fiscal integrity.

2. We Are Going to Lose the War in Afghanistan and It Will Help Bankrupt Us

One of our major strategic blunders in Afghanistan was not to have recognized that both Great Britain and the Soviet Union attempted to pacify Afghanistan using the same military methods as ours and failed disastrously. We seem to have learned nothing from Afghanistan's modern history -- to the extent that we even know what it is. Between 1849 and 1947, Britain sent almost annual expeditions against the Pashtun tribes and sub-tribes living in what was then called the North-West Frontier Territories -- the area along either side of the artificial border between Afghanistan and Pakistan called the Durand Line. This frontier was created in 1893 by Britain's foreign secretary for India, Sir Mortimer Durand.

Neither Britain nor Pakistan has ever managed to establish effective control over the area. As the eminent historian Louis Dupree put it in his book Afghanistan (Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 425): "Pashtun tribes, almost genetically expert at guerrilla warfare after resisting centuries of all comers and fighting among themselves when no comers were available, plagued attempts to extend the Pax Britannica into their mountain homeland." An estimated 41 million Pashtuns live in an undemarcated area along the Durand Line and profess no loyalties to the central governments of either Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The region known today as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan is administered directly by Islamabad, which -- just as British imperial officials did -- has divided the territory into seven agencies, each with its own "political agent" who wields much the same powers as his colonial-era predecessor. Then as now, the part of FATA known as Waziristan and the home of Pashtun tribesmen offered the fiercest resistance.

According to Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, experienced Afghan hands and coauthors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story (City Lights, 2009, p. 317):

"If Washington's bureaucrats don't remember the history of the region, the Afghans do. The British used air power to bomb these same Pashtun villages after World War I and were condemned for it. When the Soviets used MiGs and the dreaded Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships to do it during the 1980s, they were called criminals. For America to use its overwhelming firepower in the same reckless and indiscriminate manner defies the world's sense of justice and morality while turning the Afghan people and the Islamic world even further against the United States."

In 1932, in a series of Guernica-like atrocities, the British used poison gas in Waziristan. The disarmament convention of the same year sought a ban against the aerial bombardment of civilians, but Lloyd George, who had been British prime minister during World War I, gloated: "We insisted on reserving the right to bomb niggers" (Fitzgerald and Gould, p. 65). His view prevailed.

The U.S. continues to act similarly, but with the new excuse that our killing of noncombatants is a result of "collateral damage," or human error. Using pilotless drones guided with only minimal accuracy from computers at military bases in the Arizona and Nevada deserts among other places, we have killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed bystanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pakistani and Afghan governments have repeatedly warned that we are alienating precisely the people we claim to be saving for democracy.

When in May 2009, General Stanley McChrystal was appointed as the commander in Afghanistan, he ordered new limits on air attacks, including those carried out by the CIA, except when needed to protect allied troops. Unfortunately, as if to illustrate the incompetence of our chain of command, only two days after this order, on June 23, 2009, the United States carried out a drone attack against a funeral procession that killed at least 80 people, the single deadliest U.S. attack on Pakistani soil so far. There was virtually no reporting of these developments by the mainstream American press or on the network television news. (At the time, the media were almost totally preoccupied by the sexual adventures of the governor of South Carolina and the death of pop star Michael Jackson.)

Our military operations in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been plagued by inadequate and inaccurate intelligence about both countries, ideological preconceptions about which parties we should support and which ones we should oppose, and myopic understandings of what we could possibly hope to achieve. Fitzgerald and Gould, for example, charge that, contrary to our own intelligence service's focus on Afghanistan, "Pakistan has always been the problem." They add:

"Pakistan's army and its Inter-Services Intelligence branch... from 1973 on, has played the key role in funding and directing first the mujahideen [anti-Soviet fighters during the 1980s]… and then the Taliban. It is Pakistan's army that controls its nuclear weapons, constrains the development of democratic institutions, trains Taliban fighters in suicide attacks and orders them to fight American and NATO soldiers protecting the Afghan government." (p. 322-324)

The Pakistani army and its intelligence arm are staffed, in part, by devout Muslims who fostered the Taliban in Afghanistan to meet the needs of their own agenda, though not necessarily to advance an Islamic jihad. Their purposes have always included: keeping Afghanistan free of Russian or Indian influence, providing a training and recruiting ground for mujahideen guerrillas to be used in places like Kashmir (fought over by both Pakistan and India), containing Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan (and so keeping it out of Pakistan), and extorting huge amounts of money from Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf emirates, and the United States to pay and train "freedom fighters" throughout the Islamic world. Pakistan's consistent policy has been to support the clandestine policies of the Inter-Services Intelligence and thwart the influence of its major enemy and competitor, India.

Colonel Douglas MacGregor, U.S. Army (retired), an adviser to the Center for Defense Information in Washington, summarizes our hopeless project in South Asia this way: "Nothing we do will compel 125 million Muslims in Pakistan to make common cause with a United States in league with the two states that are unambiguously anti-Muslim: Israel and India."

Obama's mid-2009 "surge" of troops into southern Afghanistan and particularly into Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold, is fast becoming darkly reminiscent of General William Westmoreland's continuous requests in Vietnam for more troops and his promises that if we would ratchet up the violence just a little more and tolerate a few more casualties, we would certainly break the will of the Vietnamese insurgents. This was a total misreading of the nature of the conflict in Vietnam, just as it is in Afghanistan today.

Twenty years after the forces of the Red Army withdrew from Afghanistan in disgrace, the last Russian general to command them, Gen. Boris Gromov, issued his own prediction: Disaster, he insisted, will come to the thousands of new forces Obama is sending there, just as it did to the Soviet Union's, which lost some 15,000 soldiers in its own Afghan war. We should recognize that we are wasting time, lives, and resources in an area where we have never understood the political dynamics and continue to make the wrong choices.

3. We Need to End the Secret Shame of Our Empire of Bases

In March, New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert noted, "Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing." He continued:

"New data released by the Pentagon showed an almost 9 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults -- 2,923 -- and a 25 percent increase in such assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan [over the past year]. Try to imagine how bizarre it is that women in American uniforms who are enduring all the stresses related to serving in a combat zone have to also worry about defending themselves against rapists wearing the same uniform and lining up in formation right beside them."

The problem is exacerbated by having our troops garrisoned in overseas bases located cheek-by-jowl next to civilian populations and often preying on them like foreign conquerors. For example, sexual violence against women and girls by American GIs has been out of control in Okinawa, Japan's poorest prefecture, ever since it was permanently occupied by our soldiers, Marines, and airmen some 64 years ago.

That island was the scene of the largest anti-American demonstrations since the end of World War II after the 1995 kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by two Marines and a sailor. The problem of rape has been ubiquitous around all of our bases on every continent and has probably contributed as much to our being loathed abroad as the policies of the Bush administration or our economic exploitation of poverty-stricken countries whose raw materials we covet.

The military itself has done next to nothing to protect its own female soldiers or to defend the rights of innocent bystanders forced to live next to our often racially biased and predatory troops. "The military's record of prosecuting rapists is not just lousy, it's atrocious," writes Herbert. In territories occupied by American military forces, the high command and the State Department make strenuous efforts to enact so-called "Status of Forces Agreements" (SOFAs) that will prevent host governments from gaining jurisdiction over our troops who commit crimes overseas. The SOFAs also make it easier for our military to spirit culprits out of a country before they can be apprehended by local authorities.

This issue was well illustrated by the case of an Australian teacher, a long-time resident of Japan, who in April 2002 was raped by a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, then based at the big naval base at Yokosuka. She identified her assailant and reported him to both Japanese and U.S. authorities. Instead of his being arrested and effectively prosecuted, the victim herself was harassed and humiliated by the local Japanese police. Meanwhile, the U.S. discharged the suspect from the Navy but allowed him to escape Japanese law by returning him to the U.S., where he lives today.

In the course of trying to obtain justice, the Australian teacher discovered that almost fifty years earlier, in October 1953, the Japanese and American governments signed a secret "understanding" as part of their SOFA in which Japan agreed to waive its jurisdiction if the crime was not of "national importance to Japan." The U.S. argued strenuously for this codicil because it feared that otherwise it would face the likelihood of some 350 servicemen per year being sent to Japanese jails for sex crimes.

Since that time the U.S. has negotiated similar wording in SOFAs with Canada, Ireland, Italy, and Denmark. According to the Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces (2001), the Japanese practice has become the norm for SOFAs throughout the world, with predictable results. In Japan, of 3,184 U.S. military personnel who committed crimes between 2001 and 2008, 83% were not prosecuted. In Iraq, we have just signed a SOFA that bears a strong resemblance to the first postwar one we had with Japan: namely, military personnel and military contractors accused of off-duty crimes will remain in U.S. custody while Iraqis investigate. This is, of course, a perfect opportunity to spirit the culprits out of the country before they can be charged.

Within the military itself, the journalist Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007), speaks of the "culture of unpunished sexual assaults" and the "shockingly low numbers of courts martial" for rapes and other forms of sexual attacks. Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq (Beacon Press, 2009), quotes this figure in a 2009 Pentagon report on military sexual assaults: 90% of the rapes in the military are never reported at all and, when they are, the consequences for the perpetrator are negligible.

It is fair to say that the U.S. military has created a worldwide sexual playground for its personnel and protected them to a large extent from the consequences of their behavior. As a result a group of female veterans in 2006 created the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN). Its agenda is to spread the word that "no woman should join the military."

I believe a better solution would be to radically reduce the size of our standing army, and bring the troops home from countries where they do not understand their environments and have been taught to think of the inhabitants as inferior to themselves.

10 Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire

Dismantling the American empire would, of course, involve many steps. Here are ten key places to begin:

1. We need to put a halt to the serious environmental damage done by our bases planet-wide. We also need to stop writing SOFAs that exempt us from any responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves.

2. Liquidating the empire will end the burden of carrying our empire of bases and so of the "opportunity costs" that go with them -- the things we might otherwise do with our talents and resources but can't or won't.

3. As we already know (but often forget), imperialism breeds the use of torture. In the 1960s and 1970s we helped overthrow the elected governments in Brazil and Chile and underwrote regimes of torture that prefigured our own treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. (See, for instance, A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors [Pantheon, 1979], on how the U.S. spread torture methods to Brazil and Uruguay.) Dismantling the empire would potentially mean a real end to the modern American record of using torture abroad.

4. We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp followers, dependents, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and hucksters -- along with their expensive medical facilities, housing requirements, swimming pools, clubs, golf courses, and so forth -- that follow our military enclaves around the world.

5. We need to discredit the myth promoted by the military-industrial complex that our military establishment is valuable to us in terms of jobs, scientific research, and defense. These alleged advantages have long been discredited by serious economic research. Ending empire would make this happen.

6. As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to stop being the world's largest exporter of arms and munitions and quit educating Third World militaries in the techniques of torture, military coups, and service as proxies for our imperialism. A prime candidate for immediate closure is the so-called School of the Americas, the U.S. Army's infamous military academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, for Latin American military officers. (See Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire [Metropolitan Books, 2004], pp. 136-40.)

7. Given the growing constraints on the federal budget, we should abolish the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and other long-standing programs that promote militarism in our schools.

8. We need to restore discipline and accountability in our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance on civilian contractors, private military companies, and agents working for the military outside the chain of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (See Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater:The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army [Nation Books, 2007]). Ending empire would make this possible.

9. We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our standing army and deal much more effectively with the wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they undergo.

10. To repeat the main message of this essay, we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives.

Unfortunately, few empires of the past voluntarily gave up their dominions in order to remain independent, self-governing polities. The two most important recent examples are the British and Soviet empires. If we do not learn from their examples, our decline and fall is foreordained.

  Read 10 Needed Steps for Obama to Start Dismantling America's Gigantic, Destructive Military Empire
 August 17, 2010   We Waste How Much Water On Coal?!
Jaymi Heimbuch, AlterNet
With 1 billion tons of coal used per year in the US, that equates to as much as 75 trillion gallons of water wasted on dirty energy each year.

We usually give coal the stink eye for the ways it harms the earth's surface when it is extracted, and the way it harms the earth's systems when it is burned. But we also need to hone in on the way coal harms our fresh water supplies. Between 800 and 3,000 gallons of water are used to extract, process and dispose each ton of coal. And with 1 billion tons of coal used per year in the US, that equates to as much as 75 trillion gallons of water wasted on dirty energy each year. Circle of Blue has put these stats and many other jaw-dropping figures into a compelling infographic below.

  Read We Waste How Much Water On Coal?!


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