Showing posts with label US 2008 Election. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US 2008 Election. Show all posts

Saturday, August 24, 2013

While I sip my tea I stop the nuke




Passing through an airport lounge en route back from teaching a Permaculture Design Course in Europe, we were captivated by CNN reporting, along with Atlantic dolphins’ worst beaching year by a factor of 7 and the discovery of a giant, horned sea creature resembling Cecil the Sea Dragon washed up on a Spanish beach, that Fukushima had just surpassed Chernobyl in radiation severity. In fact, if the smell of rotting dolphins and sea dragons is keeping you away from the beaches, you can now get the kind of suntan that would end nuclear workers’ careers in just 1 hour by visiting the Japanese Riviera. What CNN omitted to say, among many significant points of public interest, is that the radiation will only keep going up.

What seems amazing is that anyone still assumes the 2011 accident, like the present economic malaise, is over, or ever will be. Both of these unnatural phenomena are still in their earliest stages, will soon become progressively worse, and are paradigm-shifting events. Fuke threatens the entire Pacific fishing industry, not the least Japan’s, will rival Falujah for birth defects in that Prefecture, and is rendering a vast land area unsafe for habitation, including a huge chunk of Tokyo’s already precarious breadbasket.

It is game over for nuclear power. As Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer for Fairewinds, told Dr. Helen Caldicott in a June interview Fukushima was for the nuclear industry forty good years and one bad day. But it was one day they could not afford to have. Gunderson said they kept saying, “’As long as there’s no earthquake, it’ll be okay.’ But that’s a big if where you’re sort of counting on an earthquake not occurring is a country that’s prone to earthquakes.”

Fuke’s problem de jour has to do with its shifting foundations. That entire Pacific side of Japan dropped 3 feet seaward during the March 11, 2011 event. Seawater is now pouring into the reactor buildings at the rate of 400 tons per day. Says Gunderson, “The net effect is we’ve got pieces of nuclear fuel, small powdery nuclear fuel, mixing in on the floors of these buildings that are now getting large quantities of radioactive water. So you have two choices: you can either stop the water from going in; or you can stop the [water] from going out.” TEPCO, after long procrastination, opted to do the latter and has filled 1000 steel tanks with corrosive radioactive seawater. None of the tanks is seismically qualified and leaks are now in evidence. Water in puddles outside steel and sandbag barriers surrounding the tank farm 5 football fields up from the shore cherps 100 milliSieverts per hour – enough to give a repair worker her year’s allowed dose every 20 minutes and retire her from permanent employment in about an hour.

TEPCO acknowledges that 75% of the seawater flowing into the plant — 300 tons per day — flows back into the Pacific. They’ve set Fuke on the wash cycle. This past week, South Korea asked Japanese officials to explain how the leaks will affect Pacific ecosystems, especially theirs. Asiana Airlines, South Korea's second-biggest carrier, announced it is suspending flights between Seoul and Fukushima. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a (literally) entrenched supporter of nuclear energy, says he has lost confidence in TEPCO’s ability to deal with the crisis and promised more government money to prop up the stock value of the company, and to pay more human fodder to jump in and stanch the leaking dikes and build trenches. Finally, it comes back to discount rates, doesn’t it? They are discounting the genetic heritage of Japanese children expected to be born centuries from now in order to salvage a Disneyesque science fiction fantasy of the 1950s: power too cheap to meter.

The response of the Obama Administration in this regard is predictably spineless. The President, afraid of offending the dumber and dumberer US Congress, sitting like Humpty-Dumpty on the wall of Big Nuke, acceded to presidential heir-apparent Hillary Clinton’s pressure, while Secretary of State, to order suspension of monitoring of radiation along the West Coast, six weeks post-accident and shortly after EPA stations confirmed the detection of Fuke fallout in precipitation, drinking water and milk.

Following a meeting between Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, Clinton agreed to fight “rumors and reputation damage” that might harm Japan’s place in the international seafood industry. Shortly thereafter, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced they were suspending tests of seafood, saying, “FDA and NOAA do not anticipate contamination of living marine resources in U.S. waters at this time. For this reason, sampling of U.S. harvested seafood is not currently planned.”

The agencies went on to explain:

“During that time needed for a fish contaminated by radiation in Japan to migrate, be caught and reach the market, the level of short‐lived radionuclides such as I‐131 would drop significantly through natural radioactive decay.”
... which neatly finesses the point that ongoing seawater releases, coming from destroyed reactor cores, contain much greater proportions of long-lived radionuclides, such as U-238 and transuranics, than short-lived, largely airborne contaminants seemingly lifted from emergency evacuation planning manuals. 

So what is the anti-Obama Congress busy doing about this choice nugget of scandal? Opposing health care and immigration. What is the President doing? Jawboning about lowering student loan interest rates. It is what has been described as the A-frame of two party politics — each side props up the other by agreeing to argue on inconsequential matters while starving important matters of any media oxygen.

Joseph Mangano, executive director of the nonprofit Radiation and Public Health Project, said "a cocktail of more than 100 radioactive chemicals" from the Fukushima reactors presents hazards when the material is ingested into the body through the food chain or by breathing tainted air. Potential health risks include birth defects and thyroid cancer, he said. In March, 2013, the organization published a report indicating that the number of West Coast babies born with a condition called hypothyroidism — underactive thyroid glands — rose by 28 percent within nine months of the Fukushima disaster compared with the previous year. The thyroid is especially sensitive to radioiodine. Mangano said that the American Medical Association has already called for the testing of all fish sold in the U.S. for radiation contamination, but that the FDA has so far resisted. The USDA has also resisted testing imported Japanese foods, despite citizen monitoring showing high gamma counts (5x background) in organic matcha green tea, among other products.

If the suppression of testing was intended to save the Japanese economy, it is a dismal failure. There is a cancer on that economy, just as there is on the Eurozone and the Fed. It will not respond to radiation therapy.

And while we are passing through airports, the subject of these ridiculous security whole-body scanners comes back. Why are so many people still sending their innocent children through these death rays? These devices are now banned in Europe where the dangers have been thoroughly scientifically documented, and they were supposed to have been removed in the US, but for the court order being flouted by the Obama TSA. They remain in service at many US airports. If enough people simply opted for pat-down, these child-killers would be gone tomorrow. How about going to cafepress.com and ordering little stickies you can wear on your lapel — “To Avoid Cancer I OPTED OUT. Did you?”

And now, deep sigh, it also seems like we have to opt out of Japanese green tea.   




Thursday, March 22, 2012

The National Discourse

" The national discourse is a circular kabuki, with heroes and victims exchanging masks in an elaborate choreography moving left to right and back again."
   Re-entering the United States after a 4-month hiatus to saner parts of the world, we are struck by how even Alexis de Tocqueville underestimated the pathology of the population here. Coming back is like putting on x-ray spectacles, maybe the pair passed to Joseph Smith by the Angel Moroni. USAnians, particularly the Republican variant, are truly warped.
   Tocqueville observed that USAnians possessed a tendency for each to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and to withdraw into the circle of family and friends. “[W]ith this little society formed to his taste, he gladly leaves the greater society to look for itself.” In such conditions “we lose interest in the future of our descendants... and meekly allow ourselves to be led in ignorance by a despotic force….”
   Tocqueville said this condition would lead to the government playing the role of all-wise parent and the citizenry that of “perpetual children.” The hook was entrepreneurial opportunity; the chance for beggars to become kings. Europeans in the early 19th Century held no such illusions, Tocqueville argued; they knew full well that the lower classes had no hope of gaining more than minimal security, while the upper classes had scant chance of losing their hereditary advantage.
   Frankly we cannot remember a point in our lifetime when the national discourse has sunk to a lower level. That is saying a lot, because although we were not around for the sinking of the Maine or Lusitania, or the“surprise” at Pearl Harbor, we grew up with the Red Scare, first from Truman, then from Eisenhower; the Missile Gap Kennedy used to flank Nixon; the Tonkin Gulf incident that LBJ crafted to fund the Vietnam War; Nixon; Reagan; Bush Sr.’s Operation Just Cause that left a civilian body count on the sidewalks of Panama City comparable to New York City’s on 9-11; 9-11; and Obama’s Af-Pak drone wars, the omnipotent terror from above. These were and are deceptions that conduce our “sheeple” to trust their all-knowing parents to protect them.
   The bobble head news cycle is carried along on well-trod framing crafted by long-in-the-tooth Republican strategists who seem to think the iPhone generation can be motivated to vote for an evangelical prophet of infinite prosperity by 5-second bytes of coded epithets and saber-rattling against Mexican job-stealers or Moslem jihadists on our doorstep.
   Mitt Romney said of Obama in Alabama, “This is a president who thinks America is doing better. He should go out and talk to the 24 million Americans who are out of work or stopped looking for work or are unemployed.” That is correct as far as it goes; until you get to his promises to put people back to work and build a prosperous economy by opening up new energy horizons like the Keystone XL Pipeline and hydrofracking. Newt Gingrich promises to return gas prices to $2.50 per gallon, the lowest in the Western world. Drill Baby Drill.
   It isn’t any better on the other side. Democratic Governors Association spokeswoman Kate Hansen told reporters, “If Republican governors would focus more on job creation and expanding opportunity instead of hard-right sideshows like attacking workers’ rights, suppressing voter turnout and mandatory ultrasounds, perhaps their states would be able to close the gap with Democratic-led states, which are creating 21st century jobs at a higher rate and making the investments a modern economy needs to promote continued growth.”
 
   On March 17, in his blog post for the New York Times, “Follow the Money, Follow the Sacredness,” Jonathan Haidt wrote:
  The Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith once summarized the moral narrative told by the American left like this: “Once upon a time, the vast majority” of people suffered in societies that were “unjust, unhealthy, repressive and oppressive.” These societies were “reprehensible because of their deep-rooted inequality, exploitation and irrational traditionalism - all of which made life very unfair, unpleasant and short. But the noble human aspiration for autonomy, equality and prosperity struggled mightily against the forces of misery and oppression and eventually succeeded in establishing modern, liberal, democratic, capitalist, welfare societies.” Despite our progress, “there is much work to be done to dismantle the powerful vestiges of inequality, exploitation and repression.” This struggle, as Smith put it, “is the one mission truly worth dedicating one’s life to achieving.”
  This is a heroic liberation narrative. For the American left, African-Americans, women and other victimized groups are the sacred objects at the center of the story. As liberals circle around these groups, they bond together and gain a sense of righteous common purpose.
 
  Contrast that narrative with one that Ronald Reagan developed in the 1970s and ’80s for conservatism. The clinical psychologist Drew Westen summarized the Reagan narrative like this: “Once upon a time, America was a shining beacon. Then liberals came along and erected an enormous federal bureaucracy that handcuffed the invisible hand of the free market. They subverted our traditional American values and opposed God and faith at every step of the way.” For example, “instead of requiring that people work for a living, they siphoned money from hard-working Americans and gave it to Cadillac-driving drug addicts and welfare queens.” Instead of the “traditional American values of family, fidelity and personal responsibility, they preached promiscuity, premarital sex and the gay lifestyle” and instead of “projecting strength to those who would do evil around the world, they cut military budgets, disrespected our soldiers in uniform and burned our flag.” In response, “Americans decided to take their country back from those who sought to undermine it.”
  This, too, is a heroic narrative, but it’s heroism of defense. In this narrative it’s God and country that are sacred - hence the importance in conservative iconography of the Bible, the flag, the military and the founding fathers. But the subtext in this narrative is about moral order. For social conservatives, religion and the traditional family are so important in part because they foster self-control, create moral order and fend off chaos. (Think of Rick Santorum’s comment that birth control is bad because it’s “a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”) Liberals are the devil in this narrative because they want to destroy or subvert all sources of moral order.
 
   The problem, Haidt observed (as did Olympia Snow a day later), is that it is immoral to compromise if you are confirmed in this faith. You have to be uncompromising. Whether you are defending against the “War on Christianity” (as a Mormon, no less), or the war being waged on trade unions, minority voters, immigrants and women, you are not permitted to compromise. It is war.  
   The current president is waging his own war on immigrants (deporting twice as many as his predecessor), civil liberties (claiming powers of indefinite detention and to execute citizens without trial) and international law (the drone wars, Gaza, climate change), which leads us to wonder which tribe’s sacred principles he pledges allegiance to? Probably neither. Can pragmatism be sacred? Hardly. Being the stepchild of compromise, pragmatism is profane.  
   What the tweedledum/tweedledee political parties seem to be agreed upon is that the USA should harken back to 19th Century Europe, where the lower classes have no hope of gaining more than minimal security and the upper classes have scant chance of losing their many advantages. That is a formula for an Occupy Everything resistance movement, but one easily diffused and co-opted by the material wealth and equality promises USAnians are suckers for.  
   The national discourse is a circular kabuki, with heroes and victims exchanging masks in an elaborate choreography moving left to right and back again. Confused? We are. Rome is burning. The barbarians are at the gate. This theater is on fire, and no one is yet moving toward the exits. Is the stage play THAT good?  
   Remove the masks and what we see are nearly identical actors: one black, one white; one bought and paid by the 1%, the other from the 99%; both doing everything they can to return us to the status quo ante — the way things were when oil flowed easily from the ground, the atmosphere had plenty of carbon parking space, the population could be fed, housed and amused cheaply on the backs of immigrants, and vast empires-for-the-taking stretched out over the horizon if our military was mighty. Casting spells of frontier colonies on Mars, near-infinite deposits of creamy energy under the Dakotas, and other fantasy utopias passes for reality now. Voters and investors alike are swept up in a nostalgic frenzy. And as they fantasize, so their tiny boat drifts closer to the falls, and is encircled by the current.  
   For, as Tocqueville wrote in 1835, “The inhabitants of the United States may retard the calamities which they apprehend, but they cannot now destroy their efficient cause.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The 2012 Presidential Election: Fruitcake or War Criminal?

"Sixty-six percent of voters are “angry” at the media, with 33% “very angry...." Americans’ choice in 2012 seems clear: either arrest the current leadership for torture and other crimes or suffer the torture of your neighbors, friends, family, and yourself in 2012."


We were recently taken to task for Facebook and Twitter comments to the effect that the 2012 U.S. election boiled down to a choice of GOP fruitcakes or our war criminal President. We bemoaned the lack of either a viable third party or a courageous challenger within the Democratic machine. Criticism ran along the expected lines of "Yes, Obama was a disappointment to the left, but considering the odds (and the powers he answers to) what could you expect? Would we have been better off with McCain? Would we be better now with Mitt Romney? Ron Paul?"

We have had to take a moment to pause and think about how to explain our grievances in clearer terms. 

Fortunately, Carl Herman has already done it, in fine and orderly detail. Carl is a graduate of UC Berkeley ('83) and Harvard Graduate School of Education ('99). The Executive Director of UNICEF credits his work with microcredit through RESULTS for saving a million children's lives every year. Currently,  he's among California's 30,000 laid-off and unemployed teachers. As we have posted here in the past, the unemployed are dangerous.

NDAA 2012 torture of Americans, or arrest the 1%’s criminals: your choice 

Posted on by Carl Herman 





I appreciate my colleagues at Activist Post posting my friend Billy Vegas’ PuppetGov video, Obama and the War Criminals. The video powerfully shows damning testimony of US government “leadership” admitting they can torture any person they dictate as a “terrorist.”



Art and academic/professional documentation synergize for the 99% to declare the “emperor has no clothes” obvious facts of the 1%’s crimes.


NDAA 2012 (National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012) explicitly states dictatorial authority of the US executive branch to order US military to seize any person, including US citizens, for unlimited detention and without rights.


This repeats explicit language in the 2006 Military Commissions Act.


Because US government’s 1% “leadership” has tortured, refused to stop or prosecute torture under “new” “leadership” of Obama, now assassinates American citizens upon the dictation of the president, and repeats legislative language in NDAA 2012 again to “disappear” American citizens,  Americans’ choice in 2012 seems clear: either arrest the criminal 1% “leadership” for obvious War Crimes, or suffer the torture of your neighbors, friends, family, and yourself in 2012.


Following is my best attempt to academically and professionally document this obvious crime against the US Constitution; from my 6-part series, Occupy This: US History exposes the 1%’s crimes then and now:


Let’s briefly consider allegations of US torture to detainees/claimed “unlawful enemy combatants.” Remember, a “detainee” hasn’t been charged with a crime; the person’s habeas corpus right has been destroyed, and the US government currently claims authority to imprison the detainee indefinitely or simply assassinate anyone claimed to be a “terrorist.”


The US applies interrogation techniques to “unlawful enemy combatants/terrorists” that previous case law found were torture. For example, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have both admitted to authorizing “waterboarding,” [13] found by courts to be torture in all previous case law in the US and internationally[14]. When previous US courts are unanimous in their findings, [15] that means the legal definition of an act is absolutely certain. In this case, waterboarding, or more accurately “controlled drowning,” is torture.


The US Constitution expressly forbids torture in the 8th Amendment. United States Federal Law forbids torture under Code 18 section 2340. The US is bound by several treaties to never torture: the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (legally defining the meaning of the UN Charter treaty, and the most-translated document in world history), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (an interesting study of the US saying one thing and doing the opposite), the Geneva Conventions, and the UN Convention Against Torture.


Importantly, these laws do not say there are exceptions to allow torture; that is, the torturer cannot use the specious “ticking time bomb” excuse that torture was required to save lives. For example, one US treaty to end torture is the UN Convention Against Torture. It states under Article 2 [16]:


“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”


Convention III of the Geneva Conventions defines torture in Article 3 as, “outrages upon human dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.”


The US refused the UN’s request to inspect the US prison at Guantanamo Bay to evaluate claims of torture. [17] The US refused to release to the press the International Red Cross’ findings of the treatment of detainees. [18]


The US claims under MCA that the US can remove all protections of persons under interrogation: US Constitution, Geneva Convention, and other applicable treaties. This is in Orwellian contradiction to the US Constitution being the definition of American law (and what it means to “defend America”) and in Article 6 that US treaties are the “Supreme Law of the Land.” The word “supreme” means “highest in rank or authority…greatest, utmost…last or final.”


So let’s pause and digest this. It is as simple, I assert, as our baseball analogy of a batter being out at first base by twenty feet, and an umpire/announcer conspiracy trying to get away with the lie of calling the runner safe. Let’s look:

  1. By any and all understanding of professional legal practice, waterboarding is legally defined in the present as torture because it was determined as torture in all previous cases.
  2. The US has legally bound itself in its Constitution, Federal Law, and four treaties to never torture.
  3. Presidents Bush and Obama, along with corresponding leaders, claim that upon their unquestionable word that someone is a “terrorist,” those laws no longer apply.
  4. When government is no longer limited by law, that form of government is no longer a Constitutional Republic. Government based upon what the leader says at any given time is the very definition of dictatorship.
  5. US corporate media does clearly explain the above legal facts. I mean, this has all been news to you, yes?

Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are welcome to argue for waterboarding’s reclassification as a legal practice, of course, but the legally-demanded place under a constitutional republic is in a Federal criminal courtroom, not a book tour.


Is this really that clear? Although I’m perfectly free to assert this as a fact, you’re perfectly free to determine the facts, their meaning, and what we should do about it for yourself.


For an expert legal analysis, you might consider Jonathan Turley, voted among the editors of the American Bar Association Journal as having the US’ top legal blog [19]:


“The United States has a clear obligation to prosecute those responsible for our torture program. However, President Obama has promised to block any investigation of torturers and has stopped any investigation of those who ordered the war crime.”


This would be as if the school principal’s son were a student here and would take tests while having notes on his desk with the test’s content and answers. We know that in all previous “case law” that when a student is caught taking a test with notes that contain test content, that is called “cheating.” However, the principal, son, teacher, and local media call it an “enhanced studying technique,” that while controversial, is necessary for school security against terror-tests that might infiltrate the school from people who hate education. They say this with a straight face. You know that if you did what the principal’s son did, it’s cheating and you’re busted.


Let’s consider US corporate media’s “reporting” in more detail. This is essential because if American’s access to accurate information is compromised by government propaganda, then Americans will not have easy access to the facts. This is what the California Framework means when it asks you to guard against propaganda. Doing so requires your real-world critical thinking skills.


Torture at Times: Waterboarding in the Media,” a paper published from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government that studied the US’ four most-read newspapers, found from the 1930s to 2004 that The New York Times reported waterboarding as torture 82% of the time, and The Los Angeles Times did so 96%. After stories broke that the US was waterboarding “detainees” in current US wars, the papers’ reporting of waterboarding as torture dropped to 1% and 5%, respectfully. In addition, after the US admitted to waterboarding, The Wall Street Journal called it torture in just 1 of 63 articles (2%), and USA Today never called it torture.


We have verified history of official government propaganda having infiltrated corporate media.

The Church Senate Committee hearings had the cooperation of CIA Director William Colby’s testimony that over 400 CIA operatives were controlling US corporate media [20] reporting on specific issues of national interest in what they called Operation Mockingbird. This stunning testimony was then confirmed by Pulitzer Prize reporter Carl Bernstein’s research [21] and reporting. Of course, corporate media refused to publish Bernstein’s article and it became the cover-story for Rolling Stone. For a 13-minute video that includes the President of CBS admitting that their news agency accepted and communicated CIA-generated and planted stories, the CIA Director admitting to the Senate that this is true, examples of widely-reported “news” stories that were total lies from the CIA to foment war support from the US public, watch here. [22]


So which conclusion seems most plausible to you:

  1. US corporate media stopped calling waterboarding “torture” because leading and professional reporters of law somehow forgot or found basic legal definitions based on case law no longer important. I like to characterize this as the “Homer Simpson” or “SpongeBob defense.”
  2. US corporate media were ordered to change their reporting. Professional writers in law are very aware of looking at case law, and independent legal experts they interview affirm this as basic legal analysis especially when case law is unanimous in verdicts. It’s impossible to explain this removal of reporting waterboarding as legally-defined torture unless the corporate media editors made that conscious decision.

Corporate media won’t report the following polling data, but the American public have noticed something is very wrong with their “news”:


Just as only one in five Americans report trust and satisfaction with their government [23] (and here [24]), Americans also perceive corporate media disinformation and are rejecting their “reporting.” 

According to a 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center [25], the majority of the American public see the US major media news organizations as politically biased, inaccurate, and uncaring. Among those who use the Internet, two-thirds report that major media news do not care about the people they report on, 59% say the news is inaccurate, 64% see bias, and 53% summarize their view on major media news as, “failing to stand up for America.” In their latest poll [26], “just 29% of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate.”


A June 2010 Rasmussen poll [27] found 66% of voters “angry” at the media, with 33% “very angry.” Rasmussen also found 70% “angry” at current federal government policies.


A possible genesis of oligarchic control of American major media was reported in the US Congressional Record in 1917 [28]. US Congressperson Oscar Callaway claimed evidence that J.P. Morgan had purchased editorial control over 25 of the nation’s most influential publications in order to create public support for US entry into World War 1 and his new banking legislative victory: creation of the Federal Reserve system. Mr. Callaway’s colleagues voted down an official investigation.


Related corporate reporting history is summarized and documented in this brief article, “The news media at war” [29].


*****

endnotes:

13. To understand waterboarding, you can watch leading journalist Christopher Hitchens get waterboarded: Watch Christopher Hitchens get waterboarded (Vanity Fair): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LPubUCJv58 .

14. This story was opened by ABC News. Sources: top Bush advisors approved ‘enhanced interrogation.’ Greenburg, J.C., Rosenberg, H.L., deVogue, A. April 9, 2008: http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/LawPolitics/story?id=4583256&page=1 and obvious follow-up analysis calling for prosecution (among many in alternative media) from Common Dreams. Arrest Bush: Bush confesses to Waterboarding. Call D.C. cops! Rall, T. April 30, 2008:  http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/04/30/8611/ . For more current analysis, consider these entries from Washington’s Blog: Cheney admits to being War Criminal. Feb. 16, 2010: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2010/02/cheney-admits-to-being-war-criminal.html , Obama team feared revolt if he prosecuted War Crimes. Sept. 12, 2011: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/09/obama-team-feared-revolt-if-he-prosecuted-war-crimes.html , Everything you need to know about torture. March 7, 2011: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/03/everything-you-need-to-know-about-torture.html

15 the link is a nice visual and list from ProCon.org. For legal discussion: Washington Post. Waterboarding used to be a crime. Wallach, E. Nov. 4, 2007: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/02/AR2007110201170.html , Washington University Law Review. Waterboarding is illegal. Huhn, W. May 10, 2008: http://lawreview.wustl.edu/slip-opinions/waterboarding-is-illegal/

16 For discussion, consider Virginia Law. U.S. may be sidestepping U.N. Convention Against Torture in War on Terror. March 20, 2003: http://www.law.virginia.edu/html/news/2003_spr/torture_ps.htm

17 BBC. US faces prison ship allegations. June 28, 2005:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4632087.stm

18 BBC. ICRC raises Guantanamo conditions. Feb. 15, 2005: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4267297.stm

19 Jonathan Turley. London mayor tells Bush to stay out of Londontown – will international shunning become prosecution? Nov. 19, 2010: http://jonathanturley.org/2010/11/19/london-mayor-tells-bush-to-stay-out-of-londontown-will-international-shunning-become-prosecution/  Video interview with Keith Olbermann here: Informed comment. Bush could be arrested in Europe: Turley to Olbermann. Nov. 21, 2010: http://www.juancole.com/2010/11/bush-could-be-arrested-in-europe-turley-to-olbermann.html

20 And other documentation of controlled US media: Examiner.com. Protitution “journalism”: Yup, mainstream media is intentional propaganda. Accept the evidence. Herman, C. Nov. 24, 2009.

21 The CIA and the media: How America’s most powerful news media worked hand in glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and why the Church Committee covered it up. Bernstein, C. Oct. 20, 1977.

22 Sibel Edmond’s Boiling Frogs. CIA News: A brief history of media manipulation by U.S. Intelligence. Sept. 30, 2011: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2011/09/30/the-eyeopener-cia-in-the-news-media-2/

23 Pew Research Center. Distrust, Discontent, Anger, and Partisan Rancor. April 18, 2010.

24 Infowars.com. Dissatisfaction with government reaches all time high. Watson, S. Sept. 26, 2011.

25 Pew Research Center Publications. Internet news audience highly critical of news organizations. Aug. 9, 2007.

26 Pew Research Center. Press accuracy rating hits two decade low. Sept. 13, 2009.

27 Rasmussen reports. 66% of voters are angry at the media. June 15, 2010.

28 Examiner.com. Congressional Record: JP Morgan & Co purchased all major media for propaganda: 1917. And now…? Herman, C. June 6, 2010.

29 Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth. The news media at war. Hansen, T. June 22, 2010.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Can Cancún Can-Do?


Last year in Copenhagen we were among a very few UN outsiders daily blogging from inside the climate summit and we went to great lengths to be relatively punctual and reliable in our reporting. This year, in contrast, there are scads of bloggers — an entire “bloggers loft” at the Cancun Messe site devoted to video bloggers (vloggers).

Just to read the feeds from all the tweeters here you would need multiple heads. So we are off the hook this year. Whew! Why spend time wading through security and trying to parse all the acronyms when you can be in a turquoise sea looking up at seagulls?


Yesterday we attended the Pew Center/Government of Mexico forum on Communicating Climate Change and got to knock elbows at the chow line with climate celebrities. FCCC organizer Simon Anholt gave the equivalent of a TED talk to close the morning session and IPCC nobelist Rajendra Pachauri gave the luncheon keynote. Ozone hole discoverer Mario Molino, No-Impact-Man Colin Beavan, and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa were among the afternoon line-up. While Anholt really got people’s juices flowing, Espinosa’s rousing stand-up slayed. 

You don’t need to take a survey, as the Pew Center and Yale did, to know there is an enormous and growing gap in the public appreciation of climate change. Awareness of the climate is actually higher in China and India than it is in the United States and Mexico, but awareness does not mean understanding. While more than 40% of people in the US think climate change is serious (down from more than 50% five years ago), 97% of the 600 million Chinese who know about climate change feel it is no threat. Similar numbers can be found in India. This takes Fox News and the Koch brothers off the hook. The US is feeling less dumb already.

As Simon Anholt said, climate change, put as simply as possible, is the impact of having 7 billion people living at the highest level of resource consumption the world has ever seen. In many ways, that is a mark of the success of the United Nations, and of the international aid and development work of many agencies and individuals over the past 50 years. And not surprisingly, many of the stakeholders one finds roaming the halls at a UN event have the expectation that “sustainable development” mandate can and should continue. Most, if not all, would even go so far as to say it must continue. And so we drift, by Millennial Development Goals and Clean Development Mechanisms, towards unparalleled catastrophe. 

Another point made by Anholt is that governments care a lot about their reputations. Sweden has a great reputation and finds it easy to get credit, enter markets, attract tourists and so forth. Mexico, by contrast, has a serious image problem about safety. Its drug cartels, some trained and equipped in the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, are now more powerful than its government, and certainly more wealthy and with better long-term prospects. Such insecurity makes it much harder for Mexico to attract investors, credit and tourists, although it is the drug money that likely built the luxury resorts we are shuttling between. These resorts have more than one kind of laundry to do.

Anholt, a Planetary Emergency Technician who parachutes in to hot spots to advocate rescue remedies where others have failed (his business card bears only his name), said that countries know that they need a good image to have success, and so they waste millions of tax dollars on gawd-awful propaganda, not noticing that in the information age it has gotten harder to buy a good reputation. Sweden’s message is that you may have to actually do something good, like give to the poor, or save the environment. Many companies are starting to get this. Countries will eventually have to. Mr. Calderon’s Mayan Riviera windmill is a poignant case of trying to appear greener than you actually are, but at least it actually works. The first time we saw it we thought it was being turned by motors, entirely for show.

So that’s the formula. If a country wants to do business it must be admired. In order to be admired it must do good. This is a conundrum for many governments, not the least the USA, whose reputation took a huge hit from the Bush-Cheney torture-and-mayhem brand. It briefly revived with the Shepard Ferry “Hope” poster but that has now tarnished with the Obama torture-mayhem-and-cover-up re-brand, the Obama Security State (OSS) that imprisons whistleblowers, and the recent right wing election coup. A Pew survey found that of 22 US Senate challengers in the last election, 20 did not trust climate scientists. Given this display of Tweetle-dee and Tweetle-dumber on the world stage, USA’s credit and confidence reservoirs are drying up, globally, and the Cancun talks are a very clear indication of that. A US citizen attending these meetings feels much like a Japanese citizen attending a screening of The Cove. An icebreaker at parties is to find a shared interest in Michael Moore.

The problem is not confined to a few bad countries, however. We live in an era of borderless problems. As Simon Anholt told the forum, one thing our problems share is that they are all symptoms of a lack of any sane global governance. We haven’t attained the next stage of our evolution: species self-awareness. We are still fragmented and competing nation-states and soul-less corporations. The UN is in 0.9 beta. But, and we keep saying this whenever we get stuck in a long queue for a shuttle bus, as bug-prone as it is, its the only game in town.

After Copenhagen public opinion towards the UN, and government in general, entered a new crisis of confidence. The Wikileaks phenomenon is just another symptom of that. Wilkileaks’ popularity (not to mention its revelations) demonstrates that our governments are incompetent at best, corrupt and greedy at worst, and people now get that. That new branding is being seared into our common psyche. What Karl Rove couldn’t accomplish, Hillary Clinton is driving home.

As we begin the chaotic Anthopocene Epoch, the public is beginning to understand that no one is in charge and we are all aboard a burning ocean liner. Are there evacuation plans? A fire brigade? Any plan at all? Do we have a string quartet to play “Nearer My God to Thee?”
 
Rajendra Pachauri told the audience that the only superpower today is public opinion. We can take that a step farther and say people’s perceptions are based on patterns of development that begin while they are still in the womb, are strongly embedded by cultural experiences, and continue along driven by that inertia even in the face of strong evidence that the accepted norms of their parents no longer obtain. We are creatures of habit. The big picture – that there are 7 billion of us consuming resources at unsustainable rates, and that both the number of us and our rate of consumption are increasing, not diminishing — is an intractable dilemma simply because opinion about it is fixed and non-negotiable.
 
Jennifer Scott, Global Head of Strategy and Planning, Ogilvy & Mather, outlined a survey of more than 500 participants at COP-16. The study found that 56% believe that there has already been irreversible damage to the planet, and another 27% believe that such damage is coming within 10 years. Nearly 90 percent believe that the time to act is right now, but only 33% think the talks are headed towards resolution (29% developed world respondents, 38% developing). A full 83% believe response will only come once countries experience the consequences in the full 3D surround sound of real time. Appearances to peers matters — 64% believe the unwillingness to risk economic or political damage at home is the greatest barrier to reaching an agreement. Only 20%  think public apathy is due to skepticism in the science, although 58% say the public has only very limited understanding of the issues. Scientists are trusted by 66%, journalists by only 24% (and probably those respondents were the journalists). Still, 76% rank mainstream media as the best vehicle for conveying the message, and human interest stories as the most effective way (65%).

That last point was driven home by “No Impact Man” Colin Beaven, who put up two images, side-by-side, one of climbing stairs with a child on his shoulders and the other of a MEGO chart. “Which of these images is more likely to draw your attention?” he asked.

Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Project on Climate Change at Yale University, said that 66% of people surveyed in 150 countries trust scientists and experts, but less than half  trust global organizations like the UN (42%), or public figures and activists (41%). “Just between China and India we are talking about 2 billion people who know nothing about climate change,” he said, and added that this is very unfortunate because these are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

The sad thing, and Pachauri and many others alluded to this, is that our species’ suicidal, geocidal meander toward “sustainable development” is not even going where people think it is going. The objective is happiness, and every study shows that happiness is increased by factors having nothing to do with shopping in WalMart or the Gap; turning dolphins and salmon into catfood, or bling. Consumption doesn’t work.
 
The Onion ran a fake story yesterday with the headline “Report: Unemployment High Because People Keep Blowing Their Job Interviews.”  The irony is that may be true. People want jobs that maintain their status quo. They want governments that will give them whatever they consider their patrimony or natural right to consume. Those are impossible career goals, but public opinion, the world’s only superpower, has yet to come to grips with it. Demands for the impossible are clashing with what is possible, as in the case of a family whose breadwinners are out of work, the house has been foreclosed, social welfare provides for neither the children’s food nor the grandparents’ medical needs and they so they just decide to pack up and go to Disney World.
 
And the irony is that it is all so unnecessary because the low-energy, low-carbon, low-impact path is so much more fun, healthier, and more fulfilling than the dead-end wage slavery it could be replacing before it is all too late. After all, many good studies in various countries already show profitable means to achieve 40% aggregate reductions from 1990 levels for 2020. Some UN observers, like Zero Carbon Britain, Climate Action Network and European Climate Foundation, have shown how we can transition to a zero carbon economy for developed countries by 2050. Dubious technologies like clean coal and nuclear can be pursued by countries inviting their own financial ruin, but most would likely prefer to adopt clean renewables targets like China’s.
 
Speaking in Spanish, Patricia Espinoza said that while it is the usual thing to talk about climate solutions that involve energy production or transportation, and numeric limits, that few people yet see the whole picture. When we talk about climate change we are really talking about changing everything. She listed some of the things that people need to think about, like the size of their house and car, where their food comes from, how many children they have, and what it would be like if not just the business they were in was closed, but that entire industrial sector was phased out. Big problems require big thinking, she told the conference, and we are still thinking much too small.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Teaching Your Children to Prognosticate

— Voltaire 

We live in a world of orthodox myth; the stories we tell ourselves about the world become the world to us. Even when some of our myths are exploded, they turn out to be so embedded by our cultural memes and temes that it can take a long time — generations — to dispel them, and sometimes they don’t ever dispel, they just go dormant for a while, and then return, zombie myths, to ensnare us all over again.

Zombie myths recycle with special vigor in election years, because patriotism is the stock and trade of scoundrels. Patriotism is the deadest myth out there and the patriotic myths of the USA are among the most obnoxious.

For a number of years, while writing this blog we have avoided using the term “American” to describe the people, places and things of the States of the United States. Instead, we use “USAnian” as the more apt term, shorn of the hubris that somehow the people, places and things of Venezuela, Brazil, the Kuna or the Huichols are not American.

Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." Indoctrinated from nursery school to graduate school, reinforced by weekly pronouncements from the pulpit and daily television bobbleheads, the gene that helps us accept bulls**t seems dominant in the modern human genome. While one can perhaps point to more dire examples — North Korea, Somalia or Zimbabwe, for instance — the USA’s homegrown mythology seems especially pernicious. It deprives USAnian children of pattern recognition.

In his current stump speech, the international war criminal Barack Obama tells audiences that while veterans were spit on and dishonored when they returned from Vietnam, his administration has extended to those returning from the Middle East nothing but honor. The premise is, of course, false. Historians well know that the myth about protesters spitting on Vietnam veterans was cooked up in the kitchens of the Nixon White House to shame the US public into sustaining genocidal bombing long after that war had become not just a fraudulent cause but a lost fraudulent cause.

Dishonoring Vietnam veterans never actually happened, except when they spoke up about what they had seen, and then they were pursued and hounded by government, much like Obama is doing today to Bradley Manning. Manning is the alleged Wikileaker, and he is being prosecuted for adhering to the Nuremburg principles and refusing to participate in the cover up of war crimes. In actuality, in the Sixties and Seventies antiwar protesters welcomed returning vets to the barricades and handed them microphones so they could describe the atrocities they had witnessed, just like Manning. Why Obama keeps trying to bolster ancient Republican propaganda is anyone’s guess. Yet, it serves to thicken the clouds of deception that obscure our children’s vision.

The releases by Wikileaks that provide fine-grained detail of Allied atrocities in the Middle East explain why the returning Iraq vets, who receive far better benefits and honors than their predecessors, commit suicide in such unprecedented numbers. Their war, like Vietnam, is indisputably an illegal war of aggression under the Nuremburg Principles, and no-one is there fighting “to bring democracy,” “to make sure 9-11 can never be repeated,” or to thwart Muslim evildoers, be they Al Qaida or Taliban. Those are all the convenient myths of the type Voltaire warned us of. Today’s cannon fodder are mere corrupted innocents, and there but for fortune go you or we.

How a nation that directs fascist decapitations of democratic societies whenever it suits a perceived strategic needs imagines it can as easily install a democratic system from the top down, while our lordly Ambassadors don’t even speak the language, is a mystery. Before their multi-trillion-dollar Iraqi Freedom project, Republicans were fond of saying “We don’t do nation building.” Now they fault the torture czar Obama for doing exactly that, using more trillions of tax dollars. The myth is not that nation building can be done or can’t be done. The myth is that we are in the Persian Gulf for any reason other than to secure a continued supply of petroleum. Our children don’t know that. They don’t know petroleum is in finite supply.

To believe that 9-11 originated in a cave in Afghanistan at this point you would have to also believe in the tooth fairy, or Santa Claus. What kind of pattern recognition do you have when you believe in the tooth fairy?

Including the 343 firefighters and 60 police  casualties, 2,752 victims died in the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9-11. In contrast, between 2,000 and 5,000 civilians died and 20,000 homes were destroyed when the US invaded Panama in Operation Just Cause, discriminantly leveling entire city blocks to capture a rogue secret agent who was taking away the drug trade from the CIA and turning it to his own uses. In CIA parlance, the collateral damage is termed “bug-splat.”

Is there an Islamic Cultural Center in that part of Panama City today? Sure is. El Centro Cultural Islámico de Colón, on Central Avenue. Panama has 10 mosques. Maybe a better question is whether there are Christian Culture Centers close to the destroyed neighborhoods, since Panama was attacked by Christians — Just ‘Cause. Is this being taught in our schools? Would the average college freshman know what Operation Just Cause was?

The Saudis (not Iraqis) that took over the airplanes that crashed into the Trade Center and Pentagon on 9-11 were “terrorists,” our children are taught. Coalition soldiers who shoot disarmed prisoners at checkpoints in Iraq are “patriots.” (One of them is even standing for election to Congress next Tuesday after being court-martialed.) Both of those terms are mythic appellations. What is a “patriot” when lethal force is employed to defend lands stolen from indigenous peoples who have been displaced, impoverished and killed? What is a “terrorist” when one is fighting back against foreign aggressors?

We don’t even have a word for the faceless people in windowless buildings near Las Vegas, Nevada, who launch hellfire missiles at wedding parties or funeral processions from silent, unseen drones flying over Pakistan. They are myths in waiting. They do not exist in our children’s textbooks.

Turning to the election prattle, why are single payer medical systems “socialist?” What is so evil about “communism?” Weren’t Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles practicing communists? Didn’t J.C. chase the money lenders from the temple?

 But then, who was Jesus? Was not that whole New Testament narrative cobbled together from pre-existing stories that were centuries and millennia old by the time J.C. was supposed to have been born? Haven’t morphing storylines also given us the Virgin of Guadalupe? The Book of Mormon? UFOs?

Our bicameral brains seem to have a metaprogram that drives us to create an alternate narrative, a sub-text to the drama we see going on around us. For some of us, that takes the shape of demons and devils lurking in the shadows, waiting for a chance to destroy us. For others, it is an epic battle, one in which we are cast on the side of good, predisposed to undergo great sacrifice and deprivation of all manner of pleasures to ensure a favorable outcome. For still others, there are unseen, super-intelligent forces at work; aliens, quasi-military security apparati, and Bilderberg conspiracies.

Whatever your poison, there is an echo chamber where your illusions can be rendered perfectly sane. Maybe it is Glenn Beck, or maybe it is your 5th Grade Civics textbook. The Great War was due to the assassination of Serbia’s Archduke Ferdinand; Kennedy was killed by a bullet fired by Oswald, acting alone; the US elections of 2000 and 2004 and the Mexican election of 2006 had nothing to do with Diebold voting machines; obesity has nothing to do with Frankenfoods, high fructose corn syrup or bovine growth hormone; the Great Recession will soon be over; homosexuality is a promiscuous aberration; and nuclear power is clean, safe and too cheap to meter.

Orthodoxy is supposed to serve a social benefit. It is supposed to cleave us to the narrow track that provides sanity and avoids the pitfalls history has warned us of. Problem is, our cultural orthodoxy is now sending our children in the wrong direction. It is leading them off the cliff of moral disambiguity to the rocks of pummeled hubris. And because of deliberately impaired perception, they will never see it coming.

The scary part comes when some of them decide to break out of the realm of myth and stare at unvarnished reality. Frederic Nietzsche said, “If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”


Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Petrocollapse Timeline

"We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us. "

Since the early two thousand oughts we pessimistas have been trying to discern the shape of the backside of Mr. Hubbert’s curve. John Michael Greer has made a strong case for catabolic collapse, which could be described as a stair-step down from the present peak, punctuated by precipitous drops (the 147-dollar oil spike; the Lehman default; the ARMs race) and level treads (“Green Shoots,” the “Morning in America” phase we are currently re-hallucinating).

Catabolic collapse may describe the micro-view, but in coming decades the decline curve has a number, and whether that number is 2 (the grade of the uphill climb we traversed over the past 100 years) or 7 (halving every ten years) matters.

At the Local Futures conference in Michigan on November 14, Richard Douthwaite joined others, myself included, in predicting something in the 7 to 9 range, which places him in the pessimista camp, whether he likes the association or not. A splendid analysis published November 23 at the Oil Drum by Tony “ace” Erikson follows a more benign 3 degree slope (1.6 to 2.4 mbd/a), and offers a very nifty view of the next few years. I have taken the liberty of combining ace’s charts with an overlaying fabric of possible socio-political reactions.

Here is the projected decline slope, derived by subtracting new supplies now being developed from anticipated depletion of existing supply, with an overlay of expected prices: 



Here is the projection of just the new additions, which typically take 8 to 10 years to develop after discovery, assuming the product price justifies the expense to develop (which it does in this case), together with a possible socio-political overlay for the United States. 



Going by these charts it is safe to say that the next few years should be very lively. Stick around. 



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