Thursday, December 30, 2010

Failure to Obey a Lawful Order

Failure to Obey a Lawful Order

by Leah Bolger
Imagine you are taking a walk in a park and you witness a mugging.  What would you do?  Would you look the other way or would you try to stop it?   If you are one who would try to stop it, then what would you do when it is your government that is committing the crime?  As citizens we are told that we should call our Congressman or write a letter to the editor when we are dissatisfied with our government.  But writing a letter to the editor is no more effective at stopping the crimes of our government than it is at stopping a mugging.

On December 16th, 2010, I participated in an act of civil resistance in an attempt to stop my government from continuing to commit crimes—namely the ongoing wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  In the middle of a heavy snowstorm, I was arrested along with 130 other people in front of the White House who refused to move off the sidewalk when ordered to by the police.  We were not violent, we carried no weapons, and we damaged no property.  We were, however, willing to disobey the police as an act of resistance to our government; as a way of saying “No” to the senseless slaughter of innocent people; “No” to outrageous war profiteering, “No” to our government’s flagrant disregard of international law, ”No” to the squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars.  

Although it is we who were treated like criminals—handcuffed, arrested and charged, we are not the ones ordering drone strikes or sending in troops. We are not the ones using illegal weapons and poisoning the earth.  We are not the ones with blood on our hands.  The real criminals continue unabated, shamelessly claiming that they are “making progress,” and unabashedly announcing that they plan to continue their crimes for many years to come.

None of us expected that these illegal wars of aggression would immediately stop due to our simple action, but we did hope that we would send a message--a message that there are citizens who do not support our government’s illegal wars and occupations; a message to the world that we are shamed by the actions of our government and we will do everything we can to stop it.  It is our sincere hope that this action will be a spark that ignites the consciousness of others; that our refusal to obey and willingness to put our liberty on the line will give them the courage of their own convictions and they will also begin to act in resistance as well. 

We will continue to defy and disobey, to resist and to rebel.  We will not stop until the real criminals have been stopped. We will keep pushing the public to wake up to the horror of war and to take responsibility for ending it. We will rail against these crimes of inhumanity with all the force we can muster.  We will continue to try with our voices and our bodies, to throw ourselves onto the machine of greed and killing.

“Failure to Obey a Lawful Order” is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of a $1000 fine.  So what is the penalty for failure to obey international law? 
Leah Bolger spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2000 at the rank of Commander.  She is currently a full-time peace activist and serves as the National Vice-President of Veterans For Peace.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hypocrisy At The State Department?

WikiLeaked Upon by the State Department

by Tom Engelhardt
[Note: This piece is, in fact, an introduction by Engelhardt at his website.  It had a piece of curious WikiLeaks news we thought it worth bringing your way.]
I have a friend who sends a note every year in December, pleading with me to pen one upbeat, hopeful piece before the next year rolls around.  Mind you, I consider myself an upbeat guy in a downbeat world and, for me, when it comes to pure upbeatness, you couldn't have beaten this week if you tried.  This was when my Oscar came in -- or the equivalent on the political Internet anyway. 
On December 7th, the State Department announced its brave decision to host UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day in 2011. ("[W]e are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information...")  Less than two weeks later, I learned that if you try to go to from a State Department computer, you can't get there.  The following message appears instead:
"Access Denied for Security Risk (policy_wikileaks)
"Your requested URL has been blocked to prevent classified information from being downloaded to OpenNet."
OpenNet is what the State Department calls its unclassified Web system.  Maybe it should now consider changing that name as it prepares for World Press Freedom Day. (Small tip to State Department officials: remember that TomDispatch is just as good a read at home as at work!)  I'm sure this is all part of the Obama administration's fabulous sunshine policy, that "new standard of openness" the president embraced on his first day in the Oval Office.  It's certainly part of the U.S. government's ridiculous attempt to bar its officials, contractors, and anyone else it can reach from the once-secret State Department documents that WikiLeaks is slowly releasing and that everyone else on Earth has access to.
As for me in this holiday season, I couldn't be happier.  Among those sites banned by the State Department, I'm sure in good company and, of course, you're not likely to be banned if no one's reading you in the first place.  And here's the holiday miracle: somehow TomDispatch made it onto The List without revealing a single secret document or even hosting one at the site, evidently on the basis of having commented in passing on the WikiLeaks affair.
So that's the news here at TD when it comes to upbeat.  As for hope, hey, I've learned from the Bush years.  As they privatized war, I've privatized hope, farming it out to Rebecca Solnit, who from her first appearance at TomDispatch has filled the endowed Hope Chair brilliantly.  It's now nothing short of a tradition at this site that she have the last word of the year.
So, as the eighth year of ends, it's up the chimney with me.  Enjoy the Solnitsian present I've left under the tree -- and to all a goodnight (until January 4th when TomDispatch returns).
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's  His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Organic Consumers Association Fights Monsanto

USDA Recommends "Coexistence" with Monsanto: We Say Hell No! by Ronnie Cummins

"If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." - Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." - Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications, quoted in the New York Times, October 25, 1998

After 16 years of non-stop biotech bullying and force-feeding Genetically Engineered or Modified (GE or GM) crops to farm animals and "Frankenfoods" to unwitting consumers, Monsanto has a big problem, or rather several big problems. A growing number of published scientific studies indicate that GE foods pose serious human health threats.  The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) recently stated that "Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food," including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM advises consumers to avoid GM foods. Before the FDA arbitrarily decided to allow Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into food products in 1994, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can set off serious, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.

Federal judges are finally starting to acknowledge what organic farmers and consumers have said all along: uncontrollable and unpredictable GMO crops such as alfalfa and sugar beets spread their mutant genes onto organic farms and into non-GMO varieties and plant relatives, and should be halted.

An appeals court recently ruled that consumers have the right to know whether the dairy products they are purchasing are derived from cows injected with Monsanto's (now Elanco's) controversial recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), linked to serious animal health problems and increased cancer risk for humans.

Monsanto's Roundup, the agro-toxic companion herbicide for millions of acres of GM soybeans, corn, cotton, alfalfa, canola, and sugar beets, is losing market share. Its overuse has spawned a new generation of superweeds that can only be killed with super-toxic herbicides such as 2,4, D and paraquat. Moreover, patented "Roundup Ready" crops require massive amounts of climate destabilizing nitrate fertilizer. Compounding Monsanto's damage to the environment and climate, rampant Roundup use is literally killing the soil, destroying essential soil microorganisms, degrading the living soil's ability to capture and sequester CO2, and spreading deadly plant diseases.

In just one year, Monsanto has moved from being Forbes' "Company of the Year" to the Worst Stock of the Year. The Biotech Bully of St. Louis has become one of the most hated corporations on Earth.

Monsanto and their agro-toxic allies are now turning to Obama's pro-biotech USDA for assistance. They want the organic community to stop suing them and boycotting their products. They want food activists and the OCA to mute our criticisms and stop tarnishing the image of their brands, their seeds, and companies. They want us to resign ourselves to the fact that one-third of U.S. croplands, and one-tenth of global cultivated acreage, are already contaminated with GMOs. That's why Monsanto recently hired the notorious mercenary firm, Blackwater, to spy on us. That's why Monsanto has teamed up with the Gates Foundation to bribe government officials and scientists and spread GMOs throughout Africa and the developing world.  That's why the biotech bullies and the Farm Bureau have joined hands with the Obama Administration to preach their new doctrine of "coexistence."

"Coexistence" or Cooptation?

The Agriculture Department is dutifully drafting a comprehensive "coexistence policy" that supposedly will diffuse tensions between conventional (chemical but non-GMO), biotech, and organic farmers. Earlier this week industry and Administration officials met in Washington, D.C. to talk about coexistence. Even though the Organic Consumers Association tried to get into the meeting, we were told we weren't welcome. The powers that be claim that the OCA doesn't meet their criteria of being "stakeholders." The unifying theme in these closed-door meetings is apparently that Monsanto and the other biotech companies will set aside a "compensation" fund to reimburse organic farmers whose crops or fields get contaminated. That way we'll all be happy. Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dow, and Dupont will continue planting their hazardous crops and force-feeding animals and consumers with GMOs. Organic farmers and companies willing to cooperate will get a little compensation or "hush money." But of course our response to Monsanto and the USDA's plan, as you might have guessed, is hell no!

There can be no such thing as "coexistence" with a reckless and monopolistic industry that harms human health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world's 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers.  Enough talk of coexistence. We need a new regime that empowers consumers, small farmers, and the organic community. We need a new set of rules, based on "truth-in-labeling" and the "precautionary principle" - consumer and farmer-friendly regulations that are basically already in place in the European Union - so that "we the people" can regain control over Monsanto, indentured politicians, and the presently out-of-control technology of genetic engineering.

Truth-in-Labeling: Monsanto and the Biotech Industry's Greatest Fear

In practical terms coexistence between GMOs and organics in the European Union, the largest agricultural market in the world, is a non-issue. Why? Because there are almost no GMO crops under cultivation, nor consumer food products on supermarket shelves, in the EU, period. And why is this? There are almost no GMOs in Europe, because under EU law, as demanded by consumers, all foods containing GMOs or GMO ingredients must be labeled. Consumers have the freedom to choose or not to consume GMOs, while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as they are labeled. Of course consumers, for the most part, do not want to consume GM Frankenfoods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonald's and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the axiom expressed by the Monsanto executive at the beginning of this article: "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."

The biotech industry and Food Inc. are acutely aware of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you don't want to be part of an involuntary food safety experiment. You don't want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by profit-at-any-cost chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont-the same people who brought you toxic pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs, and now global warming. Industry leaders are acutely aware of the fact that every single industry or government poll over the last 16 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on GMO foods. Why? So that we can avoid buying them. GMO foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from getting a public discussion in Congress, much less allowing such legislation to be put up for a vote. Obama (and Hilary Clinton) campaign operatives in 2008 claimed that Obama supported mandatory labels for GMOs, but we haven't heard a word from the White House on this topic since Inauguration Day.

Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) introduces a bill in every Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don't hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers' right to know what's in their food. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called "Citizens United" case gave big corporations and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent.

Therefore we need to shift our focus and go local. We've got to concentrate our forces where our leverage and power lie, in the marketplace, at the retail level; pressuring retail food stores to voluntarily label their products; while on the legislative front we must organize a broad coalition to pass mandatory GMO (and CAFO) labeling laws, at the city, county, and state levels.

Millions Against Monsanto: Launching a Nationwide Truth-in-Labeling Campaign, Starting with Local City Council Ordinances or Ballot Initiatives

Early in 2011 the Organic Consumers Association, joined by our consumer, farmer, environmental, and labor allies, plans to launch a nationwide campaign to stop Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies from force-feeding unlabeled GMOs to animals and humans. Utilizing scientific data, legal precedent, and consumer power the OCA and our local coalitions will educate and mobilize at the grassroots level to pressure retailers to implement "truth-in-labeling" practices; while simultaneously organizing a critical mass to pass mandatory local and state truth-in-labeling ordinances or ballot initiatives similar to labeling laws already in effect for country of origin, irradiated food, allergens, and carcinogens. If local government bodies refuse to take action, wherever possible we will gather petition signatures and place these truth-in-labeling initiatives directly on the ballot in 2011 or 2012. Stay tuned for details, but please send an email to: if you're interesting in helping organize a truth-in-labeling campaign in your local community. Millions Against Monsanto. Power to the people! ___________________________________________________________________

Ronnie Cummins is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fraser Takes Issue With Matera

Chris Matera's "Burning Wood Better Left to Cavemen" touts the advantages of coal vs. wood without examining the carbon footprint of extracting the two as a fuel source.  Nor does Matera acknowledge the historic destruction coal has caused to Northeast forests due to its release of mercury compounds and acid rain producing sulphur. Burning coal and other fossil fuels has led to climate change; whereas, wood has been utilized as a fuel source - as Matera aptly points out - since the caveman and did not contribute to this phenomena. 
But perhaps the worst impact of coal is the wholesale destruction of mountains and forests and the vast scarring and pollution resulting from its extraction.  Compare this to sustainably-managed and environmentally-sensitive logging practices, mandated by Massachusetts law, that do not destroy forests, but enhances them by allowing for regenerate growth, diversity of age composition and species, and the creation of vitally needed habitat for wildlife. 
Currently, area public and private forests are plagued by Red Pine Scale, Elongate Hemlock Scale and Hemlock Woolley Adelgids.  These trees need to be removed and allow for natural processes to replace them with a healthy forest.  If these diseases are allowed to spread unchecked, our Massachusetts forest will be increasing plagued by forest fires that allow for the unmitigated release of carbon dioxide.  And though I agree with Matera that large-scale biomass power generation may not be the most effective use of the resource, small-scale, minimally polluting, combined heat and power (CHP) biomass can be used by industries such as Erving Paper Mills to reduce heat and electricity costs - a win-win for the environment, jobs, and the overall economic health of the region.
Genevieve Fraser
211 Dana Road
Orange, MA 01364
(978) 544-1872

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wikileaks Shows The Dark Underside of US Policy Towards Haiti

Wikileaks Cables Show Why Washington Won't Allow Democracy in Haiti

by Mark Weisbrot
The polarisation of the debate around WikiLeaks is pretty simple, really. Of all the governments in the world, the United States government is the greatest threat to world peace and security today. This is obvious to anyone who looks at the facts with a modicum of objectivity. The Iraq war has claimed certainly hundreds of thousands, and, most likely, more than a million lives. It was completely unnecessary and unjustifiable, and based on lies. Now, Washington is moving toward a military confrontation with Iran.
As Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, pointed out in an interview recently, in the preparation for a war with Iran, we are at about the level of 1998 in the buildup to the Iraq war.
On this basis, even ignoring the tremendous harm that Washington causes to developing countries in such areas as economic development (through such institutions as the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation), or climate change, it is clear that any information which sheds light on US "diplomacy" is more than useful. It has the potential to help save millions of human lives.
You either get this or you don't. Brazil's president Lula da Silva, who earned Washington's displeasure last May when he tried to help defuse the confrontation with Iran, gets it. That's why he defended and declared his "solidarity" with embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, even though the leaked cables were not pleasant reading for his own government.
One area of US foreign policy that the WikiLeaks cables help illuminate, which the major media has predictably ignored, is the occupation of Haiti. In 2004, the country's democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown for the second time, through an effort led by the United States government. Officials of the constitutional government were jailed and thousands of its supporters were killed.
The Haitian coup, besides being a repeat of Aristide's overthrow in 1991, was also very similar to the attempted coup in Venezuela in 2002 – which also had Washington's fingerprints all over it. Some of the same people in Washington were even involved in both efforts. But the Venezuelan coup failed – partly because Latin American governments immediately and forcefully declared that they would not recognise the coup government.
In the case of Haiti, Washington had learned from its mistakes in the Venezuelan coup and had gathered support for an illegitimate government in advance. A UN resolution was passed just days after the coup, and UN forces, headed by Brazil, were sent to the country. The mission is still headed by Brazil, and has troops from a number of other Latin American governments that are left of centre, including Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay. They are also joined by Chile, Peru and Guatemala from Latin America.
Would these governments have sent troops to occupy Venezuela if that coup had succeeded? Clearly, they would not have considered such a move, yet the occupation of Haiti is no more justifiable. South America's progressive governments have strongly challenged US foreign policy in the region and the world, with some of them regularly using words like imperialism and empire as synonyms for Washington. They have built new institutions such as UNASUR to prevent these kinds of abuses from the north. Bolivia expelled the US ambassador in September of 2008 for interfering in the country's internal affairs.
Is it because Haitians are poor and black that their most fundamental human and democratic rights can be trampled upon?
The participation of these governments in the occupation of Haiti is a serious political contradiction for them, and it is getting worse. The WikiLeaks cables illustrate how important the control of Haiti is to the United States. A long memo from the US embassy in Port-au-Prince to the US secretary of state answers detailed questions about Haitian president Rene Preval's political, personal and family life, including such vital national security questions as "How many drinks can Preval consume before he shows signs of inebriation?" It also expresses one of Washington's main concerns:
"His reflexive nationalism, and his disinterest in managing bilateral relations in a broad diplomatic sense, will lead to periodic frictions as we move forward our bilateral agenda. Case in point, we believe that in terms of foreign policy, Preval is most interested in gaining increased assistance from any available resource. He is likely to be tempted to frame his relationship with Venezuela and Chávez-allies in the hemisphere in a way that he hopes will create a competitive atmosphere as far as who can provide the most to Haiti."
This logic is why they got rid of Aristide – who was much to the left of Preval – and won't let him back in the country. This is why Washington funded the recent "elections" that excluded Haiti's largest political party, the equivalent of shutting out the Democrats and Republicans in the United States. And this is why Minustah is still occupying the country, more than six years after the coup, without any apparent mission other than replacing the hated Haitian army – which Aristide had abolished – as a repressive force.
People who do not understand US foreign policy think that control over Haiti does not matter to Washington, because it is so poor and has no strategic minerals or resources. But that is not how Washington operates, as the WikiLeaks cables repeatedly illustrate. For the state department and its allies, it is all a ruthless chess game, and every pawn matters. Left governments will be removed or prevented from taking power where it is possible to do so; and the poorest countries – like Honduras last year – present the most opportune targets. A democratically elected government in Haiti, due to its history and the consciousness of the population, will inevitably be a left government – and one that will not line up with Washington's foreign policy priorities for the region. Thus, democracy is not allowed.
Thousands of Haitians have been protesting the sham elections, as well as Minustah's role in causing the cholera epidemic, which has already taken more than 2,300 lives and can be expected to kill thousands more in the coming months and years. Judging from the rapid spread of the disease, there may have been gross criminal negligence on the part of Minustah – that is, large-scale dumping of fecal waste into the Artibonite river. This is another huge reason for the force to leave Haiti.
This is a mission that costs over $500m a year, when the UN can't even raise a third of that to fight the epidemic that the mission caused, or to provide clean water for Haitians. And now the UN is asking for an increase to over $850m.
It is high time that the progressive governments of Latin America quit this occupation, which goes against their own principles and deeply-held beliefs, and is against the will of the Haitian people.
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Opeyemi Parham: Hooray For Bernie Sanders

I am a Mass resident who ALMOST made it to the big time.  I "maxed out" with an income of $106,000 a year when I worked as a physician in the prison system.
I am now "post consumer" in my lifestyle. Because I gave up my license to practice medicine along the way, I fit the box for "poor' these days; no regular income, living hand to mouth as a free lance health educator, taking small odd jobs as I find them.

That means I know how much $200,000 a year is, and how little under  $19,000 a year is for a family of four, and what middle income means.

What is happening in the senate today reminds me more than any other action to date that we are in the middle of the fall of our very own Roman Empire.

It is absolutely unethical and UNTHINKABLE that the continuation of the tax break to middle income Americans is being tied to a continuation of the tax break to those who will not be stimulating our economy, but continuing to eat, drink, and be merry as the rest of us go down in flames.

Shame on any senator who does not work to disentangle these two issues.

Hooray for Senator Bernie Sanders, who has the gumption to speak truth to power.

                        Opeyemi  413-336-1291
                        P.O. Box 264
                        Hadley, MA. 01035
buy Hope Beneath Our Feet: 
Restoring Our Place in the Natural World .. it will INSPIRE and encourage you!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Invisible Government

Logo used by WikileaksImage via Wikipedia

The Invisible Government

by Robert C. Koehler
Once again, the curtain of secrecy is drawn back and Olympus looks more like Oz. The machinations of empire turn out to be banal and ordinary.
In a time of endless war, when democracy is an orchestrated charade and citizen engagement is less welcome in the corridors of power than it has ever been, when the traditional checks and balances of government are in unchallenged collusion with one another, when the media act not as watchdogs of democracy but guard dogs of the interests and clichés of the status quo . . . we have WikiLeaks, disrupting the game of national security, ringing its bell, changing the rules.
“Never before in history,” writes Der Spiegel, one of five international publications to get advance copies of more than 250,000 State Department cables dating back to 1966, “has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information — data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which US foreign policy is built.”
The revelations so far seem less significant than the fact that the American government’s bin of secrets has — once again — been raided, and that the raw data of diplomacy has been strewn across cyberspace, for the likes of you and me to ogle and, if we choose, draw our own conclusions. We get to have real-time looks at how geopolitics actually works.
While temporary secrecy, or at least privacy, is sometimes necessary in any endeavor, permanent secrecy — secrecy as entitlement — is nothing but dangerous. Over the last several decades, with an enormous push from the Bush administration, we have devolved toward a secrecy state, with more and more information hidden from American citizens in the spurious name of national security. Meanwhile, the government and the corporotocracy have pursued war and global dominance with impunity.
So Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s claim that WikiLeaks has put lives in danger — the lives of “human rights activists, religious leaders, the critics of governments who speak to members of our embassy about abuses in their own country” — is not only a red herring, in that there is no evidence that anyone has been harmed by any of the hundreds of thousands of classified items about the war on terror that WikiLeaks has liberated so far this year, but sanctimonious damage control, implying that under normal circumstances the U.S. government cares about such lives.
“If it’s loss of life the U.S. government is concerned about, it should begin with paying more attention to the soldiers and civilians it’s putting in harm’s way every hour in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Pierre Tristam writes at
The sort of data WikiLeaks has outed this time around seems less than shocking, but nonetheless revealing. We now know, for instance, that various tiny nations haggled with U.S. diplomats over the amount of money they would get if they took in a released Guantanamo prisoner; and that American diplomats’ behind-the-scenes assessments of foreign leaders were sometimes blunt and unflattering, unlike the smiling niceties uttered for public consumption in front of the TV cameras.
This is no more than Truth 101, compelling in the way the sheer, raw detail of truth is always compelling.
Perhaps the biggest revelation of the outed cables so far is what they don’t say, as Noam Chomsky discussed a few days ago on “Democracy Now!” What our diplomats aren’t talking about, and don’t particularly care about, is what ordinary Arabs think, he said, citing a Brookings Institution poll in which 80 percent of Arabs said they regard the U.S. and Israel as major threats, while only 10 percent see Iran as a threat.
“What that reveals is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership and the Israeli political leadership,” Chomsky said. “These things aren’t even to be mentioned. This seeps its way all through the diplomatic service. . . .When they talk about Arabs, they mean the Arab dictators, not the population.”
An obsession with secrecy is always anti-democratic; it’s an obsession with domination, control and the maintenance of power — and it’s a perfectly natural temptation for those in positions of great power. They want to cut their deals in private and present a face of Olympian righteousness in public.
According to the New York Times Lede Blog, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange began a manifesto he wrote four years ago, explaining the purpose of the organization, with a 1912 quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party platform:
“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”
The invisible government has always been in power. The continuously revolutionary premise of democracy is that power itself — the power to dominate and exert one’s will — must not be allowed to coalesce in a single individual or institution, but must be constantly challenged, broken down and redistributed. I fear that most Americans, or at least the media they stay glued to, are content with a charade democracy. That’s why WikiLeaks is controversial.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available for pre-orders. Contact him at or visit his website at
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Geoengineering Is a Recipe for Disaster

Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National...Image via Wikipedia

Geoengineering Is a Recipe for Disaster

This Climate Plan B approach could cause wars and mass starvation.

by Diana Bronson
Think you've heard enough about climate change? Chances are you haven't heard anything about the dangerous and costly sci-fi climate fixes known as geoengineering.
Geo-what? Geoengineering is a set of speculative, massive-scale technologies that would have humans intentionally modify the climate--rather than accidentally, as we've been doing since the Industrial Revolution. Many U.S. lawmakers are starting to take it seriously as a climate change Plan B.
Yet, proposed geoengineering schemes are absurd and potentially devastating for the Earth.
Here are a few examples of how you could make the Earth cooler by "managing solar radiation" (i.e. manipulating the sun):
  • Put trillions of tiny mirrors between Earth and sun to reflect sunlight back to space.
  • Whiten the clouds over our oceans by increasing the droplet size, making the Earth more reflective.
  • Blast sulphate particles into the stratosphere to simulate volcanic eruptions, again to block sunlight and diminish warming.
Then there are technologies under development to actually suck carbon out of the atmosphere and bury it, either:
  • In oceans through growing algae, which feeds on CO₂, or
  • On highways, by lining them with giant synthetic trees (which use chemical processes to suck CO₂ out of the air).
Yeah, right.
You'd think that only mad scientists could conjure up these schemes. That may be true with some of them. But in a world where carbon--whose excess is causing the climate to change in ways that endanger human health--has become a tradable commodity, there's money to be made out of contrived carbon business ventures.
Neither national laws nor international negotiations are making much progress to halt the accumulation of atmospheric carbon. Technophiles are taking advantage of that void by promoting their own schemes.
Logically, since these schemes will cost incalculable billions of dollars, there's a geoengineering lobby comprised of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs. It includes a few eminent scientists like geochemist Ken Caldeira and businessmen like Richard Branson. This lobby is seizing the moment, loudly proclaiming that there's no alternative and that they're only coming up with these proposals out of their duty to save the world.
Their ideas are nuts, but prestigious science academies, the media, and Congress are listening to them.
Several reports examining geoengineering options have been published in London and Washington over the past year. Congress has held hearings. The Government Accountability Office has called for a coordinated federal strategy. Bill Gates is funding research. The National Academy of Sciences is devoting attention to it and scientists are looking at "voluntary standards" for tampering with the climate.
Experts expect the federal government to announce plans to spend much more money on geoengineering research.
Ironically, some of geoengineering's most ardent advocates are best known for their arguments against climate action, including outfits like the American Enterprise Institute and individuals like Bjørn Lomborg of Denmark. Somehow they're now urgently calling for a massive techno-fix for a problem they have spent their careers saying is exaggerated.
Fortunately, a few cooler heads are prevailing. The pace at which these technologies were being pushed to the fore so alarmed participants at a UN meeting in Japan in October, that the 193 countries present adopted a moratorium on geoengineering experiments.
The world's governments, which had convened to discuss the alarming decline of natural biodiversity, rightly saw geoengineering's potential for ecological disaster.
They saw the possibility of these harebrained schemes destroying the oceans, disturbing weather patterns, concentrating unprecedented power to control the Earth's thermostat in a very small number of hands, and the possibility of unilateral deployment of unsafe technologies.
Geoengineering's potential political fallout could include war, mass starvation, and an inability to ever "switch off" the technological systems these crazy operations would deploy. Plus, think of the chaos that would result if our ecosystems never returned to anything close to their natural state.
Of course, we can't even predict the most serious consequences because we don't even fully understand the complex climate system geoengineers propose to manipulate.
Our planet's health is at stake. Geoengineering is a reckless gamble we can't afford.
Diana Bronson is a Montreal-based program manager with ETC Group, an international NGO which monitors new technologies.
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