Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Methane Time Bomb And The Triple Meltdown

The Methane Time Bomb And The Triple Meltdown
By Andrew Glikson

[Triple stands for: (1) ice sheets; (2) global economy; (3) trust in governments.]

10 October, 2008

Recent reports of enhanced methane (CH4) leaks off the eastern Siberian coast (about 100 times the background level of about 1780 parts per billion CH4) and off Svalbard (Norway) have been overshadowed in the media by the collapse of the global credit bubble.

At the root of both is a common thread, deregulation, including open-ended permits to pollute the atmosphere and the oceans, little-regulated financial systems and economic globalization, representing failure by governments to protect the life and welfare of their hapless populations.

None can come as a surprise.

For some time now, climate scientists warned that melting of subpolar permafrost and warming of the Arctic Sea (up to 4 degrees C during 2005–2008 relative to the 1951–1980) are likely to result in the dissociation of methane hydrates and the release of this powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere (methane: 62 times the infrared warming effect of CO2 over 20 years and 21 times over 100 years).

The amount of carbon stored in Arctic sediments and permafrost is estimated as 500–2500 Gigaton Carbon (GtC), as compared with the world’s total fossil fuel reserves estimated as 5000 GtC. Compare with the 700 GtC of the atmosphere, which regulate CO2 levels in the range of 180–300 parts per million and land temperatures in a range of about – 50 to + 50 degrees C, which allowed the evolution of warm blooded mammals.

The continuing use of the atmosphere as an open sewer for industrial pollution has already added some 305 GtC to the atmosphere together with land clearing and animal-emitted methane. This raised CO2 levels to 387 ppm CO2 to date, leading toward conditions which existed on Earth about 3 million years (Ma) ago (mid-Pliocene), when CO2 levels rose to about 400 ppm, temperatures to about 2–3 degrees C and sea levels by about 25 +/- 12 metres.

There is little evidence for a extinction at 3 Ma. However, by crossing above a CO2 level of 400 ppm the atmosphere is moving into uncharted territory. At this stage, enhanced methane leaks threaten climate events, such as the massive methane release and fauna extinction of55 million years ago, which was marked by rise of CO2 to near-1000 ppm.

There is little evidence in Garnauts Final Report that this possibility was taken seriously into account. Nor do the consequences of metres-scale sea level rise for a civilization hinged along deltas, low river valleys and coastlines appear to prevent governments and business from "business as usual" behavior.

The $700 billion donated by the US Congress to save corrupt financial dealers are required for fast-tracked conversion from polluting to clean energy utilities and vehicles. The trillions of dollars spent since WWII on bombing peasant populations in their fields in the name of democracy and freedom are needed for replanting deforested regions of the Earth.

The people need leaders who will place the life and future of humans and other species ahead of the three-years election cycle, oneswho will rise above the power game of vested interests and be prepared to lead civilization our of the morass in which it finds itself.

In Australia, Dietrich Bonhoeffer* is a "household" name since our PM, Kevin Rudd, is a great admirer of him. Leaders, who have the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in mind, need to act accordingly.

Words in the absence of timely follow up in actions, as is exemplified by Bonhoeffer's efforts, can never be sufficient onto themselves. As such, their meaning is of likely negligible consequence and worth when any admiration, itself, leads to no constructive ends.

* 'Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on February 4, 1906, in Breslau, Germany. He studied in student [days] in Tubingen, Berlin, and at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He became a college professor, a noted writer on theology, poet, musician and a Lutheran pastor. Although he was safe in London at the outbreak of the war, he returned to Germany to resist Nazism. Bonhoeffer's theologically rooted opposition to National Socialism first made him a leader, along with Martin Niemueller and Karl Barth, in the Confessing Church (bekennende Kirche), and an advocate on behalf of the Jews. His leadership in the anti-Nazi Confessing Church and his participation in the Abwehr resistance circle make his works a unique source for understanding the interaction of religion, politics, and culture among those few Christians who actively opposed National Socialism. Bonhoeffer was condemned for his involvement in "Operation 7," a rescue mission that had helped a small group of Jews over the German border and into Switzerland. He had also been involved in planning an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler. His participation in the murder plot conflicted with Bonhoeffer's position as a pacifist. He explained: "If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can't, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver." He was hanged in the concentration camp at Flossenbürg on April 9, 1945, at the age of 39, one month before the end of the war. He was one of four members of his immediate family to die at the hands of the Nazi regime for their participation in the small Protestant resistance movement. The letters [that] he wrote during these final two years of his life were posthumously published by his student and friend, Eberhard Bethge, as "Letters and Papers from Prison."' (This above biographic note was derived from:

Dr. Andrew Glikson
is a Earth and paleo-climate research scientist at Australian National University. He spends much of his free time invested in efforts to address climate change issues in a timely fashion and can be contacted at

Bulking up Pentagon North

Canadian "consumers" and their choices pale before the projected
Conservative budget for a war economy.

Stephen Harper: Bulking up Pentagon North
by Linda McQuaig

Global Research, October 8, 2008
The Toronto Star - 2008-10-07

With the prospect of a Harper majority hanging menacingly over the country, the mind inevitably turns to the question: Just what is the "secret agenda" lurking behind the friendly sweater?

Actually, I don't believe there is one. The truth is that Stephen Harper has already laid out an agenda that would fundamentally change this country - in ways most Canadians would oppose.

While this agenda is not "secret," my guess is few Canadians know about it. That's because Harper, realizing it would be unpopular, unveiled it when Canadians weren't paying attention - in fact, we were sleeping. Sometime in the dark of night last June 20, the Harper government posted a plan on the Department of National Defence's
website - called Canada First Defence Strategy - to spend an eye-popping $490 billion over the next 20 years on the military.

Given all the recent buzz about the size of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout in the United States, it's striking to note that Ottawa quietly announced a plan to spend nearly half a trillion dollars on the military, almost in passing.

Steven Staples, a defence analyst with the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, says that Canada's military spending is already 27 per cent higher than in 2001.

"The focus of the defence lobby now is on getting contracts signed as quickly a possible," Staples said in an interview. "They want to make it impossible for future governments to get out of these spending commitments."

It's hard to imagine an agenda with more profound consequences for Canadians, beginning with a dramatic reordering of national priorities. Public health care? Child poverty? Fighting global warming? Fine causes, to be sure, but sadly the cupboard will be bare.

The Conservatives won't even have to look mean-spirited as they say no. There just won't be any money left. It will all be sucked into bulking up Pentagon North.

Harper knows Canadians would balk at this shift in priorities, if they got wind of it. In a 2008 pre-budget survey conducted for the finance department, Canadians were asked which of 18 different issues they considered a high priority. "Increasing spending on defence" ranked last.

There's a rich irony in this ramped-up military spending. In the election campaign, Harper has accused Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion of "reckless spending" for his plan to invest $70 billion in infrastructure over the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, Harper claims to be a thrifty economic manager, even as he quietly plans a massive spending spree on military hardware.

Clearly governments can rack up deficits just as quickly acquiring tanks and killing insurgents in Afghanistan, as they can building public transit or a clean energy grid here in Canada.

While the election campaign has focused on economic issues, the military and its combat role in Afghanistan have actually been the centrepieces of the Harper administration.

Harper has tried to reshape the way Canadians think about Canada, weaning us off our fondness for peacekeeping (and medicare, for that matter), and getting us excited about being a war-making nation, able to swagger on the world stage in the footsteps of the Americans.

In fact, the U.S. has shown where big military spending leads. As the "defence" sector expands, jobs and economic prosperity become linked to war preparation. A bulging defence sector becomes a built-in constituency for war.

Forget trying to figure out Harper's "secret agenda." The really frightening, far-reaching agenda Harper has in mind for us is already posted on the Internet.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Moore on War Wagon

The richest 400 Americans -- that's right, just four hundred people -- own MORE than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. 400 rich Americans have got more stashed away than half the entire country! Their combined net worth is $1.6 trillion. During the eight years of the Bush Administration, their wealth has increased by nearly $700 billion -- the same amount that they are now demanding we give to them for the "bailout." Why don't they just spend the money they made under Bush to bail themselves out? They'd still have nearly a trillion dollars left over to spread amongst themselves!

Of course, they are not going to do that -- at least not voluntarily. George W. Bush was handed a $127 billion surplus when Bill Clinton left office. Because that money was OUR money and not his, he did what the rich prefer to do -- spend it and never look back. Now we have a $9.5 trillion debt. Why on earth would we even think of giving these robber barons any more of our money?

I would like to propose my own bailout plan. My suggestions, listed below, are predicated on the singular and simple belief that the rich must pull themselves up by their own platinum bootstraps. Sorry, fellows, but you drilled it into our heads one too many times: There... is... no... free... lunch. And thank you for encouraging us to hate people on welfare! So, there will be no handouts from us to you. The Senate, tonight, is going to try to rush their version of a "bailout" bill to a vote. They must be stopped. We did it on Monday with the House, and we can do it again today with the Senate.

It is clear, though, that we cannot simply keep protesting without proposing exactly what it is we think Congress should do. So, after consulting with a number of people smarter than Phil Gramm, here is my proposal, now known as "Mike's Rescue Plan." It has 10 simple, straightforward points. They are:

1. APPOINT A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR TO CRIMINALLY INDICT ANYONE ON WALL STREET WHO KNOWINGLY CONTRIBUTED TO THIS COLLAPSE. Before any new money is expended, Congress must commit, by resolution, to criminally prosecute anyone who had anything to do with the attempted sacking of our economy. This means that anyone who committed insider trading, securities fraud or any action that helped bring about this collapse must go to jail. This Congress must call for a Special Prosecutor who will vigorously go after everyone who created the mess, and anyone else who attempts to scam the public in the future.

2. THE RICH MUST PAY FOR THEIR OWN BAILOUT. They may have to live in 5 houses instead of 7. They may have to drive 9 cars instead of 13. The chef for their mini-terriers may have to be reassigned. But there is no way in hell, after forcing family incomes to go down more than $2,000 dollars during the Bush years, that working people and the middle class are going to fork over one dime to underwrite the next yacht purchase.

If they truly need the $700 billion they say they need, well, here is an easy way they can raise it:

a) Every couple who makes over a million dollars a year and every single taxpayer who makes over $500,000 a year will pay a 10% surcharge tax for five years. (It's the Senator Sanders plan. He's like Colonel Sanders, only he's out to fry the right chickens.) That means the rich will still be paying less income tax than when Carter was president. This will raise a total of $300 billion.

b) Like nearly every other democracy, charge a 0.25% tax on every stock transaction. This will raise more than $200 billion in a year.

c) Because every stockholder is a patriotic American, stockholders will forgo receiving a dividend check for one quarter and instead this money will go the treasury to help pay for the bailout.

d) 25% of major U.S. corporations currently pay NO federal income tax. Federal corporate tax revenues currently amount to 1.7% of the GDP compared to 5% in the 1950s. If we raise the corporate income tax back to the level of the 1950s, that gives us an extra $500 billion.

All of this combined should be enough to end the calamity. The rich will get to keep their mansions and their servants, and our United States government ("COUNTRY FIRST!") will have a little leftover to repair some roads, bridges and schools.

3. BAIL OUT THE PEOPLE LOSING THEIR HOMES, NOT THE PEOPLE WHO WILL BUILD AN EIGHTH HOME. There are 1.3 million homes in foreclosure right now. That is what is at the heart of this problem. So instead of giving the money to the banks as a gift, pay down each of these mortgages by $100,000. Force the banks to renegotiate the mortgage so the homeowner can pay on its current value. To insure that this help does no go to speculators and those who have tried to make money by flipping houses, this bailout is only for people's primary residence. And in return for the $100K paydown on the existing mortgage, the government gets to share in the holding of the mortgage so that it can get some of its money back. Thus, the total initial cost of fixing the mortgage crisis at its roots (instead of with the greedy lenders) is $150 billion, not $700 billion.

And let's set the record straight. People who have defaulted on their mortgages are not "bad risks." They are our fellow Americans, and all they wanted was what we all want and most of us still get: a home to call their own. But during the Bush years, millions of them lost the decent paying jobs they had. Six million fell into poverty. Seven million lost their health insurance. And every one of them saw their real wages go down by $2,000. Those who dare to look down on these Americans who got hit with one bad break after another should be ashamed. We are a better, stronger, safer and happier society when all of our citizens can afford to live in a home that they own.

4. IF YOUR BANK OR COMPANY GETS ANY OF OUR MONEY IN A "BAILOUT," THEN WE OWN YOU. Sorry, that's how it's done. If the bank gives me money so I can buy a house, the bank "owns" that house until I pay it all back -- with interest. Same deal for Wall Street. Whatever money you need to stay afloat, if our government considers you a safe risk -- and necessary for the good of the country -- then you can get a loan, but we will own you. If you default, we will sell you. This is how the Swedish government did it and it worked.

5. ALL REGULATIONS MUST BE RESTORED. THE REAGAN REVOLUTION IS DEAD. This catastrophe happened because we let the fox have the keys to the henhouse. In 1999, Phil Gramm authored a bill to remove all the regulations that governed Wall Street and our banking system. The bill passed and Clinton signed it. Here's what Sen. Phil Gramm, McCain's chief economic advisor, said at the bill signing:

"In the 1930s ... it was believed that government was the answer. It was believed that stability and growth came from government overriding the functioning of free markets.

"We are here today to repeal [that] because we have learned that government is not the answer. We have learned that freedom and competition are the answers. We have learned that we promote economic growth and we promote stability by having competition and freedom.

"I am proud to be here because this is an important bill; it is a deregulatory bill. I believe that that is the wave of the future, and I am awfully proud to have been a part of making it a reality."

This bill must be repealed. Bill Clinton can help by leading the effort for the repeal of the Gramm bill and the reinstating of even tougher regulations regarding our financial institutions. And when they're done with that, they can restore the regulations for the airlines, the inspection of our food, the oil industry, OSHA, and every other entity that affects our daily lives. All oversight provisions for any "bailout" must have enforcement monies attached to them and criminal penalties for all offenders.

6. IF IT'S TOO BIG TO FAIL, THEN THAT MEANS IT'S TOO BIG TO EXIST. Allowing the creation of these mega-mergers and not enforcing the monopoly and anti-trust laws has allowed a number of financial institutions and corporations to become so large, the very thought of their collapse means an even bigger collapse across the entire economy. No one or two companies should have this kind of power. The so-called "economic Pearl Harbor" can't happen when you have hundreds -- thousands -- of institutions where people have their money. When you have a dozen auto companies, if one goes belly-up, we don't face a national disaster. If you have three separately-owned daily newspapers in your town, then one media company can't call all the shots (I know... What am I thinking?! Who reads a paper anymore? Sure glad all those mergers and buyouts left us with a strong and free press!). Laws must be enacted to prevent companies from being so large and dominant that with one slingshot to the eye, the giant falls and dies. And no institution should be allowed to set up money schemes that no one can understand. If you can't explain it in two sentences, you shouldn't be taking anyone's money.

7. NO EXECUTIVE SHOULD BE PAID MORE THAN 40 TIMES THEIR AVERAGE EMPLOYEE, AND NO EXECUTIVE SHOULD RECEIVE ANY KIND OF "PARACHUTE" OTHER THAN THE VERY GENEROUS SALARY HE OR SHE MADE WHILE WORKING FOR THE COMPANY. In 1980, the average American CEO made 45 times what their employees made. By 2003, they were making 254 times what their workers made. After 8 years of Bush, they now make over 400 times what their average employee makes. How this can happen at publicly held companies is beyond reason. In Britain, the average CEO makes 28 times what their average employee makes. In Japan, it's only 17 times! The last I heard, the CEO of Toyota was living the high life in Tokyo. How does he do it on so little money? Seriously, this is an outrage. We have created the mess we're in by letting the people at the top become bloated beyond belief with millions of dollars. This has to stop. Not only should no executive who receives help out of this mess profit from it, but any executive who was in charge of running his company into the ground should be fired before the company receives any help.

8. STRENGTHEN THE FDIC AND MAKE IT A MODEL FOR PROTECTING NOT ONLY PEOPLE'S SAVINGS, BUT ALSO THEIR PENSIONS AND THEIR HOMES. Obama was correct yesterday to propose expanding FDIC protection of people's savings in their banks to $250,000. But this same sort of government insurance must be given to our nation's pension funds. People should never have to worry about whether or not the money they've put away for their old age will be there. This will mean strict government oversight of companies who manage their employees' funds -- or perhaps it means that the companies will have to turn over those funds and their management to the government. People's private retirement funds must also be protected, but perhaps it's time to consider not having one's retirement invested in the casino known as the stock market. Our government should have a solemn duty to guarantee that no one who grows old in this country has to worry about ending up destitute.

9. EVERYBODY NEEDS TO TAKE A DEEP BREATH, CALM DOWN, AND NOT LET FEAR RULE THE DAY. Turn off the TV! We are not in the Second Great Depression. The sky is not falling. Pundits and politicians are lying to us so fast and furious it's hard not to be affected by all the fear mongering. Even I, yesterday, wrote to you and repeated what I heard on the news, that the Dow had the biggest one day drop in its history. Well, that's true in terms of points, but its 7% drop came nowhere close to Black Monday in 1987 when the stock market in one day lost 23% of its value. In the '80s, 3,000 banks closed, but America didn't go out of business. These institutions have always had their ups and downs and eventually it works out. It has to, because the rich do not like their wealth being disrupted! They have a vested interest in calming things down and getting back into the Jacuzzi.

As crazy as things are right now, tens of thousands of people got a car loan this week. Thousands went to the bank and got a mortgage to buy a home. Students just back to college found banks more than happy to put them into hock for the next 15 years with a student loan. Life has gone on. Not a single person has lost any of their money if it's in a bank or a treasury note or a CD. And the most amazing thing is that the American public hasn't bought the scare campaign. The citizens didn't blink, and instead told Congress to take that bailout and shove it. THAT was impressive. Why didn't the population succumb to the fright-filled warnings from their president and his cronies? Well, you can only say 'Saddam has da bomb' so many times before the people realize you're a lying sack of shite. After eight long years, the nation is worn out and simply can't take it any longer.

10. CREATE A NATIONAL BANK, A "PEOPLE'S BANK." If we really are itching to print up a trillion dollars, instead of giving it to a few rich people, why don't we give it to ourselves? Now that we own Freddie and Fannie, why not set up a people's bank? One that can provide low-interest loans for all sorts of people who want to own a home, start a small business, go to school, come up with the cure for cancer or create the next great invention. And now that we own AIG, the country's largest insurance company, let's take the next step and provide health insurance for everyone. Medicare for all. It will save us so much money in the long run. And we won't be 12th on the life expectancy list. We'll be able to have a longer life, enjoying our government-protected pension, and living to see the day when the corporate criminals who caused so much misery are let out of prison so that we can help reacclimate them to civilian life -- a life with one nice home and a gas-free car that was invented with help from the People's Bank.

Michael Moore

P.S. Call your Senators now. Here's a backup link in case we crash that site again. They are going to attempt their own version of the Looting of America tonight. And let your reps know if you agree with my 10-point plan.

Grim Anniversary for Afghanistan

The Afghan Tragedy
by Malalai Joya

My own life and hardships speak for themselves about the obstacles Afghan women face today. I've been threatened with death; I've survived a number of assassination attempts; and every effort is made by the fundamentalists to silence me. But I am happy to enjoy support of the peace-loving people of the world. I am especially grateful to Reach All Women in War (RAW in WAR) for considering me for the Anna Politkovskaya Award of 2008.

I am deeply honored to receive this award, which links me to the memory of an extraordinary woman who sacrificed her life for telling the truth and fighting for justice. Her perseverance, bravery and dedication to justice inspire me. By receiving this award, I once again vow not to stop for a moment from telling the truth in the face of death threats and intimidation.

Exactly seven years ago, the United States and its allies attacked Afghanistan in the name of liberating Afghanistan and its women. Weeks after the overthrow of the Taliban regime, Laura Bush stated proudly, "Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women."

But only few days ago, a top European diplomat Francesc Vendrell warned that Afghanistan is in the worst shape since 2001. In an interview with BBC he said, "In 2002, we were being welcomed almost as liberators by the Afghans. Now we are being seen as a necessary evil."

Seven years after the US invasion of Afghanistan, our devastated country is still chained to the fundamentalist warlords and the Taliban; the country is like an unconscious body breathing its last.

The US government and its allies exploited the plight of Afghan women to legitimate its so-called "war on terror" and attack on Afghanistan. The medieval and brutal regime of the Taliban was toppled, but instead of relying on Afghan people, the United States and its allies pushed us from the frying pan to the fire and brought the infamous criminals of the "Northern Alliance" into power -- sworn enemies of democracy and human rights, who are as dark-minded, evil, anti-women and cruel as the Taliban.

Only few months ago, US National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell told the Senate Armed Services Committee that 70 percent of Afghanistan is lawless. The Afghan government has control of only 30 percent of the country, and where the Taliban and local warlords hold power, there is no rule of law.

Our nation is still living under the shadow of war, crimes and brutalities of the fundamentalists, and women are the primary and silent sacrifice of this situation. Justice doesn't exist in Afghanistan. Every sector of life in Afghanistan today is a tragedy, from women's rights to security, law and order and domination of a drug mafia.

Women suffer especially. The rates of self-immolation and suicide due to domestic violence and poverty, of forced marriages and violence against women are higher than ever. In the first six months of 2008, forty-seven cases of self-immolation among women were reported in a single hospital in the western city of Herat. Reports come every day of gang rapes of young girls, especially in the northern portion of Afghanistan, where pro-US warlords have full power and a free hand. But the rapists are not prosecuted. Last month President Hamid Karzai ordered the release of two men who were sentenced to eighteen years in prison for raping and killing a girl.

The propaganda to the world about liberating Afghanistan and women and fighting against terrorists are lies. I believe that no nation can donate liberation to another nation. Democracy, human rights and women's rights are not things someone gives to us. We must achieve these values ourselves.

It is a heart-wrenching fact that Afghanistan has received $15 billion in aid, but up to 70 percent of my people live on less than $2 a day. Corruption and poverty have made life a torture for millions. Afghanistan is deeply suffering from a health scourge caused mainly by lack of facilities. The death rate of mothers during childbirth is incredibly high -- similar to rates of other dangerous diseases like tuberculosis.

Afghanistan dominates the drug market, with the highest production of opium in the world -- 93 percent -- and ranks last in terms of human development. Over the past seven years, the Taliban and other terrorist groups have become ever more powerful; today even Kabul is besieged by the Taliban and people are deeply afraid of their return to rule.

US and NATO forces kill more Afghan civilians than enemies of Afghan people. Thousands of innocent Afghan women and children have been killed in the US/NATO operations. On July 6, 2008, US troops bombed a wedding party in Nengarhar province and killed forty-seven civilians -- including the bride. In the similar tragic incident, twenty-seven civilians perished in a US-led NATO attack in a remote village of Nouristan. In an air raid on Azizabad village in Heart province over ninety civilians were killed, sixty of them children, according to the United Nations.

My suffering people have been well and truly betrayed over the past seven years by the United States and allies. They were invaded and bombed in the name of democracy, human rights and women's rights, but the most infamous enemies of these values were supported and installed into the power. They relied on the Northern Alliance bands who have a history full of bloodshed, treason and crimes against our people.

The only sector in which Afghanistan has progressed is in drug cultivation and trafficking. "The four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government," the Daily Mail reported July 21, 2007. That is why today drug-mafia holds the real power; the insurgency and warlords all have hand in this dirty business.

Afghan people today believe that the United States is willing to put us in danger as long as its own regional and economic interests are met. Because years of conflict in Afghanistan have raised political consciousness, people here hold the United States responsible for pushing Afghanistan to its current tragedies.

An advocate for womens rights -- particularly rape victims -- and an elected member of the Afghan Parliament from Farah province, Malalai Joya is an outspoken critic of warlords and war criminals in her country's government. She was suspended from Parliament in 2007 on grounds that she had insulted other lawmakers.