Saturday, December 05, 2009

Prince of Blackness

Is Erik Prince 'Graymailing' the US Government?
By Jeremy Scahill

December 4, 2009

The in-depth Vanity Fair profile of the infamous owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince, is remarkable on many levels--not least among them that Prince appeared to give the story's author, former CIA lawyer Adam Ciralsky, unprecedented access to information about sensitive, classified and lethal operations not only of Prince's forces, but Prince himself. In the article, Prince is revealed not just as owner of a company that covertly provided contractors to the CIA for drone bombings and targeted assassinations, but as an actual CIA asset himself. While the story appears to be simply a profile of Prince, it might actually be the world's most famous mercenary's insurance policy against future criminal prosecution. The term of art for what Prince appears to be doing in the VF interview is graymail: a legal tactic that has been used for years by intelligence operatives or assets who are facing prosecution or fear they soon will be. In short, these operatives or assets threaten to reveal details of sensitive or classified operations in order to ward off indictments or criminal charges, based on the belief that the government would not want these details revealed. "The only reason Prince would do this [interview] is that he feels he is in very serious jeopardy of criminal charges," says Scott Horton, a prominent national security and military law expert. "He absolutely would not do these things otherwise."

Jeremy Scahill: Top Blackwater staff authorized attempted bribes of Iraqi officials in the wake of the 2007 Nisour Square massacre, the New York Times has reported.

There is no doubt Prince is in the legal cross-hairs: There are reportedly two separate Grand Juries investigating Blackwater on a range of serious charges, ranging from gun smuggling to extralegal killings; multiple civil lawsuits alleging war crimes and extrajudicial killings; and Congress is investigating the assassination program in which Prince and his company were central players. "Obviously, Prince does know a lot and the government has to realize that once they start prosecuting him," says Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor and the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "In some ways, graymail is what any good defense lawyer would do. This is something that's in your arsenal."

Perhaps the most prominent case of graymail was by Oliver North when he and his lawyers used it to force dismissal of the most serious charges against him stemming from his involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair. In another case, known as Khazak-gate, a US businessman, James Giffen, allegedly paid $78 million in bribes to former Khazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev in an attempt to win contracts for western oil companies to develop the Tengiz oil fields in the 1990s. In 1993, he was charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the largest overseas bribery case in history. After Giffen was indicted, he claimed that if he did what he was accused of, he did it in the service of US intelligence agencies. The case has been in limbo ever since.

"This is as old as the hills as a tactic and it has a long track record of being very effective against the government," says Horton. "It's basically a threat to the government that if you prosecute me, I'll disclose all sorts of national security-sensitive information. The bottom line here is it's like an act of extortion or a threat: you do X and this is what I'm going to do." Horton said that the Vanity Fair article was Prince "essentially putting out the warning to the Department of Justice: 'You prosecute me and all this stuff will be out on the record.'"

According to Ciralsky's article, Prince was a "full-blown asset" of "the C.I.A.'s National Resources Division [which] recruited Prince in 2004 to join a secret network of American citizens with special skills or unusual access to targets of interest:"

Two sources familiar with the arrangement say that Prince's handlers obtained provisional operational approval from senior management to recruit Prince and later generated a "201 file," which would have put him on the agency's books as a vetted asset. It's not at all clear who was running whom, since Prince says that, unlike many other assets, he did much of his work on spec, claiming to have used personal funds to road-test the viability of certain operations...

Prince was developing unconventional means of penetrating "hard target" countries--where the C.I.A. has great difficulty working either because there are no stations from which to operate or because local intelligence services have the wherewithal to frustrate the agency's designs. "I made no money whatsoever off this work," Prince contends. He is unwilling to specify the exact nature of his forays. "I'm painted as this war profiteer by Congress. Meanwhile I'm paying for all sorts of intelligence activities to support American national security, out of my own pocket."

"I think that [Prince] will use all of his information and his knowledge of these secret dealings in basically what is an extortion play: 'You come after me, and I'll spill the beans on everything,'" says Horton. "That's the essence of graymail and the Department of Justice will usually get its feathers all ruffled up and they'll say, 'You can't deal with the government like this. This is unfair and improper.' But in the end, it usually works."

In the Vanity Fair article, Prince alleges that he was outed--by whom he does not say, but the implication is that CIA Director Leon Panetta named him in a closed door hearing of the Intelligence Committee last June, and then the name was leaked by one of the attendees of that hearing. Sloan, the former federal prosecutor, said that if what Prince says in the Vanity Fair article about his role in secret CIA programs is true, he has a case that laws were broken in revealing his identity. "I'm not his fan, but he's not wrong. For somebody to leak his identity as a CIA asset clearly merits a criminal investigation," Sloan said. "Whether they should have ever hired Erik Prince or made him into an asset is a separate question. Assuming he really was a CIA asset, basically a spy, an undercover operative, and somebody decided to leak that, that's not acceptable and that is a violation of the same law that leaking Valerie [Plame]'s identity was. If you can't leak one person, you can't leak any person, not just the people you like versus the people you don't like."

While much of the focus in the Vanity Fair story was on Prince's work with the CIA, the story also confirmed that Blackwater has an ongoing relationship with the US Special Forces, helping plan missions and providing air support. As The Nation reported, Blackwater has for years been working on a classified contract with the Joint Special Operations Command in a drone bombing campaign in Pakistan, as well as planning snatch-and-grab missions and targeted assassinations. Part of what may be happening behind closed doors is that the CIA is, to an extent, cutting Blackwater and Prince off. But, as sources have told The Nation, the company remains a central player in US Special Forces operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Prince's choice of Adam Ciralsky to tell his story is an interesting one as well. Ciralsky was a CIA lawyer who in 1997 was suspended under suspicion he was having unauthorized contacts with possible Israeli intelligence agents. Ciralsky vehemently denied the allegations, saying he was the victim of a "witch-hunt" at the Agency. In any case, there is no question that Prince would view Ciralsky through the lens of his own struggle against the CIA. "When I saw the article, the first thing that just leapt off the page was his name. I thought, 'My god, why would he go to Adam?'" said Horton. "And then I read the article and I thought, of course he'd go to Adam. There is this legal theme being developed in the article and Adam, as a lawyer who had dealt with the CIA, fully understands that. I mean I think he fully understood he was going to do a piece that would help Prince develop his legal defense and that's what this is. The amazing thing to me is that Vanity Fair printed it. Do the editors of Vanity Fair not understand what's going on here?"

About Jeremy Scahill
Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, published by Nation Books. He is an award-winning investigative journalist and correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!.

The Nichepaper Manifesto

The Nichepaper Manifesto

Dear Newspaper Magnates,

So you're going to try and charge people for news yet again. Cart, meet horse.

Journalists didn't make 20th century newspapers profitable — readers did. 20th century newspapers were never supernormally profitable because of what they wrote: it was the natural monopoly dynamics of classifieds that fueled massive margins.

In the 21st century, it's time, again for newspapers to learn how to profit with stakeholders — instead of extracting profits from them. The 21st century's great challenge isn't selling the same old "product" better: it's learning to make radically better stuff in the first place. Here's how to begin building 21st century newspapers.
20th century news isn't fit for 21st century society. Yesterday's approaches to news are failing to educate, enlighten, or inform. The Fourth Estate has fallen into disrepair. It is the news industry itself that commoditized news by racing repeatedly to the bottom. It's time for a better kind of news.

A new generation of innovators is already building 21st century newspapers: nichepapers. The future of journalism arrived right under the industry's nose. Nichepapers, as the name implies, own the microniche. (Here's a nice, timely discussion of Nichepapers by Michael Massing in the New York Review of Books.)

Nichepapers are different because they have built a profound mastery of a tightly defined domain — finance, politics, even entertainment — and offer audiences deep, unwavering knowledge of it.

Nichepapers aren't a new product, service, or business model. They are a new institution. They're a living example of the institutional innovation that is the key to 21st century business. They're not the same old newspaper, sold a different way. They are 21st century newspapers, built on new rules, that are letting radical innovators reinvent what "news" is.

Here are eight of the most essential:

Knowledge, not news. Newspapers strive to give people the news. Next stop, commodity central. Nichepapers strive to impart meaningful, lasting knowledge instead.

Commentage, not commentary. Newspapers dictate to their reader what news and opinion are. Nichepapers co-create knowledge through "commentage." Commentage is the kid sister of reportage: it is the art of curating comments to have a dialogue with the audience — because the audience can fill gaps, plug holes, and thicken the foundations of knowledge. Many newspapers have comments — so what? Almost none are having a dialogue with commenters — who are mostly stuck in a twilight zone where they can only talk to one another. Nichepapers, in contrast, are always having deep dialogues with readers.

Topics, not articles. That's why Nichepapers develop topics — instead of telling quickly-forgotten stories. When Talking Points Memo exposed the Bush administration's series of politically motivated firings, it did so in a series of posts, that let the story develop, surface, thicken, and climax. Stories are for information — topics are for knowledge.

Scarcity, not circulation. Newspapers strive for circulation, by telling the same stories in the same ways — in slightly different places. Nichepapers strive for scarcity: to develop a perspective, analytical skills, and storytelling capabilities that are inimitable by rivals.

Now, not then. Newspapers give you the news then. Nichepapers give you knowledge now. Why have weekly columns and daily articles — that then get lost in the wilderness of a vast archive? It's an arcane, obsolete way to produce content. Nichepapers develop topics of conversation, not individual stories, and let them co-evolve with readers.

Provocation, not perfection. Newspapers seek perfection: perfect grammar, perfect ledes, perfect headlines. Nichepapers seek provocation instead. Sometimes, yes, that provocation is mere titillation. But more often than not it's authentic provcation: nichepapers provoke us to think; they challenge us; they educate us in ways that newspapers stopped doing long ago.

Snowballs, not sell-outs. Newspapers long ago sold out to advertisers, PR flaks, powerful "sources," and lobbyists. When was the last time the WSJ bit the hand that fed it? Why is the Post's editorial page so predictably tepid? Nichepapers haven't sold out — and if their economic promise delivers, they won't have to. They "sell in" instead: they pitch topics and stories to the community, and let the best ones snowball — through contributions like tips, criticisms, and corrections.

Tasks, not tech. Nichepapers aren't about technology. They might use a blog post, vlog post, podcast, wiki, series of tweets, or a long-form article — or all of these, all at once. They are tech-neutral, using whatever works best for a given task.

Here are four models for Nichepapers that apply these rules in different ways. Each is named after an archetypal historical newspaper — because the key to reinvention is getting back to the basics of making better stuff:

The Sentry — Talking Points Memo. The incomparable TPM is the gold standard of a Nichepaper. It's also a very specific kind: a sentry, always patrolling the political arena for malfeasance, misbehavior, and broken promises. By combining reportage, commentage, opinion, and muckraking, TPM delivers perhaps the most hard-hitting, most persistent, and most fearless investigative political journalism in America today.

The Chronicle — Perez Hilton. Perez Hilton is the first 21st century gossip columnist. He chronicles whatever's lewd, crude, and most likely to be viewed in the entertainment world — in such excruciating detail, the result is a paradox: the lurid becomes banal. Yet, like TPM, Perez is unafraid to challenge the status quo, persistently, chronically, and often, funnily.

The Intelligencer — Business Insider. Henry Blodget used to be an equity analyst, so it's no surprise that his latest venture, Business Insider, crosses the line from pure news into deeper analysis — intelligence. Though BI often gets it wrong (here's Joe Weisenthal arguing that bribes create value, for example), the analysis is what counts: it gives readers more food for thought per word than News 1.0.

The Pioneer — The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post is perhaps the classic Nichepaper — and what makes it different is that it's always pioneering new ideas, concepts, stories, and angles. The HuffPo's perspective is politically liberal — and that's its domain. But it is the pioneering that makes the HuffPo different. And it's open to pioneering new ideas from nearly anyone — as long as their ideas are good enough to matter.

Those rules and models above aren't the only ones, or the best ones. They are avenues that radical innovators are already exploring to reconceive news for the 21st century. And they suggest what the endgame of news 2.0 looks like.

The 21st century news organization is a portfolio of the different kinds of nichepapers. An Intelligencer for healthcare, a Pioneer for education, a Chronicle for finance and entertainment — that's what the future of news looks like. Why?

Nichepapers are the future of news because their economics are superior. All the Nichepapers above are "real" enterprises, with staff, offices, and fixed and variable costs. Nichepapers offer more bang for the buck: greater benefits for far less cost. Readers get more, better, and faster content — while publishers realize lower capital intensity, lower distribution, marketing, and production costs, and less risk. What is different about them is that they are finding new paths to growth, and rediscovering the lost art of profitability by awesomeness.

And that's really the point.

Profitability can't be recaptured from a commodity. Newspapers used to be yesterday's most profitable industry. Warren Buffett made his fortune by investing in newspapers, yesterday. Yet, today, business model innovation, aka "monetization," is the surest, quickest path to self-destruction. Charging once more for the same old "content" — as argued for by David Simon, in an impassioned CJR article — will inevitably lead newspapers exactly where it led banks investment "banks" and automakers: into economic implosion.

To reinvent the buying and selling of news, it's necessary first to reconceive the making of news. The AP's latest attempt at business model innovation, for example, is a heavyweight "rights management" system for the same old stuff. But protecting yesterday's "product" is exactly what prevented the music industry and Hollywood from rediscovering the art of value creation.

Nichepapers are, above all, "M" organizations. Today's radical innovators are confronting the truth that, because it failed the fundamental test of being meaningful, yesterday's news is, well, yesterday's news.

Nichepapers, in contrast, do meaningful stuff that matters the most. The great failing of 20th century news is that monopoly power became a substitute for meaningful value creation. At root, that's the lesson that newspapers are learning the hard way.

Umair and the Edge Economy Community

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Norwegian Lice Threaten Salmon Extinction

Sea lice are out of control in Norway

Norway's state broadcaster NRK reported on Monday:

"In the past year, the amount of sea lice in Norwegian fish farms exploded. The industry has been on the hump of the environmental movement in the wake of illness boom. This is because the salmon lice infect the wild salmon, and thereby threaten wild salmon stocks.":

The Green Warriors of Norway said in a press release - "Sea Lice Situation is Out of Control" - issued yesterday:

"The sea lice situation is now out of control along the entire coast of Nordland and south. Green Warriors of Norway requires complete slaughter of all salmon biomass with multi-resistance against lice medicines":

The Norwegian Hunters and Fishers (NJFF), Norwegian Salmon Rivers Owners (Norsk Lakseelver) and WWF Norway called on the Fisheries Minister to take the sea lice problem more seriously. NJFF reported yesterday under the headline "A Lot of Talk - Little Action":

" situation for our wild salmon along the coast is informed by a disaster. The trend of increasing resistance to the main treatment methods are cause for great concern. The organizations ask that the Minister immediately initiated after a standstill for further growth in the industry......We will increase the pressure in this case. The battle is now":

The Norwegian Salmon Association reported last week under the headline "Norway is managing the extinction of wild salmon!":

"The Director of The Directorate for Nature Management, Janne Sollie, says today that Norway is not managing the farmed salmon business, but the extinction of wild salmon! She says this due to the fact of record high and disastrous levels of sea-lice in the farmed salmon farms. If this is allowed to keep on, all wild salmon will be history!

The Directorate for Nature Management is the national governmental body for preserving Norway's natural environment. The directorate serves as an advisory and executive agency under the Norwegian Ministry of Environment. The Government do not listen to their warning! It's shameful how Norway's officials are promoting and protecting the business of farmed salmon! An unsustainable business ruining wild life!":

[Sea lice data for Norwegian salmon farms can be accessed online via: ]

3) The Green Warriors of Norway (led by Kurt Oddekalv) revealed that "Norwegian commercial fish farms are once more using these [diflubenzuron and teflubenzuron] controversial chemicals to get rid of salmon lice". NMF reported today:

"The use of these chemicals was stopped after the agreement was signed in February 1999, and fish farmers have used other drugs instead. However, since the salmon louse has developed resistance against the drugs used, these controversial chemicals are again being thrown into Norwegian salmon cages. The industry respected the agreement until now, and we claim the minister of fisheries to be responsible for breaking the agreement":

The Norwegian media reported this extensively today via NRK, Dagbladet, Adresseavisen and other media outlets:

"Truer med å sverte norsk laks: Miljøkriger Kurt Oddekalv mener regjeringen har brutt avtale, og vurderer derfor internasjonal aksjon" (NRK, 2nd December):

"Slik presset Oddekalv regjeringen - Miljøaktivisten truet Bondevik-regjeringen til å minimalisere bruken av to omstridte lusemiddel. Nå er avtalen brutt, mener Oddekalv, som på nytt truer med internasjonal kampanjer mot norsk laks i utlandet" (Adresseavisen, 2nd December):

"Regjeringen inngikk avtale med Kurt Oddekalv: Hvis laksenæringen kuttet på bruken av to omstridte lusemidler, skulle Miljøvernforbundet avstå fra planlagte aksjoner" (Dagbladet, 2nd December):

Details in English via: "The deal is broken by the Minister" (NMF, 2nd December):

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Canada as Global Pariah

Under Harper: Canada Will Remain a Global Environmental Pariah
by George Monbiot

As long as Stephen Harper’s government holds the reigns of power, Canada will remain a global environmental pariah.

The reasons why this is so are not hard to find, but they are seldom analyzed in public discourse on the issue.

To the extent that the Harper government has an economic strategy, beyond letting the marketplace take the country where it will, it is to make Canada an “energy superpower.” That goal, in turn, rests almost entirely on the massive development of the Alberta oil sands to extract oil for export to the United States. Finally, under the terms of NAFTA, the more oil Canada exports to the United States, the more oil it will be required to export in the future. Large scale oil sands development is incompatible with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. Indeed, Canada is en route to passing the United States as an emitter of greenhouse gases on a per capita basis.

Let’s examine each of the links in this chain of inter-connected realities.

With its close ties to the multinational and national petroleum companies operating in Alberta, the Harper government is dedicated to the proposition that Canada should be a secure base for rising petroleum exports to the United States, in short an “energy superpower.”

Indeed, over the past couple of decades, the American reliance on Canadian oil has grown steadily larger. In July 2006, at 1.6 million barrels a day, Canada was the largest single exporter of crude oil to the United States. Rounding out the top five exporters to the U.S. were Mexico with just over 1.5 million barrels daily, Saudi Arabia at over 1.2 million barrels, Venezuela with nearly 1.2 million barrels, and Nigeria with just over 1.0 million barrels. These five countries were the source of sixty-six per cent of American oil imports. What these totals make clear is the high dependence of the United States on Canada and other Western Hemisphere sources of oil and its relatively low reliance on Middle Eastern sources.

The Harper government’s vision of Canada as a major world petroleum exporter is based on the Alberta oil sands. As oil, national security and the war on terror have become tightly aligned in the thinking of American political leaders, Canada’s largest petroleum deposit, the oil sands, has been ever more closely scrutinized from Washington. Located across an enormous region of north-eastern Alberta---in three major areas spread over 140,800 square kilometers, an area larger than the state of Florida---centred on Fort McMurray about three hundred kilometers north of Edmonton---the oil sands contains almost as much oil as the conventional reserves of Saudi Arabia.

In the early years of this century, oil sands investments totaled nearly $200 billion. By the spring of 2008, oil sands production reached 1.3 million barrels a day, more than half of Canada’s oil production. Ten per cent of North American crude oil production already comes from the oil sands. Incredible as it may seem, the Alberta government produced one scenario that concluded that by 2050, the oil sands could produce eight million barrels of oil a day, transforming Alberta into a North American Saudi Arabia.

The vision of Canada as a vast supplier of petroleum from the oil sands for a thirsty United States is one that promotes dreams of enormous profits in the minds the executives of the petroleum companies and the investors in those companies.

But it is a truly dark vision for the simple reason that the industrial process by which oil is produced from the oil sands results in the release of an enormous volume of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Pursuing the vision commits Alberta, indeed Canada as a whole, to the emission of greenhouse gases on a gargantuan scale, exactly what the earth does not now need. Not only is the production of oil sands oil very expensive, it involves strip mining on a vast scale and the reduction of huge tracts of land to a scarred horror. The production of oil from the oil sands requires enormous inputs of fresh water and natural gas.

The oil sands has become by far the biggest source of greenhouse emissions in Canada. It is no exaggeration to say that without a steep reduction in the production of synthetic crude oil from the oil sands, all other programs in Canada to reduce emissions will be fruitless. Oil sands development has directly shaped the environmental policies of the Harper government.

Let’s look further into this matter of greenhouse gas emissions. The way to do this meaningfully in the lead up to the Copenhagen climate change conference is to tally the metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per country per capita per year. Then we can examine the total emissions of key countries.

Using 2006 figures, the per capita CO2 emissions of the United States were 19.78 metric tons, Canada 18.81, and Australia 20.58. These were the top emitters per capita among the major advanced countries. Further down the list were other major industrialized countries: Japan, 9.78; Germany, 10.40; U.K., 9.66; Italy, 8.05; and France, 6.60. Then we come to the major developing countries: China, 4.58; India, 1.16; Mexico, 4.05; and Brazil, 2.01.

Here are the total emissions of these countries for 2006 in millions of metric tons of CO2: China, 6017.69; United States, 5902.75; India, 1293.17; Japan, 1246.76; Germany, 857.60; Canada, 614.33; United Kingdom, 585.71; Italy, 468.19; Mexico, 435.60; France, 417.75; Australia, 417.06; and Brazil, 377.24.

When we break out the Canadian per capita emissions further, we find that between them Alberta and Saskatchewan (with Saskatchewan higher than Alberta) come in at a staggering 70. The rest of Canada scored 16.

What the figures tell us is that on a per capita basis, developed countries are much more serious emitters of greenhouse gases than are developing countries and that includes the two giants China and India. On the other hand, because of their gigantic populations, China and India are enormous emitters of CO2, respectively ranking number one and number four among the countries of the world.

The nub of the problem is that the developed countries established their high living standards by polluting, on a per capita basis, much more wantonly than the rest of the world. Developing countries are not prepared to allow developed countries to acquire a “grandfather” clause in climate change agreements that would allow them to go on polluting much more per capita than anyone else.

Developed countries, the United States in particular, is determined to be allowed to go on spewing out CO2 emissions, per capita, at a vastly higher rate than China, India or Brazil. The Europeans, who pollute less, are less committed to their right to pollute because they got there first, but they too pollute, per capita much more than China or India.

The Harper government is the worst of the bunch. Our government is determined to insert a rising rate of CO2 emissions right into the heart of our economic strategy. Right now, Canada’s per capita emissions of CO2 are close to five times as high as those of China. The emissions of Alberta and Saskatchewan are fifteen times as high as China’s on a per capita basis.

Any government committed to increasing the production of oil from the oil sands, precisely the position of the Harper government, is dedicated to the proposition that Canada should have the right for decades to come to pollute far more per capita than other countries. On this agenda, Canada will certainly pass the United States, per capita, in greenhouse gas emissions and will likely overtake Australia. Admittedly, it will be as a supplier of dirty oil to the United States that Canada will make itself a “pollution superpower”.

The members of the Harper government did not arrive at their environmental policy, relying on so-called intensity targets, which allow oil sands production to keep on rising as long as emissions-per-barrel go down, for nothing. They did it for the oldest of political reasons. As a government, they are serving the interests of oil companies that have tens of billions of dollars in future profits at stake. It’s as simple as that.

Finally, there’s the matter of NAFTA. Under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada has to continue exporting as much petroleum to the United States as it has been exporting on a rolling average of the previous three years. This means, among other things, that Canada would be required to continue its exports of petroleum to the U.S. even if imports of petroleum to eastern Canada from overseas were cut off as a consequence of a supply crisis generated by falling supplies or a geo-political conflict. This stipulation means that Canada has to make the supplying of the American petroleum market a higher priority than meeting the requirements of Canadian markets experiencing a shortage.

If, as the Harper government fervently wishes, the expansion of oil sands projects dramatically increases Canadian petroleum production, the country’s commitment to export more petroleum to the United States will rise in lock step. The whole point of more oil sands operations is to meet the oil requirements of the U.S.

The plain fact is that when you combine the Harper government’s economic strategy with the stipulations of NAFTA, this country is being locked into rising, not falling, CO2 emissions. Anyone who wants to change the course Canada is on with respect to climate change needs to come to terms with these hard realities. Anything else is nothing more than hot air.

Stephen Harper is going to Copenhagen because the presidents of the United States and China are going. He will be there to try to prevent a binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions from being achieved. As long as he remains in power, Canada will be a global pariah on the issue of climate change.

rowland morgan wrote:

This article is so awful that I feel an urge to mitigate it with some observations on what has brought Canada to this.


For a start, note that Monbiot admits that a gigantic investor in the tar sands is RBS, the Royal Bank of Scotland, a financial monster that arose directly from Thatcher's fanatical liberalisation of the City of London, and was bailed out big-time by Gordon Brown's New Labour government. (Its former CEO has been paid off with a sixteen million-pound pension fund.) So, in effect it is the British government and the City of London banksters that are among the biggest instigators of the tar sands project.

If Canada's CO2 emissions have increased, the UK also has failed to stem its addiction to car use, even though (unlike Canada) it has a relatively dense penetration of rail infrastructure to build on.
"Between 1996 and 2006, car ownership went up by 30% to 29.6m, while the UK population rose by 4%...In the past 20 years a consistently high number of people, 80-90%, have said they would find it very difficult to adapt to not having a car." (
The UK has failed to conserve its offshore oil, which was only discovered and delivered in the 1960s and 70s. The resource is already approaching depletion. (


Furthermore, note that the tar sands pipeline connecting Northern Alberta with the USA, was built under the supervision of the Rt Hon Gary Lunn MP, member for Saanich-GI, who seems to have rigged his election in 2009. ( There has been a singular absence of public outcry in B.C. about this flagrant apparent abuse of the electoral system, and the RCMP have refused to investigate it with impunity.

But even without electoral corruption, Canada's political system does not offer an alternative to tar sands development, with Ignatieff in 2009 calling the tar sands "Canada's national treasure".

NAFTA plus other semi-secret continental agreements integrate Canada's economy with that of the USA to an even greater extent than other globalised economies. With its culture penetrated (since 1958) by US television propaganda, and its armed forces integrated into NORAD (also since 1958), Canada's independence from the USA is largely a charade conducted by Canada's owning class for its own purposes. This charade includes rigging elections with impunity.


Dealing adequately with the influence of the deranged oil addiction of the USA is obviously beyond these notes. Suffice it to say that the US effectively has no alternative transport to the motor car, and it has the biggest car ownership of any large country, 765 vehicles per 1,000 population (2002 data, UNECE), with light-vehicle sales between 8 and 11 million a year. ( Its client economy in China is rapidly becoming a larger car market than the USA. (

Developing continental oil resources to reduce dependence on the Middle East has been a top priority in the USA. Since the invasion of Iraq, it has been plain that if Canada attempted to resist development of the tar sands to US requirements, some kind of armed response would be inevitable.

Canada is a client economy of the USA's, and as such has no genuine political choice (nor is one on offer) about developing the tar sands, primarily to serve the USA's rabid oil addiction, but also to serve the USA's client economy in China, where comparable car ownership will require an additional 1,100 million cars.