Saturday, October 20, 2012

How Mitt Made Like a Bandit in Auto Bailout

Greg Palast: "Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza: How He Made Millions from the Rescue of Detroit"

by DN!
We turn now to a major new exposé on the cover of The Nation magazine called "Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza: How He Made Millions from the Rescue of Detroit." Investigative reporter Greg Palast reveals how Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made some $15 million on the auto bailout and that three of Romney’s top donors made more than $4 billion for their hedge funds from the bailout. Palast’s report is part of a film-in-progress called "Romney’s Bailout Bonanza." Palast is the author of several books, including recently released New York Times bestseller, "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps."

Guest: Greg Palast, investigative reporter who has tracked Romney’s "vulture" fund partners for five years for BBC Television’s Newsnight. He is the author of the recently released New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps. His new Nation exposé is called "Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza: How Mitt and Ann Made Millions — and Mitt’s Hedge Fund Donors Made Billions — from the Auto-Industry Rescue that He Condemned."

Gaza Boat Estelle Taken in International Waters - None Killed

Israel attacks the Estelle in International Waters Kidnaps Parliamentarians and activists

by Gaza Ark   

Shortly after 4:00AM EDT when the Estelle was in international waters approx. 17 Nautical Miles north of Arish, Egypt (as per the last coordinates we have) Israeli war ships surrounded it and the assault on the peaceful ship started.

Communications were lost at that time and all reports we got from the ship were choppy.

Among others, the following individuals were on board:
Former Member of Parliament Manly James, Canada
Member of Parliament Hagen Aksel, Norway
Member of Parliament Britton Sven, Sweden
Member of Parliament Kodelas Dimitios, Greece
Member of Parliament Sixto Ricardo, Spain
Member of Parliament Diamantopoulos Evangelos, Greece

Full list of individuals onboard: See Jim Manly’s pre-recorded video message:

Our previous releases on the Estelle and Jim Manly can be found here:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Nobel Priorities: EU Rewarded for Its Part in World Plunder

The Nobel Peace Prize for War

by Michael Parenti -
 Those who own the wealth of nations take care to downplay the immensity of their holdings while emphasizing the supposedly benign features of the socio-economic order over which they preside. With its regiments of lawmakers and opinion-makers, the ruling hierarchs produce a never-ending cavalcade of symbols, images, and narratives to disguise and legitimate the system of exploitative social relations existing between the 1% and the 99%.

The Nobel Peace Prize would seem to play an incidental role in all this. Given the avalanche of system-sustaining class propaganda and ideological scenarios dished out to us, the Nobel Peace Prize remains just a prize. But a most prestigious one it is, enjoying a celebrated status in its anointment of already notable personages.

In October 2012, in all apparent seriousness, the Norwegian Nobel Committee (appointed by the Norwegian Parliament) bestowed the Nobel Peace Prize upon the European Union (EU). Let me say that again: the European Union with its 28 member states and 500 million inhabitants was awarded for having "contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe." (Norway itself is not a member of the EU. The Norwegians had the good sense to vote against joining.)

Alfred Nobel's will (1895) explicitly states that the peace prize should go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The EU is not a person and has not worked for the abolition or reduction of standing armies or promotion of any kind of peace agenda. If the EU award looked a bit awkward, the BBC and other mainstream news media came to the rescue, referring to the "six decades of peace" and "sixty years without war" that the EU supposedly has achieved. The following day, somebody at the BBC did the numbers and started proclaiming that the EU had brought "seventy years of peace on the European continent."

What could these wise pundits possibly be thinking? Originally called the European Economic Community and formed in 1958, the European Union was established under its current name in 1993, about twenty years ago.

The Nobel Committee, the EU recipients, and the western media all overlooked the 1999 full-scale air war launched on the European continent against Yugoslavia, a socialist democracy that for the most part had offered a good life to people of various Slavic nationalities---as many of them still testify today.

The EU did not oppose that aggression. In fact, a number of EU member states, including Germany and France, joined in the 1999 war on European soil led largely by the United States. For 78 days, U.S. and other NATO forces bombed Yugoslavian factories, utilities, power stations, rail systems, bridges, hotels, apartment buildings, schools and hospitals, killing thousands of civilians, all in the name of a humanitarian rescue operation, all fueled by unsubstantiated stories of Serbian "genocide." All this warfare took place on European soil.

Yugoslavia was shattered, along with its uniquely designed participatory democracy with its self-management and social ownership system. In its place emerged a cluster of right-wing mini-republics wherein everything has been privatized and deregulated, and poverty has replaced amplitude. Meanwhile rich western corporations are doing quite well in what was once Yugoslavia.

Europe aside, EU member states have sent troops to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and additional locales in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, usually under the tutorship of the U.S. war machine. But what was I to expect? For years I ironically asserted that the best way to win a Nobel Peace Prize was to wage war or support those who wage war instead of peace. An overstatement perhaps, but take a look.

Let's start back in 1931 with an improbable Nobel winner: Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University. During World War I, Butler explicitly forbade all faculty from criticizing the Allied war against the Central Powers. He equated anti-war sentiments with sedition and treason. He also claimed that "an educated proletariat is a constant source of disturbance and danger to any nation." In the 1920s Butler became an outspoken supporter of Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Some years later he became an admirer of a heavily militarized Nazi Germany. In 1933, two years after receiving the Nobel prize, Butler invited the German ambassador to the U.S. to speak at Columbia in defense of Hitler. He rejected student appeals to cancel the invitation, claiming it would violate academic freedom.

Jump ahead to 1973, the year one of the most notorious of war criminals, Henry Kissinger, received the Nobel Peace Prize. For the better part of a decade, Kissinger served as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and as U.S. Secretary of State, presiding over the seemingly endless blood-letting in Indochina and ruthless U.S. interventions in Central America and elsewhere. From carpet bombing to death squads, Kissinger was there beating down on those who dared resist U.S. power. In his writings and pronouncements Kissinger continually talked about maintaining U.S. military and political influence throughout the world. If anyone fails to fit Alfred Nobel's description of a prize winner, it would be Henry Kissinger.

In 1975 we come to Nobel winner Andrei Sakharov, a darling of the U.S. press, a Soviet dissident who regularly sang praises to corporate capitalism. Sakharov lambasted the U.S. peace movement for its opposition to the Vietnam War. He accused the Soviets of being the sole culprits behind the arms race and he supported every U.S. armed intervention abroad as a defense of democracy. Hailed in the west as a "human rights advocate," Sakharov never had an unkind word for the horrific human rights violations perpetrated by the fascist regimes of faithful U.S. client states, including Pinochet's Chile and Suharto's Indonesia, and he aimed snide remarks at the "peaceniks" who did. He regularly attacked those in the West who opposed U.S. repressive military interventions abroad.

Let us not overlook Mother Teresa. All the western world's media hailed that crabby lady as a self-sacrificing saint. In fact she was a mean spirited reactionary who gladly welcomed the destruction of liberation theology and other progressive developments in the world. Her "hospitals" and "clinics" were little more than warehouses for the dying and for those who suffered from curable diseases that went untreated---eventually leading to death. She waged campaigns against birth control, divorce, and abortion. She readily hobnobbed with the rich and reactionary but she was so heavily hyped as a heavenly heroine that the folks in Oslo just had to give her the big medal in 1979.

Then there was the Dalai Lama who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. For years the Dalai Lama was on the payroll of the CIA, an agency that has perpetrated killings against rebellious workers, peasants, students, and others in countries around the world. His eldest brother played an active role in a CIA-front group. Another brother established an intelligence operation with the CIA, which included a CIA-trained guerrilla unit whose recruits parachuted back into Tibet to foment insurgency. The Dalai Lama was no pacifist. He supported the U.S./NATO military intervention into Afghanistan, also the 78 days' bombing of Yugoslavia and the destruction of that country. As for the years of carnage and destruction wrought by U.S. forces in Iraq, the Dalai Lama was undecided: "it's too early to say, right or wrong," said he in 2005.

Regarding the violence that members of his sect perpetrated against a rival sect, he concluded that "if the goal is good then the method, even if apparently of the violent kind, is permissible." Spoken like a true Nobel recipient.

In 2009, in a fit of self parody, the folks in Oslo gave the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama while he produced record military budgets and presided over three or four wars and a number of other attack operations, followed a couple of years later by additional wars in Yemen, West Pakistan, Libya, and Syria (with Iran pending). Nobel winner Obama also proudly hunted down and murdered Osama Bin Laden, having accused him---without a shred of evidence---of masterminding the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

You could see that Obama was somewhat surprised---and maybe even embarrassed---by the award. Here was this young drone commander trying to show what a tough-guy warrior he was, saluting the flag-draped coffins one day and attacking other places and peoples the next---acts of violence in support of the New World Order, certainly every bit worthy of a Nobel peace medal.

There are probably other Nobel war hawks and reactionaries to inspect. I don't pretend to be informed about every prize winner. And there are a few worthy recipients who come to mind, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Linus Pauling, Nelson Mandela, and Dag Hammarskjöld.

Let us return to the opening point: does the European Union actually qualify for the prize? Vancouver artist Jennifer Brouse gave me the last (and best) word: "A Nobel Prize for the EU? That seems like a rather convenient and resounding endorsement for current cutthroat austerity measures. First, corporations are people, then money is free speech, now an organization of nation states designed to thwart national sovereignty on behalf of ruling class interests receives a prize for peace. On the other hand, if the EU is a person then it should be prosecuted for imposing policies leading directly to the violent repression of peaceful protests, and to the misery and death of its suffering citizens."

In sum, the Nobel Peace Prize often has nothing to do with peace and too much to do with war. It frequently sees "peace" through the eyes of the western plutocracy. For that reason alone, we should not join in the applause.

Michael Parenti is the author of The Face of Imperialism and Contrary Notions. For further information visit his website:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

victims of police killings speak out

Families and friends of victims of police killings speak out for truth, justice & dignity


Date: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2012 at 10am

 Location: 1500 de Maisonneuve Ouest, #204 (between Guy & Mackay) MONTRÉAL

Speakers to include:

- Lilian Madrid, mother of FREDY VILLANUEVA, 18, who was shot and killed by Montreal police in 2008

- Julie Matson, Montreal resident and daughter of BEN MATSON, 49, who was killed by Vancouver police in 2002

- Josiane Millette, girlfriend of JEAN-FRANÇOIS NADREAU, 30, killed by the Montreal police on February 16, 2012

- Bridget Tolley, daughter of GLADYS TOLLEY, 61, who was killed in 2001 after being struck by a Sûreté du Québec police cruiser on the Kitigan Zibi reserve

MONTREAL, October 18, 2012 -- For the third consecutive year, the Justice for the Victims of Police Killings Coalition is commemorating the national day of protest against police brutality in the United States, which is held every October 22 since 1996.

Close relatives and friends will be addressing the media together this FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19 at 10am at 1500 de Maisonneuve West, #204. The families and friends are uniting together in one voice to remember all of those who have lost their lives to police violence and abuse, as well as to support each others efforts for justice and accountability.

Lilian Madrid, Julie Matson, Josiane Millette and Bridget Tolley will also announce a commemorative vigil in front of the headquarters of the Montreal Police Fraternity at 480 Gilford on Monday, October 22, beginning at 6:30pm.

The site of the Police Fraternity was chosen because the police union systematically defends police officers who brutalize and kill. It will also be the site of the announcement of a police ethics complaint against Fraternity President Yves Francoeur, denouncing his false and misleading comments made in front of a parliamentary commission in Quebec City this past March.

The Justice for the Victims of Police Killings Coalition’s goal is to remember the victims who lost their lives to police violence and abuse, and
 to support their families and friends.

The Coalition is currently comprised of the family, friends and allies of Mohamed Anas Bennis, Claudio Castagnetta, Ben Matson, Quilem Registre, Gladys Tolley and Fredy Villaneuva, and is in contact with the close friends of Jean-François Nadreau.

The recent Stéfanie Trudeau case has raised collective awareness about a phenomenon that is not new, and known unfortunately all too well by the relatives of the victims of police misconduct. On the one hand, there is the existence of a subculture of police violence encouraged by systemic impunity; in addition, there is a hatred fueled by several police officers against minority groups that takes the form of racial, social or political profiling.

As police continue to investigate the police, the quest for truth and justice by the families of victims of police killings remains fraught with pitfalls.

The Coalition demands the end of police brutality and impunity, an end to racial, social and political profiling, as well as access to all information that will shed light on the deaths at the hands of the police.

Date: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2012 at 10am
Location: 1500 de Maisonneuve Ouest, #204 (between Guy & Mackay) MONTRÉAL
Contact: 438-875-7243 - -

Press release from the Justice for the Victims of Police Killings Coalition.

Media Advisory - For Immediate Release

- 30 -

How Romney Made Millions from Auto Bail-Out While Killing Tens of Thousands American Jobs


Romney Secretly Made Millions, and his Biggest Donors Billions, Off the Auto Bail-out: Seized Delphi Auto Parts via "Extortion" Then moved almost all plants to China - 25,000 jobs lost 

Investigation by Greg Palast*

1 - The Romneys made no less than $15.3 million (and likely much more) on the auto bail-out - a 3000% profit - all TARP government money.

2.  Three of Romney's top donors made more than $4 billion for their hedge funds  on negligible investment.

3.  They grabbed Delphi Corporation, the old GM Delco auto parts division, for 67 cents a share - which now sells for $30 a share, care of the US Taxpayer.

4.  Romney's vulture fund partners eliminated every single UAW job (over 25,000 workers), closed 29 plants in the USA and moved the plants to China. 

5.  The Romney's billionaire partner, Paul Singer and his "vulture fund" Elliott Management, made the super profits using methods called "extortion" by insiders.

6.  The Romneys big pay-day was well concealed in Ann's "blind" trust, a suspect limited liability corporation.

7.  And they've paid virtually no tax on the big gain - partly because the vulture funds have moved Delphi's incorporation from Troy, Michigan, to the Isle of Jersey in the Mediterranean, a notorious tax haven.

8.  Romney's partners Singer and John Paulson gave more than one million dollars each to the Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future. The third billionaire, Dan Loeb, has also given close to a million to the GOP.

*Greg Palast, who holds an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago is a racketeering investigator-turned-journalist who has tracked Romney's "vulture" fund partners for five years for BBC Television's premier current affairs show, Newsnight.

Palast is the author of the recently released New York Times bestseller, "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits:  How to Steal An Election in 9 Easy Steps" from which some of the events for the Nation exposé are taken.   

Breaking Up: Family Ties Frayed in U.S.-Pakistan Relationship

The Alliance from Hell: How the U.S. and Pakistan Became the Dysfunctional Nuclear Family of International Relations

by Dilip Hiro - TomDispatch

The United States and Pakistan are by now a classic example of a dysfunctional nuclear family (with an emphasis on “nuclear”). While the two governments and their peoples become more suspicious and resentful of each other with every passing month, Washington and Islamabad are still locked in an awkward post-9/11 embrace that, at this juncture, neither can afford to let go of.

Washington is keeping Pakistan, with its collapsing economy and bloated military, afloat but also cripplingly dependent on its handouts and U.S.-sanctioned International Monetary Fund loans. Meanwhile, CIA drones unilaterally strike its tribal borderlands. Islamabad returns the favor. It holds Washington hostage over its Afghan War from which the Pentagon won’t be able to exit in an orderly fashion without its help. By blocking U.S. and NATO supply routes into Afghanistan (after a U.S. cross-border air strike had killed 24 Pakistani soldiers) from November 2011 until last July, Islamabad managed to ratchet up the cost of the war while underscoring its indispensability to the Obama administration.

At the heart of this acerbic relationship, however, is Pakistan’s arsenal of 110 nuclear bombs which, if the country were to disintegrate, could fall into the hands of Islamist militants, possibly from inside its own security establishment. As Barack Obama confided to his aides, this remains his worst foreign-policy nightmare, despite the decision of the U.S. Army to train a commando unit to retrieve Pakistan’s nukes, should extremists seize some of them or materials to produce a “dirty bomb” themselves.

Two Publics, Differing Opinions

Pakistan’s military high command fears the Pentagon’s contingency plans to seize its nukes. Following the clandestine strike by U.S. SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May 2011, it loaded elements of its nuclear arsenal onto trucks, which rumbled around the country to frustrate any possible American attempt to grab its most prized possessions. When Senator John Kerry arrived in Islamabad to calm frayed nerves following Bin Laden’s assassination, high Pakistani officials insisted on a written U.S. promise not to raid their nuclear arsenal. He snubbed the demand.

Since then mutual distrust between the two nominal allies -- a relationship encapsulated by some in the term “AmPak” -- has only intensified. Last month, for instance, Pakistan became the sole Muslim country to officially call on the Obama administration to ban the anti-Islamic 14-minute video clip Innocence of Muslims, which depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, religious fraud, and pedophile.

While offering a bounty of $100,000 for the killing of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian-American Christian producer of the movie, Pakistan’s Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour called on al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban to be “partners in this noble deed.” Prime Minister Raja Ashraf distanced his government from Bilour’s incitement to murder, a criminal offense under Pakistani law, but did not dismiss him from the cabinet. The U.S. State Department strongly condemned Bilour’s move.

Pakistan also stood out as the only Muslim state whose government declared a public holiday, “Love the Prophet Muhammad Day,” to encourage its people to demonstrate against the offending movie. The U.S. Embassy’s strategy of disarming criticism with TV and newspaper ads showing President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning “the content and the message” of the film failed to discourage protesters. In fact, the demonstrations in major Pakistani cities turned so violent that 23 protesters were killed, the highest figure worldwide.

Taking advantage of the government’s stance, proscribed jihadist organizations made a defiant show of their continued existence. In Lahore, the capital of Punjab, the country’s largest province, activists from the banned Lashkar-e Taiba (Army of the Pure), whose leader Hafiz Saeed is the target of a $10 million bounty by Washington, led protesters toward the American consulate where perimeter defenses had been breached earlier in the week. In Islamabad, activists from the Sipah-e-Sahaba (Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions), an outlawed Sunni faction, clashed with the police for hours in the course of a march to the heavily guarded diplomatic enclave.

These outlawed organizations continue to operate with impunity in an environment that has grown rabidly anti-American. A June 2012 survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center (PRC) found that 74% of Pakistanis consider the United States an enemy. By contrast, only 12% believe that U.S. aid helps solve problems in their country in a situation in which 89% describe their nation’s economic situation as “bad.”

The American public’s view of Pakistan is equally bleak. February polls by Gallup and Fox News indicated that 81% of Americans had an unfavorable view of that country; just 15% held a contrary view, the lowest figure of the post-9/11 period (with only the remaining “axis of evil” states of Iran and North Korea faring worse).

Clashing Views on the War on Terror

Most Americans consider Pakistan an especially unreliable ally in Washington’s war on terror. That it provided safe haven to bin Laden for 10 years before his violent death in 2011 reinforced this perception. Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman Zawahiri, is widely believed to be hiding in Pakistan. So, too, are Mullah Muhammad Omar and other leaders of the Afghan Taliban.

It beggars belief that this array of Washington’s enemies can continue to function inside the country without the knowledge of its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) which reputedly has nearly 100,000 employees and informers. Even if serving ISI officers are not in cahoots with the Afghan Taliban, many retired ISI officers clearly are.

The rationale for this, top Pakistani officials say privately, is that the Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani Network are not attacking targets in Pakistan and so pose no threat to the state. In practice, these political-military entities are being sustained by Islamabad as future surrogates in a post-American Afghanistan. Their task is to ensure a pro-Islamabad government in Kabul, immune to offers of large-scale economic aid from India, the regional superpower. In short, it all boils down to Washington and Islamabad pursuing clashing aims in war-ravaged Afghanistan and in Pakistan as well.

The Pakistani government’s multifaceted stance toward Washington has wide public support. Popular hostility toward the U.S. stems from several interrelated factors. Above all, most Pakistanis view the war on terror from a radically differently perspective than Americans. Since its primary targets have been the predominantly Muslim countries of Afghanistan and Iraq, they equate it with an American crusade against Islam.

While U.S. pundits and politicians invariably cite the $24 billion in assistance and military aid Washington has given Islamabad in the post-9/11 period, Pakistanis stress the heavy price they have paid for participating in the Washington-led war. “No country and no people have suffered more in the epic struggle against terrorism than Pakistan,” said President Asif Ali Zardari at the United Nations General Assembly last month.

His government argues that, as a result of joining the war on terror, Pakistan has suffered a loss of $68 billion over the past decade. A widely disseminated statistic at home, it includes estimated losses due to a decline in foreign investments and adverse effects on trade, tourism, and businesses. Islamabad attributes all this to the insecurity caused by the terrorist acts of local jihadists in response to its participation in Washington’s war. Then there are the roughly 4,000 Pakistani military fatalities suffered during post-9/11 operations against terror groups and other homegrown militants -- significantly higher than all allied troops killed in Afghanistan. Some 35,000 civilians have also died or suffered injuries in the process.

Drones Fuel Popular Rage

During a September address to the Asia Society in New York, Foreign Minister Hinna Rabbani Khar was asked for an explanation of the rampant anti-American sentiment in her country. She replied with a single word: “drones.” At any given time, CIA drones, buzzing like wasps and armed with Hellfire missiles, circle round the clock over an area in Pakistan’s tribal zone, their high-resolution cameras recording movements below. This fills people on the ground with unending terror, being unable to guess when and where the missiles will be fired.

A June Pew Research Center survey shows that 97% of Pakistanis familiar with the drone attacks held a negative view of them. “Those who are familiar with the drone campaign also overwhelmingly (94%) believe the attacks kill too many innocent people,” states its report. “Nearly three-quarters (74%) say they are not necessary to defend Pakistan from extremist organizations.” (In stark contrast, a February Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 83% of Americans -- and 73% of liberal Democrats -- support Obama’s drone onslaught.)

A recent anti-drone “march” by a nine-mile long motorcade from Islamabad to the border of the South Waziristan tribal agency was led by Imran Khan, head of the Movement for Justice political party. Joined by protesters from the U.S. and Britain, it was a dramatic reminder of the depth of popular feeling against the drones. By refraining from forcibly entering South Waziristan in defiance of an official ban, Khan stayed within the law. And by so doing, he enhanced his already impressive 70% approval rating and improved the chances of his party -- committed to ending Islamabad’s participation in Washington’s war on terror -- to achieve a breakthrough in the upcoming parliamentary election.

Unlike in Yemen, where the government has authorized the Obama administration to stage drone attacks, Pakistani leaders, who implicitly accepted such strikes before the Pentagon’s gross violation of their country’s sovereignty in the bin Laden killing, no longer do so. “The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistan territory is illegal,” said Foreign Minister Khar. Her government, she explained, needed to rally popular backing for its campaign to quash armed militant groups, and the drones make that impossible. “As the drones fly over the territory of Pakistan, it becomes an American war and the whole logic of this being our fight, in our own interest, is immediately put aside and again it is a war imposed on us.”

Underlying the deployment of a drone, helicopter, or jet fighter to hit a target in a foreign country is an updated version of the Vietnam-era doctrine of “hot pursuit,” which ignores the basic concept of national sovereignty. Pakistani leaders fear that if they do not protest Washington’s continued use of drones for “targeted killings” of Pakistan-based individuals selected in the White House, their arch-rival India will follow suit. It will hit the camps in Pakistan allegedly training terrorists to destabilize Indian Kashmir. That is one of the ongoing nightmares of Pakistan’s senior generals.

The Nuclear Conundrum

Since India would be the prime target of any nuclear-armed extremists, the Indian government dreads the prospect of Pakistan’s nukes falling into such hands far more than President Obama. The alarm of both Delhi and Washington is well justified, particularly because Pakistan’s arsenal is growing faster than any on Earth -- and the latest versions of nukes it’s producing are smaller and so easier to hijack.

Over the past five years, Pakistani extremists have staged a series of attacks on sensitive military installations, including nuclear facilities. In November 2007, for example, they attacked Sargodha airbase where nuclear-capable F-16 jet aircraft are stationed. The following month a suicide bomber targeted a Pakistani Air Force base believed to hold nuclear weapons at Kamra, 37 miles northwest of Islamabad. In August 2008, a group of suicide bombers blew up the gates to a weapons complex at the Wah cantonment containing a nuclear warhead assembly plant, leaving 63 people dead. A further assault on Kamra took place in October 2009 and yet another last August, this time by eight suicide bombers belonging to the Pakistani Taliban.

Given Pakistan’s dependence on a continuing supply of U.S.-made advanced weaponry -- essential to withstand any onslaught by India in a conventional war -- its government has had to continually reassure Washington that the security of its nuclear arsenal is foolproof. Its leaders have repeatedly assured their American counterparts that the hemispheres containing nuclear fuel and the triggers for activating the weapons are stored separately under tight guard. This has failed to allay the anxieties of successive American presidents. What disconcerts the U.S. is that, despite contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to underwrite programs to help Pakistan secure its nuclear arms, it does not know where many of these parts are stored.

This is not going to change. The military planners in Islamabad correctly surmise that Delhi and Washington would like to turn Pakistan into a non-nuclear power. At present, they see their nuclear arsenal as the only effective deterrent they have against an Indian aggression which, in their view, they experienced in 1965. “We developed all these nukes to use against India,” said an unnamed senior Pakistani military officer recently quoted in the London-based Sunday Times Magazine. “Now they turn out to be very useful in dealing with the U.S.”

In short, Pakistan’s military high command has come to view its nuclear arsenal as an effective deterrent not only against its traditional adversary, India, but also its nominal ally in Washington. If such thinking solidifies as the country’s military doctrine in the years following the Pentagon’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, then Pakistan may finally find itself removed from Washington’s list of non-NATO allies, ending the dysfunctional nuclear family of international politics. What that would mean in global terms is anyone’s guess.

Dilip Hiro, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of 33 books, the most recent being Apocalyptic Realm: Jihadists in South Asia (Yale University Press, New Haven and London). To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which Hiro discusses the embattled Pakistan-U.S. relationship, click here or download it to your iPod here.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Dilip Hiro

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Feminist Paragon She's Not: Gillard's Pretense to Gender Justice

Australia's Julia Gillard Is No Feminist Hero

by John Pilger

Information Clearing House - The Guardian's description of Australia's opposition leader Tony Abbott as "neanderthal" is not unreasonable. Misogyny is an Australian blight and a craven reality in political life. But for so many commentators around the world to describe Julia Gillard's attack on Abbott as a "turning point for Australian women" is absurd. Promoted by glass-ceiling feminists with scant interest in the actual politics and actions of their hero, Gillard is the embodiment of the Australian Labor Party machine - a numbers-crunching machine long bereft of principle that has betrayed Australia's most vulnerable people, especially women.

Shortly before Gillard's lauded rant against Abbott, her government forced through legislation that stripped A$100 from the poorest single parents - almost all of them women. Even Labor's own caucus reportedly regarded this as "cruel". But that is nothing compared with Gillard's attacks on Aboriginal people, who remain Australia's dirty secret, suffering preventable diseases such as trachoma (blindness in children), which has been eliminated in much of the developing world, and scourges that hark back to Dickensian England, such as rheumatic heart disease, even leprosy. I have seen Aboriginal homes in which 30 people are forced to live, because the government refuses to build public housing for them. Indigenous young people are incarcerated in Australian prisons at five times the rate of black South Africans during the apartheid era.

Gillard has continued with gusto the authoritarian and mendacious 2007 "emergency intervention" designed to push Aboriginal Australians off their valuable land and box them into "hub centres": a version of apartheid. She and her indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin have implemented this inhumanity in defiance of international law. In a speech last year, Gillard, like most of her predecessors, blamed the victims of Australia's unresolved rapacious past and present. I have just spent several months in Aboriginal Australia; and the views I have gathered from remarkable, despairing, eloquent indigenous women of Gillard and her "feminism" are mostly unknown or ignored or dismissed in this country. Watching Gillard address the United Nations last month and claim that Australia embraced "the highest ideals" of human rights law was satirical, to say the least. Australia has been repeatedly condemned by the UN for its racism.

Gillard came to power by plotting secretly with an all-male cabal to depose the elected prime minister. Kevin Rudd. Two of her conspirators, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, sought inspiration in the US embassy where Gillard enjoyed an unusually high approval rating. This was understandable. Her views on aggressive war might be described as neanderthal if they were not Victorian; referring to the dispatch of Australian colonial troops to Sudan in 1885 to avenge a popular uprising against the British, she described the forgotten bloody farce as "not only a test of wartime courage, but a test of character that has helped define our nation and create the sense of who we are."

Invariably flanked by flags, she uses such guff to justify sending more young Australians to die in faraway places such as Afghanistan, essentially as American mercenaries -- more soldiers have died under her watch than that of any recent prime minister. Her true feminist distinction, perversely, is her removal of gender discrimination in combat roles in the Australian army. Thanks to her, women are now liberated to kill Afghans and others who offer no threat to Australia. One Sydney feminist commentator was beside herself. "Australia will again lead the world in a major reform", she wrote. A passionate supporter of the Israeli state, Gillard in 2009 went on a junket to Israel arranged by the Australian Israel Cultural Exchange during which she refused to condemn Israel's blood-fresh massacre of 1400 mostly women and children in Gaza.

With political trickery reminiscent of the former arch-conservative prime minister John Howard, Gillard has sought to circumvent Australian law in order to send refugees who arrive by boat to an impoverished hell on isolated Pacific islands, such as Nauru. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, these people are "90 per cent genuine refugees". They include children who, as government studies show, go insane in such confinement.

Australian feminism has a proud past. With New Zealanders, Australian women led the world in winning the vote and were at the forefront of the struggle for equal pay. During the slaughter of the First World War, Australian women mounted a uniquely successful campaign against a vote for conscription - known as "the blood vote". On polling day, a majority of Australians followed the women. That is feminism.

Standing Pat: Debate #2 Offers Little Substantive Change, Less Hope

Bill Black and Glen Ford on Presidential Debate #2 


Is there a significant difference between the candidates on foreign or domestic policy?

Watch full multipart Second Presidential Debate 2012

William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. He has taught previously at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and at Santa Clara University, where he was also the distinguished scholar in residence for insurance law and a visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Black was litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, deputy director of the FSLIC, SVP and general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and senior deputy chief counsel, Office of Thrift Supervision. He was deputy director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement. Black developed the concept of "control fraud" frauds in which the CEO or head of state uses the entity as a "weapon." Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime combined. He recently helped the World Bank develop anti-corruption initiatives and served as an expert for OFHEO in its enforcement action against Fannie Mae's former senior management.
Glen Ford is a distinguished radio-show host and commentator. In 1977, Ford co-launched, produced and hosted America's Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. In 1987, Ford launched Rap It Up, the first nationally syndicated Hip Hop music show, broadcast on 65 radio stations. Ford co-founded the Black Commentator in 2002 and in 2006 he launched the Black Agenda Report. Ford is also the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oblomaromneyites Battle It Out

Obomney vs. Romobama

by Christopher Ketcham

Few creatures in American political discourse today are as simpleton and grotesque as the Obama liberal when trying to distinguish his candidate from the rest of the prostitutes seeking office. Behold, for example, the fellow author on the raft next to me, somewhere recently in the canyons of the Colorado River: He is street-smart, educated, eloquent, witty, tasteful, author of many books pleasing to the intellect and questioning of the received pieties. He knows how to kayak big water. One of his books was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize.

Bring up the politics of meaningful difference between the candidates, however, and the man diminishes. He doesn’t want to hear it. He becomes angry. Mr. Pulitzer assures me, in increasingly disgusted tones, that to declare Romney-Obama a two-headed monster amounts to sophistry, intellectual dishonesty, a vicious trick that will lead voters into the abyss. Obama is better than Romney for the usual dismal reason that we have to pull the lever for the lesser of two evils.

So goes the argument, such as it is. We toss this waste of words back and forth for several hours, trapped in the canyon and on the boats, floating the listless river, and finally descend into name-calling, insults, outright dismissal, and only the onset of big rapids brings peace.

Mr. Pulitzer admits, of course, that Obama might have accomplished more in the course of his administration if he’d not been handed an economic disaster by his Republican predecessor – a disaster, I need not remind him, whose groundwork was laid in no small part by the last great Democratic savior. For it was under Bill Clinton, as we know, that Glass-Steagall was eviscerated; under Bill Clinton that the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed to open the door for the frauds of the derivatives markets; under Bill Clinton that more deregulation of the corporatocracy, more mergers and acquisitions, more centralization of power in fewer corporate hands, was achieved than under any previous modern president. And with that centralization of power, the corporatocracy during the 1990s secured its death-grip on the Democratic Party, with Clinton presiding over the corpse with his saxophone and smile. And no party was then left to oppose big money.

A few years ago, I reviewed for these pages a book, The Mendacity of Hope, by former Harper’s editor-in-chief Roger Hodge, that placed Obama in the proper historic perspective. I wrote at the time: “If Obama’s presidency to date represents a betrayal of liberal expectations – or, more precisely, a measure of how much they had deluded themselves about his prospects, having not read his record – then Roger Hodge’s new book, The Mendacity of Hope, is also a betrayal of liberal expectation, in that thinking men on the political left are not to criticize the Dear Leader while the barbarian horde on the right clamor at the gates and howl for blood. Hodge makes the admirable leap to the place where thinking men should of course end up. ‘Right’ and ‘left’ in the US today, Hodge will tell you, are useless terms to describe our political economy, and in fact serve effectively as disinformation. What’s clear is that the two parties, guised in the pretense of polar opposition, are effectively a single party operated as machines of corporate power, their players distinct from each other only in the degrees of hypocrisy when they pretend to represent anything other than the rarified institutions of wealth that invest to get them elected.”

Following the sell-out that comprised Clinton’s Third Way, as Hodge writes, “both parties generally agreed on the necessity of dismantling or at least starving the welfare state, despite its overwhelming popularity with the general public, and appeasing predatory and financially irresponsible corporations as they neglected, exported, and otherwise dismembered the greatest industrial infrastructure in world history.” Both parties would celebrate “the creative destruction of laissez-faire capitalism, with its tearing asunder of all tradition, its reduction of all relationships to the cash transaction.” Both parties would be “marked by an almost unshakeable consensus on national security,” which amounted to unceasing expansion of the warfare state – a consensus remarkably exampled in the debates between Obama and Romney to date, between whom there is zero tension over the matter of empire, war, military spending.

No matter. The canyon echoes with Mr. Pulitzer’s mind-lulling mantra: Democrats good, Republicans bad. Repeat, hold breath, stick head in sand. It’s a sad thing to watch, because I happen to like the guy.

To readers of these pages, the truth about Romobama (or Obomney, take your pick) is not revelation. See, for example, the compelling indictment in CounterPunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair’s compendium, Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, whose dozens of contributors come to the same conclusion as Hodge. We might do well to review the facts in Hopeless – not least for the benefit of my rafting buddy – that taken together convict beloved Obama as the swindling bastard that he is. Then again, why bother? The information is out there at the stroke of a Google search, as clear as a boot in the face. The Obama liberal need only open his eyes.

We could note, for example, that as candidate in 2008 Obama intoned that “When I am president we won’t work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution”; that he has of course done the opposite; that sovereign immunity for the office of the president continues; that indefinite detention and torture continues in violation of all conventions, and so does the outsourcing of torture to regimes more lawless than ours (a policy better known under the deceitful nomenclature of “extraordinary rendition”). We might recall that Guantanamo remains open, its 160 prisoners held extralegally without trial or hope of trial. We could tally Obama’s assassinations by drone in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, death raining down on children, families, villages as the accepted collateral damage; more summary executions from the sky were ordered in 2009, under Obama, than during the entirety of the Bush administration. We might recall the warning to the Obama administration from the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions “that its assassination program was probably illegal under international law” and that Obama’s “refusal to justify the program was untenable.”

Hopeless is replete with these reminders – today obvious, de rigueur – of how nothing has changed under Obama. Blackwater author Jeremy Scahill observes that Obama’s team for the handling of foreign policy and the management of the empire – Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Robert Gates et al – had “a proven track record of support for the Iraq war, militaristic intervention…and a worldview consistent with the foreign policy arch that stretches from George H. W. Bush’s time in office to the present.” Scahill notes that 130
Democratic members of the House and 23 in the Senate voted against the Iraq war, yet Obama chose to hire only those in the party who had followed George W. Bush into the mire.

The litany becomes tedious. Obama’s economic team is a revolving door of Wall Streeters, with Goldman Sachs his go-to corporation for recruitment, crafting policies that always, every time, legitimize the depredations of the financier and investor classes at the expense of the American people, with the result that the economic disaster Obama was handed will be sure to recur. His teams at the USDA and FDA are heavy with former Monsanto executives. His operatives at the Department of Interior, breaking not at all with Bush policy, have laid open public lands for the continued private gain of mining, timber, oil and gas, off-road vehicle, and big ranching interests (“This is the worst Democratic administration for wilderness and public lands I’ve ever seen,” a lawyer for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance tells me).

Ah, but Mr. Pulitzer pulls from his hat, as a last resort, Obama’s wonderful health care legislation, perhaps the administration’s only seeming progressive achievement of note. “You’re gonna get health care!” he tells me on the river. “Doesn’t that amount to something?” Indeed it does. As we know, Obama’s health care “reform,” so-called, was passed with the imprimatur of the drug and insurance industries, the hospital associations, the American Medical Association, the medical equipment manufacturers – basically every institution that had a stake in for-profit health care. What it amounts to, in Roger Hodge’s assessment, is “a bailout of the health care industry that seeks to guarantee some 30 million additional customers for insurance companies” by coercing Americans to purchase a product “from a predatory for-profit business that adds no value to the economic transaction accompanying the activities of doctors and nurses.”

As economist Ismael Hossein-Zadeh writes in Hopeless, Obama “faithfully, and indeed vigorously, carries out both the neoliberal and militaristic policies he inherited. The difference is that, while Reagan and Bush were, more or less, truthful to their constituents, President Obama is not: while catering to the powerful…he pretends to be an agent of ‘change’ and a source of ‘hope’ for the masses.” No wonder that Romney – nihilist, neoliberal, militarist, predator for big business – now leads in the polls. Perhaps Americans currently undecided see little difference between the two moneyed whores for empire at the podium, and would rather opt for the one who offers himself as honestly purchased.

Christopher Ketcham writes for Harper’s, the American Prospect, Orion, and many other magazines. He can be reached at

Answering Cermaq: Staniford Responds to Fish Farm Corp.'s BC Legal Appeal

Don Staniford responds to Mainstream Canada's Appeal

by Don Staniford

How Cheap Oil Can Be Environmentally Friendly

Forget Renewables, We Need Cheap Oil - An Interview with Gail Tverberg

by James Stafford -

What does our world's energy future look like? Does renewable energy feature as much in the energy production mix as many hope it will? Will natural gas and fracking help reduce our dependence upon oil and how will the world economy and trade fare as supplies of cheap oil continue to dwindle?

To help us take a look at this future scenario we had a chance to chat with Gail Tverberg – a well known commentator on energy issues and author of the popular blog, Our Finite World

In the interview Gail talks about:
• Why natural gas is not the energy savior we were hoping for
• Why renewable energy will not live up to the hype
• Why we shouldn't write off nuclear energy
• Why oil prices could fall in the future
• Why our energy future looks fairly bleak
• Why the government should be investing less in renewable energy
• Why constant economic growth is not a realistic goal

Gail Tverberg is an independent researcher who examines questions related to oil supply, substitutes, and their impact on the economy. Her background is as a casualty actuary, making financial projections within the insurance industry. She became interested in the question of oil shortages in 2005, and has written and spoken about the expected impact of limited oil supply since then to a variety of audiences: insurance, academic, "peak oil", and more general audiences. Her work can be found on her website, Our Finite World.

Interview conducted by James Stafford of

James Stafford: Do you believe that shale gas is the energy savior we have been hoping for and can deliver all that has been promised? Or have we been oversold on its potential?

Gail Tverberg: I am doubtful that shale gas will be the energy savior that we have been hoping for. There are several issues: (a) It is hard for US natural gas prices to rise to the point where shale gas extraction will truly be profitable, because of competition with coal in electricity generation. (b) While natural gas can be used for transportation, it takes time, investment, and guaranteed long-term supply for it really to happen. This will be a long, slow process, if it occurs. (c) People won't stand for "fracking" next door, if the end result is LNG for Europe or Japan. We have otherwise "stranded" non-shale gas in Alaska that would be a better option to develop and sell abroad.

If shale gas does come into widespread use, it will take many years. The quantity will be helpful, but not huge. Furthermore, it will still be natural gas, rather than the fuel we really need, which is cheap oil.

James Stafford: The old dream of US energy independence has been finding its way into the headlines again as a combination of resurgent domestic oil production, improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency and the shale boom have led many experts to predict that although it is unlikely, it's no longer the fantasy it once was. What are your thoughts on US energy independence?

Gail Tverberg: I think that the direction in years ahead will be toward reduced trade of all sorts. By definition, every country will become "more independent," including more "energy independent". Whether or not current lifestyles are supportable with lower trade is another question.

James Stafford: Japan recently made the announcement that they aim to phase out nuclear power by 2040. What is your opinion on this decision and on nuclear energy in general? Can the world live without it?

Gail Tverberg: The decision by Japan is worrisome, because there aren't many good replacement options available. Japan has volcanoes, so it may have an option to use geothermal as an option. Also, 2040 is far enough away that other options may become available.

Phasing out nuclear in other countries is likely to be difficult. In most countries, this will likely mean "less electricity" or "more coal." It may also mean higher electricity cost, and lower competitiveness for manufacturers. Germany has already started the process of phasing out nuclear. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

In general, I think we should be taking a closer look at nuclear, because we have so few other low-carbon options. There is considerable dispute about the extent to which radiation from nuclear is a problem. This question needs to be examined more closely. To use nuclear long-term, we need to find ways to do it cheaply and without a huge amount of hot fuel that needs to be kept away from people indefinitely.

James Stafford: Renewable energy continues to be a favorite amongst many politicians – yet advances are slow and expensive. Do you see renewables making a meaningful contribution to global energy production? And if so over what time period?

Gail Tverberg: I have a hard time seeing that intermittent renewables (wind and solar photovoltaics) will play a big role in maintaining grid electricity, because of the stress they place on the grid, and the high cost of needed grid upgrades to handle them. Renewables from wood and biomass are hard to scale up, because wood supply is limited and because biomass use tends to compete with food production. Renewables from waste (left over cooking oil, for example) are not something we can count on for the long term, as people stay at home more, and dispose of less waste.

           Related Articles: Which Biofuels Hold the Most Promise for the Future - Interview with Jim Lane

All renewables depend heavily on our fossil fuel system. For example, it takes fossil fuels to make new wind turbines and solar panels, to maintain the electrical grid, and to repair roads needed for maintaining the grid system. Biofuels depend on our fossil fuel based agricultural system.

I expect that the contribution renewables make will occur primarily during the next 10 or 20 years, and will decline over time, because of their fossil fuel dependence.

Quite a few individuals living off-grid would like to guarantee themselves long-term electricity supply through a few solar panels. This is really a separate application of renewables. It will work as long as the solar-panels work, and there are still the required peripherals (batteries, light bulbs, etc.) available—perhaps 30 years.

James Stafford: Are there any renewable energy technologies you are optimistic about and can see breaking away from the pack to help us extend the fossil fuel age?

Gail Tverberg: The technology that is probably best is solar thermal. It works like heating a hot water bottle in the sun. This is especially good for reducing the need to use fossil fuels to heat hot water in warm climates. But even this is not going to do a huge amount to fix our problems, especially if they are primarily financial in nature.

James Stafford
: Renewable energy innovation has been coming under fire lately, with the Solyndra scandal and now Tesla motors are looking to be in trouble - both of whom were backed by government loan guarantees. Do you believe the government should be investing more or less in renewable energy companies?

Gail Tverberg: Less. I think we should be looking for inexpensive solutions. Anything that is high-priced starts with two strikes against it.

Also, I think if the true picture is considered, the amount of environmental benefits of renewables is very low, or perhaps negative. Their higher cost tends to make countries using them less competitive, sending production to China or other Asian countries where coal is the primary fuel. This may raise world carbon dioxide emissions.

Since 2000, world carbon dioxide emissions have increased far more than would have been expected based on prior patterns. A major cause seems to be the shift in industry to Asian countries, as countries attempted to reduce their own carbon footprint.

James Stafford: In a recent article you mentioned that the world economy is currently suffering from high-priced fuel syndrome. Would you be able to let our readers know a little more about this? And also if there is anything that can be done economically to help move beyond this syndrome?

Gail Tverberg: High priced fuel syndrome is primarily (but not entirely) a problem of fuel importers. It has symptoms such as the following:

• Slow economic growth or contraction
• People in discretionary industries laid off from work
• High unemployment rates
• Governments in increasingly poor financial situation
• Declining home and property values
• Rising food prices

Part of the problem seems to occur when fuel prices rise, and people cut back on discretionary spending. The result is layoffs. Fewer people pay taxes, and more collect unemployment benefits, causing financial problems for governments. The other part of the problem seems to be lack of competitiveness with countries (such as China and India) that use a cheaper fuel mix.

While oil is the fuel with the big price-problem in the US, high-priced natural gas contributes to the problem in Europe and Japan. High-priced renewables also contribute to the problem.

To keep costs down, we really need to consider cost first when considering alternatives to oil. Alternatives that need subsidies or mandates are likely to be a problem. Thus, in the US, natural gas right now might "work" as a substitute, but not offshore wind.

Regarding the competitiveness aspect, tariffs on international trade might help, but would reduce world output.

Related Article: Can Syria's Rebels Overthrow Assad? An Interview with Jellyfish Operations

James Stafford: What is your position on peak oil? Have we already reached the peak in oil production? Or do you side with Daniel Yergin in saying we have decades more of production growth?

Gail Tverberg: I think the peak in oil production will be determined based on financial considerations. Such a peak is probably not very far away, because we are already experiencing lower economic growth and the governments of several countries are in dire financial straits.

As the oil price gets too high (or already is too high), governments of oil importing nations will be increasingly stressed by high unemployment and low revenue. Any way of fixing this problem (higher taxes, government layoffs, or reduced programs like Medicare, Social Security, and unemployment insurance) is likely to lead to lower disposable income and less "demand" for (that is, ability to pay for) products using oil.

With lower ability to pay for products using oil, the price of oil will drop. Fewer producers will be able to extract oil at this lower price, and the supply of oil will decrease.

James Stafford: What is your view on our energy future? Is it as bleak as some commentators point out – or is there a ray of hope for us?

Gail Tverberg: I see the future as fairly bleak. The big issue is the way high oil prices affect the economy, leading to recession, joblessness, and huge government deficits. The issue is really a lack of cheap oil.

This is an issue that can't be expected to go away, even with new (high priced) oil supply in the US, or with the possibility of more natural gas supply. We are right now experiencing adverse financial impacts from high oil prices, but these impacts are being disguised by artificially low interest rates and huge amounts of deficit spending.

I find it hard to see much of a ray of hope for avoiding some kind of discontinuity, because the problem seems to be already at hand. For example, I see Europe's current financial problems and the US's fiscal cliff as being a direct result of lower energy affordability, especially oil, in recent years.

James Stafford: We recently published a news piece on a broker who in a drunken stupor managed to move the oil markets. What do you believe moves oil prices – is it supply and demand or energy market traders – or a bit of both?

Gail Tverberg: I think that over the long run it is mostly supply and demand that moves prices. (Of course, demand has to be read as "affordability". People who are paying higher taxes can afford less oil products, so "demand" less.)

There may be some short-term impact of energy market traders, but it is likely quite small as a percentage of the total.

James Stafford: If oil prices continue to rise do you see Americans changing their driving and energy consumption habits?

Gail Tverberg: I think some changes will take place, but they will not be as fast as many would like. New car buyers are likely to be unwilling to pay large upfront costs for fuel-saving features, because they may not own the car for very long. Getting their money's worth will depend on getting a high resale price for the car.

People in poor financial condition are more likely to make big changes. People who lose their jobs may sell their cars, and share with others. Teenagers who don't get jobs will not buy a car. People with low wages and long commutes will look for people to share rides with.

James Stafford: A short while ago Forbes ran a piece on Thorium as possibly being the biggest energy breakthrough since fire and both China and India have announced their intentions to develop thorium reactors. What are your thoughts on thorium as a possible replacement for uranium?

Gail Tverberg: From everything I have heard, it is still a long ways away—at least 15 years. If it would work, it would be great.

James Stafford: In another article you have linked energy to employment and recession. Are you suggesting that without growth in energy production the economy will not grow, and employment levels will not rise?

Gail Tverberg: It takes external energy to make anything that we make in today's economy. It takes energy to operate construction equipment, or to operate a computer, or to manufacture and transport goods. Even making "services" requires energy.

So if we have a lot less energy, today's jobs are likely to be impacted. It is possible that we can create more half-time (and half-pay) jobs, but the result will still be that the world will be a lot poorer. We can still do jobs that don't require external energy (such as make a basket out of reeds, or wash clothes in a stream), but our productivity will be much lower than when electricity or oil was available to leverage our production.

James Stafford: What is the most pressing matter that will affect the world in your opinion? food shortage, water shortage, energy shortage, climate change, etc?

Gail Tverberg: I think the immediate problem will be financial, but caused by high-priced energy.

The big concern I have is that financial problems will lead to political disruption. The natural tendency of countries with less energy supply is to break into smaller units—for example, the Soviet Union broke up into Russia and its member nations. There is now talk about whether Catalonia can become independent from the rest of Spain, and whether the Euro can hold together. If breakups become a major pattern, even spreading to the New World, it could make international trade much more difficult than today.

Financial problems could also lead to debt defaults and rapidly shifting currency relationships. These, too, could lead to a reduction in international trade.

                      Related Article: The Real Reason Behind Oil Price Rises - An Interview with James Hamilton

James Stafford: Economic growth is what the public expects, anything less is treated as a recession, but is constant economic growth a realistic goal? Is it achievable?

Gail Tverberg: Constant economic growth is not a realistic goal. We live in a finite world. This is obvious, if a person stops to think about it. There are only a finite number of atoms in the earth. There are interrelated biological systems on earth, and humans are one part. Humans cannot become too numerous without destroying the ecosystems that we depend on.

In a finite world, it is clear that eventually extraction will become more expensive. When we first started extracting fossil fuels, we started with what was easiest (and cheapest) to obtain. As we move to more difficult locations, such as deep under water, or the Arctic, the cost becomes more expensive. It is these high costs that seem to be disturbing economies now.

It appears to me that we are now hitting some version of "Limits to Growth". Most economists haven't figured out the connection between the economy and the natural world, so are oblivious to our current predicament.

James Stafford: If the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is ever actually made, what do you believe will be the effect on GDP?

Gail Tverberg: I don't see renewable energy as being sustainable on its own. If it were, we might expect a GDP level of perhaps 10% or 15% of today's GDP.

James Stafford: Other than a severe reduction in the global population what solutions are available to humanity as it reaches the limits of the planet?

Gail Tverberg: Unfortunately, solutions seem few and far between. Our biggest problem seems to be a lack of time to fix a financial problem that seems very close at hand.

A partial solution for some people may be a reduced standard of living combined with local agriculture.

Regardless of what happens, we do have quite a lot of "stuff" that humans have made that will cushion any down slope—roads, houses, clothing, and tools, for example. Many people would like a solar panel or two for their long-term use. We also have knowledge that we did not have on the upslope.

The past 10,000 years for humans has been real miracle, first with the discovery of agriculture, and later with the discovery of fossil fuels. If there is a Guiding Hand behind what is happening, there may be other miracles in store, as well.

James Stafford
: In your opinion, who will make the better president in terms of energy policies and saving the economy, at the upcoming elections?

Gail Tverberg
: The last presidential candidate that I had real enthusiasm for was Ross Perot in 1996. He would have put the United States (and the world) on much more of an isolationist path. In retrospect, this is the one thing that would have helped put off the predicament we are in today, because it would have slowed world economic growth, and with it the extraction of resources. World population would probably be lower now, too.

In this election, I would probably slightly favor Romney, because he seems to have some grasp of the issues we are up against. As I look at the numbers, it is absolutely essential that we start cutting programs, if we are to balance the budget. As bad as fossil fuels may be, they provide our jobs, our food, light, and heat so we need to continue to extract them. We don't seem to have very good alternatives at this time. Even what we consider renewables depend upon fossil fuels.

In the next four years, I expect we will find ourselves doing a U-turn on economic growth. I don't think either candidate (or for that matter, any leader) will be able to handle this well. Ideally, the new leader should be looking at the issue of how to deal with a low-energy future. Do we move to local agriculture, and if so, how? If rationing is done, how should it be done? If there are not enough jobs for everyone, should we go to more part-time jobs?

Romney has been accused of flip-flopping, but in some ways, with such big changes coming, I think that what we need is someone who is willing to change his views with changing circumstances. We seem to be headed for truly uncharted territory.

James Stafford: Gail, thank you for taking the time to speak with us.


Stoppering Iran: E-U Orders End to Satellite Channels

Tell Me Lies: European Satellites Ordered To Drop Iranian Channels In Disregard of Free Speech

by Danny Schechter

New York, New York - Back in the 1960’s, A British poet, Adrian Mitchell, one of the great bards of that era, wrote a poem that went on to become a stage show in the West End of London. It was called Tell Me Lies about Vietnam and represented one voice among millions in the world then opposing that War

It was addressed, “To Whom It May Concern” and began with words that became its refrain:

“I was run over by the truth one day
Ever since the accident I've walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam”

Years later, before his death, (and I was at the memorial service in London) he kept rewriting the last paragraph into what he called a remix. The poem took on a more global statement

That verse was a play on a children’s song:

“You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out
You take the human being, and you twist it all about “

And then this line:
“Tell me lies about – Iraq, Burma, Afghanistan, BAE Systems, Israel and Iran”

He understood well that Iran was one of the countries his country and others in the West (and their sycophantic media) are telling lies about.

This poem came to mind in the days after the Nobel Prize Committee, for reasons best only known to themselves, decided to sully their Peace Prize by giving it to The European Union, an entity that is very much cheering on the pre-war against Iran with its own draconian sanctions.

These were the same people who, for equally incomprehensible reasons, gave the prize to Barack Obama in the hope it would put him on the path of the peaceful.

It didn’t!

A day later, as more thoughtful minds puzzled over the choice of a bloc of nations that has inspired region-wide protests for its brutal austerity programs, the EU took its first act as a peace maker with media censorship.

It blocked Iran’s ability to communicate with Europeans, even as any one knows anything about how peace is made knows that two- way communications is essential. All parties to a conflict need to know what the other is thinking, need to know how they view the world.

Despite the fact that western media is available in Iran, and western journalists frequently report, or as many Iranians believe, ‘distort’ the news from there, the West now wants to seal off more than Iranian oil.

They want to sanction Iranian ideas and keep their own people from hearing and seeing what Iranian TV channels consider important. In short, they just want to hear their own voices. This is the very essence of a propaganda system posing as a commitment to free press,

Iran’s PressTV had earlier been kicked off British Television where it had built a audience, on the barest of pretences, and now with the connivance, no doubt of Her Majesty’s government, is being barred, along with 18 other Iranian channels, from access to European satellites

Here’s the edict:

“European satellite company Eutelsat says it's pulled the plug on several Iranian satellite channels following an order by the European Commission.

Eutelsat told Press TV that it asked media services company- - Arqiva, to take Iranian satellite channels off one of its Hot- Bird frequencies on Monday. Arqiva said in a separate statement emailed to Press TV that the decision was made by the E-U Council. The channels include Press TV, Al-Alam, Jaam-e-Jam One and Two, Sahar One and Two, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Qur'an TV, and al-Kawthar. European satellite firms had been jamming the Iranian channels for months before the decision was announced. Iran's Arabic-language news channel, Al- Alam, has been jammed on a daily basis while airing a program on Bahrain. Technical experts say the jamming was carried out by British technicians. Observers are saying the jammings and now the ban show the European Union does not respect freedom of speech and is trying to silence the voice of alternative media.”

So when jamming is not enough by countries who are the first to yell the loudest when their signals are blocked, they resort to outright suppression by, in effect, using their power over the “switch” to turn it off, and not let their own people see it.

Thinking about this affront to many sided global communications, one is reminded of the war Adrian Mitchell first wrote about. In those days, it was Radio Hanoi that was blocked.

When I was in Vietnam, in 1974, I interviewed a radio broadcaster there who was constantly being denounced for calling on American soldiers to resist the war—perhaps because so many did. She was ridiculed as “Hanoi Hannah.”

She, in turn, interviewed me. American spy satellites monitored the broadcast which was about cultural issues. I was later summoned into the American Embassy in what was then Saigon and roundly denounced for talking to the “enemy.”

Years later, it was the American government that was talking to the enemy and suing for peace. The Nobel Peace Prize people then gave their treasured token to US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and Vietnam’s negotiator in chief, Le Duc Tho for their role in the Paris Peace Talk.

Le Duc Tho was outraged at this attempt at “balance” between the victim and the victimizer and turned the award down! He stood by his truths. (I met him too!)

Today the US and Vietnam are uneasy allies and trading partners.

Banning PressTv is an act of war against ideas, a misplaced maneuver that will not resolve any conflicts, will not promote peace or lead to more respect for Western ideas of “free speech and press.”

Quite the contrary, it will foster more polarization and tension and charges of hypocrisy. It is also happening on the eve of new talks between Iran and other nations, no doubt to punish Iran further.

The question is: will journalists in the West join me in denouncing this latest “sanction” against values that the West says it upholds. In its Article 19, the Declaration of Human Rights upholds the right to receive and impart information. This black out may violate other laws and agreements as well.

The is also the week that Ben Affleck’s hostage thriller Argo opened in movie theaters across America. While the movie does criticize the Shah’s brutality, and the overthrow of the nationalist Mosadegh government by the US and Britain, it also glamorizes the role the CIA played in freeing six hostages who fled the US embassy and sought refugee in the Canadian Ambassador’s home.

The movie is about an off the wall plot to make an imaginary science fiction epic in Iran as a pretense for the escape. It’s very entertaining in putting down Hollywood more than imperialism, but, at the same time, reinforces every stereotype about brutal and robotic Iranian revolutionaries that still mobilize support for US intervention today.

The CIA must love it, just as it wants us to dismiss the allegations of CIA spying in Iran in those years. I visited the former US Embassy in Tehran and can confirm it was an espionage center supporting the despotic Shah. The Iranians didn’t hate Americans for who we are, but for what our government did. You won’t find that story in any detail in Argo.

Lets’ give the last word to the late Adrian Mitchell whose passion was to wake us all up.

“Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down by the Cenotaph, drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter

Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam”

And, then, may we add, ‘Tell Me Lies About Iran and ourselves?’

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at His latest books are Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street and Blogothan. He hosts a show on Progressive Radio Network (, Comments to

Cause and Cure Unite in Enbridge Cancer Ride

Oil, Cancer and Bicycles: Enbridge Ride Sparks Emotional Debate

by Damien Gillis - The

It's October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month - which means, the fundraising drive for the annual "Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer" is revving up.

I first raised my concerns about this event in several articles last year, questioning the ethics of the alliance between the fundraising arm of the province's BC Cancer Agency - a.k.a. the BC Cancer Foundation - and controversial oil and gas pipeline titan Enbridge.

Reading the comments on my stories, I gained a new appreciation for how sensitive the topic of cancer philanthropy is. Critiques ranged from hypocrisy for using petrochemical products myself to the fact that Enbridge, being only a pipeline company, doesn't actually make oil products, to the following heartfelt comment from someone identifying herself as Anne:

...till you have sat at the bedside of a loved one and seen them die you have no clue as to my heartache, and by tarnishing the Ride you are possibly prolonging finding a cure.

While I believe we need to be able to engage in a rational, principled debate about this event, I appreciate Anne's point, to whatever degree I can, given I have not walked in her shoes. Since last year's event I've had time to reflect further on the issue and even come up with some positive alternatives.

On that note, I offer to Anne and others who wish to keep raising funds for caner through a cycling event, an alternative to the Enbridge Ride. The "Ride2Survive" is described on the organization's website as "a one-day cycling event from Kelowna to Delta BC to raise funds for cancer research through as an Independent Fundraising Event for the Canadian Cancer Society." The organization also boasts that 100% of the funds raised from the ride go directly to cancer research, something few cancer research initiatives can claim.

Back to the "Enbridge Ride" - a two-day trek from BC to Washington State - which is ramping up toward its fifth year next summer. The event in BC is joined by similar ones in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Enbridge, which began as the BC event sponsor, became the national sponsor for all four events in 2010. The proceeds from the BC fundraiser go to the BC Cancer Foundation, which is the fundraising arm of the BC Cancer Agency, a department of Ministry of Health. In my first story on the subject, I pointed to the confusion caused by the event's brand - its graphics and signage are all in the colours of the better known and highly respected Canadian Cancer Society, which has nothing to do with this event.

A commenter on my story who identified himself as Steve Merker, wrote, "As someone intimately involved in developing the Ride to Conquer Cancer concept and branding, i can assure you in no way did we ever try to confuse the public. Yellow and cycling and cancer have strong associations via Lance Armstrong / Tour de France. The blue is similar to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre's blue."

If the yellow is for Lance Armstrong, they may want to change colours right about now.

In any event, I do believe it's important for donors to be clear on where their money's going.

The real issue here, though, is the matter of allowing Enbridge to greenwash its sullied image in the midst of a highly contentious battle over a proposed pipeline through BC, and the hypocrisy of a Cancer-fighting organization taking money from a company who deals in products that cause cancer. (More on that in a moment).

The website for the ride boasts the following: "...2879 participants across British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest raised $11.1 million in the third annual Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. Since its inception in 2009, the Ride has raised $27.2 million, making it the most successful cancer-related fundraising event in B.C. history."

Yet amidst all this success, the Cancer Foundation clearly grew concerned when I started asking questions and writing critically about the event. My columns provoked significant interest and lively debate online and the first of these prompted the BC Cancer Foundation to develop an internal PR strategy to better defend the program to the press and public, largely based on my initial questions to them. The document was leaked to reporter Stephen Hui of the Georgia Straight. I detailed the key questions and canned answers in a subsequent story.

One of my biggest beefs with the ride remains the connection between cancer and petroleum products - for which Enbridge is a central conduit throughout North America.

I asked BC Cancer Foundation representative Alison Colina, "Is it hypocritical for your organization to accept sponsorship from a company who deals in a known cancer-causing product?"

Her reply: "With regards to petroleum products causing cancer, we turn to the research and clinical experts at the BC Cancer Agency to determine what are cancer-causing substances...According to the World Health Organization, there is no conclusive research at this time that indicates that petroleum products cause cancer."

That's gross distortion at best. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer - the WHO subsidiary group that produces the list of known and probable human carcinogens Ms. Colina referred to - "'Petroleum refining (workplace exposures in)' is a probable carcinogen." Moreover, Benzene, a byproduct of petroleum, is listed as a known carcinogen (that's pretty conclusive to me). 

I also contacted Dr. Karen Bartlett of the UBC School of Environmental Health at the time, posing to her the same question: "To what extent can petroleum products be considered carcinogenic?" Here's what she told me by phone:

There are two major petroleum products that we know are associated with carcinogenicity. One is in the distillation process of petroleum products, which produces Benzene. Benezene is carcinogenic. The other is in the combustion of diesel. Diesel particulate is carcinogenic.

A commenter on my story, Rob Baxter, added that, according to the American Lung Association, "Air pollution contributes to ... lung cancer....In 1996, transportation sources were responsible for 47% of pollutant emissions." Also according to the same organization, "The production of particulate matter (PM) less than 10_m is associated particularly with the combustion of carbon-based and sulphur-based chemicals such as gasoline and diesel. Exposure has been linked with... serious health effects including cancer."

Ms. Colina and her organization are misleading the public when they say, "According to the World Health Organization, there is no conclusive research at this time that indicates that petroleum products cause cancer." All that's left is the defense raised by some that Enbridge doesn't make or burn the oil products, so they're okay. I think that's nonsensical, but I should also note that Enbridge recently bought a controlling stake in what will soon be the largest and most carbon-emitting natural gas plant in North America, the Cabin Gas Plant in northeast BC.

They also continue to wreak ecological devastation with oil spills across the continent.

The fact that Enbridge is in no way suitable to be the title sponsor of a cancer research fundraiser should be as plain as day to anyone, especially the BC Cancer Foundation.

The other big issue I have with this event is the way it enables a highly controversial company which is aggressively targeting environmental groups and First Nations as we speak for opposing their highly unpopular proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to BC's coast.

If the Ride in any way helps Enbridge burnish its reputation in order to advance this pipeline and oil tankers on our coast, then I have a problem with that. And make no mistake, corporate social responsibility pledges aside, no corporation, including Enbridge, spends one dollar sheerly out of goodwill.  Enbridge is sponsoring this event for business reasons and none other.

Moreover, I particularly have a problem with the connection between this event and the provincial government, which is the recipient of these research funds.

It is this point which resonated for readers when I first wrote about the issue.

Noelle wrote: "I too am a cancer survivor and have participated in the ride for the last two years. I also had signed up for the 2011 ride before Enbridge came on board and was appalled when I discovered this."

This from one Sonya McCarthy: "I have watched Enbridge's tactics and seen the undermining of local communities the right to say "no" whith the possible environmental damage by crossing hundreds of Salmon bearing rivers and streams. Where a spill from the increase tankers could cause an ecological disaster and there is no plan to clean up the mess."

And a David Munro had this to say: "Given that my father died of cancer, it's natural that I would want to support an event such as this. On the other hand, his particular cancer was hairy cell leukaemia, caused by long-term exposure to petroleum products."

The Enbridge Ride controversy falls within a larger conversation that is only just beginning, catalyzed by films like Pink Ribbons, Inc. and books like Selling Sickness by Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels, which contend that cancer treatment has become an industry driven by drug companies, while prevention takes a back seat because it's less profitable. They also raise questions about the bureaucratic waste of large cancer charities and more and more funds being diverted to overhead and salaries.

This conversation - also covered by Miranda Holmes in these pages recently - is long overdue, and yet, I now understand why it has been so slow and difficult to foment.

I suggest we can no longer muzzle debate about cancer research and prevention with taboos designed to protect the status quo. The discussion must certainly be imbued with compassion and sensitivity to the pain of losing a loved one to this disease. But we need to be able to ask questions about the ethics of any fundraising initiative and debate the merits of different approaches to taking on cancer. Prevention, through healthy lifestyles and the restriction of environmental toxins, must play a far more prominent role in this discussion.

Moreover, Enbridge, a company whose products cause cancer, should not be able to shroud itself in a bullet-proof PR shield by linking itself with cancer research. This is a company that does not have the support of the public or First Nations in BC and threatens to destroy the things we hold dear - our rivers, salmon, coastline, communities, cultures and ways of life. As I write this, thousands of citizens are preparing to gather in our capital in one of the largest environmental demonstrations on record, to speak out against oil on BC's coast.

The heavy-handed tactics of Enbridge and its supporters in the Harper Government have rubbed British Columbians and First Nations the wrong way for a long time now and Enbridge should not be getting any help from cancer philanthropies to repair its image.

To those who wish to ride for cancer - and I applaud them for their heartfelt commitment and sincere efforts for a noble cause - I suggest the alternative of the Ride2Survive.

To the BC Cancer Foundation, I suggest you can do better than Enbridge.

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon.