Thursday, November 10, 2011

Capitalism vs. the Climate

I have been astounded by the growth and strength of a movement that started just four days after my last blog entry: #Occupy Wall Street. In the future, I hope to write more about their representation near my city of residence, Occupy Los Angeles. But at this time I want to post an article that I believe best illustrates the revolutionary potential that this movement holds for, believe it or not, the future of civilization.

This is a long piece, but it's one of the most well written and most important that I've read in a long time. I've always loved her research and writing ever since I read The Shock Doctrine, one of my top ten favorite political books. But here I really became impressed with her wide-ranging vision of how the present and future is shaping up. I hope you read the whole piece, but these paragraphs in particular stood out for me:

Capitalism vs. the Climate
Naomi Klein
November 9, 2011

The fact that the earth’s atmosphere cannot safely absorb the amount of carbon we are pumping into it is a symptom of a much larger crisis, one born of the central fiction on which our economic model is based: that nature is limitless, that we will always be able to find more of what we need, and that if something runs out it can be seamlessly replaced by another resource that we can endlessly extract. But it is not just the atmosphere that we have exploited beyond its capacity to recover—we are doing the same to the oceans, to freshwater, to topsoil and to biodiversity. The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal—and acutely sensitive to natural limits, including the limits of human intelligence.


In addition to reversing the thirty-year privatization trend, a serious response to the climate threat involves recovering an art that has been relentlessly vilified during these decades of market fundamentalism: planning. Lots and lots of planning. And not just at the national and international levels. Every community in the world needs a plan for how it is going to transition away from fossil fuels, what the Transition Town movement calls an “energy descent action plan.” In the cities and towns that have taken this responsibility seriously, the process has opened rare spaces for participatory democracy, with neighbors packing consultation meetings at city halls to share ideas about how to reorganize their communities to lower emissions and build in resilience for tough times ahead.


But here is where things get complicated. There is a growing body of economic research on the conflict between economic growth and sound climate policy, led by ecological economist Herman Daly at the University of Maryland, as well as Peter Victor at York University, Tim Jackson of the University of Surrey and environmental law and policy expert Gus Speth. All raise serious questions about the feasibility of industrialized countries meeting the deep emissions cuts demanded by science (at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050) while continuing to grow their economies at even today’s sluggish rates. As Victor and Jackson argue, greater efficiencies simply cannot keep up with the pace of growth, in part because greater efficiency is almost always accompanied by more consumption, reducing or even canceling out the gains (often called the “Jevons Paradox”). And so long as the savings resulting from greater energy and material efficiencies are simply plowed back into further exponential expansion of the economy, reduction in total emissions will be thwarted. As Jackson argues in Prosperity Without Growth, “Those who promote decoupling as an escape route from the dilemma of growth need to take a closer look at the historical evidence—and at the basic arithmetic of growth.”


We know the answers already. The corporate quest for scarce resources will become more rapacious, more violent. Arable land in Africa will continue to be grabbed to provide food and fuel to wealthier nations. Drought and famine will continue to be used as a pretext to push genetically modified seeds, driving farmers further into debt. We will attempt to transcend peak oil and gas by using increasingly risky technologies to extract the last drops, turning ever larger swaths of our globe into sacrifice zones. We will fortress our borders and intervene in foreign conflicts over resources, or start those conflicts ourselves. “Free-market climate solutions,” as they are called, will be a magnet for speculation, fraud and crony capitalism, as we are already seeing with carbon trading and the use of forests as carbon offsets. And as climate change begins to affect not just the poor but the wealthy as well, we will increasingly look for techno-fixes to turn down the temperature, with massive and unknowable risks.

more...(all emphasis added)

What I found most exhilarating about this article is that it is far from a "doom and gloom" piece. Klein does a wonderful job exploring the positive possibilities of a future with a "new civilizational paradigm" and rightly credits Occupy Wall Street with leading the way as a commendable example.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years Later, We Still Have Trouble With "Truth"

It's been a while since I've posted here. Several months, in fact, have elapsed since posting anything overtly political. Leave it to September 11 to change that.

No, it's not the solemn remembrances of what we've learned over the last 10 years that have been flooding mainstream media. Rather it's what we haven't learned, what we refuse to examine and comprehend, what we sweep under the rug or stick our fingers in our ears and shout, "La-la-la, can't hear you, can't HEAR YOU!" That inconvenient thing that in spite of a Congressional probe and an "independent" commission investigation, keeps seeping through like the blood on Lady Macbeth's hands that isn't there, but is all too real. You know, the truth!

I wrote about this general subject a year ago today. Little did I imagine one year later, more specific connections between 9/11 and the group I consider to be the genesis for that horrific homicide, BCCI, would come to light:

Posted on Wednesday, 09.07.11

Link to 9/11 hijackers found in
Special to The Miami Herald

FBI found
ties between hijackers and Saudis in Sarasota but never revealed the

By Anthony Summers and Dan
Special to The Miami Herald
Just two weeks before the 9/11
hijackers slammed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center, members of a Saudi
family abruptly vacated their luxury home near Sarasota, leaving a brand new car
in the driveway, a refrigerator full of food, fruit on the counter — and an open
safe in a master bedroom.

In the weeks to follow, law enforcement agents not only discovered the
home was visited by vehicles used by the hijackers, but phone calls were linked
between the home and those who carried out the death flights — including leader
Mohamed Atta — in discoveries never before revealed to the public.

Ten years after the deadliest attack of terrorism on U.S. soil, new
information has emerged that shows the FBI found troubling ties between the
hijackers and residents in the upscale community in southwest Florida, but the
investigation wasn’t reported to Congress or mentioned in the 9/11 Commission

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who co-chaired the
congressional Joint Inquiry into the attacks, said he should have been told
about the findings, saying it “opens the door to a new chapter of investigation
as to the depth of the Saudi role in 9/11. ... No information relative to the
named people in Sarasota was disclosed.”

Read more:

Fantastic revelations! Just four days before the 10th anniversary, you would think something this shocking would have been headline news. Not that I thought it would when I read it. After 10 years of seeing anything that questions the "official story" get squeezed down the memory hole, it didn't surprise me that I only found out about this report from alternative media sources. What surprised me was that I found out about this in the General Discussion forum at Democratic Underground. Usually a story like this would get banished to their 9/11 forum, known affectionately or unaffectionately as "the dungeon".

Two days later, Mark G. Levey, who posts on Democratic Underground as leveymg, followed up this story with his own research confirming the connection between Ghazzawi and BCCI:

leveymg (1000+ posts)
Fri Sep-09-11 07:55 PM
Original message
Florida al-Qaeda fugitive Esam Ghazzawi linked to BCCI and two dead Saudi Princes

This follows up my posting yesterday, which examined the Miami Herald report Wednesday that the FBI had covered up the escape of a Saudi financier living in Florida who had hosted Mohamed Atta at his Sarasota villa in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks. See,

Esam Ghazzawi, his daughter, Anoud, and her husband, Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii suddenly disappeared on August 30, 2001, leaving behind a million dollar, fully furnished Sarasota home, several automobiles, and their personal belongings. For ten years, the FBI withheld information from Congressional investigators and the public that Ghazzami has been visited by Atta and another hijacker, and phone records showed numerous calls to other figures involved in the 9/11 attack. Read more:

Ghazzawi linked to BCCI and two dead Saudi Princes

Background checking since yesterday’s news account reveals evidence that Ghazzawi, who was on US government watch-lists along with his daughter and son-in-law, has a long history of association with Saudi financiers linked to terrorism and major global bank frauds in the 1980s and 1990s. He now lives openly in Jeddah and owns the posh Orient Restaurant in Khobar, KSA. Most intriguingly, he is mentioned in a 1997 London court document as having held funds for Prince Fahd bin Salman, a member of the Saudi Royal family who died suddenly at the age of 46 on July 24, 2001.

Prince Fahd's father Salman is the governor of Riyadh and brother of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. The eldest of four brothers, and born in 1955, Prince Fahd acted as deputy governor of Riyadh's Eastern Region during the Gulf War of 1991. Little has ever been written about the death of Fahd, but his involvement with BCCI was noted several years earlier in connection with a law suit in London. Reprinted at:


Private Eye reports: "Prince Fahd bin Salman, eldest son of ... Prince
Salman, the governor of Riyadh ... a court case brought by the BCCI liquidators
over the little matter of $397,000 owed to the rogue bank. Since 1994 the
liquidators had been seeking repayment of this money under a guarantee given by
the prince for the overdraft of an offshore company, Colchest Corporation N.V.
In an unusual response, Prince Fahd sought to offset against this debt money
held at another BCCI branch in the name of one Esam Ghazzawi, claiming that this
was his money. The court of appeal rejected this suggestion on the basis that it
was unclear who owned what in the Ghazzawi accounts."

Prince Fahd’s death five weeks before Ghazzami suddenly fled his Sarasota home, barely 6 weeks before 9/11 might not in itself be more than coincidence. However, the unfolding story takes a particularly sinister turn when one realizes that Faud’s older brother, Prince Ahmed bin Salman died almost exactly a year later (November 17, 1958 – July 22, 2002), and his death has been labeled the first of a series of post-9/11 U.S. targeted killings of prominent figures identified as having had leading roles in the attacks.

In his 2003 book Why America Slept, author Gerald Posner writes that Prince Ahmed bin Salman had had ties to al-Qaeda and had advance knowledge of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. When 9/11 figure Abu Zubaydeh was captured, Posner claims that he revealed to American interrogators the identity of a number of top al-Qaeda backers, including Prince Ahmed, and the head of the Pakistani Air Force, who died with his family and closest aides in a February 2003 mid-air transport plane explosion.

To the timeline of events leading up to 9/11, including the 08/30/2001 flight of Ghazzawi and his family, we must now add the death five weeks earlier of Prince Faud and the death almost a year to the day of his older brother, Prince Ahmed. Their father is a co-director of the Saudi intelligence service along with Prince Turki bin Faisal, who suddenly resigned his 25 year commission as the Director of the Saudi General Intelligence agency and departed his long-time post in Washington suddenly on September 4, 2001. That is another important date that should put on anyone’s 9/11 timeline.

It is now past time for the redacted material in the 9/11 Report about Saudi al-Qaeda finance to be released, and the case reopened to examine new evidence.

It was exciting to see the headline for this follow up post. I immediately recommended and bookmarked it to read later. When I tried to read it later so I could comment and contribute to the discussion, I found the DU moderators had once again returned to form and banished this thread to the dungeon. Apparently even in the alternative media universe, it still isn't good form to broadly display any questioning of the 9/11 official story beyond a cursory nod.

What would Bill Hicks say if he were still alive? Oh yeah, "Go back to bed, America!"Link

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Impressions of Life

Watching Terrence Malick's new film The Tree of Life was one of the most unique movie-going experiences I have had. I concur with Roger Ebert's comparison with 2001: A Space Odyssey, though the similarity can really only be drawn to the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite sequence of Kubrick's masterpiece. There is a floating elliptical quality to the style of that last half-hour in 2001 that runs throughout the entirety of Tree of Life. This style allows Malick to dispense with conventional narrative plot and tell the story in a manner that is best described as Impressionistic. I've seen a lot of filmmakers employ surrealism to tell a story, but this is the first example of an American Impressionist film that I've seen.

The movie begins with scenes showing the reactions of a mother, Mrs. O'Brien (Jessica Chastain) reading a telegram and a father, Mr. O'Brien (Brad Pitt) trying to listen to a co-worker over the roar of airplanes taking off. As an audience, we do not get to see or hear exactly what they are reacting to. While there is a smooth fluidity to Emmanuel Lubezki's artful cinematography, Malick doesn't seem to linger longer than a minute. The result is that film has a mosaic quality where every shot adds up to tell the larger story while letting the viewer fill in the narrative gaps with their own impressions. I got the impression that their child had been killed. Through the fantastic period detail from Jack Fisk's production design, I got the impression that he may have been killed in Vietnam. I might be wrong, but I think Malick's intent is that these minute details are inconsequential in the grand scheme of life. What does matter within the focus of the film is the grief and longing of those who loved this person and how his passing leads them to ponder the deeper philosophical questions regarding just what this life we possess is really about.

It is right about the time these questions pop up that the movie visually departs from the scenes of the O'Brien family in mid 20th century, their son Jack (Sean Penn) reflecting on his life several decades later, and is literally absorbed by the cosmos. We enter into an illustration of life in its most elemental and explosive beginnings, zigzagging from supernovas and volcanoes to the tiniest zygote. The visual tapestry not only traverses space but also time. When we come back to Earth, we recognize a lush landscape of oceans, mountains and, of course, trees, but instead of human activity, the dominant animal is the dinosaur. The dinosaur was the top of the food chain in their time, just as humans are in our time. What caused this paradigm shift? It is to Malick's credit that we get to visually witness the demise of the dinosaur. It is a scene that is short and simple, yet spectacular and shocking. Ultimately, the most profound effect it had on me is how humbling it was, how small humanity is in the vastness of the universe.

We return to the O'Brien family, it is in their hometown of Waco, Texas in the 1950's where Jack is now a young boy (Hunter McCracken, brilliant debut). Through his eyes, we see life unfold through joyful play in the backyard to stoic respect in the church. It's no surprise that in a movie that explores the deeper philosophical questions of the human condition that there is a spiritual dimension involved. It seems to lurk in between what Mrs. O'Brien observes about the balance between nature and grace that humanity rests on. Within her character, we see that spiritual balance through a love for animals (nature), in her admonishment of Jack for abusing one, and her capacity for forgiveness (grace), as she accepts Jack's request not to tell his father of his transgression. Mr. O'Brien is a stern disciplinarian, but not an unfeeling one. We see the roots of his struggle as he strives vainly to climb the ladder at his job when the only peace he seems to get is when at the end of the day or on the weekend, he can play the piano. There is a beautiful, heartbreaking subtlety to Brad Pitt's performance that captures the quiet desperation of a suburban dad who views his life in terms of failure. All he ever wanted to be was a musician but, in his own words or warning to his son, he got "sidetracked". He doesn't want his boys to repeat his mistake in their lives, so he tries constantly to keep them tough and wary of a world he sees as just wanting to tear you down if you're weak.

Throughout the movie, Malick employs the voiceover as a means of advancing the story, but in a very unique way. Often, we hear brief whispers, sometimes providing emotional insight into what we visually see, sometimes expressing questions about events we have yet to witness. This is one of the reasons why, as much as I loved and was overwhelmed by this movie, I would love to see it again. Sometimes the whispers were too soft and brief and I missed what was trying to be conveyed. But the emotional journey of this film is so layered that I think what I missed in words was conveyed in images. The spiritual dimension hinted at in earlier scenes is brought to the forefront as the movie reaches a conclusion. A good filmmaker might attempt to answer the big philosophical questions but a great filmmaker, which I think Malick is, allows the viewer to find their own answers. I walked out of the theater filled with a wonder of the universe, a love for humanity, and an intense desire to go home and give my wife a hug. As I opened the door to my house, the intensity built as I walked up the stairs toward our bedroom, only to dissipate as I entered the bedroom and found my wife lying on the floor dead.

I'm just kidding. Actually, it was my wife who was kidding, playing a practical joke on me. We shared a silly laugh, but it made me realize that's one emotional area Malick doesn't really explore: humor. As serious as life and death issues are, I think humanity would collapse under the weight of that seriousness if it wasn't for our capacity to mock ourselves and laugh at the absurdity of life. It's a minor quibble in the context of a profound film, but an important one in the context of a profound existence.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Art of Dying

There'll come a time when all of us must leave here
Then nothing sister Mary can do

Will keep me here with you

As nothing in this life that I've been trying

Could equal or surpass the art of dying

Do you believe me?

-George Harrison "Art of Dying"

Sometimes blogging must take a back seat to real life. That's what happened this April. My father passed away a month ago, on April 12. He fought a valiant three year battle against colon cancer, but recently it spread to his liver. As horrific and tragic as the grieving process has been, I do take comfort in the fact that my three sisters and I got to say goodbye to him. We were able to take him home from the hospital so that, in accordance with his wishes, he was able to spend his last days in the home that he loved surrounded by all his children and his beloved Abyssinian cat, Sophinka.

In the past eight years, Dad and I built a deep friendship together. While we didn't seem to agree over anything politically (I described him to friends as "My Right-Wing Dad"), we bonded over a shared love of many other interests. Both of us loved the Los Angeles Lakers, and I will always treasure the memory of sharing with him the earth-shattering thrill of watching Derek Fisher's buzzer-beating playoff shot against the Spurs with 0.4 seconds on the clock, as well as the final game we watched together, Game 7 beating the Celtics for the NBA Championship in 2010. With his inspiration, I acquired an abiding love for Belgian beer, culminating in a 2004 trip to Bruges where we shared a Leffe Bruin and a Delirium Nocturnum at the Herberg Vlissinghe. (A cafe I plan on visiting again in 2015 when they celebrate their 500th anniversary)

We also enjoyed wine tasting and spent many Sideways trips in the Santa Ynez Valley. During those trips, we would drive from winery to winery, usually with the accompaniment of another shared love: 60's music. Regardless of whether we preferred the syrah or the pinot, we were constantly flying high to the sounds of the Beatles, Chambers Brothers, Charlatans, or the Doors. For those who knew my father as the reverent, conservative, Orthodox Christian deacon, this might be a strange image to process. But one of my funniest memories is watching Dad laugh while listening to Jim Morrison toy with his fans. After waxing rhapsodic about his particular astrological sign, he bellows, "Well I don't believe any of that. I think it's a bunch of bullshit. But I tell you this: I'm gonna get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames".

Perhaps that was my Dad's secret philosophy during retirement. Despite our political differences, there was one issue in which we were in complete agreement: Peak Oil. We both agreed that because of the way our economy is structured, there is an expiration date to the Happy-Motoring-Continental-Jet-Set-Society we are currently consuming and consumed by. We may have reached our conclusions through different people, Dad through Matthew Simmons and David Goodstein, me through Michael Ruppert and Richard Heinberg, but we both understood the ultimate destination. But I think my father knew intuitively that he would not experience the ultimate destination. So he got his kicks before the whole shithouse went up in flames. How did he accomplish this? During the final weekend we shared together, my older sister asked him, "How many countries did you visit in your life? Fifty three?!" He corrected her gently, "Fifty five".

While the experience of the preparation, immediacy and aftermath of my father's death has pushed politics to the background of my life and brought philosophical and spiritual matters to the forefront, finding out about the death of Osama bin Laden was still a jarring event. Of course, people I work with wanted to know the day after if I thought there was some sort of conspiracy involved with the event. Honestly, I had not given it much thought. I'm sure once the "fog of war" lifts, it will be easier to separate fact from fiction. At this point, from what I know, I sincerely doubt this was the way he wanted to go. As I indicated in a previous blog entry, I don't pretend to know enough about the spiritual realm to define it in any tangible sense. But I find it hard to believe that my Dad and Osama bin Laden are sharing the same spiritual mansion. That's not a moral judgment on my part, it's a consideration from the perspective of the life you live determining the spiritual space you inhabit. I don't see them having enough in common to share that space.

Then again, that sort of assumption undermines one of my most basic spiritual credos: Anyone who claims they comprehend the metaphysical realm is wrong, including myself! It's quite possible my father has some very valuable life lessons to teach Osama bin Laden about the art of dying before he can transition from one mansion to the next.

Perhaps Jim Morrison and George Harrison are teaching in the same room!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fair Game

There is the movie I wished Fair Game would be and there is the movie I feared Fair Game would be. My wish for Fair Game was an epic indictment of the corrupt neo-con juggernaut within the Bush administration using the outing of CIA NOC operative Valerie Plame as a starting point for documenting what co-pResident Dick Cheney actually presided over: a criminal enterprise. Since this is exactly what I had spent years documenting in the first and second editions of American Judas, my hope was that this movie would incorporate the same scope as my papers. I envisioned at least a three hour running time, the kind of political movie Oliver Stone used to make like JFK and Nixon. My fear was that Fair Game would be completely devoid of any political focus or foreign intrigue. I was worried that the movie would solely focus on the relationship between Valerie Plame and her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Any controversial element of their stories that coincided with neo-con criminality would be either brused aside or minimized as an unfortunate accident that upset their happy family life.

The actual movie Fair Game, as directed by Doug Liman of Bourne Identity fame, is neither of those films. While the scope is not as ambitious as I envisioned, it does not shy away from politics or foreign intrigue. In fact, I believe it is because there is such a heavy plot focus on the political events and machinations swirling around Plame and Wilson that when problems develop between them concerning their marriage and the focus of the movie switches to their relationship, it made me care more about them as human individuals screwed over by a Machiavellian government. Plus, the political focus within the plot does not reduce the movie to an academic exercise in history. This is a suspenseful movie with a tight script that knows exactly where it's taking its audience and Liman knows how to make it an exciting journey.

A good example of this excitement is in one of the first scenes in the movie. Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) is undercover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as a Canadian venture capitalist hoping to make a sales pitch on behalf of her company to a successful Malaysian executive. Her attempt appears to be thwarted by a twenty-something cousin of the executive, who claims he is authorized to hear her pitch on his behalf. She is able to arrange another meeting with him in a more private setting. As he sits in the dark in her car parked on a hill overlooking the city wondering who this attractive blond is, the young man is startled to observe that they are being followed. When he makes a motion to split, Plame grabs him by the arm and tells him that if he runs she can no longer protect him. Then she reveals her true intention: to use him as an asset for obtaining intelligence on the man his uncle is working for - black market nuclear technology proliferator A.Q. Khan. For anyone who has read American Judas, this man and his "Nuclear Walmart" needs no introduction.

But as much as I would have enjoyed American Judas: The Movie, I can understand why after introducing this set-up, Liman moved these characters into the background of Plame's CIA clandestine work to tighten the scope. Most people simply aren't aware of the details surrounding the outing and ultimate destruction of Valerie Plame's CIA cover company Brewster, Jennings and Associates. Sure, many right-wingers howl over their perception of these details, harping over the fact that Dick Armitage was the initial leaker and try to portray this as an innocent mistake chalked up to "gossip". But if the movie had incorporated the revelations in Sibel Edmonds' 2009 sworn deposition regarding how Armitage and Marc Grossman at the State Department leaked the identity of Plame's cover company to the target of an FBI investigation back in the summer of 2001 to counter this argument, the focus would shift from domestic repression against the backdrop of war abroad to the international criminality that made the war possible.

So Liman does a nice balancing act of keeping Valerie Plame the focal point of the story while keeping political events and international intrigue in the background. From the CIA conference rooms in Langley, Virginia in 2002 where pressure from the Office of the Vice President over a report from Niger indicating the sale of uranium to Iraq that the CIA had previously debunked as a forgery necessitates further investigation, Plame is asked if she can refer this assignment to her husband Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn), since he was previously an Ambassador to Niger. Wilson accepts and comes back from Niger with news the CIA already knew and Cheney doesn't want to hear: there was no Iraqi purchase of Nigerian uranium. Cheney never appears except in news footage, but Lewis "Scooter" Libby is his point guard constantly driving his agenda to the basket by any means necessary, and David Andrews does an excellent job conveying his relentless drive. When Wilson sees his work disregarded as George W. Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address uses the Niger Forgeries as part of a justification for preemptive war in Iraq, he writes an editorial for the New York Times calling the administration out on their falsehood.

The administration responds by virtually declaring war on Joseph Wilson. Though his wife's CIA identity is supposed to be protected, in the war to protect their phony rationale for regime change in Iraq, the Bush administration makes Valerie Plame, in the words of Karl Rove, "fair game". The attack is relentless in the media, with talking heads from FOX and other outlets partial to Bush propaganda leading an assault of insults and false accusations questioning their loyalty and patriotism. The movie does an excellent job of illustrating how this wears the couple down and threatens them. Watts and Penn both traverse this emotional cauldron brilliantly, allowing the audience to feel their frustrations while rooting for them to fight back.

Since the DVD was just released this Tuesday, I'll be curious to see what kind of extra features might be available, both for entertainment and factual purposes. But even without extras, I recommend everyone see this movie.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Nation Marches On, Sans Ruppert

One of the first things I did the morning after returning the rental car from a vacation I took last week visiting relatives whose access to the internet is limited was to click on the Peak Oil and a Changing Climate” link that I've been promoting heavily on this blog. I had been anticipating the announced release of the Mike Ruppert interview for March 16 and I was anxious to see it. What a shock to see that the space for March 16 was now completely blank, without explanation. Several readers commented on this conspicuous absence, wondering why. I was concerned that perhaps Ruppert declined to give the interview because of The Nation's association with David Corn, who wrote a malicious hit piece on Ruppert in 2002. But then why would Ruppert agree to do the interview in the first place? Then I thought perhaps the whole series had been put on hold, but this week The Nation released a new interview:

Lester Brown: The Planet's Scarcest Resource Is Time

In this eleventh video in the series “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate” from The Nation and On The Earth Productions, analyst, author and founder of the Earth Policy Institute Lester Brown discusses how unprepared the world really is for the growing effects of climate change. "Economists doing supply and demand projections are largely unaware" of the scale of the resource crises facing the world, Brown says, and "food is going to be the weak link for our civilization as it was for so many earlier civilizations."
Most importantly, Brown emphasizes, is that we find a way to stabilize the Earth's population, climate and aquifers, which help provide water to many people in the world. "Many resources are becoming scarce but none more scarce than time," Brown says, and confronting peak oil and climate change demands immediate action. Already, eighteen countries are overpumping their aquifers, and few realize that in the event of a crisis, the US food supply would run out in three days.
"We need a mobilization at wartime speed on a wartime scale. Just fine-tuning this situation is not going to do it," Brown says.

So the series continues, but what happened to the Ruppert interview. I searched the internet and finally found the answer at the Energy Bulletin:

A world in trouble (Michael Ruppert interview)Video

by Karen Rybold-Chin


Mike talks to the average citizen about where we stand in the energy crisis.


Editorial Notes
This interview was originally intended to be part of the series that has been running on the Nation (Are we running out of oil?). Karen Rybold-Chin, the series's producer, has told us that the Nation has declined to publish this interview.
From EB co-editor Bart Anderson:
Although we at EB are not Rupper-ites, I find him one of the most intriguing personalities on the peak oil scene. He rates much higher on the doomerosity scale than we do, and I have problems with his specific predictions. I think it's much better to look on Ruppert as someone gifted at identifying trends early and painting them in technicolor terms. He's right on when it comes to the importance of community and the sacred.
Mike Ruppert has been at this much longer than most of the rest of us, and has undergone painful experiences as a result. I'm glad he's back from Venezuela and is active again.

So there you have it. Mike Ruppert gave an interview, but The Nation simply declined to publish it, without explanation. It certainly couldn't have been because they felt his interview was too "doomerish" for them. Just compare Ruppert's interview to Brown's interview: both are talking about global catastrophe. Brown's focus on food, oil, water and the environment seems set in the next 5-10 years, Ruppert's focus on food, oil, money and revolution is set right now.

Shame on The Nation for their sin of omission last week. I'm glad they're continuing to publish the series, but I won't continue to promote them. I'll watch future interviews either through Energy Bulletin or through ontheearthproduction's Channel on YouTube. You can agree or disagree with Mike, but to deny him a platform after all the groundbreaking original reporting on Peak Oil he did on From The Wilderness in a series focusing on Peak Oil is an act of unforgivable censorship. I was hopeful that The Nation had buried their differences with Ruppert. I was mistaken.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Big Meetup Last Night!

This was the third and by far the largest turnout for the Los Angeles Peak Oil Meetup Group. Once again, we met at The Cat & Fiddle in Hollywood. When I arrived at 7:05 last night, there were already seven people at an outside table. Within a half hour, I think the number in attendance reached a peak (bad pun unintended) of 16 people! This was probably the first time where instead of one dominant conversation lasting throughout the meetup, multiple conversations around the general topic were cropping up. It was great to see such lively social interaction, but I hope that it wasn't too overwhelming for some. We'll definitely need to find a more accommodating venue in the future, the wait staff seemed as though their patience was being tried over our scooting three tables together to try to squeeze everyone in.

I wish I could have had time to connect with everyone on a personal level. Going over the threads of conversation in my head from last night, I thought I would post some links. Alex, regarding what we were talking about concerning government awareness and planning for Peak Oil, here is the Department of Energy report from Robert Hirsch on the mitigation and expense for Peak Oil. Bahar, I think you had asked about a Peak Oil primer, this is one that I've shared with others. Also, I remember talking about the International Energy Agency admission that global conventional oil production peaked in 2006. Mainstream media did a pretty good job of burying that revelation, it was STORY #4 in my UNDER THE RUG blog post.

For everyone else at the meetup last night, I thought you might enjoy seeing this week's installation of The Nation's ongoing series of interviews with Jean Laherrère:

Jean Laherrère: Why Cheap Energy Is a Bad Thing

In this tenth video in the series “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate” from The Nation and On The Earth Productions, petroleum geophysicist and author Jean Laherrère explains that we are in the current energy crisis not only because fuel is running out, but because it's cost is too cheap. Laherrère, a former TOTAL oil company employee, used his insider knowledge to co-author a game-changing 1998 article, "The End of Cheap Oil," which studied oil depletion based on the most accurate database of the world’s oilfields at the time. The article's findings were not reassuring.
Many European countries have responded to the impending fuel crisis with taxes on energy, driving down consumption with higher prices. But the US hasn't followed their lead, and the consequences may be disastrous for our collective future. “We have been living for the last 10,000 years with open space," Laherrère explains. When you have a problem, ‘go west,’ open space. There is no 'west' to go anymore. We have reached the end of the world limit."
Go here to view last week's video, Thom Hartmann talking about how corporations are fueling our peak oil crisis. Go here to learn more about "Peak Oil and a Changing Climate," and to see the other videos in the series.

Next week, The Nation will be posting an interview with one of the authors who first got me interested in Peak Oil back in 2004, Mike Ruppert. Should be good!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Peak Oil Interviews: Hartmann and Heinberg

There were a couple interviews published this week regarding Peak Oil that I definitely think are worth taking a look at. Today, The Nation continued their ongoing series with an interview of Thom Hartmann:

Thom Hartmann: Corporations Are Fueling Our Peak Oil Crisis

In this ninth video in the series “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate” from The Nation and On The Earth Productions, radio and television host and author of The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight Thom Hartmann talks about ways we can all help combat global warming. Speaking from the grounds of Wisconsin's 2010 Fight Bob Fest, Hartmann insists that Americans need to change the way we live if we are going to save the planet, and the first step has to be getting active in the political process.
He believes the weather's "global weirding" will be the thing most people notice first about our changing climate: tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and vanishing freshwater glaciers are extreme enough that they should eventually force people to adapt and take action.
But for Hartmann, who also wrote Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became People—And How You Can Fight Back, the most critical fact we must face is that "the unholy alliance of corporation and government is every bit as destructive as the alliance of church and state was perceived to be two hundred years ago." We have to to fight back against the corporate capture of government, Hartmann says, because the companies profiting off our addiction to oil are doing everything in their power to keep us on our destructive course.

There was another interview published this week from Lindsay Curren at Transition Voice of Richard Heinberg, the author of The Party's Over, Powerdown, The Oil Depletion Protocol, Blackout and Peak Everything. In the interview, he discusses the subject of his upcoming book due in June or July of 2011, The End of Growth. It's worth reading the whole interview, but here are some highlights:

RH: Sure. Let me just say a few words about the book. The book is making the argument that we have reached the limits to growth.
And the first of those limits has to do with oil. We’ve reached the end of cheap oil.
I mean, whether we’ve actually, technically seen the highest month or year of oil production at this point may still be arguable. Maybe in 2011 or 2012 we will see a month of oil production higher than July 2008, or maybe 2011 as a total year will see higher production than 2005 which is so far the record year for world oil production.
But that’s all kind of academic.The reality is that the cheap oil is gone. And we’re seeing oil prices right now in the range of, well today $90 a barrel (this interview took place 12/21/2010) historically a very high price.
In effect, the oil price has become a limit to economic growth. Because if the economy starts to recover, then that drives oil prices higher. Every time we have high oil prices, really high oil prices, that undercuts economic activity.
If you look back in the last forty years, every time we’ve had an oil price spike we have had a recession immediately following. It happened in 2008. We had the highest oil price spike in history and we had the worst recession starting then since World War II.
Now, was the oil price spike the only cause of the recession? Absolutely not. And I agree with people like Nicole Foss who say that the financial economy was set up for a crash.
The financial system is based on debt and there are limits to debt. And we’re beyond those limits to debt and that’s part of what’s causing the economic crisis.
But at the same time, I would say that the oil price is essentially forming a cap on possible economic recovery at this point. That’s why I’m fairly confident in saying that we have reached the end of growth. And what we’re seeing now is basically the US economy just sort of bouncing along under that ceiling.


Meanwhile, I had a discussion just this afternoon with a very, very high placed environmentalist who was instrumental in the founding of some of the country’s foremost mainstream environmental organizations and has worked in the White House and so on. I asked him, does he see any policy maker in the US who really gets growth and how growth is undermining the environment and how we need to move away from a growth-based economy? And he thought for fifteen, twenty seconds and he said, “No, can’t think of a single one.”


Dumb ideas

LC:Now here's one. We decided to read a chapter from Glenn Beck on peak oil. His take on peak oil lead him to conclude that the direction the United States needed to go was more coal-to-liquid.
What are your thoughts on this direction and what are your thoughts on the probability of policy makers and those in the position to move things going in a dirtier energy direction or going in a cleaner energy direction?
RH: Right, well coal-to-liquids really has no future.
It’s going to be a very expensive way of making liquid fuels. I think the only future it’s likely to have is with the military to produce fuel for tanks and fighter aircraft and so on. But even at that it’s going to be really problematic.
Because, as I pointed out a few weeks ago in an article for Nature co-written with David Fridley of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, our analysis shows that global coal prices are going up. And sharply up. Largely because of consumption patterns in China.
China’s going to be absorbing virtually all of the export coal volumes that are presently available.
Countries like Australia and Indonesia and South Africa are going to really have a tough time mining and exporting enough coal to satisfy the needs of China, much less China and India and all the other countries that want to import coal. So that’s going to drive up coal prices not only for those countries, but also for the US.
Even if you can somehow make the math work for coal-to-liquids with coal at current prices, once you start factoring higher coal prices you’re talking about liquid fuels that are so expensive that economic activity would be highly depressed by liquid fuels at that price point. So again, the only way that works really is for the military which doesn’t have to worry about paying for things.
So, you know I’m sorry that Glenn Beck doesn’t have better sources of information. If he could look into these things a little bit more deeply, I think he’d come to very different conclusions. But they’d be conclusions that I think he would find upsetting to his whole paradigm.
Because you start following out all of the potential solutions to the energy problem, we did in our study at Post Carbon Institute last year, Searching for a Miracle, we looked at 18 different energy sources, analyzed them by 10 criteria and our conclusion was there is no likely mix of alternative energy sources including nuclear and solar and wind and tidal and all the rest that’s likely to make up for fossil fuels as fossil fuels become scarce and expense.
They’ll help, certainly, around the margins, especially if we invest now while we still have some cheap energy.
But the days of abundant cheap energy are effectively over and that means we have to change the way we live. And we have to change the goals that we’re pursuing.
I think people like Glenn Beck imagine that we Americans have economic growth sort of as our birthright and we should all be driving SUVs. And if we don’t it’s because some pointy-headed intellectual in Washington who works for the EPA is writing regulations keeping us from doing so.
That’s simply not true.
The reality is that it’s the market that’s going to keep us from pursuing business as usual. So we have to adjust to that. And helping people adjust to it could be a huge help.
Glenn Beck with his national TV show, regardless of his politics, if he were helping people to understand the situation we’re in, and helping them to adapt, that would be a good thing.


In other news, the Los Angeles Peak Oil Meetup group is alive and well! I'll be attending a Meetup at the Cat & Fiddle on March 9 at 7pm. Hopefully it will be a fun time and I'll give a report on that next week.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why I'm really upset that Watson the supercomputer won $1 million on Jeopardy

Part of my contradictory nature is that when it comes to unwinding at the end of the day with my ass superglued to the sofa, I can't be satisfied with completely mindless entertainment. So a game show like Jeopardy fits the bill nicely. This week, I was excited to see former champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter compete against Watson, a supercomputer from IBM. But it was upsetting to see Watson win the $1 million first prize. Not so much because this is the beginning of computers overtaking humans on the road to complete social servitude, as Ken Jennings astutely observed. Rather, I'm upset at who is actually getting the one million dollars.

IBM Watson Wins Jeopardy, Humans Rally Back

IBM super computer Watson came away victorious during Jeopardy Wednesday, but not before the game show's former champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter rallied a formidable defense. In the end, however, the humans were no match for Watson, which won with a commanding lead of $77,147 after three days of Jeopardy play. Jennings took second place at $24,000 and Rutter was third with $21,600. "I for one welcome our new computer overlords," Jennings jokingly wrote in his answer during Final Jeopardy on Wednesday's broadcast. The three-night Jeopardy challenge was taped in January at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Laboratory in Yorktown Heights, New York.
As victor, Watson takes home a $1 million prize, which IBM plans to donate to World Vision and World Community Grid. Jennings and Rutter will also donate 50 percent of their winnings to separate charities.


A shiver went down my spine when I heard that World Vision would be one of the "charity" organizations receiving the prize. I had to grit my teeth listening to the IBM rep tug on the heartstrings about all the wonderful humanitarian work they do all over the globe, most recently in Haiti. Haiti, where even a dictator from a genocidal family like "Baby Doc" Duvalier can get a chance to come home. Now maybe it's just a coincidence that after World Vision brought their "help" there, Baby Doc came back. But when you take their Deep Political history into account, anything is possible. Look who used to be the President of World Vision:

World Vision International

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World Vision International "is a Christian relief and development organisation working for the well being of all people, especially children. Through emergency relief, education, health care, economic development and promotion of justice, World Vision helps communities help themselves.
"Established in 1950 to care for orphans in Asia, World Vision has grown to embrace the larger issues of community development and advocacy for the poor in its mission to help children and their families build sustainable futures.
"Working on six continents, World Vision is one of the largest Christian relief and development organisations in the world." [1]
"In 2005,World Vision:
  • Served more than 100 million people
  • Worked in 96 nations
  • Directly benefited 2.7 million children through child sponsorship
  • Raised $1.97 billion (US) in cash and goods for its work
  • Employed 23,000 staff members" [2]

  • Kevin Jenkins, president and chief executive officer
  • Dean Hirsch, former president and chief executive officer (1996-2009)
Member of InterAction.
  • Victor W. C. Hsu is the National Director of the DPRK Program at World Vision International.
From 1993 to 1998, Andrew Natsios was vice president of World Vision U.S. [3] "Richard E. Stearns became President of World Vision U.S. in June 1998." [4]
Dean R. Hirsch was president of World Vision International in 2002 and he still is in 2007.[5]

Related SourceWatch Resources

That's John W. Hinckley, Sr., as in the father of the man who attempted an assassination of President Reagan on March 30, 1981. Just a tangential coincidence? Well, here's another one: he was also President of the Vanderbilt Energy Corporation, one of the larger contributors to the George H. W. Bush Presidential campaign in 1980:

Forgotten Coverage of the
Reagan Assassination Attempt
Neil Bush, John Hinckley, and the Reagan Assasination Attempt
Bush Son Had Dinner Plans With Hinckley Brother Before Shooting
The Associated Press Domestic News
March 31, 1981, Tuesday, PM cycle
John Hinckley, brother of Neil Bush's scheduled dinner date
John Hinckley
The family of the man charged with trying to assassinate President Reagan is acquainted with the family of Vice President George Bush and had made large contributions to his political campaign, the Houston Post reported today.

Scott Hinckley, brother of John W. Hinckley Jr., who allegedly shot Reagan, was to have dined tonight in Denver at the home of Neil Bush, one of the vice president's sons.

The newspaper said in a copyright story, Scott Hinckley, brother of John W. Hinckley Jr., who allegedly shot Reagan, was to have dined tonight in Denver at the home of Neil Bush, one of the vice president's sons.

The newspaper said it was unable to reach Scott Hinckley, vice president of his father's Denver-based firm, Vanderbilt Energy Corp., for comment. Neil Bush lives in Denver, where he works for Standard Oil Co. of Indiana.
In 1978, Neil served as campaign manager for his brother, George W. Bush, the vice president's oldest son, who made an unsuccessful bid for Congress. Neil lived in Lubbock throughout much of 1978, where John Hinckley lived from 1974 through 1980.
On Monday, Neil Bush said he did not know if he had ever met 25-year-old John Hinckley.

From what I know and I've heard, they (the Hinckleys) are a very nice family and have given a lot of money to the Bush campaign."

"I have no idea," he said. "I don't recognize any pictures of him. I just wish I could see a better picture of him.

Sharon Bush, Neil's wife, said Scott Hinckley was coming to their house as a date of a girl friend of hers. "I don't even know the brother. From what I know and I've heard, they (the Hinckleys) are a very nice family and have given a lot of money to the Bush campaign. I understand he was just the renegade brother in the family. They must feel awful," she said.
The dinner was canceled, she added.
George W. Bush said he was unsure whether he had met John W. Hinckley.

The connections that World Vision has with the milieu of intelligence covert operations and assassination are more than tangential. Political researcher John Judge documented many of these connections:

The international operations of World Vision and the related evangelical groups continue unabashed. World Vision official John W. Hinckley, Sr. was on his way to a Guatemalan water project run by the organization on the day his son shot at president Reagan.[280] A mysterious "double" of Hinckley, Jr., a man named Richardson, followed Hinckley's path from Colorado to Connecticut, and even wrote love letters to Jody Foster. Richardson was a follower of Carl McIntyre's International Council of Christian Churches, and attended their Bible School in Florida. He was arrested shortly after the assassination attempt in New York's Port Authority with a weapon, and claimed he intended to kill Reagan.[281]
Another World Vision employee, Mark David Chapman, worked at their Haitian refugee camp in Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas. He was later to gain infamy as the assassin of John Lennon in New York City.[282] World Vision works with refugees worldwide. At the Honduran border, they are present in camps used by American CIA to recruit mercenaries against Nicaragua. They were at Sabra and Shatilla, Camps in Lebanon where fascist Phalange massacred the Palestinians.[283] Their representatives in the Cuban refugee camps on the east coast included members of the Bay of Pigs operation, CIA-financed mercenaries from Omega 7 and Alpha 66.[284] Are they being used as a worldwide cover for the recruitment and training of these killers? They are, as mentioned earlier, working to repopulate Jonestown with Laotians who served as mercenaries for our CIA.[285]

This is just a small snip from an extensively researched article titled "The Black Hole of Guyana: The Untold Story of the Jonestown Massacre" that Judge wrote in 1985. In addition to the connections between World Vision and the Bay of Pigs, John Lennon's assassination, the 1982 Palestinian massacre and 80's contra recruiting, the focus of the research regards how Jim Jones, cult leader of The People's Temple, had extensive connections with the CIA. There was also a link with World Vision early in his "ministry" mentioned in the article:
With his new wealth, Jones was able to travel to California and establish the first People's Temple in Ukiah, California, in 1965. Guarded by dogs, electric fences and guard towers, he set up Happy Havens Rest Home.[98] Despite a lack of trained personnel, or proper licensing, Jones drew in many people at the camp. He had elderly, prisoners, people from psychiatric institutions, and 150 foster children, often transferred to care at Happy Havens by court orders.[99] He was contacted there by Christian missionaries from World Vision, an international evangelical order that had done espionage work for the CIA in Southeast Asia.[100] He met "influential" members of the community and was befriended by Walter Heady, the head of the local chapter of the John Birch Society.[101] He used the members of his "church" to organize local voting drives for Richard Nixon's election, and worked closely with the republican party.[102] He was even appointed chairman of the county grand jury.[103]

Why would an organization ostensibly created to be Christian missionary organization be involved in so many horrific events? Judge laid out the reason in an interview in 2000:

The father in that family, John W. Hinkley Sr., was also the president of the board for World Vision. World Vision is a far-right evangelical missionary operation that does missionary and "good work" operations in countries where there is a political purpose for it to be there. From it's inception, it was rabidly anti-Communist and it focused on refugee populations of people running from countries that had been taken over by Communism. This was from the fifties on.
World Vision had a hand in the movement of the Cubans into the United States and other refugees of revolutionary regimes. When you're a refugee you're cut loose, basically, and pretty much fair game to be manipulated by whoever is willing to give you a hand because you don't have a home or any place to stay and somebody has got to accept you.
World Vision was able to recruit out of these mercenary populations, people who could be politically turned to their intelligence purposes. World Vision served as a penetration force -- not as visible as the military actually going in or the CIA going in -- going in as missionaries and working among the people.
This link between missionary and intelligence for capitalistic infiltration operations goes way back. It was part of the internationalism with the Rockefellers. It's talked about in a book called Thy Will Be Done[4] about Rockefeller, Venezuela, and Latin American Oil, the Summer Linguistic Institute, World Vision and others. But they operated in this way for a long time.
They were paid by the CIA for a long time during the Vietnam war and went into SE Asia -- Cambodia and Laos. Throughout Vietnam they were given U.S. military equipment to use. They still maintain a budget under USAID, which was just (Agency for International Development), which was just a pass-over in order to give the CIA more cover. They ran operations through USAID. The current cover replacing that is the NED (National Endowment for Democracy), which is supposed to be how we're exporting democracy around the world.
But of course, we're exporting exactly the kind of corrupt democracy we have here, which is rigged and manipulated elections and press manipulation in order to keep in power or put in power the people that we want to be in those countries for the purpose of having our investments protected and milking what we can out of the resources and the labor available in any of those countries.

Is this where we can expect the $1 million Jeopardy prize to be invested? Elementary, my dear Watson.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Peak Oil and a Changing Climate" - Bill McKibben

Last week, I commended The Nation for their ongoing online video series "Peak Oil and a Changing Climate" with the post Hooray for The Nation! Today, they posted the sixth video in the series:

Bill McKibben: Why Climate Change Is the Most Urgent Challenge We Face

Bill McKibben, author and founder of the international environmental campaign, says that a global campaign to curb climate change, the ecological devastation that will result could make our planet uninhabitable. His appeal to citizens and policy-makers, the sixth video in the series" Peak Oil and a Changing Climate" from The Nation and On The Earth Productions, is a call to action as much as it is a sobering account of the damage we're already doing to our environment.
It’s a “crisis breaking over our heads at this moment,” he says as he points to wildfires in Russia and flooding in Pakistan as examples of the severe weather that will continue, and intensify, if we continue to ignore climate change. Failing to rein in the carbon in our atmosphere will mean more than just inhospitable weather. It also threatens global food production: “If we allow the temperature to increase anything like what people are projecting, we’ll see grain yields fall by a third or more, simply because it will be too hot for things to grow,” he says. “If it rains every day in a row for 30 days, you’re out of luck, you are not growing anything. That’s the kind of world we are building.”
The most important policy change crucial to curbing this crisis, he says, is to force fossil fuel companies to pay the price for the damages they inflict on the environment. If the environmental movement harnesses mass action and civil disobedience tactics to their advantage, there's still a chance, McKibben says, that the earth's citizens can convince policy makers to crack down on big polluters.
Go here to view last week's video, Noam Chomsky explaining how climate change became a "liberal hoax." Go here to learn more about "Peak Oil and a Changing Climate," and to see the other videos in the series.
Sara Jerving