Sunday, March 31, 2013

Honduras: A Culture of Impunity

Published on Portside (

Honduras: A Culture of Impunity

Portside [1]

March 30, 2013

Date of Source:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"Clearly, the state department is well aware of Honduran law [regarding Bonilla's control over all police units]."

- Annie Bird, the co-founder Rights ActionA new investigation has further highlighted the culture of impunity that exists within the Honduran police force.

The Associated Press heard testimony that strongly suggests that people are being disappeared by roving groups of armed officers.

There are claims that the US Congress may be funding these units.

Last August, Congress held back $30m in Honduran aid precisely because of concerns over the human rights record of the country's top police officer, Juan Carlos Bonilla.

But that money was later restored on condition that it went to units not under Bonilla's control.

However, AP reports that Honduran law prohibits any police unit from operating outside the command of the chief of police.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. Much of it is ascribed to gang violence. But rights groups say the chaos is also being used as a cover to target political opponents.

So, is the US state department misleading Congress about possible US funding for Honduran death squads?

Inside Story Americas [2], with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Alberto Arce, the Honduras correspondent for Associated Press and the co-founder of Rights Action; and Annie Bird who's worked extensively in Honduras.

"According to gang sources just for the last month, we will have around 10 members of the 18 street gangs killed. Killed in the same kind of operative with these two cars a number of masked men, and most of them appear killed mostly only by one gun shoot in the back part of the head, some of them also disappear. The bodies appear six to eight hours after they were arrested, and we cannot identify arrest orders for any of these guys, so it looks like there is an intelligence work that it's been done, that tracks them through all the city, and they are conducting these kind of operatives at least two or three times per week....

Tegucigalpa is under curfew. It is full of police checkpoints. There is no way that 150 operatives of heavily armed men can move around the city if they don't have the logistics and coordination to move around without being stopped. It's both the logistics and the intelligence that only the police have."

Alberto Arce, the Honduras correspondent for Associated Press

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Transform Now Plowshares update

Ralph Hutchison

Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 10:54 AM




28 March 2013 (Knoxville, TN)

Federal Magistrate G. Clifford Shirley handed down a second set of recommendations on Wednesday, March 27, in response to motions by the prosecution and defense in the Transform Now Plowshares case. In the recommendations, Magistrate Shirley granted two defense requests in part:

. The government, having alleged that Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice and Michael Walli harmed or intended to harm the national defense when the entered the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex on July 28,

2012 in an act of nonviolent civil resistance, must disclose how their action harmed the national defense.

. The defendants, since they are charged with intending to harm the national defense of the United States, must be allowed to testify as to their intent. They are not allowed to speak of their motive.

The two parts of the ruling favorable to the defendants relate to the most serious of the charges against them, the sabotage charge, which carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison. For 83 year old Sister Megan Rice, that sentence would effectively be a life sentence.

Excepting the two partial rulings above, the magistrate denied almost all other motions and requests by the defense-he did require the government to turn over some records related to the security response on July 28-and granted every request by the prosecution.

The effect of Magistrate Shirley's recommendations, if upheld by the trial judge, will be to gag the defendants and deny them most of the possible defenses available to them. They are precluded from making an argument based on necessity; they are denied a justification defense; they are not to speak about international law or the obligations of citizens under the Nuremberg principles; they are not to speak of their religious faith or their good motive; they are not allowed to invoke the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the case of the Transform Now Plowshares trio was reassigned to Federal District Judge Amul Thapar on March 15, 2013. Judge Thapar has scheduled a status conference with all parties for 9:30am on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 in Knoxville, TN. The continuing calendar for the case should become clear at that hearing; at this time it is not known if the trial will take place on May 7 as previously scheduled or not.

For more information on this update: Ralph Hutchison 865 776 5050

For other information:

Why Is Socialism Doing So Darn Well in Deep-Red North Dakota?

Published on Portside (

Why Is Socialism Doing So Darn Well in Deep-Red North Dakota?

Portside [1]

March 29, 2013

Les Leopold

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

North Dakota is the very definition of a red state. It voted 58 percent to 39 percent for Romney over Obama, and its statehouse and senate have a total of 104 Republicans and only 47 Democrats. The Republican super-majority is so conservative it recently passed the nation's most severe anti-abortion resolution [2] – a measure that declares a fertilized human egg has the same right to life as a fully formed person.

But North Dakota is also red in another sense: it fully supports its state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND), a socialist relic that exists nowhere else in America. Why is financial socialism still alive in North Dakota? Why haven't the North Dakotan free-market crusaders slain it dead?

Because it works.

In 1919, the Non-Partisan League, a vibrant populist organization, won a majority in the legislature and voted the bank into existence. The goal was to free North Dakota farmers from impoverishing debt dependence on the big banks in the Twin Cities, Chicago and New York. More than 90 years later, this state-owned bank is thriving as it helps the state's community banks, businesses, consumers and students obtain loans at reasonable rates. It also delivers a handsome profit to its owners -- the 700,000 residents of North Dakota. In 2011, the BND provided more than $70 million to the state's coffers. Extrapolate that profit-per-person to a big state like California and you're looking at an extra $3.8 billion a year in state revenues that could be used to fund education and infrastructure.

One of America's Best Kept Secrets

Each time we pay our state and local taxes -- and all manner of fees -- the state deposits those revenues in a bank. If you're in any state but North Dakota, nearly all of these deposits end up in Wall Street's too-big to-fail banks, because those banks are the only entities large enough to handle the load. The vast majority of the nation's 7,000 community banks are too small to provide the array of cash management services that state and local governments require. We're talking big bucks; at least $1 trillion of our local tax dollars find their way to Wall Street banks, according to Marc Armstrong, executive director of the Public Banking Institute.

So, not only are we, as taxpayers, on the hook for too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks, but we also end up giving our tax dollars to these same banks each and every time we pay a sales tax or property tax or buy a fishing license. In North Dakota, however, all that public revenue runs through its public state bank, which in turn reinvests in the state's small businesses and public infrastructure via partnerships with 80 small community banks.

How the State Bank Creates Jobs

Banks are supposed to serve as intermediaries that turn our savings and checking deposits into productive loans to businesses and consumers. That's how jobs are supported and created. But the BND, a state agency, goes one step further. Through its Partnership in Assisting Community Expansion, for example, it provides loans at below-market interest rates to businesses if and only if those businesses create at least one job for every $100,000 loaned. If the $1 trillion that now flows to Wall Street instead were deposited in public state banks in all 50 states using this same approach, up to 10 million new jobs could be created. That would effectively end our destructive unemployment crisis.

No Bailouts for the BND

Banking doesn't have to be a casino. It doesn't have to be designed to create gambling opportunities so bank traders and executives can make seven- and eight-figure salaries. As BND president Eric Hardmeyer said in a 2009 Mother Jones interview [3]:

We’re a fairly conservative lot up here in the upper Midwest and we didn’t do any subprime lending and we have the ability to get into the derivatives markets and put on swaps and callers and caps and credit default swaps and just chose not to do it, really chose a Warren Buffett mentality—if we don’t understand it, we’re not going to jump into it. And so we’ve avoided all those pitfalls.

As state government employees, BND executives have no incentive to gamble their way toward enormous pay packages. As you can see, the top six BND officers earn a good living, but on Wall Street, cooks and chauffeurs earn more.

• Eric Hardmeyer, President and CEO: $232,500

• Bob Humann, Chief Lending Officer: $135,133

• Tim Porter, Chief Administrative Officer: $122,533

• Joe Herslip, Chief Business Officer: $105,000

• Lori Leingang, Chief Administrative Officer: $105,000

• Wally Erhardt, Director of Student Loans of North Dakota: $91,725

The very existence of a successful BND undermines Wall Street's claim that in order to attract the best talent big banks need to offer enormous pay packages. Yet somehow, North Dakota is able to find the talent to run one of the soundest banks in the country? The BND is living proof that Wall Street's rationale for sky-high executive pay is a self-serving fabrication. (For more information on financial inequality please see my latest book, How to Earn a Million Dollars an Hour [4], Wiley, 2013.)

Wall Street Is Gunning for Bank of North Dakota

As you can well imagine, our financial elites would love to see this successful (socialist!) bank disappear. Its salary structure and local investments makes a mockery of Wall Street's casino banking system. But the bigger threat comes from the possible spread of this public banking concept to other states. Already, there are 20 or so state legislatures that are exploring state banks. Collectively, more public banks would pose an enormous threat to the $1 trillion in state and local bank deposits that now run through Wall Street.

But elite financiers also stand to lose much more. In the 49 states without a public bank, there's no safe place to turn for loans to rebuild schools and finance other public infrastructure projects. That creates an enormous opportunity for Wall Street firms to hook localities on expensive bond programs -- like capital appreciation bonds, which can lead to repayments equaling 10 times the original loan. Investment bankers and advisers also make enormous fees by selling expensive, high-risk financial schemes to state and local governments (read an investigative report here [5]). But such schemes are useless in North Dakota where the state bank provides the capital the state needs for a fraction of the long-term costs.

Trade Agreements: Wall Street's Weapon of Mass Destruction

Clearly, from Wall Street's perspective, the North Dakota bank must go, and all other state efforts to replicate it must be thwarted. Wall Street's stealth weapon may be lodged within the latest corporate trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which currently is being negotiated in secret. We already know that Wall Street is seeking to remove all tariff restrictions that prevent the U.S. financial services industry from doing business in countries like Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The biggest banks also want the treaty to eliminate "non-tariff" barriers including regulations that create "unfair" competition with state-owned financial enterprises.

Depending on the final language, it is possible that the activities of the Bank of North Dakota could be ruled illegal because "foreign bankers could claim the BND stops them from lending to commercial banks throughout the state," according to an analysis [6]by Sam Knight in Truthout. How perfect for Wall Street: a foreign bank can be used as a shill to knock out the BND.

The Public Bank Movement

A small but highly dedicated group of financial writers, public finance experts and former bankers have formed the Public Bank Institute [7] to spread the word. Working on a shoestring budget, its president Ellen Brown (author of Web of Debt [8] ), and its executive director Marc Armstrong have become the Johnny Appleseeds of public banking, hopping from state to state to encourage legislatures to explore state-owned banks.

The movement is gathering steam as it holds a major conference [9] on June 2-4 at Dominican University in San Rafael, CA featuring such anti-Wall Street hell raisers as Matt Taibbi and Gar Alperowitz, along with Brigitte Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament, and Ellen Brown.

Is America Up For This Fight?

Since the crash, the financial community has largely managed to wriggle off the hook. In fact, fatalism may be replacing activism as we sense that maybe Wall Street is simply too big and too powerful to change. After all, the big banks seem to own Washington, as too-big-to-fail banks are permitted to grow even larger and more invulnerable to prosecution and control.

But this new public banking movement could have legs, especially if it teams up with those fighting for a financial transaction tax (see National Nurses United [10].) Most Americans remain furious about how financial elites profited from the crisis -- before, during and after -- while the rest of us pick up the tab. Americans know deep down that Wall Street is the predator and we are the prey.

The state-owned and operated Bank of North Dakota proves that it doesn't have to be that way. This is the time to fight for public state banking in a big way.

You game?

Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute in New York, and author of How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning Off America's Wealth (J. Wiley and Sons, 2013).

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

The Coming Crash: Our Addiction to Endless Growth on a Finite Planet [With Photo Slideshow]

Published on Alternet (

AlterNet [1] / By Tara Lohan [2]

The Coming Crash: Our Addiction to Endless Growth on a Finite Planet [With Photo Slideshow]

March 27, 2013

This article was published in partnership with [3].

If you want to understand how much energy costs, don't look at your electric bill; instead get a copy of the new book Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth [4]. This massive coffeetable book contains hundreds of arresting images showing the effects of our energy choices, including oil spills, nuclear accidents, massive solar arrays, tar sands mines, fracking operations, transmission lines, and more. The photos are complemented by essays from leading writers like Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Sandra Steingraber [5], Douglas Tompkins, Bill McKibben, Lester Brown and many others, which put into context our growing energy problems and what we can do about them.

The book is a collaboration of great minds, including editors Tom Butler and George Wuerthner and contributing author Richard Heinberg. It's also a partnership between the Post Carbon Institute [6] and the Foundation for Deep Ecology [7], copublished by PCI and Watershed Media [8].

While the book delves greatly into different energy sources and their limitations, the heart of the book is really not so much about what kinds of energy we use but how much. To get a clearer understanding of this AlterNet spoke with contributing writer Richard Heinberg [9], a senior fellow at PCI and the author of numerous books including The End of Growth: Adapting to our New Economic Reality (June 2011), Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis (2009) and Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines(2007).

Tara Lohan: How did this book project come about? I know it started out as a book about tar sands, but then it evolved into so much more.

Richard Heinberg: The economy is all about energy. Almost all of our environmental issues relate to energy in one way or another. Certainly, climate change does. War and peace, it's all about energy. Upping the energy literacy of the American people and thought leaders is a pretty high priority.

TL: Explain a little bit more what you mean by energy literacy, because I know you talk about that in the book as well.

RH: Well, surprisingly few people have really looked at or thought about or studied what energy is. It's in all of our lives. We all depend on it for everything we do, but energy is pretty allusive. You can't hold a jar of pure energy in your hands. Useful energy comes to us in various forms. All of these different forms of energy, whether it's coal, oil, natural gas, wind, hydropower, nuclear, each has its own characteristics. Environmental characteristics. Economic characteristics. It takes a while to sort of wrap your head around all of that, and there are some basic concepts like the laws of thermodynamics. The ideas of energy density and return on energy investment that are absolutely fundamental to evaluating different forms and sources of energy.

Again, not too many people have really studied or given much thought to these. Well, over the course of the next few years, we're going to be making absolutely critical decisions about our energy future, our environmental future and our economic future. Unless we have these basic elements of energy literacy, unless more of us understand the criteria by which to evaluate these different sources of energy, we're going to get a lot of things wrong. We think energy literacy is really important.

TL: Right, it's not as easy as just replacing all the coal and oil with solar and wind, because they differ in terms of the energy returned on energy invested.

RH: There's actually a good article on that in the current issue of Scientific American that has some neat infographics. This becomes a real issue in energy sources that have very low returns like biofuels and also unconventional fossil fuels like tar sands and shale gas and tight oil. These sources of energy can be profitable in certain situations, especially if there are government subsidies or if Wall Street gets interested and attracts a lot of investment capital, but these are energy sources that are not going to be able to support an industrial society absent other sources of energy that have a higher return on investment.

If all we had to power society were tar sands, biofuels, shale gas and tight oil, society would basically come apart at the seams because we'd be having to put so much of our effort into producing energy that we wouldn't have much energy left over at the end of the day to do all the things we need energy for like education, healthcare, transportation, trade. All of those things use energy. They don't produce energy. We need a very substantial energy surplus from the energy that we do invest in getting more energy. These sources just aren't up to the job.

TL: It seems like there's an increasing industrialization in order to get there, too. I'm thinking about what the footprint looks like for a conventional natural gas well as opposed to a well that's being fracked.

RH: Right. It's a lower quality resource. The shale gas is produced from rocks with very low porosity. The gas just doesn't want to migrate to the wellbore. That's why they have to apply technologies like hydrofracturing and horizontal drilling. That increases the contact between the wellbore and the resource, but at the end of the day, we may have changed technology, but we haven't changed the rocks themselves. What we get are very high decline rates. If you drill a shale gas well on January 1st, by December 31st of the same year, the rate of production of that well may already have fallen by 70 percent or 80 percent.

That means we have to drill and drill and drill in order to keep overall production rates flat or increasing. That means thousands, tens of thousands, even ultimately perhaps hundreds of thousands of wells. This is costly, of course, but it's also extremely environmentally risky. If we were only drilling a few wells, there would only be a few water tables to put at risk of pollution and probably only a few accidents. But if, let's say, 6 percent or 7 percent of well casings end up being faulty, which is according to research, a pretty fair estimate, we're talking about thousands of wells that are going to be leaking methane and other chemicals and toxics into water and air.

Unless this is understood, people really don't have a basis for making good decisions.

Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth [10]

March 27, 2013


Selected photos from Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth edited by Tom Butler and George Wuerthner.


Tar sands development, Alberta, Canada. (George Wuerthner)

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TL: Unfortunately, most of the conversation seems to revolve around the economic benefits and the amount of job creation.

RH: Right and highly misleading information is being spread to the media and the American people. The companies that are engaged in fracking have a lot at stake. The price of their shares, the availability of investment capital and so they tend to overestimate future production fairly dramatically. We've done some independent research based on crunching numbers from about 65,000 oil and gas wells in the U.S. The result of that research is we see a peak and decline in shale gas production in the U.S. well before 2020. On one hand, you have the industry saying we have 100 years and in some cases they even say we have 200 years of cheap natural gas in front of us. The reality is production is probably going to start declining within the next very few years.

Again, when policy makers only listen to the voice of the industry, they get highly skewed information and make bad decisions.

TL: Is that looking at the production of what we're doing right now? Or does that include projections for areas we haven't hit yet, like parts of the Marcellus shale?

RH: The Marcellus, yes, has yet to be drilled out fully, but there are other shale gas plays that are already pretty much fully drilled out and already in decline, such as the Barnett in Texas.

TL: You wrote that our population is seven times larger now than it was before the Industrial Revolution, but even more troubling is that we use 30 times more energy. To me, that gets to the heart of what the problem is. It's not just the kinds of energy we're using, but how much we're using.

RH: Exactly. Using more energy gives us a lot of power as a species. We've developed the ability to extract and transform all sorts of other resources, including minerals and metals. We've increased our speed and scope of transport and trade, all because we've had cheap, concentrated, portable energy sources, primarily fossil fuels. We just have to figure out how to get more and more energy all the time and progress can go on indefinitely. The reality is we live on a finite planet.

Energy production has costs and tradeoffs. We won't be able to continue increasing the rate of extraction of fossil fuels much longer. Other sources of energy are in some ways seemingly, if not infinite, at least very, very large -- like the amount of sunlight striking the earth on an average day is virtually infinite in comparison with the amount of energy that we use. Our means of capturing sunlight and wind and other renewable sources of energy are themselves dependent upon other finite resources. You have to build wind turbines out of something. You would have to use minerals and metals to make solar panels.

At the end of the day, we have to somehow make peace with the fact that the earth is not just a giant cookie jar that is going to give us everything we want. We have to moderate our demand for energy and everything else so that it's commensurate with Earth's ability to supply our wants and needs. Now, currently our energy consumption is vast in comparison with our energy consumption at any previous time in history. Also, it's extremely uneven. Americans use twice as much energy as people in Europe per capita, and 10 or 100 times as much as people in less industrialized countries.

First of all we're going to have to find ways of bringing energy consumption up somewhat in those countries where people are poorest, but in the wealthiest countries, it's extremely unlikely that we'll be able to grow energy production and it's in fact very likely that available energy is going to decline. We need to learn how to live with less energy, and that doesn't require so much inventing a lot of new gadgets as getting back to reality, getting back to normal. Accepting a lifestyle of less mobility and finding ways to use the energy that we do use in the most efficient way as possible.

TL: We talk about using less energy, having less economic growth -- what does that look like on a long-term scale? I mean, most people would associate less economic growth with recessions and depressions, which usually aren't very popular. How do we get people to move in that direction, not just individually, but as a society?

RH: Well, less economic growth translates to recession and depression in highly financialized economies, such as we have today where the economy booms and busts on a regular basis due to fads and manias in the financial industry. It wasn't always quite this way. Prior to the last 100 years or so, we really didn't anticipate constant economic growth. It just wasn't a feature of anyone's thinking. It's really only the last few decades when we've had such cheap energy that economists have gotten the idea that somehow economic growth is normal, and if it's not happening, there's something terribly wrong. We need to essentially get back to normal, and normal is a non-growing economy. A steady-state economy in which we pursue goals of human well-being, rather than goals of pure financial speculative enrichment.

There are a number of economists who have been talking about this for some time. The idea of a steady-state economy and a getting off of GDP -- of using alternative indicators, like gross national happiness or a genuine progress indicator. If we did that, I think we could have a way of life that is not only satisfying, but also secure and stable over the long term. Unfortunately, I think we sort of boxed ourselves into a corner in the last while by growing the financial industry to such a scale that it's just cutting it down to size. It's going to be a shock to the system.

TL: It makes so much sense to think, of course, we have to conserve more and we have to use less energy, but then I'm picturing what that actually looks like. I'm seeing a growing movement against climate change and forces coming out against the Keystone pipeline. I'm wondering how you translate that kind of public support for something like conservation.

RH: Right. Well, there are people all over the place who already understand the benefits of downsizing, cutting back, becoming more self-sufficient. Those benefits are both economic and also psychological. If we're sharing more with our neighbors, that means we're consuming less. Now, that's bad for the economy because it reduces overall consumption and it shows up as a hit in GDP.

If you're sharing more with your neighbors, you're actually happier. We've gotten ourselves into this bizarre situation where if we do what's actually good for us, which is to become more self-sufficient, to consume less and to share more, we hurt the economy. We have to make a fundamental choice here as to what the economy is for. Is it for growth at all costs? Is it all about consuming more and more until the day we die? Or is it about health and happiness and a sense of community?

TL: I remember a few years ago everyone talking about, "Oh, we're running out of fossil fuels, and this is going to be catastrophic unless we make a change." But now it seems like, "Well, yeah maybe we're hitting a peak at some point, but we have more than enough to do ourselves in."

How do we get companies to start leaving these fossil fuels in the ground?

RH: Well, I think what's going on with the Keystone XL pipeline is indicative of the pushback that is coming increasingly from citizens. There's a rapidly growing awareness that climate change is not a theoretical problem that we may have to deal with in a generation or two. It's a profound challenge to the very existence of civilization. If we don't do something about climate change, then future generations, if they even exist, will look back upon us with little kindness.

With that growing awareness, there's this pervasive sense that this is the issue of our times. Either we get off of fossil fuels as rapidly as we can or we may not have a future. The fossil fuel industry is made up of human beings, and they're engaged in work that seems to benefit society in so many tangible ways. It supports the economy. It provides the fuel for our cars and trucks. These aren't evil people, but it's an industry that has outlived its real usefulness to society. As a society, we have to find a polite way to say thank you, but no more.

TL: It's hard considering the strength of the lobby that they seem to have.

RH: Right. I know. There are some I know in the environmental movement who believe that it's necessary to demonize the industry. Frankly, it's an entirely understandable stance because the industry has invested large amounts of money in astroturf organizations and front groups to deny the existence of climate change or to fight off the idea of peak oil. There's a natural adversarial situation there, but in the end we are all in this together, and the CEO of Exxon's grandchildren are going to suffer just as much under climate change as anyone else.

TL: You guys do a fantastic job of pointing at how destructive so many different kinds of fossil fuels are, including things that probably a lot of people don't know about, like oil sands and tar sands and gas hydrates. You also don't give a free pass to renewables either or a lot of the things many of us consider clean energy sources. In that category of things, which do you think look like places that we should be focusing our attention and our resources?

RH: There are certain renewables like biofuels that just haven't made the cut because of the low energy return, because it really doesn't make sense to turn food into fuel for cars. Biofuels are essentially a failure. That's not so much true with wind and solar. The energy return is relatively low compared to fossil fuels, especially in the past, but it's good enough to enable us to maintain an industrial society of some sort into the future. As technology advances, we may be able to get better energy returns. I don't know. We'll see. But these are certainly worth pursuing.

Now the question is, on what scale and in what way? If we develop renewables with the same kind of centralized industrial model that we have with coal and other fossil fuels, then we end up with unacceptable tradeoffs. We end up paving over deserts with solar arrays. We end up destroying natural scenery with wind farms. When what we could do is deploy renewables in a decentralized and distributed way that would preserve environments and maintain more citizen control of the power system.

Now if we do that, of course, we are going to have to accept a future of less energy, but we argue that that's a tradeoff that's worth making. We will have less energy in either case, but if we choose voluntarily to go down that path and opt for a distributed energy future, we have both more control and a cleaner environment.

TL: In all the research you've done for this book and the many previous books that you've written, what is it that scares you the most?

RH: First of all, just the speed with which climate change is happening, I think, has got to be the scariest thing. I mean, even just a few years ago we weren't anticipating the total loss of the polar ice cap in summer months so soon. It may be ice-free by 2015. The implications of that are so vast. I don't think anybody has really been able to process them.

The environmental impacts of producing lower-grade fossil fuels. As we deplete the higher-grade fossil fuels, the conventional oil and gas and the high concentrations of coal, energy prices go up. As the price of oil goes up, for example, then it becomes cost-effective to mine tar sands or to frack North Dakota.

The environmental consequences and risks are staggeringly high. It's turning neighbor against neighbor, community against community. As some win big by selling the drilling rights to their property and others lose by having their water and air contaminated, it's a pretty grim situation. We've seen boom towns before all through history and particularly in the early 20th century. There were lots of oil boom towns in the American South and Southwest, and those are ghost towns today. I think we're going to see the same process work its way out in very short order and some places that seem to be benefitting so much from drilling and mining right now are going to be pretty sad places in just a few years.

TL: What is it that gives you hope?

RH: What gives me hope is things like the transition town movement where people are coming together and finding ways to cooperate, to reduce their energy consumption, whether it's with local food or car share programs. Not waiting for government to tell them what to do or to pass legislation to make it easier to do what we need to do which is use less. There are small organizations all over the country that have risen up in response to fracking and pipeline issues. These are very often people who would never have thought of themselves as being environmentalists.

They're maybe responding to problems with their drinking water or air quality or hundreds of trucks rumbling past on their way to the drill pads, and they suddenly find themselves in harm's way and they decided to fight. I think that's a very positive thing.

People are waking up and rising up and doing hard things because they realize that everything is at stake. It's really the most important moment in all of human history; if we consciously and deliberately move away from our dependence on fossil fuels, we have the opportunity of reinventing civilization. If we don't, civilization probably won't survive.

Source URL:























Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Friday, March 29, 2013

$3.5 Trillion? The Insanely High Costs of Subsidizing the Fossil Fuel Industry

Published on Friday, March 29, 2013 by

$3.5 Trillion? The Insanely High Costs of Subsidizing the Fossil Fuel Industry

IMF says global subsidies to fossil fuels amount to $1.9 trillion a year … and that’s probably an underestimate

by David Roberts

A new report [PDF] from the International Monetary Fund tries to tally up fossil fuel subsidies around the world and finds that they add up to an eye-popping $1.9 trillion a year. That’s 2.5 percent of global GDP!

As enviro hero Paul Hawken is fond of saying, “we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.” I can’t think of a better description of these fossil fuel subsidies.

Brad Plumer has a typically lucid summary on the report’s conclusions, but I want to dig in a little on one part, because believe it or not, the IMF’s conclusion may be too conservative. The real truth about global fossil fuel subsidies may be more eye-popping yet.

So, where does that $1.9 trillion come from? Around $480 billion of it comes from direct subsidies, i.e., government handing out money. This is what people usually think of when they hear “subsidies.” Contrary to popular opinion, the developed world does very little of this kind of thing. Direct fossil fuel subsidies (“pre-tax” subsidies) are overwhelmingly concentrated in the developing world and mostly devoted to making petro-products affordable for poor people:

IMFClick to embiggen. (The details of this chart aren’t that important, but just for your edification: Adv. = Advanced, CEE-CIS = Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States, LAC = Latin America and Caribbean, S.S. Africa = Sub-Saharan Africa, MENA = Middle East and North Africa, and E.D. Asia = Emerging and Developing Asia.)

Those direct subsidies are a) a growing problem for the budgets of those countries, and b) a fraught and delicate political issue. Needless to say, people don’t like suddenly losing a big pot of financial assistance. They often retaliate by rioting or, you know, starving. The report contains a big section on ways that countries can wind back those subsidies without unduly hurting the poor. It’s interesting.

But my focus here is on the other $1.4 trillion, which is IMF’s tally of “the effects of energy consumption on global warming; on public health through the adverse effects on local pollution; on traffic congestion and accidents; and on road damage.” These are the “externalities” you’re always hearing about, and by failing to make fossil fuel companies pay for them, governments are implicitly subsidizing those companies. IMF says calls this under-taxing of fossil fuels “mispricing,” but it’s easier to think of them as indirect subsidies.

Indirect subsidies are much larger than direct subsidies — a point I have made before — and are concentrated in developed countries:

IMFClick to embiggen.

Among these externalities are the damages wrought by climate change. How much damage does a ton of carbon do? How large is that particular indirect subsidy? Climate damages are calculated based on the “social cost of carbon” (SCC). The IMF uses an SCC of $25 per ton, derived from the work of the U.S. Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon [PDF].

So, for every ton of carbon that is emitted but not taxed, there is a $25 implicit subsidy.

However! There are good reasons to think that the real SCC is considerably higher than $25 a ton. I don’t want to bore you, but here are a few nerdy things to read if you want to dive in on the subject:

• Economist Frank Ackerman introduces SCC.

• A white paper [PDF] from Ackerman and Elizabeth A. Stanton explains why the government’s SCC figure is almost certainly too low.

• A peer-reviewed paper from Laurie Johnson and Chris Hope argues that a properly assessed SCC would be “2.6 to over 12 times larger” than the U.S. government’s official SCC.

• I wrote here about what it would mean to accommodate stochastic change in the SCC (spoiler: it would be higher).

• I wrote here about how discount rates shape (and misshape) the SCC. Guess what a more morally defensible discount rate would do to it? Yup, raise it.

I don’t want to pretend this is a settled matter — it is the subject of lively, ongoing academic debate — but I’m pretty convinced that the SCC used in the IMF’s report is hugely, misleadingly conservative. So what would happen if it weren’t?

Ackerman and Stanton write:

In the United Kingdom, which started estimating prices for carbon emissions several years ago, the government’s latest calculation is a range of $41-$124 per ton of CO2, with a central case of $83.

So, just for the sake of argument, say the IMF adopted an SCC of $83 — more than three times the figure it actually used. What would happen?

It’s hard to say precisely, since the IMF paper is not clear what portion of the indirect subsidies are carbon-related. (Or at least, I lack the fortitude to dig that info out.) I suspect it’s well over half, but to be conservative, let’s just say half. Based on my back-of-napkin calculations, if carbon were responsible for half the indirect subsidies, and the SCC were $83 instead of $25, the grand total of annual global fossil fuel subsidies would rise from $1.9 trillion to around $3.5 trillion.

Three and a half trillion dollars a year. That’s about 5 percent of global GDP. Crazy.

As enviro hero Paul Hawken is fond of saying, “we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.” I can’t think of a better description of these fossil fuel subsidies. And when we use a more realistic cost for carbon damages, we get a better sense of just how much we are stealing from our descendents — trillions and trillions of dollars a year. The heedless radicalism and grotesque immorality of it are breathtaking.

© 2013

David Roberts is the senior staff writer at, an online journal of green politics and culture. He blogs there daily, even obsessively, mainly on politics and energy.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Obama Signature on Monsanto Protection Act Ignites Massive Activism

Obama Signature on Monsanto Protection Act Ignites Massive Activism

By Anthony Gucciardi

While Monsanto executives may be rejoicing behind the closed doors of their corporate offices, they have also just stabbed themselves in the heart with the blatant and cocky decision to go through with the Monsanto Protection Act. Obama’s social media profiles are being blown up with thousands of enraged activists and concerned citizens who are demanding answers.

Thanks to the alternative news covering every angle of the Protection Act and the absurd fact that Monsanto actually wrote the rider itself, people have now come to fully understand just how deep the corruption goes when it comes to Monsanto’s Big Food monopoly. And it doesn’t exempt the President.

It’s a well known fact that the Obama family actually eats from the White House organic garden which was planted in 2009 and has full time staffers who maintain and harvest organic produce that comes from the garden. Many high level politicians actually refuse to eat anything but organic, as they are fully aware of what’s in ‘conventional’, GMO-loaded items. Yet, despite this knowledge, they are quite eager to push Monsanto’s GMOs and ruthless business model on the citizens of the United States.

And the people are fully aware of the betrayal.

Scanning just a few comments amid the thousands calling out Obama for his signature on the spending bill that contained the Monsanto Protection Act, we find seriously frustrated activists and voters who can’t believe what they are seeing. Even many Obama campaigners who came to the realization that Obama didn’t represent what they thought he did. One specifically mentions how Obama promised to label GMOs in 2007 upon taking the seat of the President. A promise that never came to fruition. In fact, no real attempts were made at all.

Here are a few comments among the thousands that I found interesting on Obama’s wall:

• Darlene Taylor: Barack Obama – 2007: “We’ll let folks know if their food is genetically modified because Americans should know.” 2013: He signed the Monsanto Protection Act making GMO giants immune to the law.

• Erica Ecker: Apparently part of protecting our children no longer includes what goes in them. Thanks for signing the Monsanto Protection Act.

• Keri Kline: I am an activist for President Obama, and I am outraged he has failed to listen to the ‘American people he represents’… President Obama knowingly signed the Monsanto Protection Act over the insistence of more than 250,000 Americans who signed an urgent letter asking that he use his executive authority to veto H.R. 933 and send it back to Congress to remove the Monsanto Protection Act from the bill. Regretfully, President Obama failed to live up to his oath to protect the American people and our constitution.

Overall, the decision to go with such a major act of corruption has jump started a massive movement to hold politicians and corporations accountable for their betrayal of the U.S. public. It’s a move that has blown up in the face of those who thought they could slip it through into law.

This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert Mar. 29 – Apr. 4, 2013 - Part 1

Baltimore Activist Alert Mar. 29 – Apr. 4, 2013

"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours.

The initiative to stop it must be ours." -Martin Luther King Jr.

Friends, this list and other email documents which I send out are done under the auspices of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center. Go to If you appreciate this information and would like to make a donation, send contributions to BNC, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218. Max Obuszewski can be reached at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski [at]

Tune into the Maryland Progressive Blog at

1] Books, buttons & stickers

2] Web site for info on federal legislation

3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists

4] Buy coffee through HoCoFoLa

5] Jerusalem Fund Gallery exhibit – through Apr. 12

6] LIGHT by Art Spirit – through May 12

7] Homage to Harriet – through June 23

8] Support gun control legislation – Mar. 29

9] "U.S. Outer Space Diplomacy in President Obama's Second Term" -- Mar. 29

10] White House vigil – Mar. 29

11] Good Friday Ecological and Economic Way of the Cross – Mar. 29

12] Protest Lockheed Martin – Mar. 29

13] Pax Christi Baltimore Stations of the Cross – Mar. 29

14] WIB Roland Park vigil – Mar. 29

15] Justice for Palestine/Israel vigil – Mar. 29

16] Silent peace vigil – Mar. 29

17] The Wishnia Brothers read – Mar. 29

18] Ballroom dancing – Mar. 29

19] Olney peace vigil – Mar. 30

20] West Chester, PA demo – Mar. 30

21] Silent vigil at Capitol – Mar. 30

22] Rally for Trans Equality and Economic Justice – Mar. 30

23] “The Challenge of Integration in Fractured Communities” – Mar. 31

24] Peace and Pancakes – Mar. 31

25] Red Emma’s meeting – Mar. 31

26] Concert Wake Up Call -- Mar. 31

27] Pentagon Vigil – Apr. 1

28] Fasting for the climate – Apr. 1 – Apr. 30

29] "Negotiating with Iran: How Best to Reach Success" – Apr. 1

1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available. “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Donate your books to Max. Call him at 410-366-1637.

2] – To obtain information how your federal legislators voted on particular bills, go to Congressional toll-free numbers are 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588 or 800-426-8073. The White House Comment Email is accessible at

3] – THE ORGANIZING LIST will be the primary decision-making mechanism of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR]. It will be augmented by conference calls and possibly in-person meetings as needed. It will consist of 1 or 2 representatives from each local, regional, or national organization (not coalitions) that wishes to actively work to carry out the NCNR campaign of facilitating and organizing nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq.

To join the ORGANIZING List, please send your name, group affiliation, city and email address to Different local chapters of a national organization are encouraged to subscribe.

THE NOTICES LIST will include only notices of NCNR actions and related information and is open to any interested person to subscribe. It will be moderated to maintain focus & will include periodic notices about getting involved in NCNR national organizing. To join the NOTICES List, send an email message to You will get a confirmation message once subscribed. If you have problems, please write to the list manager at

4] – You can help safeguard human rights and fragile ecosystems through your purchase of HOCOFOLA CafĂ© Quetzal. Bags of ground coffee or whole beans can be ordered by mailing in an order form. Also note organic cocoa and sugar are for sale. For more details and to download the order form, go to The coffee comes in one-pound bags.

Fill out the form and mail it with a check made out to HOCOFOLA on or before the second week of the month. Be sure you indicate ground or beans for each type of coffee ordered. Send it to Adela Hirsch, 5358 Eliots Oak Rd., Columbia, MD 21044. Be sure you indicate ground (G) or bean (B) for each type of coffee ordered. The coffee will arrive some time the following week and you will be notified where to pick it up. Contact Adela at 410-997-5662 or via e-mail at

5] – "Undefeated Despair: Precarity, Public Art, and Solidarity in Palestine and Lebanon" continues through Fri., Apr. 12 at 6 PM at The Jerusalem Fund Gallery, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW, WDC 22037. This exhibit brings together examples of work from three mural projects coordinated by Break The Silence Media and Arts Project. Based in San Francisco, BTS/MAP works in the intersection of trauma, memory, creativity, resilience and resistance, aims to engage people on multiple levels through murals, video, art/research, multi and trans media projects to see and imagine new possibilities, think critically and organize to reveal hidden histories and the connections between struggles for social justice globally. Visit

6] – The Arts Council of Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church presents LIGHT by Art Spirit, an Arts Collective, through Sun., May 12 at the Great Hall, 3401 Nebraska Ave. NW, WDC 20016. The exhibition hours are Monday-Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM, and Sundays, 9 AM to 12:30 PM. Call 202-363-4900 or go to

7] – Homage to Harriet, works about and inspired by the life and legacy of Maryland-born abolitionist Harriet Tubman, continues through June 23 at Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, 830 E. Pratt St. Call 443-263-1800. Go to

8] – Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence is urging you to come to Annapolis on Fri., Mar. 29 as the House Judiciary and Health & Government Operations Committees will be voting jointly on the Governor's Firearms Safety Act of 2013. THE HEARING IS EXPECTED TO START AT 11 AM IN THE JUDICIARY HEARING ROOM, FIRST FLOOR OF THE HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, 6 BLADEN STREET, ANNAPOLIS, MD, 21401.


9] – On Fri., Mar. 29 from 11 AM to noon, Frank Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Space and Defense Policy, will address "U.S. Outer Space Diplomacy in President Obama's Second Term" at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2121 K St. NW, Suite 801, WDC 20037. Email or call 202 659 1490. RSVP at

10] – A peace vigil takes place every Friday from noon to 1 PM at Lafayette Park facing the White House. Join the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and friends. However, on Good Friday, it takes place from 11:30 to 12:30 PM. Contact Art Laffin:

11] – On. Fri., Mar. 29 at noon, join the Good Friday Ecological and Economic Way of the Cross starting at the corner of First Street and Constitution Ave. NW. It should end around 3 PM at Murrow Park, near the World Bank. Go to!/events/217635538382529/. .

12] – Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest war profiteer and the United States’ chief Pentagon contractor (more than $40 billion annually), is among the chief manufacturers of drone warfare technology - the remote-controlled plane, the hellfire missiles they fire, and the space-based satellites which control the drones from the continental U.S. On Mar. 29 at noon, there will be a Good Friday Stations of Justice, Peace, and Nonviolent Resistance to Lockheed Martin at Mall & Goddard Boulevards, King of Prussia, PA (directly behind the King of Prussia Mall, and across from the UA King of Prussia movieplex). For nonviolence discipline, go to Call the Brandywine Peace Community at 610- 544-1818 if you interested in participating in the nonviolent resistance and willing to face arrest. There will be an on-site meeting at 11 AM for those planning to risk arrest.

13] – Pax Christi-Baltimore will host the 28TH ANNUAL STATIONS OF THE CROSS FOR JUSTICE IN DOWNTOWN BALTIMORE on Fri., Mar. 29, starting at noon at City Hall. The Stations procession will through downtown Baltimore, and a short prayer service will connect a traditional Station with a current issue or concern. The entire procession should conclude in about two hours, returning to City Hall. Email Chuck Michaels at

14] – There is also a noon Women in Black vigil on Mar. 29 at Roland Park Place, 830 W. 40th St. Call 410-467-9114.

15] – A vigil for Justice in Palestine/Israel takes place every Friday from noon to 1 PM at 19th & JFK Blvd., Philadelphia (across from Israeli Consulate. It is sponsored by Bubbies & Zaydes (Grandparents) for Peace in the Middle East. Email Go to

16] – There is a silent peace vigil on Fri., Mar. 29 from 5 to 6 PM outside Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St. Placards say: "War Is Not the Answer." The silent vigil is sponsored by Homewood Friends and Stony Run Meetings.

17] – On Fri., Mar. 29 at 7 PM @ Red Emma's, 800 St. Paul Sr., listen to readings with the Wishnia brothers. The Brothers in Crime are coming to Baltimore with novels set in the grit of New York City's old Lower East Side. Join readings with Steven Wishnia, author of “When the Drumming Stops” (2012, Manic D Press) and Kenneth Wishnia, author of “23 Shades of Black” (2012, PM Press). Call 410- 230-0450 or go to

18] – There is an opportunity to participate in ballroom dancing, usually every Friday of the month, in the JHU ROTC Bldg. at 8 PM. Turn south on San Martin Dr. from the intersection of Univ. Parkway and 39th St. Drive on campus by taking the third left turn. The next dance will be Mar. 29. Call Dave Greene at 410-599-3725.

19] – Friends House, 17715 Meeting House Rd., Sandy Spring, MD 20860, hosts a peace vigil every Saturday, 10:30 to 11:30 AM, on the corner of Rt. 108 and Georgia Ave. [Route 97] in Olney, MD. The next vigil is Mar. 30. Call Chuck Harker at 301-570-7167.

20] – Each Saturday, 11 AM – 1 PM, Chester County Peace Movement holds a peace vigil in West Chester in front of the Chester County Courthouse, High & Market Sts. Go to Email

21] – There will be a peace vigil on the West Lawn of the Capitol at noon on Sat., Mar. 30. Look for the blue banner with the message, "Seek Peace and Pursue It.--Psalms 34:14." The vigil lasts one hour and is silent except when one responds to the occasional questions. Go to or email

22] – There is a Rally for Trans Equality and Economic Justice on Sat., Mar. 30 at 4 PM at Columbia Heights Civic Plaza Circle, 14th and Park Rd. NW, WDC. The event is organized by DC trans organizers, the National Transgender Month of Action 2013, Trans Health Care Access, and DC trans coalition. For the first time, LGBT equality groups and labor unions folks are working together to advance access to basic health care for transgender people, and to expand health care insurance to cover trans-related health care nationwide. Celebrate victories and continue to build momentum and power to fight for trans equality, trans economic justice and equal access to quality jobs, health care and housing for DC trans residents. Go to

23] – Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 306 W. Franklin St., Suite 102, Baltimore 21201-4661, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion from 10:30 to 11:30 AM. On Sun., Mar. 31, enjoy the platform address –“The Challenge of Integration in Fractured Communities” with Fabio Lomelino, project director, Community Conversations, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. For the past year Lomelino has been traveling to several communities across the US hosting community conversations around the question: “What creates a sense of belonging for newcomers?” He will share what he has learned and provoke you to re-think the issue of integration in an age of fractured community structures. With the country reaching historically high levels of foreign-born residents and historically low levels of social cohesion, a challenge emerges to the traditional notion of receiving communities welcoming newcomers. The talk will encourage exploration of the difficult question: “Who is an alien in the face of widespread social alienation?”

Lomelino is a “reverse migrant,” born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, who moved to Baltimore less than a decade ago. Baltimore is his great-grandfather’s childhood home. Lomelino attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, where he fell in love with philosophy, the liberal arts, and good conversation. He joined Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) in 2010 to help the organization work toward its vision of creating welcoming communities for migrants and refugees. You can follow him on Twitter (@lomelinofh). Go to Call 410-581-2322 or email

24] – Join the Kadampa Meditation Center for Peace and Pancakes on Sundays at 10:30 AM at KMC Maryland, 2937 North Charles St. All are invited to participate in guided meditation and chant praying for world peace. There will be a talk based on Buddhist thought followed by brunch. Call 410- 243-3837. Brunch is $5.

25] – Red Emma’s needs volunteers. Stop in to the weekly Sunday meeting at 7 PM at 800 St. Paul St. or email The next meeting is Mar. 31. There is no meeting on the first Sunday of the month. Call 410-230-0450. If you would be interested in volunteering or becoming a collective member of 2640, send an email to

26] – On Sun., Mar. 31 at 7:30 PM, attend the "Wake Up Call" concert by singer/songwriter Roy Zimmerman. He is smart, and savvy, and he performs socially conscious songs. Visit

27] – There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop. The next vigil is Mon., Apr. 1, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Email or call 202-882-9649.

28] – From Mon., Apr. 1 through Tues., Apr. 30, join fasting for the climate, go to

29] – On Mon., Apr. 1 from 10 to 11:30 AM, Gary Samore, former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism, will discuss "Negotiating with Iran: How Best to Reach Success" at Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC 20036. RSVP at

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Thursday, March 28, 2013

It Was Bankers That Brought Cyprus to the Brink

It Was Bankers That Brought Cyprus to the Brink

Thursday, 28 March 2013 09:49 By Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co.
Op-Ed (Image: Netherlands / CartoonArts International / The New York Times Syndicate)

What is it about the islands around Europe's periphery?

Is there some peculiar psychological thing about proximity plus the illusion of isolation that makes them turn themselves into havens for runaway banks? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anyway, Cyprus's story has obvious parallels with both Iceland's and Ireland's, with R.M.M.L. — Russian mobster money laundering — as an extra ingredient. All three island nations had a run of rapid growth as their status as banking havens left them with banking systems that were too big to save. Iceland, at peak, had banks with assets that equaled 980 percent of gross domestic product; Ireland was at 440 percent. Cyprus, at around 800 percent, was closer to Iceland in this respect.

In all three instances, runaway banking was the source of the crisis — although not everyone seems to get this, even now. In any case, the question is what to do about it.

Iceland got through the crisis with less damage than Ireland, for two reasons. First, it let its banks default on liabilities to overseas creditors, including deposits in offshore accounts. Second, it had the flexibility that comes from having your own currency.

Iceland's currency advantage helped the real adjustment of the economy; it also allowed some fairly undisruptive financial repression, because the depreciation of the krona (coupled with temporary capital controls) led to a brief burst of inflation that eroded the real value of deposits. Savers were hurt — but with banks having grown to 10 times the G.D.P., that was going to happen one way or another.

Cyprus, unfortunately, seems to be making a hash of it. To be fair, the proposed levy on depositors was actually smaller than the real losses Icelandic depositors took (and they lost on their currency holdings too). But this is just the beginning! Even with the effective default on deposits, Cyprus will need a huge loan from the troika — the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund — and the condition for this loan will be harsh austerity. This looks like the beginning of endless, inconceivable pain.

The Russians Are Coming!

The Russians Are Coming!

How big a deal is the Russian factor in Cyprus's crisis? Pretty big, it seems. Over at the Financial Times, the financial blogger Izabella Kaminska reported on some estimates indicating that 19 billion euros in Russian nationals' deposits are in Cyprus banks, which is more than the country's G.D.P. While I'm not expert in this area, I wonder whether this is an understatement; given what we think we know about the nature of much of this Russian money, is all of it really being declared as Russian?

Let me make a broader point: We've now seen three island nations around Europe become huge international banking hubs relative to their G.D.P.'s, then get into crisis because their domestic economies don't have the resources to bail out those metastasized banking systems if something goes wrong. This strongly suggests, to me at least, that we have a fundamental problem with the whole architecture (to use the preferred fancy word) of international finance.

As long as you haven't bought into the Barney-Frank-did-it school of thought, you realize that the global crisis of 2008 was in a fundamental sense made possible by the erosion of effective bank regulation. As the economist Gary Gorton has documented, there was a 70-year "quiet period" after the Great Depression in which advanced countries had very few major financial flare-ups; Mr. Gorton argues, and most of us agree, that the key to this quietness was a constrained, regulated financial system that also limited the opportunities for excessive nonbank leverage.

But this regulation in turn depended, to an important extent, on limited international capital flows; otherwise regulations made in Washington or elsewhere would have been bypassed via havens like, well, Cyprus. And once those capital controls began to be lifted in the 1970s we entered an era of ever-bigger financial crises, starting in Latin America, then moving to Asia, and finally striking the whole world.

So what are we going to do about this? Cyprus, as a euro-zone country, should really be part of a euro-wide safety net buttressed by appropriate regulation; it's insane to imagine that the euro can be run indefinitely and merely with national deposit insurance. But euro-area deposit insurance doesn't seem to be in the cards — and anyway, there are plenty of other potential Cypruses out there.

All of which raises the question: Is the era of free capital movement just a bubble, fated to end one of these years, maybe soon?

© 2012 The New York Times Company

Truthout has licensed this content.

Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008. Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including "The Return of Depression Economics" (2008) and "The Conscience of a Liberal" (2007).

Copyright 2012 The New York Times.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Officer Tied to Tapes’ Destruction Moves Up C.I.A. Ladder

March 27, 2013

Officer Tied to Tapes’ Destruction Moves Up C.I.A. Ladder


WASHINGTON — A C.I.A. officer directly involved in the 2005 decision to destroy interrogation videotapes and who once ran one of the agency’s secret prisons has ascended to the top position within the C.I.A.’s clandestine service, according to current and former intelligence officials.

The officer, who has been serving in the position in an acting role for several weeks since the retirement of her direct boss, is one of a small group of candidates being considered to take over the job permanently.

The decision about whether to keep the officer in the job presents a dilemma for John O. Brennan, the new C.I.A. director, who said during his confirmation hearing last month that he was opposed to the brutal interrogation methods used by the spy agency in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

More broadly, Mr. Brennan — who himself was a senior C.I.A. official when the methods were being used — has indicated that he hopes to gradually refocus the spy agency away from manhunting and paramilitary operations like drone strikes and toward more traditional espionage activities.

But this might not be an easy task. The years since the Sept. 11 attacks have transformed the C.I.A., and a whole generation of clandestine officers are rising through the agency’s ranks who have more training in hunting, capturing and killing terror suspects than in typical spying work like recruiting foreign agents to spy against their governments for the United States.

The promotion of the officer, who spent years working inside the agency’s Counterterrorist Center and once was in charge of a so-called black site, played a role in developing the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program, was first reported by The Washington Post. Because the officer remains undercover, The New York Times is not disclosing her identity.

The officer served as the C.I.A. station chief in London and New York, and the branch of the agency she now leads — called the National Clandestine Service — is responsible for all C.I.A. espionage operations and covert action programs. The head of the clandestine service is one of the most coveted jobs in the C.I.A., and has never before been run by a woman.

The destruction of dozens of C.I.A. interrogation tapes, documenting the interrogations of Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in a secret C.I.A. detention facility in Thailand, was one of the most controversial episodes of the past decade. The Justice Department undertook an investigation into the matter after the destruction of the tapes was disclosed in late 2007, but no C.I.A. officers were criminally charged.

The destruction was ordered by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who at the time was the head of the agency’s clandestine service. The officer was serving as Mr. Rodriguez’s chief of staff, and several former C.I.A. officers said she was a strong advocate for getting rid of the tapes, which had been sitting for years inside a safe in the agency’s station in Bangkok. “She and Jose were the two main drivers for years for getting the tapes destroyed,” said one former senior C.I.A. officer.

In his book, “Hard Measures: How Aggressive C.I.A. Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives,” Mr. Rodriguez wrote that he had grown frustrated that the tapes might become public and expose the officers shown in them to jeopardy. The female officer held a meeting with agency lawyers, Mr. Rodriguez wrote, during which the officer was told that Mr. Rodriguez had authority to destroy the tapes. “My chief of staff drafted a cable approving the action that we had been trying to accomplish for so long,” Mr. Rodriguez wrote. “The cable left nothing to chance. It even told them how to get rid of the tapes.”

In addition to the female officer who is acting director, Mr. Brennan is considering several other candidates to run the clandestine service and has taken the unusual step of appointing three retired C.I.A. officers to advise him. Several former intelligence officials said they could not recall a similar situation when an agency director had formally enlisted an outside panel to advise him on a senior personnel decision, and suggested that Mr. Brennan may be looking for political cover in making the choice.

Preston Golson, a C.I.A. spokesman, said that was not the case. Mr. Brennan would make the final decision, he said, but “asking former senior agency officers to review the candidates will undoubtedly aid the selection process.” He said that the acting head of the clandestine service was a “strong candidate for the job,” but declined to provide any details of the officer’s biography.

As much as Mr. Brennan may want to put distance between the C.I.A. and its controversial past, he is also managing the spy agency’s formal response to a 6,000-page investigative report by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The report, which remains classified, is said to document a pattern of exaggerations and false statements by C.I.A. officers to the White House and Congress about the efficacy of the interrogation program.

© 2012 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Google Street View Captures Ghost Town in Fukushima’s Evacuation Zone


MARCH 27, 2013, 4:40 PM

Google Street View Captures Ghost Town in Fukushima’s Evacuation Zone


The eerily empty streets of Namie, a town deep in the evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, are featured in the latest images captured by Google for its Street View mapping project.

The scene is wrenching: houses flattened by the earthquake and now abandoned for fear of radiation; rows of empty shutters on a boulevard that once hosted Namie’s annual autumn festival; ships and debris that still dot a landscape laid bare by the 50-foot waves that destroyed its coastline more than two years ago.

Namie’s 21,000 residents are still in government-mandated exile, scattered throughout Fukushima and across Japan. They are allowed brief visits no more than once a month to check on their homes.

Another 90,000 people remain unable to return to their homes in the exclusion zone. Both experts and government officials have said that some of the most heavily contaminated areas in the exclusion zone may be uninhabitable for years, or even decades.

Invited by Mayor Tamotsu Baba to document the town’s deserted streets, Google began mapping Namie earlier this month. It used a car fitted with a special camera that captures a 360-degree view of its journey.

Google has mapped other parts of Japan’s tsunami zone, but the scenes released Wednesday were the first from within the exclusion zone.

“Many of the displaced townspeople have asked to see the current state of their city, and there are surely many people around the world who want a better sense of how the nuclear incident affected communities,” Mr. Baba said in a blog post on Google.

Mr. Baba, as well as Namie’s town hall operations, remain evacuated in Nihonmatsu, a city about 30 kilometers inland.

“Ever since the March disaster, the rest of the world has been moving forward, and many places in Japan have started recovering,” he said. “But in Namie-machi, time stands still.”

• Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Anti-drones activists plan month of protest over Obama's 'kill' policy

Anti-drones activists plan month of protest over Obama's 'kill' policy

Organisers keen to build on renewed focus of president's targeted killing programme by holding series of protests in April

• Paul Harris in New York

•, Wednesday 27 March 2013 12.24 EDT

Military bases, universities and companies involved in Barack Obama's drones programme are to be targeted in a month-long series of protests by activists keen to build on the renewed public focus over the president's controversial policy.

Dubbed "April Days of Action" by participants, organisers are hoping to capitalise on a series of recent controversies that have thrust the use of drones – especially when it comes to targeted killings of suspected terrorists – into the heart of American political debate.

The protests will begin on April 3 with a rally in New York, followed by three days of protest outside the facilities of companies that make drones, including at San Diego-based General Atomics which makes Predator and Reaper drones.

Later in the month, protests will take place at universities and other institutions that conduct research into drones or help train drone pilots and operators. At the end of the month, rallies and demonstrations will target military bases in the US from where drones operate, including Hancock air base near Syracuse, New York.

"There is a tremendous amount of scepticism with the public about drone attacks in other countries. There is concern that innocent people are killed and enemies of the United States are being made," said Nick Mottern, founder of Know Drones, an educational organization that is helping co-ordinate the protests. Over the month the cities targeted by the campaign will also include Washington DC, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Honolulu, San Francisco, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Des Moines and others.

The use of unmanned robots to strike at suspected Islamic militants abroad has risen sharply during the Obama administration. Its defenders say that it offers a precision way of hitting targets without the potentially disastrous deployment of US manpower abroad. But critics point out that drone strikes frequently cause civilian casualties, while the definition of a suspect is worryingly broad and the exact legal context of the programme is shrouded in secrecy.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism tracks drone casualties, and estimates that in Pakistan alone 366 strikes have killed up to 3,581 people, with 884 being innocent civilians. Of that total number of attacks, 314 have been ordered while Obama has been in office.

Protesters said they hoped the campaign would rally public anger. "There is no question that the April Days of Action will exhibit a level of anti-war and civil liberties activism that is unprecedented in recent years," said Medea Benjamin, founder of veteran anti-war group Code Pink, whose members recently protested against the appointment of drones advocate John Brennan as the new head of the CIA.

But anger over drones is not limited to US liberals. One of the highest-profile critics of the drone programme is Kentucky senator Rand Paul, a rising star of the Republican right wing.

Paul recently launched a remarkable 13-hour filibuster effort against Brennan's appointment. The bid failed, but it highlighted concerns over the legal implications of drone attacks that have killed American citizens and worries that the devices might be deployed for similar purposes on US soil.

Mottern said that the April Days protests would seek to push forward the debate in the wake of Paul's action. "Most people here in the United States know a little bit about drones; we want everyone to begin to see the depth of the threat that drones present to all of us, regardless of what nation we live in," he said.

President Obama: The Drones Don't Work, They Just Make It Worse

Published on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 by Al-Jazeera-English

President Obama: The Drones Don't Work, They Just Make It Worse

by Rafia Zakaria

Less than two weeks after Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster of CIA Chief John Brennan’s confirmation in the US Senate, it seems that the controversy over the legality and transparency of drone attacks has finally provoked a response from the Obama Administration. On March 19, 2013, reports published in the Daily Beast and the Wall Street Journal indicated that the controversial drone program may be shifted from the CIA to the Department of Defense.

The reports were based on statements by US officials and a yet unreleased draft document indicating that the Obama White House would like the program to be institutionalised and reformed, moving it into the command structure of the US military instead of within its spy agency.

It may be true that moving the drone program to the Department of Defense would address some of the critiques regarding transparency and legality. Drone strikes carried out by the military, as they have been in Afghanistan, would be subject to the rules of engagement that govern the use of military force. They would also have a clearer chain of command that would disclose, at least generally, the parameters used to select targets and order strikes, both contentious points on which the CIA-run drone program has been criticised.

Unlike the CIA, the Department of Defense would not be able to classify all drone operations as “covert” or “clandestine” and would be subject to oversight from other branches of the United States government. Furthermore, while the President did not have to sign off on every strike conducted by the CIA, under a military run program he would have, as Commander-in-chief, clear ultimate authority over the program.

Under the new formulation, operations would move gradually from the CIA to the Department of Defense, with a lengthy period of transition in which the two agencies would work together. The move would allow the CIA to move out of counter-terrorism and focus again on the collection of human intelligence, a facet of its operation that is said to have suffered. On March 20, the Washington Post reported that a panel of White House advisors had expressed grave concerns that the CIA was paying inadequate attention to collecting intelligence on China, the Middle East, and other national security flashpoints, because of its inordinate focus on military operations and drone strikes. A move away from drone strikes, then, would free up the Agency’s resources to do the sort of traditional intelligence gathering with which it is tasked.

On their own side, White House officials are keen to change the impression that the President Obama is a champion of secret assassinations using armed drones on shaky legal grounds. A major counter terrorism speech is expected soon in which the President will define a new direction in counter-terrorism policy and deflect criticism that his Administration has been operating an illegal killing program. While details of timing are unknown, such a speech can be seen as provoked by the questions raised in Senator Paul’s filibuster regarding the possibility of the President ordering drone strikes on US citizens based on unknown determinations. Although Attorney General Eric Holder denied such a possibility in his response to Senator Paul, questions have continued as to the legal authority of CIA targets and the fact that United States citizens cannot demand any sort of accountability for them.

Not really a change

Moving the drone program from the CIA to the Department of Defense is thus being painted as a victory, even a capitulation, to those critics who have criticised the lack of transparency, accountability, and legal basis of the drone program. However, the details of the move do not suggest a reversal or even a rethinking of the strategic imperatives that the Obama Administration and the CIA have used to justify the drone program.

First, the gradual process of the transition without any publicly disclosed details of how and when it will be completed are likely to create a situation in which, at least for a time, it would be difficult if not impossible to tell which agency, the Department of Defense or the CIA, would actually be responsible for a strike. Second, according to a government official who spoke to the Washington Post, the CIA program in Pakistan would be phased out even later “because of the complexities there” and because the program, unlike the ones in Yemen and Somalia, was actually begun by the CIA. Finally, even if the drone program is actually moved to the Department of Defense, it will be incorporated into its most secret portion, the Joint Special Operations Command, whose top-secret operations are also covert and never released to the public.

When these factors are considered, the effort to provide more transparency and an institutional framework for the drone program seem chimerical at best and deceptive at worst. All of them point to a continuation of a national security mindset, within the Obama Administration and the State Department, both believing that drones, cheaply bought and unmanned, are a perfect way to bombard other countries with minimal cost the United States. With the risk of dead American soldiers reduced to nothing, military officials are also gobbling up the idea of waging remote-control wars all over the world, wherever a possible or even supposed threat can be identified.

Are Drones effective?

Starkly absent from the debate are any meaningful critiques of the actual effectiveness of drone strikes. Figures obtained from the South Asia Terrorism Portal indicate, for example, that the drastic escalation in drone strikes in Pakistan during the Obama Administration has caused no decrease in the capacity of drone-targeted groups to carry out terrorist attacks in the region. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, President Obama ordered 53 drones strikes in Pakistan in 2009. These strikes were reported to have killed, among others, Tehreek-e-Taliban Commander Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Gul Nazeer. In turn, there were approximately 500 bomb blasts in Pakistan that year, most of which were concentrated in the northwestern tribal areas of Pakistan.

In 2010, President Obama ordered 128 drone strikes which were again reported to have killed various prominent Taliban figures and various Al-Qaeda commanders. The number of bomb blasts carried out by terrorist groups in Pakistan that year was 473, with most of them again concentrated in the tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In 2011, President Obama ordered 75 drone strikes which killed, among others, Al-Qaeda Chief financial officer Abu Zaid Al Iraqi and Taliban spokesperson Shakirullah Shakir. However, despite this being the third year of drone strikes, terror groups within Pakistan were still able to carry out 673 bomb blasts. They also expanded the geographic area of the blast operations to include not only the remote and sparsely populated tribal areas, but also the urban centers of Karachi in the south and Quetta in the southwest of Pakistan. Finally, in 2012, President Obama ordered 48 drone strikes which were alleged to have killed between 242 and 400 people. Among the dead was Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud, whose death was said to be a big blow to the operative capacities of the organization.

However, even despite this being the fourth year of drone strikes in Pakistan, with so many Al-Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban leaders allegedly killed in strikes in past years, terrorists were nevertheless able to still carry out 652 attacks killing 1,007 people and injuring 2,687. Not only were they able to kill more, they were also able to expand their ambit of operations into other parts of Pakistan, with terrorist attacks in Karachi and Quetta now almost equivalent in damage to the ones that occurred in the northwest, where the war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban had once been isolated.

The move of Tehreek-e-Taliban activity from the tribal areas of Pakistan, where drones operate more effectively, to urban areas like Karachi has also been documented in a recent report issued by the United States Institute for Peace, which stated that Karachi is now the “preferred hideout of the TTP, Afghan Taliban, other extremist, and sectarian outfits" and that Karachi’s urban density and sprawl offer “the best militant hideout,” since U.S drone strikes cannot be enacted in Karachi, which unlike Federally Administered Tribal Area is the country’s economic and financial capital. The report further goes on to say that militants “are relocating to Karachi and are able to plan local and international operations in the city.”

That those allegedly being targeted by drones do not seem at all weakened by them seems largely absent from the discussion on drones and the preoccupations of whether the program will be snuck from the secret corners of one US agency to another. The problem of an increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, even after their leaders have been hammered for years by drones, can be ignored by American officials whose interest is ostensibly limited only to protecting Americans. However, if it is concerns of transparency and legality that are provoking the responses from the Obama Administration and the purported move to reassign the drone program to the Department of Defense, perhaps the issue of actual effectiveness can also be added to the mix.

© 2013 Al-Jazeera

Rafia Zakaria is on the board of directors of Amnesty International. She is a lawyer and a Political Science PhD candidate at Indiana University.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs