Bill Totten's Weblog

Monday, April 30, 2007

World needs to axe greenhouse gases by eighty percent

by Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

Reuters (April 19 2007)

The world will have to axe greenhouse gas emissions by eighty percent by 2050, more deeply than planned, to have an even chance of curbing global warming in line with European Union goals, researchers said on Thursday.

Even tough long-term curbs foreseen by the EU or California fall short of reductions needed to avert a two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature rise over pre-industrial times, seen by the EU as a threshold for "dangerous change", they said.

"If we are to have a fifty percent chance of meeting a two degrees Celsius target we would have to cut global emissions by eighty percent by 2050", Nathan Rive of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo told Reuters.

"Any delay in implementing emissions reductions will make a two degree target practically unreachable", he and colleague Steffen Kallbekken wrote of findings to be published in the journal Climatic Change.

The EU reckons that there would be dangerous disruptions to the climate such as ever more droughts, heatwaves, floods and rising seas beyond a two degrees Celsius ceiling. Temperatures already rose by about 0.7 Celsius in the 20th century.

An eighty percent global cut would mean rich nations, responsible for most heat-trapping emissions from fossil fuels burnt by power plants, factories and cars, would have to axe emissions by about 95 percent below 2000 levels by 2050.

Developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and Indonesia, where emissions are rising sharply in line with energy use to help lift millions from poverty, would have to take on less swinging reductions, they said.


"Even the most ambitious proposals for emissions cuts in 2050, such as the UK draft climate bill which sets a cut of sixty percent, or the California target to reduce emissions by eighty percent by 2050, fall short", they said.

A draft report by the UN climate panel due for release on May 4 in Bangkok also concludes that a maximum two degrees Celsius rise would be hard to achieve. Restraints on emissions consistent with the goal could cost up to three percent of world gross domestic product.

And Kalbekken and Rive said that global emissions would have to peak in 2025, with cuts in place by 2010, to achieve an eighty percent cut by mid-century. Any delays would sharply raise costs.

Under the UN's Kyoto Protocol, 35 industrialized nations now have goals of cutting emissions by five percent below 1990 by 2008 to 2012. The United States, which says the plan is too costly and wrongly excludes developing states, is the main outsider.

UN climate negotiations focused on widening Kyoto beyond 2012 are stalled. Developing nations say they cannot be expected to cap emissions when energy use has been a key to economic growth by rich states since the Industrial Revolution.

Copyright (c) 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Bill Totten

The Global Scramble for Black Gold

Oil and the Empire

by Alan Maass (March 30 2007)

The oil men of the Bush administration are trying to set up one of the biggest swindles in history - the great Iraq oil robbery.

The cabinet of the new Iraqi government - under pressure from the US occupiers who put them in power - approved a law that would undo Iraq's nationalized system and give Western oil giants unparalleled access to the country's vast reserves.

The oil companies would be guaranteed super-profits - on a scale unknown anywhere else in the Middle East - for a period of twenty to 35 years from oil pumped out of two-thirds or more of Iraq's oilfields. Meanwhile, Iraqis would continue to endure poverty and the devastation of war while sitting atop what is estimated to be the third-largest supply of the world's most sought-after resource.

The great Iraq oil robbery isn't a done deal. Even if the law is finalized by May as expected, the major oil companies say they won't have anything to do with production in Iraq until "security" is established - and that would mean a success for the occupiers and their Iraqi puppets that the US hasn't been able to achieve over the past four years since the invasion.

Still, the law underlines the importance of the scramble for oil to the US empire - no matter how much George Bush and his administration deny it with claims about spreading "democracy" and making the world safe from terrorism.

The US government's thirst for oil isn't only about profits - and still less about securing supplies of a commodity that ordinary Americans depend on - but is also about power. In a world in which the economic and military might of nations depends significantly on access to oil, more control for the US means less control for its rivals.

These dual calculations - securing access for its own needs and controlling the access of others - have been central to the history of oil and the US empire, from the end of the 19th century, to the start of the 21st.


During the opening months of the Bush administration in 2001, Dick Cheney chaired a task force to set a new course for US energy policy.

Cheney and the White House invited a showdown with Congress by refusing to respond to even routine requests for information about the task force - like who served on it, and what their recommendations were.

Most people assumed this meant the task force was made up of energy industry executives, and their "deliberations" were organized around plotting new ways to line their pockets. This turned out to be completely accurate - and certainly not unexpected, given the makeup of the new administration.

"It isn't so much under the sway of Big Oil as it is, well, infested top to bottom with oil operatives, starting with the president and vice president", left-wing journalist Jeffrey St. Clair wrote on the CounterPunch Web Site.

"Eight cabinet members and the National Security Advisor came directly from executive jobs in the oil industry, as did 32 other Bush-appointed officials in the Office of Management and Budget, Pentagon, State Department and the departments of Energy, Agriculture and - most crucially in terms of opening up what remains of the American wilderness to the drillers - Interior".

But Cheney and the task force had more on their minds than further deregulation or drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

They were also laying out the strategic aims of the "war on terror" to come.

It wasn't called the "war on terror" yet. The September 11 attacks would take place half a year later, but ultimately, they were only the pretext for carrying out long-held plans for a more aggressive US imperialism.

Oil was at the heart of that agenda. Cheney's energy task force concluded that declining resources and the rise of potential rivals such as China meant the US needed to tighten its grip - most of all, in the Persian Gulf region, which sits on more proven reserves of oil than the rest of the world combined.

The task force recommended that the US press allies like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to "open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment".

But another focus was Iraq - where oil production remained in a shambles after the first Gulf War, and exports were restricted by US-backed United Nations sanctions. The task force reportedly examined maps of Iraqi oilfields - and the Pentagon produced a memo on "Foreign Suitors For Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" that analyzed contractors from dozens of countries and their intentions toward exploiting Iraqi's oil if Saddam Hussein's government was overthrown.

The interest in Iraq's oil wasn't new. A Pentagon document made the case that an "oil war" was a "legitimate" military option back in 1999 - while Bill Clinton was still president.

At that time, Dick Cheney was still lurking in the private sector, as the CEO of Halliburton, but he clearly agreed with the Democratic administration about the importance of oil. "The Middle East, with two-thirds of the oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize lies", he said in a 1999 speech.

Of course, Cheney's industry colleagues lusted after Iraqi oil as a source of profits. "Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas ... [that] I'd love Chevron to have access to", Chevron CEO Kenneth Derr said in 1998.

But Cheney and like-minded "hawks" from previous Republican administrations had their minds on a bigger picture. By the end of the 1990s, the newly formed Project for a New American Century provided a soapbox for the "neoconservatives" who would populate the Bush administration - such as Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton and future Cheney aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

"While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of Saddam Hussein", the PNAC hawks declared in a report issued not long before the 2000 election. War with Iraq would be part of a plan of "maintaining global US pre-eminence ... and shaping the international security order in line with US principles and interests".

The PNAC dogma became the outline of the Bush Doctrine promoted by the administration after the "war on terror" was launched - aggressive use of US power to prevent the development of any rivals to the US, now and into the future.

Pre-emptive war and an expanded US military presence worldwide would be necessary to "dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the US", according to the White House's National Security Strategy document issued in 2002.

In this context, oil is a dominant factor - because as important as it is to the economic fortunes of any country, it is even more so to their military might.


No one would doubt the critical importance of oil to the global economy. It accounts for 39 percent of global energy consumption, including 95 percent of energy used in ground, sea and air transportation. Petroleum is also a basic component in a range of products, like plastics and paints, that we take for granted today.

"But just as important", as Saman Sepheri wrote in the International Socialist Review, "every tank, every airplane - from the B-52 to the stealth bomber - every Cruise missile and most warships in the US or any other nation's military arsenal rely on oil to wage their terror".

The decisive relationship of war and oil first emerged in the First World War. Britain, with its colonial control over Iranian oil, had a decisive advantage over the German-led Axis powers, allowing the Allies to "[float] to victory on a wave of oil", in the words of Britain's Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon.

By the Second World War, the scramble for oil was a strategic priority on all sides. "The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor to protect their flank as they grabbed for the petroleum resources of the East Indies", author Daniel Yergin wrote in his history of oil titled The Prize. "Among Hitler's most important strategic objectives in the invasion of the Soviet Union was the capture of the oil fields in the Caucasus. But America's predominance in oil proved decisive, and by the end of the war, German and Japanese fuel tanks were empty."

The US emerged from the war as the dominant world superpower, and a central part of its postwar strategy depended on maintaining control over oil resources, particularly the vast reserves discovered in the Middle East - "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest prizes in world history", the State Department said in a document.

US companies had been decisive in establishing Saudi Arabia - the first "fundamentalist" Islamic state built around the Saud clan. Texaco and Standard Oil of California formed the Arab American Oil Company (ARAMCO) to share its concessions for exploration and marketing of Saudi oil. ARAMCO and the US government ended up creating much of the Saudi state machine from scratch to serve their needs.

During the early 1950s, in Iran, the other crucial pillar of Middle East oil production, Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq nationalized the British-controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The CIA organized a coup to overthrow Mossadeq, restoring the brutal regime of the Shah to serve as a regional strongman guaranteeing Western oil interests.

The other important surrogate for the US was Israel. Without oil resources itself, Israel was a colonial settler state funded with tens of billions of dollars in US aid to serve as a military watchdog against any threat to Western interests by Arab nationalist regimes.

US power over the region suffered a blow with the 1978-79 revolution that toppled the Shah. President Jimmy Carter ordered the creation of a Rapid Deployment Force to stop "any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region [which] will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States".

Meanwhile, the US encouraged neighboring Iraq, under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party, to invade Iran - and quietly backed the decade-long war that followed, at a cost of more than one million lives.

When Hussein threatened to slip the leash, invading Kuwait in 1990, George Bush Sr organized a coalition of "the bullied and the bribed" for a war that killed hundreds of thousands.

The same priority - on protecting and extending US control over the flow of Middle East oil - has continued through the rush to exploit newly available oil reserves in the Caspian Sea region, the scheming for a pipeline through Afghanistan and beyond.


The question of who controls the oil is made even more intense by the threat that it is drying up. Depending on how pessimistic or optimistic the estimate, world production of oil will peak in either the next few years or next few decades - at which point, the cost of extracting the remaining oil is expected to rise rapidly.

This end-of-oil scenario is emerging as worldwide demand for oil is growing at a faster pace than ever.

The US continues to claim the lion's share, accounting for 25 percent of oil consumption with just five percent of the world's population. But the big increases in demand are coming from the developing world's economic powerhouses China and India - precisely the nations that sections of the US establishment fear could develop into rivals over the coming century.

The stage is thus set for oil to play the same central role in the imperialist competition - economic, political and military - between nations in the 21st century as it did in the 20th.

In this light, the Bush administration's motivations in pushing for the new Iraq oil law are clearer.

For one thing, Iraqi oil production has been hampered by two decades of war and sanctions - its reserves will be an important unexploited source as oil becomes more scarce.

US companies would love to take advantage of the super-profits guaranteed by the production-sharing agreements (PSAs) that the Iraqi government would sign under the law.

PSAs are usually used in situations where the oil is difficult to extract, so the company's investment in production is substantial. But the opposite is the case in Iraq - the cost of extraction is about $1 per barrel, and the selling price on the world market is around $60 a barrel. And under the PSA, foreign oil companies would be guaranteed seventy percent of the profits - seven times the typical share under other contracts in the Middle East.

But that's assuming they get away with it. The Iraqi government is expected to approve the oil law, but getting Western oil companies to come in under circumstances of a civil war and widespread opposition to the US military presence is another matter.

The other aim of the oil law, as left-wing Iraq expert Michael Schwartz put it in a recent interview with Socialist Worker, is to give US companies "control over the spigots" - so that the US will "get to decide how much is going to get pumped at any particular moment, and who it will be sold to". But the crisis of the occupation has frustrated this aim as well.

Meanwhile, rather than being intimidated by US power, Iran has benefited from Washington's crisis in Iraq, and is more willing than ever to strike out on its own. One consequence has been Iran's deeper ties with China - the very country the US hoped to force into line with its tightened grip on Persian Gulf oil.

Washington's rulers aren't about to give up, however. For the last century, the world's governments have been ready to go to war over oil - and they will again, until a new society that places priorities on democracy, freedom and justice is established.

Bill Totten

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Buying only what you need ...

... is like a gift to yourself

by Craig Wilson

USA Today (December 02 2003)

I did what many Americans did over the weekend. I went shopping with my mother. Actually I went looking. My mother went shopping.

Some of you may remember that back in January I wrote about how I was going to attempt to go through the year without buying anything. Food. Yes. Plants for the garden. Yes. Gifts for other people. Sure.

But another shirt or sweater for myself? No.

I made the New Year's proclamation after realizing I already had too much stuff, so much I was actually embarrassed. So I joined what's called the simplicity movement, cleaning out the closet in an attempt to clean out the mind.

I'm not alone in this. The day after Thanksgiving - one of the biggest shopping days of the year - has been proclaimed "Buy Nothing Day" by activists who want to put some perspective on America's hunger to purchase. I joined the cause months before.

Since January, hundreds of you have written, wondering how I was doing. Had I succumbed to a cashmere scarf in March, a new bathing suit in June, a slicker come September?

Did I ever fall off the wagon? Of course.

Did I throw in the towel and rush to the Ralph Lauren end-of-summer sale? No.

Did my checking account soar and my credit card bill plummet? Yes and yes.

I even kept a list of my indiscretions.

I confessed early on that I bought two pairs of jeans. I couldn't get into my old ones, which also had ripped. I've since lost weight, and the new jeans are now useless. I'm wearing a pair that had been stored away for a few years. The irony is not lost on me.

I also bought a pair of boat moccasins for walking the dog. Years of early-morning treks to the park had taken their toll on the old pair. I looked upon the purchase as more a necessity than a luxury.

But the purchase I'm most embarrassed about is a tennis sweater I got while on vacation in England. It's white with a purple band around the V-neck collar. It came from A E Clothier on King's Parade in Cambridge, and yes, it's quite natty.

But it belongs on a grass court there more than it belongs in my drawer here. I'm not sure what came over me. Maybe it was vacationitis - no, it's not a word but should be - because it happened again. A shirt from Hackett's in London. Maybe I thought holiday purchases were exempt. I've already given it away.

This fall, my boss asked me how I was doing, how it felt not to buy much of anything for a year. I told her it feels like an alcoholic must feel when he stops drinking. Liberating. Cleansing.

And like a recovering alcoholic steering clear of bars, I find myself walking by stores. They seem like museums to me now. I look through the window and see the lovely displays, but I never touch.

My partner, Jack, asks whether I'm going to continue what he calls "my little exercise in restraint". I just might.

After all, buying just what you need, not what you think you need, isn't a bad way of life. In fact, it's quite a good way of life.

Especially when you can still accept gifts.

Copyright USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Company Inc.

Bill Totten

Beyond Munich

The UN Security Council Helps Disarm a Prospective Further Victim of US Aggression {*}

by Edward Herman and David Peterson

ZNet Commentary (April 02 2007)

Imagine that when Hitler was threatening to invade Poland, after having swallowed Czechoslovakia - with the help of the Western European powers' appeasement of Hitler at Munich in September 1938 - the League of Nations imposed an arms embargo on Poland, making it more difficult for the imminent victim to defend itself, and at the same time suggested that Poland was the villainous party. That didn't happen back in 1939, but in a regression from that notorious era of appeasement something quite analogous is happening now.

Here is the United States, still fighting a brutal war of conquest in Iraq, which it is now doing with UN Security Council approval, with open plans and threats to attack Iran and engage in "regime change", gathering aircraft carriers off the coast of Iran, already engaging in subversive and probing attacks on the prospective target, and the UN Security Council, instead of warning and threatening the aggressor warns, threatens and imposes sanctions on the prospective victim!

The way it works is that the United States stirs up a big fuss, proclaiming a serious threat to its own national security, and expressing its deep concern over another state's flouting of Security Council resolutions or dragging its feet on some point of order such as weapons inspections - we know how devoted the United States and its Israeli client are to the rule of law!

In the Iraq case, this noise was echoed and amplified in the media, often splashed across headlines and drummed up in editorial commentary. In turn, elite opinion in the United States and Britain coalesced around the beliefs (a) that a WMD-related crisis really existed in Baghdad and (b) that it required the Security Council's special attention. Straight through March 19 - 20 2003, Iraq, the prospective target of a full-scale attack, decried the absurdity of this US-UK noise, and filed regular communiques with the Security Council and Secretary General documenting the US-UK aerial strikes on its territory, {1} including the "spikes of activity" period from September 2002 onward. {2} The vast majority of the world's states and peoples also rejected the war propaganda - including the largely voiceless US public, where in the weeks before the war, two-thirds of non-elite opinion stood firmly behind multilateral approaches to defuse the crisis, foremost of which was permitting the UN weapons inspections to take their course. {3} But then, as now, pretty much the entire world recognized the US-UK hijacking of the Security Council, and its strategic misdirection away from a defense of the actual target of the threats (Iraq) onto the execution of the policy of the states making those threats while playing the role of Iraq's potential victims (the US and UK).

So the aggression planning proceeded then and does now with the cooperation of the UN and international community. In the Iraq case, the Security Council allowed itself to be bamboozled into restarting the weapons-inspection process, accepting this as the urgent matter, rather than the war-mobilization and threat of aggression by the United States and its British ally. Although the Security Council did not vote approval of the US-British attack, it helped set it up by inflating the Iraq threat and failing to confront the real threat posed by the United States and Britain. Then, within two months after "shock and awe", the Security Council voted to give the aggressor the right to stay in Iraq and manage its affairs, thereby approving a gross violation of the UN Charter after the fact.

Now, four years later, the Security Council has outdone itself. Not only has it failed to condemn the US and Israeli threat to attack Iran - the threat itself a violation of the UN Charter, {4} and one made ever-more real by the US invasions of neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq during this decade alone, now followed by a huge US naval buildup near Iran's coast to levels not seen since the US launched its war on Iraq four years ago in what the New York Times just called a "calculated show of force". {5} But even worse, the Council has aided and abetted these potential aggressors by adopting three resolutions in the past eight months under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, each of which affirms that Iran's nuclear program is a threat to international peace and security, and reserves for the Council the right to take "further appropriate measures" should Iran fail to comply - that is, should Iran not cave-in to US demands on exactly the terms demanded. {6}

Since July 31, the Council has demanded that Iran "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development" {7} - despite the fact that Iran's right to engage in these activities is guaranteed under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. {8} Since December 23, it has identified the existence of Iran's nuclear program with so-called "proliferation sensitive nuclear activities" {9} - despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency has never shown Iran's program to be engaged in any kind of activities other than peaceful ones. Indeed, in the December 23 resolution, the Council used the phrase "proliferation sensitive nuclear activities" no fewer than eight different times to describe Iran's nuclear program, the clear - and perfectly false - allegation being that for Iran to do research on and develop its indigenous nuclear fuel capabilities places Iran in violation of its NPT commitments.

But perhaps most egregious of all, the March 24 resolution prohibits Iran from selling "any arms or related material" to other states or individuals (paragraph 5), and calls upon all states "to exercise vigilance and restraint" in the sale or transfer of a whole list of weapons systems to Iran, "in order to prevent a destabilizing accumulation of arms" (paragraph 6). {10} As the editorial voice of The Hindu immediately recognized, the first term is critical "not so much because the Islamic Republic is a major vendor of weapons even to Hamas or Hizbollah but because it gives the US an excuse to intimidate or interdict all Iranian merchant shipping under the guise of 'enforcement'". {11} Likewise with the second term, which, if history is any guide, Washington will interpret as a strict prohibition on weapons sales to Iran, thus depriving the potential victim, faced with attack by one or more nuclear powers, of the right to obtain even non-nuclear means of self defense. This of course has been a standard US tactic over many years, even against puny victims - Guatemala in 1954 and Nicaragua in the 1980s, among other cases. But now the United States has succeeded in getting the Security Council to help it impede the self-defense of yet another target of aggression. In this truly Kafkaesque case, the state targeted for attack (Iran) has been declared a threat to the peace by the Security Council, at the behest of a serial aggressor openly mobilizing its forces to attack the "threat". {12}

It should be recognized that the treatment of Iran's nuclear program, and the Security Council's cooperation in this treatment, is the ultimate application of a global double standard, enforced by an aggressive superpower now able to get away with both hypocrisy and murder. Only the United States and its allies may possess nuclear weapons. They alone may threaten to use nukes. They alone may improve their nukes and delivery systems. Only client states such as Israel may remain outside the NPT indefinitely and without penalty. The United States may ignore its NPT obligation to work toward nuclear disarmament. It may even renege on its promise never to use nukes against nuke-free states that joined the NPT. But no matter. By sheer fiat-power, no other state may acquire nukes without US consent. Nor as the case of Iran shows may a state engage in its "inalienable right" to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes unless and until the United States approves.

We are in the midst of a crisis within the post-war international system, as a serial aggressor is now able to mobilize the Security Council, tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security, to declare the state that it threatens with war a menace to the peace and to help the aggressor disarm its target. This carries us beyond Munich.


* The authors would like it understood that a shorter, standard op-ed length version of this commentary was drafted and submitted very widely across the major US print media - and found to be 100 percent unpublishable.

1. For an extensive list of documents filed at the United Nations by the Iraqi Government over the period August 29 2001, through March 26 2003, see David Peterson, "No Memo Required", ZNet, July 1 2005.

2. See David Peterson, "Spikes of Activity", ZNet, July 05 2005, ; and David Peterson, "British Records of Prewar Bombing of Iraq", ZNet, July 06 2005.

3. See Steven Kull et al, Americans on Iraq and the UN Inspections, Program on International Policy Attitudes, January 21-26 2003.

4. See, for example, Chapter I, Article 2: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations" (paragraph 4).

5. "USS John C Stennis Now Operating in Persian Gulf", Navy Newsstand, March 27 2007; "Russian intelligence sees US military buildup on Iran border", RIA Novosti, March 27 2007; and Michael R Gordon, "US Opens Naval Exercise in Persian Gulf", New York Times, March 28 2007.

6. See Chapter VII, & lt; . We believe it essential to understand that for the Security Council to adopt a resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter means above all that either a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace, or an act of outright aggression has occurred. Otherwise, there is no point to the Council's resort to its Chapter VII functions and powers. Regardless of what the Council's other members may believe about the import of the Iran resolutions, their assent to these resolutions grants an enormously powerful and dangerous tool of coercion to the United States.

7. Resolution 1696, July 31 2006, paragraph 2.

8. See the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Preamble, and Articles I, II, and IV.

9. Resolution 1737, December 23 2006, paragraph 2.

10. Resolution 1747, March 24 2007, paragraph 5, paragraph 6.

11. "Stepping towards the precipice", Editorial, The Hindu, March 27 2007.

12. See Edward S Herman and David Peterson, "Hegemony and Appeasement: Setting Up the Next US-Israeli Target (Iran) for Another 'Supreme International Crime'", ZNet, January 27 2007.


Edward S Herman is an economist and media analyst, co-author with Noam Chomsky of Manufacturing Consent.

David Peterson is a Chicago-based researcher and journalist.

Bill Totten

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Breaking the Consumer Habit

Living the Buy Nothing Life

by Jenny Uechi (April 20 2007)

San Francisco, 1951.

A living room fills with warm laughter and the aroma of fresh-baked goodies. Suburban housewives walk around the room exchanging smiles, telling stories. It's like any other casual gathering, except for one twist: this is a Tupperware party, everyone is here to shop.

Painting over gray decades of war and depression with bright pastels, products like Tupperware ushered in a new era of prosperity, renewal and superabundance. Consumer goods like the television set and the Cadillac became more than just necessities for life: for millions of consumers, they were the essence of life itself.

Fast forward to 2005. A group of friends in the San Francisco Bay Area are meeting over a potluck dinner. Disillusioned by the endless consumer rat race, they are here to discuss how to not shop, to put an end to needless consumption. Taking the concept of Buy Nothing Day to the extreme, they have decided to attempt a full year without buying new products. Dubbing themselves "The Compact" after the Mayflower pledge at Plymouth Rock, the group vowed to limit their shopping to food, medicine and basic hygiene products, buying used wherever they could. Since the local news began covering them, their story has exploded, appearing everywhere from the Today Show to The Times of London. Today, with 8,000 new members and 55 subgroups worldwide - from regions as varied as Singapore and Iceland - the Compact are finding themselves at the forefront of the turning tide against consumer culture.

What the Compacters are doing is neither radical nor revolutionary; millions of people around the world live this way, and have lived this way for generations. Yet the Compact threatens and challenges everything that people have come to believe about "the good life" in the industrialized world. Reactions to the movement have been passionate, ranging from applause to outrage. Compact members have been accused of being "self-congratulatory braggarts" who are "destroying America's economy". One Compacter in Chilliwack, Canada, recalls friends reacting as if she had joined a Satanic cult. Love it or hate it, the Compact has made people question and the real motives behind their daily purchases.

"I used to shop to entertain myself", confesses Lori Wyndham Jolly, an American expat and Compacter living in Berkshire, UK. "I'd go into a record store and buy a whole load of discount CDs, or into a chemist and get a lot of cheap cosmetics ... I didn't do this because I needed any of that stuff, but just to fill the emptiness. I read a throwaway line in paperback once, but it's stuck with me: People shop because they're lonely."

"We're constantly on the drive to consume more stuff", says Rachel Kesel, a Bay Area Compacter who keeps a closely followed blog about her experiences. "It becomes a habit and not necessity".

The reasons why people join the Compact are varied. Some join to cut back on spending, others to reduce waste, still others to escape materialism and focus on spiritual values. One thing they all recognize is that shopping is not the solution to their problems - in fact, it may very well be the cause to many of them.

"Money and debts seem to be ruling our life", observes Ru'na Bjo"rg Gartharsdo'ttir, a Compacter in Iceland. She explains to Adbusters that she joined the Compact to escape what she calls the "vicious cycle" of consumerism - the chronic overwork to be able to spend more; the social disintegration resulting from overwork; the environmental damage caused by consumer waste; conflict over resources to supply consumer demand. In other words, a myriad of problems loosely bound by the innocent desire for an iPod or a luxury car collection.

It is no coincidence that the emergence of the Compact coincides with the rising popularity of the down-shifting and environmental movements. People throughout the developed world have realized that, unlike our psychological desires - which are infinite - our physiology and environmental resources have limits. Our body can't handle eighty-hour workweeks on a 6,000-calorie-per-day diet, no more than our earth can handle cities like New York producing 12,000 tons of solid waste every single day, or the hundreds of millions of discarded cell phones that release cancer-causing toxins into the air. Something, someday, will have to give.

For now, most Compacters defensively state that their choice is a strictly "personal" one and that they have no political agenda. Yet they continue to stir up discontent by turning their back on a sacred ideal, the belief shared by billions around the world that "more" is better than "just enough". Marketers are hoping this is a fringe movement. The signs point elsewhere. According to recent surveys by sociologist Juliet Schor, 81 percent of Americans believe their country is too focused on shopping, while nearly ninety percent believe it is too materialistic. Newspapers such as USA Today received record reader responses when columnist Craig Wilson swore off shopping for a full year. Radical anti-consumers such as the Freegans (people who survive on discarded food and products) are proving that people can survive off the waste of affluent consumers.

Gartharsdo'ttir, for her part, speaks with some pride when people tell her that her refusal to shop will shake her country's economy. "It shows clearly the strong influence the marketing forces currently have on the nation", she says. "We should rule our lives and decide what comes first".


Compact's blog is at

Bill Totten

How Will Our Grandchildren See Us?

by Scott Bontz

The (March 27 2007)

Thirty years ago, Alex Haley's "Roots" on television inspired millions to sleuth their blood ties to history. On this anniversary, let's imagine what our own descendants will make of us when they look back.

What they will see is that Earth's people more than tripled between 1950 and 2050. They'll see that halfway through this explosion, American material consumption had grown so voracious that four Earths would be needed for everyone on the planet to live the same way. And they'll see that billions tried.

They'll see that this combination exhausted and poisoned water supplies, exterminated hundreds of thousands of species, and plowed under forests and grasslands, eroding essentially irreplaceable soils.

They'll see that what fueled the "free market" was humanity's biggest free lunch: We exploited energy accumulated over millions of years - coal, oil and natural gas. And we did it even though we knew we'd run out.

They'll see that burning these fossil fuels raised temperatures and sea levels to drive tens of millions from coastal cities and drown rich delta soils, turned rich midcontinent farmland into desert, and made storms in wetter regions destructively stronger and erratic.

They'll see that even during this delayed reaction to the Big Burn, fossil fuels petered out, and with them the irrigation and fertilizer that made it possible to feed so many extra billions.

And they'll see that before the resulting hardships, people in the richest countries got much fatter, yet no happier.

They - the Children of the Great Depletion - will see that we squandered Earth, their birthright, for the sake of the "good life".

This portrait in the making, some of it based on climate modeling but most of it already fleshing out in fact, is grim. But we can leave a better picture if we work now to save a planet that's still in many ways a garden.

This will require us to radically redefine progress and what we mean by "standard of living". We can't measure these only with material yardsticks, aiming only for "efficiency" with energy and materials, which just frees capital for more consumption. The goal will be what writer Wendell Berry calls "poorer in luxuries and gadgets, but ... richer in meaning and more abundant in real pleasure". We must make an honest accounting of what our planet can support long term. We must remember that human endeavor is merely a subsidiary of Earth Ltd.

Since the free market has failed us here, we need new rules of taxation, regulation and treaty. So:

* Make the American way of life negotiable. Our fuel burning pumps into the atmosphere more global-warming carbon dioxide than any other nation, even though Number Two China has more than four times as many people. We have to lead the way out.

* Do this by taxing fossil fuels to slash release of greenhouse gases. Price these fuels at their true, long-term cost, including illness from pollution and food production lost to climate change. Invest the revenue in sustainable alternatives. Do it soon: Leading NASA climate scientist James Hansen reckons we have a decade at most to start reducing greenhouse gases before drastic climate change becomes inevitable.

* End tax exemptions for any more children than two - those predating the rule excepted. Through government subsidy make contraceptives and sterilization surgery free. Even if nothing else about sex is taught in school, explain exponential growth.

* Negotiate with other affluent countries to cut consumption. Again, it's our responsibility to lead.

* For poor nations, greatly expand aid, but make it conditional: They must control population and pollution, and protect land, air and water. This investment could be far less than current military spending, yet better for long-term national security.

* And for policy and individual conduct in general, recognize that what we call economic growth, running now on so much principal from the natural world, cannot last. Instead of spending like there's no tomorrow, conserve - make this the United States of Conservation - and pass along a good life to our descendants.

What could make them prouder?


Scott Bontz wrote this for the Prairie Writers Circle, a project of the Land Institute, Salina, Kansas. He edits institute publications.

Bill Totten

Friday, April 27, 2007

Lines of beauty

by John Gray

New Statesman (April 23 2007)

At the Same Time
by Susan Sontag

(Hamish Hamilton, 256 pages, GBP 18.99)

ISBN 0241143713

The first of the essays and speeches that are collected in At the Same Time {1} is a meditation on beauty. Written during the last years of Susan Sontag's life, when she was ill with cancer, these sixteen pieces brim over with vitality. Every one of them opening up fresh lines of thought, they are in no sense last words. Unlike many politically engaged writers, Sontag never hankered after the security of a finished system of thought. If she acquired a reputation for contrarian thinking it was because she responded directly to historical events, which rarely conform to ideological stereotypes.

Enraging bien-pensants when she noted that Reader's Digest gave a truer picture of communism than could be found in the journals of the left, she provoked fury on the right by observing (in a piece written just after the 9/11 attacks, included in this volume) that politics had been replaced by a kind of psychotherapy whose goal was to spare the American public from being burdened by too much reality - not least the reality of intractable conflict in the Middle East. In each case, she was speaking a truth that had been silenced by prevailing opinion.

At the Same Time is a record of Sontag's thinking in progress. Even so, the book's opening reflections on beauty undoubtedly express her lifelong beliefs - and may help unravel a persistent paradox in her life as a writer. Against the puritan tradition that suspects aesthetic values because they threaten the primacy of morality, she declares that "beauty, even amoral beauty, is never naked", for "the aesthetic is itself a quasi-moral moral project". Engaging with beauty enables a type of wisdom, she believed, that "cannot be duplicated by any other kind of a seriousness". This is a conception of beauty that recalls Plato, and Sontag is clear that modern democratic relativism - the belief that aesthetic judgement is a matter of subjective preference rather than a perception of some kind of reality - undermines the very possibility of wisdom.

Here we have one of Sontag's many departures from current liberal orthodoxy - her "elitist" insistence on the enduring importance of values that are neglected in popular culture. It is true that she had no time for the postmodern view that the cultural consumer is always right. Radical subjectivism of this sort produces a cult of fashion masquerading as irony, "the promiscuous, empty affirmations of the interesting" that places human subjectivity at the centre of the world. In contrast, she believed, beauty "reminds us of nature as such - of what lies beyond the human and the made."

Though the fact is commonly resisted, an abiding concern with aesthetic experience does not coexist easily with strong political engagement. An urgent interest in reshaping the world is at odds with the attempt to discern the beauty it contains whatever its flaws. More than any of her critics, Sontag was aware of this tension. At times she seemed wary of the moral activism that fuelled her protests against injustice, and may have regretted not giving more of her energy to writing novels. It is striking how many of the writers she admired lacked, or even scorned, political commitment. An earnest desire to improve the human lot does not figure centrally in the work of Fernando Pessoa, E M Cioran or W G Sebald - writers Sontag fervently praised and publicised. When she promoted the work of an indefatigable activist and agitator - as she does, in a luminous essay collected here, when she praises Victor Serge's neglected novel The Case of Comrade Tulayev {2} - it was not primarily his exposure of Soviet oppression that she celebrated. It was the subtlety with which Serge pursued fictional truth in all its labyrinthine complication. Whereas an archetypal didactic "political novel" such as Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon {3} sees the Stalinist era through the prism of one person's experience of oppression, Serge interweaves politics and personalities in a panoramic view of history. For Sontag, fiction was the most effective way of rendering the human actuality, and it was Serge's realistic account of the contingencies that shape human fortunes which made him the better writer.

I knew Sontag only slightly, and all too briefly, towards the end of her life. At the time she died, she was America's best-known public intellectual. To my mind, she was also the most exemplary. Intellectually and imaginatively gifted to an extraordinary degree, she used her fearless intelligence to illuminate some of the deepest contradictions of contemporary life. Her writings on interpretation, photography and illness are part of the modern cultural canon. But Sontag was much more than a critic of culture, however accomplished. Who else would note, as she does in her essay "Regarding the Torture of Others", collected here, the seamless connection between the images of torture coming out of Abu Ghraib and the cliche's of the American porn industry? Or note that the photographs the soldiers posed, thumbs up, over their victims and sent to their friends illustrate a media-driven society in which everything that was once private is now shamelessly revealed? This is the moral culture that has made possible the rehabilitation of torture - a process that has taken place in a matter of a few years, but which is a defining feature of our age.

As Sontag wrote, "What formerly was segregated as pornography, as the exercise of extreme sado-masochistic longings - as in Pier Pasolini's last, near-unwatchable film Salo (1975), depicting orgies of torture in the fascist redoubt in northern Italy at the end of the Mussolini era - is now being normalised by the apostles of the new, bellicose, imperial America".

That this process should have been led by the world's pre-eminent liberal regime is also symptomatic of the times in which we live. Images of naked men stacked in heaps seem to have been sufficiently shocking to be largely withdrawn from the media. Yet practices of sensory deprivation and denial of sleep, which when practised on dissidents in the former Soviet Union were condemned as a sign of totalitarianism, are now defended by the American vice-president and his neoconservative acolytes as part of a crusade for universal freedom. One of the ethical restraints that shape civilised life has been eroded, while those responsible for the slide into barbarism rant on about human rights and the perils of moral relativism.

Contemporary politics is a surreal spectacle that few writers in any country have succeeded in capturing. If Sontag did, it was because, for her, cultural criticism and literature were not separate activities. The paradox in which she seemed at times entangled was only partly real. While moral activism does not always go with devotion to beauty or concern with truth, in Sontag's case these values served a single end. In At the Same Time we hear the voice of a unique writer, who loved the world and spent her life in an attempt to see it whole.






John Gray's next book, Black Mass: apocalyptic religion and the death of utopia, will be published by Penguin in July.

Bill Totten

Awful Truth About Hillary, Barack, John ...

... and Whitewash

by Norman Solomon

ZNet Commentary (April 13 2007)

The Pentagon's most likely next target is Iran.

Hillary Clinton says "no option can be taken off the table".

Barack Obama says that the Iranian government is "a threat to all of us" and "we should take no option, including military action, off the table".

John Edwards says, "Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons". And: "We need to keep all options on the table".

A year ago, writing in The New Yorker, journalist Seymour Hersh reported: "One of the military's initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites".

For a presidential candidate to proclaim that all "options" should be on the table while dealing with Iran is a horrific statement. It signals willingness to threaten - and possibly follow through with - first use of nuclear weapons. This raises no eyebrows among Washington's policymakers and media elites because it is in keeping with longstanding US foreign-policy doctrine.

This year, with their virtually identical statements about "options" and "the table", the leading Democratic presidential candidates - Clinton, Obama and Edwards - have refused to rule out any kind of attack on Iran.

If you're not shocked or outraged yet, consider this:

On February 22, the national leaders of MoveOn sent an e-mail letter to more than three million people with the subject line "War with Iran?" After citing a need to give UN sanctions "a chance to work before provoking a regional conflict", the letter said flatly: "Senator Hillary Clinton has provided some much needed leadership on this".

The MoveOn letter quoted a passage from a speech that Clinton had given on the Senate floor eight days earlier: "It would be a mistake of historical proportion if the administration thought that the 2002 resolution authorizing force against Iraq was a blank check for the use of force against Iran without further congressional authorization. Nor should the president think that the 2001 resolution authorizing force after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in any way, authorizes force against Iran. If the administration believes that any, any use of force against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek that authority."

But, while quoting Hillary Clinton's speech as an example of "some much needed leadership", MoveOn made no mention of the fact that the same speech stated: "As I have long said and will continue to say, US policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. And in dealing with this threat, as I've also said for a long time, no option can be taken off the table."

Earlier this year, David Rieff noted in The New York Times Magazine on March 25, "Vice President Cheney insisted that the administration had not 'taken any options off the table' as Iran continued to defy United Nations calls for it to abandon its nuclear ambitions. The response from Democrats was not long in coming. Senator Clinton helped lead the charge, reminding the president that he did not have the authority to go to war with Iran on the basis of the Senate's authorization of the use of force in Iraq in 2002.

"But what Senator Clinton did not say was at least as interesting as what she did say. And what she did not say was that she opposed the use of force in Iran. To the contrary, Senator Clinton used virtually the same formulation as Vice President Cheney. When dealing with Iran, she insisted, 'no option can be taken off the table'."

To praise Hillary Clinton for providing "much needed leadership" on Iran - and to mislead millions of e-mail recipients counted as MoveOn members in the process - is a notable choice to make. It speaks volumes. It winks at Clinton's stance that "no option can be taken off the table". It serves an enabling function. It is very dangerous.

The stakes are much too high to make excuses or look the other way.


Norman Solomon's book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death is out in paperback. For information, go to:

Bill Totten

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Danger from the strangers behind the wheel

by Mark Lynas

New Statesman (April 23 2007)

Motorists must be forced to acknowledge that possession of a dangerous weapon requires extreme caution and diligence

There is a menace on our streets, one that threatens the lives of our children on a daily basis. It comes from a group of people who are responsible for hundreds of innocent deaths each year due to their addiction to a uniquely dangerous activity. But rather than being discouraged by government and the law, this group sees its every whim indulged - indeed, GBP 13 billion of public money is currently being wasted on its behalf. You've probably guessed who the individuals are who comprise this group - motorists.

According to government statistics, 671 pedestrians and 148 cyclists were killed by drivers in 2005. Motorists remain the biggest risk to our young people: in that same year, over 2,100 child pedestrians were seriously injured or killed, including 250 under the age of five. By comparison, an average of seven children are attacked and murdered each year by strangers. Despite the tabloid hype, your child is ten times more likely to be killed by a motorist while playing outside than by a paedophile. "Stranger danger" comes not from shifty looking men in overcoats, but from other mums and dads behind the wheel. In addition to the tally of crushed bodies and broken limbs is the hidden price paid by children through the loss of their freedom - with the streets too dangerous for children to play on, they are imprisoned in their homes by anxious parents, forced to be their chauffeurs, which can lead to more dangers for their young passengers.

Motorists are the only group of people in modern society still allowed to kill with impunity. On the rarest of occasions do motorists who cause death face jail, and then only for short periods. Take the Oxford nurse Angela Dublin, released a fortnight ago after spending just a year in prison for killing three thirteen-year-old children, who were travelling with her, and another motorist (aged 21), while speeding on the Oxford bypass in May 2005. As Dwain Haynes, father of one of the three boys killed by Dublin - who had seven kids in her car as she drove home from her son's birthday party - told the Oxford Times: "Serving a year goes to show what a joke it is and what a death on the road means. I only hope there is a change in the law one day." The conditions of Dublin's release prevent her entering areas of Oxford where families of the dead children live - so the law recognises the pain that would be caused to the parents bumping into the woman who killed their sons. Her driving ban expires in 2012 - she could be behind the wheel in just five years.

Another example of the negligible legal penalties for drivers who kill concerns the Rhyl Cycling Club, four of whose members were mown down by Robert Harris on the A457 in January 2006. Harris skidded on black ice while travelling at fifty miles per hour, causing what can only be described as carnage: three men, including the club's chairman and a fourteen-year-old boy, were declared dead at the scene. Harris was fined GBP 180 for having bald tyres, and given six penalty points on his licence. That's one and a half penalty points per person killed - not a sign of a legal system that takes innocent deaths on the road terribly seriously. Indeed, the surviving members of Rhyl Cycling Club have now joined RoadPeace, the group campaigning for justice for road traffic victims.

Despite pumping GBP thirteen billion into expanding the road network for the benefit of motorists, the government says it wants to encourage cycling. It has clearly failed: while there are seven million more cars on the road than a decade ago, the use of cycles has barely increased. Part of the reason must surely be the dangers to which cyclists and pedestrians are exposed - dangers intensified by a legal system that refuses either to punish motorists who kill or to recognise the rights of other road users. Driving also seems to generate a bully-as-victim psychology, where those who deal out death see themselves as an embattled minority - read the diatribes put out by the Association of British Drivers to get an idea of this mentality.

I have two proposals.

First, every motorist who kills should receive a lifetime driving ban, with no exceptions under any circumstances. The right to life must take precedence over the right to drive. That Robert Harris was free to walk out of the magistrates' court and get straight back into his car after killing four people is an insult to the memory of his victims. Lifetime driving bans would force motorists to be more careful, as well as take the most dangerous drivers off the road.

Second, British law - which currently favours motorists - should be altered in line with the Continental system, where a driver who hits a cyclist is presumed guilty unless proven innocent. We must lift the culture of impunity, and force motorists to acknowledge that possession of a dangerous weapon requires extreme caution and diligence. Once the terror of the car recedes, people might again begin to venture on to our streets on foot and by bike. The reality of car culture promoted by the likes of Top Gear {1} is not high-performance thrills in glamorous cars, but a wilting bunch of flowers by a busy roadside.

Note {1}

Bill Totten

Climate change: Why we don't believe it

by Lois Rogers

New Statesman (April 23 2007)

What does Britain really think about global warming? We reveal an unreported gulf between the pronouncements of campaigners and politicians and British public opinion

Global warming is a threat that is going to wipe out civilisation as we know it. The liberal elite and political classes are signed up to the message that, unless we take urgent action within ten years, we are all literally doomed to burn up.

But who else believes them?

Beyond the corridors of Westminster and the offices of environmental pressure groups, where global warming and sustainability are buzzwords of the moment, British consumers continue flying, driving and buying with unchecked enthusiasm. The gulf between the pronouncements of our politicians and what the majority of people think and do, could scarcely be wider.

A survey by the polling organisation MORI, published at the end of last year but unreported by the mainstream media, found that about a third of the population - 32 per cent - still knows little or nothing about the threat of climate change. Of those who had heard of it, half thought it was at least partly a natural process, and only eleven per cent of those questioned thought it was up to individuals to change their behaviour. MORI's head of research, John Leaman, acknowledges that the battle for public opinion is not only not won, it has not even seriously begun: "The question of how you persuade people that it is to do with them is a very interesting one", he said. "We need to know whether people's attitudes are the consequence of ignorance, disbelief or personal self-interest and inertia. Even among those who do know about climate change, there is a yawning gap between what people say and what they do. I don't think there is any simple answer." As an organisation, MORI is keen to be seen taking this problem seriously. It is planning its own forum in June, to contribute ideas for ways to promote awareness and behaviour change. (Ironically, the identified key speaker appeared to be away on a foreign holiday and could not be contacted for comment.)

How then are our leaders going to engage our hearts and minds in the green debate? What will be the tipping point that will lead people not just into giving the fashionable answers in opinion polls, but to actually change their behaviour?

At the moment we are mired in a bog of confusing messages. In a portentous speech to the Green Alliance last month, the Chancellor Gordon Brown talked about the need for "new global partnerships and multilateral networks" to tackle the environmental challenge. The recent climate change review by the economist Sir Nicholas Stern predicted hundreds of millions of "climate refugees" streaming across the world in an effort to escape from drought, flood and famine.

Yet opinion polls for the BBC and others indicate that the reaction of people hearing these pronouncements is that they are simply relieved to hear the problem is nothing to do with them. An ICM poll last month found about half the people questioned in some parts of the country were quite clear about their unwillingness to change their lifestyle at all. Elsewhere, there is growing scepticism that any of it is true, and the dissenting voices are getting louder. A recent editorial in the Daily Mail told millions of readers that it is pointless to alter drastically the way we live simply on the "vague possibility of an ecological disaster".

In March, Channel 4 broadcast a documentary entitled The Great Global Warming Swindle, which notoriously ridiculed the whole basis of climate change. The programme was furiously condemned by leading scientists as misleading and badly researched. Yet Channel 4 reported that it drew more than 700 comments from viewers, with those supporting its sceptical line outnumbering critics by six to one. "People appreciated the fact that the questioning approach was being given air time", said a Channel 4 spokesman. "We are planning a discussion programme on the whole issue for June. The best time to have a debate is generally when people say there is no further need for one."

Around the same time, a lone protester from an obscure lobby group called the Association of British Drivers (ABD), garnered almost two million signatures for an online petition protesting against the introduction of road pricing as a means of limiting car use. Hugh Bladon, a spokesman for the ABD, claims that he reflects the views of many people in his conviction that discussion of global warming is simply an excuse to raise more taxes from everyone, and motorists in particular. "I enjoy driving", he said. "Lots of people do. It is total nonsense to suggest that it will make a difference if we reduce mileage by a small amount a year."

While it is hard to find anyone - outside the airline industry - to advocate air travel as fervently as Bladon advocates the right to drive, the right to fly is another area of confusion and mixed messages. Even those who regard themselves as "responsible tourists" want to carry on flying. Typical is a comment by travel agent Chris Bland on the GreenTraveller website: "While I agree with trying to limit gratuitous flying by second-home commuters or business travel junkies, I don't want genuine travellers and adventurous tourists to be dissuaded from exploring the world. For me, the message would be: fly less and make it count when you do."

From politicians, however, there is a collective reluctance to take on any of those in the wealthiest and most influential sector of the electorate - whatever their reason for getting on a plane. "Doing anything about global warming is going to hit the middle classes first", says Peter Ainsworth, the shadow environment secretary. "A lot of them do support the Daily Mail view that this is just another means of imposing more stealth taxes. Convincing them that being more energy-efficient is actually going to save money - it is not easy."

Sir Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, also points to government resistance to any discussion of limitations on car travel or foreign holidays. "Politicians are preoccupied with trying to keep the same level of consumption with a lower output of carbon. In fact, we will end up paying so much for high-carbon goods that rationing will come in because of price rather than government mandate." Porritt himself believes our collective desire for self-preservation will soon win through because of the evident warming up of our world. Mark Lynas, the New Statesman columnist and author of the book Six Degrees: life in a hotter climate {1}, argues, however, that government action is imperative. "It doesn't make sense for people to make individual sacrifices while the world goes on around them. The unwillingness of people to act just reinforces the need for government to do something collectively."

Elsewhere, there is plenty of support for the view that, barring a Katrina-style hurricane catastrophe hitting Britain, consumers will not change. "It's very sad, but I actually think we might need a whole series of disasters in different countries before people make the connection", said Brian Hoskins, professor of meteorology at Reading University and a fellow of the Royal Society. "There has always been a conflict between social behaviour and selfish behaviour, but the environment is bearing down on us. It is a huge challenge to see if we can do something twenty years before it bites. We have to be optimistic about it, because otherwise we might as well give up.

"The political parties have taken off on this, but they have left behind them a considerable proportion of the electorate who are still wedded to Margaret Thatcher's notion of individual freedom to do your own thing."

According to Solitaire Townsend, founder of Futerra, a company specialising in sustainability communications, the obvious way to affect public opinion is through what she terms the cultural media - television soaps such as EastEnders or Desperate Housewives: "It is quite easy to 'de-status' things by presenting them as un-aspirational", she says. "If a big 4x4 is such an embarrassment that the kids don't want to be dropped off at school in it, then that's a success for us. The environmental movement has always focused on news and policy-makers, and forgotten how you change what people want. You can't stop people wanting status symbols, but you can make them aspire to different ones."

Numerous studies of collective psychology demonstrate that the greater the threat, the more people are inclined ignore it. John Elkington, founder of the think-tank SustainAbility, pointed out that, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor when America entered the Second World War, Ford went on making cars because they said people needed them. It was only when government intervention forced the company to turn its production lines to munitions, that Ford joined the war effort. "People almost enjoy being confused about big issues because it gives them the excuse to do nothing", Elkington said.

He does not think any major change will be orchestrated by government: "All governments are hopelessly conflicted by the pressures from industry and business. My hunch is that climate is going to give us some powerful nudges, which will cause people to panic. Ultimately though, I don't think change will come about through consumers either. It will be the result of colossal pressure from the financial markets. The costs from natural disasters caused by global warming, which are being born by the reinsurance giants such as Swiss Re and Munich Re, are simply going off the scale."

Unanswerable question

There are still those, however, who maintain that acceptance of the need to change will filter gradually through society. "It is an incredibly interesting social phenomenon", said Tim Jackson, professor of sustainable development at Surrey University. "I think we are at a turning point in the relationship between mankind and the environment, but people so far still don't see the responsibility as theirs. They think it is the job of government and big business. At some stage, society as a whole is going to have to enter the discussion."

The unanswerable question of how to do that still remains. Last month, the Market Research Society celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a conference discussion heralding the age of the "ethical brand", which it predicted would be embraced first by the "bourgeois bohemians", the economically conservative but socially liberal baby-boomers who are the new establishment. In the absence of a climate-inspired natural disaster, however, it seems unlikely that the threat of global warming will cause the rampant materialism of even the most socially conscious sector of society to be suddenly replaced by a set of long-lost pre-industrial values.

Earlier this month, the 800 scientists involved in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produced their latest report. The 1,572-page document, with its predictions of death and destruction in the developing world, provided plenty of reassurance for stubborn westerners that none of it is anything to do with them. So how will the IPCC convince them of the need to accept their responsibility? Its spokesman was baffled by the question: "They just have to", he said.

Not on the evidence so far. Back in London, civil servants at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were last week labouring over their own "behaviour change strategy" - what it would take to get different sections of the population to change their behaviour. Next month, a "citizens summit" is being planned to decide on the shape of this strategy. When Defra was asked for the agenda, however, it was clear that the department still did not know what it would be.

Trying to get the message across ...

Defra has been running pilot "recycling incentive schemes" across the country, giving vouchers to good recyclers or entering them into recycling lottery prize draws.

Ken Livingstone is offering Londoners GBP 100 cash back if they accept cut-price insulation for their homes.

The Department for Transport's "Cycle to Work" scheme lets employees buy tax-free bikes and accessories through their employers.

Toyota has released an attractive (believe it or not) hybrid car. The part-electric, part-petrol Prius is also exempt from the London congestion charge.

Tesco is attempting to tackle plastic bag wastage with its "Bag for Life" scheme. The hard-wearing bags cost 10 pence and customers are encouraged to reuse them until they finally wear out (when they are replaced free of charge).

Pop stars including Madonna, Genesis, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Razorlight (Johnny Borrell, pictured right) are climbing on board with a series of Live Earth concerts planned across seven continents on 7 July. The intention is to raise popular awareness of climate change. Organisers promise to keep the gigs as carbon-neutral as possible.

The Real Nappy Campaign is trying to persuade parents that giving up disposable nappies will save them at least GBP 300, as well as being better for the environment.

Property sellers now need to provide a "Home Information Pack" to prospective buyers, which includes a certificate on the home's energy efficiency.

Research: Sarah O'Connor

Bill Totten

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Australia's epic drought: The situation is grim

by Kathy Marks in Sydney

The Independent & The Independent on Sunday (April 20 2007)

Australia has warned that it will have to switch off the water supply to the continent's food bowl unless heavy rains break an epic drought - heralding what could be the first climate change-driven disaster to strike a developed nation.

The Murray-Darling basin in south-eastern Australia yields forty per cent of the country's agricultural produce. But the two rivers that feed the region are so pitifully low that there will soon be only enough water for drinking supplies. Australia is in the grip of its worst drought on record, the victim of changing weather patterns attributed to global warming and a government that is only just starting to wake up to the severity of the position.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, a hardened climate-change sceptic, delivered dire tidings to the nation's farmers yesterday. Unless there is significant rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, irrigation will be banned in the principal agricultural area. Crops such as rice, cotton and wine grapes will fail, citrus, olive and almond trees will die, along with livestock.

A ban on irrigation, which would remain in place until May next year, spells possible ruin for thousands of farmers, already debt-laden and in despair after six straight years of drought.

Lovers of the Australian landscape often cite the poet Dorothea Mackellar who in 1904 penned the classic lines: "I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains". But the land that was Mackellar's muse is now cracked and parched, and its mighty rivers have shrivelled to sluggish brown streams. With paddocks reduced to dust bowls, graziers have been forced to sell off sheep and cows at rock-bottom prices or buy in feed at great expense. Some have already given up, abandoning pastoral properties that have been in their families for generations. The rural suicide rate has soared.

Mr Howard acknowledged that the measures are drastic. He said the prolonged dry spell was "unprecedentedly dangerous" for farmers, and for the economy as a whole. Releasing a new report on the state of the Murray and Darling, Mr Howard said: "It is a grim situation, and there is no point in pretending to Australia otherwise. We must all hope and pray there is rain."

But prayer may not suffice, and many people are asking why crippling water shortages in the world's driest inhabited continent are only now being addressed with any sense of urgency.

The causes of the current drought, which began in 2002 but has been felt most acutely over the past six months, are complex. But few scientists dispute the part played by climate change, which is making Australia hotter and drier.

Environmentalists point to the increasing frequency and severity of drought-causing El Nin~o weather patterns, blamed on global warming. They also note Australia's role in poisoning the Earth's atmosphere. Australians are among the world's biggest per-capita energy consumers, and among the top producers of carbon dioxide emissions. Despite that, the country is one of only two industrialised nations - the United States being the other - that have refused to ratify the 1997 Kyoto protocol. The governments argue that to do so would harm their economies.

Until a few months ago, Mr Howard and his ministers pooh-poohed the climate-change doomsayers. The Prime Minister refused to meet Al Gore when he visited Australia to promote his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth {1}. He was lukewarm about the landmark report by the British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, which warned that large swaths of Australia's farming land would become unproductive if global temperatures rose by an average of four degrees {2}.

Faced with criticism from even conservative sections of the media, Mr Howard realised that he had misread the public mood - grave faux pas in an election year. Last month's report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted more frequent and intense bushfires, tropical cyclones, and catastrophic damage to the Great Barrier Reef. The report also said there would be up to twenty per cent more droughts by 2030. And it said the annual flow in the Murray-Darling basin was likely to fall by ten to 25 per cent by 2050. The basin, the size of France and Spain combined, provides 85 per cent of the water used nationally for irrigation.

While the government is determined to protect Australia's coal industry, the drought is expected to shave one per cent off annual growth this year. The farming sector of a country that once "rode the sheep's back" to prosperity is in desperate straits. With dams and reservoirs drying up, many cities and towns have been forced to introduce severe water restrictions.

Mr Howard has softened his rhetoric of late, and says that he now broadly accepts the science behind climate change. He has tried to regain the political initiative, announcing measures including a plan to take over regulatory control of the Murray-Darling river system from state governments.

He has declared nuclear power the way forward, and is even considering the merits of joining an international scheme to "trade" carbon dioxide emissions - an idea he opposed in the past.

Mr Howard's conservative coalition will face an opposition Labour Party revitalised by a popular new leader, Kevin Rudd, and offering a climate change policy that appears to be more credible than his. Ben Fargher, the head of the National Farmers' Federation, said that if fruit and olive trees died, that could mean "five to six years of lost production". Food producers also warned of major food price rises.

Mr Howard acknowledged that an irrigation ban would have a "potentially devastating" impact. But "this is very much in the lap of the gods", he said.

How UN warned Australia and New Zealand

Excerpts from UN's IPCC report on the threat of global warming to Australia and New Zealand:

"As a result of reduced precipitation and increased evaporation, water security problems are projected to intensify by 2030 in south and east Australia and, in New Zealand, in Northland and eastern regions".

* "Significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur by 2020 in some ecologically rich sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland's tropics. Other sites at risk include the Kakadu wetlands ... and the alpine areas of both countries."

* "Ongoing coastal development and population growth in areas such as Cairns and south-east Queensland (Australia) and Northland to Bay of Plenty (New Zealand) are projected to exacerbate risks from sea-level rise and increases in the severity and frequency of storms and coastal flooding by 2050".

* "Production from agriculture and forestry by 2030 is projected to decline over much of southern and eastern Australia, and over parts of eastern New Zealand, due to increases in droughts and fires".

* "The region has substantial adaptive capacity due to well-developed economies and scientific and technical capabilities, but there are considerable constraints to implementation ... Natural systems have limited adaptive capacity".




Bill Totten

The Anti-Empire Report

Some things you need to know before the world ends

by William Blum (April 06 2007)

Land of the free, home of the War on Terrorism

"They told us this was one of the world's worst terrorists, and he got the sentence of a drunken driver", said Ben Wizner, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, referring to David Hicks, a 31-year-old Australian who in a plea bargain with a US military court will serve nine months in prison, largely in Australia. That's after five years at Guanta'namo Bay, Cuba without being charged with a crime, without a trial, without a conviction. Under the deal, Hicks agreed not to talk to reporters for one year (a slap in the face of free speech), to forever waive any profit from telling his story (a slap - mon Dieu! - in the face of free enterprise), to submit to US interrogation and testify at future US trials or international tribunals (an open invitation to the US government to hound the young man for the rest of his life), to renounce any claims of mistreatment or unlawful detention (a requirement which would be unconstitutional in a civilian US court).

"If the United States were not ashamed of its conduct, it wouldn't hide behind a gag order", said Wizner. {1}

Like so many other "terrorists" held by the United States in recent years, Hicks had been "sold" to the American military for a bounty offered by the US, a phenomenon repeated frequently in Afghanistan and Pakistan. US officials had to know that once they offered payments to a very poor area to turn in bodies that almost anyone was fair game.

Other "terrorists" have been turned in as reprisals for all sorts of personal hatreds and feuds.

Many others - abroad and in the United States - have been incarcerated by the United States simply for working for, or merely contributing money to, charitable organizations with alleged or real ties to a "terrorist organization", as determined by a list kept by the State Department, a list conspicuously political.

It was recently disclosed that an Iraqi resident of Britain is being released from Guanta'namo after four years. His crime? He refused to work as an informer for the CIA and MI5, the British security service. His business partner is still being held in Guanta'namo, for the same crime. {2}

Finally, there are those many other poor souls who have been picked up simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. "Most of these guys weren't fighting. They were running", General Martin Lucenti, former deputy commander of Guanta'namo, has pointed out. {3}

Thousands of people thrown into hell on earth for no earthly good reason. The world media has been overflowing with their individual tales of horror and sadness for five very long years. Said Guanta'namo's former commander, General Jay Hood: "Sometimes we just didn't get the right folks". {4} Not that the torture they were put through would be justified if they were in fact "the right folks".

Hicks was taken into custody in Afghanistan in 2001. He was a convert to Islam and like many others from many countries had gone to Afghanistan for religious reasons, had wound up on the side of the Taliban in the civil war that had been going on since the early 1990s, and had received military training at a Taliban camp. The United States has insisted on calling such camps "terrorist training camps", or "anti-American terrorist training camps", or "al-Qaeda terrorist training camps". Almost every individual or group not in love with US foreign policy, which Washington wants to stigmatize, is charged with being associated with, or being a member of, al Qaeda, as if there's a precise and meaningful distinction between people retaliating against American imperialism while being a member of al Qaeda and retaliating against American imperialism while NOT being a member of al Qaeda; as if al Qaeda gives out membership cards to fit into your wallet, as if there are chapters of al Qaeda that put out a weekly newsletter and hold a potluck on the first Monday of each month.

It should be noted that for nearly half a century much of southern Florida has been one big training camp for anti-Castro terrorists. None of their groups - which have carried out many hundreds of serious terrorist acts in the US as well as abroad, including bombing a passenger airplane in flight - are on the State Department list. Nor were the Contras of Nicaragua in the 1980s, heavily supported by the United States, about whom former CIA Director Stansfield Turner testified: "I believe it is irrefutable that a number of the Contras' actions have to be characterized as terrorism, as State-supported terrorism". {5} The same applies to groups in Kosovo and Bosnia, with close ties to al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, in the recent past, but which have allied themselves with Washington's agenda in the former Yugoslavia since the 1990s. Now we learn of US support for a Pakistani group, called Jundullah and led by a Taliban, which has taken responsibility for the recent kidnapings and deaths and of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials in cross-border attacks. {6} Do not hold your breath waiting for the name Jundallah to appear on the State Department list of terrorist organizations; nor any of the several other ethnic militias being supported by the CIA to carry out terrorist bombing and assassination attacks in Iran. {7}

The same political selectivity applies to many of the groups which are on the list, particularly those opposed to American or Israeli policies.

Amid growing pressure from their home countries and international human rights advocates, scores of Guanta'namo detainees have been quietly repatriated in the past three years. Now, a new analysis by lawyers who have represented detainees at this 21st century Devil's Island says this policy undermines Washington's own claims about the threat posed by many of the prison camp's residents. The report, based on US government case files for Saudi detainees sent home over the past three years, shows inmates being systematically freed from custody within weeks of their return. In half the cases studied, the detainees had been turned over to US forces by Pakistani police or troops in return for financial rewards. Many others were accused of terrorism connections in part because their Arab nicknames matched those found in a computer database of al-Qaeda members, documents show. In December, a survey by the Associated Press found that 84 percent of released detainees - 205 out of 245 individuals whose cases could be tracked - were set free after being released to the custody of their native countries.

"There are certainly bad people in Guanta'namo Bay, but there are also other cases where it's hard to understand why the people are still there", said Anant Raut, co-author of the report, who has visited the detention camp three times. "We were struggling to find some rationality, something to comfort us that it wasn't just random. But we didn't find it."

The report states that many of the US attempts to link the detainees to terrorism groups were based on evidence the authors describe as circumstantial and "highly questionable", such as the travel routes the detainees had followed in flying commercially from one Middle East country to another. American officials have associated certain travel routes with al Qaeda, when in fact, says the report, the routes "involve ordinary connecting flights in major international airports". With regard to accusations based on similar names, the report states: "This accusation appears to be based upon little more than similarities in the transliterations of a detainee's name and a name found on one of the hard drives".

Raut said he was most struck by the high percentage of Saudi detainees who had been captured and turned over by Pakistani forces. In effect, he said, for at least half of the group in the study, the United States "had no first-hand knowledge of their activities" in Afghanistan before their capture and imprisonment. {8}

When Michael Scheuer, former CIA officer who headed the Agency's Osama bin Laden unit, was told that the largest group in Guanta'namo came from custody in Pakistan, he said: "We absolutely got the wrong people". {9}

Never mind. They were all treated equally. All thrown into solitary confinement. Shackled, blindfolded, excruciating physical contortions for long periods, denied medicine. Sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation. And two dozen other methods of torture which American officials do not call torture. (If you torture these officials, they might admit that it "torture lite".)

"The idea is to build an antiterrorist global environment", a senior American defense official said in 2003, "so that in twenty to thirty years, terrorism will be like slave-trading, completely discredited". {10}

When will the dropping of bombs on innocent civilians by the United States, and invading and occupying their country, without their country attacking or threatening the US, become completely discredited? When will the use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs and CIA torture renditions become things that even men like George W Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld will be too embarrassed to defend?

Australian/British journalist John Pilger has noted that in George Orwell's 1984 "three slogans dominate society: war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. Today's slogan, war on terrorism, also reverses meaning. The war is terrorism."

Throwing the earth on the mercy of the market

Al Gore appeared before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on global warming on March 21. The star of "An Inconvenient Truth" was told by Congressman Joe Barton of Texas: "You're not just off a little - you're totally wrong". In the afternoon Gore testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, during which the former vice president was told by Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma: "You've been so extreme in some of your expressions that you're losing some of your own people". {11}

These members of Congress know the facts of economic life in the United States. Fighting global warming is a threat to the principal human generator of it - corporations - who avail themselves of the best congress members money can buy to keep government regulations as weak as can be.

Does Al Gore know the same facts of American economic life? Of course, but you would have a hard time discerning that from his film. It's as cowardly in dealing with the corporations as Gore was in fighting the theft of the 2000 election. In the film's hour and a half, the words "corporations" or "profit" are not heard. The closest he comes to ascribing a link between the rape of the environment and the incessant corporate drive to optimize profits is a single passing mention of American automakers' reluctance to increase car gas mileage. He discusses the link between tobacco and lung cancer, as an example of how we have to "connect the dots" on environmental issues, with no mention of the tobacco corporations or their gross and deliberate deception of the American people. He states at another point that we must choose the environment over the economy, without any elucidation at all. Otherwise, the film's message is that it's up to the individual to change his habits, to campaign for renewable energy, and to write his congress member about this or that. In summary, the basic problem, he tells us, is that we're lacking "political will".

It would be most interesting if Al Gore were the president to see how tough he'd get with the corporations, which every day, around the clock, are faced with choices: one method of operation available being the least harmful to the environment, another method being the least harmful to the bottom line. Of course, Gore was vice-president for eight years and was in a fantastic and enviable position to pressure the corporations to mend their ways and Congress to enact tougher regulations; as well as to educate the public on more than their own bad habits. But what exactly did he do? Can any readers enlighten me as to what extent the man used his position and his power then in a manner consistent with the image and the word of his new film?

But could Gore be elected without corporate money? And how much of that money would reach his pocket if he advocated (choke, gasp!) free government-paid public transportation - rail, bus, ferry, et cetera? That would give birth to a breathtaking - or rather, breath enhancing - reduction in automobile pollution; easily paid for by ceasing America's imperialist wars.

Microsoft and the National Security Agency

I have long felt that the American media's gravest shortcoming is its errors of omission, rather than its errors of commission. It's what they leave out that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies. In January the Washington Post reported that Microsoft had announced that its new operating system, Vista, was being brought to us with the assistance of the National Security Agency. The NSA said it helped to protect the operating system from worms, Trojan horses and other insidious computer attackers. "Our intention is to help everyone with security", said the NSA's chief of vulnerability analysis and operations group. The spy agency, which provided its service free, said it was Microsoft's idea to acknowledge NSA's role, although the software giant declined to be specific about NSA's contributions to Vista. {12}

What the Post - and most likely the entirety of mainstream American media - do not remind us of is what came out in 1999 and 2000, although it's all over the Internet.

In September 1999, leading European investigative reporter Duncan Campbell revealed that NSA had arranged with Microsoft to insert special "keys" into Windows operating systems, beginning with Windows 95. An American computer scientist, Andrew Fernandez of Cryptonym in North Carolina, had disassembled parts of the Windows instruction code and found the smoking gun - Microsoft's developers had failed to remove the debugging symbols used to test this software before they released it. Inside the code were the labels for two keys. One was called "KEY". The other was called "NSAKEY". Fernandez presented his finding at a conference at which some Windows developers were also in attendance. The developers did not deny that the NSA key was built into their software, but they refused to talk about what the key did, or why it had been put there without users' knowledge. Fernandez says that NSA's "back door" in the world's most commonly used operating system makes it "orders of magnitude easier for the US government to access your computer". {13}

In February 2000, it was disclosed that the Strategic Affairs Delegation (DAS), the intelligence arm of the French Defense Ministry, had prepared a report in 1999 which also asserted that NSA had helped to install secret programs in Microsoft software. According to the DAS report, "it would seem that the creation of Microsoft was largely supported, not least financially, by the NSA, and that IBM was made to accept the (Microsoft) MS-DOS operating system by the same administration". The report stated that there had been a "strong suspicion of a lack of security fed by insistent rumours about the existence of spy programmes on Microsoft, and by the presence of NSA personnel in Bill Gates' development teams". Microsoft categorically denied all the charges and the French Defense Ministry said that it did not necessarily stand by the report, which was written by "outside experts". {14}

In case the above disturbs your image of Bill Gates and his buddies as a bunch of long-haired, liberal, peacenik computer geeks, and the company as one of the non-military-oriented halfway decent corporations, the DAS report states that the Pentagon at the time was Microsoft's biggest client in the world. The Israeli military has also been an important client. In 2002, the company erected enormous billboards in Israel which bore the Microsoft logo under the text "From the depth of our heart - thanks to The Israeli Defense Forces", with the Israeli national flag in the background. {15}

The Myth of the Good War

Readers of this report will be aware that one of the points I try very hard to convey is that the reason so many Americans support US atrocities abroad is that they're convinced that no matter how bad things may look, the government means well. American leaders may make mistakes, they may blunder, they may lie, they may even on the odd occasion cause more harm than good, but they do mean well. Their intentions are honorable. Of that most Americans are certain. And one of the foundation stones for this edifice of patriotic faith is the Second World War, an historical saga that all Americans are taught about from childhood on. We all know what its real name is: "The Good War".

Which leads me to recommend a book, "The Myth of the Good War", by Jacques Pauwels, published in 2002. It's very well done, well argued and documented, an easy read. I particularly like the sections dealing with the closing months of the European campaign, during which the United States and Great Britain contemplated stabbing their Soviet ally in the back with maneuvers like a separate peace with Germany, using German troops to fight the Russians, and sabotaging legal attempts by various Communist Parties and other elements of the European left to share in (highly earned) political power after the war. This last piece of sabotage was of course very effectively realized. Stalin learned enough about these schemes to at least partially explain his post-war suspicious manner toward his "allies". In the West we called it "paranoia". {16}


{1} Seattle Times, March 31 2007

{2} Washington Post, March 30 2007, page 11

{3} Financial Times (London), October 4 2004

{4} Wall Street Journal, January 26 2005

{5} Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, April 16 1985

{6} ABC News, April 3 2007

{7} Sunday Telegraph (London), February 25 2007

{8} Washington Post, March 18 2007

{9} Richard Ackland, "Innocence ignored at Guantanamo", Sydney Morning Herald, February 24 2006.

{10} New York Times, January 17 2003, page 10

{11} Washington Post, March 22 2007, page 2

{12} Washington Post, January 9 2007, page D1

{13} Duncan Campbell's article of September 3 1999 can be found on the website of TechWeb:

{14} Agence France Presse, February 18 and 21 2000

{15} To see one of the billboards:

Available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Dutch editions

William Blum is the author of:-

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2 (Common Courage Press, 1995)

Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower (Zed Books, 2002)

West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir (Soft Skull Press, 2002)

Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire (Common Courage Press, 2004)

Portions of the books can be read, and copies purchased, at and previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.

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Bill Totten