Wednesday, December 4, 2013

12-05-13 Activist Newsletter

December 5, 2013, Issue 197

1.   Quotes Of The Month: Arundhati Roy (1961-  )
2.   Statistics Of The Month
3.   Climate Change Meeting — To Little, Too Late
4.   Pope Francis Sharply Criticizes Capitalism
5.   Food, Farms, And Solidarity
6.   Economic Stagnation Haunts U.S.
7.   Homeowner Charged In Death Of Renisha Mcbride
8.   U.S.-Iran Deal: Imperialist Policy Shift
9.   Global Rainfall Increase Linked To Warming
10. Sleepwalking To Extinction
11. Living Death In Prison For Petty Crimes
12. Wikileaks Reveals Secret Details Of Tpp Pact
13. U.S., Australia And The ‘Pivot’ To China
14. Russia's View Of The Iran Deal
15. Isreal’s Goal: Undermine U.S.-Iran Talks
16. NSA Envisions Total Global Surveillance
17.  Petition: End Logging In America's Rainforest


1.   QUOTES OF THE MONTH: Arundhati Roy (1961-  )

The Indian author of “The God of Small Things” is a progressive commentator and political activist with a worldwide following.

·      “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

·      “Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. 
And above all
Thou shalt not be a bystander.”

·      “Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.”

·      “The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.”

·      “Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.”

·      “Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.”

·      “Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe.”


·      Economic woes, unpopular wars and nuclear meltdowns have eroded public trust in the authorities, according to a new Gallup poll. Only 40% of citizens in the mostly-rich countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development expressed confidence in their national governments in 2012, down five percentage points from 2007. In the U.S. it’s about 35%. The drop is big in countries hardest hit by recession: more than 20 percentage points in Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Only 12% of Greeks trust their leaders, compared with almost 80% in Switzerland (where faith in government rose in 2007-2012). Interestingly, in non-OECD China about 65% of citizens have confidence in their government. In the larger emerging countries, confidence is about 54%.

·      Since 1992 the UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly opposed the vindictive American sanctions 22 times. The Oct. 29 vote this year was typical: 188-2, with only the U.S. and Israel in the minority. Israel has joined with the U.S. every time, in return for which the U.S. employs its Security Council veto to protect its sidekick from charges of war crimes and the like. The highest number of opposition votes over the years was four — when the Marshall Islands and Palau joined.


Environmental organiztions walk out of UN meeting to protest lack of progress.

By Jack A. Smith, Editor, Activist News

The sharply increasing scientific indicators of impending disastrous global climate change have failed to motivate the principal developed countries, led by the U.S., to accelerate the lackluster pace of their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This was the principal conclusion of several key environmental groups attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) Nov. 11-23 in Warsaw, Poland. The meeting lasted a day and a half longer than scheduled to resolve a dispute about new greenhouse emission targets. About 10,000 people attended the 19th annual meeting of the so-called Conference of Parties (COP19) that drew nearly all the UN’s 193 member states.

About 800 attendees associated with environmental groups walked out of the conference Nov. 21, protesting the lack of progress. In a joint statement on the day of the walkout, the World Wildlife Federation, OxFam, Friends of the Earth, Action Aid and the International Trade Union Federation declared:

"Organizations and movements representing people from every corner of the Earth have decided that the best use of our time is to voluntarily withdraw from the Warsaw climate talks. The conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing."

According to Professor Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics and a leading British expert on climate change: “The actions that have been agreed are simply inadequate when compared with the scale and urgency of the risks that the world faces from rising levels of greenhouse gases.”

There were also street protests and marches in Warsaw composed largely of younger conference attendees and local youth. One slogan, referring to climate disasters, was “The Philippines, Pakistan, New Orleans: Change the System, not the climate.”

On Nov. 18, delegates from 133 developing countries — under the umbrella of the G77 group plus China — walked out temporarily “because we do not see a clear-cut commitment by developed countries to reach an agreement” to financially help poor countries suffering the effects of climate change for which they are not responsible. The U.S., for instance, was reluctant to help developing countries adapt to sea level rise, droughts, powerful storms and other adverse impacts, even though it is historically the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases.

By the end of the conference, perhaps encouraged by the walkout, the world body agreed to set up a “Loss and Damage” process for “the most vulnerable countries” experiencing losses from global warming. The details remain vague.

A distressing aspect of the conference came when four major developed countries took actions in contradiction to fighting global warming. • Japan — the fifth largest carbon polluter — announced it was breaking its pledge to reduce greenhouse gases by 25% of 1990 levels by the year 2020, blaming the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. • Canada and Australia recently declared they would not support the Green Climate Fund — the UNCCC program to transfer money from the developed to the developing countries to assist them in dealing with climate change. • Conference host Poland, a major coal producer, worked with the World Coal Association to simultaneously host the International Coal and Climate Summit in Warsaw. (Greenpeace and others protested outside the coal meeting.)

COP19 was permeated with corporate lobbyists from “fossil fuels, big business groups, carbon market and financial players, agribusiness and agrofuels, as well as some of the big polluting industries,” according to the oppositional “COP19 Guide to Corporate Lobbying.” Corporations appeared at previous COP meetings but witnesses say never in such large number.

Obviously, one of the most important issues confronting the world community is reducing greenhouse carbon emissions to impede global warming. This is a perennial UNCCC goal but hardly sufficient so far to prevent substantial increases in carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere, now exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in at least 3 million years since the Pliocene era.

Greenhouse reductions hark back to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which obligated developed countries to specific — and in the main incongruously low — emissions reduction targets while developing countries were encouraged to reduce emissions without a binding requirement. Since 1997, despite Kyoto, emissions have increased substantially. According to a new report from research teams coordinated by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, “The gap between where emissions are and where emissions would need to be in order to keep climate targets within reach is getting bigger and bigger.”

Kyoto, which the U.S. refused to join because of its so-called “bias” toward developing countries, has in effect been extended from 2013 to 2020 when new emissions targets will go into effect. Unless these new targets are far greater than the old, CO2 ppm will jump much higher.

At issue during COP19 was a proposal by the EU, U.S. and a number of developed countries to eliminate Kyoto’s nonbinding reductions for developing countries. Under this plan, each and all countries would set specific targets over next year.  These targets would then be inspected by the other countries to assure they are adequate for the mission at hand. The final targets would be published in early 2015 and presumably approved by that year’s COP, and implemented in five years.

Protest inside hall of climate meeting.
An intense 36-hour struggle between a group of developing countries and most developed countries over this proposal went into an extra session lasting throughout Nov. 22 and into the early hours of the 23rd. Opposing removal of the distinction between developed and developing countries was a group called the “Like-Minded Developing Countries on Climate Change” (LMDC), including such countries as China, India, Venezuela, Bolivia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Thailand.

According to an account in the mass circulation Indian newspaper The Hindu: “India, China and other countries in the LMDC group take the position that the new climate agreement must not force developing countries to review their volunteered emission reduction targets. Setting themselves up in a direct confrontation with the developed countries, the LMDC opposes doing away with the current differentiation between developing and developed countries when it came to taking responsibility for climate action.”

In other words, the developing countries will do what they can to reduce emissions, but the principal task by far belongs to the developed countries. They argue that developed industrial countries have been spewing fossil fuel-created greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for 100 to 200 years or more, and most of these pollutants have yet to dissipate. The carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere could warm the planet for hundreds of years.

The richer countries reject this argument, pointing to the increasing industrialization taking place in the developing world. Writing in the Guardian Nov. 25, Graham Readfearn points out: “Rich countries are desperate to avoid taking the blame for the impacts of climate change…. The developed countries won't let any statements slip into any UN climate document that could be used against them in the future” in terms of financing mitigation, adaptation and compensation costs.

Most developing countries are very poor and have contributed miniscule emissions, but a few of them — China, India, and Brazil, among others — have become major industrialized powers in relatively recent years. China, now the largest annual contributor to global warming, has been seriously industrialized for less than 30 years and also functions as a global factory for many nations, including the U.S. These recently industrializing developing states, most of which are former exploited colonies of the rich countries, argue that the developed states became major powers based on burning fossil fuels and thus have the major responsibility to take the lead in reducing emissions.

China points out that while it has recently displaced the U.S. as leading producer of Greenhouse gas emissions, its population is three times greater. On a per capita basis, Beijing notes, the average American in 2011 produced 17.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide; the average Chinese, just 6.5 tons. (A metric ton is 205 pounds heavier than a 2,000 pound ton.) The U.S. rejects these arguments.

The developed-developing conflict over emissions was finally resolved when China and India withdrew demands for including Kyoto’s exception for developing countries, in return for which “commitments” to a specific target were changed to “contributions.” Clearly this is a vague stopgap measure that will eventually change. The important matter is the total of emissions reductions to be agreed upon in 2015.

The U.S., as the most influential developed country, has taken hardly any action at all to significantly reduce CO2 emissions when it was the number one emitter of carbon in the atmosphere or now when it is number two, tut-tutting about China’s smokestacks while President Obama boasts about expanding drilling for oil and fracking for gas. Ironically, though China is a mass polluter today it is investing far more heavily than the U.S. in renewable resources such as solar and wind energy. This may eventually pay off, but not before an unacceptable level of CO2 continue.

Given the number of drastic reports about climate change from the scientific community in the last several months, the accomplishments at COP19 are useful but hugely disproportionate to what is needed. In addition to the agreement on contributions to lower greenhouse emissions this also happened: The countries agreed on a multi-billion dollar program to combat global deforestation. The Loss and Damage project was passed, and developed states were urged to increase levels of aid to poorer countries. A plan was hammered out to monitor emissions reductions.

A few of those recent drastic reports include these facts:

Greenhouse gas emissions are set to be 8-12 billion tons higher in 2020 than the level needed to keep global warming below 3.6 Fahrenheit, the UN Environment Program said. (Above 3.6 F, the world’s people will begin to experience extreme effects)…. According to the American Meteorological Society, there is a 90% probability that global temperatures will rise 6.3 to 13.3 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 100 years…. According to the Associated Press, a leaked report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change means that “Many of the ills of the modern world — starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease — are likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change”….. The U.S. is likely to become the world’s top producer of crude oil and natural gas by the end of 2013 due to increased oil drilling and fracking for gas….The U.S. is pumping 50% more methane into the atmosphere than the government has estimated, reports Science News…. In a new study, the team of researchers reports a global loss of 888,000 square miles of forest between 2000 and 2012 and a gain of only 309,000 square miles of new forest.

Summing up the Warsaw conference, an observer for Christian Aid, Mohamed Adow, declares: “In agreeing to establish a loss and damage mechanism, countries have accepted the reality that the world is already dealing with the extensive damage caused by climate impacts, and requires a formal process to assess and deal with it, but they seem unwilling to take concrete actions to reduce the severity of these impacts.”

“We did not achieve a meaningful outcome,” said Naderev Sano, the head of the Philippines delegation who had been fasting throughout the meeting in solidarity with the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Samantha Smith, representing the World Wildlife Fund at COP19 declared: “Negotiators in Warsaw should have used this meeting to take a big and critical step towards global, just action on climate change. That didn't happen. This has placed the negotiations towards a global agreement [on emissions] at risk.”

The next major UNCCC conference, COP20, will take place in Lima, Peru, in December 2014. The extremely important 2015 meeting, when the countries will decide on new emissions targets, will be in Paris.

There is positive news as well as the negative.

    A majority of the American people now seek to limit global warming, according to a recent report from Grist Environmental News. Stanford University Professor Jon Krosnick led an analysis of more than a decade’s worth of poll results for 46 states. The results show that the majority of residents of all of those states, whether red or blue, are united in their worries about the climate. At least three-quarters of residents are aware that the climate is changing. Two-thirds want the government to limit greenhouse gas emissions from businesses. At least 62% want regulations that cut carbon pollution from power plants. At least half want the U.S. to take action to fight climate change, even if other countries do not.

    The walkout by environmental NGOs is highly significant. They are clearly “mad as hell” and presumably are “not going to take this anymore!" to evoke the famous line from the film Network. Their unprecedented action in Warsaw undoubtedly reflects the views of millions of people back in the United States who have been following the scientific reports and want Washington to finally take dramatic action.

    At issue is mobilizing these people to take action in concert with others to force the political system to put climate sanity and ecological sustainability on the immediate national agenda. Two things are required. 1. A mass education program is called for because the broader and deeper implications of reforms must be understood and acted upon. 2. Unity in action is necessary to bring  together many constituencies to fight for climate sanity and justice with a view toward protecting future generations from the excesses of the industrial era.

•    There are up to a score of major environmental organizations in the U.S. Some, like Greenpeace and are willing to offer civil disobedience; some are important education and pressure groups; and some — far fewer — are too cautious and compromising, such as those advocating for nuclear power or natural gas. There must be many hundreds and more small and medium size environmental groups throughout our country, with anywhere from 5 to 50 or even 100 local followers. And then there are the numerous progressive and left organizations that basically agree with the environmental cause. None have to give up their individual identities, but they can come together around specific global warming and ecological issues and fight the power of the 1% to 5% who essentially rule America.

•    The actions of the developing societies at COP19 were important, too, particularly their brief walkout. The majority of these countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are not only vulnerable to the consequences of climate change but rarely possess the economic wherewithal to adequately survive. They will struggle for their demands in future global conferences.

•    Despite the foot-dragging of many developed countries, all of them contain environmental and progressive/left organizations. They, too, are “mad as hell” and will grow stronger.

•    Time may not be on sanity’s side, but as the CO2 ppm rises and the hopes for significant reductions in greenhouse gases falls in the next few years, conditions will be ripe for a global climate justice uprising.

At this point it seems that only a mass mobilization of the U.S. and world’s peoples will be able to provide the strength to stand up to the fossil fuel interests, the corporations, big business, banks, financiers and the weak or corrupt politicians who stand in the way of building an equal and ecologically sustainable society including rational conservation of resources and reduction of excess consumption.


By Reuters news service, Nov. 27

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has attacked “unfettered” capitalism as "a new tyranny," urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, in September attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare."

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," Francis wrote in the document issued Nov.  26.

"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

The pope said renewal of the church could not be put off and the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy "also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion."

"I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," he wrote.

Called Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), the exhortation is presented in Francis's simple and warm preaching style, distinct from the more academic writings of former popes, and stresses the church's central mission of preaching "the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ."

In it, he reiterated earlier statements that the church cannot ordain women or accept abortion. The male-only priesthood, he said, "is not a question open to discussion" but women must have more influence in church leadership.

A meditation on how to revitalize a church suffering from encroaching secularization in western countries, the exhortation echoed the missionary zeal more often heard from the evangelical Protestants who have won over many disaffected Catholics in the pope's native Latin America.

In it, economic inequality features as one of the issues Francis is most concerned about. The 76-year-old pontiff calls for an overhaul of the financial system and warns that unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence.

"As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems," he wrote.

Denying this was simple populism, he called for action "beyond a simple welfare mentality" and added: "I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor."

Since his election, Francis has set an example for austerity in the church, living in a Vatican guest house rather than the ornate Apostolic Palace, travelling in a Ford Focus, and last month suspending a bishop who spent millions of euros on his luxurious residence.

He chose to be called Francis after the medieval Italian saint of the same name famed for choosing a life of poverty.

Stressing co-operation among religions, Francis quoted the late Pope John Paul II's idea that the papacy might be reshaped to promote closer ties with other Christian churches and noted lessons Rome could learn from the Orthodox church such as "synodality" or decentralized leadership.

He praised co-operation with Jews and Muslims and urged Islamic countries to guarantee their Christian minorities the same religious freedom as Muslims enjoy in the west.


[One hears a lot in the Hudson Valley these days about saving family farms and stopping GM crops. This very brief book review from the Sept.-Oct. Foreign Affairs is of interest in this regard.]
By Andrew Moravcsik

Food, Farms and Solidarity: French Farmers Challenge
Industrial Agriculture and Genetically Modified Crops.
By Chaia Heller, Duke University Press,$25 (paper).

Although Heller shrouds her conclusions in opaque academic jargon, her engaging book contains many insights into the surprisingly divergent fates of French and U.S. agricultural interest groups.

Her basic thesis is that French farmers have been more successful than their American counterparts at persuading their government to oppose the use of genetically modified organisms not because that position is intrinsically French (it originated in Vermont) or because French farmers enjoy more political clout.

Rather, the French farmers have prevailed because they linked their cause to powerful legitimating symbols and political values in France: preserving small farms and small towns, resisting unjust state authority, maintaining the power of unions, combating the spread of McDonald’s and other fast-food chains, and defending the integrity of local communities and traditional practices.

In the United States, such tactics would be less effective, she argues, because the American public lacks a sense of solidarity with unions, farmers, or purveyors of gourmet food. It is hard to know if Heller is right, but her tale of earthy farmers becoming postmodern ideological entrepreneurs makes for fun reading.

By the Activist Newsletter

As though the erosion of American democracy, the weakening of civil liberties, inequality, joblessness, indifference to global warming, and a penchant for wars is not enough, now we have this:

“ What if the [economic] world we’ve been living in for the past five years is the new normal? What if depression-like conditions [in the U.S.] are on track to persist, not for another year or two, but for decades?”

The liberal Keynesian economist Paul Krugman in his New York Times column asked this question Nov. 18. He went on:

“You might imagine that speculations along these lines are the province of a radical fringe. And they are indeed radical; but fringe, not so much. A number of economists have been flirting with such thoughts for a while. And now they’ve moved into the mainstream. In fact, the case for ‘secular stagnation’ — a persistent state in which a depressed economy is the norm, with episodes of full employment few and far between — was made forcefully recently at the most ultra respectable of venues, the IMF’s big annual research conference. And the person making that case was none other than Larry Summers. Yes, that Larry Summers [the former Treasury Secretary]….

“Summers began with a point that should be obvious but is often missed: The financial crisis that started the Great Recession is now far behind us. Indeed, by most measures it ended more than four years ago. Yet our economy remains depressed.

“He then made a related point: Before the crisis we had a huge housing and debt bubble. Yet even with this huge bubble boosting spending, the overall economy was only so-so — the job market was O.K. but not great, and the boom was never powerful enough to produce significant inflationary pressure.

“Mr. Summers went on to draw a remarkable moral: We have, he suggested, an economy whose normal condition is one of inadequate demand — of at least mild depression — and which only gets anywhere close to full employment when it is being buoyed by bubbles….

The evidence suggests that we have become an economy whose normal state is one of mild depression, whose brief episodes of prosperity occur only thanks to bubbles and unsustainable borrowing…. Economic reality is what it is. And what that reality appears to be right now is one in which depression rules will apply for a very long time.”

[Editor: A bubble has been described as “trade in high volumes at prices that are considerably at variance with intrinsic values." Such values described the real value of a company not its possibly inflated stock value.]

Some respected economists, mostly Marxists, have been convinced for some time that stagnation has become a more or less permanent feature of capitalist economies in the U.S. and Europe. John Bellamy Foster, the leftist author and editor of Monthly Review, declared recently:

“People commonly see what happened in 2007 and 2008 when the bubble burst as a financial crisis and nothing more. But the real problem is a tendency towards economic stagnation in the mature economies, and the long-term slowdown in the rate of growth.

“Our argument is that financialization, the series of financial bubbles that we've had over a period of decades, has been the main thing lifting the economy. I think this is fairly well understood now, but it wasn't understood so well five or six years ago. And while financial expansion has been lifting the economy, financial bubbles always have their limits.

“As the bubbles burst the government of course tries to act as the lender of last resort, pouring in liquidity and loans, to get the financial system going again. But it's not able to deal with the underlying problem which is stagnation, and this time we're stuck; they can't get the financial system really going again, and we're faced with a problem of economic stagnation that's surfaced as a result.

“We call this the 'stagnation-financialization trap' because the financialization is the answer to stagnation but it creates bigger, more complex problems, and eventually the two problems together get us into a condition where we really can't move forward.”

Recognition of capitalist stagnation may have “moved into the mainstream” in the U.S., but Washington certainly does not seem to have a solution other than soldiering on as long as profits are generated for business, Wall Street, and the 1%. Foster argues, “socialism is the only answer.”

— Foster’s comments are from a recent interview titled “Crisis of Capitalism and Social Democracy,” at

By Democracy Now

Michigan prosecutors have filed charges against a Detroit-area homeowner for the fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American woman on his porch. Nineteen-year-old Renisha McBride was apparently seeking help after a car crash when she came to the door of the suspect, Ted Wafer. McBride was killed by a shotgun blast to the face. After a more than week-long investigation that saw the case attract national controversy, prosecutor Kym Worthy unveiled charges Nov. 15.

"She was found with a very large gunshot wound to her face,” said Worthy. “It’s alleged that she was shot to death by the homeowner after she knocked on his locked front screen door. By all reports, she was unarmed, and there were no signs of forced entry to the home. We obviously do not feel that the evidence in this case [suggesys] that the defendant acted in lawful self-defense."

Wafer faces up to life in prison on charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter and possession of a firearm in a felony. He has claimed the gun fired by accident and that he thought McBride was an intruder. At a news conference, McBride’s mother, Monica McBride, addressed Wafer publicly: "I’m not going to call you a monster. You said it was an accident. When you accidentally do something to someone, you say you’re sorry or you apologize. You did no accident. You took a life, and you took a beautiful life that was starting to blossom into a beautiful woman."

By Mazda Majidi

In the early morning hours of Nov. 24, the world powers reached a deal with Iran on its nuclear program. The interim agreement is for a duration of six months, during which the signatories hope to reach a more comprehensive and long-term agreement.

President Hassan Rouhani.
Details of the deal are sketchy. Broadly, however, it is known that the agreement imposes significant limitations on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for minor relief in the sanctions imposed on it. It is reported that the deal allows Iran to continue enriching uranium to 5% purity, used as fuel for its power generating nuclear reactor. But Iran will no longer be able to enrich uranium to 20% purity, used for medical isotopes, and will be required to relinquish its stockpile within six months. Washington and its allies accuse Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program and view the 20% enriched uranium as dangerously close to nuclear bomb material — even though that requires enrichment levels of 97%. Additionally, Iran will permit unrestricted access by UN inspectors to its nuclear sites.

In exchange, while the U.S.-imposed sanctions will remain in place, there will be $7 billion in sanctions relief and a promise of no new sanctions for six months. The $7 billion in relief is essentially the unfreezing of Iran's own assets in international financial institutions, part of an estimated $100-$120 billion that have been frozen and will continue to be "inaccessible and restricted."
Given the harsh conditions imposed on Iran, it is a testament to the capitalist class media monopoly that the main discussion in Western media is whether Iran has been given too much. Since the agreement, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been making the case for the deal by emphasizing the huge concessions Iran was forced to make and that the sanctions relief is reversible.

The agreement should not be confused with a fair deal that observes the interests of both sides. Diplomacy in general, and this agreement in particular, occurs within the context of power relations. How could it be called justice when nuclear-armed nations impose sanctions and harsh conditions on a country that has no nuclear weapons, nor any stated or documented plan to have such weapons? This is not a negotiation between two comparable adversaries working on the terms of future relations and trade. Iran could do nothing to the imperialist alliance that is lined up against it. But the U.S. and its junior partners have imposed extreme hardship on the Iranian people, essentially locking Iran out of international trade. So, in effect, Iran has to negotiate with a gun to its head.

The fact that the Iranian leadership energetically pursued a deal does not indicate that the deal is just. Iran voluntarily agreed to the deal the same way that a robbery victim voluntarily agrees to give up valuable possessions.
For over two years, Iran has been exposed to comprehensive sanctions that amount to an embargo. It is not just that the United States and the European Union refuse trade with Iran, but that the U.S. will impose penalties on other states for trading with Iran. Iran's oil sales, the main source of its currency, have dropped to below half of what they used to be. Iran has been severely hampered in its trade of petrochemicals, automobiles and practically all other products. Similarly, it has been extremely difficult for Iran to purchase many essential goods, including medicine. As with all other sanctions the imperialists have imposed on oppressed countries, sanctions against Iran have caused death and hardship.

Given the damage done to Iran's economy, it is no wonder that the Islamic Republic came into Geneva prepared to make major concessions. A modern economy cannot live indefinitely under sanctions that make trade exceedingly difficult, not to mention living under the constant "all options are on the table" threat of military attack.

Besides, as harsh as are the conditions imposed on Iran, the agreement is not a complete capitulation. Complete cessation of nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment for nuclear power generation, was not a demand made on Iran this time. Explicitly stated or not, the agreement recognizes Iran's right to continue enrichment, albeit under tight inspections. As unjust and unfair the agreement may be, one cannot demand of an oppressed nation to withstand economic strangulation indefinitely.

In the June elections in Iran, in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was ineligible to run for a third term, Hassan Rouhani won resoundingly in the first round. Rouhani's main promise was "constructive engagement" with the West and bringing an end to the sanctions. Having suffered two years of harsh sanctions that had caused the Rial, Iran's currency, to lose nearly 2/3 of its value, the Iranian people, particularly the working class, were suffering tremendously. Rouhani's promise of ending the sanctions resonated with the voters hoping for an end to extreme hardship.

But Rouhani's conciliatory tone towards the West and willingness to make concessions cannot be considered the deciding factor in what made the recent agreement possible.

U.S aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, waiting...
The major change that made the deal possible happened not in Tehran, but in Washington. Up to now, U.S. policy towards Iran has really been regime change since the 1979 revolution. Washington wants the return of a leadership like that of the Shah, installed by a CIA coup in 1953. Washington's promotion of the Iran-Iraq war was in hopes of weakening both independent states. But following the end of the war, Iran began a period of rapid development, resulting in the country emerging as a regional power. From Washington's perspective, a regional power that provides diplomatic and material support to the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements must be overthrown.

The right-wing, pro-West Green Movement that arose in Iran following the 2009 presidential elections gave rise to Washington's hopes of regime change from within. But by 2010, hopes for a Green overthrow faded. The crippling U.S. sanctions, implemented in 2011, were another attempt at bringing about regime change. Washington hoped that the sanctions would paralyze the economy and cause so much hardship that the Islamic Republic would be destabilized. But as devastating as the sanctions have been, they have not pushed the state to the verge of collapse. The June 2013 elections resulted in the election of the more conciliatory faction of the Islamic Republic, but regime change remained a distant dream for Washington.

The U.S. goal of overthrowing all independent states in the Middle East has suffered another blow in Syria. Facing domestic and international opposition, the Obama Administration was forced to relinquish its plans for bombing Syria. While not stable, the Syrian state has gained strength and is far from collapsing. Not only has the strength of the armed opposition faded, the Syrian National Council/Free Syrian Army imperialist-supported alternative have lost relative strength among the Syrian opposition, with the Al-Qaeda allied forces emerging as the strongest opposition force.

With Iraq not having emerged from the eight years of occupation as a dependable client state, Syria surviving and Iran still standing, Washington's goal of a Middle East comprised exclusively of client states is now no more than a fantasy.

So, as many foreign policy "realists" had long advocated, the Obama administration had to part ways with the immediate goals of regime change in Iran and embark upon a path of dealing with Iran as an adversary. Taking this diplomatic path should not be confused with a humane foreign policy. In the absence of a realistic military alternative for the U.S., diplomacy, not military invasion and hostility, is now a more effective tool for promoting imperialist interests….

— This article is from Liberation News, Nov. 27.

By Science News, Nov. 11, 2013

A new study by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists shows that observed changes in global (ocean and land) precipitation are directly affected by human activities and cannot be explained by natural variability alone. The research appears in the Nov. 11 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Emissions of heat-trapping and ozone-depleting gases affect the distribution of precipitation through two mechanisms. Increasing temperatures are expected to make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier (thermodynamic changes); and changes in atmospheric circulation patterns will push storm tracks and subtropical dry zones toward the poles.

"Both these changes are occurring simultaneously in global precipitation and this behavior cannot be explained by natural variability alone," said Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) lead author Kate Marvel. "External influences such as the increase in greenhouse gases are responsible for the changes."

The team compared climate model predications with the Global Precipitation Climatology Project's global observations, which span from 1979-2012, and found that natural variability (such as El Niños and La Niñas) does not account for the changes in global precipitation patterns. While natural fluctuations in climate can lead to either intensification or poleward shifts in precipitation, it is very rare for the two effects to occur together naturally.

"In combination, manmade increases in greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone depletion are expected to lead to both an intensification and redistribution of global precipitation," said Céline Bonfils, the other LLNL author. "The fact that we see both of these effects simultaneously in the observations is strong evidence that humans are affecting global precipitation."


[This article about global warming will surprise some readers because it deals with certain  hard truths that must be faced to prevent a global climate change catastrophe. (FYI if necessary, One degree Celsius equals 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. One meter equals 3.28 feet.)]

By Richard Smith

When, on May 10th, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii announced that global CO2 emissions had crossed a threshold at 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in millions of years, a sense of dread spread around the world and not only among climate scientists. CO2 emissions have been relentlessly climbing since Charles David Keeling first set up his tracking station near the summit of Mauna Loa Observatory in 1958 to monitor average daily global CO2 levels. At that time, CO2 concentrations registered 315 ppm. CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have been rising ever since and have recently passed a dangerous tipping point: 440ppm.

For all the climate summits, promises of “voluntary restraint,” carbon trading and carbon taxes, the growth of CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have not just been unceasing, they have been accelerating in what scientists have dubbed the “Keeling Curve.” In the early 1960s, CO2 ppm concentrations in the atmosphere grew by 0.7ppm per year. In recent decades, especially as China has industrialized, the growth rate has tripled to 2.1 ppm per year. In just the first 17 weeks of 2013, CO2 levels jumped by 2.74 ppm compared to last year.
Carbon concentrations have not been this high since the Pliocene period, between 3 and 5 million years ago, when global average temperatures were 3˚C or 4˚C hotter than today , the Arctic was ice-free, sea levels were about 40 meters higher and jungles covered northern Canada; Florida, meanwhile, was under water along with other coastal locations we now call New York, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and many others. Crossing this threshold has fuelled fears that we are fast approaching converging “tipping points” — melting of the subarctic tundra or the thawing and releasing of the vast quantities of methane in the Arctic sea bottom — that will accelerate global warming beyond any human capacity to stop it.
“I wish it weren’t true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400 ppm level without losing a beat,” said Scripps Institute geochemist Ralph Keeling, son of Charles Keeling. “At this pace, we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades.”

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.

Why are we marching toward disaster, “sleepwalking to extinction” as the Guardian’s George Monbiot once put it? Why can’t we slam on the brakes before we ride off the cliff to collapse? I’m going to argue here that the problem is rooted in the requirement of capitalist production. Large corporations can’t help themselves; they can’t change or change very much. So long as we live under this corporate capitalist system we have little choice but to go along in this destruction, to keep pouring on the gas instead of slamming on the brakes, that the only alternative — impossible as this may seem right now — is to overthrow this global economic system and all of the governments of the 1% that prop it up and replace them with a global economic democracy, a radical bottom-up political democracy, an eco-socialist civilization.

Although we are fast approaching the precipice of ecological collapse, the means to derail this train wreck are in the making as, around the world we are witnessing a near simultaneous global mass democratic “awakening” — as the Brazilians call it — from Tahrir Square to Zucotti Park, from Athens to Istanbul to Beijing and beyond such as the world has never seen. To be sure, like Occupy Wall Street, these movements are still inchoate, are still mainly protesting what’s wrong rather than fighting for an alternative social order. Like Occupy, they have yet to clearly and robustly answer that crucial question: “Don’t like capitalism, what’s your alternative?” Yet they are working on it, and they are for the most part instinctively and radically democratic; in this lies our hope.

From climate change to natural resource overconsumption to pollution, the engine that has powered three centuries of accelerating economic development, revolutionizing technology, science, culture and human life itself is, today, a roaring out-of-control locomotive mowing down continents of forests, sweeping oceans of life, clawing out mountains of minerals, pumping out lakes of fuels, devouring the planet’s last accessible natural resources to turn them into “product,” while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons of time. Between 1950 and 2000 the global human population more than doubled from 2.5 to 6 billion. But in these same decades, consumption of major natural resources soared more than sixfold on average, some much more. Natural gas consumption grew nearly twelvefold, bauxite (aluminum ore) fifteenfold. And so on. At current rates, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson says that “half the world’s great forests have already been leveled and half the world’s plant and animal species may be gone by the end of this century.” [Human population today is 7 billion. It will reach 9.6 billion by 2050.]

Corporations aren’t necessarily evil, though plenty are diabolically evil, but they can’t help themselves. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do for the benefit of their shareholders. Shell Oil can’t help but loot Nigeria and the Arctic and cook the climate. That’s what shareholders demand. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and other mining giants can’t resist mining Australia’s abundant coal and exporting it to China and India. Mining accounts for 19% of Australia’s GDP and substantial employment even as coal combustion is the single worst driver of global warming. IKEA can’t help but level the forests of Siberia and Malaysia to feed the Chinese mills building their flimsy disposable furniture (IKEA is the third largest consumer of lumber in the world). Apple can’t help it if the cost of extracting the “rare earths” it needs to make millions of new iThings each year is the destruction of the eastern Congo — violence, rape, slavery, forced induction of child soldiers, along with poisoning local waterways. Monsanto and DuPont and Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science have no choice but to wipe out bees, butterflies, birds, small farmers and extinguish crop diversity to secure their grip on the world’s food supply while drenching the planet in their Roundups and Atrazines and neonicotinoids.

This is how giant corporations are wiping out life on earth in the course of a routine business day. And the bigger the corporations grow, the worse the problems become.

In Adam Smith’s day, when the first factories and mills produced hat pins and iron tools and rolls of cloth by the thousands, capitalist freedom to make whatever they wanted didn’t much matter because they didn’t have much impact on the global environment. But today, when everything is produced in the millions and billions, then trashed today and reproduced all over again tomorrow, when the planet is looted and polluted to support all this frantic and senseless growth, it matters — a lot.

The world’s climate scientists tell us we’re facing a planetary emergency. They’ve been telling us since the 1990s that if we don’t cut global fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions by 80-90% below 1990 levels by 2050 we will cross critical tipping points and global warming will accelerate beyond any human power to contain it. Yet despite all the ringing alarm bells, no corporation and no government can oppose growth and, instead, every capitalist government in the world is putting pedal to the metal to accelerate growth, to drive us full throttle off the cliff to collapse.

Marxists have never had a better argument against capitalism than this inescapable and apocalyptic “contradiction.” Solutions to the ecological crisis are blindingly obvious but we can’t take the necessary steps to prevent ecological collapse because, so long as we live under capitalism, economic growth has to take priority over ecological concerns.

We all know what we have to do: suppress greenhouse gas emissions. Stop over-consuming natural resources. Stop the senseless pollution of the earth, waters, and atmosphere with toxic chemicals. Stop producing waste that can’t be recycled by nature. Stop the destruction of biological diversity and ensure the rights of other species to flourish. We don’t need any new technological breakthroughs to solve these problems. Mostly, we just stop doing what we’re doing. But we can’t stop because we’re all locked into an economic system in which companies have to grow to compete and reward their shareholders and because we all need the jobs.

James Hansen, the world’s preeminent climate scientist, has argued that to save the humans:
“Coal emissions must be phased out as rapidly as possible or global climate disasters will be a dead certainty ... Yes, [coal, oil, gas] most of the fossil fuels must be left in the ground. That is the explicit message that the science provides. […] Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases in the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger — unaware of how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise.”

But how can we do this under capitalism? After his climate negotiators stonewalled calls for binding limits on CO2 emissions at Copenhagen, Cancun, Cape Town and Doha, President Obama is now trying to salvage his environmental “legacy” by ordering his EPA to impose “tough” new emissions limits on existing power plants, especially coal-fired plants. But this won’t salvage his legacy or, more importantly, his daughters’ futures because how much difference would it make, really, if every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. shut down tomorrow when U.S. coal producers are free to export their coal to China, which they are doing, and when China is building another coal-fired power plan every week? The atmosphere doesn’t care where the coal is burned. It only cares how much is burned.

Yet how could Obama tell American mining companies to stop mining coal? This would be tantamount to socialism. But if we do not stop mining and burning coal, capitalist freedom and private property is the least we’ll have to worry about. Same with Obama’s “tough” new fuel economy standards. In August 2012 Obama boasted that his new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards would “double fuel efficiency” over the next 13 years to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from 28.6 mpg at present — cutting vehicle CO2 emissions in half, so helping enormously to “save the planet.” But as the Center for Biological Diversity and other critics have noted, Obama was lying, as usual.

First, his so-called “tough” new CAFE standards were so full of loopholes, negotiated with Detroit, that they actually encourage more gas-guzzling, not less. That’s because the standards are based on a sliding scale according to “vehicle footprints” — the bigger the car, the less mileage it has to get to meet its “standard.” So in fact Obama’s “tough” standards are (surprise) custom designed to promote what Detroit does best — produce giant Sequoias, mountainous Denalis, Sierras, Yukons, Tundras and Ticonderogas, Ram Chargers and Ford F series luxury trucks, grossly obese Cadillac Escalades, soccer-kid Suburbans, even 8,000 (!) pound Ford Excursions — and let these gross gas hogs meet the “fleet standard.” These cars and “light” trucks are among the biggest selling vehicles in America today (GM’s Sierra is #1) and they get worse gas mileage than American cars and trucks half a century ago. Cadillac’s current Escalade gets worse mileage than its chrome bedecked tail fin-festooned land yachts of the mid-1950s! Little wonder Detroit applauded Obama’s new CAFE standards instead of damning them as usual. Secondly, what would it matter even if Obama’s new CAFE standards actually did double fleet mileage — when American and global vehicle fleets are growing exponentially?

In 1950 Americans had one car for every three people. Today we have 1.2 cars for every American. In 1950 when there were about 2.6 billion humans on the planet, there were 53 million cars on the world’s roads — about one for every 50 persons. Today, there are 7 billion people but more than 1 billion cars and industry forecasters expect there will be 2 to 2.5 billion cars on the world’s roads by mid-century. China alone is expected to have a billion. So, at the end of the day, incremental half measures like CAFE standards can’t stop rising greenhouse gas [GHG]emissions. Barring some technical miracle, the only way to cut vehicle emissions is to just stop making them — drastically suppress vehicle production, especially of the worst gas hogs.

In theory, Obama could simply order GM to stop building its humongous gas guzzlers and switch to producing small economy cars. After all, the federal government owns the company! But of course, how could he do any such thing? Detroit lives by the mantra “big car big profit, small car small profit.” Since Detroit has never been able to compete against the Japanese and Germans in the small car market, which is already glutted and nearly profitless everywhere, such an order would only doom GM to failure, if not bankruptcy (again) and throw masses of workers onto the unemployment lines. So given capitalism, Obama is, in fact, powerless. He’s locked in to promoting the endless growth of vehicle production, even of the worst polluters — and lying about it all to the public to try to patch up his pathetic “legacy.” And yet, if we don’t suppress vehicle production, how can we stop rising CO2 emissions?

In the wake of the failure of climate negotiators from Kyoto to Doha to agree on binding limits on GHG emissions, exasperated British climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows at the Tyndall Centre, Britain’s leading climate change research center, wrote in September 2012 that we need an entirely new paradigm:

Government policies must “radically change” if “dangerous” climate change is to be avoided “We urgently need to acknowledge that the development needs of many countries leave the rich western nations with little choice but to immediately and severely curb their greenhouse gas emissions... [It is a] misguided belief that commitments to avoid warming of 2˚C can still be realized with incremental adjustments to economic incentives. A carbon tax here, a little emissions trading there and the odd voluntary agreement thrown in for good measure will not be sufficient ... long-term end-point targets (for example, 80% by 2050) have no scientific basis. What governs future global temperatures and other adverse climate impacts are the emissions from yesterday, today and those released in the next few years.”

And not just scientists. In its latest world energy forecast released on November 12, 2012, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that despite the bonanza of fossil fuels now made possible by fracking, horizontal and deep water drilling, we can’t consume them if we want to save the humans: “The climate goal of limiting global warming to 2˚C is becoming more difficult and costly with each year that passes... no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2˚C goal...” Of course the science could be wrong about this. But so far climate scientists have consistently underestimated the speed and ferocity of global warming, and even prominent climate change deniers have folded their cards.

Still, it’s one thing for James Hansen or Bill McKibben to say we need to “leave the coal in the hole, the oil in the soil, the gas under the grass,” to call for “severe curbs” in GHG emissions — in the abstract. But think about what this means in our capitalist economy. Most of us, even passionate environmental activists, don’t really want to face up to the economic implications of the science we defend.

That’s why, if you listen to environmentalists like Bill McKibben for example, you will get the impression that global warming is mainly driven by fossi- fuel-powered electric power plants, so if we just “switch to renewables” this will solve the main problem and we can carry on with life more or less as we do now. Indeed, “green capitalism” enthusiasts like Thomas Friedman and the union-backed “green jobs” lobby look to renewable energy, electric cars and such as “the next great engine of industrial growth” — the perfect win-win solution. This is a not a solution. This is a delusion: greenhouse gasses are produced across the economy not just by power plants. Globally, fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation accounts for 17% of GHG emissions, heating accounts for 5%, miscellaneous “other” fuel combustion 8.6%, industry 14.7%, industrial processes another 4.3%, transportation 14.3%, agriculture 13.6%, land use changes (mainly deforestation) 12.2%. This means, for a start, that even if we immediately replaced every fossil-fuel-powered electric generating plant on the planet with 100% renewable solar, wind and water power, this would only reduce global GHG emissions by around 17%.

What this means is that, far from launching a new green-energy-powered “industrial growth” boom, barring some tech-fix miracle, the only way to impose “immediate and severe curbs” on fossil fuel production/consumption would be to impose an emergency contraction in the industrialized countries: drastically retrench and in some cases shut down industries, even entire sectors, across the economy and around the planet — not just fossil fuel producers but all the industries that consume them and produce GHG emissions — autos, trucking, aircraft, airlines, shipping and cruise lines, construction, chemicals, plastics, synthetic fabrics, cosmetics, synthetic fiber and fabrics, synthetic fertilizer and agribusiness Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

Of course, no one wants to hear this because, given capitalism, this would unavoidably mean mass bankruptcies, global economic collapse, depression and mass unemployment around the world. That’s why in April 2013, in laying the political groundwork for his approval of the XL pipeline in some form, President Obama said “the politics of this are tough.” The earth’s temperature probably isn’t the “number one concern” for workers who haven’t seen a raise in a decade; have an underwater mortgage; are spending $40 to fill their gas tank, can’t afford a hybrid car; and face other challenges.” Obama wants to save the planet but given capitalism his “number one concern” has to be growing the economy, growing jobs. Given capitalism — today, tomorrow, next year and every year — economic growth will always be the overriding priority ... till we barrel right off the cliff to collapse.

There’s no technical solution to this problem and no market solution either. In a very few cases — electricity generation is the main one — a broad shift to renewables could indeed sharply reduce fossil fuel emissions in that sector. But if we just use “clean” “green” energy to power more growth, consume ever more natural resources, then we solve nothing and would still be headed to collapse. Producing millions of electric cars instead of millions of gasoline-powered cars, as I explained elsewhere, would be just as ecologically destructive and polluting, if in somewhat different ways, even if they were all run on solar power.

Substituting biofuels for fossil fuels in transportation just creates different but no less environmentally-destructive problems: converting farm land to raise biofuel feedstock pits food production against fuels. Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas or grasslands to produce biofuels releases more CO2 into the atmosphere than the fossil fuels they replace and accelerates species extinction. More industrial farming means more demand for water, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. And so on. Cap and trade schemes can’t cut fossil fuel emissions because business understands, even if some environmentalists do not, that “dematerialization” is a fantasy, that there’s no win-win tech solution, that capping emissions means cutting growth. Since cutting growth is unacceptable to business, labor and governments, cap and trade has been abandoned everywhere.

Carbon taxes can’t stop global warming either because they do not cap emissions. That’s why fossil fuel execs like Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil (the largest private oil company in the world) and Paul Anderson, CEO of Duke Energy (the largest electric utility in the U.S.) support carbon taxes. They understand that carbon taxes would add something to the cost of doing business, like other taxes, but they pose no limit, no “cap” on growth. ExxonMobil predicts that, carbon tax or no carbon tax, by 2040 global demand for energy is going to grow by 35%, 65% in the developing world and nearly all of this is going to be supplied by fossil fuels. ExxonMobil is not looking to “leave the oil in the soil” as a favor to Bill McKibben and the humans. ExxonMobil is looking to pump it and burn it all as fast as possible to enrich its shareholders.

Hansen, McKibben, Obama — and most of us really — don’t want to face up to the economic implications of the need to put the brakes on growth and fossil fuel-based overconsumption. We all “need” to live in denial, and believe in delusions that carbon taxes or some tech fix will save us because we all know that capitalism has to grow or we’ll all be out of work. And the thought of replacing capitalism seems so impossible, especially given the powers arrayed against change. But what’s the alternative? In the not-so-distant future, this is all going to come to a screeching halt one way or another — either we seize hold of this out-of-control locomotive, or we ride this train right off the cliff to collapse.

If there’s no market mechanism to stop plundering the planet then, again, what alternative is there but to impose an emergency contraction on resource consumption?

This doesn’t mean we would have to de-industrialize and go back to riding horses and living in log cabins. But it does mean that we would have to abandon the “consumer economy” — shut down all kinds of unnecessary, wasteful and polluting industries from junkfood to cruise ships, disposable Pampers to disposable H&M clothes, disposable IKEA furniture, endless new model cars, phones, electronic games, the lot. Plus all the banking, advertising, junk mail, most retail, etc. We would have to completely redesign production to replace “fast junk food” with healthy, nutritious, fresh “slow food,” replace “fast fashion” with “slow fashion,” bring back mending, alterations and local tailors and shoe repairmen. We would have to completely redesign production of appliances, electronics, housewares, furniture and so on to be as durable and long-lived as possible. Bring back appliance repairmen and such. We would have to abolish the throwaway disposables industries, the packaging and plastic bag industrial complex, bring back refillable bottles and the like. We would have to design and build housing to last for centuries, to be as energy efficient as possible, to be reconfigurable, and shareable. We would have to vastly expand public transportation to curb vehicle use but also build those we do need to last and be shareable like Zipcar or Paris’ municipally-owned “Autolib” shared electric cars.

These are the sorts of things we would have to do if we really want to stop overconsumption and save the world. All these changes are simple, self-evident, no great technical challenge. They just require a completely different kind of economy, an economy geared to producing what we need while conserving resources for future generations of humans and for other species with which we share this planet.
Economic systems come and go. Capitalism has had a 300 year run. The question is: will humanity stand by and let the world be destroyed to save the profit system?

That outcome depends to a great extent on whether we on the left can answer that question “what’s your alternative?” with a compelling and plausible vision of an eco-socialist civilization. We have our work cut out for us. But what gives the growing global eco-socialist movement an edge in this ideological struggle is that capitalism has no solution to the ecological crisis, no way to put the brakes on collapse, because its only answer to every problem is more of the same growth that’s killing us.

“History” was supposed to have “ended” with the fall of communism and the triumph of capitalism two decades ago. Yet today, history is very much alive and it is, ironically, capitalism itself which is being challenged more broadly than ever and found wanting for solutions.

Today, we are very much living in one of those pivotal world-changing moments in history. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that this is the most critical moment in human history.

We may be fast approaching the precipice of ecological collapse, but the means to derail this train wreck are in the making as, around the world, struggles against the destruction of nature, against dams, against pollution, against overdevelopment, against the siting of chemical plants and power plants, against predatory resource extraction, against the imposition of GMOs, against privatization of remaining common lands, water and public services, against capitalist unemployment and job insecurity are growing and building momentum.

Today we are riding a swelling wave of near simultaneous global mass democratic “awakening,” an almost global mass uprising. This global insurrection is still in its infancy, still unsure of its future, but its radical democratic instincts are, I believe, humanity’s last best hope. Let’s make history!

—This article is an excerpt from Smith's essay, "Capitalism and the destruction of life on Earth," published in the Real-World Economics Review. Richard Smith is an economic historian. He has written extensively for the New Left Review, Monthly Review and The Ecologist. His new book “To Save t2e Planet, Turn the World Upside Down” will be published in 2014.

— From Adbusters, Nov. 15, 2013.

By Ed Pilkington

At about 12:40 p.m. on Jan. 2 1996, Timothy Jackson took a jacket from the Maison Blanche department store in New Orleans, draped it over his arm, and walked out of the store without paying for it. When he was accosted by a security guard, Jackson said: “I just needed another jacket, man.”

A few months later Jackson was convicted of shoplifting and sent to Angola prison in Louisiana. That was 16 years ago. Today he is still incarcerated in Angola, and will stay there for the rest of his natural life having been condemned to die in jail. All for the theft of a jacket, worth $159.

Jackson, 53, is one of 3,281 prisoners in America serving life sentences with no chance of parole for nonviolent crimes. Some, like him, were given the most extreme punishment short of execution for shoplifting; one was condemned to die in prison for siphoning petrol from a truck; another for stealing tools from a tool shed; yet another for attempting to cash a stolen check.

“It has been very hard for me,” Jackson wrote to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as part of its new report on life without parole for nonviolent offenders. “I know that for my crime I had to do some time, but a life sentence for a jacket value at $159. I have met people here whose crimes are a lot badder with way less time.”

Senior officials at Angola prison refused to allow the Guardian to speak to Jackson, on grounds that it might upset his victims — even though his crime was victim-less. But his sister Loretta Lumar did speak to the Guardian. She said that the last time she talked by phone with her brother he had expressed despair. “He told me, 'Sister, this has really broke my back. I'm ready to come out.'”

Lumar said that she found her brother's sentence incomprehensible. “This doesn't make sense to me. I know people who have killed people, and they get a lesser sentence. That doesn't make sense to me right there. You can take a life and get 15 or 16 years. He takes a jacket worth $159 and will stay in jail forever. He didn't kill the jacket!”

The ACLU's report, A Living Death, chronicles the thousands of lives ruined and families destroyed by the modern phenomenon of sentencing people to die behind bars for nonviolent offences. It notes that contrary to the expectation that such a harsh penalty would be meted out only to the most serious offenders, people have been caught in this brutal trap for sometimes the most petty causes.

Ronald Washington, 48, is also serving life without parole in Angola, in his case for shoplifting two Michael Jordan jerseys from a Foot Action sportswear store in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2004. Washington insisted at trial that the jerseys were reduced in a sale to $45 each – which meant that their combined value was below the $100 needed to classify the theft as a felony; the prosecution disagreed, claiming they were on sale for $60 each, thus surpassing the $100 felony minimum and opening him up to a sentence of life without parole.

“I felt as though somebody had just taken the life out of my body,” Washington wrote to the ACLU about the moment he learnt his fate. “I seriously felt rejected, neglected, stabbed right through my heart.”
He added: “It's a very lonely world, seems that nobody cares. You're never ever returning back into society. And whatever you had or established, its now useless, because you're being buried alive at slow pace.”

Louisiana, where both Washington and Jackson are held, is one of nine states where prisoners are serving life without parole sentences for nonviolent offences (other states with high numbers are Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina). An overwhelming proportion of those sentences — as many as 98% in Louisiana — were mandatory: in other words judges had no discretion but to impose the extremely harsh penalties.

The warden of Angola prison, Burl Cain, has spoken out in forthright terms against a system that mandates punishment without any chance of rehabilitation. He told the ACLU: “It's ridiculous, because the name of our business is 'corrections' – to correct deviant behavior. If I'm a successful warden and I do my job and we correct the deviant behavior, then we should have a parole hearing. I need to keep predators in these big old prisons, not dying old men.”

The toll is not confined to the state level: most of those nonviolent inmates held on life without parole sentences were given their punishments by the federal government. More than 2,000 of the 3,281 individuals tracked down on these sentences by the ACLU are being held in the federal system. Overall, the ACLU has calculated that taxpayers pay an additional $1.8bn to keep the prisoners locked up for the rest of their lives.

Until the early 1970s, life without parole sentences were virtually unknown. But they exploded as part of what the ACLU calls America's “late-twentieth-century obsession with mass incarceration and extreme, inhumane penalties.”

The report's author Jennifer Turner states that today, the US is “virtually alone in its willingness to sentence nonviolent offenders to die behind bars.” Life without parole for nonviolent sentences has been ruled a violation of human rights by the European Court of Human Rights. The UK is one of only two countries in Europe that still metes out the penalty at all, and even then only in 49 cases of murder.

Even within America's starkly racially charged penal system, the disparities in nonviolent life without parole are stunning. About 65% of the prisoners identified nationwide by the ACLU are African American. In Louisiana, that proportion rises to 91%, including Jackson and Washington who are both black.
The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.3 million people now in custody, with the war on drugs acting as the overriding push-factor. Of the prisoners serving life without parole for nonviolent offences nationwide, the ACLU estimates that almost 80% were for drug-related crimes.

Again, the offences involved can be startlingly petty. Drug cases itemized in the report include a man sentenced to die in prison for having been found in possession of a crack pipe; an offender with a bottle cap that contained a trace of heroin that was too small to measure; a prisoner arrested with a trace amount of cocaine in their pocket too tiny to see with the naked eye; a man who acted as a go-between in a sale to an undercover police officer of marijuana – street value $10.

Drugs are present in the background of Timothy Jackson's case too. He was high when he went to the Maison Blanche store, and he says that as a result he shoplifted “without thinking”. Paradoxically, like many of the other prisoners on similar penalties, the first time he was offered drug treatment was after he had already been condemned to spend the rest of his life in jail.

The theft of the $159 jacket, taken in isolation, carries today a six-month jail term. It was combined at Jackson's sentencing hearing with his previous convictions – all for nonviolent crimes including a robbery in which he took $216 – that brought him under Louisiana's brutal “four-strikes” law by which it became mandatory for him to be locked up and the key thrown away.

The ACLU concludes that it does not have to be this way —suitable alternatives are readily at hand, including shorter prison terms and the provision of drug treatment and mental health services. The organization calls on Congress, the Obama administration and state legislatures to end the imposition of mandatory life without parole for nonviolent offenders and to require re-sentencing hearings for all those already caught in this judicial black hole.

A few months after Timothy Jackson was put away for life, a Louisiana appeals court reviewed the case and found it “excessive,” “inappropriate” and “a prime example of an unjust result.” Describing Jackson as a “petty thief.” the court threw out the sentence.

The following year, in 1998, the state's supreme court gave a final ruling. “This sentence is constitutionally excessive in that it is grossly out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence,” concluded Judge Bernette Johnson. However, she found that the state's four strikes law that mandates life without parole could only be overturned in rare instances, and as a result she reinstated the sentence — putting Jackson back inside his cell until the day he dies.

“I am much older and I have learned a lot about myself,” Jackson wrote to the ACLU from that cell. “I am sorry for the crime that I did, and I am a changed man.”

Jackson expressed a hope that he would be granted his freedom when he was still young enough to make something of his life and “help others”. But, barring a reform of the law, the day of his release will never come.

— Democracy Now broadcast a video Nov. 15 titled “Life in Prison for Stealing a $159 Jacket?” It included an important interview with Jennifer Turner, human rights researcher and author of the new ACLU report. It is at
— From the Guardian (UK) Nov. 13. The ACLU report, Living Death,” is at


By Russia Today

Details of a highly secretive, multi-national trade agreement long in works were published by WikiLeaks Nov. 13, and critics say there will be major repercussions for much of the modern world if it's approved without major changes.

The anti-secrecy group published a 95-page excerpt taken from a recent draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a NAFTA-like agreement that is expected to encompass nations representing more than 40% of the world’s gross domestic product when it is finally approved: the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. 

President Barack Obama and counterparts from 11 other prospective member states have been hammering out the free trade agreement in utmost secrecy for years now, the result of which, according to the White House, would rekindle the economies of all of those involved, including many emerging countries.

Upon the publication of the excerpt obtained by WikiLeaks, however, opponents of the act are insisting that provisions dealing with creation, invention and innovation could serve a severe blow to everyone, particularly those in the Internet realm.

Although the TPP covers an array of topics — many of which have not been covered by past agreements, according to Obama — WikiLeaks has published a chapter from a draft dated August 30, 2013, that deals solely on Intellectual Property, or IP, rights.

Previous reports about the rumored contents of the TPP with regards to IP law have raised concern among activists before, with the California-based Electronic Frontier Foundation going as far as to warn that an earlier leaked draft text suggested the agreement “would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate,” all of which is being agreed upon without any oversight or observation. Indeed, the thousands of words released by WikiLeaks this week has concretized those fears and has already caused the likes of the EFF and others to sound an alarm.

Julian Assange, the Australian founder of the whistleblower site who has been confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over a year now, had particularly harsh words for the TPP in a statement published alongside the draft release.

“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons,” Assange said. “If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.


By the Activist Newsletter

In keeping with our ongoing reports on the U.S. military buildup against China, here is an excerpt from a Nov. 12 report by Peter Symonds for the World Socialist Web Site:

A lengthy report released last week by the U.S.-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), provides a detailed assessment of Australia’s central strategic role in the Pentagon’s preparations for war with China. The report’s title itself — “Gateway to the Indo-Pacific: Australian Defense Strategy and the Future of the Australia-US Alliance” — highlights the critical geographical importance of the Australian continent for U.S. naval and air operations in Indian and Pacific oceans in any war against China.

The CSBA bills itself as independent and non-partisan, but is closely connected to the American military establishment, receiving the bulk of its funds through Department of Defense research projects. It was prominently involved in drawing up the Pentagon’s AirSea Battle strategy for war against China — a devastating missile and air attack on the Chinese mainland aimed at destroying its communications and military infrastructure, supplemented by an economic blockade to cut off vital Chinese imports of energy and raw materials from Africa and the Middle East.
Obama reviews Australian troops.

The US military build-up in the Indo-Pacific region is an integral component of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” — an all-sided diplomatic, economic and strategic offensive aimed at undermining Chinese influence throughout the region and encircling China militarily….

While the Australian and U.S. governments speak of the American build-up in Asia in benign terms and deny any targeting of China, the CBSA report explicitly identifies China as the chief potential enemy. Other U.S. think tanks have laid out the general strategy behind Obama’s “pivot,” but the CBSA report is the first to focus exclusively on Australia’s military importance. As it explains, “Australia has moved from ‘down under’ to ‘top center’ in terms of geopolitical import. For the first time since World War II, Australian and American areas of strategic priority overlap. The strength of this rekindled convergence suggests that the US-Australia relationship may well prove to be the most special relationship of the 21st century.”


Russia and Iran, very close.
By Stratfor Global Intelligence

The landmark agreement the P-5+1 and Tehran reached last weekend regarding the Iranian nuclear program is having effects beyond the immediate region. Speaking at a media forum in Rome on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the deal obviates the need for NATO's ballistic missile defense plans in Central Europe, given that the system—championed by the United States—was designed to counter potential missile threats from Iran. Lavrov noted that if the deal is implemented as planned, then "the stated reason for the construction of the defense shield will no longer apply."

NATO's ballistic missile defense plans in Central Europe have long been one of the most contentious issues between Moscow and Washington. These plans, known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach, involve placing interceptor bases in Romania and Poland that are capable of shooting down various-ranged ballistic missiles. These are set to become operational in 2015 and 2018, respectively. The groundbreaking ceremony at the site in Romania took place last month.

While the European Phased Adaptive Approach is technically and officially designed to counter missile attacks specifically from Iran, the plans have drawn substantial concern from Russia. Moscow considers any NATO-related military buildup in Europe a potential threat, and Russia fears that the technology used in the development of the ballistic missile defense system could one day challenge Russia's intercontinental missile arsenal, which it relies on as its primary strategic deterrent. As the European Phased Adaptive Approach becomes more robust—currently it is not much of a direct threat to Moscow, based on capabilities and placement—it could seriously threaten Russia's ballistic missile capabilities in the long term. For years, Russia has demanded legal guarantees from NATO and the United States that the system would not target its strategic nuclear deterrent. This issue has been a constant sticking point in talks between Moscow and the West over ballistic missile defense.  

But there is a broader issue regarding ballistic missile defense that goes beyond the specifics of a system and legal guarantees: the battle between the United States and Russia for influence in Central Europe. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has been worried by what it sees as the West's never-ending encroachment in its near abroad. The wave of NATO and EU expansion during the late 1990s and early 2000s occurred at a time when Russia was weak and came at great geopolitical cost to Moscow. Now Russia is stronger, but it still views any U.S.- or NATO-led military moves in Central and Eastern Europe through the same prism of interference, especially in what Russia deems as its sphere of influence. Russia thus views the ballistic missile defense system as an excuse for the United States to deploy military personnel in some of the most strategic borderland states of Europe.

For Russia to raise the ballistic missile defense issue again immediately after the Iranian nuclear deal reveals two things. The first is Russia's more recent role in facilitating U.S. policy in the Middle East. This began with Russia developing a diplomatic resolution to the chemical weapons crisis in Syria and saving the United States from engaging in another unpopular military intervention in the region. The Syria resolution then opened the door for Iran and the United States to negotiate. Despite its reservations over a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement, Russia knew it could do little to derail the process and calculated instead that its cooperation in the deal—as opposed to its obstruction—would give Russia substantial leverage in other more pressing issues with the United States. It is likely that NATO's ballistic missile defense plans for Central Europe would be on the top of Moscow's list of such issues. 

The second revelation is the far-reaching consequences of the Iranian nuclear settlement. Not only does a potential U.S.-Iranian understanding lead to a realignment of the balance of power in the Middle East, it also carries the potential for changes in a host of other regions, from Afghanistan to the Caucasus to Central Asia. The same could be said for Central Europe, considering how it intersects with U.S.-Russian negotiations that run parallel to U.S.-Iranian talks…. 


By Norman Solomon and Abba A. Solomon

More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.

In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.

While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal reached with Iran last weekend, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached in Geneva.

A widespread fear is that some political precedent might be set, undercutting “pro-Israel” leverage over U.S. government decisions. Such dread is inherent in the negative reactions from Netanyahu (“a historic mistake”), GOP lawmakers like House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (“a permission slip to continue enrichment”) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (“we’ve let them out of the trap”), and Democratic lawmakers like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (“this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program”) and Senator Charles Schumer (“it does not seem proportional”).

Netanyahu and many other Israelis — as well as the powerhouse U.S. lobbying group AIPAC and many with similar outlooks in U.S. media and politics — fear that Israel’s capacity to hold sway over Washington policymakers has begun to slip away. “Our job is to be the ones to warn,” Israel’s powerful finance minister, Yair Lapid, told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday. “We need to make the Americans to listen to us like they have listened in the past.”

This winter and spring, the Israeli government and its allies are sure to strafe U.S. media and political realms with intense barrages of messaging. “Israel will supplement its public and private diplomacy with other tools,” the New York Times reported Monday from Jerusalem. “Several officials and analysts here said Israel would unleash its intelligence industry to highlight anticipated violations of the interim agreement.” Translation: Israel will do everything it can to undermine the next stage of negotiations and prevent a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
Looking ahead, as a practical political matter, can the U.S. government implement a major policy shift in the Middle East without at least grudging acceptance from the Israeli government? Such questions go to the core of the Israeli occupation now in its 47th year.
Israel keeps building illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank; suppression of the basic human rights of Palestinian people continues every day on a large scale in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no reason to expect otherwise unless Israel’s main political, military and economic patron, the United States, puts its foot down and refuses to backstop those reprehensible policies. They can end only when the “special relationship” between the USA and Israel becomes less special, in keeping with a single standard for human rights and against military aggression.

Such talk is abhorrent to those who are steeped in the notion that the United States must serve as a reliable enabler of Israel’s policies. But in every way that those policies are wrong, the U.S. government should stop enabling them.

The longstanding obstacles to such a halt stand a bit less tall today, but they remain huge. No less than before, as William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” This certainly applies to the history of gaining and maintaining unequivocal U.S. support for Israel.

Today’s high-impact American groups such as AIPAC (which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”), Christians United for Israel (“the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., with more than a million members,” according to the Jerusalem Post) and similar outfits have built on 65 years of broad and successful Israel advocacy in the United States.

Baked into the foundation of their work was the premise of mutuality and compatibility of Israeli and American interests. Until the end of the Cold War, routine spin portrayed aid to Israel as a way to stymie Soviet power in the region. Especially since 9/11, U.S. support for Israel has been equated with support for a precious bulwark against terrorism.

Ever since the successful 1947 campaign to press for UN General Assembly approval of Palestine partition, Israel’s leaders have closely coordinated with American Jewish organizations. Israeli government representatives in the United States regularly meet with top officers of American Jewish groups to convey what Israel wants and to identify the key U.S. officials who handle relevant issues. Those meetings have included discussions about images of Israel to promote for the American public, with phrases familiar to us, such as "making the desert bloom" and “outpost of democracy.”

As any member of Congress is well aware, campaign donations and media messaging continue to nurture public officials cooperative and sympathetic to Israel. For the rare officeholders and office seekers who stand out as uncooperative and insufficiently sympathetic, a formulaic remedy has been applied: withholding campaign donations, backing opponents and launching of media vilification. Those political correctives have proved effective—along the way, serving as cautionary tales for politicians who might be tempted to step too far out of line.

The mainstream American Jewish Committee decided in 1953 that for its pro-Israel advocacy, “To the utmost extent, non-Jewish and non-sectarian organizations should be used as spokesmen.” Such a strategic approach has borne fruit for the overall Israel advocacy project in the USA. It is time-tested and mature; broadly distributing messages through organizations of most political flavors; and adept at touching almost all sizable media.

This year, Israeli leaders have intensified their lurid casting of Iran as the next genocidal Third Reich, and Israel as the protector absent for Jews during the Holocaust. For some, the theme is emotionally powerful. But it must not be allowed to prevent a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear dispute with Iran.

From now till next summer, the struggle over talks with Iran will be fierce and fateful. All signs point to determined efforts by Israel—and its many allies in the United States—to wreck prospects for a peaceful solution.

— From,, Nov. 25, 2013. Norman Solomon is the founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews,’ Given to the Baltimore Chapter American Jewish Committee, February 15, 1948.”

By Tom Carte, WSWS, Nov. 26, 2013

A top secret National Security Administration (NSA) strategy document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden envisions spying on “anyone, anytime, anywhere,” free from all legal restraints, and radical expansions in the NSA’s activities in the period of 2012-2016.

The five-page document dated February 23, 2012, which was published by the New York Times Nov. 24, is entitled “SIGINT Strategy 2012-2016.” The name of the author does not appear on the document, nor is it clear who was responsible for it.

Among the document’s central themes is that the law has “not kept pace” with the NSA’s “mission.” Translated into plain English, this means that the NSA is knowingly engaged in illegal activity.

The NSA’s strategy is to remedy this situation by campaigning for what amounts to the abolition of basic constitutional rights. Existing law must be “adapted,” the document states, in order to facilitate unlimited spying. “For SIGINT [signals intelligence] to be optimally effective, legal, policy, and process authorities must be as adaptive and dynamic as the technological and operational advances we seek to exploit.”

In fact, the NSA’s spying activities — as well as the activities of the numerous other government agencies engaged in domestic spying — are in flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of the Fourth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights. This amendment protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” and provides that the government must obtain a warrant based on “probable cause” connecting a targeted person with criminal activity before a search or seizure can be carried out…

For all practical purposes, the military-intelligence agencies operate without restraint, as if there was no such thing as a Fourth Amendment. Without mentioning any legal rights its targets might have, the document simply announces that the NSA intends to achieve “mastery of the global network,” i.e., unrestrained global surveillance. To the extent the document obliquely makes reference to legal rights at all, it does so to state that the NSA will “aggressively pursue legal authorities and a policy framework mapped more fully to the information age.”

More information from Snowden is still coming to light. On Oct. 24 it was revealed that the NSA has infected 50,000 computer networks with malware. Malware is intrusive software that can be used to take control of a computer, either for the purpose of gaining access to private information or of disrupting activity. In many countries, creating and distributing malware is a criminal offense.

By Earth Justice

The Tongass in Southeast Alaska is our country’s largest national forest — nearly 17 million acres of towering Sitka spruce trees, fog-drenched inlets, salmon-spawning rivers, and well-fed bears. It is a land of plenty, which is why the timber industry has aggressively logged here for decades.

Three years ago, the administration set a goal of transitioning quickly away from destructive old-growth logging, yet the Forest Service is now considering weakening its conservation strategy, even planning several large old-growth timber sales with no reduction in sight.

Hold the government to its promise by commenting on this disappointing proposal. We need sustainable management that restores forests, develops tourism, preserves watersheds, improves fisheries, and protects the lifestyles of southeast Alaskans who live off the lands and waters.