Saturday, July 06, 2013

Charting Israel's Systemic Targeting of Palestinian Children

UN Accuses Israel of Torturing Palestinian Children


Shir Hever: Israeli forces proven to be using Palestinian children as human shields despite attempts to cover it up to protect image.

Shir Hever is an economic researcher in the Alternative Information Center, a Palestinian-Israeli organization active in Jerusalem and Beit-Sahour. Researching the economic aspect of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, some of his research topics include international aid to the Palestinians and Israel, the effects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories on the Israeli economy, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of the economy of the Israeli occupation.  

Palestinian Squabbling and the Squandered Years

On Hamas, Fatah and the Squandered Years: When ‘Unity’ Loses Its Meaning

by Ramzy Baroud

 When Hamas and Fatah representatives met in Gaza on June 04, there was little media fanfare. In fact, neither party expected much attention to their ‘unity talks’ aside from the occasional references to ‘national reconciliation’, ‘building bridges’ and the ‘obstacles’ along the way.

And since then, there was yet more proof that the Gaza talks were another futile exercise to breathe unity between political factions that were never united to begin with, nor possess the minimal requirement of a shared political platform, let alone vision.

Ample analysis has been offered by way of anchoring the Hamas-Fatah split to a specific point in time. Some of these references point to the January 2006 parliamentary elections in which Hamas won the majority vote, to Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to dissolve the last unity government on June 14, 2007, or to the bloody ousting of Fatah from Gaza after a brief, but bloody fight the following month.

None of this, however, can fairly explain the underpinning of that split. Palestinians in Gaza, in particular, remember a different narrative, one that goes back years before the failed talks, the civil war and even the Oslo accord itself.

It is important to note that Hamas was formed in 1987 to challenge what they perceived as the secular nature of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Its founders, in part, wanted to offer themselves as an alternative to Fatah’s unchallenged reign over the Palestinian political culture. The Hamas alternative received a huge boast following Fatah’s eventual failure, not merely to achieve Palestinian rights, but to unabashedly exchange them for imagined political perks, international aid – translated to personal wealth - and much more.

The underlying problem is that Hamas’ own inception was predicated on the constant contrasts with Fatah and its ideology – perceived as ‘ilmaniya, meaning secularism. Its successes were almost always coupled with Fatah’s shortcomings. It impressed ordinary Palestinians with its armed resistance at a time when the Fatah leadership disowned armed struggle which at one point had been the cornerstone of its manifesto. In other words, whenever the Fatah stock dropped, the Hamas stocks grew. And whenever Fatah leaders made an unconditional ‘compromise’ to Israel under American pressure, the Hamas stock skyrocketed.

For over 25 years this political saga manifested itself in numerous other ways. It is embedded in the very culture to which supporters of both factions subscribe: in the language they use, historical references they make, the songs they sing, the symbols they adhere to, even the mosques in which they pray and the type of attire they wear. A whole volume is needed to even scratch the surface of the culture split within which Palestinian society has subsisted for many years. To imagine for a fleeting moment that Palestinians can reconcile through some obscure meetings that bring Fatah’s central committee member Nabil Shaath and Hamas' Imad Alami – or any other combination – together, is too frivolous a thought to be taken seriously.

Last May, both factions had agreed to a timetable that didn’t exceed three months, during which they formed a unity government and prepared for elections. However, they did much to counter these very efforts, as both sides indulged in using the same polarizing language, dismissing the other with complete impunity, arresting each other’s members and so on. Moreover, both factions carried on with a political line that was contrary to the many promises made since the reconciliation treaty signed over two years ago, and all other meetings, statements and press conferences held since then.

Also since then, Abbas formed a short-lived government – so short-lived in fact that future historians are likely to omit the uneventful week or so when addressing the PA’s uninspiring past. Moreover, the Fatah PA leader is willingly walking into another ‘peace process’ pretense, this time under the auspices of US Secretary of State John Kerry. The American diplomat is giving little details about the nature of his latest shuttle diplomacy efforts, starting June 28. But this was his fifth trip to the region and it is being compared to Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy of the 1970s. History has taught us that little good can be expected from all of this, of course, but, unsurprisingly, Abbas is playing along, to the dismay of Hamas.

Following a Friday prayer sermon in Gaza, Hamas’ prime minister Ismail Haniya implored: “We ask brothers in the Palestinian Authority and Abu Mazen (Abbas) not to fall yet again into the trap of talks.” Before talking to Israel, Haniya insisted, Abbas must “build a Palestinian strategy based on reinstating unity and ending division.”

Of course, Hamas is doing little to tone down the rhetoric or to truly work towards achieving that coveted ‘unity.’ The Islamic group is politically evolving in its own direction, with self-preservation topping its agenda, and almost completely independent from the rest of Palestinian factions. It is formulating a political program that is predicated on essentially exclusive priorities: capitalizing on the current political remake of the Middle East, thriving with financial and political support emanating from rich Gulf countries, and forming its own political alliances from Doha to Istanbul.

Such an approach would not have been as problematic if it were not for the fact that it is evolving in a direction that is perhaps beneficial to Hamas as a movement, but hardly to the Palestinian national project, whose dimensions transcend political geography, ideology or religion.

Unity talks between two factions with track records that give greater priority to the faction over the collective interest of a nation will not succeed, even if they seemingly succeed. Fatah has historically been the dominant faction, and over the years has morphed into a culture that can only accept dominance over all the others. Hamas was formed to counteract the Fatah culture and to offer an equally overriding narrative. Their problem is too deep to disentangle with simple terminology and overcome with wishful thinking.

The problem is principally Palestinian and can only be resolved using national platforms that appeal to the individual, free from factionalism, and to the collective, free from the confining symbolism and polarizing discourses. A national debate must start soon so that it can address the Palestinian national identity and truly unite Palestinians around common objectives. This should have already been the case for many years, rather than the investment in fragmentation and self-serving politics.

- Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press).

"New" Egypt Closes Rafah Crossing into Gaza "Indefinitely"

Egyptian officials indefinitely close Rafah border crossing with Gaza

by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC News

As protests and unrest continue throughout Egypt, with over 40 people killed since Sunday, the Egyptian government closed the Rafah border crossing, which is virtually the only way in and out of the sealed Gaza Strip for its 1.4 million Palestinian residents.

Egyptian officials stated that the reason for the closure was a series of attacks in the Sinai peninsula by armed gunmen, following the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi earlier this week.

During one of those attacks, one soldier was killed and two wounded when fighters attacked a police station near the Rafah border crossing.

Palestinians living in Gaza voiced dismay at the decision to close the terminal, as all other entrances and exits to Gaza are controlled by Israel, and have been virtually sealed since the Hamas government was elected and formed a government in 2006.

Some Palestinians have found themselves stranded on the Egyptian side of the border, unable to get home.

The Egyptian government gave no indication as to when the border crossing will re-open.

Scores Missing and Feared Dead as Runaway Oil Train Derails, Explodes in Lac Megantic, Quebec

Train Carrying Crude Oil Rolls Away Then Derails, Explodes in Lac Megantic

by Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL - The train that careened into the centre of town in Lac Megantic early Saturday morning was unmanned when it derailed and exploded in a huge ball of flame, says a spokesperson for the company that owned the locomotive.

Joseph R. McGonigle confirmed to The Gazette early Saturday afternoon that shortly before midnight, the train's conductor locked the brakes and checked to ensure that the rail cars carrying thousands of litres of crude oil were all securely attached. He then checked into a nearby Lac Megantic hotel for the night.

"Sometime after, the train got loose," said McGonigle, who is vice president of marketing for The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway. "It traveled under its own inertia to the centre of the town."

The locomotive portion of the 73-car train actually detached half a mile outside of the small town, he added, but the cars carrying the oil kept right on rolling. McGonigle said there are security mechanisms in place to prevent anyone from tampering with the train, and the proper checks were done by the conductor before he left the vehicle. No one except him should have been able to set it in motion.

"That's what confuses us. How did this happen?" McGonigle said. "There are many fail-safe modes. How this happened is just beyond us."

Freedumb and Dumber Democrazies


by Sharmine Narwani - Sandbox

Freedom and democracy. How I have come to loathe this phrase. Two-lofty-words-and-a-conjunction bandied around by handmaidens of Empire: verbal grenades that can gut entire nations. When I hear “freedom and democracy” I instinctively look for cover - just as “Allahu Akbar” yelled loudly enough can now make Arabs and Muslims hit the ground fast.

“Freedom and democracy” is the battle cry for every single western regime-change operation I can remember. Operations that leave innocent civilians dead, cities destroyed - anarchy, corruption and criminality in their wake.

In the Middle East, these are dangerous words that have filtered into our vocabulary. People here, intoxicated with their faux revolutions, now spout this silly foreign phrase with the same shrill, mad-eyed, self-righteous conviction as do Americans before they bomb us into ‘freedom.’

But Arabs and Muslims should dig deep into their recent memory:

The first words uttered by you as you rose up against your US-backed dictators were “honor and dignity” – not “freedom and democracy.” How did that fact get lost in the mayhem to follow?

And why on earth would this distinction make any difference?

For one, ‘freedom and democracy’ has always suggested western-style standards for governance and social liberties alien to the Mideast. We’re just not there yet – not on those terms anyway - and we’re not likely to be. Many regional states are just entering the nascent phase of what will undoubtedly be a rocky political evolutionary process – with each nation creating wholly indigenous models of governance, as unique as their individual cultures and histories. What if some towns would like their political process determined by an old-fashioned cockfight? What if a strongman is the only way to prevent the disintegration of a nation-state or the outbreak of ethnic and sectarian carnage? What if people genuinely don’t give a toss about gay and lesbian rights, preferring – imagine that – to find employment and feed their kids first? Women’s suffrage? Gender-integrated football stadiums? Childcare in the workplace? Worker’s rights? Important stuff, but... Feed. Child. First.

And then there’s that other unfortunate association: freedom and democracy brings with it a cornucopia of weapons, military bases, bombs hailing from skies heaving with US-made drones, financial assistance tied to all shades of silliness.

Freedom and democracy is extremely discerning. It seems to altogether bypass friendly dictatorships, only landing with uncanny accuracy on the heads of those opposed to Empire - civilians included.

And it is a foreign-imposed concept, presupposing, for instance, that elections are all-important. Except, even Empire doesn’t believe that. Why else dismiss Palestinian elections with a Hamas victor, or Iranian elections when the candidate doesn’t suit, or Russian parliamentary ones that ‘smack’ of fraud?

Yet Empire’s silence is deafening when a friendly monarch passes the mantle to his son, when a client state doesn’t care about popular legitimacy, when a military ally with big budgets for US-made weapons rejects elections outright.

Honor and dignity is none of those things. It doesn’t mean elections, it doesn’t mean individual rights. It is unselfish and broad – it understands what is right, what is important, what is a priority. It will wait a bit longer for jobs, stability, electricity, but it demands one immediate correction: the state must recognize and act upon popular will.

What’s the difference you still say?

Freedom-and-democracy embraces US-Israeli hegemony and GCC petrodollars. Honor-and-dignity does not.

Freedom-and-democracy thinks there are “processes” to remedy the colonization of Palestinian land. Honor-and-dignity knows there is only one: decolonization.

Freedom-and-democracy seeks to vilify, marginalize and criminalize groups, sects and nations in the Middle East. Honor-and-dignity seeks collaboration and harmonious relations, even among those marked by differences.

Freedom-and-democracy is governed by militarization – it seeks military bases, weaponizes its allies, draws red lines, makes threats, retaliates disproportionally, punishes with ease, targets the vulnerable. Honor-and-dignity believes in soft power, engagement and mediation with brothers.

Freedom-and-democracy has always supported dictatorship and brutality. Honor-and-dignity wants that to stop.

Freedom-and-democracy gives you a truckload of money in exchange for implementing a political, social and economic blueprint with the assistance of foreign advisors and NGOs. Honor-and-dignity is determined to learn from its own mistakes.

Freedom-and-democracy knows what’s best for you. Honor-and-dignity wants to decide for itself.

Freedom-and-democracy fears your independence – thinks you are “not ready” for it. Honor-and-dignity can’t stand still from wanting to taste it, lick it, embrace it, implement it.

Freedom-and-democracy violates your border, guns cocked. Honor-and-dignity knows it must shoot you dead or you will never learn.

Freedom-and-democracy thinks it is free and democratic. Honor-and-dignity notices an interesting trend: the more freedom-and-democracy talks about “freedom and democracy,” the more it legislates against freedoms and undermines democracy back home.

Real ‘freedom’ in the Middle East means honor and dignity. Real ‘democracy’ in the Middle East starts with honor and dignity. Arabs nailed it the first time around.

Honor-and-dignity doesn’t mean elections and governments that operate within the exact same geopolitical and economic parameters of yesterday. Honor-and-dignity means good governance in a just society under the rule of law based on consensus - homegrown, indigenous solutions that are unique to each country.

The new governments of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen don’t stand a chance – they operate within the old parameters that acknowledge western hegemony, GCC dominance in regional affairs, and the economics of disparity. They play with Israel and pretend Palestine does not exist. They vacillate between paralysis and aggression against the only Resistance this region has ever had. They thrive on yesterday’s divide-and-rule and have warped ideas about brotherhood. And they rig systems today to ensure their continued dominance tomorrow.

You cannot have honor and dignity with a dependent economy – it will hamper your independence. You cannot have honor and dignity with foreign military bases in your country – it will cripple your independence. You cannot have honor and dignity with a colonial state in your midst subverting all efforts at regional reconciliation, killing Arabs with impunity, wagging its tongue at your impotence – it will destroy your independence.

Please leave us be, FreedumbAndDemocrazy. If you don’t, Honor and Dignity will be forced to teach you the meaning of Consequence in a way it would rather not. Leave the Mideast to chart its own course, discover its own strengths and make its own mistakes. Do it now.

And take your conditional aid and military bases with you too.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Unbridled Hilarity: Ever Hear the One About the Bankers Screwing Ireland?

Caught On Tape: Irish Bankers Laugh About Never Repaying Bailout

by TRNN 

Bill Black: Tapes reveal Anglo Irish Bank executives laughed as they manipulated Irish Government into 16 billion dollar bailout the knew they would never repay.

William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. He has taught previously at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and at Santa Clara University, where he was also the distinguished scholar in residence for insurance law and a visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Black was litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, deputy director of the FSLIC, SVP and general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and senior deputy chief counsel, Office of Thrift Supervision. He was deputy director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement. Black developed the concept of "control fraud" frauds in which the CEO or head of state uses the entity as a "weapon." Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime combined. He recently helped the World Bank develop anti-corruption initiatives and served as an expert for OFHEO in its enforcement action against Fannie Mae's former senior management.  

Fighting Fires in Gaza's Free Fire Zone

Fire Fighting in a War Zone

by Kevin Neish in Gaza

I’m quite a well trained mechanic. I hold four journeyman mechanical certificates, as well as a College diploma to teach them all. But I’m also a fisherman’s son, so I’m pretty darned good at fixing something with little more then a pocket knife and some string and wire.

It’s this last “qualification” that is now holding me in good stead in Gaza. I’m volunteering at the Gaza fire department’s repair shop. I retired some years ago, but here I’m working on some equipment that even predates my long career.

Due the blockade, the fire department has an oddball collection of old trucks from all over the world. Japanese, Italian, German and Russian trucks, that would have been retired many years ago anywhere else in the world, even if you had a proper supply of parts. But the Palestinians somehow keep them running, in spite of the Israeli blockade.

And as if that was not bad enough, during the 2008 “Cast Lead” assault on Gaza, the Israelis targeted all the fire halls in Gaza. One of the trucks damaged in that assault is still going through the rebuilding process in this repair shop, using equipment adapted from unrelated vehicles, home made parts, haywire and a lot of ingenuity.

But many of the fire trucks were beyond even the Palestinians’ ability to repair them.

Without being told that this was once a a fire truck, it’s difficult to identify it as such. Of course this begs the question, why did the Israelis attack fire trucks? For that matter why did they attack, ambulances, sewer plants, electrical power plants, water treatment plants, sports stadiums, Universities and various United Nations schools.

And why are they still attacking Palestine today?

So here’s a shout out to these grand fellows of the Gaza fire department and some humble praise to the many fire fighters who have died under Israeli fire, while trying to protect the people of Gaza, Palestine.

Bye for now from Gaza City.


PLO Back with Bogus Road Map

Whither goest thou, Palestine? … as PLO prepares to get bogged down (again) in bogus US-Israel negotiations

by Stuart Littlewood - Redress

The Palestinian embassy in London has just issued a rare media briefing. It asks “What is needed for the resumption of credible negotiations?” and tries to explain the Palestinian position.

It says the Palestine Liberation Organization (which represents the Palestinian people to the outside world) has done everything it can to further the political process, from agreeing to a state on a tiny 22 per cent of historical Palestine to the recent reaffirmation of the Arab Peace Initiative.

As for Israeli Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s calls for a resumption of negotiations “without preconditions”, it insists that preconditions are necessary to ensure the credibility of the process and to prevent it being used by Israel as a smokescreen behind which it can carry on colonizing and committing its many other violations of international law.

“The PLO is well aware that any eventual solution must be reached through a negotiated settlement…” But, it says, Israel must be committed to the same end-goal as Palestine and the rest of the world: a two-state solution on the 1967 border.

The briefing gives a link to a document just released by the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department which poses six questions that need to be answered if real and meaningful negotiations are to resume. It talks about the new international effort, led by the US, to negotiate “final status” and says the Palestinian leadership has “no doubt that Secretary Kerry’s intentions are genuine”. This presumably refers to Kerry’s promise of a 4-billion-dollar injection to “dramatically lift the economy”.

1. Does Secretary Kerry’s proposal allow for progress on the political track towards a just and lasting peace?

Any economic development will be stifled by, and will not end, the occupation. If Israel is only prepared to ease the occupation rather than end it, this will not be enough to open up new political horizons. (I’ll wager the 4 billion dollars, if it materializes, will either be wasted or find its way into Israeli pockets.)

2. Has Israel shown any interest in the two-state solution?

Short answer: no. Recent words and actions by prominent members of the Israeli government prove it. Israel’s illegal settlement programme is clearly intended to destroy any possibility of two states living side by side in peace, security and all that jazz, and the Israeli public seem to have swallowed the idea that the ongoing conflict can be managed rather than resolved. Palestine, on the other hand, “has fully supported the internationally-endorsed two-state solution since 1988, in line with UN Security Council resolutions and the international consensus, as well as fulfilling its bilateral and international obligations under the Road Map (UNSC 1515)”.

3. Is Israel willing to fulfill its prior obligations from previous agreements?

Israel has failed to fulfill the vast majority, hence the need for preconditions.

4. Has Mr Netanyahu provided a map of what a two-state solution could look like?
He hasn’t but the PLO has, along with clear negotiating positions based on UN resolutions and international law.

5. Is Israel willing to cease ALL of its settlement activities?
Settlement activity includes transfer of Israel’s own civilian population into occupied Palestinian territory, which is a war crime and obviously prejudices the outcome of any negotiations. Israel has shown no inclination to stop.

Cessation of settlement activity is not a Palestinian precondition but an imperative based on prior obligations and international law. How can sincere negotiations take place when one party is continuously prejudicing the outcome by colonizing the other’s land? The international community, including the US, has a very firm position on the illegality of settlements and the necessity for Israel to stop. (Yes, but not firm enough. The US forgets its “position” whenever resumption of negotiations is mentioned. Furthermore, it is not just a question of stopping but of giving back what has been stolen.)

6. What are the Palestinians offering from their side?

The idea of a two-state solution is based on the Palestinians’ historic compromise of 1988, agreeing to a state on a measly 22 per cent of historical Palestine for the sake of peace. This has not been enough for the Israelis; they want even more. Palestine has also joined other countries in the region in establishing the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers normalized relations for Israel with 57 Arab and Islamic countries if Israel fully withdraws from all the territories occupied since 1967, as required by international law, and complies with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 in respect of the Palestinian refugee issue. (Palestinians should not feel obliged to offer anything. They simply want back what is theirs.)
The forgotten seventh question

The message from Tony Blair, John Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah for Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is that the PA risks a cut-off of funds and US disengagement from any “peace process” as well as the scrapping of the rumoured “mega economic development package” which Kerry aides are currently finalizing, if Palestine goes anywhere near the International Criminal Court.

When will the international community and the international courts discharge their solemn duty and implement or enforce all outstanding UN resolutions and international laws relating to Israel’s unlawful occupation and Palestinians’ rights?

This would put Abbas in an awkward position because Hamas wants Palestine to immediately file cases against Israel at the ICC and, so it appears, do a large majority of Palestinians.

Susan Rice, America’s retiring UN ambassador, reportedly said after the UN General Assembly voted last November to admit Palestine as a non-member state, that it wasn’t going to take the Palestinians any closer to statehood, or to the ICC. The woman revealed the US administration’s hostility to meaningful progress and the pointlessness of any “negotiations” brokered by America.

Why, then, are Palestinian leaders so confident that Secretary Kerry’s intentions were ever “genuine”, especially when the White House now threatens dire consequences if Palestinians exercise their new right to activate the International Criminal Court and bring charges to get Israel’s jackboot off their necks?

I’m also curious to know why the PLO says it is “well aware that any eventual solution must be reached through a negotiated settlement”. What is there to negotiate when so much has already been ruled upon and decided by international law and numerous UN resolutions and now waits to be implemented or enforced by the international community?

It stands to reason that the PLO, if truly speaking for the Palestinian people, need to pose a seventh question: When will the international community and the international courts discharge their solemn duty and implement or enforce all outstanding UN resolutions and international laws relating to Israel’s unlawful occupation and Palestinians’ rights? That has to be another precondition. Only when everything is on a proper footing can negotiations to settle ‘remainder’ issues begin.

Forgotten strategy needs digging up and dusting off

I keep going back to a report that was relegated to the back-burner (or perhaps deliberately buried) a long time ago. It is called Regaining the Initiative – Palestinian Strategic Options to End Israeli Occupation by the Palestine Strategy Group in August 2008 and funded by the European Union. Forty-five politicians, academics, business people and others participated in the study, which is said to offer an alternative view to the “official but impotent Palestinian discourse that will very shortly, in the judgment of most Palestinians, run head-on into a brick wall”.

Which of course it did.

The 52-page, 16,500-word document has been gathering dust, one reason being (in my view) that it’s a pain to read. Even the Executive Summary runs to five pages, and when I tried to absorb the main body of text I nearly gave up.

However, its central plank is that Palestinians must “seize their destiny in their own hands” by refusing to enter into peace negotiations unless the international community deals first with issues relating to national self-determination, liberation from occupation, individual and collective rights, and enforces international law. Only when these priorities are recognized and actioned can peacemaking and state-building rise to the top of the agenda.

A second plank is the need for national unity. “Palestinian strategic action is impossible if the Palestinian nation is unable to speak with one voice or to act with one will.” This is so obvious yet Abbas, after his recent meeting with Kerry and hints of a partial freeze on settlements, seems to be warming to the prospect of talks while the Palestinian side is still in disarray. He never learns. Yes, the relentless pressures of occupation, and out-and-out bribery by meddlers like the US, are intended to cause internal divisions and self-destruction. Yes, maintaining disunity is part of America’s evil scheme. But it is up to Palestinian leaders to rise above it, or quit.

How astonishing for Palestinian thinkers to produce a sensible new strategy only to wrap it up in a way that makes it difficult to take onboard. “The essence of the Palestinian problem is not recognized,” grumbles the report. Little wonder. The thrust of this document might have signalled a turning point in the decades-long struggle, but the chances of winning hearts and minds in the corridors of power, or breaking through the political “noise” in Washington, London and EU capitals, with 52 pages of heavy going, were zero.

Couldn’t they have rewritten and turned it into a much more user-friendly marketing tool?

Hamas, kept in the cold by Abbas, warns against the “mirage” of negotiations, calling for US economic sweeteners to be resisted. The PLO must indeed “seize their destiny”, sign up to the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. UN member states handed them a golden opportunity by upgrading Palestine’s status, and there was no excuse for not having all the paperwork immediately ready for laying charges against Israel.

That would at least have put the international community in a tight spot for shirking its duty for too long. A lasting peace requires justice, security (not just for Israel), self-determination, respect for human rights and the rule of law. These things are not negotiable. They are not matters to be haggled over. They are universal entitlements already determined by UN resolutions and enshrined in international law, and deliverable by the international community.

Meanwhile the Palestinians are free to pursue their legitimate claims in the international courts and would be silly not to. But for seven months the PLO have frittered away this hard-won impetus.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Remembering Biak Massacre

Groups Urge Justice on 15th Anniversary of Biak, West Papua Massacre

by ETAN and WPAT

Saturday, July 6, is the 15th anniversary of one of the worst massacres in Indonesia's post-Suharto history. On that day in 1998, members of the Indonesian military ruthlessly gunned down peaceful pro-independence demonstrators on the island Biak in West Papua. Like so many massacres in Indonesia, the exact number of those killed is unknown.

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) today urge the U.S. government to publicly press the Indonesian government to acknowledge the Biak massacre and take the necessary steps to bring those responsible to justice. We regard it as unconscionable that the U.S. is proceeding to expand its ties with an Indonesian military that continues to violate human rights and remains unaccountable for massacres in Biak, East Timor, Aceh and elsewhere.

The water tower on Kota Biak. From Biak Massacre Citizens Tribunal

On July 6, 1998, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators gathered on a prominent hill in the town of Biak were deliberately attacked by members of the Indonesian military and police. The Papuans in Biak were asserting their right to self-determination after more than three decades of Indonesian military occupation of West Papua. The slaughter began with a dawn raid on a peaceful encampment by the town's water tower as many of the protesters slept or prayed. After the shooting stopped, the dead, dying, and wounded were loaded onto trucks and driven to the nearby naval base. Surviving Papuans were tortured and then loaded aboard Indonesian naval vessels and dumped into the ocean. Women were raped aboard the ships. Many of the victims had their hands bound or were stabbed before being thrown into the sea. Bodies of the victims washed up on Biak's shores during the following weeks.

At the time, the new, nominally democratic government of Indonesia disingenuously denied the massacre had taken place, contending the bodies washing ashore were victims of a tsunami that had struck Papua New Guinea more than hundreds of miles to the east.

No government of Indonesia has acknowledged the massacre or held the perpetrators accountable. The government continues to discourage investigation of this and other human rights crimes in West Papua by limiting access to the territory by foreign journalists, independent researchers, as well as UN and other international officials.

We regard it as unconscionable that the U.S. is proceeding to expand its ties with an Indonesian military that continues to violate human rights and remains unaccountable for massacres in Biak, East Timor, Aceh and elsewhere.

Contact: Ed McWilliams (WPAT),
John M. Miller (ETAN)

ETAN and WPAT extend our sympathy to the families of this victims of the Biak Massacre and to the West Papuan people in general who have suffered under Indonesian military repression for decades.

ETAN, formed in 1991, advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste, West Papua and Indonesia. ETAN on the web: Twitter: etan009. The West Papua Advocacy Team is a U.S.-based NGO composed of academics, human rights defenders and a retired U.S. diplomat.

Three WPAT members - U.S. embassy official Ed McWilliams, anthropologist Eben Kirksey, and journalist Octo Mote - were in Biak in July 1998 and witnessed the aftermath of the massacre. The two groups also oppose continued and expanded military-to-military cooperation with the Indonesia, including with the Indonesian Navy. McWilliams account of the Biak Massacre is here. Mote's recent video testimony is here. Kirksey's account is excerpted here.

Both organizations co-publish the monthly West Papua Report.

For additional background on the Biak Massacre see This is the website of The Citizens Tribunal for the 15th Anniversary of the Biak Massacre to be held on Saturday, July 6 at the University of Sydney.


Portuguese Drive Austerity Guru Out

Portugal's Architect of Austerity Resigns After Nationwide Protests


President Silva's austerity policies made Portugal a darling of the troika, but highly unpopular at home.

Costas Lapavitsas is a professor in economics at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. He teaches the political economy of finance, and he's a regular columnist for The Guardian. 

War As Health Benefit in America

Wartime U.S. Travelogue

by David Swanson - War is a Crime

In Washington Dulles airport I noticed a large advertisement. I’d seen it before and not paid attention. (No doubt that’s why they saturate public space with the things.) It showed a woman’s face with the words: “A car crash in California almost took her leg. A bomb blast in Iraq helped save it.” It directed one to a website:

I’m against car crashes in California. I’m in favor of saving Dominique’s leg. But at the website what we find is a claim that her leg was saved because her orthopaedic surgeon had experience in Iraq. And I don’t mean in the Iraqi hospitals that existed before we destroyed that country. I mean he had experience in the destruction process.

“Thank you, Dr. Paul Girard. How lucky was I to have an orthopaedic surgeon with wartime experience and special insights on how to treat an injury like mine?” Thus writes Dominique, whose partner James comments on the doctor: “His experience as a wartime orthopaedic surgeon in Iraq gave him a special familiarity with traumatic limb injuries.” 

How would James know this? Presumably the doctor, whose own comments don’t mention the war, told him. Or someone ghost wrote the website.

The website was created by three societies of orthopaedic surgeons that clearly know which side of the mutilated troop their bread is buttered on. (Orthopaedic comes through French from the Greek for boneheaded.)

Surely a few people walk through U.S. airports while simultaneously living in reality, thereality in which the United States destroyed the nation of Iraq, slaughtered 1.4 million people, created 4.5 million refugees, destroyed the health and education and energy infrastructures, created epidemics of disease and birth defects, traumatized millions of children, and left behind a ruined violent anarchic state cursed with deep divisions previously unknown.

Surely some of those reality-based people are aware that a majority of Americans believes the war benefitted Iraq, and a plurality believes Iraqis are grateful. To read, on top of that perversity, the claim that a bomb blast in Iraq saved Dominique’s leg is sickening. A doctor saved her leg. He found a silver lining in a genocide. The bomb blasts didn’t fucking save people. The bomb blasts killed people. And very few of the killers or their funders or their voters seem to care.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, the state capitol is surrounded by war memorials. No evidence of opposition to war is apparent to the casual visitor. Militarism, as anywhere else in the United States, is everywhere visible. The sports arena flashes a giant electronic ad for the National Guard. But the ad flashes on Kellogg Boulevard. Almost no one knows what Kellogg Boulevard was named for. But local son Frank Kellogg won the Nobel Peace Prize for organizing the major nations of the world to ban war, and did so prior to all the wars honored on the grounds of the state capitol. This of course proves thatKellogg’s war opposition should be forgotten since the wars so stupidly and barbarically fought in violation of the law since his day have brought us such a wealth of benefits. For example . . . medical miracle jackasses capable of surgery but not moral reflection.

Local activists plan to revive memory of Kellogg’s Peace Pact this August. Stay tuned.

Wisconsin: I remember when it was alive with protest, as North Carolina is now, when the activists joined with the Democrats and therefore labor. I remember the pizzas ordered for Wisconsin from Cairo and vice versa. Egypt’s fate is far from clear. But this we know. Egypt has set an example of independent, partisan-free, uncompromising populism that shows no signs of fading away. Egypt threw out a corrupt leader and then threw out his corrupt replacement. We let a corrupt leader rule the United States for 8 years and then bowed down before his corrupt successor.

This country is far far too big, and the population of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area far too uncomprehending for us to walk like an Egyptian. Clearly the people of any state you care to visit could run a respectable country if it weren’t for the other 49.

I know you don’t want to hear the word secession. But what about the word shame? Would that be too much to ask for?

David Swanson is author of War is a Lie. He lives in Virginia.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Can Clark's Liberals Outrun BCHydro Scandal?

The $55 Billion Private Power Racket and the Real Story Behind Hydro's Debt

by Damien Gillis -

British Columbians have been hearing a lot lately about BC Hydro's shocking debt situation - which is far worse than it's being described. Newly-minted BC Liberal Energy Minister Bill Bennett is supposedly on the warpath, looking for ways to trim the fat from the crown corporation's bulging belly. The Liberal Government was "surprised" by last-minute cost revisions to a few Hydro projects, skewing its budget calculations, we're told.


There is no "surprise" here - any suggestion thereof is political theatre. Strike that. Let me call it what it is: LYING.

The ballooning cost of the Northwest Transmission Line, cited as the key cause of this budgetary hiccup, represents but one tiny fraction of Hydro's real financial mess - and the BC Liberal Government knows it.

Why? Because they caused these problems themselves.

The mainstream media, as is to be expected, is largely parroting the government's cover story and ignoring the real problem: BC Hydro and its ratepayers are in a world of hurt because of 12 years of very deliberate and disastrous BC Liberal Government policies, pushed on the public utility.

First and foremost of these was the forcing of BC Hydro to purchase $55 BILLION worth of sweetheart, long-term contracts with private power companies, which we didn't need. As our resident, independent economist Erik Andersen - supported by figures and confirmation from the Auditor General - has demonstrated through a series of investigative pieces over the past 3 years, BC Hydro has chronically overestimated domestic demand for power. Historical estimates by Hydro have projected our current use at well over 60,000 Gigawatt hours (GWhrs) of electricity per year, when, instead, we've been flat-lined at around 50,000 for several years and show no real sign of growing beyond that (unless, of course, we build massive new capacity to subsidize mines and gas projects - more on that in a moment).

But you can't merely blame BC Hydro for getting the numbers wrong. Forecasting power demand has, unfortunately, always been a more of a political exercise than a statistical one. Hydro's masters are under enormous pressure to justify the government's energy agenda. Those who question it - even at the top of the crown corporation's executive ladder - pay the price.

Two CEOs who presided over a significant portion of this era - Bob Elton and Dave Cobb - were both pushed out after making cryptic references to the problem of private power contracts.

As for the Northwest Transmission Line? This project was pushed on Hydro in order to support the province's agenda to open up new mines in northwest BC - again, highly subsidized by taxpayers. Why aren't these mines building the line themselves (they're kicking in only a fraction of the cost)? Why were the federal government and mining companies' contributions capped, with BC Hydro left holding the bag for the entire cost overrun, now in the hundreds of millions of dollars?

Has BC Hydro done a poor job managing costs on the project? Is the Pope Catholic? But that's largely beside the point. This project is the BC Liberal Government's baby and now, when it goes sideways, they blame the public utility...and act surprised about it? How cowardly and dishonest can this bunch get?

The way this is all playing out should be of great concern to British Columbians. The Liberal Government and its private power pals are taking a page out of the neoliberal handbook, which aims to privatize anything of value, while unfettering "the market" of all "regulation" (which you and I would call "laws"). Here's how it works:

1. You saddle a valuable public utility or asset with enormous debt through private sector contracts it doesn't need (of course, the stated rationale is the opposite - i.e. saving the public money through "private sector efficiencies", which somehow NEVER, EVER materialize).

2. Blame the utility and its managers for the debt load when it becomes unbearable.

3. Use this as a justification to break up and sell off the utility, for pennies on the dollar, to the very private sector players who were instrumental - along with their government puppets - in bankrupting it in the first place.

Somehow, magically, the problem becomes the solution. This has happened all around the world, as Australian author Sharon Bedder details in her vital book Power Play: The Fight for Control of the World's Electricity.

The same pattern has repeated itself, all across the United States, Central and South America, Africa, you name it. It's a tried and true formula, designed to steal the public's most valuable assets out from under them - and, mark my words, they will try to do it here next.

My colleagues Rafe Mair, Tom Rankin, Gwen Barlee, John Calvert, Andy Ross, Erik Andersen and I have been warning about this - and documenting and sharing it with the public - for years now. Everything we predicted has come to pass. EXACTLY as we predicted it would - from the unchecked destruction of fish and wildlife habitat through these unnecessary, highly inefficient and costly private river power projects, to the precise nature of Hydro's present financial troubles.

Now it falls to the BC public to ensure the right corrective measures are taken to prevent the theft of our crown jewel. And the mainstream media needs to hear that its readers, listeners and viewers will not buy the official party line - this sob story of the poor government, betrayed by reckless managers at BC Hydro.

Our resident economist Erik Andersen has laid it out like so: either we raise power bills by 35-40% right now (politically impossible), or, preferably, we "un-saddle" Hydro of these private power contracts. He suggests doing so by removing them from Hydro's books and dealing with them as their own category of government liability (which is, in fact, where they belong, since Hydro really had nothing to do with taking them on).

Moreover, Andersen advises, we should not be building the $10 Billion Site C Dam to subsidize the mining and natural gas industries with cheap electricity, while regular British Columbians and small businesses pay 3 times as much for their power. This is a practice - the public subsidization of large-scale industrial corporations with highly-discounted hydro power - that needs to be rethought under the present circumstances.

I would go one step further. These $55 Billion of secret, private power contracts need to be opened up to public scrutiny - and unwound, to whatever extent is legally possible. The BC Liberals should consider such steps to save their own skin, now that they are being confronted with the full consequences of their decisions over the past decade. Most of these projects are in blatant non-compliance of the terms of their agreements. Others are experiencing serious operational challenges, which gives you a sense of what a botched deal this is - even under these favourable terms, akin to highway robbery, they can't help but screw things up.

The Liberals should consider unwinding whatever contracts they can to give themselves some budgetary breathing room going forward and avoid the need to jack up power bills to unacceptable levels.

Above all, they need to face a massive public backlash over the mere suggestion of breaking up BC Hydro. They must be made to understand that this is not a viable political option. Think the fact they've been re-elected for another term and face a weak NDP opposition means they can get away with whatever they want? Three words: Harmonized Sales Tax.

The four cheapest districts in North America for electricity have historically been - not coincidentally - the only remaining public power states and provinces: Quebec, Manitoba, Tennessee and BC (though not for long, at this rate). This is no accident. For all the rhetoric of "private sector efficiencies", the record of evidence is clear: private power is a racket, designed by the likes of Enron for one purpose - to suck maximum dollars out of the pockets of unsuspecting citizens.

This program is legalized fraud, plain and simple. Yes, I am quite comfortable using that word here - which Merriam-Webster defines as "intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right." We British Columbians cannot, under any circumstances, allow ourselves to be the next in a long line of suckers duped by this agenda. If we do, we can look to the likes of Greece, Ireland and Spain for some sense of what's in store for our future.

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

The Electric Dream Dashed: 'Unclean at Any Speed'

Unclean at Any Speed: Electric cars don’t solve the automobile’s environmental problems

by Ozzie Zehner

Photo-illustration: Smalldog Imageworks; Photos: car, Transtock/Corbis; coal: Nolimitpictures/iStockphoto

Last summer, California highway police pulled over pop star Justin Bieber as he sped through Los Angeles in an attempt to shake the paparazzi. He was driving a hybrid electric car—not just any hybrid, mind you, but a chrome-plated Fisker Karma, a US $100 000 plug-in hybrid sports sedan he’d received as an 18th-birthday gift from his manager, Scooter Braun, and fellow singer Usher. During an on-camera surprise presentation, Braun remarked, “We wanted to make sure, since you love cars, that when you are on the road you are always looking environmentally friendly, and we decided to get you a car that would make you stand out a little bit.” Mission accomplished.

Bieber joins a growing list of celebrities, environmentalists, and politicians who are leveraging electric cars into green credentials. President Obama once dared to envision 1 million electric cars plying U.S. roads by 2015. London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, vibrated to the press over his born-again electric conversion after driving a Tesla Roadster, marveling how the American sports coupe produced “no more noxious vapours than a dandelion in an alpine meadow.” Meanwhile, environmentalists who once stood entirely against the proliferation of automobiles now champion subsidies for companies selling electric cars and tax credits for people buying them.

Two dozen governments around the world subsidize the purchase of electric vehicles. In Canada, for example, the governments of Ontario and Quebec pay drivers up to C $8500 to drive an electric car. The United Kingdom offers a £5000 Plug-in Car Grant. And the U.S. federal government provides up to $7500 in tax credits for people who buy plug-in electric vehicles, even though many of them are affluent enough not to need such help. (The average Chevy Volt owner, for example, has an income of $170 000 per year.)

Some states offer additional tax incentives. California brings the total credit up to $10 000, and Colorado to $13 500—more than the base price of a brand new Ford Fiesta. West Virginia offers the sweetest deal. The state’s mining interests are salivating at the possibility of shifting automotive transportation from petroleum over to coal. Residents can receive a total credit of up to $15 000 for an electric-car purchase and up to $10 000 toward the cost of a personal charging station.

There are other perks. Ten U.S. states open the high-occupancy lanes of their highways to electric cars, even if the car carries a lone driver. Numerous stores offer VIP parking for electric vehicles—and sometimes a free fill-up of electrons. Mayor Johnson even moved to relieve electric-car owners of the burden of London’s famed congestion fee.

Alas, these carrots can’t overcome the reality that the prices of electric cars are still very high—a reflection of the substantial material and fossil-fuel costs that accrue to the companies constructing them. And some taxpayers understandably feel cheated that these subsidies tend to go to the very rich. Amid all the hype and hyperbole, it’s time to look behind the curtain. Are electric cars really so green?

The idea of electrifying automobiles to get around their environmental shortcomings isn’t new. Twenty years ago, I myself built a hybrid electric car that could be plugged in or run on natural gas. It wasn’t very fast, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t safe. But I was convinced that cars like mine would help reduce both pollution and fossil-fuel dependence.

I was wrong.

I’ve come to this conclusion after many years of studying environmental issues more deeply and taking note of some important questions we need to ask ourselves as concerned citizens. Mine is an unpopular stance, to be sure. The suggestive power of electric cars is a persuasive force—so persuasive that answering the seemingly simple question “Are electric cars indeed green?” quickly gets complicated.

As with most anything else, the answer depends on whom you ask. Dozens of think tanks and scientific organizations have ventured conclusions about the environmental friendliness of electric vehicles. Most are supportive, but a few are critical. For instance, Richard Pike of the Royal Society of Chemistry provocatively determined that electric cars, if widely adopted, stood to lower Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions by just 2 percent, given the U.K.’s electricity sources. Last year, a U.S. Congressional Budget Office study found that electric car subsidies “will result in little or no reduction in the total gasoline use and greenhouse-gas emissions of the nation’s vehicle fleet over the next several years.”
Source: Wikipedia Generous EV Incentives: Governments around the world offer drivers various inducements to buy electric cars. The monetary incentives in western Europe, for example, include direct subsidies on vehicle purchases as well as certain tax exemptions. Some of these countries also provide the drivers of electric cars with free parking and other perks.

Others are more supportive, including the Union of Concerned Scientists. Its 2012 report [PDF] on the issue, titled “State of Charge,” notes that charging electric cars yields less CO2 than even the most efficient gasoline vehicles. The report’s senior editor, engineer Don Anair, concludes: “We are at a good point to clean up the grid and move to electric vehicles.”

Why is the assessment so mixed? Ultimately, it’s because this is not just about science. It’s about values, which inevitably shape what questions the researchers ask as well as what they choose to count and what they don’t. That’s true for many kinds of research, of course, but for electric cars, bias abounds, although it’s often not obvious to the casual observer.

To get a sense of how biases creep in, first follow the money. Most academic programs carrying out electric-car research receive funding from the auto industry. For instance, the Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis, which describes itself as the “hub of collaboration and research on plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles for the State of California,” acknowledges on its website partnerships with BMW, Chrysler-Fiat, and Nissan, all of which are selling or developing electric and hybrid models. Stanford’s Global Climate & Energy Project, which publishes research on electric vehicles, has received more than $113 million from four firms: ExxonMobil, General Electric, Schlumberger, and Toyota. Georgetown University, MIT, the universities of Colorado, Delaware, and Michigan, and numerous other schools also accept corporate sponsorship for their electric-vehicle research.

I’m not suggesting that corporate sponsorship automatically leads people to massage their research data. But it can shape findings in more subtle ways. For one, it influences which studies get done and therefore which ones eventually receive media attention. After all, companies direct money to researchers who are asking the kinds of questions that stand to benefit their industry. An academic who is studying, say, car-free communities is less likely to receive corporate funding than a colleague who is engineering vehicle-charging stations.

Many of the researchers crafting electric-vehicle studies are eager proponents of the technology. An electric-vehicle report from Indiana University’s School of Environmental Affairs, for instance, was led by a former vice president of Ford. It reads like a set of public relations talking points and contains advertising recommendations for the electric-car industry (that it should manage customers’ expectations, to avoid a backlash from excessive claims). Even the esteemed Union of Concerned Scientists clad its electric-car report in romantic marketing imagery courtesy of Ford, General Motors, and Nissan, companies whose products it evaluates. Indeed, it’s very difficult to find researchers who are looking at the environmental merits of electric cars with a disinterested eye.

So how do you gauge the environmental effects of electric cars when the experts writing about them all seem to be unquestioned car enthusiasts? It’s tough. Another impediment to evaluating electric cars is that it’s difficult to compare the various vehicle-fueling options. It’s relatively easy to calculate the amount of energy required to charge a vehicle’s battery. It isn’t so straightforward, however, to compare a battery that’s been charged by electricity from a natural-gas-fired power plant with one that’s been charged using nuclear power. Natural gas requires burning, it produces CO2, and it often demands environmentally problematic methods to release it from the ground. Nuclear power yields hard-to-store wastes as well as proliferation and fallout risks. There’s no clear-cut way to compare those impacts. Focusing only on greenhouse gases, however important, misses much of the picture.

Manufacturers and marketing agencies exploit the fact that every power source carries its own unique portfolio of side effects to create the terms of discussion that best suit their needs. Electric-car makers like to point out, for instance, that their vehicles can be charged from renewable sources, such as solar energy. Even if that were possible to do on a large scale, manufacturing the vast number of photovoltaic cells required would have venomous side effects. Solar cells contain heavy metals, and their manufacturing releases greenhouse gases such as sulfur hexafluoride, which has 23 000 times as much global warming potential as CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What’s more, fossil fuels are burned in the extraction of the raw materials needed to make solar cells and wind turbines—and for their fabrication, assembly, and maintenance. The same is true for the redundant backup power plants they require. And even more fossil fuel is burned when all this equipment is decommissioned. Electric-car proponents eagerly embrace renewable energy as a scheme to power their machines, but they conveniently ignore the associated environmental repercussions.

Finally, most electric-car assessments analyze only the charging of the car. This is an important factor indeed. But a more rigorous analysis would consider the environmental impacts over the vehicle’s entire life cycle, from its construction through its operation and on to its eventual retirement at the junkyard.

One study attempted to paint a complete picture. Published by the National Academies in 2010 and overseen by two dozen of the United States’ leading scientists, it is perhaps the most comprehensive account of electric-car effects to date. Its findings are sobering.
Illustration: Bryan Christie Design What’s in your EV? Don’t just think about the missing tailpipe. Manufacturing the specialized components that go into electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf, has significant environmental costs.

It’s worth noting that this investigation was commissioned by the U.S. Congress and therefore funded entirely with public, not corporate, money. As with many earlier studies, it found that operating an electric car was less damaging than refueling a gasoline-powered one. It isn’t that simple, however, according to Maureen Cropper, the report committee’s vice chair and a professor of economics at the University of Maryland. “Whether we are talking about a conventional gasoline-powered automobile, an electric vehicle, or a hybrid, most of the damages are actually coming from stages other than just the driving of the vehicle,” she points out.

Part of the impact arises from manufacturing. Because battery packs are heavy (the battery accounts for more than a third of the weight of the Tesla Roadster, for example), manufacturers work to lighten the rest of the vehicle. As a result, electric car components contain many lightweight materials that are energy intensive to produce and process—carbon composites and aluminum in particular. Electric motors and batteries add to the energy of electric-car manufacture.

In addition, the magnets in the motors of some electric vehicles contain rare earth metals. Curiously, these metals are not as rare as their name might suggest. They are, however, sprinkled thinly across the globe, making their extraction uneconomical in most places. In a study released last year, a group of MIT researchers calculated that global mining of two rare earth metals, neodymium and dysprosium, would need to increase 700 percent and 2600 percent, respectively, over the next 25 years to keep pace with various green-tech plans. Complicating matters is the fact that China, the world’s leading producer of rare earths, has been attempting to restrict its exports of late. Substitute strategies exist, but deploying them introduces trade-offs in efficiency or cost.

The materials used in batteries are no less burdensome to the environment, the MIT study noted. Compounds such as lithium, copper, and nickel must be coaxed from the earth and processed in ways that demand energy and can release toxic wastes. And in regions with poor regulations, mineral extraction can extend risks beyond just the workers directly involved. Surrounding populations may be exposed to toxic substances through air and groundwater contamination.

At the end of their useful lives, batteries can also pose a problem. If recycled properly, the compounds are rather benign—although not something you’d want to spread on a bagel. But handled improperly, disposed batteries can release toxic chemicals. Such factors are difficult to measure, though, which is why they are often left out of studies on electric-car impacts.

The National Academies’ assessment didn’t ignore those difficult-to-measure realities. It drew together the effects of vehicle construction, fuel extraction, refining, emissions, and other factors. In a gut punch to electric-car advocates, it concluded that the vehicles’ lifetime health and environmental damages (excluding long-term climatic effects) are actually greater than those of gasoline-powered cars. Indeed, the study found that an electric car is likely worse than a car fueled exclusively by gasoline derived from Canadian tar sands!

As for greenhouse-gas emissions and their influence on future climate, the researchers didn’t ignore those either. The investigators, like many others who have probed this issue, found that electric vehicles generally produce fewer of these emissions than their gasoline- or diesel-fueled counterparts—but only marginally so when full life-cycle effects are accounted for. The lifetime difference in greenhouse-gas emissions between vehicles powered by batteries and those powered by low-sulfur diesel, for example, was hardly discernible.

The National Academies’ study stood out for its comprehensiveness, but it’s not the only one to make such grim assessments. A Norwegian study published last October in the Journal of Industrial Ecology compared life-cycle impacts of electric vehicles. The researchers considered acid rain, airborne particulates, water pollution, smog, and toxicity to humans, as well as depletion of fossil fuel and mineral resources. According to coauthor Anders Stromman, “electric vehicles consistently perform worse or on par with modern internal combustion engine vehicles, despite virtually zero direct emissions during operation.”

Earlier last year, investigators from the University of Tennessee studied five vehicle types in 34 Chinese cities and came to a similar conclusion. These researchers focused on health impacts from emissions and particulate matter such as airborne acids, organic chemicals, metals, and dust particles. For a conventional vehicle, these are worst in urban areas, whereas the emissions associated with electric vehicles are concentrated in the less populated regions surrounding China’s mostly coal-fired power stations. Even when this difference of exposure was taken into account, however, the total negative health consequences of electric vehicles in China exceeded those of conventional vehicles.

North American power station emissions also largely occur outside of urban areas, as do the damaging consequences of nuclear- and fossil-fuel extraction. And that leads to some critical questions. Do electric cars simply move pollution from upper-middle-class communities in Beverly Hills and Virginia Beach to poor communities in the backwaters of West Virginia and the nation’s industrial exurbs? Are electric cars a sleight of hand that allows peace of mind for those who are already comfortable at the expense of intensifying asthma, heart problems, and radiation risks among the poor and politically disconnected?
Source: National Academies Press They all pollute: Even assuming 2030 vehicle technology and grid enhancements, the National Academies concluded that the health and nonclimate damage from electric cars would still exceed the damage from conventional fueling options.

The hope, of course, is that electric-car technology and power grids will improve and become cleaner over time. Modern electric-car technology is still quite young, so it should get much better. But don’t expect batteries, solar cells, and other clean-energy technologies to ride a Moore’s Law–like curve of exponential development. Rather, they’ll experience asymptotic growth toward some ultimate efficiency ceiling. When the National Academies researchers projected technology advancements and improvement to the U.S. electrical grid out to 2030, they still found no benefit to driving an electric vehicle.

If those estimates are correct, the sorcery surrounding electric cars stands to worsen public health and the environment rather than the intended opposite. But even if the researchers are wrong, there is a more fundamental illusion at work on the electric-car stage.

All of the aforementioned studies compare electric vehicles with petroleum-powered ones. In doing so, their findings draw attention away from the broad array of transportation options available—such as walking, bicycling, and using mass transit.

There’s no doubt that gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars are expensive and dirty. Road accidents kill tens of thousands of people annually in the United States alone and injure countless more. Using these kinds of vehicles as a standard against which to judge another technology sets a remarkably low bar. Even if electric cars someday clear that bar, how will they stack up against other alternatives?

For instance, if policymakers wish to reduce urban smog, they might note that vehicle pollution follows the Pareto principle, or 80-20 rule. Some 80 percent of tailpipe pollutants flow from just 20 percent of vehicles on the road—those with incomplete combustion. Using engineering and remote monitoring stations, communities could identify those cars and force them into the shop. That would be far less expensive and more effective than subsidizing a fleet of electric cars.

If legislators truly wish to reduce fossil-fuel dependence, they could prioritize the transition to pedestrian- and bike-friendly neighborhoods. That won’t be easy everywhere—even less so where the focus is on electric cars. Studies from the National Academies point to better land-use planning to reduce suburban sprawl and, most important, fuel taxes to reduce petroleum dependence. Following that prescription would solve many problems that a proliferation of electric cars could not begin to address—including automotive injuries, deaths, and the frustrations of being stuck in traffic.

Upon closer consideration, moving from petroleum-fueled vehicles to electric cars begins to look more and more like shifting from one brand of cigarettes to another. We wouldn’t expect doctors to endorse such a thing. Should environmentally minded people really revere electric cars? Perhaps we should look beyond the shiny gadgets now being offered and revisit some less sexy but potent options—smog reduction, bike lanes, energy taxes, and land-use changes to start. Let’s not be seduced by high-tech illusions.

This article originally appeared in print as “Unclean at Any Speed.”

The author of the book Green Illusions, Ozzie Zehner was working for GM when it “killed” its EV1 electric car. A plug-in advocate at the time, he later realized that electrifying cars just trades one set of environmental problems for another. Zehner is now a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.

Understanding BC Liberals Undermining of BC Hydro

Runaway Hydro Debt: An Open Letter to BC Energy Minister

by Erik Andersen - The

The Honorable Bill Bennett;

Re: BC Hydro

It was event in 2009 that the financial direction taken by the BC Hydro Board, under the direction of the Cabinet, was a serious misread on the global and provincial economic circumstances and outlook. Far too much was expected when all the credible evidence indicated a global slow down was in the making. Nothing much has changed since then but BC Hydro has carried on with the narrative that growth and “good times” are just around the corner.

Starting in 2006, fueled by the fraudulent activity of Enron, BC has been on the well trodden path of others who believed the export of electricity, particularly “green energy”, was the road to financial salvation for BC. This was a theme from the 70s and coal was the fuel. Natural gas is the current narrative.In every case taxpayers were committed to debt that became “stranded” - of no economic value.

Since 2006/09 domestic (BC only) demand has mostly “flat-lined” at about 50,000 GWhrs making liars out of the many at Hydro and elsewhere who, a decade ago, forecasted demand to be well over 60,000 GWhrs per year by 2012. The record is replete with similar examples of demand exaggerations from BC Hydro.

Using the narrative of “need” being an absolutely ridiculously high number the government engineered a serious gross generation surplus that came at a cost of more than $50 billion in new contractual debt, from which the citizens of BC earn no equity after paying for the cost to build these sites. Surplus generation capacity is a luxury that comes at a very high cost, much like any excessively large insurance policy.

That is now all history. What is needed now is rational action. Collapsing contracts, while instinctively appealing, is hardly the solution.

Raising BC customer rates to get BC Hydro into a cash break even condition is politically dynamite. An across the board rate increase of 35-40% would be what is needed if all else is left to run its course. Far better would be to transfer IPP contracts, with their ongoing payment obligations, from Hydro to the Government. A total that represents a production value of 15,000 GWhrs per year would be a good target amount. These would then be categorized as an “industrial development” component, not truly the responsibility of existing Hydro ratepayers, but rightly the responsibility of all the citizens of BC.

As to Site C and other new projects, the cost of electricity from these IPPs is north of $100/megawatt hour but large industrial users in BC expect to pay $40 or less. The contradiction is that large industrial customers in BC expect to pay $40 or less. In most other places in the world LNG plants use their own commodity to generate electricity for liquefaction purposes. Why we in BC would use high cost new electricity to do this job is hard to fathom as it would represent a huge subsidy from Hydro ratepayers for a trivial amount of employment.


Erik Andersen; Economist

Erik Andersen is a retired economist who practiced as a transportation economist with the Canadian Transport Commission; with Airports Branch, Transport Canada; with ICAO and at private corporations such as Pacific Western Airlines. He has been using his talents of late to expose the calamitous fiscal impact of private power companies on British Columbians.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Energy: Pakistan's Impending Dark Age

Pakistan's Energy Crisis: "They've pushed us back into the stone ages"


A severe and worsening shortage of electricity and gas has been crippling the economy and destroying livelihoods for years, but what will it take to get the lights back on? - July 2, 13

A Failure of Hope in Real Time

The Obama Failure in Real Time

by Shamus Cooke - CounterPunch

When the NSA spying scandal broke, so did the illusion that President Obama was significantly different than his predecessor, Bush Jr. Obama’s meticulously crafted image was specifically created as an alternative to Bush: Obama campaigned as a peace candidate who loved civil liberties and wanted to work with the UN instead of unilaterally launching wars.

But now that the president has been fully exposed as an aspiring Bush III, will he retreat back into the sheep’s clothing he wore as candidate Obama? Or will he shed any remaining pretense and fully adopt Bush’s international recklessness? The answer is that both are likely true: Obama will continue to perform his stale routine as a “pragmatist” while in reality acting out an even more dangerous foreign policy than Bush.

This is because Edward Snowden, Russia, and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad have backed President Obama into a corner; all have exposed major weaknesses in the foreign power of the United States, and Obama will not allow himself — and more importantly “U.S. national [corporate] interests” — to appear weak while Iran, Russia and China are rising economically and/or politically. This dynamic will inevitably lead Obama to a more aggressive foreign policy, more Middle East wars, and more dangerous confrontations with Iran, Russia, and China.

Obama has never been so vulnerable to his domestic right wing, which has been successfully skewering him for the Snowden affair. The president’s “I don’t care” attitude is obviously an act, and is only further provoking his right-wing attackers, a good example of which comes from the Heritage Foundation:

“[China and Russia's] unwillingness to extradite…[Edward Snowden] is just the latest example of the waning of American global power and influence courtesy of Team Obama…The big question, naturally, is: With perceptions of [the United States’] plummeting power quite plausible, who might be the next to take pleasure in challenging our [U.S.] interests?”

This is not just the opinion of a right-wing pundit, but of the entire U.S. political establishment, Democrat and Republican alike. One need only remember that during the Obama-Romney debate on foreign policy in the last election, there was very little debating and much agreement on the need for U.S. “power” to be projected abroad.

To be fair to Obama, the right wing has been too hard on him for his “weak” foreign policy, since in reality Obama has acted incredibly hawkish internationally; the U.S. media simply did their best to hide his actions from criticism, as did the Republicans who he worked with in tandem.

For example, in Latin America Obama backed a military coup in Honduras against an elected government, and later backed a coup in Paraguay and funneled cash to the far right wing in Venezuela to undermine the Chavez government, while maintaining the cold war era embargo against Cuba. Consequently, Latin America now equates Obama’s foreign policy with Bush’s. The U.S. Republicans were in complete agreement with these policies of Obama.

The Middle East is another example of Obama already acting the scoundrel. His Bush-like “surge” tactic in Afghanistan extended a pointless war against the Taliban with whom he is now trying in vain to negotiate an “honorable” peace; Obama broke international law in Libya when he bombed the nation into regime change; in Syria Obama is continuing to escalate a devastating war by funneling even more guns and cash to a “rebel” group dominated by Islamic extremists, again without UN approval. Never mind his shameless support of Israel’s criminal policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and his “strong alliance” with the Persian Gulf Monarchy dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Up until now Obama has been able to implement these Bush-like policies with a nice guy label. But nice will no longer do — the international situation has changed. Edward Snowden and Syria’s president have humiliated President Obama on key issues, and Obama must now bare his teeth, lest other nations exploit his weakness.

Syria, for example, is crucially important to Obama because he has invested massive U.S. diplomatic capital in assembling a Bush-like “coalition of the willing” to topple the Syrian president, and if Obama fails in his attempt at regime change his coalition of lackeys will not follow the U.S.’s lead in future endeavors, and may look instead to follow Iran or Russia. With each step deeper into the Syrian morass Obama will find himself unable to retreat; and at this point a step backwards would significantly diminish U.S. power in the Middle East. When Obama said, “Assad must go,” he committed U.S. involvement to ensure that it happens.

More importantly, if Syria is able to defend itself from the U.S.-backed rebels — or possibly a direct U.S. invasion — other countries will no longer be scared into submission to accept U.S. foreign policy. This is crucial because as U.S. economic power wanes, its military becomes the foreign policy tactic of choice.

Obama would like his Syrian intervention to be as politically painless as Bill Clinton’s destruction of Yugoslavia, or Obama’s destruction of Libya. But Obama’s rebels are being crushed on the battle field, requiring that Obama become increasingly invested in directly toppling the Syrian president; Obama’s rebels are now to be directly armed with more sophisticated weaponry from the U.S., which will be funneled to them by the increasing amounts of U.S. troops on the Syria-Jordan border who are training the rebels, and where a sophisticated U.S. anti-aircraft missile system has been added “for defense.” Obama has already drawn up plans for an innocent sounding “no fly zone,” which in reality equals direct military invasion.

Obama now feels that he cannot back down in Syria, lest Russia and Iran advance. Geopolitics has reached a crescendo in the Middle East and the wider world, where one wrong step can equal a broader regional or even world war.

The ongoing global economic crisis is pushing U.S. corporations to demand that “their” political parties — Democrats and Republicans — act more “boldly” abroad to acquire new markets/consumers for corporate products, new vehicles for investment, and new sources of cheap raw materials and labor. Russia and China have similar aspirations.

Barely into his second term Obama’s corporate backers are demanding he bare his fangs and quit acting the lamb — U.S. “national” interests are at stake! In doing so Obama will expose the true nature of the U.S. two-party system, and thus funnel political activity into the streets and/or the creation of a new, mass party of working people to challenge the decrepit political status quo. The first black president was the last great hope of the American two-party system. His failure will herald a new era in U.S. politics.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action ( He can be reached at

A New Glossary for the Global War on You (GWOY)

The Dictionary of the Global War on You - (Preliminary version, July 2, 2013)

by Tom Engelhardt - TomDispatch

Secret: Anything of yours the government takes possession of and classifies.

Classification: The process of declaring just about any document produced by any branch of the U.S. government -- 92 million of them in 2011 -- unfit for unclassified eyes. (This term may, in the near future, be retired once no documents produced within, or captured by, the government and its intelligence agencies can be seen or read by anyone not given special clearance.)

Surveillance: Here’s looking at you, kid.

Whistleblower: A homegrown terrorist.

Tomgram: Engelhardt, The OED of the National Security State

[Note for TomDispatch readers: After reading today’s piece, feel free to email us your own definitions for the post-9/11 era or put them on TD’s Facebook page. The next TD piece will be posted on Sunday, July 7th. Tom]

The Dictionary of the Global War on You (GWOY)

Definitions for a New Age

In the months after September 11, 2001, it was regularly said that “everything” had changed. It’s a claim long forgotten, buried in everyday American life. Still, if you think about it, in the decade-plus that followed -- the years of the PATRIOT Act, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” “black sites,” robot assassination campaigns, extraordinary renditions, the Abu Ghraib photos, the Global War on Terror, and the first cyberwar in history -- much did change in ways that should still stun us. Perhaps nothing changed more than the American national security state, which, spurred on by 9/11 and the open congressional purse strings that followed, grew in ways that would have been alien even at the height of the Cold War, when there was another giant, nuclear-armed imperial power on planet Earth.

Unfortunately, the language we use to describe the world of the national security state is still largely stuck in the pre-9/11 era. No wonder, for example, it’s hard to begin to grasp the staggering size and changing nature of the world of secret surveillance that Edward Snowden’s recent revelations have allowed us a peek at. If there are no words available to capture the world that is watching us, all of us, we’ve got a problem.

In ancient China, when a new dynasty came to power, it would perform a ceremony called “the rectification of names.” The idea was that the previous dynasty had, in part, fallen because a gap, a chasm, an abyss, had opened between reality and the names available to describe it. Consider this dispatch, then, a first attempt to “rectify” American names in the era of the ascendant national -- morphing into global -- security state.

Creating a new dictionary of terms is, of course, an awesome undertaking. From the moment work began, it famously took 71 years for the full 10-volume Oxford English Dictionary to first appear! So we at TomDispatch expect to be at work on our new project for years to come. Here, however, is an initial glimpse at a modest selection of our newly rectified definitions.

Leak: Information homegrown terrorists slip to journalists to undermine the American way of life and aid and abet the enemy. A recent example would be the National Security Agency (NSA) documents Booz Allen employee Edward Snowden leaked to the media. According to two unnamed U.S. intelligence officials speaking to the Associated Press, “[M]embers of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media [of Snowden’s revelations], to hide from U.S. surveillance.” A clarification: two anonymous intelligence officials communicating obviously secret material to AP reporter Kimberly Dozier does not qualify as a “leak,” but as necessary information for Americans to absorb. In addition, those officials undoubtedly had further secret intelligence indicating that their information, unlike Snowden’s, would be read only by Americans and ignored by al-Qaeda-style terrorists who will not change their actions based on it. As a result, this cannot qualify as aiding or abetting the enemy.

Journalist: Someone who aids and abets terrorists, traitors, defectors, and betrayers hidden within our government as they work to accomplish their grand plan to undermine the security of the country.

Source: Someone who tells a journalist what no one, other than the NSA, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and similar outfits, should know (see “secret”). Such a source will be hunted down and prosecuted to the full extent of the law -- or beyond (see “Espionage Act”). Fortunately, as Associated Press president Gary Pruitt recently pointed out, thanks to diligent government action, sources are drying up. (“Some of our longtime trusted sources have become nervous and anxious about talking to us, even on stories that aren’t about national security. And in some cases, government employees that we once checked in with regularly will no longer speak to us by phone, and some are reluctant to meet in person.”) Someday, they may no longer exist. When an unnamed administration official offers information privately to a journalist, however, he or she is not a source -- just too humble to take credit for feeding us crucial information needed to understand the complex world we live in.

Blood: This is what leakers have on their hands. A leak, embarrassing the national security state, endangers careers (bloody enough) and, by definition, American lives. Thus, Bradley Manning, in releasing classified State Department and U.S. military documents to WikiLeaks, and Edward Snowden, in releasing NSA secrets to the Guardian, the Washington Post, the South China Morning Post, and Der Spiegel have blood on their hands. We know this because top U.S. officials have told us so. Note that it does not matter if no deaths or physical injuries can directly be traced to or attributed to their actions. This is, however, a phrase with very specific and limited application. American political and military officials who launch aggressive wars, allow torture, kidnapping, and abuse, run drone assassination programs, and the like do not have blood on their hands. It is well known that they are bloodless.

Insider Threat Program: The name of an Obama administration initiative to promote patriotism inside the government. Its goal is to encourage federal employees to become more patriotic by picking up on clues that potentially traitorous co-workers might consider leaking classified information to the enemy (see “journalist”). Government managers, again to promote love of country, are encouraged to crack down on any employees who are found not to have been patriotic enough to report their suspicions about said co-workers. (Words never to be associated with this program: informer, rat, or fink.)

Patriot: Americans are by nature “patriots.” If they love their country too well like (to take but one example) former Vice President Dick Cheney, they are “super-patriots.” Both of these are good things. Foreigners cannot be patriots. If they exhibit an unseemly love of country, they are “nationalists.” If that love goes beyond all bounds, they are “ultra-nationalists.” These are both bad things.

Espionage Act: A draconian World War I law focused on aiding and abetting the enemy in wartime that has been used more than twice as often by the Obama administration as by all previous administrations combined. Since 9/11, the United States has, of course, been eternally “at war,” which makes the Act handy indeed. Whistleblowers automatically violate the Act when they bring to public's attention information Americans really shouldn’t bother their pretty little heads about. It may be what an investigative reporter (call him “Glenn Greenwald”) violates when he writes stories based on classified information from the national security state not leaked by the White House.

Trust: What you should have in the national security state and the president to do the right thing, no matter how much power they accrue, how many secrets of yours or anybody else’s they gather, or what other temptations might exist. Americans can make mistakes, but by their nature (see “patriots”), with the exception of whistleblowers, they can never mean to do wrong (unlike the Chinese, the Russians, etc.). As the president has pointed out, "Every member of Congress has been briefed on [NSA’s] telephone program and the intelligence committees have been briefed on the Internet program, with both approved and reauthorized by bipartisan committees since 2006... If people don't trust Congress and the judiciary then I think we are going to have some problems here.”

Truth: The most important thing on Earth, hence generally classified. It is something that cannot be spoken by national security officials in open session before Congress without putting the American people in danger. As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has made clear, however, any official offering such public testimony can at least endeavor to speak in “the least untruthful manner” possible; that is, in the nearest approximation of truth that remains unclassified in the post-9/11 era.

U.S. Constitution: A revered piece of paper that no one pays much actual attention to any more, especially if it interferes with American safety from terrorism.

Amendments: Retrospectively unnecessary additions to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing a series of things, some of which may now put us in peril (examples: First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment “due process” clause). Fortunately, amendments turn out to be easy enough to amend within the national security state itself.

Checks and balances: No longer applicable, except to your bank statement.

The fourth branch of government: Classically, the U.S. had three branches of government (the executive, legislative, and judicial), which were to check and balance one another so that power would never become centralized in a single place unopposed. The Founding Fathers, however, were less farsighted than many give them credit for. They hadn’t a clue that a fourth branch of government would arise, dedicated to the centralization of power in an atmosphere of total secrecy: the national (or today global) security state. In the post-9/11 years, it has significantly absorbed the other three branches.

FISA court: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, much strengthened since September 11, 2001, created a FISA “court” to oversee the government’s covert surveillance activities. A secret “court” for the secret world of surveillance, it can, at just about any time, be convened and conducted via cell phone by the NSA or FBI. There is never a defense lawyer present, only the equivalent of a prosecution request. The search warrants that result read more like legislation by an unelected body. All national security requests for such warrants are granted. Its decisions are not made public. In its arcane rules and prosecutorial stance, it bears a greater relationship to the Inquisition courts of Medieval Europe than any other American court. Its motto might be, “guilty -- there are no innocents.” We have no word for what it actually is. The activity it performs is still called “judicial oversight,” but “undersight” would be a more accurate description.

FISA judge: There is, in essence, nothing for a FISA judge to judge. FISA judges never rule against the wishes of the national security state. Hence, a more accurate term for this position might be “FISA rubberstamp.”

Congressional oversight: When a congressional representative forgets to do something. (Historical note: this phrase once had another meaning, but since 9/11, years in which Congress never heard a wish of the national security state that it didn't grant, no one can quite remember what it was.)

National Security Agency (NSA): A top-secret spy outfit once nicknamed “No Such Agency” because its very existence was not acknowledged by the U.S. government. It is now known as “No Such Agency” because its work has been outsourced to high-priced high-school dropouts, or “No Snowden Anywhere” because it couldn't locate the world’s most famous leaker.

American security (or safety): The national security state works hard to offer its citizens a guarantee of safety from the nightmare of terror attacks, which since 9/11 have harmed far more Americans than shark attacks, but not much else that is truly dangerous to the public. For this guarantee, there is, of course, a necessary price to be paid. You, the citizen and taxpayer, must fund your own safety from terrorism (to the tune of trillions of dollars heading into the national security budget) and cede rights that were previously yours. You must, for instance, allow yourself to be “seen” in myriad ways by the national security state, must allow for the possibility that you could be assassinated without “due process” to keep this country safe, and so on. This is called “striking a balance” between American liberty and security. Or as the president put it, "You can't have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience... We're going to have to make some choices as a society... There are trade-offs involved." By the way, in return for your pliancy, this guarantee does not extend to keeping you safe from cars, guns, cigarettes, food-borne diseases, natural disasters of any sort, and so on.

The Global War on You (GWOY): This term, not yet in the language, is designed to replace a post-9/11 Bush administration name, the Global War on Terror (GWOT), sometimes also called World War IV by neocons. GWOT was famously retired by President Obama and his top officials, turning the ongoing global war being fought on distant battlefields and in the shadows into a nameless war. That may, however, change. You are, after all, being called to the colors in a war on... you. Congratulations, son or daughter, Uncle Sam wants you (even if not in the way he used to in your grandparents’ day). You, after all, are the central figure in and the key to GWOY and the basis upon which the new global security state will continue to be built.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture (just published in a Kindle edition), runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt