Saturday, October 26, 2013

Forcing Guantánamo's Force-Feeding Issue

Will Appeals Court Judges Rule That Force-Feeding at Guantánamo Must Stop?

by Andy Worthington

Last week, a panel of three appeals court judges in Washington D.C. (in the D.C. Circuit Court) heard an appeal from three Guantánamo prisoners — including the last British resident, Shaker Aamer — asking them to order the government to end the force-feeding of prisoners, and two of the three judges “asked sceptical questions of a government lawyer who argued that the courts have no jurisdiction” over conditions at Guantánamo, as Reuters described it.

At the height of the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo this year, at least 106 of the remaining 164 prisoners were on a hunger strike, and 46 of those men were being force-fed. That total has now fallen to 15, but twice a day those 15 men are tied into restraint chairs, while liquid nutrient is pumped into their stomachs via a tube inserted through their nose, a painful and abusive process denounced by the World Medical Association and the United Nations.

In summer, two District Court judges turned down motions challenging the force-feeding of prisoners, ruling that they didn’t have jurisdiction in the case because of previous rulings involving Guantánamo and hunger strikes, because, when Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, the legislation specifically prevented prisoners from suing over their living conditions.

As I noted at the time, one of the judges, Gladys Kessler, was, nevertheless, severely critical of the government’s position. She referred to force-feeding as a “painful, humiliating and degrading process,” and also pointedly criticized President Obama’s inaction, noting, “The president of the United States, as commander in chief, has the authority — and power — to directly address the issue of force-feeding of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay.”

The other judge, Rosemary M. Collyer, endorsed the government’s position, claiming that there was “nothing so shocking or inhumane in the treatment” that it would raise a constitutional concern.

Last Friday, Judge David Tatel and Judge Thomas Griffith were the judges who “asked sceptical questions.” Reuters reported that, while they “stopped short of agreeing that forced feeding is inhumane, they suggested that Guantánamo detainees might be able to get around” the conditions in the DTA, which “bars them from suing over living conditions in extreme cases that might include forced feeding.”

Although a decision is not imminent, Reuters noted that the judges’ scepticism “appeared to be a fresh challenge to the administration’s control over how it treats Guantánamo detainees.”

Reuters also noted that the majority of US judges who have been asked to look at the question of force-feeding in prisons “have concluded that the measure may violate the rights of inmates to control their bodies and to privacy,” even though those are “rights rooted in the US Constitution and in common law,” but they have refused to act on these concerns because they have “found that the needs of operating a prison are more important.”

In the hearing last Friday, Judge Griffith, as Reuters put it, asked why the court “should accept without evidence the military’s contention that forced feeding is necessary to maintain order.” He asked Daniel Lenerz, one of the Justice Department lawyers, “Is that your trump card? As long as you play that, that’s the end of the inquiry?”

In response, Lenerz said that there were historical precedents allowing prison wardens to ascertain what they believe is necessary to maintain order, and, as Reuters described it, those in charge of a military prison “should have even more deference.”

In court, Jon Eisenberg, representing the prisoners, told the court, “Forced feeding is unethical, it’s inhumane, it’s a violation of international law and it’s a violation of medical ethics.” For Politico, Josh Gerstein added that he had added that the international community views force-feeding as “equivalent to torture.” The authorities, of course, disagree, arguing, despite doctors’ implacable complaints, that the force-feeding is humane, and necessary to save prisoners’ lives. In this, the authorities are ignoring the fact that the men only embarked on a hunger strike in the first place because their lives had become so intolerable in Guantánamo, where 84 of the remaining 164 prisoners were cleared for release in January 2010 by an inter-agency task force appointed by President Obama when he took office in 2009.

Jon Eisenberg also stated, as Politico described it, that he believed the personnel at Guantánamo “have jumped the gun” and “are performing the so-called ‘enteral feeding’ on people far from death’s door.” Eisenberg said, “They’re force feeding these men before their lives are at risk,” explaining that, as Politico put it, “any prisoner could be force fed for skipping nine meals, regardless of the inmate’s weight,” and “any prisoner with high blood pressure could be force fed for after skipping a single meal.” As Eisenberg described it, “I would be a candidate for force feeding.”

This prompted Judge Stephen Williams, the third judge, to tell Eisenberg that he was “asking too much of the courts to have them determine ‘the exact moment the risk of death reaches such a point it’s OK [to conduct] force feeding.’”

Despite Congressional obstructions, the lawyers for the prisoners are challenging the force-feeding regime through a writ of habeas corpus, the ancient legislation preventing arbitrary detention, which the Supreme Court granted the prisoners in 2004 and again in 2008, reversing Congress’s attempt to prevent them from seeking to challenge their detention through habeas corpus.

As Reuters described it, Judge Tatel “appeared open at Friday’s hearing to letting Guantánamo detainees use habeas suits to protest their conditions.” The Associated Press noted that, although Daniel Lenerz “argued that courts don’t have jurisdiction to hear challenges to the conditions at Guantánamo,” Judge Tatel “repeatedly challenged him on that point.”

He said the Supreme Court had “left it an open question” and pointed out that the courts “had allowed at least four similar suits in civilian prisons,” which prompted Daniel Lenerz to state that those lawsuits involved prisoners who were seeking a transfer from one prison to another, rather than seeking changes related to their medical treatment or how they are fed. Lenerz added that Congress “clearly intended to prohibit Guantánamo detainees from challenging the conditions of their detention.”

As Reuters noted, even if the court of appeals allows the lawsuits to proceed, the prisoners still need to convince judges in the appeals court or the lower court that the authorities at Guantánamo have “no penological reason” to force-feed prisoners.

In addition, Judge Tatel explained how this might be difficult because of a “whole series of federal and state court cases” ruling, as Reuters put it, that “civilian prisons had legitimate reasons for forced feeding, primarily to maintain order.”

Despite some positive noises from the court, I would be profoundly surprised if the appeals court rules for the prisoners, overturning the stranglehold of the Detainee Treatment Act, which, disgracefully, established that “no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.”

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

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Oil a Killer for Coastal Whales: Enbridge As Orca Champion?

West Coast oil spill would be a killer for whales

Misty MacDuffee and Chris Genovali - Raincoast Conservation Foundation 

Janet loves the orcas. At least that's what Enbridge would have had us believe in its now-aborted Northern Gateway ads that featured the company's vice-president Janet Holder touting how safe oil tankers are for B.C.'s killer whales.

Unfortunately, Janet must not remember what happened to killer whales 24 years ago after the Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef, or she wouldn't be willing to potentially subject animals she allegedly adores to miserable deaths like those suffered by Alaska's whales.

Prince William Sound, like coastal British Columbia, is home to two types of killer whales: the fish-eating resident whales and mammal-eating transient whales. In many ways, killer-whale reproductive biology is similar to humans; they are long-lived, slow to reproduce, reach sexual maturity in their teens and females typically have fewer than six calves in their lifetime. Resident killer whales will stay in their family unit (linked through the mothers and grandmothers) forever. Each animal is also unique in its markings and fin shape, so it is possible to do a census of the population with great accuracy.

After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the mortality rate in two pods of Prince William Sound's killer whales skyrocketed. While 33 per cent of the resident whales in pod AB and 41 per cent of the transient ones in pod AT1 disappeared within a year of the spill, most of the carcasses of the 22 missing whales were never found. Even though the whales were absent from their pods, the lack of carcasses made it hard to confirm the whales were dead. But none of the missing whales were ever seen again. Both pods were documented surfacing in the oiled waters, one of which (the AT1 transients) were photographed at the stern of the Exxon Valdez while it was still leaking thousands of litres of oil into Alaskan waters.

The timing and magnitude of missing whales directly following the spill, plus the known exposure, suggests that oil was the cause of death. Other killer-whale pods that were not in Prince William Sound during the spill did not experience the mass mortality (10 times the natural rate) of these two pods. Scientists have hypothesized that these whales died from inhaling toxic oil vapours as they swam through and surfaced in the spill, and in the case of the transients, potentially from eating oiled harbour seals as well.

Unfortunately, many of the whale mortalities were breeding or young females. Although calves have been born into the resident whale population, unexpected mortalities, the loss of important females and a breakdown in the social structure has meant little recovery for this pod of whales.

In the case of the transient population, the loss of the females has meant no new births in more than 25 years. The transient pod is considered functionally extinct, as it will be gone when the remaining individuals die.

Both resident and transient killer whales in B.C. are species of concern under Canada's federal Species at Risk Act. Our northern and southern resident whales are threatened by declining salmon stocks, pollution and physical and acoustic disturbance. Past removal of individuals for the aquarium trade also lowered their numbers and likely has had other social consequences as well.

Like Prince William Sound's killer whales, these small populations are now more vulnerable to extinction. There are three main reasons for this.

First is the role of "chance variability." This occurs when there is a random drop in birth rate, an increase in death rate or repeated offspring of the same sex in a generation, all of which can lead to extinction.

Second, when small populations experience random events such as food shortages, disease or oil spills, the loss of individuals, (especially breeding females) can have dire consequences. This concept underscores the importance of numbers to maintain the resilience and adaptive abilities of populations that face disturbances.
Third, small populations are vulnerable to reduced genetic variation. By their very nature, small populations are a subset of individuals from what was once a much larger population. As small populations breed, the role of chance error in genetic makeup becomes higher. For populations to adapt and evolve with changing conditions, genetic variability must be present. Reducing genetic variation can decrease survival.

So when you see the new Enbridge commercials telling British Columbians "we all want better," keep in mind the very real threat the company's oilsands pipeline and oil-tanker project actually poses to B.C.'s killer whales.

Misty MacDuffee is a biologist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Chris Genovali is Raincoast's executive director.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Spies R Us: Corporate Concerns Run US Snoop Program

US Spies on Its Allies For Business Intel, Not For National Security


Ratner: NSA spied on German and French business communications, which may produce the necessary push back on surveillance state.

Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include "Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America," and “ Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.” NOTE: Mr. Ratner speaks on his own behalf and not for any organization with which he is affiliated.

Is Professional Environmentalism Environmentalism At All?

What We Talk About When We Talk About Foundation Funding

by Macdonald Stainsby - Counterpunch

When discussions begin among environmentally concerned people about foundation funding and how it offsets resistance, a common complaint is that such a discussion is unnecessarily negative. With all of the world at stake, so goes the argument, we need to involve as many “diverse” views and strategies to stop climate chaos as possible. Rather than “being divisive,” we need positive thinking.

While Big Capital and Big Green are trying to propose they are building a bridge to a better, healthy planet– whatever you do, don’t look down. The bridge is faulty, and you’re already half way over the chasm. Just trust the bridge– and keep walking.

A politics based, more or less, on the Beatles maxim “All you need is Love” is demanded. Then, many questions– both real and imagined– to a critique of the fundamentally authoritarian Big Green movement will often come most derisively from those who one would believe have the most in common with the democratic values desperately needed inside Big Green.

Many Big Green employees– and their close friends– have tried extremely hard to infuse these democratic, anti-colonial and even anti-capitalist values into a Big Green movement that long ago eschewed such triviality. Let’s take a leap into these questions, and look at the real answers. If they make you uncomfortable, perhaps they are talking to you.

“Do you really think a bunch of foundations sit around, plotting how to destroy environmentalism and tailor it towards their own goals and destinations?”

No, at least not as such or in so many words. Let’s take mainstream journalism and corporate ownership as an analogy.

The mainstream corporate media only rarely send out directives to their Reuters or AP reporters demanding framing or language tweaks that push a particular pro-corporate agenda. Most of the time, corporate reporters know what really would be frowned upon, and don’t write it.

The manufacture of consent is most efficient by virtue of large press barons like Global TV, the Fox Network or for that matter MSNBC or the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation employing people who know what to say, when and how to say it. The censorship takes place, 95% of the time, inside the self-censorship of the journalist trying to sell a piece or make a deadline. That which cannot be said is rarely typed to be deleted later.

The same is true of how Big Green and “activist foundations” determine strategy and what they can sell as a “victory.” The self-censorship of knowing what “is realistic” and what will be even approachable within the ruling industrial elites takes place before negotiation.

When it comes to corporate journalism, self-censorship becomes a part of the creative process. While writing, for example, for Al Jazeera one would be ruining at minimum a good payday to produce a long exposé of the US Naval fifth fleet stationed in Qatar. Why? Because the emir of the Gulf State owns the network. So most journalists at the network would never consider such folly.

Similarly, when it comes to corporate environmentalism, one cannot fund raise from large capital sources to demand anti-corporate solutions or democratic accountability at a community level. In both cases, the existent structures operated within create consciousness as to what is appropriate.

The funders are themselves the “progressive” wing of high finance capital. They bankrolled and continue bankrolling brand Obama. Can one speak of the destruction of internal organizational democracy using the funding that caused that in the first place? Self-censorship and market based logic are wedded, and this corrodes outlook ahead of the game.

Those who are hired into such power positions inside Big Green have already established their class allegiances and have track records of “solutions.” It shows in the basics of policy: from collaboration with corporations, carbon offset schemes, taxation, green investments, all policies are continually geared towards a growth economy. Non-growth organizations need not apply.

If large capital can live with the plans an individual has previously negotiated in secret, then large capital can trust that person will help set an agenda for negotiation over the largest industrial project in the history of humanity– the tar sands in Canada’s Athabasca region– or even worse, at climate negotiations at an international level.

But, the reader may ask:

“What of those good people I know who work in these groups? I sat down with them after such and such event/demonstration/conference a few months ago– we didn’t talk about foundation funding or internal democracy inside Big Green, but X person spoke clearly about the need to shut down this industry, and even seemed anti-capitalist. What’s with that?”

While no exact science can predict the variances in human behaviour (some great people will join Big Green organizations, work hard with democratic, collectivist values, come into conflict with the values of Big Green many times over, and eventually have to quit), a “caste analysis” may best fit how to explain these often valiant efforts to be the democratic worm in the Big Green apple.

Big Green keeps people who cannot (for whatever reason) compromise principle for capitalist pragmatism away from the centres of power. The organizations that even have boards of directors or societies legally recognized by the state hire those less compromising people on regional levels or in non-backroom capacities.

Indigenous activists often times have to try to navigate this vast structural marginalization for more accountability for their own communities, or to achieve some level of larger support for a beleaguered community over-whelmed by industrial development. The most skilled activists make the best front line representatives, who struggle to advocate for their own communities often extraordinarily well despite circumstances– yet Big Green cynically borrows their credibility, without changing course.

Most of those faces you see from “Big Green” at community organizing meetings or smaller, regional events have little to no power in the organization they represent. They also do not spend a lot of time with the hierarchy of Big Green as such, usually spending their networking time in a small grouping of other mostly powerless individuals from similar groups. The friends network will see how often the same people get rotated through multiple jobs and organizations.

“Why would Big Green regularly employ people who do not share their core, authoritarian values?”

This powerless “frontline” of these Big Green groups has several payoffs for Big Green:

1: Most people who work for Big Green in such a capacity have histories of grassroots organizing. They know people, they know how to get things done with limited budgets, they keep an organization that has no history in the region looking “local” and so on.

2: Criticism of anti-democratic behaviour by Big Green is now relegated to complaints among one another. The value of grassroots, democratic organizing is not extinguished in these people– rather, their complaints become an internal issue, one where absolutely nothing can be done about it, and self-censorship begins.

3: Activist communities are relatively small. While North America may be vast, someone who is employed by Big Green and originated as a community organizer in small town Texas will often know organizers in big cities in Ontario and most certainly many organizations in San Francisco. Staff in British Columbia may quickly begin being shuttled out to meetings in New York. Friendships develop; community networks in Texas small towns will become influenced quickly by what happens in California.

Having people you know, have trusted in the past and work with currently, working (for example) for a local version of will eliminate 98% of criticisms of Who wants to be seen as “attacking their friends?” Hiring a community activist for Big Green, often, means silencing criticism from much of the community that person came from. This is the case whether by design or not. More democratically minded environmental activists do not take the job with this as intent, yet the effect is the same.

Even the very best people, human beings all, once they have taken the position that must as a matter of course disrupt democratic practice, find means to give themselves mental disconnect from the problems. This holds true regardless of what politics the individual involved may “confess” when off the record.

“Okay, the exploited, grassroots-oriented front line activist is used by ENGO’s to legitimize the organization. So why would someone who knows better, and believes better, get involved in this?”

Money and status work as powerful forms of disconnect. After sometimes months but usually years of working in a grassroots manner (unless you are someone Big Green needs to borrow credibility from, in which case the process may be rapidly accelerated), you may find that the green establishment wants to hire you. It is because of your skills, no doubt about it. However, the ends that these skills will be used for just changed dramatically.

Certain individuals who work in the frontline of these organizations will have a very dismissive– and seemingly uncomprehending– response to such questions about their employment. To take on such work there must be an initial thought about how this work can be used for good. And often, this can be the case in a short term sense– those who are both more direct, honest and skilled at organizing can make for better relationships between ENGO’s and organized community.

Of course, this is a double edged sword– when community level participation is frozen out or otherwise sidelined in this process, trust that is violated by the hierarchy of Big Green was cultivated (with the best of intent) through the work of contracted, full-time activists.

The logic of capital pervades the society it controls and this lends to organizing trends as well. Full time staff for Big Green will be deferred to, and the prestige of big name brands in ENGO form create a psychology of disconnect, with compromises less and less felt by individuals who started with differing goals initially. The perks of such peer attention and financial security give comfort to the compromised, and the community around them implicitly tends to value “official” organizing.

A large cycle of volunteer labour gets burned, with people coming and going, making banners for the employees, helping set up events, promote rallies– all the grunt work but no input into what the demands are. Thankless work like this causes the majority of volunteers to quit after a short stint of unpaid work. The ones who adapt may eventually be brought into the fold.

Over time, the grassroots organizer “out to change the dynamic from within” is changed by authoritarian Big Green instead.

Or, as is the case with the very best of the paid to organize, the only major compromise they personally make is to not publicly hold Big Green to account, and instead permanently operate on the periphery, taking 3 or 4 month contracts here or there, but never becoming institutionalized in any particular role.

In the last several months, Tzeporah Berman has hired many people for the North American Tar Sands Coalition & to work for or in collaboration with the Tar Sands Solutions Network. The bulk of these newly hired people were once directly in opposition to what she had been promoting.

The organization PowerUp that Berman previously headed was reviled throughout the activist community in British Columbia, Canada. The organization promoted “green energy”– which amounted to the privatization and destruction of many river systems by small dams in the westernmost province.

Many environmental people, and even some larger organizations, fought against what was being promoted by this “run of the river” scheme that may have impacted several hundred BC rivers had she been successful. Greenpeace Canada, it should be noted, took strong positions in opposition to these Run of the River schemes right before Berman was hired by GP International. Berman–with contacts inside Plutonic Power and building them with General Electric as well– proved her strategic importance to the position at PowerUp.

Instead of trying to defeat those who had once worked to stop PowerUp from decimating rivers, she did a much more Machiavellian maneuver. Effectively, according to some who were approached, she said: “You kicked my ass in the Run of the River campaigns… so I want to hire you!” A large group of people who have reputations that are at odds with the work of Ms Berman are now her various employees, creating a strategic logjam where criticisms are now far less likely.

“Won’t all the focus on the negative turn people away? Isn’t there a better way to reinvigorate environmental struggles than a head-on clash?”

Whether to sincerely worry about the fate of movements against climate chaos, or to cynically let Big Green off the hook, this is most oft-repeated: “We must avoid acts that focus heavily on the negative.” After all, even if they are problematic, resources are found in such structures. If these concerns are all people focus on, it will cause “infighting,” since even if we disagree with the heads of undemocratic, financially dominant “activist foundations” we are all “working for the same goals.”

With this in mind, many of the community organizers who have already made a clear distinction away from Big Green financed activism and are building something different are often reluctant to speak out about the problems contained within the current foundation-NGO-community relationships.

In so far as the mainstream media will forever go to Big Green for soundbites, interviews and “the environmentalist perspective” when issues erupt, the public perception of the “normalcy” of the situation make subsequent criticisms, denunciations or even stated amazement at a backroom deal marginalized from the outset. Since Big Capital put a vice grip on the public relations perception of what is environmentalism, critics of this phenomenon will be labelled “anti-environmentalist.”

Perhaps an explanation of what happened when the prior work was not done to attempt to pre-empt corporate land deals by Big Green in the last major “collaborative model” secret deal to go public in Canada will help.

Dozens of indigenous communities, both at the council and chief level as well as others with nothing to do with the Assembly of First Nations, came out in both disgust and renunciation of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement [CBFA]. The agreement negotiated away indigenous lands without their participation.

The primary concerns were around multiple ENGO’s and corporate fronts signing any deal on huge tracts of indigenous territories across much of Canada. Accused of violations of sovereignty no different than Canadian governments, criticism of this foundation-orchestrated greenwash got scant play in a corporate friendly media.

Instead, the media portrayal was of a celebratory press conference involving corporate friendly environmentalist orgs, non-registered eco-front groups and fake-activist foundations alongside corporations. Peace, eco-sustainability, jobs and profits. Everybody wins– that was the only prevailing line in corporate-friendly Canadian papers.

The power balance is ridiculously skewed: Criticisms were strong, blunt, no compromising. Angry. The replies to the CBFA were fundamentally righteous. They came from nations colonized within Canada’s north, east, west and south. Big Capital did not repeat these criticisms– in either the mainstream media or from the mouthpieces of Big Green.

Instead, most of the time the grievances were only heard within a network of Twitter, Facebook, blog posts and email discussions. These critiques did indeed hurt the Big Green machine, but the damage was mostly within indigenous country, and among active grassroots environmentalists.

In response to indigenous indignation, groups like the Canadian Boreal Initiative– a product of foundation money from the Pew Charitable Trusts & who partner with corporations such as Suncor, Tembec, Nexen and others– went on a “make right” tour to promote the agreement, to reportedly mixed success. The private chartered flights and helicopter trips of Big Capital’s northern front groups swooped in on many a reserve.

Greenpeace, in the last year, announced a pull-out from the agreement– not for anti-democratically imposing a deal on indigenous territory, nor for over-riding community level organizing. Not because the land protected was woefully insufficient, either. It was because GP determined that the Forestry Products Association of Canada was not moving quickly enough to implement the “deal.”

There were many who spoke out in defiance and disgust at the proposed deal yet it is still got perceived as a done deal in the media, and the questions raised by indigenous sovereigntists get put off as simply the voice of this or that cranky cook.

In order for any tar sands ‘deal’ to not get similar levels of traction, those who already reject any deal or backroom discussions ought to consider provisional plans. The need to make clear where people stand on this ahead of the game should be apparent. The distortion of resistance by capital, and by those who believe fervently in such as a guiding light, threatens perhaps the largest issue of resistance to climate chaos in North America. The greatest asset to climate organizing is the strength in community.

The power of capital is one of consciousness. The dominant ideas of any epoch are that of its ruling class, I think some guy with a beard said. Big Capital in environmental circles has caused disconnect– because in what is perceived as green circles, the power of Big Capital is so vast as to seem normalized, or at the least, impossible to challenge. It just “IS”. If a problem becomes overwhelming, psychologically some people completely surrender to it and make accepting it a part of staying sane in an insane situation.

If Big Green groups continue to assume the right to speak for everyone else, only on the basis of their access to large funds from foundations and previously established track records of backroom deals elsewhere, then climate justice should take and publicly make note that this situation must be dealt with head on.

It will not be sufficient to only organize independently and hope to inspire others to follow a democratic, anti-colonial path. It is amazing and heart warming in the large cases where this goes on– but the devastating impact of a lousy full or even partial “deal” with energy companies meas we need to have contingency plans in place.

This subconscious acceptance of the dominance of capital has left us with a cynical “ignore the problems” feature to thinking, and a very dangerous “Can’t we all just get along.” This is the “All you need is love” approach. By not seeing– or worse, refusing to see– the inherent problems of Big Capital inside Big Green, we can see Big Green as perhaps confused, but generally part of a big family of environmentally feeling people. You have to love family, right?

But if this is love– to ignore how power works, and to respond to criticisms of that same power as if they were criticisms of yourself? Allow the greatest short story writer of the 20th Century Raymond Carver the final word on this (I have wanted to work him into something for years). He understood the human condition and the pain inherent in love better than almost all of us. Is ignoring or refusing to confront Big Green and foundation led backroom negotiations that may condemn so many humans and other species to extinction– is that “Love”?

“I sure as Hell wouldn’t call it love,” Mel said. “I mean, no one knows what he did it for. I’ve seen a lot of suicides, and I couldn’t say anyone ever knew what they did it for.”

Mel put his hands behind his neck and tilted his chair back. “I’m not interested in that kind of love,” he said. “If that’s love, you can have it.”

– Raymond Carver, from What We Talk About When We talk About Love.

Macdonald Stainsby is an anti-tar sands and social justice activist, freelance writer and professional hitchhiker looking for a ride to the better world, currently based in Vancouver, Canada. 

Derailments and Roadblocks: Canada's Extractive Industries Pushback

Oil Train Derailment in Alberta and Gas Fracking Protest in New Brunswick Add to Fossil Fuel Industry Woes in Canada

by Roger Annis - A Socialist in Canada

Another oil train derailment and explosion in Canada has sent nearby residents fleeing from their homes in the middle of the night. It happened at 1 a.m. on Saturday, October 19 on a CN Rail line outside the hamlet of Gainford, Alberta, 85 km west of Edmonton. The accident coincides with new steps by the Canadian government to extend oil and other resource extraction into the Arctic.

A portion of a long, mixed-cargo CN Rail train traveling westbound derailed. Nine of the derailed wagons were carrying liquid petroleum gas (propane) and four contained crude oil. Three of the propane wagons exploded into flames. A fourth was breached. The accident closed the adjoining Trans Canada Highway for days. Fortunately, no lives were lost or serious injuries sustained in the conflagration.

The 125 residents of Gainford were evacuated from their homes and a state of emergency was declared in the surrounding area. Some residents evacuated their homes with only the sleeping clothes they were wearing. A CBC News report provided home video footage of the fire burning soon after the derailment.

Gainford resident Denise Anderson said her family received notice to leave at 3 a.m.

“Two fire and rescue guys came and banged on the door and [they] tell me I had to evacuate because there was a train derailment,” she said. “They told me to get dressed and I had to go.”
Taxidermist Jeanette Hall lives right across the highway from the derailment and she told CBC News, “I woke up to something that sounded like an airplane landing on Highway 16 and the next thing you know you hear the boom-boom-boom of the train falling apart.”
“Everything lit up. Next thing you know, the curtains melted to the window and we took off running downstairs. I thought ‘we gotta get to the basement – everything’s gonna blow up’ – and then we happened to look outside and the entire front yard is on fire.”
“We should have died in that – and we didn’t. I can’t explain how the house and everything didn’t get burned down,” she said. “It was hell. It was absolute, utter hell.”

The evacuation lasted four days because the fires consuming the three propane wagons could not be safely extinguished. Emergency officials and local firefighters, the latter equipped with little more than water hoses, decided to leave the wagons to burn. The danger of the six other propane wagons exploding was settled by a combination of venting the fuel and setting explosive charges to set them on fire.

CN managed to drag the four oil wagons away from the fire. The worst damage to nearby homes was the melting of vinyl siding.

Fossil fuel industry damage control

This accident happened on the main CN Rail line that connects western Canada to the British Columbia coast at Prince Rupert and Vancouver. It wasn’t supposed to be possible. CN says the line receives the very best inspections and preventive maintenance that it can provide, including ultrasonic examination of the rail, visual inspection of the rail bed and visual and electronic surveillance of the moving train. The train was inspected upon leaving Edmonton and was traveling at 35 km/hr.

One local resident told CBC that he and his neighbours believe the stretch of rail bed in the area is inherently unsafe because it was laid overtop of a bog.

This was the third train derailment in western Canada in as many weeks. Just two days prior, four CN rail wagons carrying anhydrous ammonia left the rails in Sexsmith, Alberta, forcing residents from their homes. In Landis, Saskatchewan, 17 CN rail wagons derailed on Sept. 25. Three were carrying lubricating oil and one carried ethanol. Authorities rushed to evacuate a nearby primary school.

Just down the Trans Canada highway from Gainford is the site of an infamous CN derailment in 2005 that dumped 700,000 liters of Bunker C fuel and 88,000 liters of pole-treating oil into and around Wabamun Lake. A Transportation Safety Board investigation found that the train derailed when the rail beneath it broke due to defects. CN pleaded guilty to three charges under provincial and federal environmental legislation and was fined $1.4 million.

The Gainford accident comes less than a week after a pro-fossil fuel industry working committee of the Alberta and British Columbia governments threatened to fast-track a plan for shipment of oil-by-train (tar sands bitumen) from Alberta to the BC coast. A consortium including CN Rail and the Chinese, state-owned tar sands company Nexen says it could transport the equivalent of Northern Gateway to an export terminal to be built in Prince Rupert on the northern BC coast using seven, 100-wagon trains per day. The plan was revealed last month by Greenpeace Canada researcher Keith Stewart using access to information procedure.

This plan would use the very track on which the accident that occurred at Gainford.

The oil-by-train threat is prompted by the ongoing ‘wall of opposition’ in BC to the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline to Kitimat (south of Prince Rupert) that Enbridge Inc says it wants to build. The menace was reported as front page news in Vancouver on October 16. Needless to say, the more the number of train accidents grows, the harder it will be to sell such a plan. Opposition to tar sands pipelines and ocean-going tankers is so strong that the BC government has been obliged to posture as an ardent defender of strict ‘environmental safety standards’ on any pipeline movement of oil or bitumen (all the while working furiously behind the scenes, out of public scrutiny, to realize the project).

Safety and oil-by-rail—like mixing oil and water

The notion that the movement of oil by rail can be made safe is a steady theme of the fossil fuel-promoting efforts of the federal, Alberta and BC governments. As the black clouds from the propane fires were billowing over Gainford on Oct. 19, federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt was telling the Globe and Mail that the rail transport system is safe. “Over 99.9 per cent of the time, the dangerous good makes it to its final destination. “

But she couldn’t avoid the shadow that looms over all present and future talk of oil train safety in North America—the July 6 oil train disaster in Lac Mégantic, Quebec that killed 47 of the town’s residents. Raitt said, “ But all that being said, we still lost 47 people and it’s up to us to ensure that if there are mitigating things we can do, that we can learn from, that’s what we should be doing.”

Raitt was assigned as transport minister three months ago. She is a lawyer by training.

Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Diana McQueen, told the same edition of the Globe, “This weekend is absolutely very, very unfortunate. But when we look over all at some of the statistics on rail … about 99 per cent of all dangerous goods rail shipments reach their destination safely.”

Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, the chief shill for the federal government’s fossil fuel promotion, including its recent ‘pipeline or else rail’ theme, told the Globe on Sept 25 that the “overall” safety record of the railways “has been a very good one”.

The federal government says it is “taking action” for better rail safety, repeating that message in last week’s speech opening a new session of Parliament. It put on quite a show for the speech by inviting the mayor of Lac Mégantic to sit in as a special guest.

But the government is refusing a key demand of provincial and municipal governments—that they be informed in advance of the movement of dangerous rail cargo through their jurisdictions. It has failed to act upon safety recommendations by its own railway agencies in recent years. And it continued and extended the policies of previous Liberal governments of devolving the responsibility for rail safety to the companies themselves in the respective industries.

When a Toronto Star reporter asked CN for the name of the shipper of the wagons that derailed in Gainford, the answer was ‘no’, because such information is protected by “client privilege”.

Bruce Campbell, executive-director of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, has just published a study on the systematic erosion of railway safety that contributed to the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic. It’s titled, ‘The Lac-Mégantic Disaster: Where Does the Buck Stop?’

CN is currently fighting an unjust dismissal lawsuit by a whistleblower employee from its Memphis, Tennessee yard. He says the company covered up reporting of minor derailments and falsified its performance numbers for freight delivery in order to boost executive bonuses and shareholder value.

The issue of the safety of the class of railway wagons carrying the majority of ethanol, chemicals and petroleum products in North America has come to the fore following the Lac Mégantic disaster. Known as DOT 111, they are single hulled and can be too easily breached when they are involved in a crash or derailment. According to the Railway Association of Canada, there are some 240,000 DOT 111 wagons operating in North American Railroads, of which half have received some kind of modification to improve their safety.

That appears to contradict a recent report by NBC News that has the American Railway Association saying about 32,000 DOT 111 wagons carry crude oil in the U.S. and only one quarter of those have undergone modifications. The report also says that according to the Renewable Fuels Association, 63,000 DOT 111 wagons carry ethanol in the U.S. and most have received no modifications.

Arguments are made by some, including in the environmental movement, that the vast fleet should be replaced with double-hulled wagons. Rail companies have resisted that call for many years because of the cost involved (according to some news sources, more than $1 billion). Meanwhile, the U.S. and Canadian governments have bowed to industry pressure to not legislate on the matter.

Since Lac Mégantic, the opposition New Democratic Party in Ottawa has focused its critique of oil train movement on calls for greater safety measures. MP Olivia Chow accuses the federal government of only making vague promises to improve rail safety. She says train and rail line inspections need to be increased and automatic braking systems should be required on all trains. Coincidentally, CBC News is reporting that Transportation Safety Board inspectors say a malfunctioning of an automatic brake system may have caused the Gainford crash.

NDP MP for Edmonton Strathcona Linda Duncan says, “I want this rail shipping to be slowed down until we get a real picture of how safe it is.” She reportedly owns a cabin at Wabamun Lake, near where the 2005 CN derailment occurred.

Regardless of the safety record, the profits in railway operations are impressive. CN Rail’s financial results for the third quarter of 2013 were issued on Oct 23 and they show record revenues of $2.7 billion and net profit of $705 million, up from $664 million in the same quarter a year ago. The other half of Canada’s railway duopoly, CP Rail, is also reporting a record share price and profits–$331 million in the same quarter, on earnings of $1.5 billion. Both railways have extensive operations in the U.S. and are cashing in on the oil-by-rail boom.

Extends into the north

The threat of oil trains extends into Canada’s north. There is intense commercial pressure to open Arctic waters for fossil fuel extraction and transport. Meanwhile, Denver-based Omnitrax has come up with a scheme to ship oil from the Bakken field in North Dakota and Saskatchewan along the old, former CN-owned line to Churchill, Manitoba, on Hudson Bay. A new export terminal would be built, and from there the product would be transported by oil tanker through sub-Arctic waters to the Atlantic Ocean.

Omnitrax owns the 1,300 km of line that connects The Pas, Manitoba to Churchill. Much of the line is overtop of permafrost peat that is beginning to break down due to global warming. The company’s oil-by-rail proposal has met a cool reception from the NDP government of Manitoba and was hotly contested at recent town hall meetings in three locales in the province.

But this bizarre rail scheme would fit with the ‘vision’ that Canada’s Conservative government has been pushing for the Canadian north and Arctic ever since it first came to power in 2006. That is to open up the vast and fragile region to fossil fuel and mineral extraction, and to open Arctic waters for ocean transport. Fittingly, and in a dire premonition of the fate of the Arctic Ocean, the first traversing of the Northwest Passage by a cargo ship occurred last month, consisting of a load of coal mined in BC and bound for Denmark.

The government has a unique opening to advance its vision by virtue of its chairmanship for the next two years of the eight-country Arctic Council. It says it will use its two years at the helm of the organization to push for “resource” development. The Council began a three-day meeting on October 21 in Whitehorse, Yukon and its new chairperson, Environment Minister and Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, says, “Our overarching theme for Canada’s chairmanship is development for the people of the North.” For her, that means “development” of natural resources, “safe shipping” through Arctic waters and “sustainable communities” whose livelihoods and social services will become dependent on resource extraction revenues.

This vision is sharply opposed by most of the Aboriginal peoples of the Arctic and sub-Arctic. Five months ago, an historic statement signed by most of the Aboriginal peoples who live there was signed in Sweden. It calls for a moratorium on oil drilling and other exploration activity in the Arctic and says any resource extraction should be conditional upon Aboriginal consent. The statement was signed by two of the six permanent members of the Arctic Council–the Arctic Athabaskan Council and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North.

At the time, Aglukkaq expressed “disappointment” with the statement. Her government’s Aboriginal business allies in the North challenged the legitimacy of the Inuit signatories.

In a surprising and revealing development at the meeting in Whitehorse, senior U.S. official for Arctic affairs, Julia Gourley, says she is concerned that the Canadian government may be diminishing the importance of scientific research in the Arctic. “Certainly, the United States would never allow any threats to science work at the council, so we would defend it. That might be something that’s a little different between Canada and the U.S. …”

She also says her government opposes opening the Northwest Passage to commercial shipping unless and until an international agreement is reached. Canada claims sovereignty over those waters.

A representative of the Arctic Athabaskan Council at the meeting, Chief Gary Harrison of the Chickaloon Village Athabascan Nation in Alaska, is concerned about the Council’s focus on responsible resource development, reports the Globe and Mail. “Resource extraction is not development,” he said. He doesn’t want the council to evolve “from an environmental body to an extractive body.”

Member countries of the Arctic Council are Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Fossil fuel opponents score victories

The latest train derailment is Alberta is a blow to the fossil fuel agenda of the federal government and fossil fuel industry, joining with other recent setbacks they have suffered.

In New Brunswick, the anti-natural gas fracking movement in the province has emerged strengthened following a violent assault against it by the RCMP on October 17. On that day, the federal police force attacked a weeks-long protest against exploratory drilling and seismic testing being conducted by a Houston-based company contracted by the province’s Irving Oil conglomerate.

The attack completely backfired. Within hours, large protests in solidarity with the movement erupted across Canada, in the United States and further internationally. Protests actions at the site continued in the days following, and a community-wide consultation on Oct 20 drew hundreds of people. The exploratory testing has been halted and pressure is now stronger than ever on the Conservative Party government of the province to declare a moratorium.

Similar problems for the industry were encountered by Enbridge Inc in Montreal and Toronto during recent hearings of the National Energy Board into the company’s proposal to begin shipping Alberta crude oil and tar sands bitumen through its existing Line 9 pipeline across southern Ontario to Montreal. The last day of the hearings in Toronto on Oct. 19 where Enbridge was to present its concluding remarks ended abruptly when the company bolted for the doors rather than face its critics.

With questions surrounding oil transport by rail, gas fracking, Arctic development and the safety of the Enbridge Line 9 pipeline, it has been a difficult time for the fossil fuel industry. But as Canada tries to accelerate its natural resources development under Prime Minister Harper’s economic plan, more negative publicity can be expected. Public outcry is growing. Can it derail the madcap rush into expanding fossil fuel extraction fast enough to make a real difference to the looming climate dangers that scientists are warning against?

Roger Annis is a writer in Vancouver BC and member of the recently-formed Vancouver Ecosocialist Group. He publishes a website at ‘A Socialist in Canada’ and can be reached at
[first published in the Vancouver Observer, October 24, 2013 ]

Wall Street Ways of Making a Killing on the 'Shutdown'

The Speculative Endgame: The Government “Shutdown” and “Debt Default”, A Multibillion Bonanza for Wall Street

by Professor Michel Chossudovsky - Global Research

The “shutdown” of the US government and the financial climax associated with a deadline date, leading to a possible “debt default” of the federal government is a money making undertaking for Wall Street.

A wave of speculative activity is sweeping major markets.

The uncertainty regarding the shutdown and “debt default” constitutes a golden opportunity for “institutional speculators”. Those who have reliable “inside information” regarding the complex outcome of the legislative process are slated to make billions of dollars in windfall gains.

Speculative Bonanza

Several overlapping political and economic agendas are unfolding. In a previous article, we examined the debt default saga in relation to the eventual privatization of important components of the federal State system.

While Wall Street exerts a decisive influence on policy and legislation pertaining to the government shutdown, these same major financial institutions also control the movement of currency markets, commodity and stock markets through large scale operations in derivative trade.

Most of the key actors in the US Congress and the Senate involved in the shutdown debate are controlled by powerful corporate lobby groups acting directly or indirectly on behalf of Wall Street. Major interests on Wall Street are not only in a position to influence the results of the Congressional process, they also have “inside information” or prior knowledge of the chronology and outcome of the government shutdown impasse.

They are slated to make billions of dollars in windfall profits in speculative activities which are “secure” assuming that they are in a position to exert their influence on relevant policy outcomes.

It should be noted, however, that there are important divisions both within the US Congress as well as within the financial establishment. The latter are marked by the confrontation and rivalry of major banking conglomerates.

These divisions will have an impact on speculative movements and counter movements in the stock, money and commodity markets. What we are dealing with is “financial warfare”. The latter is by no means limited to Wall Street, Chinese, Russian and Japanese financial institutions (among others) will also be involved in the speculative endgame.

Speculative movements based on inside information, therefore, could potentially go in different directions. What market outcomes are being sought by rival banking institutions? Having inside information on the actions of major banking competitors is an important element in the waging of major speculative operations.

Derivative Trade

The major instrument of “secure” speculative activity for these financial actors is derivative trade, with carefully formulated bets in the stock markets, major commodities –including gold and oil– as well as foreign exchange markets.

These major actors may know “where the market is going” because they are in a position to influence policies and legislation in the US Congress as well as manipulate market outcomes.

Moreover, Wall Street speculators also influence the broader public’s perception in the media, not to mention the actions of financial brokers of competing or lesser financial institutions which do not have foreknowledge or access to inside information.

These same financial actors are involved in the spread of “financial disinformation”, which often takes the form of media reports which contribute to either misleading the public or building a “consensus” among economists and financial analysts which will push markets in a particular direction.

Pointing to an inevitable decline of the US dollar, the media serves the interests of the institutional speculators in camouflaging what might happen in an environment characterized by financial manipulation and the interplay of speculative activity on a large scale.

Speculative trade routinely involves acts of deception. In recent weeks, the media has been flooded with “predictions” of various catastrophic economic events focusing on the collapse of the dollar, the development of a new reserve currency by the BRICS countries, etc.

At a recent conference hosted by the powerful Institute of International Finance (IIF), a Washington based think tank organization which represents the world’s most powerful banks and financial institutions:

“Three of the world’s most powerful bankers warned of terrible consequences if the United States defaults on its debt, with Deutsche Bank chief executive Anshu Jain claiming default would be “utterly catastrophic.”

This would be a very rapidly spreading, fatal disease, … I have no recommendations for this audience…about putting band aids on a gaping wound,” he said.

“JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon and Baudouin Prot, chairman of BNP Paribas, said a default would have dramatic consequences on the value of U.S. debt and the dollar, and likely would plunge the world into another recession.” (…)

Dimon and other top executives from major U.S. financial firms met with President Barack Obama and with lawmakers last week to urge them to deal with both issues.

On Saturday, Dimon said banks are already spending “huge amounts” of money preparing for the possibility of a default, which he said would threaten the global recovery after the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

Dimon also defended JPMorgan against critics who say the bank has become too big to manage. It has come under scrutiny from numerous regulators and on Friday reported its first quarterly loss since Dimon took over, due to more than $7 billion in legal expenses. (Emily Stephenson and Douwe Miedema, World top bankers warn of dire consequences if U.S. defaults | Reuters, October 12, 2013

What these “authoritative” economic assessments are intended to create is an aura of panic and economic uncertainty, pointing to the possibility of a collapse of the US dollar.

What is portrayed by the Institute of International Finance panelists (who are the leaders of the world’s largest banking conglomerates) is tantamount to an Economics 101 analysis of market adjustment, which casually excludes the known fact that markets are manipulated with the use of sophisticated derivative trading instruments. In a bitter irony, the IIF panelists are themselves involved in routinely twisting market values through derivative trade. Capitalism in the 21st century is no longer based largely on profits resulting from a real economy productive process, windfall financial gains are acquired through large scale speculative operations, without the occurrence of real economy activity. at the touch of a mouse button.

The manipulation of markets is carried out on the orders of major bank executives including the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas.

The “too big to fail banks” are portrayed, in the words of JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon’s, as the “victims” of the debt default crisis, when in fact they are the architects of economic chaos as well as the unspoken recipients of billions of dollars of stolen taxpayers’ money.

These corrupt mega banks are responsible for creating the “gaping wound” referred to by Deutsche Bank’s Anshu Jain in relaiton to the US public debt crisis.

Collapse of the Dollar?

Upward and downward movements of the US dollar in recent years have little do with normal market forces as claimed by the tenets of neoclassical economics.

Both JP Morgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon and Deutsche Bank’s CEO Anshu Jain’s assertions provide a distorted understanding of the functioning of the US dollar market. The speculators want to convince us that the dollar will collapse as part of a normal market mechanism, without acknowledging that the “too big to fail” banks have the ability to trigger a decline in the US dollar which in a sense obviates the functioning of the normal market.

Wall Street has indeed the ability to “short” the greenback with a view to depressing its value. It has also has the ability through derivative trade of pushing the US dollar up. These up and down movements of the greenback are, so to speak, the “cannon feed” of financial warfare. Push the US dollar up and speculate on the upturn, push it down and speculate on the downturn.

It is impossible to assess the future movement of the US dollar by solely focusing on the interplay of “normal market” forces in response to the US public debt crisis.

While an assessment based on “normal market” forces indelibly points to structural weaknesses in the US dollar as a reserve currency, it does not follow that a weakened US dollar will necessarily decline in a forex market which is routinely subject to speculative manipulation.

Moreover, it is worth noting that the national currencies of several heavily indebted developing countries have increased in value in relation to the US dollar, largely as a result of the manipulation of the foreign exchange markets. Why would the national currencies of countries literally crippled by foreign debt go up against the US dollar?

The Institutional Speculator

JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank America, Citi-Group, Deutsche Bank et al: the strategy of the institutional speculators is to sit on their “inside information” and create uncertainty through heavily biased news reports, which are in turn used by individual stock brokers to advise their individual clients on “secure investments”. And that is how people across America have lost their savings.

It should be emphasized that these major financial actors not only control the media, they also control the debt rating agencies such as Moody’s and Standard and Poor.

According to the mainstay of neoclassical economics, speculative trade reflects the “normal” movement of markets. An absurd proposition.

Since the de facto repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and the adoption of the Financial Services Modernization Act in 1999, market manipulation tends to completely overshadow the “laws of the market”, leading to a highly unstable multi-trillion dollar derivative debt, which inevitably has a bearing on the current impasse on Capitol Hill. This understanding is now acknowledged by sectors of mainstream financial analysis.

There is no such thing as “normal market movements”. The outcome of the government shutdown on financial markets cannot be narrowly predicted by applying conventional macro-economic analysis, which excludes outright the role of market manipulation and derivative trade.

The outcome of the government shutdown on major markets does not hinge upon “normal market forces” and their impacts on prices, interest rates and exchange rates. What has to be addressed is the complex interplay of “normal market forces” with a gamut of sophisticated instruments of market manipulation. The latter consist of an interplay of large scale speculative operations undertaken by the most powerful and corrupt financial institutions, with the intent to distorting “normal” market forces.

It is worth mentioning that immediately following the adoption of the Financial Services Modernization Act in 1999, the US Congress adopted the Commodity Futures Modernization Act 2000 (CFMA) which essentially “exempted commodity futures trading from regulatory oversight.”

Four major Wall Street financial institutions account for more than 90 percent of the so-called derivative exposure: J.P. Morgan Chase, Citi-Group, Bank America, and Goldman Sachs. These major banks exert a pervasive influence on the conduct of monetary policy, including the debate within the US Congress on the debt ceiling. They are also among the World’s largest speculators.

What is the speculative endgame behind the shutdown and debt default saga?

An aura of uncertainty prevails. People across America are impoverished as a result of the curtailment of “entitlements”, mass protest and civil unrest could erupt. Homeland Security (DHS) is the process of militarizing domestic law enforcement. In a bitter irony, each and all of these economic and social events including political statements and decisions in the US Congress concerning the debt ceiling, the evaluations of the rating agencies, etc. create opportunities for the speculator.

Major speculative operations –feeding on inside information and deception– are likely take place routinely over the next few months as the fiscal and debt default crisis unfolds.

What is diabolical in this process is that major banking conglomerates will not hesitate to destabilize stock, commodity and foreign exchange markets if it serves their interests, namely as a means to appropriate speculative gains resulting from a situation of turmoil and economic crisis, with no concern for the social plight of millions of Americans.

One solution –which is unlikely to be adopted unless there is a major power shift in American politics– would be to cancel the derivative debt altogether and freeze all derivative transactions on major markets. This would certainly help to tame the speculative onslaught.

The manipulation through derivative trade of the markets for basic food staples is particularly pernicious because it potentially creates hunger. It has a direct bearing on the livelihood of millions of people.

As we recall, “the price of food and other commodities began rising precipitately [in 2006], … Millions were cast below the poverty line and food riots erupted across the developing world, from Haiti to Mozambique.”

According to Indian economist Dr. Jayati Ghosh:

“It is now quite widely acknowledged that financial speculation was the major factor behind the sharp price rise of many primary commodities , including agricultural items over the past year [2011]… Even recent research from the World Bank (Bafis and Haniotis 2010) recognizes the role played by the “financialisation of commodities” in the price surges and declines, and notes that price variability has overwhelmed price trends for important commodities.” (Quoted in Speculation in Agricultural Commodities: Driving up the Price of Food Worldwide and plunging Millions into Hunger By Edward Miller, October 05, 2011)

The artificial hikes in the price of crude oil, which are also the result of market manipulation, have a pervasive impact on costs of production and transportation Worldwide, which in turn contribute to spearheading thousands of small and medium sized enterprises into bankruptcy.

Big Oil including BP as well Goldman Sachs exert a pervasive impact on the oil and energy markets.

The global economic crisis is a carefully engineered.

The end result of financial warfare is the appropriation of money wealth through speculative trade including the confiscation of savings, the outright appropriation of real economy assets as well as the destabilization of the institutions of the Federal State through the adoption of sweeping austerity measures.

The speculative onslaught led by Wall Street is not only impoverishing the American people, the entire World population is affected.

Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (emeritus) at the University of Ottawa, Founder and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal and Editor of the website.
He is the author of The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003) and America’s “War on Terrorism”(2005).

His most recent book is entitled Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War (2011).

He is also a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages. He can be reached at

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Election a Poor Judgement Day for Suspect Nuns (and others voting while not Republican)

Naughty Nuns, Bad Bankers, and Ballot Bandits

by Greg Palast - Truthout

On May 6, 2008, twelve fraudulent voters, dressed as nuns, attempted to cast ballots in the Presidential Primary in Indiana.

Luckily, ten of them were caught, stopped cold by Indiana's new voter photo ID law. The law had been found to be constitutional by Federal Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

It turns out the nuns that Posner's ruling turned away were, in fact …nuns.

All the sisters had photo drivers licenses, but they had expired (the licenses, not the nuns). The Sisters of the Holy Cross, had, mercifully, given up driving (they were pushing 90 years of age.)

It was a cute story that ran nationwide. What wasn't so cute, and ran nowhere in the US press, was that 72,000 Black voterswere blocked at the polls by this Posner-blessed photo ID law.

It was Posner's decision that first allowed states to return to the Jim Crow vote suppression tactics that we thought had vanished with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

In his newly released autobiography, the aging Posner, hearing the wings of mortality and the gavel of Judgment Day coming down, admits that he was stone cold wrong. Posner now concedes that that the voter ID rule was a Republican partisan ploy in intent and viciously racist in practice.


 Posner, seeking forgiveness, says it wasn't his fault. He wasn't “really given strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disfranchise people [who are] entitled to vote.”

Sorry, Your Honor, you're still going straight to Hell. For fibbing.

In fact, Judge Posner was presented with a statistical analysis by Professor Matt Barreto of Washington University detailing, by race, the hundreds of thousands of poor voters who do not have, believe it or not, passports or other newly required ID.

And in case the Judge couldn't understand the statistics of Barreto's analysis, he could have read the comic book version, right here. [And so can you: Download the entire comic/legal treatise for free: Steal Back Your Vote, by Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., with comics by Ted Rall, Lloyd Dangle and bubble text by Zach Roberts.]

Judge Posner's excuse at the time he ruled: a voter ID law would prevent fraudulent voting, someone voting under someone else's name. But, Your Honor, you were told that, in a review of records going back 100 years, Indiana had not discovered one single case of voter identity theft.

Now Posner wants us to believe that he's shocked—shocked!—at the racial and partisan result of his ruling. He says, “Indiana's requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo ID [is] now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than fraud prevention.”

Judge Posner and the Bank Busters

Who cares about this Posner guy? You should.

Dr. Posner, who teaches at the University of Chicago Law School, is correctly described as the most influential judge of our generation. Lord help us.

I'm not saying he's acted as Satan's consigliere, but that's only because I don't believe in the Devil. Evil is human, often humans with professorships.

While famed for giving Constitutional color to Indiana's Ku Klux voter ID law, Posner's real influence was in his judicial review of the regulations on business.

In yet another recent book, the prolific Posner blames the 2008 collapse of the world financial system on the elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act, on banking deregulation and on “hostility to taxation and to government in general.”

While not a stunning observation, I was still stunned: The attacks on Glass-Steagall and calls for the deregulation of banking had their intellectual origin in The Journal of Law & Economics. This ultra-right-wing slough of corporation-kissing pornography was founded by Chicago economists Gary Becker, George Stigler and …Richard Posner.

Posner and the so-called “law and economics movement” was violently hostile to virtually all regulation, from food and drug safety to the minimum wage. Pollution laws? Eliminate them all! Looney, yes, but Posner's acolytes and movement fellow-travelers soon ruled the federal bench, appointed, like Posner himself, by Ronald Reagan.

The highfalutin sophistry of Posner, Stigler and their fellow Chicago professor Milton Friedman, sprinkled intellectual fairy dust on the markets-über-alles crowd in Washington. This high-toned bullshit transformed lobbyists' wish-lists and corporate greed grabs into quests for “freedom” and “market solutions.”

In his weak mea culpa over the bust of his bank deregulation dreams, Posner claims that the crash engendered by deregulation was “not anticipated.”

You've got to be joking, Your Honor. At the time the Glass-Steagall Act was shattered, Economist Joseph Stiglitz (not to be confused with Stigler) was crying frantically about the disaster to come. Even one of their Chicago students stood up and asked if they were insane or just crazy. (I was warned by another famed professor to shut the f- up or I'd find myself tossed out on my keister.)

Police Batons and Free Markets

Look, I don't care if Professor Posner can save his soul by recanting a lifetime of professorial gibberish and horrific rulings.

What's important to understand is the nexus: attacking voting rights, attacking worker and consumer rights, are of one piece: the right-wing free-marketeers deep-rooted distrust of democracy.

Throughout their writings (until now), the Friedman-Posner-Stigler crowd all disparaged the rights of citizens to determine the social contract, the rules of economic play. To them, voters are fools, not to be trusted with telling corporations or cops how to run our world.

This fascist bend (and I use the term advisedly) came shining through in one of Posner's infamous outbursts from the bench. Background: The Chicago police were known for beating the crap out of peace demonstrators and, demonstrating or not, minority kids. The ACLU sued when cops arrested citizens and reporters who attempted to film the police and their batons. Posner tried to stop the ACLU lawyers from even arguing their case, saying, “I'm always suspicious when the civil liberties people start telling the police how to do their business.”

Well, Judge Posner, I'm always suspicious of a robed Torquemada who believes that corporate “persons” have civil liberties but person-persons have none.

I'm sure Judge Posner would have been thrilled to see the police “do their business” on Zach Roberts, our Palast team photographer. Here's a photo Zach took at Occupy Wall Street just as a police baton was coming down on his head—and on our camera.Unfortunately, former Chicago law professor Barack Obama clearly took a little too much Posner with him to the White House, as we see in the charges against Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden and in the witch-hunt for “leakers” that makes Richard Nixon look like Thomas Jefferson.

Judgment Day

I have this vision. Posner gets to the Pearly Gates, and despite the testimony against him by ten pissed-off nuns, he's admitted to Heaven. But before Posner can enter the Kingdom of Paradise, Saint Peter stops him and says, “Not so fast, professor. Did you remember to bring your photo ID?”

* * * * * *

Greg Palast is the co-author with Bobby Kennedy of the comic book Steal Back Your Vote and the treatise on deregulation, Democracy & Regulation, with Jerrold Oppenheim and Theo MacGregor, winner of the ACLU's Upton Sinclair Freedom of Expression Award.

Greg Palast is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.

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Sands Shifting Beneath US-Saudi Relationship?

Paranoid Saudis Fear US Treachery

by Finian Cunningham - Information Clearing House 

The Saudis are sulking big time with Washington. This is not just due to a temper-tantrum by the kingdom’s spymaster, Prince Bandar. The entire House of Saud is in ructions over what the rulers perceive as “American treachery”.

When Prince Bandar bin Sultan briefed anonymous Western diplomats at his Jeddah majlis last weekend about a “strategic shift” by Saudi Arabia away from its long-time ally, there was speculation that the Saudi intelligence chief was perhaps speaking out in a personal capacity.

That is unlikely; subsequent furious comments by former ministry of interior chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, about Washington’s “farcical policies”, and a testy meeting in Paris between US top diplomat John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal earlier this week confirm that the kingdom’s inner circle is up in arms with its American patron.

Bandar’s frustration is symptomatic of paranoia in the House of Saud. When he churlishly “threatens” a “strategic shift” it is not actually on the Saudis mulling such a move away from its historic sponsor in Washington, but rather it betrays a distrust among the Saudi rulers that it is the Americans who are the ones stealthily shifting.

But what the Saudi monarchs are confusing in their reactionary mindset is the difference between American tactics and strategy in the Middle East.

Bandar, who was Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, is a senior member of the House of Saud. He was appointed personally by the Saudi king to oversee the funding, arming and logistics of the Saudi contribution to the West’s covert terror war in Syria.

Known as “Bandar Bush” because of strong personal connections to not only the former US president but to the Washington establishment generally, his appointment for running Syria operations was based precisely because of his direct line to US government.

In that regard, Bandar is both the Saudi terror master and the point man for American collusion in the regime change campaign against Syria.

It is thus a safe bet that Bandar’s pique with US policy in the Middle East is shared among the inner circle of Saudi rulers, all the way up to aging King Abdullah.

That means there is a potential fracture in the historic alliance between the two countries - an alliance that goes back to the foundation of Saudi Arabia as a state in 1932.

One former member of the US National Security Council, Michael Doran, told the Daily Telegraph that he had “never seen relations so low” as they are now.

Doran is quoted as saying: “Iran is the number one issue - the only issue for Saudi policy makers.”

Recall that diplomatic cables between Riyadh and Washington leaked in 2010 cited King Abdullah as urging the Americans to “cut off the head of the snake” - meaning Iran.

Tensions between the Saudis and the Americans have been rumbling over the past year. These tensions have expressed Saudi frustration over what they claim as Washington not doing enough to arm the militants fighting in Syria to topple the government of Bashar al-Assad - a close ally of Iran.

The deadly chemical incident near the Syrian capital, Damascus, on 21 August, which implicates the involvement of Saudi intelligence, led by Prince Bandar, can be seen as an attempt by the Saudis to push US President Barack Obama into all-out military attack on Syria.

That gambit failed, from the Saudi viewpoint, for various reasons, including the mobilization of anti-war protests in the West and a timely diplomatic intervention by Russia to secure a chemical weapons decommissioning deal.

Although the Syrian army was not the culprit for the use of chemical weapons, as Western governments and media were claiming, nevertheless President Assad turned diplomatic tables on his enemies by signing up to the decommissioning plan.

The veering away from war plans against Syria by the Obama administration must have been a stinging blow to Prince Bandar and the House of Saud. Saudi Arabia wants to destroy Syria as an independent Arab state for several geopolitical reasons. Chief among these reasons is to curb any move towards democracy in the Middle East. Syria under Assad represents a relatively progressive, pluralist state, and therefore from the Saudi view, must be subverted.

Another reason is the deep pathological hatred from the Wahhabi House of Saud towards Syria’s Shia-affiliated alliance with Iran. Cutting off the head in Syria is Saudi Arabia’s method of trying to decapitate Iran.

The feudal oil kingdom, with its vast disparity of wealth between a ruling elite and massive poverty among the ordinary population, sees Iran as its nemesis for influence in the Middle East region. The latest UN Human Development report (2013), which puts “Iran among those making fastest progress” (despite Western sanctions), can only but drive Saudi rulers livid with envy.

This explains why the Saudis joined the Western campaign for regime change in Syria with such bloodthirsty zeal. The Saudi rulers have been the main sponsors on the ground for an array of murderous mercenary groups, including Al Nusra, Liwa al-Islam and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. It is elite Saudi obsession with Iran that is the motive for this fanaticism to destroy.

Washington, London and Paris of course share this geopolitical campaign to defeat Syria in order to cement a bridgehead for further regime change in Iran. But the West has sufficient intelligence to know that the military option in Syria is all but redundant because of the steadfastness of the Assad government, its popular mandate and the professionalism of the Syrian army.

That explains why the Western powers are now belatedly pushing for the political process through the putative Geneva II conference. The West is shifting tactics to the political field away from the exhausted battlefield. But the strategy for regime change remains. That’s what the Saudi rulers fail to grasp.

This shift in tactics by the West may also explain why the US has suddenly turned, ostensibly, to rapprochement with Iran. Washington knows that if it is to gain any traction in its political maneuvers over Syria, it must engage Tehran, even though that engagement is being presented as a separate initiative over the nuclear dispute.

On two scores then, the House of Saud is shaking with ire at shifting US policy.

Firstly, from the US not bombing Syria, and secondly from Washington appearing to pursue warmer relations with Iran. In the Saudi mindset, this must appear as the most fiendish treachery by the Americans. Added to that is that the House of Saud is up to its neck in guilt with Western intrigues and plots against neighboring countries, including the subversion of Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine, as well as Syria and Iran.

The Saudis know full well that the Americans or the other Western former colonial allies cannot be trusted. Their complicity in past Western treachery fuels Saudi suspicions. But that paranoia is blurring Saudi judgment presently about American tactics for regime change, misconstruing the change as a strategic shift that might betray the House of Saud.

Washington has no intention of doing that. Its imperialist hegemony in the Middle East rests upon the pillars of Saudi and Zionist despotism. But the clumsy paranoia of the Saudi rulers may lead to an unintended fatal rupture with the US.

Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime

Americans Wearying of the Ever War Everywhere

Always and Everywhere: The New York Times and the Enduring “Threat” of Isolationism

by Andrew J. Bacevich - TomDispatch

The abiding defect of U.S. foreign policy? It’s isolationism, my friend. Purporting to steer clear of war, isolationism fosters it. Isolationism impedes the spread of democracy. It inhibits trade and therefore prosperity. It allows evildoers to get away with murder. Isolationists prevent the United States from accomplishing its providentially assigned global mission.
Wean the American people from their persistent inclination to look inward and who knows what wonders our leaders will accomplish.

The United States has been at war for well over a decade now, with U.S. attacks and excursions in distant lands having become as commonplace as floods and forest fires. Yet during the recent debate over Syria, the absence of popular enthusiasm for opening up another active front evoked expressions of concern in Washington that Americans were once more turning their backs on the world.

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Bashing "Isolationists" While at War in the World

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: In early September, we first offered TomDispatch readers personalized, signed copies of Andrew Bacevich’s new book, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, in return for a $100 contribution to the site. Many of you took us up on that and we couldn’t be more appreciative. From Rachel Maddow in the New York Times Book Review to Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post, Moyers & Company to the Colbert Report, Bacevich’s book has since been hailed as a powerful, groundbreaking look at this country and its military. For any of you who meant to get an autographed copy via TomDispatch, the offer is still open -- check out our donation page for the details -- but only for one more week. Tom]

Hey, Private First Class Dorothy: when that next tornado hits Kansas, it’s slated to transport you not to Oz, but to somewhere in Africa, maybe Chad or Niger or Mauritania. And that’s war, American-style, for you, or so reports the New York Times’s Eric Schmitt from Fort Riley, Kansas, where an Army brigade is gearing up for a series of complex future deployments to Africa. Here is the money paragraph of his report, if you want to understand Washington’s present orientation toward perpetual war: “But with the United States military out of Iraq and pulling out of Afghanistan, the Army is looking for new missions around the world. ‘As we reduce the rotational requirement to combat areas, we can use these forces to great effect in Africa,’ Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the head of the Africa Command, told Congress this year.”

In the view of our leaders these days, having extra troops on hand and keeping them in cold storage in this country is like having extra money around and stuffing it under your mattress or parking it in a local bank at next to no interest. Why would you do that when you could go out and play the market -- or, in the case of the U.S. military, pivot toward Africa? So many “partnerships” to forge as you lend a helping hand to the counterterrorism struggle on -- and the destabilization of -- that continent using that brigade in Kansas, Special Operations forces like the ones recently sent on raids into Libya and Somalia, and the drones whose bases are spreading in the region.

In Washington, war and preparations for war remain the options of choice, no matter the traffic jam of U.S. military disasters in this century. Despite all the recent talk about pivoting to Asia, preparations of every sort, not just at Ft. Riley, suggest that Africa may prove the actual pivot point for this country’s endless war policies in the coming decade, as TomDispatch has been reporting now for the last year or more. In the meantime, Andrew Bacevich, author most recently of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, offers a little primer on just how to cut any critics of the relentless American global mission impossible off at the knees. Just call them “isolationists” and go right on with your next operation. It works like a dream. Tom 

Always and Everywhere: The New York Times and the Enduring “Threat” of Isolationism

by Andrew J. Bacevich

As he was proclaiming the imperative of punishing the government of Bashar al-Assad, Secretary of State John Kerry also chided skeptical members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “this is not the time for armchair isolationism.” Commentators keen to have a go at the Syrian autocrat wasted little time in expanding on Kerry’s theme.

Reflecting on “where isolationism leads,” Jennifer Rubin, the reliably bellicose Washington Post columnist, was quick to chime in, denouncing those hesitant to initiate another war as “infantile.” American isolationists, she insisted, were giving a green light to aggression. Any nation that counted on the United States for protection had now become a “sitting duck,” with “Eastern Europe [and] neighbors of Venezuela and Israel” among those left exposed and vulnerable. News reports of Venezuelan troop movements threatening Brazil, Colombia, or Guyana were notably absent from the Post or any other media outlet, but no matter -- you get the idea.

Military analyst Frederick Kagan was equally troubled. Also writing in the Post, he worried that “the isolationist narrative is rapidly becoming dominant.” His preferred narrative emphasized the need for ever greater military exertions, with Syria just the place to launch a new campaign. For Bret Stephens, a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, the problem was the Republican Party. Where had the hawks gone? The Syria debate, he lamented, was “exposing the isolationist worm eating its way through the GOP apple.”

The Journal’s op-ed page also gave the redoubtable Norman Podhoretz, not only still alive but vigorously kicking, a chance to vent. Unmasking President Obama as “a left-wing radical” intent on “reduc[ing] the country’s power and influence,” the unrepentant neoconservative accused the president of exploiting the “war-weariness of the American people and the rise of isolationist sentiment... on the left and right” to bring about “a greater diminution of American power than he probably envisaged even in his wildest radical dreams.”

Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan, “got” Osama bin Laden, toppled one Arab dictator in Libya, and bashed and bombed targets in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Even so, it turns out he is actually part of the isolationist conspiracy to destroy America!

Over at the New York Times, similar concerns, even if less hysterically expressed, prevailed. According to Times columnist Roger Cohen, President Obama’s reluctance to pull the trigger showed that he had “deferred to a growing isolationism.” Bill Keller concurred. “America is again in a deep isolationist mood.” In a column entitled, “Our New Isolationism,” he decried “the fears and defeatist slogans of knee-jerk isolationism” that were impeding military action. (For Keller, the proper antidote to isolationism is amnesia. As he put it, “Getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.”)

For his part, Times staff writer Sam Tanenhaus contributed a bizarre two-minute exercise in video agitprop -- complete with faked scenes of the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor -- that slapped the isolationist label on anyone opposing entry into any war whatsoever, or tiring of a war gone awry, or proposing that America go it alone.

When the “New Isolationism” Was New

Most of this, of course, qualifies as overheated malarkey. As a characterization of U.S. policy at any time in memory, isolationism is a fiction. Never really a tendency, it qualifies at most as a moment, referring to that period in the 1930s when large numbers of Americans balked at the prospect of entering another European war, the previous one having fallen well short of its “War To End All Wars” advance billing.

In fact, from the day of its founding down to the present, the United States has never turned its back on the world. Isolationism owes its storied history to its value as a rhetorical device, deployed to discredit anyone opposing an action or commitment (usually involving military forces) that others happen to favor. If I, a grandson of Lithuanian immigrants, favor deploying U.S. forces to Lithuania to keep that NATO ally out of Vladimir Putin’s clutches and you oppose that proposition, then you, sir or madam, are an “isolationist.” Presumably, Jennifer Rubin will see things my way and lend her support to shoring up Lithuania’s vulnerable frontiers.

For this very reason, the term isolationism is not likely to disappear from American political discourse anytime soon. It’s too useful. Indeed, employ this verbal cudgel to castigate your opponents and your chances of gaining entrée to the nation’s most prestigious publications improve appreciably. Warn about the revival of isolationism and your prospects of making the grade as a pundit or candidate for high office suddenly brighten. This is the great thing about using isolationists as punching bags: it makes actual thought unnecessary. All that’s required to posture as a font of wisdom is the brainless recycling of clichés, half-truths, and bromides.

No publication is more likely to welcome those clichés, half-truths, and bromides than the New York Times. There, isolationism always looms remarkably large and is just around the corner.

In July 1942, the New York Times Magazine opened its pages to Vice President Henry A. Wallace, who sounded the alarm about the looming threat of what he styled a “new isolationism.” This was in the midst of World War II, mind you.

After the previous world war, the vice president wrote, the United States had turned inward. As summer follows spring, “the choice led up to this present war.” Repeat the error, Wallace warned, and “the price will be more terrible and will be paid much sooner.” The world was changing and it was long past time for Americans to get with the program. “The airplane, the radio, and modern technology have bound the planet so closely together that what happens anywhere on the planet has a direct effect everywhere else.” In a world that had “suddenly become so small,” he continued, “we cannot afford to resume the role of hermit.”

The implications for policy were self-evident:

“This time, then, we have only one real choice. We must play a responsible part in the world -- leading the way in world progress, fostering a healthy world trade, helping to protect the world’s peace.”

One month later, it was Archibald MacLeish’s turn. On August 16, 1942, the Times magazine published a long essay of his under the title of -- wouldn’t you know it -- “The New Isolationism.” For readers in need of coaching, Times editors inserted this seal of approval before the text: “There is great pertinence in the following article.”

A well-known poet, playwright, and literary gadfly, MacLeish was at the time serving as Librarian of Congress. From this bully pulpit, he offered the reassuring news that “isolationism in America is dead.” Unfortunately, like zombies, “old isolationists never really die: they merely dig in their toes in a new position. And the new position, whatever name is given it, is isolation still.”

Fortunately, the American people were having none of it. They had “recaptured the current of history and they propose to move with it; they don’t mean to be denied.” MacLeish’s fellow citizens knew what he knew: “that there is a stirring in our world…, a forward thrusting and overflowing human hope of the human will which must be given a channel or it will dig a channel itself.” In effect, MacLeish was daring the isolationists, in whatever guise, to stand in the way of this forward thrusting and overflowing hopefulness. Presumably, they would either drown or be crushed.

The end of World War II found the United States donning the mantle of global leadership, much as Wallace, MacLeish, and the Times had counseled. World peace did not ensue. Instead, a host of problems continued to afflict the planet, with isolationists time and again fingered as the culprits impeding their solution.

The Gift That Never Stops Giving

In June 1948, with a notable absence of creativity in drafting headlines, the Times once again found evidence of “the new isolationism.” In an unsigned editorial, the paper charged that an American penchant for hermit-like behavior was “asserting itself again in a manner that is both distressing and baffling.” With the Cold War fully joined and U.S. forces occupying Germany, Japan, and other countries, the Times worried that some Republicans in Congress appeared reluctant to fund the Marshall Plan.

From their offices in Manhattan, members of the Times editorial board detected in some quarters “a homesickness for the old days.” It was incumbent upon Americans to understand that “the time is past when we could protect ourselves easily behind our barriers behind the seas.” History was summoning the United States to lead the world: “The very success of our democracy has now imposed duties upon us which we must fulfill if that democracy is to survive.” Those entertaining contrary views, the Times huffed, “do not speak for the American people.”

That very month, Josef Stalin announced that the Soviet Union was blockading Berlin. The U.S. responded not by heading for the exits but by initiating a dramatic airlift. Oh, and Congress fully funded the Marshall Plan.

Barely a year later, in August 1949, with Stalin having just lifted the Berlin Blockade, Times columnist Arthur Krock discerned another urge to disengage. In a piece called “Chickens Usually Come Home,” he cited congressional reservations about the recently promulgated Truman Doctrine as evidence of, yes, a “new isolationism.” As it happened, Congress duly appropriated the money President Truman was requesting to support Greece and Turkey against the threat of communism -- as it would support similar requests to throw arms and money at other trouble spots like French Indochina.

Even so, in November of that year, the Times magazine published yet another warning about “the challenge of a new isolationism.” The author was Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, then positioning himself for a White House run. Like many another would-be candidate before and since, Stevenson took the preliminary step of signaling his opposition to the I-word.

World War II, he wrote, had “not only destroyed fascism abroad, but a lot of isolationist notions here at home.” War and technological advance had “buried the whole ostrich of isolation.” At least it should have. Unfortunately, some Republicans hadn’t gotten the word. They were “internationally minded in principle but not in practice.” Stevenson feared that when the chips were down such head-in-the-sand inclinations might come roaring back. This he was determined to resist. “The eagle, not the ostrich,” he proclaimed, “is our national emblem.”

In August 1957, the Times magazine was at it once again, opening its pages to another Illinois Democrat, Senator Paul Douglas, for an essay familiarly entitled “A New Isolationism -- Ripples or Tide?” Douglas claimed that “a new tide of isolationism is rising in the country.” U.S. forces remained in Germany and Japan, along with Korea, where they had recently fought a major war. Even so, the senator worried that “the internationalists are tiring rapidly now.”

Americans needed to fortify themselves by heeding the message of the Gospels: “Let the spirit of the Galilean enter our worldly and power-obsessed hearts.” In other words, the senator’s prescription for American statecraft was an early version of What Would Jesus Do? Was Jesus Christ an advocate of American global leadership? Senator Douglas apparently thought so.

Then came Vietnam. By May 1970, even Times-men were showing a little of that fatigue. That month, star columnist James Reston pointed (yet again) to the “new isolationism.” Yet in contrast to the paper’s scribblings on the subject over the previous three decades, Reston didn’t decry it as entirely irrational. The war had proven to be a bummer and “the longer it goes on,” he wrote, “the harder it will be to get public support for American intervention.” Washington, in other words, needed to end its misguided war if it had any hopes of repositioning itself to start the next one.

A Concept Growing Long in the Tooth

By 1980, the Times showed signs of recovering from its brief Vietnam funk. In a review of Norman Podhoretz’s The Present Danger, for example, the noted critic Anatole Broyard extolled the author’s argument as “dispassionate,” “temperate,” and “almost commonsensical.”

The actual text was none of those things. What the pugnacious Podhoretz called -- get ready for it -- “the new isolationism” was, in his words, “hard to distinguish from simple anti-Americanism.” Isolationists -- anyone who had opposed the Vietnam War on whatever grounds -- believed that the United States was “a force for evil, a menace, a terror.” Podhoretz detected a “psychological connection” between “anti-Americanism, isolationism, and the tendency to explain away or even apologize for anything the Soviet Union does, no matter how menacing.” It wasn’t bad enough that isolationists hated their country, they were, it seems, commie symps to boot.

Fast forward a decade, and -- less than three months after U.S. troops invaded Panama -- Times columnist Flora Lewis sensed a resurgence of you-know-what. In a February 1990 column, she described “a convergence of right and left” with both sides “arguing with increasing intensity that it’s time for the U.S. to get off the world.” Right-wingers saw that world as too nasty to save; left-wingers, the United States as too nasty to save it. “Both,” she concluded (of course), were “moving toward a new isolationism.”

Five months later, Saddam Hussein sent his troops into Kuwait. Instead of getting off the world, President George H.W. Bush deployed U.S. combat forces to defend Saudi Arabia. For Joshua Muravchik, however, merely defending that oil-rich kingdom wasn’t nearly good enough. Indeed, here was a prime example of the “New Isolationism, Same Old Mistake,” as his Times op-ed was entitled.

The mistake was to flinch from instantly ejecting Saddam’s forces. Although opponents of a war against Iraq did not “see themselves as isolationists, but as realists,” he considered this a distinction without a difference. Muravchik, who made his living churning out foreign policy analysis for various Washington think tanks, favored “the principle of investing America’s power in the effort to fashion an environment congenial to our long-term safety.” War, he firmly believed, offered the means to fashion that congenial environment. Should America fail to act, he warned, “our abdication will encourage such threats to grow.”

Of course, the United States did act and the threats grew anyway. In and around the Middle East, the environment continued to be thoroughly uncongenial. Still, in Times-world, the American penchant for doing too little rather than too much remained the eternal problem, eternally “new.” An op-ed by up-and-coming journalist James Traub appearing in the Times in December 1991, just months after a half-million U.S. troops had liberated Kuwait, was typical. Assessing the contemporary political scene, Traub detected “a new wave of isolationism gathering force.” Traub was undoubtedly establishing his bona fides. (Soon after, he landed a job working for the paper.)

This time, according to Traub, the problem was the Democrats. No longer “the party of Wilson or of John F. Kennedy,” Democrats, he lamented, “aspire[d] to be the party of middle-class frustrations -- and if that entails turning your back on the world, so be it.” The following year Democrats nominated as their presidential candidate Bill Clinton, who insisted that he would never under any circumstances turn his back on the world. Even so, no sooner did Clinton win than Times columnist Leslie Gelb was predicting that the new president would “fall into the trap of isolationism and policy passivity.”

Get Me Rewrite!

Arthur Schlesinger defined the problem in broader terms. The famous historian and Democratic Party insider had weighed in early on the matter with a much-noted essay that appeared in The Atlantic Monthly back in 1952. He called it – you guessed it -- “The New Isolationism.”

In June 1994, more than 40 years later, with the Cold War now finally won, Schlesinger was back for more with a Times op-ed that sounded the usual alarm. “The Cold War produced the illusion that traditional isolationism was dead and buried,” he wrote, but of course -- this is, after all, the Times -- it was actually alive and kicking. The passing of the Cold War had “weakened the incentives to internationalism” and was giving isolationists a new opening, even though in “a world of law requiring enforcement,” it was incumbent upon the United States to be the lead enforcer.

The warning resonated. Although the Times does not normally give commencement addresses much attention, it made an exception for Madeleine Albright’s remarks to graduating seniors at Barnard College in May 1995. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations had detected what she called “a trend toward isolationism that is running stronger in America than at any time since the period between the two world wars,” and the American people were giving in to the temptation “to pull the covers up over our heads and pretend we do not notice, do not care, and are unaffected by events overseas.” In other circumstances in another place, it might have seemed an odd claim, given that the United States had just wrapped up armed interventions in Somalia and Haiti and was on the verge of initiating a bombing campaign in the Balkans.

Still, Schlesinger had Albright’s back. The July/August 1995 issue of Foreign Affairs prominently featured an article of his entitled “Back to the Womb? Isolationism’s Renewed Threat,” with Times editors publishing a CliffsNotes version on the op-ed page a month earlier. “The isolationist impulse has risen from the grave,” Schlesinger announced, “and it has taken the new form of unilateralism.”

His complaint was no longer that the United States hesitated to act, but that it did not act in concert with others. This “neo-isolationism,” he warned, introducing a new note into the tradition of isolationism-bashing for the first time in decades, “promises to prevent the most powerful nation on the planet from playing any role in enforcing the peace system.” The isolationists were winning -- this time through pure international belligerence. Yet “as we return to the womb,” Schlesinger warned his fellow citizens, “we are surrendering a magnificent dream.”

Other Times contributors shared Schlesinger’s concern. On January 30, 1996, the columnist Russell Baker chipped in with a piece called “The New Isolationism.” For those slow on the uptake, Jessica Mathews, then a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, affirmed Baker’s concerns by publishing an identically titled column in the Washington Post a mere six days later. Mathews reported “troubling signs that the turning inward that many feared would follow the Cold War’s end is indeed happening.” With both the Times and the Post concurring, “the new isolationism” had seemingly reached pandemic proportions (as a title, if nothing else).

Did the “new” isolationism then pave the way for 9/11? Was al-Qaeda inspired by an unwillingness on Washington’s part to insert itself into the Islamic world?

Unintended and unanticipated consequences stemming from prior U.S. interventions might have seemed to offer a better explanation. But this much is for sure: as far as the Times was concerned, even in the midst of George W. Bush’s Global War in Terror, the threat of isolationism persisted.

In January 2004, David M. Malone, president of the International Peace Academy, worried in a Times op-ed “that the United States is retracting into itself” -- this despite the fact that U.S. forces were engaged in simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among Americans, a concern about terrorism, he insisted, was breeding “a sense of self-obsession and indifference to the plight of others.” “When Terrorists Win: Beware America’s New Isolationism,” blared the headline of Malone’s not-so-new piece.

Actually, Americans should beware those who conjure up phony warnings of a “new isolationism” to advance a particular agenda. The essence of that agenda, whatever the particulars and however packaged, is this: If the United States just tries a little bit harder -- one more intervention, one more shipment of arms to a beleaguered “ally,” one more line drawn in the sand -- we will finally turn the corner and the bright uplands of peace and freedom will come into view.

This is a delusion, of course. But if you write a piece exposing that delusion, don’t bother submitting it to the Times.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book is Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country.

Copyright 2013 Andrew Bacevich