White House Protest Corps


America Can’t Solve Crises Because It’s a Company-Owned Town
June 23, 2010, 5:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,
Published on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 by Black Agenda Report

America Can’t Solve Crises Because It’s a Company-Owned Town

by Glen Ford

The United States can no longer engage effectively in “nation-building” in the one place on Earth it has a right and duty to do so: at home. These are the lessons of the 2010 Gulf oil catastrophe, the 2008 financial meltdown and the 2005 Katrina horror — disasters that history will rightfully conflate as symptomatic of the fundamental crisis of the rule of Capital. The U.S. has become a company town of speculative and extraction enterprises whose social and physical geography the rulers relentlessly appropriate, monetize and despoil – all with obscene abandon.

At the core of the100 or so activists that gathered in New Orleans for an Emergency Summit to Stop the Gulf Oil Catastrophe, last weekend, were veterans of the ravages of Disaster Capitalism following Hurricane Katrina. They had seen up close how Capital and its servants at all levels of government organized themselves as a public-private mob to drive Black and poor people from the city. They were witnesses to the crafting of a corporate consensus that the exiled poor should have no rights that conflicted with the imperatives of Capital — no right to return, no right to reclaim their lives, no rights that cannot be superseded by the claims and ambitions of the oligarchs. They had watched as finance Capital’s urban gentrification agenda was near-instantaneously put on fast-forward in New Orleans to ensure the permanent purging of the poor. A kind of perverse anthem seemed to rise from each corporate celebration of the city’s imminent and profitable rebirth: “Free the land — of Black people!”

Now the land and bayous and sea are made hostile to all life by the depraved indifference of voracious extractors who monetized, securitized and derivitaized the Gulf’s most deeply buried oil deposits years before the accursed Deepwater Horizon rig made its last, fatal thrust. The super-deep reservoirs of the Gulf were sold and their oil futures already leveraged to finance yet more assaults on man and nature, even before President Obama’s flip-flop on off-shore drilling in August, 2008, when he had the Democratic nomination in the bag.

Such world-shaping dealings have nothing to do with you and me, nothing to do with notions of democracy, because democracy does not exist in the United States, where finance capital and its extracting, hoarding, manipulating energy cousin, rule. There is no evidence of democracy anywhere that counts — not in the $14-plus trillion transferred directly to Wall Street, mostly by the quasi-public Federal Reserve, while the real economy in general and Black America in particular were stripped and gutted. No notions of an American social compact could deter the ruling class from acting out its pathologies on its own citizens when Katrina presented the opportunity. And no amount of public disgust at BP has moved Obama to behave as if he is beholden to the majority that elected him — for the simple reason that he is not.

Every element of the American political process is firmly in the hands of the oligarchy. The public only became aware of Barack Obama’s existence after he had been thoroughly vetted by corporate mechanisms of all kinds, including but by no means limited to the corporatist Democratic Leadership Council (see Bruce Dixon, Black Commentator, June 5, 2003). Obama’s informal — but quite binding — “contracts” with the oligarchs were concluded before he set foot in the U.S. Senate. The public was the last to know that the obscure politician Obama had become a “viable” prospect by corporate acclimation in the only “race” that counts — the early, business fund-raising contest. (The corporate consensus included BP, which gave Obama more money than any other candidate, and Wall Street, which was even more generous to the Nation’s First Black President.)

The U.S. government is divorced from the people because it is a creature of Capital. The three recent mega-crises are both the products and the illuminators of that wholly corrupt relationship. It is, therefore, quite logical that the activists of the Emergency Summit to Stop the Gulf Oil Catastrophe appear to direct their demands to both BP and Obama:

1) Stop oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Full compensation, retraining and new employment, including public works, for all affected,

2) The government and entire oil industry must allocate all necessary resources to stop and clean up the spill, prevent oil from hitting shore, protect wildlife, treat injured wildlife, and repair all devastation. Full support, including by compensation, must be given to peoples’ efforts on all these fronts and to save the Gulf.

3) No punishment to those taking independent initiative; no gag orders on people hired, contracted, or who volunteer; those responsible for this crime against the environment and the people should be prosecuted.

4) Full mobilization of scientists and engineers. Release scientific and technical data to the public; no more lying and covering up. Immediately end use of dispersants; full, open scientific evaluation of nature and impact of dispersants. Fund all necessary scientific and medical research.

5) Full compensation for all losing livelihood and income from the disaster.

6) Provide necessary medical services to those suffering health effects of the spill. Protect the health of and provide necessary equipment for everyone involved in clean up operations. Full disclosure of medical and scientific studies about the effects of the oil disaster.

No Nation-Building, Here

We are living in the late stages of overwhelming dominance (hegemony) of finance capital — and, secondarily, the oil and gas money-machines. It is a period characterized by destruction of the domestic manufacturing base and frenzied predation of the public sector. The mission of Capital’s servants in government is, therefore, to assist Wall Street and the energy sector in the fastest possible conversion of natural and social resources to private exploitation.

Those among the public and media that still harbor the illusion that government is there to serve the people, despite seeing so much evidence to the contrary, speak of a national “malaise,” a loss of purpose, a temporary failure or flaw in the national character. What nonsense! What we are witnessing is the destructive behavior of a predatory class that sees its future in trillion-dollar derivative bets; commodification of every conceivable resource (food, water, air?) and manipulation of every commodity market; privatization of every possible state function (schools, safety nets); constant expansion of the “market” in the maintenance of empire; and the “primitive accumulation” of the spoils of war.

For such a class, there is no room, rhyme or reason for anything resembling domestic nation-building, and they will not assign their servants in government to any such project. Worse than simply being on their own, the people face the same oligarchic enemy at the commanding heights of both the public and private sectors: the Democrat and the banks, the Republican and Big Oil, and vice versa – and all of them aligned with the military complex.

The pace of disaster-making is quickening in America, which indicates something very much like “the end is near.”

Maybe these overlapping pyrotechnics of horror — Katrina, the Crash of 2008, the Great Gusher in the Gulf — are necessary to teach Americans the nature of class war, that it is, indeed, hell. At any rate, the oligarchs can be counted on to accelerate the processes of their own demise. It is up to the people to save themselves, through organizing; there are no guarantees.

© 2010 Black Agenda Report
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
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15 Myths About the Gulf of Mexico Oil Catastrophe

http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/bp-gulf-oil-spill-myths-0622?src=rss

http://seizebp.org

Since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig April 20 killed 11 oil rig workers, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to claim the lives of wildlife, like birds and sea turtles, and compromise the fishing and tourism industries, and threaten the culture of the Gulf coast. That, and it’s spawned an awful lot of misconceptions. Here’s a look at a few myths that The Daily Green has been watching:

1. Obama Put a Moratorium on Offshore Oil Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

Myth. President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a moratorium on new oil deepwater drilling permits, and shut down 33 exploratory deepwater wells on May 6. (A similar moratorium on new shallow water drilling lifted three weeks later. “Shallow” in this context means up to 499 feet deep.) Both orders, however, were vague and left 3,600 existing offshore oil wells active in Gulf waters. Since the spill, 17 new offshore oil drilling projects have been permitted. Even the six-month deepwater moratorium was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge June 22, leaving it void if not overturned on appeal or reinstated on different legal grounds. (Nevermind that the judge has invested in Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded, Halliburton, which handled the faulty cementing of the well, and about a dozen other companies involved in offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.) And Obama has always been a supporter of offshore oil, though some of his environmentalist supporters seem to have forgotten that; he made good on a campaign promise shortly before the BP oil spill started and proposed opening additional offshore waters to oil and gas exploration – in the Gulf of Mexico, along the Atlantic coast and off Alaska. (Permits to start drilling in those new waters have been suspended temporarily.)

2. Boycotting BP Gas Stations Boycotts BP

Myth. Lady Gaga is among the leading proponents of a BP boycott, as musicians on summer tours shun the stations, along with Public Citizen and tens of thousands of Facebook fans of a boycott. But while the brand may be offensive and permanently tainted, BP disinvested in its U.S. gasoline chain in 2007, leaving independent owners invested most heavily in local stations. They pay BP a licensing fee and may (or may not) be more likely to carry BP gasoline, but the economics of wholesale oil and gas is such that BP, Britain’s largest company, is unlikely to suffer much from a retail gas boycott, but BP the local station owner could. Anyway, what’s the better alternative? And unfortunately, oil ends up in a lot of products other than gasoline, under a lot of different brands, making it difficult to avoid one company’s product.

3. Offshore Oil Could Make the U.S. Energy Independent

Myth. The U.S. imports 57% of the oil we burn, and two-thirds of those imports come from politically unstable or hostile countries. As a nation, we spend more than $700 million a day on imported oil (the figure was more than $1 billion as recently as 2008, when oil prices were higher). There isn’t enough oil offshore to offset that imbalance. An analysis by the Energy Information Administration, the most credible government voice on energy issues, predicted that new offshore oil drilling would result in a whopping 3-cent difference in the price of gas by 2030. That’s not to say that renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are ready to fill in and plug the gap either, unfortunately. If you’re looking for a better path toward energy independence, conservation is the most lucrative avenue. Three pennies not spent on gas are three pennies earned (and three pennies worth of offshore oil not drilled).

4. The Deepwater Horizon Rig Was Uniquely Vulnerable to Disaster

pacific walrus

Myth. The facts keep piling up showing negligence – or at the very least, bad decision-making – by BP, and many of those decisions and conditions may be unique to BP, which has been criticized before this for a culture that put profits far ahead of safety and environmental protection. But disaster preparedness by other oil companies drilling in the Gulf, and oversight by the government, is virtually identical. For instance, other companies’ disaster response plans in the Gulf seem to include notes about protecting the walrus and other Arctic creatures that don’t live in the Gulf; unfortunately they don’t include plans to respond to underwater plumes of oil, failed blowout preventers or other real-world issues. And the Mineral Management Service, the agency in charge of regulating energy exploration on federal lands and in federal waters (yes, you own those) was outed repeatedly by its own inspector general of cavorting with oil companies, failing to inspect rigs, waiving requirements for environmental review and otherwise failing its public service mission in favor of its royalty-collecting mission. The MMS determined in 2009 that an environmental review of the Deepwater Horizon rig wasn’t warranted because it would have “minimal or non-existent environmental effects.” The story is the same with hundreds of other drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico – including 49 projects (including two BP projects) exempted from environmental review since the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Clearly, the assumption that these rigs are safe is dead wrong. (Photo: Pacific walrus, by NOAA)

5. Seafood Is Widely Contaminated

Myth. Certainly, oil can make seafood unsafe to eat, and the Gulf of Mexico is the primary source of domestic shrimp and oysters, and a significant source for other popular fish, like red snapper. And roughly one-third of the Gulf has been closed to fishing as the oil spreads. But much of the seafood for sale in the U.S. is imported, and two-thirds of the Gulf remains open to fishing. While fraud can never be fully discounted, there are systems being put in place to inspect Gulf seafood to ensure that it has been caught from clean waters. That said, the story could change as the longterm contamination of the Gulf food chain is studied.

6. The BP Oil Spill Will Lead to a Strong Senate Energy Bill

Myth. The U.S. Senate has been stalled in its efforts to pass an energy and climate bill to match the one passed months ago by the House. A linchpin in the Kerry-Lieberman bill, which would cap carbon emission and invest in clean energy sources, was the expansion of offshore oil drilling. That, along with investment in nuclear power, the shielding of the coal industry from fully owning up to its pollution and other sweeteners were built into the bill to bring Republicans and reluctant Democrats to the table. The catastrophic oil spill will make an energy bill more likely to pass, but without the offshore oil sweetener, a climate bill is not.

7. It’s a “Spill”

Myth. We keep calling it the Gulf oil spill. But it’s a gusher, a geyser, a “four-dimensional catastrophe,” in the words of one fisheries expert: “‘Leak’ is totally wrong. A leak is something you wrap duct tape around and maybe get to next week, next month or next year. The ‘gusher in the Gulf’ sounds way too cute. It’s not exactly a spill: that’s maybe something between your kitchen and your dining room table. ‘Spill’ sounds like a pool. It’s two-dimensional. This is very much a three-dimensional or, rather, a four-dimensional catastrophe,” said Douglas N. Rader, chief ocean scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund. “I think a whole new language is going to have to be developed to discuss accidents – events – environmental catastrophes of this magnitude. Nothing quite like it exists.”

8. The Gulf Coast Will Heal Itself

Myth. While it’s true that natural systems are remarkably regenerative, there’s still evidence of oil spill damage decades after past oil spills of this (or lesser) magnitude. Further, contamination from oil both on the surface and deep underwater could compromise marine ecosystems in surprising ways – leading to tainted seafood, for instance, or degraded wetlands so that coastal communities will be exposed to greater damage from hurricanes and storm surges. Before the spill (even after decades of degradation) the Mississippi Delta provides $47 billion annually in economically valuable “ecological services” – on par with the value of BP. Time will tell how bad and how long the environmental damage will be, but as the oil (hopefully) stops gushing, Gulf of Mexico ecosystems will find a new equilibrium, not return to a previous state.

9. Now We Know How Much Oil Is Spilling

Myth. Just how big is the Gulf oil spill? Recently leaked internal BP documents show that engineers have estimated a worst-case spill rate of 100,000 barrels a day. That’s two-thirds bigger than the worst-case estimate (60,000 barrels) of independent scientists charged by the government with estimating the spill … which was nearly three times the worst-case estimate (25,000 barrels) released by the government in June … which was five times the worst-case estimate (5,000 barrels) released by the government and BP in May … which was itself five times the estimate (1,000 barrels) released by the government and BP in April. The difference between 1,000 barrels and 100,000 barrels is obvious: It’s the difference from being a spill that’s a fraction of the size of the Exxon Valdez spill (previously the worst spill in U.S. history, at 11 million gallons) to a spill that’s many multiples of that infamous spill.

10. The Gulf of Mexico Is Most at Risk from Offshore Oil Spills

Myth. While the Gulf of Mexico holds all of U.S. offshore oil sites currently, President Obama wants to open the Arctic to offshore oil drilling for the first time. Environmental groups are trying to stop the plan, arguing that not only are ecosystems there fragile – think polar bears, seals and, yes, walruses – but a cleanup in icy waters would be even more difficult than in the Gulf of Mexico, and the icy waters themselves would inhibit the (slow, but natural) breakdown of oil. The Interior Department did halt Shell’s plans to start drilling this year, but it’s not a permanent ban. As for which is more vulnerable, it’s a difficult call; the point is that a spill in either place has the potential to devastate entire regions.

11. Shrimp and Pelicans Represent Wildlife at Risk From the Oil Spill

piping plover

Myth. While shrimp and oil-soaked pelicans have become icons of the Gulf oil spill, there is a huge range of wildlife at risk, from the Kemp’s ridley turtle (five of the world’s seven sea turtles spend time in the Gulf, but none more than the Kemp’s ridley, which spawns only there) to the snowy plover (and other shorebirds that stopover in the Gulf on their migration flights) to the bluefin tuna (which spawns in the Gulf and is already at risk from overfishing). Each of these species was endangered before the spill, and dozens of birds, turtles, fish, marine mammals, crustaceans, and other species are at risk from the effects of the spill. (Photo: Piping plover, by Ralph Wright/American Bird Conservancy)

12. There’s Nothing Individuals Can Do

Myth. There’s always volunteering, donating to those cleaning birds or arguing for good energy policy, or writing to Congress directly. But beyond that, there’s federal law. The Clean Water Act empowers citizens to bring suits to stop water pollution and hold polluters accountable. It’s hard to argue that BP’s oil spill isn’t polluting water, and several groups – The Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, and Environment America – have filed suit. The potential fine is great, at $4,300 per barrel.

13. On-Shore Drilling is Safer

Myth. It’s hard to compare the risks from different activities, but two forms of oil and gas extraction gaining steam on land are fraught with risk. Natural gas extraction from shale requires hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”), a process that injects a chemical stew at high pressure deep underground in order to force natural gas out of the rock. Groundwater becomes contaminated with toxic chemicals, threatening drinking water supplies across a wide swath of country where shale formations exist (like the Marcellus shale through New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia). Another controversial new form of oil extraction comes from so-called “tar sands” like those in Alberta, Canada; extracting oil from tar sands involves open pit mining on a grand scale or heating the land at high temperatures to sort-of melt the oil out of the land. What each of these – deepwater drilling, fracking and tar sands mining – has in common is that they are very difficult, expensive and risky. And that they are made necessary by our appetite for oil; the cheap oil that’s easy to get at is being exhausted, leading us to these highly complex, highly controversial and highly risky methods.

14. Republicans are the Politicians Most in the Pocket of Oil Companies

Myth. Republicans may scream “drill, baby, drill” louder, but when it comes to political money being spent to influence government, it’s more or less a tie. Key Democrats are among the top recipients of political money from oil companies, as are Republicans. The money flows to those in oil-rich states, to high-profile candidates and those with the most power in Congress (ie, the chairs of key committees). Here’s a look at the Friends of Earth tally of opensecrets.org data, showing the biggest recipients of money from BP and other oil companies since 2006:

Senate

  • John McCain (R-AZ) – $36,649 from BP; $2.43 million total
  • Mary Landrieu (D-LA) – $16,200 from BP; $329,100 total
  • Mark Begich (D-AK) – $8,550 from BP; $85,958 total
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) – $8,500 from BP; 223,326 total
  • Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – $8,500 from BP; 408,400 total

House

  • John Culberson (R-TX) – $10,200 from BP; 187,350 total
  • Ron Paul (R-TX) – $7,300 from BP; 134,132 total
  • Charles Rangel (D-NY) – $6,500 from BP; 40,600 total
  • Steny Hoyer (D-MD) – $6,000 from BP; 91,800 total
  • Don Young (R-AK) – $5,500 from BP; $45,500 total

15. It Will All Be Over in August

Through each of BP’s failed attempts to cap its well – from the top hat to the top kill – it has maintained that the worst thing that could happen was that the well would continue to gush into August, when the company would complete its relief well. But there’s no guarantee that the relief well will be fully effective. In a June 15 testimony, BP’s Lamar McKay said that “the design of the relief well is very, very similar to the original well.” In addition, there’s speculation that the oil well leak may have caused the sea floor itself to rupture, meaning the shutting off the well may not stop oil from seeping into the Gulf.

Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/bp-gulf-oil-spill-myths-0622?src=rss#ixzz0rhF9AxQX


Obama should have kept his mouth shut
June 19, 2010, 2:07 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

CounterPunch Diary

http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn06182010.html

He Should Have Kept His Mouth Shut

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

The French have a phrase, “He missed an excellent opportunity to keep his mouth shut.” That’s certainly true of Obama last Tuesday when he rolled out a big gun from the arsenal of White House crisis management, an Oval Office address. Excluding FDR’s  radio chats of the 1930s, there’s scant evidence  across the past forty years that as a venue for rallying the nation, the presidential sanctum did Obama’s predecessors  as president much good. In Obama’s case many of his stoutest supporters in the press could say little in its favor. Obama would have been advised to say nothing and leave the nation to the evening’s main business, the NBA playoffs.

It was certainly the worst rally-the-nation speech by a US president I’ve ever watched, and that includes Nixon’s cornered-rat addresses of the early 1970s and – an ominous parallel —  Jimmy Carter’s fireside chat on April1977, four months into his presidency, in the Oval Office promoting his plan for Energy Independence. To dramatize the need for conservation Carter wore a cardigan. He said the crusade for energy reduction was “the moral equivalent of war.”  As he said these words he clenched his fist. America was not impressed, but more than they were on Tuesday.

Asked a couple of weeks ago  about the president’s apparent inability to project anger, his pr man, Robert Gibbs said the president had been clenching his jaw. Better that he had continued clenching, and thus been unable to open it to unleash that  windy  homily, ripe with cliché, bare of specifics and without even the pummeling of BP that everyone had been looking forward to. Of course Obama said that there will be a set-aside clean-up and compensation fund  financed by BP. He  tossed the word “recklessness” in BP’s direction. But these were timid little puff-ball punches. There was no mailed fist within the glove, just wadded tissue paper.

Unlike wars and slumps, where a president can invoke inside knowledge proving victory or recovery are imminent, the singularity of this crisis is that there’s no inside story, no disputing the central disastrous facts except to suggest and then have confirmed that they are even worse that BP or the US government admits.

The minimum quantity of crude oil spurting out of the broken riser pipe now up around 60,000 bbd, heading towards the estimate by the Perdue scientists of around 90,000bbd, which is apparently what an internal BP memo suggested back in the immediate aftermath of the explosion on April 20.

There is absolutely no imminent prospect of this situation improving over the immediate future and a distinct possibility it could last the rest of the year and conceivably the rest of Obama’s first term – which in this eventuality will also be his last.

Since there are no immediate solutions to what Obama is now calling the worst environmental crisis in America’s history, and 71 per cent of Americans  polled by Gallup over last  weekend think Obama has not shown enough toughness towards BP,  you would have thought that Obama would have waited to report on what in fact did happen the very next day – the announcement of BP’s $20 billion escrow fund managed by an independent administrator, plus the withholding of BP’s quarterly dividend.  But no. Apparently Rahm Emanuel and the others thought it better to give vapid words a day’s lead over substantive news.

The speech left no banality unturned, from the ritual blue ribbon commission to investigate why the April 20 disaster took place, to the pledge of  a shake-up in federal agencies that had previously been gofers for the oil industry, to the final empty personal guarantee that cleanup efforts will restore the Gulf not just to where it was before this accident happened but to where it was years ago.

Every president since Nixon has tried to sell an energy plan. Carter wore his cardigan and America laughed and turned up the heaters in their SUVs. The only one to yield any tangible results was Reagan’s consummated pledge to rip the Carter-installed solar system off the roof of the White House.

Obama mumbled about windmills and solar panels and renewable energy and ending America’s dependence on fossil fuels.  He barely touched on his energy bill, becalmed in the Congress because Senate leader Harry Reid has told him it will never pass. He didn’t even allude to his actual energy plan which is to accelerate deep-sea drilling (on hold till the blue ribbon commission gives the green light, which it will), issue federal insurance guarantees for a new generation of nuclear plants, sponsor “clean coal” and bail out the ethanol industry.

Nuclear power could make the BP catastrophe look like chickenfeed. So-called “clean, low-sulfur coal”, mined by mountain-top removal, is an environmental disaster. The ethanol industry has long been a big financial backer of Obama and is now in crisis because of over-production of corn, from which the ethanol is distilled.  At the moment the federal government limits the amount of ethanol than can be sold at the pump to 10 per cent of every gallon. Obama may raise the percentage to 15 per cent. The US now has about 250 million motor vehicles.  As Robert Bryce  has pointed out on this site, of that number, “only about 7.5 million are designed to burn gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol. And there is evidence that even that much ethanol may be too much. Last year, Toyota recalled more than 200,00 Lexus vehicles due to internal component corrosion that was caused by ethanol-blended fuel.”

Obama could not only lose the important Lexus-owner vote, but also earn the undying hatred of  every American with a mowing machine, a snowblower, or a leafblower. 15 per cent ethanol in the gas means they may not be able to fire up these devices. That’s a hefty chunk of the electorate. You lose the lawn-mower vote, you lose the suburbs.

Obama’s terrible speech showed that even now the White House hasn’t managed to get any productive hold  on the disaster turning the Gulf of Mexico into a sludge pond. Obama doesn’t get it. Rahm Emanuel doesn’t get it. The speech writers don’t get it. At the end of his speech Obama turned to God and told Americans to pray. Here’s a meeting of minds with BP, since the oil company says the blowout was an act of God.

Even God won’t be able to bail out Obama if he  goes on like this.

Remembering Bill Christison

I met Bill Christison and his wife Kathy, both of them former CIA officers, on the high seas off Mazatlan on a Nation cruise in December of 2001. Bill had been pretty high up in the Agency and at one point had been the official charged with discharging national threat assessments and the like into the armor-plated cerebellum of President Gerald Ford.

Bill, a Princeton grad, had joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years. From the early 1970s he served as National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence on certain areas) for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979 he was Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit. He’d met Kathy when they were both doing tours in Saigon.

After leaving the Agency they settled in Santa Fe and began their journey to the left, an itinerary on which they were well advanced by the time I met up with them and invited them to write for CounterPunch.

We published Bill’s first big piece on March 4, 2002, under the title “Former Senior CIA Officer: Why the War on Terror Won’t Work.”  The piece, which created quite a stir,  listed six root causes of terrorism, beginning,

“My number one root cause is the support by the U.S. over recent years for the policies of Israel with respect to the Palestinians, and the belief among Arabs and Muslims that the United States is as much to blame as Israel itself for the continuing, almost 35-year-long Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

My number two root cause is the present drive of the United States to spread its hegemony and its version of big-corporation, free enterprise globalization around the world. …. The gap between rich and poor nations, and rich and poor people within most of the nations, has grown wider during the last 20 years of globalization or, more precisely, the U.S. version of globalization.

Bill’s other prime causes of terrorism included the sanctions on Iraq and daily bombings; the continued presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia and the indiscriminate use of air power, with “missiles launched from a great distance, and now even on drone aircraft with no humans on board…But while few Americans get killed, sizable numbers of other nationalities do.”

This was just over six months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Bill’s calm and rational analysis was a huge relief and inspiration for many, after week upon week of ideological saturation bombing in the main stream press.  He followed it up a couple of months later with a series  on what a rational US foreign policy would look like.  He and his wife Kathy, whose chief topic has been Palestine, became important and popular contributors to CounterPunch.

Bill was heading into his late 70s by now, but he was as frisky as a 20-year old as he and Kathy kept up a fierce schedule of talks in the south west and across the US, along with trips to the Middle East, often in somewhat grueling and even perilous circumstances.

He got more radical with each advancing year and chafed sometimes when Jeffrey and I expressed reservations about some of his strategies for direct action.

Kathy told us a few weeks ago that Bill had fallen victim to a rapidly advancing neurological condition – and on Sunday, June 13, he died in Santa Fe at the age of 81.  He was a noble soul and used his later years with an idealism and energy that we should all envy and hope to emulate.

A Deadly 9/11 Cover-Up

In our latest newsletter, hot off the press – What do the W.R. Grace Company, the Trade Towers, Libby Montana and asbestos have in common? Andrea Peacock weaves the fatal threads together in a brilliant investigation. The terrible bottom line:

“If asbestos-related diseases begin showing up in rescue workers and others exposed at Ground Zero in the next few years, there’s little doctors can do about it. There’s medication to ease the symptoms of asbestosis – in which scar tissue caused by asbestos fibers gradually suffocates victims – but no cure. Those with lung disease can forestall the inevitable decline by taking care of themselves: quit smoking, get plenty of exercise to keep their lung capacity as high as possible. It could take another 30 years for mesothelioma cases to manifest – an asbestos-related lung cancer that kills fast once it hits. The full legacy of that day, for which W.R. Grace now bears some responsibility, will be unfolding for decades.“

Also in this  powerful edition: After a mine disaster in western Siberia Russian workers rise up. Boris Kagarlitsky describes the social explosion. Jeffrey Blankfort reviews Quicksand,  the book the Israel lobby doesn’t want you to read.

I urge you to  subscribe now!

Alexander Cockburn can be reached at alexandercockburn@asis.com.



Oil Spill Catastrophe: The Only Way to Win is Not to Play
June 16, 2010, 10:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

http://www.politicsplus.org/blog/?p=1887

The Congressional hearings on the spill left no doubt that the CEO’s of the world’s five largest oil companies are oblivious as to what to do next.  After the other CEO’s threw BP under the bus, they admitted as much.

16Tillerson ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson told Congress we must do everything possible to prevent offshore drilling disasters, because once they occur, there is not any way to stop the damage. By admitting the unavoidable risk of catastrophe, Tillerson exploded the myths — promoted by the oil industry and right-wing supporters — that offshore drilling is “environmentally safe,” and that the industry can handle these disasters when they occur. Tillerson made the shocking admission that the industry is “not well equipped to prevent any and all damage” under questioning from Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), the chair of the oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, during a hearing that featured top executives from the five largest private oil companies:

There will be impacts as we are seeing. We have never represented anything different than that. That’s why the emphasis is always on preventing these things from occurring because when they happen we are not well equipped to deal with them. And that’s just a fact of the enormity of what we’re dealing with.

Watch it:

The only fail-safe way to prevent oil drilling disasters, in fact, is to stop drilling for oil — in other words, “The only winning move is not to play.” This is yet another reason this nation needs an energy policy that puts a cap on oil pollution and ends our toxic addiction… [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

These clowns would not even admit to having heard of IXTOC.

The industry had demonstrated with dozens of spills, not even mentioning the thousands of barrels currently flowing into and befouling the Gulf, that their ability to prevent leaks is no better than that to clean up after them.  As sympathetic as I am for those who will lose their jobs, there must be no more deep water drilling until such time as the oil industry can unequivocally demonstrate the ability to both prevent deep water spills and prevent environmental damage in case there is one.

The rules of the deep water drilling fame are now clear.  The only winning move is not to play.



Gulf of Mexico Deja Vu
June 16, 2010, 9:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

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From Medea Benjamin: Two Excellent Events in DC Fri and Sat

From Medea Benjamin:

It would be great if you could help us get out the word for these events–and join us! Please note the two different Busboy locations. Thanks so much, Medea

Friday, 8:30pm BP Oil Spill – Report Back and Discussion with Diane Wilson and Medea Benjamin

8:30 pm  Busboys and Poets, 14th and V St, NW (Langston Room) – Join Diane Wilson and Medea Benjamin (Global Exchange/CodePink) as the! y bring a first hand account of the damage that the BP Oil Spill is causing in the Gulf. Diane Wilson is a fourth generation shrimper from the Texas Gulf and a founder of CODEPINK. Medea Benjamin recently returned from a visit to the Gulf. Both have been involved in actions to protest BP. FREE AND OPEN TO ALL!


Saturday: 5PM , Report back from Free Gaza Flotilla
Busboys and Poets, 5th and K NW (Cullen Room) – R: Hear eyewitness reports from activists who accompanied the Free Gaza Flotilla, which was boarded by Israeli troops, in the early hours of May 31. Speakers include: Col. Ann Wright, former Ambassador  Ed Peck, Ramzi Kysia, and others associated with the Free Gaza movement. Background of the Free Gaza movement, efforts to provide needed humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, and next steps. Please join us and support these human rights activists! FREE AND OPEN TO ALL!

Gael Murphy
CODEPINK
www.gazafreedommarch.org

__._,_.___


The Oil Spills You Never Heard Of

By Conn Hallinan, June 11, 2010

http://www.fpif.org/blog/the_oil_spills_you_never_heard_of

While the news about British Petroleum’s (BP) Deepwater Horizon platform blowout in the Gulf of Mexico is on a 24-hour news feed, it took a long boat ride and some serious slogging by John Vidal of The Observer (UK) to uncover a bigger and far deadlier oil spill near the village of Otuegwe in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

“We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots. This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest,” Otuegwe’s leader, Chief Promise, told Vidal.

The culprits in Nigeria are Shell and Exxon Mobil, whose 40-year old pipelines break with distressing regularity, pouring oil into the locals’ fishing grounds and drinking water. The Delta supports 606 oil fields that supply close to 40 percent of U.S. oil imports.

This past May, an Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured in the state of Akwa Ibon, dumping more than a million gallons into the Delta before it was patched. According to Ben Ikari, a writer and member of the local Ogoni people, “This kind of thing happens all the time in the Delta…the oil companies just ignore it. The lawmakers do not care, and people must live with the pollution daily. The situation is worse than it was 30 years ago.”

Just how bad things are is not clear, because the oil companies and the Nigerian government will not make the figures public. But independent investigators estimate that over the past four decades the amount of oil released into the Delta adds up to 50 Exxon Valdez spills, or 550 million gallons.  According to the most recent government figures, up to June 3, Deepwater Horizon had pumped between 24 to 51 million gallons into the Gulf.

Nigerian government figures show there have been more than 9000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are currently 2,000 official spill sites. The oil companies claim the majority of them are caused by local rebels blowing up pipelines or siphoning off the oil, and that spills are quickly dealt with.

However, the locals say most of the spills are caused by the aging infrastructure, and they and environmental groups charge that the companies do virtually nothing to clean them up. And when local people do challenge the oil giants, they say they get run off by oil company security guards.

The biggest oil disaster in the world, however, is not in Africa or the Gulf of Mexico, but in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle, where Texaco—now owned by Chevron—pumped 18.5 billion gallons of “produced water” into an area of more than 2,000 square miles.  “Produced water” is heavily laden with salts, crude oil, and benzene, a carcinogenic chemical,.

According to the Amazon Defense Coalition, Chevron dumped the toxic waste directly into rivers and streams, in spite of recommendations by American Petroleum Institute that such waste be injected deep into the earth. “The BP tragedy was an accident; Chevron’s discharge in Ecuador was deliberate,” said the Coalition in a press release.

Experts estimate that 345 million gallons of oil have been discharged into the rainforest, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. The oil and wastewater, along with “black rains” produced by the uncontrolled burning of gas, has created a nightmare for the local indigenous groups—the Secoya, Cofan, Siona, Huarani, and Kichwa.

Ecuador and the five tribes are currently suing Chevron for $27 billion, but the oil company claims it bears no responsibility for Texaco’s practices and says it will not pay a nickel if it is assessed for any of the damage.

As oil resources decrease, the pressure will be on to seek new resources in more marginal territory, including the deep ocean, tropical rain forests, and sensitive artic and tundra zones.  Shell is chomping at the bit to start drilling in the Artic Ocean.

Judith Kimerling, who wrote “Amazon Crude” about the oil industry in Ecuador, told The Observer, “Spills, leaks and deliberate discharges are happening in oilfields all over the world and very few people seem to care.”

Except, of course, the people who live in the middle of them.