Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Moral Bankruptcy: Convicted Ex-Speaker Tom "The Hammer" DeLay

The real scandal of Tom DeLay

May 09, 2005

Forget the freebie trips across the Atlantic and the Pacific. Forget the casinos and the allegedly illicit contributions -- they represent only degrees of avarice.
To grasp the moral bankruptcy of the public Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, you only have to know about Frank Murkowski and Saipan.
Today, Frank Murkowki is the governor of Alaska, but from 1980 to 2002, he was a conservative Republican senator from Alaska.
How conservative? His voting record earned him zero ratings from organized labor's AFL-CIO and the liberal Americans for Democratic Action, and perfect 100s from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Conservative Union.

But as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Frank Murkowski became furious at the abusive sweatshop conditions endured by workers, overwhelmingly immigrants, in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, of which Saipan is the capital.
Because they were produced in a territory of the United States, garments traveled tariff-free and quota-free to the profitable U.S. market and were entitled to display the coveted "Made in the USA" label.
Among the manufacturers that had profited from the un-free labor market on the island were Tommy Hilfiger USA, Gap, Calvin Klein and Liz Claiborne.
Moved by the sworn testimony of U.S. officials and human-rights advocates that the 91 percent of the workforce who were immigrants -- from China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh -- were being paid barely half the U.S. minimum hourly wage and were forced to live behind barbed wire in squalid shacks minus plumbing, work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, without any of the legal protections U.S. workers are guaranteed, Murkowski wrote a bill to extend the protection of U.S. labor and minimum-wage laws to the workers in the U.S. territory of the Northern Marianas.
So compelling was the case for change the Alaska Republican marshaled that in early 2000, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Murkowski worker reform bill.
But one man primarily stopped the U.S. House from even considering that worker-reform bill: then-House Republican Whip Tom DeLay.
According to law firm records recently made public, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, paid millions to stop reform and keep the status quo, met personally at least two dozen times with DeLay on the subject in one two-year period. The DeLay staff was often in daily contact with Abramoff.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

May Day: as "American" as baseball and apple pie

The Brief Origins of May Day

By Eric Chase - 1993.

Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers' Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don't realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as "American" as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Jack London's The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860's, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn't until the late 1880's that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class.

At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people, many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers' lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option.

A variety of socialist organizations sprung up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. But again, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi-partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke ranks from their parties, rebuffed the entire political process, which was seen as nothing more than protection for the wealthy, and created anarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideals of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchical structures (including government), emphasized worker controlled industry, and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were "taken over" by anarchists and socialists, but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886." The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike "at the root of the evil." A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that "whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave."

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that "the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction." With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

In a proclamation printed just before May 1, 1886, one publisher appealed to working people with this plea:

Workingmen to Arms!
War to the Palace, Peace to the Cottage, and Death to LUXURIOUS IDLENESS.
The wage system is the only cause of the World's misery. It is supported by the rich classes, and to destroy it, they must be either made to work or DIE.
One pound of DYNAMITE is better than a bushel of BALLOTS!
MAKE YOUR DEMAND FOR EIGHT HOURS with weapons in your hands to meet the capitalistic bloodhounds, police, and militia in proper manner.

Not surprisingly the entire city was prepared for mass bloodshed, reminiscent of the railroad strike a decade earlier when police and soldiers gunned down hundreds of striking workers. On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike with the anarchists in the forefront of the public's eye. With their fiery speeches and revolutionary ideology of direct action, anarchists and anarchism became respected and embraced by the working people and despised by the capitalists.

The names of many - Albert Parsons, Johann Most, August Spies and Louis Lingg - became household words in Chicago and throughout the country. Parades, bands and tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets exemplified the workers' strength and unity, yet didn't become violent as the newspapers and authorities predicted.

More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly 100,000, yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out at the McCormick Reaper Works between police and strikers.

For six months, armed Pinkerton agents and the police harassed and beat locked-out steelworkers as they picketed. Most of these workers belonged to the "anarchist-dominated" Metal Workers' Union. During a speech near the McCormick plant, some two hundred demonstrators joined the steelworkers on the picket line. Beatings with police clubs escalated into rock throwing by the strikers which the police responded to with gunfire. At least two strikers were killed and an unknown number were wounded.
                                                                                    
Full of rage, a public meeting was called by some of the anarchists for the following day in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. Due to bad weather and short notice, only about 3000 of the tens of thousands of people showed up from the day before. This affair included families with children and the mayor of Chicago himself. Later, the mayor would testify that the crowd remained calm and orderly and that speaker August Spies made "no suggestion... for immediate use of force or violence toward any person..."

As the speech wound down, two detectives rushed to the main body of police, reporting that a speaker was using inflammatory language, inciting the police to march on the speakers' wagon. As the police began to disperse the already thinning crowd, a bomb was thrown into the police ranks. No one knows who threw the bomb, but speculations varied from blaming any one of the anarchists, to an agent provocateur working for the police.

Enraged, the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined, but an estimated seven or eight civilians died, and up to forty were wounded. One officer died immediately and another seven died in the following weeks. Later evidence indicated that only one of the police deaths could be attributed to the bomb and that all the other police fatalities had or could have had been due to their own indiscriminate gun fire. Aside from the bomb thrower, who was never identified, it was the police, not the anarchists, who perpetrated the violence.
Eight anarchists - Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg - were arrested and convicted of murder, though only three were even present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing occurred. The jury in their trial was comprised of business leaders in a gross mockery of justice similar to the Sacco-Vanzetti case thirty years later, or the trials of AIM and Black Panther members in the seventies. The entire world watched as these eight organizers were convicted, not for their actions, of which all of were innocent, but for their political and social beliefs. On November 11, 1887, after many failed appeals, Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fisher were hung to death. Louis Lingg, in his final protest of the state's claim of authority and punishment, took his own life the night before with an explosive device in his mouth.
The remaining organizers, Fielden, Neebe and Schwab, were pardoned six years later by Governor Altgeld, who publicly lambasted the judge on a travesty of justice. Immediately after the Haymarket Massacre, big business and government conducted what some say was the very first "Red Scare" in this country. Spun by mainstream media, anarchism became synonymous with bomb throwing and socialism became un-American. The common image of an anarchist became a bearded, eastern European immigrant with a bomb in one hand and a dagger in the other.

Today we see tens of thousands of activists embracing the ideals of the Haymarket Martyrs and those who established May Day as an International Workers' Day. Ironically, May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more, but rarely is it recognized in this country where it began.

Over one hundred years have passed since that first May Day. In the earlier part of the 20th century, the US government tried to curb the celebration and further wipe it from the public's memory by establishing "Law and Order Day" on May 1. We can draw many parallels between the events of 1886 and today. We still have locked out steelworkers struggling for justice. We still have voices of freedom behind bars as in the cases of Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. We still had the ability to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of a major city to proclaim "THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!" at the WTO and FTAA demonstrations.
Words stronger than any I could write are engraved on the Haymarket Monument:


THE DAY WILL COME WHEN OUR SILENCE WILL BE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE VOICES YOU ARE THROTTLING TODAY.                  

Truly, history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our radicalism. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted - people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we'll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.
IWW.org Editor
 Posted Tue, 05/10/2005 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Russian Northern Fleet scientists: " BP Oil Spill Disaster are “beyond catastrophic”


6:31pm Aug 25
 

Russia Issues Apocalyptic Warning : US Gulf Coast
  
Macondo had released about 4.9 million  of crude oil.

Americans have to turn to Russian news sources
In this aerial photo taken Wednesday, April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, an oil slick is seen as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, file) AP
 
                 how times have changed...

A shocking report from Russian Northern Fleet scientists aboard the Gepard Akula II, which just completed its maiden voyage off the United States coastline in the Gulf of Mexico, warns the after effects from the 20 April 2010 BP Oil Spill Disaster are “beyond catastrophic” and borders on the “truly apocalyptic.”

The Gepard Akula II nuclear-powered submarine [photo 2nd right] is the most advanced stealth underwater vessel ever built and began its sea trials last month in the Gulf of Mexico where it went undetected by US Naval Forces for weeks until it had left the region and resurfaced in the Atlantic Ocean much to the embarrassment of the Americans.







US national security expert Normal Polmar when asked to comment on the exploits of the Gepard Akula II was quoted by the Washington Free Beacon News Service as saying: “Sending a nuclear-propelled submarine into the Gulf of Mexico-Caribbean region is another manifestation of President Putin demonstrating that Russia is still a player on the world’s political-military stage.”

These Northern Fleet reports, however, state that the Gepard Akula II’s mission was not one of power, but rather economics as Russia continues to weigh buying BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil assets which they are now asking $7.9 billion for.

Though some in the West continue to speculate that Putin will heal his estrangement with BP since his government has maintained a stance of active aggression against them for the continued lies and deceptions made over their failed THK-BP project, other sources within the Kremlin have long maintained BP has been actively working with the Obama regime to finalize a Gulf of Mexico oil deal so the Americans could then blame Russia for any future damage done to this region.

Putin’s ordering of the Gepard Akula II to the Gulf of Mexico, and a potential confrontation with US Naval Forces, this report says, was based on Russian scientists belief that the damage done to the sea floor was not reparable and that for the last over two years the Americans have continued to use chemicals to disperse the still leaking oil.


Macondo oil slick



According to this report, these fears were confirmed when the Gepard Akula II detected US Naval Forces delivering hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil chemical dispersements to the leaking BP wellhead which, unfortunately, were carried off their scheduled course by Hurricane Ernesto causing the deaths of millions of fish [photo bottom right] that washed up on the beaches in Galveston, Texas this past weekend.

Unbeknownst to the American people about the BP disaster were emails discovered between the White House and BP wherein they both agreed to set the number of the total amount of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico at 5,000 barrels a day when they knew the real amount was higher than 25,000 leading to one of the largest cover-ups in US history.

On the second anniversary of the BP Gulf of Mexico oil disaster Russia Today reported that this massive cover-up was still ongoing leaving the American people to believe this worst ecological catastrophe in their history was over.

Far from it, however, and as we can, in part read from one American report:

“Eyeless shrimp, fish with oozing sores and other mutant creatures found in the Gulf of Mexico are raising concerns over lingering effects of the BP oil spill. On April 20, 2010, an explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people and spewed an estimated 4.9 million barrels into the Gulf, in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Eyeless porpoise in Gulf of Mexico. April 20012




Two years later, scientists and commercial fishers alike are finding shrimp, crab and fish that they believe have been deformed by the chemicals unleashed in the spill, according to an extensive report by Al Jazeera English. “At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these,” Tracy Kuhns, a commercial fisher from Barataria, La., told Al Jazeera, showing a sample of the eyeless shrimp. ‘Eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills….’ – Darla Rooks, Louisiana fisher Darla Rooks, another lifelong fisher from Port Sulfur, La., told the broadcaster she was seeing “eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills.”

Rooks added that she had never seen such deformities in Gulf waters in her life — a refrain common to most fishers featured in the report — and said her seafood catch last year was “ten percent what it normally is.”

A survey led by the University of South Florida after the spill found that between two and five percent of fish in the Gulf now have skin lesions or sores, compared to data from before the spill, when just one-tenth of one percent of fish had any growths or sores.”

To the outrage the American people should have over this catastrophe there is nothing to be seen as those who know the truth won’t tell or report it, and those who know they’re being lied to won’t bother to learn the facts.

Oil in the Gulf of Mexico of Mexico


 http://www.eutimes.net/2012/08/russia-issues-apocalyptic-warning-for-us-gulf-coast/?utm_source=feedburner

         http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill

Monday, August 20, 2012

U.S. Wind Energy Production and Manufacturing Surges, Supporting Jobs and Diversifying U.S. Energy Economy

Energy Report:

August 14, 2012 - 9:00am
WASHINGTON – The Energy Department released a new report today highlighting strong growth in the U.S. wind energy market in 2011, increasing the U.S. share of clean energy and supporting tens of thousands of jobs, underscoring the importance of continued policy support and clean energy tax credits.These steps will ensure that the manufacturing and jobs associated with this booming global industry remain in America.  

 According to the 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report, the United States remained one of the world’s largest and fastest growing wind markets in 2011. Wind power represents a remarkable 32 percent of all new electric capacity additions in the United States last year and accounting for $14 billion in new investment.  

 The report states that the percentage of wind equipment made in America also increased dramatically.  Nearly seventy percent of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms last year – including wind turbines and components like towers, blades, gears, and generators - are now from domestic manufacturers. This is doubled from 35 percent in 2005.  

President Obama has made clear that clean, renewable wind energy is a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that aims to develop more secure, domestic energy sources, while strengthening American manufacturing. 

“This report shows that America can lead the world in the global race to manufacture and deploy clean energy technologies,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  “The wind industry employs tens of thousands of American workers and has played a key role in helping to more than double wind power over the last four years. To ensure that this industry continues to stay competitive, President Obama has called on Congress to extend the successful clean energy tax credits, which are benefiting businesses and manufacturers nationwide.”

The report finds that in 2011, roughly 6,800 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity was added to the U.S. grid, a 31 percent increase from 2010 installations.  The United States’ wind power capacity reached 47,000 MW by the end of 2011 and has since grown to 50,000 MW, enough electricity to power 13 million homes annually or as many as in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut combined. 

The country’s cumulative installed wind energy capacity grew 16 percent from 2010, and has increased more than18-fold since 2000.  The report also finds that six states now meet more than 10 percent of their total electricity needs with wind power.

The growth in the industry has also led directly to more American jobs throughout a number of sectors and at factories across the country.  According to industry estimates, the wind sector employs 75,000 American workers, including workers at manufacturing facilities up and down the supply chain, as well as engineers and construction workers who build and operate the wind farms.

Technical innovation allowing for larger wind turbines with longer, lighter blades has steadily improved wind turbine performance and increased the efficiency of power generation from wind energy.  At the same time, wind project capital and maintenance costs continue to decline, driving U.S. manufacturing competitiveness on the global market. For new wind projects deployed last year, the price of wind under long-term power purchase contracts with utilities averaged 40 percent lower than in 2010 and about 50 percent lower than in 2009, making wind competitive with a range of wholesale power prices seen in 2011.

Despite these recent technical and infrastructure improvements and continued growth in 2012, the report finds that 2013 may see a dramatic slowing of domestic wind energy deployment due in part to the possible expiration of federal renewable energy tax incentives. 

The Production Tax Credit (PTC), which provides an important tax credit to wind producers in the United States and has helped drive the industry’s growth, is set to expire at the end of this year. The wind industry projects that 37,000 jobs could be lost if the PTC expires. 

Working in tandem with the PTC, the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit provides a 30 percent investment credit to manufacturers who invest in capital equipment to make components for clean energy projects in the United States. President Obama has called for an extension of these successful tax credits to ensure America leads the world in manufacturing the clean energy technologies of the future.

View an interactive map of U.S. wind manufacturing facilities HERE.  

See the full annual report and download underlying data produced by the Energy Department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory HERE.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

America's Attention Deficit Disorder by David Korten

 In highly unequal societies, the very rich are prone to seek affirmation  of their personal worth through extravagant 
displays of excess.”
  by David Korten
 YES! magazine Op-ed

The political debate in the United States and Europe has focused attention on public financial deficits and how best to resolve them. Tragically, the debate largely ignores the deficits that most endanger our future.
In the United States, as Republican deficit hawks tell the story, “America is broke. We must cut government spending on social programs we cannot afford. And we must lower taxes on Wall Street job creators so they can invest to get the economy growing, create new jobs, increase total tax revenues, and eliminate the deficit.”
Democrats respond, “Yes, we’re pretty broke, but the answer is to raise taxes on Wall Street looters to pay for government spending that primes the economic pump by putting people to work building critical infrastructure and performing essential public services. This puts money in people’s pockets to spend on private sector goods and services and is our best hope to grow the economy.”
Democrats have the better side of the argument, but both sides have it wrong on two key points.
  • First, both focus on growing GDP, ignoring the reality that under the regime of Wall Street rule, the benefits of GDP growth over the past several decades have gone almost exclusively to the 1 percent—with dire consequences for democracy and the health of the social and natural capital on which true prosperity depends. 
  • Second, both focus on financial deficits, which can be resolved with relative ease if we are truly serious about it; and ignore far more dangerous and difficult-to-resolve social and environmental deficits. I call it a case of deficit attention disorder.
To achieve the ideal of a world that secures health and prosperity for all people for generations to come, we must reframe the public debate about the choices we face as a nation and as a species. We must measure economic performance against the outcomes we really want, give life priority over money, and recognize that money is a means, not an end.
What We Borrow from Each Other
To realistically address the nature of the public financial deficits at the center of the current political debate, it is crucial to understand the nature of money and debt. Money is just a number, a system of accounting useful in facilitating economic exchange. A deficit occurs when expenditures exceed income. If, as a result, financial liabilities come to exceed financial assets, we go into debt. It is all basic accounting.  
The key point, which the deficit debates rarely address, is that one person or entity’s financial debt is another person or entity’s financial asset. We can only borrow money from each other. The idea that we borrow money from the future is an illusion.
From a societal perspective, total debts and assets are always in balance. Consequently, if we say that one person or entity has excessive financial debt, we in effect say that another has excessive financial assets. Reducing the aggregate financial debt of debtors necessarily requires reducing the aggregate financial assets of the creditors.
In theory, we could instantly wipe away all financial debts through a universal forgiveness, a modern equivalent of the ancient institution of the Jubilee. The ancients recognized the significance of such action to restore the balance essential to the healthy function of the human community.
The deficit-hawks recoil in horror and assure us that we can reduce government debt while leaving the financial assets of the rich untouched. It makes perfect sense in the fantasy world of pure finance in which profits and the financial assets of the rich grow perpetually even as growing inequality and wasteful material consumption deplete the social capital of community and the natural capital of Earth’s biosphere.
A viable human future, however, must be based on living world realities rather than financial world fantasies.
What We Steal from Future Generations
Any normally intelligent 12-year-old is fully capable of understanding the distinction between a living forest or fishery and a system of financial accounts that exists only as electronic traces on a computer hard drive. Unfortunately, this simple distinction seems to be beyond the comprehension of the economists, pundits, and politicians who frame the public debate on economic policy. By referring to financial assets as “capital” and treating them as if they had some intrinsic worth beyond their value as a token of exchange, they sustain the deception that Wall Street is creating wealth rather than manipulating the financial system to accumulate accounting claims against wealth it had no part in creating.
Real capital assets have productive value in their own right and cannot be created with a computer key stroke. The most essential forms of real capital are social capital (the bonds of trust and caring essential to healthy community function) and biosystem capital (the living systems essential to Earth’s capacity to support life). We are depleting both with reckless abandon.
  • Social capital is the foundation of our human capacity to innovate, produce, engage in cooperative problem solving, manage Earth’s available natural wealth to meet the needs of all, and live together in peace and shared prosperity. Social capital is depleted as individualistic greed becomes the prevailing moral standard and the governing institutions of society deprive all but a privileged minority of access to a secure and dignified means of living. Once it is depleted, social capital can take generations to restore.
  • Biosystem capital provides a continuing supply of breathable air, drinkable water, soils to grow our food, forests to produce our timber, oceans teeming with fish, grassland that feed our livestock, sun, wind, and geothermal to provide our energy, climate stability, and much else essential to human survival, health, and happiness. It is depleted when soils are degraded, oceans are overfished, rivers and lakes are polluted, forests cut down, aquifers contaminated and depleted, and climate stabilization systems disrupted. These natural systems can take thousands, even millions of years to restore. Species extinction is forever.
According to the World Wildlife Federation’s 2012 Living Planet Report, at the current rate of consumption, “it is taking 1.5 years for the Earth to fully regenerate the renewable resources that people are using in a single year. Instead of living off the interest, we are eating into our natural capital.” This is a path to never-never land. Unlike with financial deficits, simple debt forgiveness is not an option.
When we deplete Earth’s bio-capacity—its capacity to support life in its many varied forms—we are not borrowing from the future; we are stealing from the future. Even though it is the most serious of all human-caused deficits, it rarely receives mention in current political debates.
When we assess economic performance by growth in GDP and stock price indices, we in effect manage the economy to make the most money for people who have the most money. This leads us to the fanciful belief that as a society we are getting richer. In fact, we are impoverishing both current and future generations by creating an unconscionable concentration of economic power, depriving billions of people of a secure and dignified means of living, and destroying the social and biosystem capital on which our real well-being depends.
With proper care and respect, biosystem capital can provide essential services in perpetuity. The reckless devastation of productive lands and waters for a quick profit, a few temporary jobs, and a one-time energy fix from Earth’s non-renewable fossil energy resources represent truly stupid and morally reprehensible deficit spending. Evident current examples include tar sand oil extraction, deep sea oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas, and mountaintop removal coal mining The fact that we thereby deepen human dependence on finite nonrenewable fossil energy reserves and accelerate climate disruption make such actions all the more stupid and immoral.
Financial system logic, which rests on the illusion that money is wealth, tells us we are making intelligent choices. Living systems logic tells us our current choices are insane and a crime against future human generations and creation itself.
Article image
From Built-to-Loot to Built-to-Serve
The economy of a just and sustainable society needs a proper system of money creation and allocation that:
  1. Supports the health and productive function of social and biosystem capital and allocates the sustainable generative output of both to optimize the long-term health and well-being of all; and
  2. Rewards individuals with financial credits in proportion to their actual productive contribution to living system health and prosperity.
The current U.S. money system does exactly the opposite. It celebrates and rewards the destruction of living capital to grow the financial assets of Wall Street looters at the expense of Main Street producers—thus concentrating economic and political power in the hands of those most likely to abuse it for a purely individualist short-term gain.
Wall Street operates as a criminal syndicate devoted to the theft of that to which it has no rightful claim. It then bribes politicians to shield the looters from taxes on their ill-gotten gains and to eliminate social programs that cushion the blow to those they have deprived of a secure and meaningful means of livelihood. This brings us back to the real source and consequence of excess financial debt.
Masters and Debt Slaves
In the big picture, the Wall Street 1 percent has divided society into a looter class that controls access to money and a producer class forced into perpetual debt slavery—an ancient institution that for millennia has allowed the few to rule the many [See inset: “Wall Street and the Ultimate Tyranny”] .The immense burden imposed on the 99 percent by public debt, consumer debt, mortgage debt, and student debt is an outcome of a Wall Street assault on justice and democracy.
The resulting desperation and loss of social trust account for the many current symptoms of social disintegration and decline in ethical standards. These include growth in family breakdown, suicide, forced migration, physical violence, crime, drug use, and prison populations.
Equality as a Crucial Variable
I grew up in America during a time when we took pride in being a middle-class society without extremes of wealth and poverty. In part, we were living an illusion. Large concentrations of private wealth were intact and systemic discrimination excluded large segments of the population—particularly people of color—from participation in the general prosperity. The underlying concept that the good society is an equitable society, however, was and still is valid. And from the 1950s to the 1970s the middle class expanded.
Complete equality is neither possible nor desirable. Modest inequality creates essential incentives for productive contribution to the well-being of the community. Extreme inequality, as exemplified by current U.S. society, is both a source and an indicator of serious institutional failure and social pathology.
British epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson has compiled an impressive body of research that demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that economic and social inequality is detrimental to human physical and mental health and happiness—even for the very rich. Relatively equal societies are healthier on virtually every indicator of individual and social health and well-being.
In highly unequal societies, the very rich are prone to seek affirmation of their personal worth through extravagant displays of excess. They easily lose sight of the true sources of human happiness, sacrifice authentic relationships, and deny their responsibility to the larger society—at the expense of their essential humanity. At the other extreme, the desperate are prone to manipulation by political demagogues who offer simplistic analyses and self-serving solutions that in the end further deepen their misery. Governing institutions lose legitimacy. Democracy becomes a charade. Moral standards decline. Civic responsibility gives way to extreme individualism and disregard for the rights and well-being of others.
To achieve true prosperity, we must create economies grounded in a living systems logic that recognizes three fundamental truths:
  • The economy’s only valid purpose is to serve life.
  • Equality is foundational to healthy human communities and a healthy human relationship to Earth’s biosphere.
  • Money is a means, not an end.
A New Political Narrative and Agenda
Runaway public deficits are but one symptom of a profound system failure. They can easily be resolved by taxing the unearned spoils of the Wall Street looters, eliminating corporate subsidies and tax havens, and cutting military expenditures on pointless wars that undermine our security. 
Joblessness can easily be eliminated by putting the unemployed and underemployed to work meeting a vast range of unmet human needs from rebuilding and greening our physical infrastructure to providing essential human services, eliminating dependence on fossil fuels, and converting to systems of local organic food production. If the primary constraint is money, the Federal Reserve can be directed to create it and channel it to priority projects through a national infrastructure bank—a move that avoids enriching the bankers and does not create more debt.
In addition, we must:
  1. Break up concentrations of unaccountable power.
  2. Shift the economic priority from making money to serving life by replacing financial indicators with living wealth indicators as the basis for evaluating economic performance.
  3. Eliminate extremes of wealth and poverty to create a true middle-class society.
  4. Build a culture of mutual trust and caring.
  5. Create a system of economic incentives that reward those who do productive work and penalize predatory financial speculation.
  6. Restructure the global economy into a planetary system of networked bioregional economies that share information and technology and organize to live within their respective environmental means.
Within a political debate defined by the logic of living systems, such measures are simple common sense. Within a political debate defined by conventional financial logic, however, they are easily dismissed as dangerous and illogical threats to progress and prosperity.
So long as money frames the debate, money is the winner and life is the loser. To score a political victory for life, the debate must be reframed around a narrative based on an understanding of the true sources of human well-being and happiness and a shift from money to life as the defining value.
A promising new frame is emerging from controversies surrounding the recent United Nation’s Rio+20 environmental conference. Wall Street interests argued that the best way to save Earth’s biosystems is to put a price on them and sell them to wealthy global investors to manage for a private return. Rather than concede the underlying frame to Wall Street and debate the price and terms of the sale, indigenous leaders and environmental groups drew on the ancient wisdom of indigenous peoples to challenge the underlying frame. They declared that as the source of life, Earth’s living systems are sacred and beyond price. They issued a global call to recognize the rights of nature.
Thus framed, the Rio+20 debate highlights a foundational and inherent conflict between the rights of nature, human rights, property rights, and corporate rights.
In current practice, based on the same financial logic that leads us to treat financial deficits as more important than social and environmental deficits, we give corporate rights precedence over the property rights of individuals. We give property rights precedence over the human rights of those without property. And we give human rights precedence over the rights of nature.
We will continue to pay a terrible price for so long as we allow the deeply flawed logic of pure finance to define our values and frame the political debate.
There is no magic bullet quick fix. We must reframe the debate by bringing life values and living systems logic to the fore and turning the prevailing rights hierarchy on its head. The rights of nature must come first, because without nature, humans do not exist. As living beings, our rights are derivative of and ultimately subordinate to the rights of Earth’s living systems.
Human rights come, in turn, before property rights, because property rights are a human creation. They have no existence without humans and no purpose other than to serve the human and natural interest. Corporations are a form of property and any rights we may choose to grant to them are derivative of individual property rights and therefore properly subordinate to them.
The step to a prosperous human future requires that we acknowledge life, not money, as our defining value, accept our responsibilities to and for one another and nature, and bring to the fore of the debate the social and bio-system deficits that are the true threat to the human future.
Replacing cultures and institutions that value money more than life with cultures and institutions that value life more than money is a daunting challenge. Fortunately, it is also an invigorating and hopeful challenge because it reconnects us with our true nature as living beings and offers a win-win alternative to the no-win status quo.
David Korten wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. David is the author of Agenda for a New EconomyThe Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, president of the Living Economies Forum, and a member of the Club of Rome. He holds MBA and PhD degrees from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and served on the faculty of the Harvard Business School.



 
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ABOUT David Korten
David Korten is the author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller: When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair YES! Magazine and co-chair of the New Economy Working Group. This Agenda for a New Economy blog series is co-distributed by CSRwire.com and yesmagazine.org, based on excerpts from Agenda for a New Economy.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

COVER UP: Kalamazoo River Enbridge Oil Spill, Scrubbed from the News

'Keystone Kops' Bungling Led to Costliest U.S. Pipeline Spill

Michigan Oil Spill Oil continued to be drained near the oil spill by Talmadge Creek in Township, Mich., in early August 2010. Photograph by John Grap/The Enquirer/AP Photo

The following is an excerpt from “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You've Never Heard of,” a seven-month investigation by InsideClimate News, a non-profit news organization focused on climate change and energy issues. To see a slideshow about the 2010 Enbridge oil spill, click here.
An acrid stench had already enveloped John LaForge's five-bedroom house when he opened the door just after 6 a.m. on July 26, 2010. By the time the building contractor hurried the few feet to the refuge of his Dodge Ram pickup, his throat was stinging and his head was throbbing.
LaForge was excavating a basement when his wife called a couple of hours later. The odor had become even more sickening, Lorraine told him. And a fire truck was parked in front of their house, where Talmadge Creek rippled toward the Kalamazoo River.
LaForge headed home. By the time he arrived, the stink was so intense that he could barely keep his breakfast down.
Something else was wrong, too.
Water from the usually tame creek had inundated his yard, the way it often did after heavy rains. But this time a black goo coated swaths of his golf course-green grass. It stopped just 10 feet from the metal cap that marked his drinking water well. Walking on the tarry mess was like stepping on chewing gum.
LaForge said he was stooped over the creek, looking for the source of the gunk, when two men in a white truck marked Enbridge pulled up just before 10 a.m. One rushed to LaForge's open front door and disappeared inside with an air- monitoring instrument.
The man emerged less than a minute later, and uttered the words that still haunt LaForge today: It's not safe to be here. You're going to have to leave your house. Now.
John and Lorraine LaForge, their grown daughter and one of the three grandchildren living with them at the time piled into the pickup and their minivan as fast as they could, given Lorraine's health problems. They didn't pause to grab toys for the baby or extra clothes for the two children at preschool. They didn't even lock up the house.
Within a half hour, they had checked into two rooms at a Holiday Inn Express, which the family of six would call home for the next 61 days.
The LaForges’ lives had been turned upside down by the first major spill of Canadian diluted bitumen in a U.S. river. Diluted bitumen is the same type of oil that could someday be carried by the much-debated Keystone XL pipeline. If that project is approved, it would cross the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking water for eight states as well as 30 percent of the nation's irrigation water. President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada Corp.’s initial pipeline permit application in January, inviting them to reapply with an alternative route, which it has.
"People don't realize how your life can change overnight," LaForge told an InsideClimate News reporter as they drove slowly past his empty house in November 2011. "It has been devastating."

* * * *

July 25 marks the second anniversary of the nation’s most costly oil pipeline accident—a rupture that dumped more than 1.1 million gallons of heavy crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The spill drove 150 families permanently from their homes. The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed $3.7 million in civil fines for Enbridge on July 2. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently cited the company for failing to properly maintain the pipeline and chastised the pipeline safety agency for weak federal regulations.
The spill happened in Marshall, a community of 7,400 in southwestern Michigan. More than 1.1 million gallons of oil blackened two miles of Talmadge Creek and almost 36 miles of the Kalamazoo River, according to the EPA’s most recent Situation Report (pdf). The EPA’s estimate of the amount of oil that has been collected exceeds Enbridge’s estimate of 843,444 gallons by 15 percent. Enbridge spokeswoman Terri Larson told InsideClimate News that the company stands by that number as accurate.
Oil is still showing up two years later, as the cleanup continues. About 150 families have been permanently relocated and most of the tainted stretch of river between Marshall and Kalamazoo remained closed to the public until June 21.
The accident was triggered by a six-and-a-half foot tear in Line 6B, a 30- inch carbon steel pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy Partners LP, a U.S. affiliate of Enbridge Inc., Canada's largest transporter of crude oil. With Enbridge's costs already totaling more than $765 million, it is the most expensive oil pipeline spill since the U.S. government began keeping records in 1968.
"This investigation identified a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge. Their employees performed like Keystone Kops and failed to recognize their pipeline had ruptured and continued to pump crude into the environment," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman in a July 10 press release. "Despite multiple alarms and a loss of pressure in the pipeline, for more than 17 hours and through three shifts they failed to follow their own shutdown procedures." Enbridge restarted the pipeline twice in that 17-hour period, pumping through oil that would account for 81 percent of the total spill, the NTSB said.
Despite the scope of the damage, the Enbridge spill didn’t attract much national attention, perhaps because it occurred just 10 days after oil stopped spewing from BP Plc's Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, which ruptured three months earlier. Early reports about the Enbridge spill also downplayed its seriousness. Just about everybody, including the EPA officials who rushed to Marshall in July 2010, expected the mess to be cleaned up in a couple of months.
What the EPA didn't know then, however, was that Line 6B was carrying bitumen, the dirtiest, stickiest oil on the market.
Bitumen is so thick—about the consistency of peanut butter—that it doesn't flow from a well like the crude oil found in most of the nation's pipelines. Instead the tarry resin is either steamed or strip-mined from sandy soil. Then it is thinned with large quantities of liquid chemicals so it can be pumped through pipelines. These diluents usually include benzene, a carcinogen. At this point it becomes diluted bitumen, or dilbit.
The National Resources Defense Council and some other environmental organizations say dilbit is so acidic and abrasive that it's more likely to corrode and weaken pipes than conventional oil. The oil industry disputes that hypothesis. Enbridge and other companies say dilbit is no different from conventional crude.
No independent scientific research has been done to determine who is right. But there is one fact neither side disputes: The cleanup of the Kalamazoo River dilbit spill was unlike any cleanup the EPA had ever tackled before. The National Academy of Sciences is conducting a research project into the “pipeline transport of diluted bitumen” that meets for the first time this week.
Instead of remaining on top of the water, as most conventional crude oil does, the bitumen gradually sank to the river's bottom, where normal cleanup techniques and equipment were of little use. Meanwhile, the benzene and other chemicals that had been added to liquefy the bitumen evaporated.
InsideClimate News learned that federal and local officials didn't discover until more than a week after the spill that Line 6B was carrying dilbit, not conventional oil. Federal regulations do not require pipeline operators to disclose that information, and Enbridge officials did not volunteer it.
Mark Durno, an EPA deputy incident commander who is still involved in the cleanup in Marshall, is among those who were surprised by what they found.
"Submerged oil is what makes this thing more unique than even the Gulf of Mexico situation," Durno said. "Yes, that was huge—but they knew the beast they were dealing with. This experience was brand new for us. It would have been brand new for anyone in the United States."
Jim Rutherford, the public health officer for Michigan's Calhoun County, said he had "no idea what I was driving into," when he rushed to Marshall the day 6B ruptured.
"We just weren't ready for anything of this magnitude,” Rutherford said. “We didn't even know the nature of the type of crude."
Visit www.bloomberg.com/sustainability for the latest from Bloomberg News about energy, natural resources and global business.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Manifesto for Economic Sense

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A manifesto for economic sense

Paul Krugman and Richard Layard

More than four years after the financial crisis began, the world's major advanced economies remain deeply depressed, in a scene all too reminiscent of the 1930s. And the reason is simple: we are relying on the same ideas that governed policy in the 1930s. These ideas, long since disproved, involve profound errors both about the causes of the crisis, its nature, and the appropriate response.
These errors have taken deep root in public consciousness and provide the public support for the excessive austerity of current fiscal policies in many countries. So the time is ripe for a Manifesto in which mainstream economists offer the public a more evidence-based analysis of our problems.
  • The causes. Many policy makers insist that the crisis was caused by irresponsible public borrowing. With very few exceptions - other than Greece - this is false. Instead, the conditions for crisis were created by excessive private sector borrowing and lending, including by over-leveraged banks. The collapse of this bubble led to massive falls in output and thus in tax revenue. So the large government deficits we see today are a consequence of the crisis, not its cause.
  • The nature of the crisis. When real estate bubbles on both sides of the Atlantic burst, many parts of the private sector slashed spending in an attempt to pay down past debts. This was a rational response on the part of individuals, but - just like the similar response of debtors in the 1930s - it has proved collectively self-defeating, because one person's spending is another person's income. The result of the spending collapse has been an economic depression that has worsened the public debt.
  • The appropriate response. At a time when the private sector is engaged in a collective effort to spend less, public policy should act as a stabilizing force, attempting to sustain spending. At the very least we should not be making things worse by big cuts in government spending or big increases in tax rates on ordinary people. Unfortunately, that's exactly what many governments are now doing.
  • The big mistake. After responding well in the first, acute phase of the economic crisis, conventional policy wisdom took a wrong turn - focusing on government deficits, which are mainly the result of a crisis-induced plunge in revenue, and arguing that the public sector should attempt to reduce its debts in tandem with the private sector. As a result, instead of playing a stabilizing role, fiscal policy has ended up reinforcing and exacerbating the dampening effects of private-sector spending cuts.
In the face of a less severe shock, monetary policy could take up the slack. But with interest rates close to zero, monetary policy - while it should do all it can - cannot do the whole job. There must of course be a medium-term plan for reducing the government deficit. But if this is too front-loaded it can easily be self-defeating by aborting the recovery. A key priority now is to reduce unemployment, before it becomes endemic, making recovery and future deficit reduction even more difficult.
How do those who support present policies answer the argument we have just made? They use two quite different arguments in support of their case.
The confidence argument. Their first argument is that government deficits will raise interest rates and thus prevent recovery. By contrast, they argue, austerity will increase confidence and thus encourage recovery.
But there is no evidence at all in favour of this argument. First, despite exceptionally high deficits, interest rates today are unprecedentedly low in all major countries where there is a normally functioning central bank. This is true even in Japan where the government debt now exceeds 200% of annual GDP; and past downgrades by the rating agencies here have had no effect on Japanese interest rates. Interest rates are only high in some Euro countries, because the ECB is not allowed to act as lender of last resort to the government. Elsewhere the central bank can always, if needed, fund the deficit, leaving the bond market unaffected.
Moreover past experience includes no relevant case where budget cuts have actually generated increased economic activity. The IMF has studied 173 cases of budget cuts in individual countries and found that the consistent result is economic contraction. In the handful of cases in which fiscal consolidation was followed by growth, the main channels were a currency depreciation against a strong world market, not a current possibility. The lesson of the IMF's study is clear - budget cuts retard recovery. And that is what is happening now - the countries with the biggest budget cuts have experienced the biggest falls in output.
For the truth is, as we can now see, that budget cuts do not inspire business confidence. Companies will only invest when they can foresee enough customers with enough income to spend. Austerity discourages investment.
So there is massive evidence against the confidence argument; all the alleged evidence in favor of the doctrine has evaporated on closer examination.
The structural argument. A second argument against expanding demand is that output is in fact constrained on the supply side - by structural imbalances. If this theory were right, however, at least some parts of our economies ought to be at full stretch, and so should some occupations. But in most countries that is just not the case. Every major sector of our economies is struggling, and every occupation has higher unemployment than usual. So the problem must be a general lack of spending and demand.
In the 1930s the same structural argument was used against proactive spending policies in the U.S. But as spending rose between 1940 and 1942, output rose by 20%. So the problem in the 1930s, as now, was a shortage of demand not of supply.
As a result of their mistaken ideas, many Western policy-makers are inflicting massive suffering on their peoples. But the ideas they espouse about how to handle recessions were rejected by nearly all economists after the disasters of the 1930s, and for the following forty years or so the West enjoyed an unparalleled period of economic stability and low unemployment. It is tragic that in recent years the old ideas have again taken root. But we can no longer accept a situation where mistaken fears of higher interest rates weigh more highly with policy-makers than the horrors of mass unemployment.
Better policies will differ between countries and need detailed debate. But they must be based on a correct analysis of the problem. We therefore urge all economists and others who agree with the broad thrust of this Manifesto to register their agreement at www.manifestoforeconomicsense.org, and to publically argue the case for a sounder approach. The whole world suffers when men and women are silent about what they know is wrong.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Our Men in Iran? Posted by Seymour M. Hersh

April 6, 2012

Our Men in Iran?

hersh-iran.jpg
From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.
It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens. It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. In 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location. Mohamed ElBaradei, who at the time was the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, told me later that he had been informed that the information was supplied by the Mossad. The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.
Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—co√∂rdinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.”)
The training ended sometime before President Obama took office, the former official said. In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program. They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”
It was the ad-hoc training that provoked the worried telephone calls to him, the former general said. “I told one of the guys who called me that they were all in over their heads, and all of them could end up trouble unless they got something in writing. The Iranians are very, very good at counterintelligence, and stuff like this is just too hard to contain.” The site in Nevada was being utilized at the same time, he said, for advanced training of √©lite Iraqi combat units. (The retired general said he only knew of the one M.E.K.-affiliated group that went though the training course; the former senior intelligence official said that he was aware of training that went on through 2007.)
Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., notes that the M.E.K. has publicly and repeatedly renounced terror. Gerson said he would not comment on the alleged training in Nevada. But such training, if true, he said, would be “especially incongruent with the State Department’s decision to continue to maintain the M.E.K. on the terrorist list. How can the U.S. train those on State’s foreign terrorist list, when others face criminal penalties for providing a nickel to the same organization?”
Robert Baer, a retired C.I.A. agent who is fluent in Arabic and had worked under cover in Kurdistan and throughout the Middle East in his career, initially had told me in early 2004 of being recruited by a private American company—working, so he believed, on behalf of the Bush Administration—to return to Iraq. “They wanted me to help the M.E.K. collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program,” Baer recalled. “They thought I knew Farsi, which I did not. I said I’d get back to them, but never did.” Baer, now living in California, recalled that it was made clear to him at the time that the operation was “a long-term thing—not just a one-shot deal.”
Massoud Khodabandeh, an I.T. expert now living in England who consults for the Iraqi government, was an official with the M.E.K. before defecting in 1996. In a telephone interview, he acknowledged that he is an avowed enemy of the M.E.K., and has advocated against the group. Khodabandeh said that he had been with the group since before the fall of the Shah and, as a computer expert, was deeply involved in intelligence activities as well as providing security for the M.E.K. leadership. For the past decade, he and his English wife have run a support program for other defectors. Khodabandeh told me that he had heard from more recent defectors about the training in Nevada. He was told that the communications training in Nevada involved more than teaching how to keep in contact during attacks—it also involved communication intercepts. The United States, he said, at one point found a way to penetrate some major Iranian communications systems. At the time, he said, the U.S. provided M.E.K. operatives with the ability to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran—which M.E.K. operatives translated and shared with American signals intelligence experts. He does not know whether this activity is ongoing.
Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding that the operations benefitted from American intelligence. He said that the targets were not “Einsteins”; “The goal is to affect Iranian psychology and morale,” he said, and to “demoralize the whole system—nuclear delivery vehicles, nuclear enrichment facilities, power plants.” Attacks have also been carried out on pipelines. He added that the operations are “primarily being done by M.E.K. through liaison with the Israelis, but the United States is now providing the intelligence.” An adviser to the special-operations community told me that the links between the United States and M.E.K. activities inside Iran had been long-standing. “Everything being done inside Iran now is being done with surrogates,” he said.
The sources I spoke to were unable to say whether the people trained in Nevada were now involved in operations in Iran or elsewhere. But they pointed to the general benefit of American support. “The M.E.K. was a total joke,” the senior Pentagon consultant said, “and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?” he asked rhetorically. “Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations that it never had before.”
In mid-January, a few days after an assassination by car bomb of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, at a town-hall meeting of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, acknowledged that the U.S. government has “some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved.” He added, “But I can tell you one thing: the United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does.”
Illustration by Guy Billout.