Robocop NATO Dreams of War — Ukraine and the Grand Chessboard — CounterPunch

victoria nuland
The evil Victoria Nuland of the US Empire State Dempartment.

by PEPE ESCOBAR

[New Terms: Pipelineistan, GloBAListan.]

The US State Department, via spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki, said that reports of CIA Director John Brennan telling regime changers in Kiev to “conduct tactical operations” – or an ”anti-terrorist” offensive – in eastern Ukraine are ”completely false”.

This means Brennan did issue his marching orders. And by now the “anti-terrorist” campaign – with its nice little Dubya rhetorical touch – has degenerated into farce.

Now couple that with NATO secretary general, Danish retriever Anders Fogh Rasmussen, yapping about the strengthening of military footprint along NATO’s eastern border: “We will have more planes in the air, mores ships on the water and more readiness on the land.”

Welcome to the Two Stooges doctrine of post-modern warfare.

Pay up or freeze to death

Ukraine is for all practical purposes broke. The Kremlin’s consistent position for the past three months has been to encourage the European Union to find a solution to Ukraine’s dire economic mess. Brussels did nothing. It was betting on regime change to the benefit of Germany’s heavyweight puppet Vladimir Klitschko, aka Klitsch The Boxer.

Regime change did happen, but orchestrated by the Khaganate of Nulands – a neo-con cell of the State Department and its assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nulands.

And now the presidential option is between – what else – two US puppets, choco-billionaire Petro Poroshenko and “Saint Yulia” Timoshenko, Ukraine’s former prime minister, ex-convict and prospective president.

The EU is left to pick up the (unpayable) bill. Enter the International Monetary Fund –

via a nasty, upcoming “structural adjustment” [Reagan/Thatcher/Obama/Boehner/Cameron/EU "austerity"]that will send Ukrainians to a hellhole even grimmer than the one they are already familiar with.

Once again, for all the hysteria propagated by the

US Ministry of Truth

and its franchises across the Western corporate media, the Kremlin does not need to “invade” anything. If Gazprom does not get paid all it needs to do is to shut down the Ukrainian stretch of Pipelineistan. Kiev will then have no option but to use part of the gas supply destined for some EU countries so Ukrainians won’t run out of fuel to keep themselves and the country’s industries alive. And the EU – whose ”energy policy” overall is already a joke – will find itself with yet another self-inflicted problem.

The EU will be mired in a perennial lose-lose situation if Brussels does not talk seriously with Moscow. There’s only one explanation for the refusal: hardcore Washington pressure, mounted via the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Again, to counterpunch the current hysteria – the EU remains Gazprom’s top client, with 61% of its overall exports. It’s a complex relationship based on interdependence. The capitalization of Nord Stream, Blue Stream and the to-be-completed South Stream includes German, Dutch, French and Italian companies.

So yes, Gazprom does need the EU market. But up to a point, considering the mega-deal of Siberian gas delivery to China which most probably will be signed next month in Beijing when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits President Xi Jinping.

The crucial spanner in the works

Last month, while the tortuous Ukraine sideshow was in progress, President Xi was in Europe clinching deals and promoting yet another branch of the New Silk Road all the way to Germany.

In a sane, non-Hobbesian environment, a neutral Ukraine would only have to gain by positioning itself as a privileged crossroads between the EU and the proposed Eurasian Union – as well as becoming a key node of the Chinese New Silk Road offensive. Instead, the Kiev regime changers are betting on acceptance into the EU (it simply won’t happen) and becoming a NATO forward base (the key Pentagon aim).

As for the possibility of a common market from Lisbon to Vladivostok – which both Moscow and Beijing are aiming at, and would be also a boon for the EU – the Ukraine disaster is a real spanner in the works.

And a spanner in the works that, crucially, suits only one player: the US government.

The Obama administration may – and “may” is the operative word here – have realized the US government has lost the battle to control Pipelineistan from Asia to Europe, despite all the efforts of the Dick Cheney regime. What energy experts call the Asian Energy Security Grid is progressively evolving – as well as its myriad links to Europe.

So what’s left for the Obama administration is this spanner in the works – still trying to scotch the full economic integration of Eurasia.

The Obama administration is predictably obsessed with the EU’s increasing dependency on Russian gas. Thus its grandiose plan to position [FRACKED!] US shale gas for the EU as an alternative to Gazprom. Even assuming this might happen, it would take at least a decade – with no guarantee of success. In fact, the real alternative would be Iranian gas – after a comprehensive nuclear deal and the end of Western sanctions (the whole package, not surprisingly, being sabotaged en masse by various Beltway factions.)

Just to start with, the US cannot export shale gas to countries with which it has not signed a free trade agreement. That’s a ”problem” which might be solved to a great extent by the secretly negotiated Trans-Atlantic Partnership [TAP] between Washington and Brussels (see Breaking bad in southern NATOstan, Asia Times Online, April 15, 2014.)

In parallel, the Obama administration keeps applying instances of “divide and rule” to scare minor players, as in spinning to the max the specter of an evil, militaristic China to reinforce the still crawling “pivoting to Asia”. The whole game harks back to what Dr Zbig Brzezinski conceptualized way back in his 1997 opus The Grand Chessboard – and fine-tuned for his disciple Obama: the US ruling over Eurasia.

Still the Kremlin won’t be dragged into a military quagmire. It’s fair to argue Putin has identified the Big Picture in the whole chessboard, which spells out an increasing Russia-China strategic partnership as crucial as an energy-manufacturing synergy with Europe;

and most of all the titanic fear of US financial elites of the inevitable, ongoing process centered on the BRICS-conducted (and spreading to key Group of 20 members) drive to bypass the petrodollar.

Ultimately, this all spells out the progressive demise of the petrodollar in parallel to the ascent of a basket to currencies as the reserve currency in the international system. The BRICS are already at work on their alternative to the IMF and the World Bank, investing in a currency reserve pool and the BRICS development bank. [Boy was THIS headline news on all the networks or what? Didn't even KNOW about this until now.] While a tentative new world order slouches towards all points Global South to be born, Robocop NATO dreams of war.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

This essay originally appeared on Asia Times.

glowering kerry

Obama Endorses a Forgery / The Smoking Pop-Gun — CounterPunch

obama obnoxious

by DIANA JOHNSTONE

EXCERPT: “Never mind, the show must go on. They are counting on the vast, bottomless ignorance of the American masses concerning the rest of the world to allow them to get away with anything. The public doesn’t need to know anything about Ukraine, all they need is to be persuaded

that it is Goldylocks being threatened by a big bad bear.” [How infantile and how infantrilizing, peurile and peurilizing and juvenile and juvenilizing. Have we been that stupidified numbed and dumbed down by our own US Empire?]

On Friday, April 18, President Obama voiced his righteous indignation over anti-Semitic fliers pasted on synagogue walls in the pro-Russian eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. The fliers, calling on all Jews to register or face expulsion, had appeared the day before and were instantly denounced by Donetsk leaders as a gross provocation and a forgery.

The next day, however, Obama “expressed his disgust quite bluntly”. At least, that is what his hawkish national security advisor, Susan Rice, told the public. “I think we all found word of those pamphlets to be utterly sickening, and they have no place in the 21st century,” she declared.

This presidential reaction occurred 24 hours after the pamphlet in question had been thoroughly denounced as a fake, [written by the CIA?]

not only by the Donetsk leader, Denis Pushilin, who said his signature on the document had been forged, but by local Jewish community leaders and even by The New Republic, which cannot be accused of indifference to anti-Semitism.

Scarcely had the fake document been glued to a wall than Secretary of State John Kerry mounted his habitual high horse to declare resoundingly that: “In the year 2014, after all of the miles travelled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it’s grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable.” [Silence from Obama/Hillary/Kerry about the rabid anti-Seminitism by the ancestral Ukrainian Nazis of the West whose forefathers eagerly HELPED the Nazi Judeicide, the Right Sector, and home-grown fascists of the West.]

(It is an essential part of the Imperial rhetoric to assert on every such occasion what is or is not acceptable in “the second American century”.)


Now let’s be logical. When John Kerry denounces this document

before the ink is dry,

when President Obama and Susan Rice publicly endorse this forgery after it has been amply exposed in world media as disinformation, we must logically conclude that this propaganda morsel was a deliberate part of the US strategy to destabilize Ukraine by slandering pro-Russian anti-fascists as anti-Semitic.

The purpose is clearly to drown out news of the pro-Nazi sympathies of the Svoboda party and the Right Sector that the US has chosen as anti-Russian allies.

How can top US leaders be perfectly aware of what is written in Ukrainian on a piece of paper glued to a synagogue in Donetsk, and not know what was written in Haaretz and The New Republic? These endorsements are

strong evidence of complicity in the forgery,

since it is not credible that Kerry, Rice and Obama were too innocent to suspect a forgery.

I call this the smoking pop-gun.

And meanwhile, while the US neocons try to smear the Eastern Ukrainian anti-fascists as anti-Semites, Benyamin Netanyahu is trying to cozy up to Putin. The Israeli leader is clever enough to bow out of a losing game.

All those US leaders who constantly pledge their allegiance to Israel are outraged at such disloyalty.

Never before have U.S. leaders been quite so reckless in asserting falsehoods as in this Ukrainian operation. They have a scenario and they are carrying it out,

despite revelations that Victoria Nuland personally selected the new Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, that the Kiev snipers who facilitated the putsch the put Yats in office were hired by the pro-Western rebels, that their “freedom fighters” this time are Hitler fans and that about half the population of Ukraine identifies with Russia.

Never mind, the show must go on. They are counting on the vast, bottomless ignorance of the American masses concerning the rest of the world to allow them to get away with anything. The public doesn’t need to know anything about Ukraine, all they need is to be persuaded

that it is Goldylocks being threatened by a big bad bear. [How infantile and how infantrilizing, peurile and peurilizing and juvenile and juvenilizing. Have we been that stupidified numbed and dumbed down by our own US Empire?]


But the whole world is not that ignorant.

Notably not the Germans.

All Is Not Quiet on the Eastern Front

[I am hearing two narratives in this: Germans aren't buying into all this Wall Street Capitalist US Imperialism in Ukraine -- OR -- that this is the ultimate DREAM of the German Imperial mindset to ACQUIRE Ukraine or a big chunk of it.

Recall that Hitler wanted Ukraine for "Lebensraum -- elbow room -- for his Aryan Germans. This was a reason for his ultimately failed invasion of the Soviet Union, and Hitler wanted Ukraine and wanted to EXTERMINATE the Ukrainians and let his Aryan Germans just move in to their homes, businesses and farms as his Aryans did with Jewish property and as Americans did with Japanese property in California. In light of that, WHY Ukrainian Nazis are still around baffles me.]


German media, who, like other NATO satellites, have been largely following the anti-Putin Russophobe line laid down by Washington, are being besieged by complaints from readers and television spectators. The German public seems to know where Ukraine is located and what is happening

[Yesterday was Earth day. I have a mind to get a small globe, take it to downtown Dallas, and see if anyone can spot Ukraine on the globe. Guess what my hypothesis is.]

Just as John Kerry was reminding the world of US moral leadership in the 21st century, three hundred German intellectuals addressed a respectful and supportive letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin. [WHOA! First I have heard of that.]

Directly answering Putin’s request for understanding from the German people, the letter recalled that “the Soviet Union had made the decisive contribution to freeing Europe from National Socialism, at an incomparable loss of life,” and was ready in 1990 “to support German reunification, to dissolve the Warsaw Pact in 1991 and to accept united Germany’s membership in NATO”.

But the West had failed to honor its agreement, and had rewarded Gorbachev’s generosity by aggressively expanding NATO right up to Russia’s doorstep. [HW Bush, CLinton, Bush, and Obama -- one US emperor after another.]

It is fully documented, the letter notes, that “the United States has taken advantage of the justified protests of the Ukrainian population for its own aims”, along the model of other countries such as Serbia, Libya, etc.

Under these circumstances, with some thousand US military bases worldwide and US control of straits and the resulting danger to the Russian Black Sea fleet,

the German signatories see the secession of Crimea as “a defensive measure with a clear message: up to here and no farther!

The decisive difference with the declaration of independence of Kosovo is that for the latter the precondition was an illegal bombing campaign by NATO – unfortunately with German participation.”

The U.S. Purpose

The German letter recalls that Putin has called for economic cooperation in a “Common European House” from Lisbon to Vladivostok, in which Ukraine could act as an “ideal bridge” for future cooperation between the European Union and a Eurasian Union.

“We are convinced that the purpose of the United States’ massive seizure of influence is to make this bridge function impossible.”

Observing that recent polls show that a majority of Germans understand the Russian reaction to Ukraine events and reject any confrontation with the Russian Federation, the signatories promise, despite the foreseeable difficulties, to do what they can to prevent the splitting of Europe. They close with personal wishes to Putin for strength, perseverance, wisdom and good luck.


We are certainly not there yet, but it would be some sort of poetic justice if the final historic outcome of the land-grabbing caper by Victoria Nuland, John Kerry, Susan Rice and Samantha Power were to gain control of a divided, quarrelsome and bankrupt Ukraine… and lose control of Germany. [LOL]

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr

Ukraine: From Crisis to Catastrophe — CounterPunch

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The Perils of Intervention

by PATRICK COCKURN


‘In the little moment that remains to us between the crisis and the catastrophe, we may as well drink a glass of champagne,” said Paul Claudel, the French poet, dramatist and ambassador to the United States in the early 1930s. He was downplaying hopes of averting financial disaster, but his words felt like good, if despairing, advice for Ukraine in the past few days as it approached its “champagne moment”.

Catastrophe in the shape of civil war, Russian invasion and partition are not yet inevitable, but they are just around the corner. The deal reached between Russia, US, the European Union and Ukraine on Thursday, whereby protesters in east Ukraine would vacate public buildings they had occupied and give up their arms in return for greater autonomy for pro-Russian districts, has only slowed the momentum towards civil strife. The demonstrators are insisting that they have as much legitimacy as what they call “the Kiev junta” since it came to power through street demonstrations overthrowing a corrupt, incompetent but elected government.

Western media has focused obsessively on how far pro-Russian militiamen in east Ukraine obey orders from the Kremlin, but such attention obscures a more significant feature of the Ukrainian political landscape. Every election in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 has shown that the country is almost equally divided between pro-Russians and pro-Westerners with each side capable of winning closely fought elections. Pretending that the revolt in east Ukraine is phony and stage-managed by Russia is dangerous self-deception.

Different though Ukraine is from Iraq and Afghanistan there are some ominous similarities in the Western involvement in all three countries. The most important of these common features is that each country is deeply divided and to pretend otherwise is to invite disaster. In 2001, most Afghans were glad to see the back of the Taliban, but the Taliban and the Pashtun community – some 42 per cent of the Afghan population – in which the Taliban are rooted could not be successfully disregarded or marginalised. Creating a government dominated by the old anti-Taliban Northern Alliance leaders automatically destabilised the country.

Much the same happened in Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein and his predecessors, the Sunni community, some 20 per cent of Iraqis, had held the crucial levers of power at the expense of the Shia Arabs and Kurds, four-fifths of the population. The fall of Saddam meant an ethnic and sectarian revolution was inevitable but the US and British belief that the only people angry and dispossessed in Iraq in 2003 were criminalised remnants of the old regime, wholly underestimated the danger of a Sunni revolt.

Tony Blair recently claimed that all would have been well in occupied Iraq if there had not been mischievous interference by outsiders such as Iran and Syria. But sovereign states do not exist in isolation. Occupy them – as happened in Kabul and Baghdad – or become the predominant influence, as the US and EU have been doing in Kiev, and you transform the political geography of a whole region. It was absurdly naïve for US officials to imagine that Pakistan, or more precisely the Pakistan army, would philosophically accept the collapse of its decades-long effort to control Afghanistan after 2001. Likewise in Iraq, Bush administration officials, flushed with victory over Saddam, were happily trumpeting their intention that regime change in Iraq would be followed by ones in Tehran and Damascus. Unsurprisingly, the Iranians and Syrians were consequently determined to make sure the US never stabilised its rule in Iraq.

Shifting Ukraine as a whole from being pro-Russian to anti-Russian is a devastating strategic defeat for Russia that it was never going to accept without reaction. A hostile Ukraine would permanently reduce Russia’s status as a great power and push back its influence to the far east of Europe. Of course, if Ukraine mattered so much to Russia it was unwise for its leaders to rely on President Viktor Yanukovych and his gang of racketeers whose power was to evaporate so swiftly. But it was also self-deceptive and irresponsible for EU and US officials either not to see or not to care about the explosive consequences of backing the takeover of an unelected pro-Western government in Kiev, propelled into office by groups including extreme ultra-nationalists, and then to treat it as if it has total legitimacy.

But it is not Western diplomats and politicians alone who make mistakes. The foreign media has presented an over-simplified picture of what is happening in Ukraine much as it did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. The old regime in all cases was demonised and its opponents glorified, so the picture of events presented to the public was often close to fantasy.

Much the same is happening in Ukraine. Media focus is all on the credibility or lack of it of the separatists in east Ukraine and very little on the new government in Kiev. In fact, what is most striking about both sides is their almost comic ineffectiveness: Three months ago, Yanukovych acted as if he had the political and military strength to steamroller the opposition only to find himself forced to flee almost alone across the Russian border. Last week Kiev was confidently sending troops to crush “terrorists” and re-establish its authority in the east only to see its troops tamely surrender their vehicles and defect. When government security forces did kill protesters at Mariupol it turned out they belonged to recently formed National Guard units recruited from ultra-nationalist protesters.

A result of this lack of organised support, however deep and real the popular divisions, is that power vacuums develop which are filled by shadowy militias. This is very much the pattern of recent wars in the Middle East. For instance, in Afghanistan what is striking is not the strength of the Taliban, but the weakness and unpopularity of the government. In Iraq the government has 900,000-strong security forces and oil revenues of $100bn (£60bn) a year but for the last three months the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an organisation criticised by al-Qa’ida for its excessive violence, has ruled Fallujah 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Catastrophe in Ukraine can still be avoided by compromise and restraint but the same was true of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. A reason why these countries have been torn apart by wars was a false belief by outside powers that they could win cheap victories, and a failure to appreciate that their chosen partner locally was a self-interested faction with many enemies. In Syria for instance, the US and its allies have been claiming for three years that the real representatives of the Syrian people are discredited but well-financed exiles who dare not visit either government or rebel-held areas.

What makes Ukraine so dangerous is that all sides exaggerate their support, underestimate that of their opponents, and then overplay their hands. By accepting as legitimate a government in Kiev installed by direct action, the US and EU irresponsibly destabilised a tract of Europe, something that should have been obvious at the time. To quote Paul Claudel again: “It is fortunate that diplomats have long noses since they usually cannot see beyond them.”

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

A Polluted Superfund Site Is Now Home To 36,000 Solar Panels — ClimateProgress

[Nice but nothing to celebrate.]

By Katie Valentine

Sunlight streams onto the Maywood Solar Farm in Indianapolis on Tuesday, CREDIT: AP Photo/Rick Callahan

A 43-acre solar farm is now generating power at a Superfund site in Indiana, making it the nation’s largest solar farm built on a Superfund site.

The Maywood Solar Farm, which is made up of 36,000 solar panels, started producing power last month. It’s one of 85 renewable energy projects that the EPA has helped install on Superfund sites, landfills and old mining sites in the U.S., projects which together produce 507 megawatts of power. The solar farm is located on the site of a former coal tar refinery plant, which dealt with hazardous chemicals until its closing in 1972. In the 1980s officials found that the groundwater underneath the site was contaminated with benzene and ammonia, and afterwards the area was designated as a Superfund site.

“This innovative solar project demonstrates that Superfund sites can be redeveloped,” EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman said in a statement. “The Maywood Solar Farm project has transformed a site with a long history of contamination into a source of renewable energy.”

The solar farm was created as part of the EPA’s Superfund Redevelopment Program, which aims to re-purpose polluted sites into parks or areas that can support renewable energy. The agency has done this sort of thing before — in 2009, it helped turn the site of a former ammunition plant in Texas into an area that’s now part of a wildlife refuge. It also led an effort that turned a former Apache Nitrogen Products site into a wetlands system that has treated the ground water underneath the site to remove the lingering nitrogen, a project that has utilized solar and wind energy to help power the water circulation. The EPA also spearheaded a project similar to the Maywood farm, which turned a Superfund site near Sacramento, CA into a 40-acre solar farm.

The EPA isn’t the only entity working toward redeveloping polluted land, however. Some cities and states are also turning toward another sort of reclaimed land for renewable energy development: landfills. A large landfill outside of Atlanta, Georgia is home to 10 acres of solar panels as well as underground gas pumps that collect the methane that the landfill emits. The city of Atlanta is looking to do the same thing with its landfills, a North Carolina city will soon install 6,000 panels on one of its landfills, and Massachusetts already has 16 renewable energy landfill projects.

“When a landfill is (finished with) taking waste, it basically is dormant and there’s not a lot of uses for the property,” David Stuart, an environmental manager of landfill owners told CNN in 2011. “But its natural attributes — being a tall structure, out of the shadows of the tree line — gives it a unique advantage as a solar project.”

And solar isn’t the only form of energy that’s been implemented on former polluted sites or other reclaimed land. In 2000, the Tennessee Valley Authority built three wind turbines on a former strip mine, a project which grew to 18 turbines in 2004. A similar project was implemented on former mining land in Pennsylvania, an area that made for a practical choice for a wind project due to the fact that roads and power lines were already in place, remnants of the region’s former mining days.

Obama/Hillary/Kerry delaying The Keystone XL Decision Wasn’t All About Politics [Yes it was, but this guy has good new info] — ClimateProgress

[I say it WAS about politics because this ain't my first time to the rodeo. Obama/Hillary SECRETLY approved the southern leg of the Keystone XL and now that leg thru Texas and part of Oklahoma is finished and waiting for dirty, nasty Tar Sands thick, smelly crude.]

By Emily Atkin

President Barack Obama arriving at the TransCanada Stillwater Pipe Yard in Cushing, Okla.CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo [This may be the most iconic of photographs of Obama and if there are still history books, the one most used as Global Warming gets worser and worser and then catastrophic. If he had both conscience and balls, he would just veto the thing. Nero played the violin while the fires he set caused Rome to burn; Obama grins that shit-eating grin in front of XL pipes as the fires Obama is continuing to permit to be set making the planet plunge into Global Warming disaster.]

Pure politics: That’s how most outlets described the State Department’s Friday announcement that it will delay its decision on constructing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

There’s good reason for that thinking. As the New York Times points out, Democrats on both sides of the issue stand to benefit from the delay — supporters in oil-rich states can still gain clout by calling for the pipeline’s approval, while opponents can count on financial support from donors like Tom Steyer, the California billionaire who has pledged to help vulnerable anti-Keystone lawmakers.

Still, there are reasons to believe that the State Department’s decision was not a political ploy. There are actual complications standing in the way of the pipeline’s imminent approval or rejection, all of which presented themselves after the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was released in January, and all of which have to do with whether the pipeline is in the national interest.
The pipeline has no legally approved route through Nebraska.

One month after Keystone XL’s final EIS was issued, a Nebraska court made a ruling that effectively gutted the pipline’s proposed route through the state. That ruling is in the process of being appealed, but as of now, there is no legally approved route for the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska.

This uncertainty is the main reason why the State Department said it would delay the decision. Politico’s Ben White on Monday took issue with that argument in an article for CNBC, saying that this was really none of the agency’s concern. “There is no reason that the Nebraska court ruling should change the federal government’s decision on whether the pipeline is in the national interest,” White wrote. “State is involved only because the pipeline crosses the Canadian border, which does not, in fact, extend into Nebraska.”

While it is true that the State Department is only involved because of the border crossing, the issues that come with that crossing extend far beyond the actual border. Because the Keystone XL pipeline would carry Canadian tar sands oil — a type of fuel we do not extract in the United States — unique environmental and public health risks are posed in every state the pipeline touches. This is why the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statements assessed potential impacts along every inch of the pipeline’s proposed route. Indeed, if the State Department were only involved because of issues surrounding the border, it would have saved itself the trouble of doing a state-by-state assessment.

If the pipeline’s route eventually has to be changed, then there is an entire section of the Environmental Impact Statement that no longer applies and needs to be re-done. As Executive Order 13337 states, the national interest includes “maintaining safety, public health, and environmental protections.” Because a different route would mean different risks for all three of those components, it would be environmentally irresponsible — and therefore not in the national interest — to make a decision before knowing if it needs to be changed.
The public is entitled to adequate consideration of their comments.

When President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13337, he laid out what must happen before approving an energy project that crosses international borders. Among many things, the order says the Secretary of State shall consider “any public comments” submitted.

Keystone XL has been so divisive in American politics that a whopping 2.5 million comments were received during the final comment period. This is, as the State Department said, unprecedented. For the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System’s right-of-way renewal, 580 people and organizations commented. For the Energy Gateway West Transmission Line Project, 2,600 comments were received. When New York took up a proposal to allow hydraulic fracturing in the state, it got 20,000 comments — the most New York had ever faced on a proposed regulation.

One of the largest comment processes in the news this year was over the NorthMet project, a relatively unknown copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota that received 52,000 public comments. Even this, according to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr, was an “enormous” undertaking. “It’s a monster to get your arms around,” Landwehr told the MinnPost on Thursday, noting that the project’s previous Environmental Impact Statement — which got 10,000 comments — took nine months to sort through. This means, in Minnesota, sorting through 52,000 comments could take up to four years.

This is not to say that it will take years for the State Department to sort through 2.5 million comments — it obviously has a much larger workforce than Minnesota’s DNR, and Keystone XL is a much larger project. But if a divisive Minnesota-specific project receives 52,000 comments, and a national project engrossing all 50 states receives 2.5 million (approximately 50 times more than 52,000), it’s a safe bet to assume it will take more than two months to do an adequate assessment of those comments. And considering how politically invested Americans have been in Keystone XL, it would be a shame if collective public opinion was not adequately considered before a decision on the pipeline’s future were made.
New information on public health has yet to be addressed.

Ultimately the State Department’s sole responsibility is to decide whether Keystone XL is in the national interest. This, as the Department notes, includes the consideration of public health.

Despite this, there is no section in the Final EIS solely dedicated to public health impacts. There is some mention within the larger section on “potential releases,” though it says little about the long-term effects of exposure to tar sands oil. In summary, the report says the long-term effects “have not been researched as rigorously as the constituents of crude oil,” and goes on to suggest that they might be similar to the effects of being exposed to benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which cause various forms of cancer.

Citing the final report’s uncertainties about the long-term health effects of tar sands pollution, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have since February been calling for a comprehensive and conclusive study on what exposure to a spill could realistically do to human health. Boxer in March said she had spoken with both Obama and Kerry and their staffs about conducting a study, but did not get any indication that it would be done.

“We keep sending them information and they are not going to tell me what they’re going to do,” Boxer said at the time. “They’re just looking at everything.”

Since the release of the Final EIS, increasing attention has been drawn to various health problems of those in Canada who have been exposed to pollution from tar sands oil. In April, a panel from the Alberta Energy Regulator released a report finding that odors released from tar sands tanks in Peace River, Alberta, may have been the reason why the families who lived near those tanks experienced fainting, weight loss, gray skin, and strange growths.

Boxer and Whitehouse brought Dr. John O’Connor, a physician in Alberta, to Washington D.C. in February to talk about increased cancer rates in a First Nations community directly downstream of tar sands development. They also brought nurses from areas surrounding the Keystone XL route to talk about the health effects they had already seen from tar sands pollution.

There is no current indication that the Obama administration is seriously considering Boxer and Whitehouse’s request — meaning it is unlikely that this was actually a factor in delaying the Keystone decision. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been.

Tom Steyer is a member of the Board of Directors at the Center for American Progress.

iwo jima Earth fire

NASA chief touts deep space exploration: We can only survive if we are a multi-planet species [How ignorant, stupid and corrupt can an Obama appointee get? Stupid as Sarah Palin but in the opposite direction!] — RawStory

[How ignorant, stupid and corrupt can an Obama appointee get? Does this guy know who Neil deGrasse Tyson is?]


By Eric W. Dolan

NASA administrator Charles Bolden said Tuesday that humanity faced certain extinction unless it developed the technology to colonize other planets.

“We today are Earth-reliant,” he said [Well DUH! Even Today You Say? DUH!] at the Humans to Mars Summit 2014, held at George Washington University in Washington. “We are dependent on being on this planet. We are not a multi-planet species yet. I don’t know whether Buzz [Aldrin] is going to talk about it later, but Buzz and I agree on a number of things — one of them is that only multi-planet species survive for long periods of time.” [Oh for crying out loud. Too much buzz for Buzz and too much stupid for Boland. Go watch "Independence Day" and see if you can find the "backstory" -- that HUMANS are the ALIENS going from PLANET TO PLANET stealing RESOURCES until the planet is WASTED and then MOVING ON TO ANOTHER PLANET???!!!]

“Here in the Western world, we think very short-sighted. We think about the time in which we are going to be on this Earth, or in which are kids or grandkids are going to be on this Earth. Many other civilizations think much longer than that, and we need to start thinking that way.” [Has this ignorant, stupid jerk ever had a briefing from his Climate Science department? Does he know anything about, you know, EARTH DAY and, Duhhhhh, Global Warming?!]

He warned [WARNED!] the Sun — like all stars — had a finite lifespan. [Oh CHRIST! Let's worry about THAT millions of years from now along with al-Qaeda terrorism -- the Energizer Bunny of THREAT if there ever was one -- the collapse of the US Empire, the catastrophe of collapsing capitalism, and the new nukular Cold War Obama has brought us.]

“If this species is to survive indefinitely [How about for 50 years -- GLOBAL WARMING DUH!] we need to become a multi-planet species,” he continued. “One reason we need to go to Mars is so we can learn a little about living on another planet, so that when Mikaley my granddaughter is ready to move out of the solar system we will know a lot more about living away from this planet than we know today. [Oh, CHRIST! I am just SURE we ALL WANT TO LET THIS STUPID MAN'S GRANDDAUGHTER EXIT THE SOLAR SYSTEM QUINTRILLIONS OF DOLLARS FROM NOW!] Mars is a stepping stone in the approach to other solar systems and other galaxies and things that people have always dreamed of but frequently don’t talk about.” [Oh, FUCK!]

The NASA chief said a manned mission to Mars was possible if Congress restored the space agency’s budget. NASA plans to send a manned spacecraft to an asteroid by 2025 and then travel to the red planet in the 2030s.

Adam Bessie: Jesus Is an Economic Engine: Dismantling the Metaphoric Mechanization of Everything — TruthOut

By Adam Bessie


(Photo: United States economy via Shutterstock)

“We are all toadies to the fashionable metaphor of the hour. Great is he who imposes the metaphor.” – Robert Frost (1)


In President Barack Obama’s first hundred days in office, as the Great Recession crested, with nearly 600,000 jobs lost in the previous month, foreclosures ripping communities apart throughout the nation and General Motors on the edge of collapse, Obama needed to find a way to buoy the waning tide of euphoria for “hope” and “change” that swept him into power. While his hundred day speech covered the headlines, it was a little-heard set of remarks on a jobless report the next week that created one of Obama’s most enduring linguistic legacies, one to rival “hope,” and one that has changed the way we talk about not just the economy, but all aspects of life: the “economic engine.”

“Although we have a long way to go before we can put this recession behind us, the gears of our economic engine do appear … to be slowly turning once again,” Obama announced, describing his intention to invest in retraining opportunities for displaced workers in community colleges (such as the one where I teach).

Not long after this speech, the phrase economic engine – which had been used in no major headlines before this – flooded the US press, according to data from Google Trends. Soon after, it wasn’t just the economy that was an engine. Indeed, everything now is a potential economic engine: musical theater, national parks, lakes, polluted mines, families, Hillary Clinton, and even Jesus.

Yes, that’s right – “Jesus is an economic engine,” wrote one pastor, in jest. And if Jesus can be a machine, who can’t be?

Inside the Economic Engine

Jesus aside (for now), economic engine seems like a rather innocuous phrase – especially when applied only to the economy itself. To refer to the economy as an engine doesn’t even seem particularly metaphoric, as our economy is run on engines, and if the engines stop, our economy collapses. Further, it doesn’t seem original, as Christopher Werth reports for NPR: “Since the Industrial Revolution, there’s one metaphor that’s come to dominate the way we all talk about economics: the idea that the economy is a ‘machine.’” And in our automotive, automated culture, the engine is the dominant symbol and reality of American life: Thus, an economic engine feels completely literal, utterly commonsense. If anything, Obama selected the most uncontroversial, most unchallenging, most status quo way to describe the economy.

Because it hides in plain sight, the economic engine is “the fashionable metaphor of the hour.” Unlike “hope” and “change,” which are inextricably linked to Obama, this linguistic legacy travels unseen across the ideological spectrum, employed in earnest by conservative pastors, Tea Partiers, Democrats, and unwitting reporters.

The economic engine metaphor is so fashionable – so deeply entrenched in our history and culture – that it’s barely noticed and its linguistic implications vaguely understood. It’s this invisible popularity that makes it so powerful.

And while the power of metaphor may seem trivial, one important to poets like Frost only, it isn’t just about poetry, nor rhetorical flourish – metaphor frames the way we see and understand the world, as poets and politicians both know. (2)

Thus, metaphor is as central to public policy as to poetry

- and in both, a poor metaphor leaves its public impoverished and misled.

While it may be part of common usage, economic engine is a profoundly misleading metaphor – and not just when applied to Jesus. And while our economy currently runs on machines,

it is not a machine itself – no, the economy consists of actual human beings working, people doing things for other people.

Sure, we use machines to increase our efficiency and productivity,

but we are not pistons, nor gears in an engine, as the metaphor implies. We live; we have passions; we have families, communities – to mechanize us in words is to strip us of our humanity in reality.

It is far easier easy to wear out a part of an engine than it is to exploit a single mother caring for small children by providing no job security, no health benefits and a wage that can’t provide food for those children. And since the Industrial Revolution, this poor metaphor has enabled and even encouraged such abuse of workers in the name of efficiency, productivity, and “economic progress.”

In a brilliant linguistic pivot, Obama freed this powerfully misleading metaphor from the shackles of the economic jargon, allowing it to define all aspects of human experience: now, it is not just that the economy is an engine, but also, everything else in the world can be an economic engine. In other words, by turning the phrase into an adjective, economic engine could now go viral, attaching itself to the most unusual, unlikely, and inapt nouns – such as Jesus. Now, everything – our religions, our lakes, our parks, our schools – can be metaphorically mechanized, and thus understood and valued solely in terms of terms of economic value and productivity.

The Ghost in the Teaching Machine

As an educator, I find it sacrilegious to the soul of public education to imagine our school system as an economic engine – and unfortunately, this is where the misleading metaphor has exercised its most power. Obama has placed the full weight of his executive power in imposing the engine metaphor onto our public school system, recasting learning as a primarily economic – and essentially mechanical – enterprise.

Obama’s entire education policy is explicitly framed around the idea of education as an engine for unimpeded economic expansion: “America’s education system has always been one of our greatest sources of strength and global economic competitiveness, as well as an engine of progress in science, technology and the arts” (emphasis added).

Further, the vocabulary of the engine is beneath all the Obama’s discussions of education – phrases like efficiency and acceleration – are both common in speeches and official documents. Obama’s signature education policy Race to the Top reinforces the metaphor, casting education as the motor which will help us speed past other countries, ensuring our position as an economic superpower. Most notably, the Obama administration dubs the education system the “cradle-to-career pipeline,” suggesting that children are the fuel for the engine, a natural resource pumped out of our communities, and used to drive American economic supremacy (for a lush visual representation of this metaphor, see my comic with Josh Neufeld, “This School is Not a Pipe.” (3)


In this case, it would be preferable if Obama’s discourse on education was just poetic flourish: Unfortunately, it accurately depicts his administration’s approach to running the school system as if it were an engine, one used primarily for powering industry.

Most obviously, Obama has not just maintained, but extended the scope of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind high-stakes standardized testing machine. Since he stepped into office, Obama has sought ways to make the educational engine run more efficiently, by giving corporate America – and Silicon Valley in particular – a major hand in the design, as we heard in a 2014 speech: “And I want to acknowledge, by the way – we’ve got companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, Verizon – they’re going to help students and teachers use the latest tools to accelerate learning,” as if education is a process which can be accelerated by tools, like an engine in need of a tune-up.

Indeed, Race to the Top – and the now established corporate/tech/government network engineering its ascent – only makes sense if you can imagine children and teachers as uniformly sized pistons, rather than diverse, individual citizens in a democratic state (of course, this is the perfect educational system for children if the economic system treats their parents the same way).


No doubt, public education is literally becoming this metaphor, an economic engine designed and engineered by politicians in federal and state governments to serve corporate America.

This is not to say that preparing students for work is not one very important function of schooling, but it is not the only function – nor is it the most important one.

Under the imposition of this mechanical metaphor, all other educational purposes – personal exploration, cultural awareness, physical and mental health, spiritual understanding, democratic engagement, and education as an end in itself – have become inefficiencies, sources of friction, impediments to acceleration in the engine, as are children and adults who don’t fit the “standard,” because they have different learning styles, a different culture, a lower socioeconomic background, or dissenting thoughts.

Education – except that which directly serves economic growth – becomes just a ghost in the machine.

The Metaphor Less Traveled

To stop the spread of this linguistic virus, one which poses a real threat not just to our economy, but also to our education system, our democracy and our environment, we must inoculate our minds against this misleading mechanical metaphor, to ensure that we don’t become “toadies to the dominant metaphor,” as Robert Frost warns us.

This is no easy task.

First, we must dismantle and dispose of the longstanding, Industrial Revolution-era metaphor of economy as a gas-guzzling, smog-belching machine. Indeed, it is this very metaphor – and the policies that went with it – that resulted in the economic collapse of 2009, and will ensure a similar economic collapse, if left to the same mindless, mechanical ideology. And beyond economy, this same Industrial Revolution-era mindset of constant acceleration – and thus constant consumption of natural resources to support it – endangers our very existence through climate change.

In the machine’s place, we can plant a new metaphor for the economy – perhaps

an ecosystem

as Princeton’s Tim Leonard has suggested, one in which equilibrium and quality of life are the dominant values (though, obviously, this metaphor has its own sand-trap, as equilibrium can be achieved in all sorts of brutal ways in the natural world).

An

economic ecology,

viewed in the most constructive light, encourages collaboration, environmental and cultural awareness, and most of all, an understanding that the economic system is composed of living, breathing organisms, and not unfeeling machines. Such a powerful, creative, life-affirming metaphor could then spread across other institutions – such as education and democracy – healing the damage wrought by generations of grinding gears, directing us from a self-destructive, violent empire, and towards a sustainable civil society.

The path of a new metaphor, requiring a new, more humane language of economics, of education, of American life, is rough one, as it asks us to climb linguistic pathways well outside the well-trod discourse. But here again, Frost advises us on our next step forward (with a little remixing assistance):

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two metaphors diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” (4)

Notes:

(1) See the complete 1936 letter from Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer in Hass, Robert Bernard. Going by Contraries: Robert Frost’s Conflict with Science. University of Virginia Press. 2002. Pages 191 – 192.

(2) For more on the cognitive-linguistic foundations of metaphor, see: Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark. Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago Press. 1980.

(3) For much more on the technicalization of education, see my October 2013 essay for Truthout “The Answer to the Great Question of Education Reform? The Number 42.”

(4) See the original poem: Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” Mountain Interval. New York: Henry Holt. 1920.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Adam Bessie

Adam Bessie is a professor of English at a Northern California community college and an essayist, most recently in comics form. Bessie is a regular Truthout contributor, and his writing has also appeared in The Washington Post, AlterNet, and in the Project Censored book series, amongst others. Follow him on Twitter: @adambessie.