Friday, April 29, 2011

This Royal Wedding Frenzy Should Embarrass Us All

from Democracy Now! 4/29/2011

If we're going to spend $100 million on this, we have to spend a comparable amount of money distributing anti-nausea tablets across the world to all the people who can't bear to see all this! ~ Johann Hari, columnist at The Independent of London

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tim DeChristopher Powershift 2011 - What Level of Injustice Do We Have To Condone Before We Fight Back?

Vandana Shiva & Maude Barlow on Democracy Now! 4/22/2011

AMY GOODMAN: As the world celebrates Earth Day, Bolivia is about to pass the world’s first law that grants nature equal rights with humans. The Bolivian delegation to the United Nations urged the global body to adopt a similar law during this week’s Harmony with Nature conference.
DAVID CHOQUEHUANCA: [translated] The United Nations is revolutionizing the way we look at our planet. At the moment, various issues are being receded in the United Nations, and we have begun to discuss the idea of declaring an official International Day of Mother Earth. And we will also soon be discussing what are the rights of Mother Earth.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the Bolivian foreign minister speaking in New York City about the Harmony with Nature dialogue at the United Nations.
This week also marks the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill; next week, the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Radiation levels around the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan remain high. As these disasters multiply, Latin American countries such as Bolivia have taken the lead in adopting measures to protect the environment. Ecuador has also adopted a resolution protecting nature.
We speak with two renowned environmental justice activists: Maude Barlow and Vandana Shiva. Maude Barlow is the head of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy organization. Barlow is also co-founder of the Blue Planet Project and chair of the board of Food and Water Watch. Vandana Shiva, world-renowned environmental leader, feminist and thinker from India, is the author of many books, including Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development.
I started our conversation by asking Vandana Shiva about the nuclear catastrophe in Japan and what it has meant for India, where major anti-nuclear protests have been sparked, in which one protester was killed. I asked her to explain what happened.
VANDANA SHIVA: We have a very, very strong anti-nuclear movement in India. And the difference between the Indian movement and any other movement is it’s not just about the stupidity of splitting the atom to boil water, which is what nuclear power ultimately is, creating huge amounts of radiation hazard in the process, but in India it involves the typical violence of land grab. And one of the most fertile parts of India in the Western Ghats, the Ratnagiri district, this planning to set up the biggest-ever nuclear power plant of the world, being built by a French company, AREVA, violating every right of the people, including local democracy, where people have a right to decide what happens. All the local authorities have resigned. And the protests continue. And just two days ago, there was a killing, when the police fired on peaceful protesters. So, in India, the costs are even higher, because the human costs join with the costs of nuclear hazard. And from 23rd to 26th, a march is being organized—and I’m part of the organizing group—from Tarapur, which is the oldest nuclear power plant of India, to Jaitapur, which is where this giant mega nuclear power park is being set up.
AMY GOODMAN: And people live there. They will be displaced?
VANDANA SHIVA: People live there. I mean, typical of such things, they claimed it was barren land and nobody was there. It’s one of the most fertile. That’s where this wonderful Alphonso mango comes from, this amazing, giant-sized, delicious mango. Good fisheries, amazing horticulture, and well-to-do people, because nature is abundant. It’s the Western Ghats, where the monsoon just pours the water. And coastal regions are usually just the more productive, more fertile.
A similar protest is happening around a steel plant called POSCO, a Korean plant, but it’s not owned by the Koreans anymore, it’s owned by Wall Street. It’s owned by the financial institutions of this city, who brought down the world’s economy. And it was very interesting that Warren Buffett was in India about giving, you know, creating the art of giving, and he has huge shares in the steel plant which will displace large numbers of people. And for six years, people have been saying, "No, we will not give our land."
And I think that’s so important, that we need to realize that, first, we don’t give rights to nature. Nature has rights. And more often than not, nature’s rights and people’s rights are allied as one in most places of the world, where, in places like Jaitapur or places like the POSCO area, people are saying, "This land is our mother." This is not an esoteric idea. It’s the most relevant, potent, democratic idea of our times.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about a man you probably would agree with on a number of issues, George Monbiot. He, we recently had on, debating the issue of nuclear power. This is what he had to say.
GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, obviously, what happened—what’s happening in Fukushima concerns me a lot about the area surrounding Fukushima. It’s a horrible, dangerous, extremely traumatic series of events that we are seeing there.
But I’m very worried that the global response to what’s happening in Fukushima will be to shut down nuclear power stations around the world and to cancel future nuclear power stations, and that what will happen is that they will be replaced by coal. Now, coal is hundreds of times more dangerous than nuclear power, not just because of climate change, though, of course, climate change is a big one, but also because of industrial accidents and because of the impacts of pollution on local people. If we just look at industrial accidents alone, these massively outweigh both the fatalities and the injuries caused by any nuclear accident we’ve ever seen. In China alone, last year, 2,300 people were killed in industrial accidents to do with coal mining; purely by coal mining accidents, 2,300 killed. That’s six people a day. That means that in one week, the official death toll from coal in China is greater than the official death toll from Chernobyl in 25 years. And that’s to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of people contracting really unpleasant lung diseases, which will cause them a very slow and painful and terrible death.
So, what I’m calling for here is not complacency. I think it’s absolutely appropriate to be very concerned, indeed, about what’s happening in Fukushima. But I’m calling for perspective, and I’m saying that we must not replace a bad technology with a much, much worse one, because, unfortunately, that is what’s likely to happen.
AMY GOODMAN: So that was the well-known British columnist George Monbiot, who is in favor of nuclear power, says it’s simply cleaner than coal, and if we’re talking about climate change, which he’s deeply concerned about, nuclear is the answer.
VANDANA SHIVA: Well, what we really need is a coal-free and nuclear-free future, because the sun’s energy is so abundant, and we’ve not even started to tap it in sensible ways. Alternative renewable energies, if only we would put the investments in that direction, would be affordable, would be decentralized. Nuclear must be a centralized system. And as we are witnessing in Jaitapur with the protests, with the shootings and the killings and the place turned into a total police state where nobody can gather, even the elected officials can’t hold meetings, where democracy has to be sacrificed, that’s not the kind of option we need for energy.
And I think it’s wrong of George Monbiot to rubbish the point of view of millions of people around the world, including governments, like the government of Germany said, "We won’t build any more nuclear power plants," China, which has put everything on hold. Now, these countries aren’t crazy. They aren’t a fringe. And I personally get disappointed when friends like George Monbiot think they are the wisest ones on this planet. And just because they have a column, they can switch everyone’s way of thinking. There is an ancient recognition of the hazards of nuclear. I began my life in the nuclear industry of India, and it’s when my sister woke me up to the damages. I wasn’t ever taught radiation biology. We were just taught physics, fission physics. And I realized it was very partial knowledge.
AMY GOODMAN: You are a physicist.
VANDANA SHIVA: Yes. And then I did theoretical physics, and eventually I did foundations of quantum theory. And what I love about the rights of Mother Earth is we’re overcoming the separation between humans and nature that was built into the Cartesian thinking that nature is out there and we are out here, but also the kind of divisive separatedness that Cormac [Cullinan] pointed out yesterday at the United Nations conference on Harmony with Nature. He said, "I began my life fighting apartheid, and apartheid means separateness—separateness on the basis of color." I think separateness is the disease of the past. It’s the dinosaur in the intellectual frame. Separateness was a very artificial imposition. Most civilizations of the world, for most of human history, have seen the world in terms of relatedness and connection. And if there’s one thing the rights of Mother Earth is waking us to, is we are all connected. And it’s in that connection we can’t have arrogant solutions, like nuclear is clean. Just because you don’t see the radiation doesn’t make it clean. Fukushima has become like Chernobyl, and that, the Japanese government is recognizing.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, Maude Barlow, why are you here in New York at the United Nations on this Earth Day?
MAUDE BARLOW: Well, there’s been the debate this week—an interactive dialogue, it’s called—at the United Nations on a resolution on Harmony with Nature that was introduced by the Bolivian ambassador to the U.N. but was adopted by the General Assembly. So we’re beginning the discussion and dialogue at the United Nations on the concept of the right to water. A number of us were in Cochabamba a year ago, this Mother Earth Day, when we finalized this draft of this Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth. And so, basically, we’re here to introduce it to the U.N. The concept—we eventually want the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth to be a companion piece to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but we’re not there yet. We understand that. But that’s the goal, both within nation states at the United Nations and then just organizationally. We want people to adopt it and start talking about it. And we have a wonderful new book called The Rights of Nature: The Case for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth. So, this is a beginning of a real process to have a larger dialogue on exactly what Vandana’s saying.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the threat to water in the world today?
MAUDE BARLOW: Well, the threat to water, while just speaking about nuclear, is a wonderful example. It was interesting. I just—and it’s a perfect example of what we’re talking about when we say that we have to recognize nature’s rights—and Vandana is right: it’s not giving, it’s recognizing—is a report I saw the other day on the fish, you know, touched by the radiation contamination from the nuclear plant in Japan, and said, "Don’t worry. By the time it gets to humans, it won’t be harmful." And it was like that’s all that mattered. You know, it’s this human-centric notion that we’re all that matters, that other species of the planet doesn’t matter.
The biggest threat to water in our world is that humans, modern humans, quote, "civilized" humans, see water as a huge resource for our pleasure, profit and convenience, and we do what we want with it. We dump whatever we want in it. We grow whatever we want, wherever we want. We move it wherever we want. And we are running out. There’s a brand new report, says by 2030 the demand in our world for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent. And I don’t know if people can get their heads around how a horrific statistic that is and the suffering that that’s going to cause. You know, you can come at this as some—and, you know, people are already joking: "Oh, you’re talking about rights for ticks and rights for rats." That was—you know, this is the right wing mocking what we’re doing. We’re talking about survival here. We’re talking about human and other species’ survival on this planet, if we don’t change the way we see the world, the way we see nature, the way we see water. It is not a big resource for us. It is the essential—these are the essential elements of a living ecosystem that gives us all life, and this is about survival.
AMY GOODMAN: Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest advocacy group, and Vandana Shiva, environmental leader from India. Among her books, Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. We’ll come back to this Earth Day conversation in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Washington, D.C., on this Earth Day. We rejoin our conversation with Vandana Shiva, the renowned scientist and environmentalist from India, and Maude Barlow. She’s head of the Council of Canadians, and, well, among her books, Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Fight for the Right to Water.
AMY GOODMAN: We saw you in Cochabamba last year when we were covering the conference, the gathering of tens of thousands of people around the rights of Mother Earth, Pachamama, as they said there. Why is Bolivia and Ecuador taking the lead here?
MAUDE BARLOW: Well, partly because they have governments that actually represent a lot of the will of their people. And I can’t imagine what that feels like. We’re going through an election in Canada, and we’re just tearing our hair out, because we’re going to get a bad government again. So I think, partly, you’ve just got a government closer to the needs of the people.
But the Andes are melting. I mean, we have a crisis. A brand new study last week from the Foundation of U.S. Scientists said that La Paz, which is the capital of Bolivia, is in great crisis with a terrible drought threatening the two million inhabitants because of climate crisis. And unless something dramatic changes in a very short period of time, they don’t see any way around this. So it’s affecting their food, it’s affecting their access to water. So it’s very immediate. When you have this kind of immediacy, I think people like the president of Bolivia, Morales, and his ambassador to the United Nations, Pablo Solón, just say, "I don’t care if you like me or not. I’m not particularly here for a popularity contest. I’m here because we’re talking about life and death of the people where we live. And we need to get that urgency out there." And that was—it was Bolivia that led the charge on getting the right to water recognized. And so, similarly, very interesting that it would be the same government—it was Bolivia that said no to the so-called consensus that happened in Cancún, which was based on a market model for the so-called solution to climate. So—
AMY GOODMAN: And what’s wrong with the market model?
MAUDE BARLOW: The market—well, Vandana will have so much to say, too. But basically, the—and the U.N. has just put a huge price tag on nature now. The whole answer, not just to climate crisis, but to the water crisis and the forest crisis, is to put a dollar figure on nature and bring nature into the market system, so that basically all of nature has to compete with other uses for it in order to survive. And it basically—it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for the wealthy of the world and the powerful within countries claiming, well, they’re, you know, so much more than others and so much more than nature.
AMY GOODMAN: Vandana Shiva, you’ve been taking on corporations in India and around the world, but talk about the corporatization of nature.
VANDANA SHIVA: I think the consequences of the corporatization of nature is, first and foremost, that at a time where we should be recognizing the integrity of nature, the prior rights of nature, nature’s generosity, the generosity of the earth to provide us life itself, we are going headlong into the path of hallucination, where we’ve assumed we are not just separate, but we are continuing the idea of mastery and conquest over nature, adding to the technological tools, like the idea that we can control nature through nuclear power. Now we want to control nature through market mechanisms and commodification.
Why is that wrong? Firstly, it’s wrong because nature is too rich, too diverse. We know too little about it. So, whatever price we’ll put will be partial. It’ll never catch the whole story. We have not even begun to find out the soil organisms that give us food. We don’t know how different species hang together in a forest to create that amazing biodiversity of the forest. So it will be linear. It will just be just carbon functions, when that’s not the only function of a forest. And it will definitely not take into account the integrity of species. I started Navdanya and saving seeds when I found out that corporations wanted to patent life, when life is not created by them. It is created sui generis. It is part of creation.
But there’s a second problem with the commodification of nature. And that is that it gives a new legitimacy to appropriate and alienate the resources that support people’s lives, especially the resources of the poor. So, what do we see with this new thinking of commodification of nature? We see the biggest land grab that Africa has ever seen, much worse than anything that happened during colonialism. In India, the land grab for mining, for nuclear power plants, for steel plants, is literally becoming a war zone. There’s a green hunt that’s being implemented. Our dear, dear friend, Dr. Binayak Sen, someone like us, was thrown into jail for life imprisonment. Thank goodness the Supreme Court just a few days ago granted him bail, saying that if you carry literature on Marx, it doesn’t make you a Naxalite, just as much as carrying Gandhi’s biography doesn’t make you a Gandhian.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, wait. Stop for a second, because very few people follow this story. And Democracy Now!'s Anjali Kamat went and spent the weekend at the Sens', has been bringing us reports on Dr. Binayak Sen. But in a nutshell, explain his case and the significance of it.
VANDANA SHIVA: Well, Dr. Binayak Sen, as I said, is a dear friend, a medical doctor who has worked to serve the tribals all his life. He was a gold medalist from one of the leading medical colleges of India, but decided instead to go to the villages. He and his wife, Ilina, have worked with the tribals. I’ve worked with them to help set up community seed banks for seed conservation, like we do in Navdanya. Binayak has been working to set up primary healthcare initiatives. And he was also the head of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties.
Now, the commodification and globalization of the resource grab has meant that this area where he worked, which is now called Chhattisgahr, a new state—it’s a very mineral-rich area—that’s where the corporations are going for iron ore. That’s where they’re going for coal mining. And that means they’re violating the rights of the tribals that are institutionalized now in our constitution. We have a Panchayati Raj extension to scheduled areas, which basically means the tribals decide what happens to their land. And when they started to decide—and I was at these public hearings in the early days when, in the '90s, when this law was passed, one after the other, tribals would say, "We don't want money. We want our land. We want our forest. We want our home. We want to live with Mother Earth." That’s when the violence started. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t a global advising system going on. But now there are private militias in addition to 70,000 paramilitary troops that have been deployed in tribal areas, in the name of controlling the Maoists, but really to flush out the tribals, create an empty land, so the minerals can be grabbed.
Binayak wrote a report for the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, being the vice president, and said this militia was killing innocent tribals. It became the first report. That’s what really got the government very angry with him. And they were targeting him for very long. Eventually they arrested him, planted fake evidence, like putting some letters into someone else’s bag and saying they were handed over by Binayak. It’s a long story; I won’t go into details. But Binayak, who is a medical hero of India, he’s a civil liberties hero of India, he is as good as you can live a life for the people, in service of the people, thrown into prison for life imprisonment. And that’s why his case is so significant, because it’s like, you know, in the Nazi time, you remember that poetry that the priest wrote: "I wasn’t a unionist, so I didn’t speak. And I wasn’t a"—
AMY GOODMAN: "First they came for the unionists; I didn’t speak."
VANDANA SHIVA: Yeah, yeah. And it’s exactly like that. They’ve made a test case of Binayak to say, "Any of you who stand for the rights of Mother Earth, who stand for the rights of people to their resources, watch out. If we can do this to a Binayak, we can do it to you." And that’s why I really believe we are at this watershed. We’ll either go the democratic route, recognizing the rights of Mother Earth, living within the limits of the planet, living a good life with less wastage of resources, or we will go very fast into the path of fascism, militarization. And commodificaton of nature has to be a militarized commodification in today’s time.
AMY GOODMAN: What does "earth democracy" mean, Vandana Shiva?
VANDANA SHIVA: For me, earth democracy means, first, recognizing the fundamental fact that we are part of nature, that human rights and nature’s rights are not separate, because we are just one strand in this amazing mystery and miracle that the earth has created in terms of life. But earth democracy also means democracy in the everyday life of people, exercised daily by ordinary people, not the once in a five-year or four-year election, because everywhere around the world, we are seeing, you can bring someone to power, and they don’t represent your will anymore.
So, democracy under corporate control has mutated from "of the people, by the people, for the people" into "of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations." In this country, I watched how Wisconsin suddenly became a playground for destruction of democracy and destruction of the fundamental rights of collective bargaining and public services and public domain, only because there is this corporate pressure on privatizing everything and preventing people from exercising their democratic rights. So, it’s the democratic rights of the people and the earth versus the fictitious corporate rights that corporations have assigned to themselves, and now they’re costing the earth and people too much. They’re bringing nothing in return. It used to be the case that when General Motors put out a car, it gave employment. It even gave salaries so people could buy that car. Today, the corporations give nothing back to society. They just take from nature, take from society, and want to rubbish this planet and rubbish our lives. And I think people are getting fed up. The entire rising in the Arabic world is part of that fed-upness.
AMY GOODMAN: It is also, Maude Barlow, the first anniversary of the BP oil disaster. You come from Canada. There was just a protest around fracking, around BP, around tar sands. Can you talk about what we should understand about where we are headed? In this year, offshore drilling, President Obama said it could resume. People in the United States hardly know what tar sands is, though we get much energy, oil, from Canada.
MAUDE BARLOW: Well, at current rate of growth, the tar sands will become, in the quite soon foreseeable future, the worst site of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Enormous amounts of water is being destroyed. They’ve taken down a forest, this boreal forest the size of Greece. And there are children in the downstream First Nations communities with bile duct cancer at the age of four. I mean, it is an absolute horror. And what Americans need to know is that it’s coming to a community near you in the form of this dirty oil, the bitumen actually being piped by pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer to be refined in the Gulf, or there are other pipes now taking it and more to be built to take it to the American side of the Great Lakes. It is corrosive, it’s poison, and it will destroy the water systems if it leaks, which I promise it will.
We also have gas fracking all over North America. This has become just an absolute obsession with people who know about the danger to water, because, of course, what you’re required to do is put massive amounts of chemicals into the water and then steam-blast it into the rock horizontally and to release the gas. And we’re even seeing operations along the Saint Lawrence River, and even the Quebec government has just given operations the OK to explore right within the Saint Lawrence River. And that’s not allowed on the American side, by the way. Usually we say, "Oh, it’s worse on the U.S. side," but it’s not in this case. It’s worse on the Canadian side.
I think the point here, to make the connection to the rights of nature, is that while our governments make noise about caring about the environment and make—on Earth Day, will all make, you know, strong statements about this, all of their actions belie this, from trade agreements, which we continue massively to promote around the world—the bilaterals, there are close to 3,000 of them now—to these big new CETAs, they’re called, Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreements, which are not just national procurement, but sub-national procurement. That’s water systems and roads and mining operations and municipalities and schools. It’s everything. It’s the next level down, where corporations are going to actually be able to dictate the conditions under which local funding is—how you spend your local money and on what values, and be able to stop fair trade bans and that kind of thing. All of that is galloping along. And this is so-called green economy, as it is seen by the powerful in our world, is basically no change, continued unlimited growth, continued unlimited free trade agreements, continued unregulated investment of the type that’s taking place with the land grab in Africa, but with a green technology. So we’ll just substitute that dirty old technology, which of course they’re not, because the tar sands is the dirty old technology, and that’s what they’re building it on. So it’s just language around caring for the earth.
And what we’re trying to say is that if we’re really going to survive as a species, and if the planet is to survive in any condition as we understand it, we have to shift our thinking and stop thinking of ourselves as being above nature and stop thinking of ourselves as having the rights that no other species has or no other form of the earth has. We just have to change. What would the world look like if we could see it differently? Right now, for most environmentalists, the best we ever get is that we negotiate the amount of toxics being dumped into a particular system, or in the tar sands, all we’re—I mean, all we’ve ended up doing is having a series of reports, which just tell us how bad it is, but we haven’t—we have not managed to stop one pipeline. We have not managed to stop one government expansion, one corporate expansion, in the tar sands in all the years we’ve been fighting it. And I don’t see, frankly, Amy, how we’re going to do that, unless we have a mindset change. I really—I think right now it’s just a negotiation about how much of this toxic waste we’re going to allow and dump into our waters and our air and how much genetic damage we’re going to do as—
AMY GOODMAN: And the mind shift would be what? What do you see needs to happen?
MAUDE BARLOW: The mind shift is that we are a species like any other and that we will not survive unless we place our rights in tandem with the rights of the earth, and then we understand that we come from the earth. Everything we have, everything we wear, everything we eat, everything we touch comes from the earth. And if we don’t change our minds, if we don’t change the way we see the world, if we don’t stop thinking of ourselves as superior, we’re not going to survive. And I see it as an evolutionary step, a human—an evolutionary step in our human development, if we could actually come to this.
And I think that there’s a comparison to the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, because they fought really hard for that. And people will still say, "Well, what did it mean?" because human rights are still being violated. Well, just because a universal value is broken doesn’t mean it’s not a universal value to have. And we have to add to the universal value of the right of humans, these fundamental rights of humans, the right of the earth to survive and for us to survive together.
VANDANA SHIVA: And I think the more key issue, Amy, is, actually, this is a majority perspective. Most of the indigenous cultures of the world, most of the non-industrialized cultures of the world, most of the non-Western cultures of the world live in the consciousness that we are part of nature and the earth is a mother. We are fighting against dams on the Ganges. And it’s a very real discourse that the Ganges is a divine mother. She has her own standing. And the government cannot block her flow. She has a right to flow free. It’s a real serious discussion in India today. That’s the basis of fighting the dams, not only the environmental impact in terms of displacement. All the work we’ve done against patenting of life, bringing back the integrity of species.
And I think if you really start to connect the dots, you realize that we are at the kind of moment where we were when slavery was being abolished, people. There were crazies then who thought it was right to trade in human beings and own them as property. A few people thought it was wrong. It took a while, but we would never today imagine it’s right to own other human beings. Well, property in nature, property in life forms, patents on life, privatizing water, commodity trading of carbon pollution, the emissions treaty, all of that is as insane and as mad as slavery was. And we need to get out of this bondage, which has been created by a very tiny minority, who have lots to gain by raping the earth and destroying the rights of people.
AMY GOODMAN: One last question, and we just have a minute. Your assessment, as we move into the 2012 presidential election in the United States, of President Obama, from Canada, from India? Maude Barlow?
MAUDE BARLOW: I wish he would stand up for what I think is deepest in his heart, and I wish he would stop giving the other side’s line to the world. We don’t need him to describe or promote the compromises that he’s made. We really desperately need leadership. And I just hope that he understands that that’s the most important thing he can do for us all.
AMY GOODMAN: Vandana Shiva?
VANDANA SHIVA: Well, you know, President Obama has often said Gandhi is his big inspiration. And Gandhi had told us the earth has enough for everyone’s needs, but not for a few people’s greed. When Obama came to India, instead of talking Gandhi, instead of building a common world from U.S. to India on that Gandhian vision of everyone living well with less, he came only to seek $50 billion deals for corporations, for fighter jets, for India joining hands for the invasion of Africa for land grab and the so-called green revolution. I do wish that Obama would exercise the policies that have brought him the inspiration that brought him to power.
AMY GOODMAN: Vandana Shiva, Maude Barlow, thanks so much for joining us on Earth Day.
MAUDE BARLOW: Thank you.
VANDANA SHIVA: Happy Earth Day!
AMY GOODMAN: Environmental leader Vandana Shiva, among her books, Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. And Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians. Coming up, Van Jones, Tim DeChristopher, Bill McKibben. We’ll be back in 30 seconds.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gov. Rick Snyder Kills Democracy in Benton Harbor, Michigan

From The Rachel Maddow Show 4/18/2011

The kind of feudalism that people had come to this country to escape in Europe, was being created by this new corporate aristocracy. For the first time since the Gilded Age, we’re seeing those kinds of economic concentrations return to our country. At the same time, something really dangerous, we’ve seen the destruction of the American press as a formidable player in reinforcing the institutions of our democracy. The press has devolved, so that instead of informing us about the issues that are critical to us making rational decisions in democracy, it appeals now to the prurient interests that all of us have in the reptilian core of our brains for sex and celebrity gossip. So, Americans today are the best entertained and the least educated people, and least informed people, probably on the face of the earth. And you can’t have democracy for very long if you don’t have an informed community. ~ Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Antonia Juhasz - Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill

From Democracy Now! 4/18/2011

AMY GOODMAN: This week marks the first anniversary of the worst maritime oil spill in history. Last year on April 20th an oil rig leased by petroleum giant BP exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers, releasing nearly 200 million gallons of oil, tens of millions of gallons of natural gas and 1.8 million gallons of chemicals.

At the BP shareholders meeting last week in London, security officers blocked the entrance of a delegation of four fishermen and women from the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast area heavily damaged by last year’s oil spill. Environmental groups and residents argue BP has yet to fulfill its financial and legal obligations. Maritime life and communities in the area remain devastated.
JOHN HOCEVAR: Most of the oil is still there in the Gulf today. It’s in the water. It’s on the sediment. It’s on the seafloor. A lot of it’s washed up into the wetlands, and it’s still there. It’s still being eaten by marine life today.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by a guest who says the largest oil disaster in history could happen again. Antonia Juhasz is the author of Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill, a book that’s just been published this week. She’s also director of the Energy Program at Global Exchange. Antonia attended the BP shareholders meeting last week and spoke on behalf of Gulf Coast residents denied entry.
BP did not respond to Democracy Now’s repeated requests for comment.
Welcome to Democracy Now!

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Thanks for having me, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what happened last week.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: I went to the London BP annual shareholder meeting, the first meeting of shareholders since the disaster happened one year ago. There were five representatives from the United States Gulf Coast who came, including the head of the Louisiana Oystermen’s Association, the head of the Louisiana Shrimpers Association. We came in order to address the shareholders, the CEO, the board of directors, to make sure that they all understood that the Gulf oil disaster is far from over, BP is far from adhering to its legal obligations.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s turn to that clip of you confronting BP executives last week.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: We still have oil coating the bottom of the ocean. We still have dispersant coating the bottom of the ocean. We still have waves that roll in, and oil rolls in with it. We stick a stick in the sand, and there’s still oil there. What we don’t have at the bottom of the ocean is the light that is supposed to be there.
AMY GOODMAN: That, thanks to UNI Films. Antonia?

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Yeah, so the representatives from the Gulf Coast were denied access into the meeting, even though they held legal proxies. I was able to get in, because I own shares, and address the audience. And while I was there, I made sure that BP knew that we were still holding them to account, but also delivered a message that I had been sent to London to read, which was a statement by Keith Jones, the father of Gordon Jones, who is one of 11 men who died aboard the Deepwater Horizon. He wanted to make sure that the company knew that he knew why the disaster happened, and that was because they were cutting costs, they were cutting corners, and they did not know how to do the operations in the deep water that they set out to do. And what I added to the shareholders was, neither does any other company actually know how to do these deepwater operations, and nothing has changed since the disaster to make us any more certain that such a deepwater disaster won’t happen again.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your journey through the Gulf after the oil spill and all that you have found.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Spent eight months embedded in those communities most directly impacted by this disaster, sleeping in people’s homes, going to their churches, walking on their beaches. What I learned in that period of time was that 210 million gallons of oil don’t disappear. We saw oil everywhere, but we continue to today. So oil is on the bottom of the ocean. A layer of dispersant is coated above it. And people have been fighting this oil now for a year, and it has made them sick, the combination of the oil and the dispersant. It has made them exhausted. It has made them frustrated, because one year later the rest of the nation seems to have forgotten this tragedy, and our policymakers, one year later—not a single piece of legislation—not one—written to respond to the disaster has become law. And the money that BP is supposed to be paying has not come to the ground. The care—the claims that are supposed to be filled, the health provisions, the environmental provisions, none of it is there right now, and the U.S. Gulf Coast is still suffering under this glut of oil and chemicals.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about who is in charge? Who’s in charge of the compensation? The news reports now, as we come on the first anniversary, about how, with ExxonMobil—the Exxon Valdez oil spill, how they didn’t compensate people right away, but BP didn’t even have to, and they did.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Well, BP set up a claims process right away, and that’s because, as a result of the Exxon Valdez disaster, we had a great piece of legislation passed: the Oil Pollution Act. We need legislation like that now. One of the things the Oil Pollution Act did was require an immediate claims process to be established. BP set that up. But at this date, one year later, less than 40 percent of the claims that have been filed have even been processed, much less paid out.

When BP was in control of the process, they made it incredibly difficult, incredibly bureaucratic. People were not getting their payments. They’ve been out of work for a year. They also can’t eat what they harvest, which is—this is a subsistence area. People fish not just to make money, but to live on that fish. And people haven’t been able to eat their fish or sell it.

Then the process was taken over by Kenneth Feinberg, supposedly an independent process, and it’s continued to drag on. Feinberg has actually said that of the $20 billion that was pledged—and let’s just remember, it was pledged—only about $3.5 billion has actually been paid, that he expects he’ll only pay out about half of that money.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the reports that have come out since then. I think there’s very much a sense that it’s not as bad as everyone thought.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: The reports have actually been damning, especially the presidential commission on the Deepwater Horizon. Actually, every investigation that has gone into this disaster has said, one, five million barrels of oil were spilled. That oil does not disappear. One of the amazing people I covered in my book was Dr. Samantha Joye. She has, from the beginning, been going deep into the water, studying oil on the bottom. She’s one—part of the team that discovered the oil plumes. She is deeply aware that five million barrels were released, and the oil still remains in the Gulf.

But what each of the commissions have found is that this is a systemic problem within the oil industry, that the oil industry itself was moving beyond its own capacity to do its operations, but even more so, that federal regulators have no clue what they’re doing. They do not know how to regulate this industry, and the industry has pushed beyond its own capacity. And every report that has come out has said that. It’s been universal, that this is a serious, ongoing, devastating disaster in the Gulf Coast, but that the industry is to blame—BP, Transocean, Halliburton, Cameron most immediately in this disaster—but all of the oil companies were involved. Remember, Chevron, Exxon, Shell, they all sat down at a table after the explosion and said, "Wow! How do we cap a deepwater blowout? Oh, boy, it turns out we actually don’t know how to do that, even though we have 148 deepwater wells around the world. Boy, we said that we could handle a 300,000-gallon-a-day—or barrel-a-day oil spill. Boy, it turns out we couldn’t even handle 80,000 barrels a day." None of them know what they’re doing. And the federal regulators don’t know, either. And every report has been—has concluded those outcomes.

AMY GOODMAN: BP has requested permission to resume offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, less than a year after the oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers. They want to resume in 10 existing wells in the Gulf by July, the request to U.S. regulators coming just a week after the Department of Justice confirmed the company is facing potential manslaughter charges and other civil and criminal penalties in connection with the explosion and the deaths of the workers.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: They absolutely should face criminal charges, I believe. If every report has demonstrated just utter failure—managerial failure, operational failure, cost cutting—on the fact—on the part of BP. But it’s not just BP. Transocean, which is the owner and operator of the rig—and the vast majority of the employees on the rig worked for Transocean—is the largest owner and operator of all offshore rigs in the country. Their failures need to make us worried about all operations. But yes, BP is the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the United States. They have massive holdings all across the country, all across the Gulf. One of the things that the oil industry tried to do as a result of the disaster was isolate BP and make this look like a BP problem: it’s just this rogue British company. Well, BP definitely has very problematic operations, and I do not believe that they should be given the right to continue to produce those wells. We need to think very seriously about their operations.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the Obama administration, that has said that offshore drilling can resume?

ANTONIA JUHASZ: We shouldn’t be allowing offshore drilling to continue, particularly—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what it is and why it’s allowed in this country.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: There’s—let’s see. Deepwater drilling, most offshore drilling historically has occurred at about 400 feet below the ocean surface. Deep offshore drilling in this well is 5,000 feet below the ocean surface to the ocean floor. Then this well, another 13,500 feet below that. One of the deeper wells—not the deepest—right now in the Gulf is as far down as Mount Everest is up. This is technological wonders that is so wondrous we actually don’t know how to do it. But the reason why they’re pushing out this far deep is that there’s a lot of oil out there, and they want to get to it.

What we know, however, is that they have not—they don’t have the technology to do it. So, when the Deepwater Horizon—when the blowout happened on the Macondo well, the oil industries tried to apply the technology for that 400-feet shallow water operations to operations that were 5,000 feet below the ocean surface. It turns out they didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t know how to cap it. They didn’t know how to clean it. They applied, as you said, two million gallons of chemical toxic dispersant to try and separate out the oil. They burned it on the ocean surface. They allowed this chemical-oil cocktail to spill. And the federal regulators had no idea what to do while the disaster was happening. And they still do not remotely have the capacity to address continued operations.

So, if we recall, it was about a week before the Macondo well blowout and the Deepwater Horizon explosion happened that President Obama implemented a Bush policy, which was lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling. We have the moratorium—we had it, because in 1969 there was a huge offshore blowout off the coast of Santa Barbara. Activists organized all across the country in response. They got the Clean Air Act. They got the Clean Water Act. And about 10 years later, they got a moratorium on offshore drilling. That moratorium has been picked away at. And the one place it didn’t exist was in the Gulf of Mexico. A week before this disaster, President Obama lifted much of the moratorium. Nothing had changed in terms of the technology, when he did it. There just had been enormous pressure from the oil industry to put it into place.

Nothing has changed in terms of the technology since the disaster happened, yet the offshore drilling has begun again. And the presidential commission on the Deepwater Horizon, President Obama’s own commission, has said, you know, federal regulators don’t have the capacity, they don’t know what they’re doing in these instances. And what we also know is that the cost is so very high, because there is so much oil and the distance is so great to get to it and try and address it, that there is no reason to believe that this much oil wouldn’t be released again in the case of another blowout.

AMY GOODMAN: You had this surreal moment, Antonia Juhasz, with Transocean, the company that owned the offshore rig that exploded, being awarded—awarding its top executives these bonuses, and in doing so, saying—it described the, quote, "best year in safety performance in our company’s history." The bonus for the Transocean CEO Steve Newman was $400,000. Amidst tremendous criticism, he said he would give it to the families of the—


AMY GOODMAN: Oh, he said he would give a part of it to the families of the dead workers. What are those families saying? And what about this, Transocean rewarding their executives for the best year in their history?

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Nine of the 11 men who died aboard the rig worked for Transocean. I interviewed and spent a good amount of time with Sherri Revette, whose husband Dewey died aboard the rig. They do not believe that Transocean had its best safety year ever. They do not believe that its executives and CEO should be given bonuses. What they feel is that this is an affront to their loss, but most important, that it’s a symbol that Transocean hasn’t learned and accepted that massive, massive errors occurred, and that by awarding those bonuses, and by awarding them for safety, what has been clearly demonstrated is that Transocean has not learn the lessons of this disaster and Transocean, the largest owner and operator of offshore rigs in the country, hasn’t changed its policies, which means we have a lot to be worried about when Chevron, when Shell, when Exxon, when all of the companies continue their operations in the deep water.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, what has to happen now, from cleanup to prosecutions? What do you feel, after writing this book over this past year?

ANTONIA JUHASZ: It’s the one-year anniversary of the disaster. This is our opportunity as activists to apply massive pressure. We need fundamental policy change, and it’s only going to happen if people continue to feel the passion they did when the oil was flowing, to push now as the oil still remains. We have to have payments go out to those who have filed claims. We have to have restoration of the Gulf. We have to have BP actually pay the full amount of money it owes, not fight us to say they owe—we know they owe $20 billion just for the oil spill. BP is trying to pay just $3 million. We need the Obama administration to ensure that charges are made, that BP’s policies are forced to be changed, and that BP is held fully to account. And for the listeners out there, this is the opportunity, the one-year anniversary, to come together and really push and to show that the public is still paying deep attention and will hold BP to account and make sure the Obama administration helps us and that the Congress helps us in that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, congratulations on the release of your book, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill. You’ll be speaking tonight at powerHouse Arena at 37 Main Street in Brooklyn, on its release. Antonia Juhasz.

Antonia Juhasz at the BP annual general meeting April 14, 2011

Near the end of the clip the representative from BP states, "BP does disagree with the amount of oil. There has been no study that has confirmed the amount of oil that leaked into the ocean".

Leaked? Like a bit of a runny nose I guess. Here, let's just put a Kleenex on it. That ought to take care of the leak. Why not just say dripped? Can we all just agree that it was a hell of a lot of oil? That it was enough to seriously fuck up the environment for many years to come?

Hearing him dispute the amount of oil that gushed into the gulf for three months, reminds me of the way holocaust deniers dispute the amount of people who were sent to the gas chambers in WWII.

The issue is not trying to determine an exact amount for the massive quantity of oil that devastated the gulf region. The issue now is making sure that this never happens again and that BP pays the $20 billion it now owes in compensation for this disaster.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mark Hertsgaard: Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth

Author Mark Hertsgaard on Democracy Now! talks about climate change and how many republican members of congress continue to turn a blind eye to the scientific evidence surrounding global warming in order to financially benefit environmental polluters.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dennis Kucinich on The Ed Show Talks About Obama Speech 4/13/2011

President Obama's Budget Speech (with transcript) 4-13-2011

Thank you very much. Please have a seat. Please have a seat, everyone.

It is wonderful to be back at GW. I want you to know that one of the reasons that I worked so hard with Democrats and Republicans to keep the government open was so that I could show up here today. I wanted to make sure that all of you had one more excuse to skip class.You're welcome.

I want to give a special thanks to Steven Knapp, the president of GW. I just saw him — where is he? There he is right there.

We've got a lot of distinguished guests here — a couple of people I want to acknowledge. First of all, my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, is here. Our Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, is in the house. Jack Lew, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Gene Sperling, Chair of the National Economic Council, is here. Members of our bipartisan Fiscal Commission are here, including the two outstanding chairs — Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson — are here. And we have a number of members of Congress here today. I'm grateful for all of you taking the time to attend.

What we've been debating here in Washington over the last few weeks will affect the lives of the students here and families all across America in potentially profound ways. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page; it's about more than just cutting and spending. It's about the kind of future that we want. It's about the kind of country that we believe in. And that's what I want to spend some time talking about today.

From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America's wealth and prosperity. More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.

But there's always been another thread running through our history -– a belief that we're all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.

And so we've built a strong military to keep us secure, and public schools and universities to educate our citizens. We've laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce. We've supported the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire new industries. Each of us has benefitted from these investments, and we're a more prosperous country as a result.

Part of this American belief that we're all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff may strike any one of us. "There but for the grace of God go I," we say to ourselves. And so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, those with disabilities. We're a better country because of these commitments. I'll go further. We would not be a great country without those commitments.

Now, for much of the last century, our nation found a way to afford these investments and priorities with the taxes paid by its citizens. As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally borne a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate. Everybody pays, but the wealthier have borne a little more. This is not because we begrudge those who've done well -– we rightly celebrate their success. Instead, it's a basic reflection of our belief that those who've benefited most from our way of life can afford to give back a little bit more. Moreover, this belief hasn't hindered the success of those at the top of the income scale. They continue to do better and better with each passing year.

Now, at certain times -– particularly during war or recession -– our nation has had to borrow money to pay for some of our priorities. And as most families understand, a little credit card debt isn't going to hurt if it's temporary.

But as far back as the 1980s, America started amassing debt at more alarming levels, and our leaders began to realize that a larger challenge was on the horizon. They knew that eventually, the Baby Boom generation would retire, which meant a much bigger portion of our citizens would be relying on programs like Medicare, Social Security, and possibly Medicaid. Like parents with young children who know they have to start saving for the college years, America had to start borrowing less and saving more to prepare for the retirement of an entire generation.

To meet this challenge, our leaders came together three times during the 1990s to reduce our nation's deficit — three times. They forged historic agreements that required tough decisions made by the first President Bush, then made by President Clinton, by Democratic Congresses and by a Republican Congress. All three agreements asked for shared responsibility and shared sacrifice. But they largely protected the middle class; they largely protected our commitment to seniors; they protected our key investments in our future.

As a result of these bipartisan efforts, America's finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.

But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed. We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program -– but we didn't pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts -– tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.

To give you an idea of how much damage this caused to our nation's checkbook, consider this: In the last decade, if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts and the prescription drug benefit, our deficit would currently be at low historical levels in the coming years.

But that's not what happened. And so, by the time I took office, we once again found ourselves deeply in debt and unprepared for a Baby Boom retirement that is now starting to take place. When I took office, our projected deficit, annually, was more than $1 trillion. On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more.

In this case, we took a series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs, kept credit flowing, and provided working families extra money in their pocket. It was absolutely the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive, and added to our deficits in the short term.

So that's how our fiscal challenge was created. That's how we got here. And now that our economic recovery is gaining strength, Democrats and Republicans must come together and restore the fiscal responsibility that served us so well in the 1990s. We have to live within our means. We have to reduce our deficit, and we have to get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt. And we have to do it in a way that protects the recovery, protects the investments we need to grow, create jobs, and helps us win the future.

Now, before I get into how we can achieve this goal, some of you, particularly the younger people here — you don't qualify, Joe. Some of you might be wondering, "Why is this so important? Why does this matter to me?"

Well, here's why. Even after our economy recovers, our government will still be on track to spend more money than it takes in throughout this decade and beyond. That means we'll have to keep borrowing more from countries like China. That means more of your tax dollars each year will go towards paying off the interest on all the loans that we keep taking out. By the end of this decade, the interest that we owe on our debt could rise to nearly $1 trillion. Think about that. That's the interest — just the interest payments.

Then, as the Baby Boomers start to retire in greater numbers and health care costs continue to rise, the situation will get even worse. By 2025, the amount of taxes we currently pay will only be enough to finance our health care programs — Medicare and Medicaid — Social Security, and the interest we owe on our debt. That's it. Every other national priority -– education, transportation, even our national security -– will have to be paid for with borrowed money.

Now, ultimately, all this rising debt will cost us jobs and damage our economy. It will prevent us from making the investments we need to win the future. We won't be able to afford good schools, new research, or the repair of roads — all the things that create new jobs and businesses here in America. Businesses will be less likely to invest and open shop in a country that seems unwilling or unable to balance its books. And if our creditors start worrying that we may be unable to pay back our debts, that could drive up interest rates for everybody who borrows money -– making it harder for businesses to expand and hire, or families to take out a mortgage.

Here's the good news: That doesn't have to be our future. That doesn't have to be the country that we leave our children. We can solve this problem. We came together as Democrats and Republicans to meet this challenge before; we can do it again.

But that starts by being honest about what's causing our deficit. You see, most Americans tend to dislike government spending in the abstract, but like the stuff that it buys. Most of us, regardless of party affiliation, believe that we should have a strong military and a strong defense. Most Americans believe we should invest in education and medical research. Most Americans think we should protect commitments like Social Security and Medicare. And without even looking at a poll, my finely honed political instincts tell me that almost nobody believes they should be paying higher taxes.

So because all this spending is popular with both Republicans and Democrats alike, and because nobody wants to pay higher taxes, politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse. You'll hear that phrase a lot. "We just need to eliminate waste and abuse." The implication is that tackling the deficit issue won't require tough choices. Or politicians suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about 1 percent of our entire federal budget.

So here's the truth. Around two-thirds of our budget — two-thirds — is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national security. Two-thirds. Programs like unemployment insurance, student loans, veterans' benefits, and tax credits for working families take up another 20 percent. What's left, after interest on the debt, is just 12 percent for everything else. That's 12 percent for all of our national priorities — education, clean energy, medical research, transportation, our national parks, food safety, keeping our air and water clean — you name it — all of that accounts for 12 percent of our budget.

Now, up till now, the debate here in Washington, the cuts proposed by a lot of folks in Washington, have focused exclusively on that 12 percent. But cuts to that 12 percent alone won't solve the problem. So any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget.

A serious plan doesn't require us to balance our budget overnight – in fact, economists think that with the economy just starting to grow again, we need a phased-in approach – but it does require tough decisions and support from our leaders in both parties now. Above all, it will require us to choose a vision of the America we want to see five years, 10 years, 20 years down the road.

Now, to their credit, one vision has been presented and championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party's presidential candidates. It's a plan that aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, and one that addresses the challenge of Medicare and Medicaid in the years after that.

These are both worthy goals. They're worthy goals for us to achieve. But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we've known certainly in my lifetime. In fact, I think it would be fundamentally different than what we've known throughout our history.

A 70 percent cut in clean energy. A 25 percent cut in education. A 30 percent cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That's the proposal. These aren't the kind of cuts you make when you're trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren't the kinds of cuts that the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kinds of cuts that tell us we can't afford the America that I believe in and I think you believe in.

I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic. It's a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can't afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can't afford to send them.

Go to China and you'll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. They're scrambling to figure out how they put more money into education. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but on biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the American people, the United States of America -– the greatest nation on Earth -– can't afford any of this.

It's a vision that says America can't afford to keep the promise we've made to care for our seniors. It says that 10 years from now, if you're a 65-year-old who's eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn't worth enough to buy the insurance that's available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck -– you're on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

It's a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. Who are these 50 million Americans? Many are somebody's grandparents — may be one of yours — who wouldn't be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down's syndrome. Some of these kids with disabilities are — the disabilities are so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we'd be telling to fend for themselves.

And worst of all, this is a vision that says even though Americans can't afford to invest in education at current levels, or clean energy, even though we can't afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about that.

In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. That's who needs to pay less taxes?

They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that's paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That's not right. And it's not going to happen as long as I'm President. This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan's own budget director said, there's nothing "serious" or "courageous" about this plan. There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don't think there's anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill. That's not a vision of the America I know.

The America I know is generous and compassionate. It's a land of opportunity and optimism. Yes, we take responsibility for ourselves, but we also take responsibility for each other; for the country we want and the future that we share. We're a nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI Bill and we saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives. That's who we are. This is the America that I know. We don't have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit our investment in our people and our country.

To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I'm President, we won't.

So today, I'm proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years. It's an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission that I appointed last year, and it builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It's an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table — but one that protects the middle class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.

The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week. That step alone will save us about $750 billion over 12 years. We will make the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs that I care deeply about, but I will not sacrifice the core investments that we need to grow and create jobs. We will invest in medical research. We will invest in clean energy technology. We will invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education. We will invest in job training. We will do what we need to do to compete, and we will win the future.

The second step in our approach is to find additional savings in our defense budget. Now, as Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than protecting our national security, and I will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America's interests around the world. But as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has said, the greatest long-term threat to America's national security is America's debt. So just as we must find more savings in domestic programs, we must do the same in defense. And we can do that while still keeping ourselves safe.

Over the last two years, Secretary Bob Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again. We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but we're going to have to conduct a fundamental review of America's missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it's complete.

The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Now, here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer. Their plan essentially lowers the government's health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government's health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.

Already, the reforms we passed in the health care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion. My approach would build on these reforms. We will reduce wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments. We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare's purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market. We will work with governors of both parties to demand more efficiency and accountability from Medicaid.

We will change the way we pay for health care -– not by the procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results. And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services that seniors need.

Now, we believe the reforms we've proposed to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid will enable us to keep these commitments to our citizens while saving us $500 billion by 2023, and an additional $1 trillion in the decade after that. But if we're wrong, and Medicare costs rise faster than we expect, then this approach will give the independent commission the authority to make additional savings by further improving Medicare.
But let me be absolutely clear: I will preserve these health care programs as a promise we make to each other in this society. I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. We will reform these programs, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.

That includes, by the way, our commitment to Social Security. While Social Security is not the cause of our deficit, it faces real long-term challenges in a country that's growing older. As I said in the State of the Union, both parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we have to do it without putting at risk current retirees, or the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans' guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market. And it can be done.

The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code, so-called tax expenditures. In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. We can't afford it. And I refuse to renew them again.

Beyond that, the tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions. And while I agree with the goals of many of these deductions, from homeownership to charitable giving, we can't ignore the fact that they provide millionaires an average tax break of $75,000 but do nothing for the typical middle-class family that doesn't itemize. So my budget calls for limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans — a reform that would reduce the deficit by $320 billion over 10 years.

But to reduce the deficit, I believe we should go further. And that's why I'm calling on Congress to reform our individual tax code so that it is fair and simple — so that the amount of taxes you pay isn't determined by what kind of accountant you can afford.

I believe reform should protect the middle class, promote economic growth, and build on the fiscal commission's model of reducing tax expenditures so that there's enough savings to both lower rates and lower the deficit. And as I called for in the State of the Union, we should reform our corporate tax code as well, to make our businesses and our economy more competitive.

So this is my approach to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years. It's an approach that achieves about $2 trillion in spending cuts across the budget. It will lower our interest payments on the debt by $1 trillion. It calls for tax reform to cut about $1 trillion in tax expenditures — spending in the tax code. And it achieves these goals while protecting the middle class, protecting our commitment to seniors, and protecting our investments in the future.

Now, in the coming years, if the recovery speeds up and our economy grows faster than our current projections, we can make even greater progress than I've pledged here. But just to hold Washington — and to hold me —- accountable and make sure that the debt burden continues to decline, my plan includes a debt failsafe. If, by 2014, our debt is not projected to fall as a share of the economy -– if we haven't hit our targets, if Congress has failed to act -– then my plan will require us to come together and make up the additional savings with more spending cuts and more spending reductions in the tax code. That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now, instead of kicking our problems further down the road.

So this is our vision for America -– this is my vision for America — a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and we provide rising opportunity for our children.
There will be those who vigorously disagree with my approach. I can guarantee that as well. Some will argue we should not even consider ever — ever — raising taxes, even if only on the wealthiest Americans. It's just an article of faith to them. I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. I don't need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn't need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn't be here without and that some of you would not be here without.

And here's the thing: I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to their country, a country that's done so much for them. It's just Washington hasn't asked them to.

Others will say that we shouldn't even talk about cutting spending until the economy is fully recovered. These are mostly folks in my party. I'm sympathetic to this view — which is one of the reasons I supported the payroll tax cuts we passed in December. It's also why we have to use a scalpel and not a machete to reduce the deficit, so that we can keep making the investments that create jobs. But doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option. Our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don't begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.

Finally, there are those who believe we shouldn't make any reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, out of fear that any talk of change to these programs will immediately usher in the sort of steps that the House Republicans have proposed. And I understand those fears. But I guarantee that if we don't make any changes at all, we won't be able to keep our commitment to a retiring generation that will live longer and will face higher health care costs than those who came before.

Indeed, to those in my own party, I say that if we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have an obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments. If we believe the government can make a difference in people's lives, we have the obligation to prove that it works -– by making government smarter, and leaner and more effective.

Of course, there are those who simply say there's no way we can come together at all and agree on a solution to this challenge. They'll say the politics of this city are just too broken; the choices are just too hard; the parties are just too far apart. And after a few years on this job, I have some sympathy for this view.

But I also know that we've come together before and met big challenges. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill came together to save Social Security for future generations. The first President Bush and a Democratic Congress came together to reduce the deficit. President Clinton and a Republican Congress battled each other ferociously, disagreed on just about everything, but they still found a way to balance the budget. And in the last few months, both parties have come together to pass historic tax relief and spending cuts.

And I know there are Republicans and Democrats in Congress who want to see a balanced approach to deficit reduction. And even those Republicans I disagree with most strongly I believe are sincere about wanting to do right by their country. We may disagree on our visions, but I truly believe they want to do the right thing.

So I believe we can, and must, come together again. This morning, I met with Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to discuss the approach that I laid out today. And in early May, the Vice President will begin regular meetings with leaders in both parties with the aim of reaching a final agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit and get it done by the end of June.

I don't expect the details in any final agreement to look exactly like the approach I laid out today. This a democracy; that's not how things work. I'm eager to hear other ideas from all ends of the political spectrum. And though I'm sure the criticism of what I've said here today will be fierce in some quarters, and my critique of the House Republican approach has been strong, Americans deserve and will demand that we all make an effort to bridge our differences and find common ground.

This larger debate that we're having — this larger debate about the size and the role of government — it has been with us since our founding days. And during moments of great challenge and change, like the one that we're living through now, the debate gets sharper and it gets more vigorous. That's not a bad thing. In fact, it's a good thing. As a country that prizes both our individual freedom and our obligations to one another, this is one of the most important debates that we can have.

But no matter what we argue, no matter where we stand, we've always held certain beliefs as Americans. We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can't just think about ourselves. We have to think about the country that made these liberties possible. We have to think about our fellow citizens with whom we share a community. And we have to think about what's required to preserve the American Dream for future generations.

This sense of responsibility — to each other and to our country — this isn't a partisan feeling. It isn't a Democratic or a Republican idea. It's patriotism.

The other day I received a letter from a man in Florida. He started off by telling me he didn't vote for me and he hasn't always agreed with me. But even though he's worried about our economy and the state of our politics — here's what he said — he said, "I still believe. I believe in that great country that my grandfather told me about. I believe that somewhere lost in this quagmire of petty bickering on every news station, the 'American Dream' is still alive...We need to use our dollars here rebuilding, refurbishing and restoring all that our ancestors struggled to create and maintain... We as a people must do this together, no matter the color of the state one comes from or the side of the aisle one might sit on."

"I still believe." I still believe as well. And I know that if we can come together and uphold our responsibilities to one another and to this larger enterprise that is America, we will keep the dream of our founding alive — in our time; and we will pass it on to our children. We will pass on to our children a country that we believe in.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

RT (Russia Today) Interview with Jesse Ventura - "We Need A Revolution In Our Country"

Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s Address to Congress on the War in Libya

Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s Address to Congress on the War in Libya
As Prepared for Delivery
United States
House of Representatives
March 31, 2011

Mr. Speaker. The critical issue before this nation today is not Libyan democracy, it is American democracy. In the next hour I will describe the dangers facing our own democracy. The principles of world democracy are embodied in the UN Charter, conceived to end the scourge of war for all time. The hope that nations could turn their swords into plowshares reflects the timeless impulse of humanity for enduring peace and with it an enhanced opportunity to pursue happiness.

We are not naïve about the existence of forces in the world which work against peace and against human security, but it is our fervent wish that we shall never become like those whom we condemn as lawless and without scruples. For it is our duty as members of a democratic society to provide leadership by example, to not only articulate the highest standards but to walk down the path to peace and justice with those standards as our constant companions. Our moral leadership in the world depends chiefly upon the might and light of truth and not shock and awe, and ghastly glow of our 2,000 lb bombs.

Our dear nation stands at a crossroads. The direction we take will determine not what kind of nation we are but what kind of nation we will become. Will we become a nation which plots in secret to wage war? Will we become a nation that observes our Constitution only in matters of convenience? Will we become a nation which destroys the unity of the world community painstakingly pieced together from the ruins of World War II, a war which itself followed a war to end all wars?

Now, once again we stand poised at a precipice -- forced to the edge by an Administration which has thrown caution to the winds and our Constitution to the ground.

It is abundantly clear from a careful reading of our Declaration of Independence that our nation was born from nothing less than the rebellion of the human spirit against the arrogance of power.

More than 200 years ago it was the awareness of the unchecked arrogance of King George III that led our Founders to deliberately and carefully balance our constitution by articulating the rights of Congress in Article I, as the primary check by our citizens against the dangers they foresaw for our republic. Our constitution was derived from the human and political experience of our Founders who were aware of what happens when one person takes it upon himself or herself to assume rights and privileges which place them above their fellow citizens.

“But where,” asked Tom Paine in his famous tract, Common Sense, “…is the king of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal of Britain . . . . so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”

The power to declare war is firmly and explicitly vested in the Congress of the United States under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

Let us make no mistake about it, dropping 2000 lb bombs and unleashing the massive firepower of our air force on the capital of a sovereign state is in fact an act of war and no amount of legal acrobatics can make it otherwise.

It is that same arrogance of power which the former Senator from Arkansas, J. William Fulbright, saw shrouded in the deceit which carried us into the abyss of the war in Vietnam. We determined we would never again see another Vietnam. It was the awareness of the unchecked power and arrogance of the executive which led Congress to pass the War Powers Act.

The Congress through the War Powers Act provided the executive with an exception to unilaterally respond only when the nation was in actual or imminent danger; to “repel sudden attacks.”

Today we are in a constitutional crisis because our chief executive has assumed for himself powers to wage war which are neither expressly defined nor implicit in the Constitution, nor permitted under the War Powers Act.

This is a challenge not just to the Administration, but to Congress itself:
The President has no right to wrest that fundamental power from Congress - and we have no right to cede it to him.

We, Members of Congress can no more absolve our president of his responsibility to obey this profound constitutional mandate then we can absolve ourselves of our failure to rise to the instant challenge that is before us today.

We violate our sacred trust to the citizens of the United States and our oath to uphold the constitution if we surrender this great responsibility and through our own inaction acquiesce in another terrible war.

We must courageously defend the oath that we took to defend the Constitution of the United States of America or we forfeit our right to participate in representative government.

How can we pretend to hold other sovereigns to fundamental legal principles through wars in foreign lands if we do not hold our own presidents to fundamental legal principles at home?

We are staring not only into the maelstrom of war in Libya, but also the code of behavior we are establishing today sets a precedent for the potential of evermore violent maelstroms ahead in Syria, Iran, and the horrifying chaos of generalized war throughout the Middle East. Our continued occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan makes us more vulnerable, not less vulnerable, to being engulfed in this generalized war.

In two years we have moved from President Bush’s doctrine of preventive war to President Obama’s assertion of the right to go to war without even the pretext of a threat to our nation.
This Administration is now asserting the right to go to war because a nation may threaten force against those who have internally taken up arms against it. Our bombs began dropping even before the UN’s International Commission of Inquiry could verify allegations of murder of non-combatant civilians by the Gaddafi regime.

The Administration deliberately avoided coming to Congress and furthermore rejects the principle that Congress has any role in this matter. Yesterday we learned that ‘The Administration would forge ahead with military action even if Congress passed a resolution constraining the mission.’

This is a clear and arrogant violation of our Constitution. This is war. Even a war launched for humanitarian reasons is still a war. And - only Congress can declare war.

We saw in the President’s address to the nation on March 28, 2011 how mismatched elements are being hastily stitched together into a new war doctrine:

1.  Executive privilege to wage war
2.  War based on verbal threats
3.  Humanitarian war
4.  Preemptive war
5.  Unilateral war
6.  War for regime change
7.  War against a nation whose government this Administration determines to be illegitimate
8.  War authorized through the UN Security Council
9.  War authorized through NATO and the Arab League
10. War requested by a rebel group against its despised government.

But not a word about coming to the representatives of the people in the United States Congress to make this decision. At this moment sailors and marines aboard the USS Bataan are headed to a position off the coast of Libya. The sons and daughters of our constituents put their lives on the line for this country. We owe it to them to challenge a misguided and illegal doctrine which could put their lives in great danger. For we have an obligation to protect them as they pledge to defend our nation.

The Administration’s new war doctrine will lead not to peace, but to more war. It will stretch even thinner our military. In 2007 the Center for American Progress released a report on the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the multiple deployments on our Armed Forces. The report cited a lack of military readiness. It cited high levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicide.

The report was released just before President Bush’s surge in Iraq. Just one year after the surge in Afghanistan and after eight years in Iraq, the President commits an all volunteer army to another war of choice. If the criteria for military intervention in another country is government-sponsored violence and instability, over commitment of our military will be virtually inevitable and our national security will be undermined.

It is clear that the Administration planned a war against Libya at least a month in advance. But why? The President cannot say that Libya is an imminent or actual threat. He cannot say that war against Libya is in our vital interest. He cannot say that Libya had the intention or capability of attacking the United States. He has not claimed Libya had weapons of mass destruction to be used against us.

We are told our nation’s role is limited, yet, at the same time, it is being expanded.

We have been told the administration does not favor military regime change, but then they tell us the war cannot end until Gaddafi is no longer the leader. Further, two weeks earlier the President signed a secret order for the CIA to assist the rebels who are trying to oust Gaddafi.

We are told that the burdens of the war in Libya would be shared by a coalition, but the United States is providing the bulk of the money, the armaments and the organizational leadership.

We are told that the President has legal authority for this war under the UN Security Council Resolution 1973. But this resolution specifically does not authorize any ground elements. Furthermore, the administration exceeded the mandate of the resolution by providing the rebels with air cover. Thus this war against Libya violated our Constitution and has even violated the very authority which the administration claimed was sufficient to take our country to war.

We are told the Gaddafi regime has been illegitimate for four decades. But we were not told that in 2003 the U.S. dropped sanctions against Libya. We were not told that Gaddafi, in an effort to ingratiate himself with the West in general and with America in particular, accepted a market-based economic program led by the very harsh structural adjustment remedies of the IMF and the World Bank. This led to the wholesale privatization of his state enterprises, contributing to unemployment in Libya rising above 20%. CNN reported on December 19, 2003 that Libya acknowledged having a nuclear program, pledged to destroy weapons of mass destruction and pledged to allow international inspections.

This was a decision which President George W. Bush has praised saying Gaddafi’s actions “made our country and our world safer.”

 We are told that Gaddafi is in breach of UN Security Council Resolutions but now our own Secretary of State is reportedly considering arming the rebels, an act which would be a breach of the UN Security Council resolution which established an arms embargo.

We are told we went to war at the request of and with the support of the Arab League but the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa began asking questions immediately after the imposition of the “No Fly Zone” stating that what was happening in Libya “differs from the aim of imposing a No Fly Zone . . . . what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of civilians.”

Even the Secretary General of NATO, an organization which the United States founded and generally controls, expressed concern saying “We are not in Libya to arm people but to protect people.”

Is this is truly a humanitarian intervention? What is humanitarian about providing to one side of a conflict the ability to wage war against the other side of a conflict, which will inevitably trigger a civil war turning Libya into a graveyard?

The Administration has told us they do not really know who the rebels are, but they are considering arming them nonetheless. The fact that they are even thinking about arming these rebels makes one think they know exactly who the rebels are.

While a variety of individuals and institutions may comprise the so called opposition in Libya, in fact one of the most significant organizations is the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) along with its military front, the Libyan National Army. The NFSL’s call for opposition to the Gaddafi regime in February was a catalyst of the conflict which precipitated the humanitarian crisis which is now used to justify our armed intervention.

But how spontaneous was this rebellion?

The Congressional Research Service in a 1987 analysis of the Libyan opposition wrote:

“Over twenty opposition groups exist outside Libya. The most important in 1987 was the Libyan National Salvation Front (LNSF) formed in October 1981….The LNSF claimed responsibility for the daring attack on Gaddafi’s headquarters at Bab al Aziziyah on May 8, 1984. Although the coup attempt failed and Gaddafi escaped unscathed, dissident groups claimed that some eighty Libyans, Cubans and East Germans perished.”

Significantly the CRS cited various “sources” as early as 1984 which claimed “. . . the United States Central Intelligence Agency trained and supported the LNSF [Libyan National Salvation Front] before and after the May 8 operation”.

By October 31, 1996, according to the BBC translation of Al-Hayat, an Arabic journal in London, a Colonel Khalifah Hiftar, who was the leader of the Libyan National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the LNSF was quoted as saying “force is the only effective method” in dealing with Gaddafi.

Move forward to March 26, 2011. The McClatchy Newspapers reported that the “new leader of Libya’s opposition military, left for Libya two weeks ago”, apparently around the same time that the President signed the covert operations order. The new leader spent the past two decades of his life in suburban Virginia where he had no visible means of support. His name: Colonel Khalifah Hiftar. One wonders when he planned his trip and who is his travel agency.

Congress needs to determine whether the United States, through previous covert support of the armed insurrection driven by the American-created NFSL, potentially helped create the humanitarian crisis was used to justify military intervention?

If we really want to understand how our constitutional prerogative for determining war and peace has been preempted by this Administration, it is important that Congress fully consider relevant events which may relate directly to the attack on Libya.

Consider this: On November 2, 2010 France and Great Britain signed a mutual defense treaty, which included joint participation in “Southern Mistral a series of war games outlined in the bilateral agreement and surprisingly documented on a joint military web site established by France and Great Britain. Southern Mistral involved a long-range conventional air attack, called Southern Storm, against a dictatorship in a fictitious southern country called “Southland,” in response to a pretend attack on France by “Southland”. The joint military air strike was authorized by a pretend United Nations Security Council Resolution. The “Composite Air Operations” were planned for the period of March 21-25, 2011.

On March 20, 2011 the United States joined France and Great Britain in an air attack against Libya, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

Have the scheduled war games simply been postponed, or are they actually under way after months of planning, under the name of Operation Odyssey Dawn? Were opposition forces in Libya informed by the US, the UK or France about the existence of Southern Mistral/Southern Storm, which may have encouraged them to actions leading to greater repression and a humanitarian crisis? In short was this war against Gaddafi’s Libya planned or a spontaneous response to the great suffering which Gaddafi was visiting upon his opposition? Congress has not even considered this possibility.

NATO, which has now taken over enforcement of the no-fly zone, has morphed from an organization which pledged mutual support to defend North Atlantic states from aggression in military operations reaching from Libya to the Chinese border in Afghanistan. We need to now ask what role the French Air Force General Abrial and current Supreme Allied Commander of NATO for Transformation may have played in the development of Operation Southern Storm and in discussions with the U.S. in the expansion of the UN Mandate into a NATO operation. What has been the role of the US African Command and Central Command in discussions leading up to this conflict? What did we know and when did we know it?

The United Nations Security Council process is at risk when its members are not fully informed of all the facts when they authorize a military operation.  It is at risk from NATO which is usurping its mandate without specific authorization of Security Council Resolution 1973. The United States pays 25% of the military expense of NATO and NATO may be participating in the expansion of the UN mandate.

The United Nations relies not only on its moral authority, but on the moral cooperation of its member nations. If America exceeds its legal authority and determines to redefine international law, we journey away from an international moral order and into the amorality of power politics where the rule of force trumps the rule of law.

What are the fundamental principles at stake in America today?

First and foremost is our system of checks and balances built into the Constitution to ensure that important decisions of state are developed through mutual respect and shared responsibility in order to ensure that collective knowledge, indeed the collective wisdom of the people, is brought to bear. Two former Secretaries of State, James Baker and Warren Christopher have spoken jointly to the “importance of meaningful consultation between the President and Congress before the nation is committed to war.”

Our nation has an inherent right to defend itself and a solemn obligation to defend the Constitution. From the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam to the allegations of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq we have learned from bitter experience that the determination to go to war must be based on verifiable facts carefully considered.
Finally, civilian deaths are always to be regretted. But, we must understand from our own Civil War more than 150 years ago that nations must resolve their own conflicts and shape their own destiny internally.

However horrible those internal conflicts may be, these local conflicts can become even more dreadful if armed intervention in a civil war results in the internationalization of that conflict.

The belief that war is inevitable makes of war a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The United States, in this new and complex world wracked with great movements of masses to transform their own government, must itself be open to transformation, away from intervention, away from trying to determine the leadership of other nations, away from covert operations to try to manipulate events, and towards a rendezvous with those great principles of self-determination which gave us birth.

In a world which is interconnected and interdependent. In a world which cries out for human unity, we must call upon the wisdom of our namesake and Founding Father, George Washington, to guide us in the days ahead.

“The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.”

Washington also had a wish for the future America: “My wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.”