Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Impeachment by the People

by Howard Zinn
The Progressive
February 2007 Issue

Courage is in short supply in Washington, D.C. The realities of the Iraq War cry out for the overthrow of a government that is criminally responsible for death, mutilation, torture, humiliation, chaos. But all we hear in the nation’s capital, which is the source of those catastrophes, is a whimper from the Democratic Party, muttering and nattering about “unity” and “bipartisanship,” in a situation that calls for bold action to immediately reverse the present course.

These are the Democrats who were brought to power in November by an electorate fed up with the war, furious at the Bush Administration, and counting on the new majority in Congress to represent the voters. But if sanity is to be restored in our national policies, it can only come about by a great popular upheaval, pushing both Republicans and Democrats into compliance with the national will.

The Declaration of Independence, revered as a document but ignored as a guide to action, needs to be read from pulpits and podiums, on street corners and community radio stations throughout the nation. Its words, forgotten for over two centuries, need to become a call to action for the first time since it was read aloud to crowds in the early excited days of the American Revolution: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute new government.”

The “ends” referred to in the Declaration are the equal right of all to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” True, no government in the history of the nation has been faithful to those ends. Favors for the rich, neglect of the poor, massive violence in the interest of continental and world expansion—that is the persistent record of our government.

Still, there seems to be a special viciousness that accompanies the current assault on human rights, in this country and in the world. We have had repressive governments before, but none has legislated the end of habeas corpus, nor openly supported torture, nor declared the possibility of war without end. No government has so casually ignored the will of the people, affirmed the right of the President to ignore the Constitution, even to set aside laws passed by Congress.

The time is right, then, for a national campaign calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Representative John Conyers, who held extensive hearings and introduced an impeachment resolution when the Republicans controlled Congress, is now head of the House Judiciary Committee and in a position to fight for such a resolution. He has apparently been silenced by his Democratic colleagues who throw out as nuggets of wisdom the usual political palaver about “realism” (while ignoring the realities staring them in the face) and politics being “the art of the possible” (while setting limits on what is possible).

I know I’m not the first to talk about impeachment. Indeed, judging by the public opinion polls, there are millions of Americans, indeed a majority of those polled, who declare themselves in favor if it is shown that the President lied us into war (a fact that is not debatable). There are at least a half-dozen books out on impeachment, and it’s been argued for eloquently by some of our finest journalists, John Nichols and Lewis Lapham among them. Indeed, an actual “indictment” has been drawn up by a former federal prosecutor, Elizabeth de la Vega, in a new book called United States v. George W. Bush et al, making a case, in devastating detail, to a fictional grand jury.

There is a logical next step in this development of an impeachment movement: the convening of “people’s impeachment hearings” all over the country. This is especially important given the timidity of the Democratic Party. Such hearings would bypass Congress, which is not representing the will of the people, and would constitute an inspiring example of grassroots democracy.

These hearings would be the contemporary equivalents of the unofficial gatherings that marked the resistance to the British Crown in the years leading up to the American Revolution. The story of the American Revolution is usually built around Lexington and Concord, around the battles and the Founding Fathers. What is forgotten is that the American colonists, unable to count on redress of their grievances from the official bodies of government, took matters into their own hands, even before the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

In 1772, town meetings in Massachusetts began setting up Committees of Correspondence, and the following year, such a committee was set up in Virginia. The first Continental Congress, beginning to meet in 1774, was a recognition that an extralegal body was necessary to represent the interests of the people. In 1774 and 1775, all through the colonies, parallel institutions were set up outside the official governmental bodies.

Throughout the nation’s history, the failure of government to deliver justice has led to the establishment of grassroots organizations, often ad hoc, dissolving after their purpose was fulfilled. For instance, after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, knowing that the national government could not be counted on to repeal the act, black and white anti-slavery groups organized to nullify the law by acts of civil disobedience. They held meetings, made plans, and set about rescuing escaped slaves who were in danger of being returned to their masters.

In the desperate economic conditions of 1933 and 1934, before the Roosevelt Administration was doing anything to help people in distress, local groups were formed all over the country to demand government action. Unemployed Councils came into being, tenants’ groups fought evictions, and hundreds of thousands of people in the country formed self-help organizations to exchange goods and services and enable people to survive.

More recently, we recall the peace groups of the 1980s, which sprang up in hundreds of communities all over the country, and provoked city councils and state legislatures to pass resolutions in favor of a freeze on nuclear weapons. And local organizations have succeeded in getting more than 400 city councils to take a stand against the Patriot Act.

Impeachment hearings all over the country could excite and energize the peace movement. They would make headlines, and could push reluctant members of Congress in both parties to do what the Constitution provides for and what the present circumstances demand: the impeachment and removal from office of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Simply raising the issue in hundreds of communities and Congressional districts would have a healthy effect, and would be a sign that democracy, despite all attempts to destroy it in this era of war, is still alive.

© 2006 The Progressive

Feingold Introduces Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007

January 31, 2007

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold today introduced the Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007. Feingold’s bill uses Congress’s power of the purse to force the President to safely redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq by prohibiting funds for continued operations six months after enactment. Feingold’s legislation allows for specific operations to continue in Iraq beyond six months, including counter-terrorism efforts, protection of U.S. personnel and infrastructure, and training of Iraqi security forces. The six-month timeframe provides the President with adequate time to safely redeploy the troops from Iraq.

“By passing my legislation, Congress can respond to the will of the American people and force the President to safely bring our forces out of Iraq,” Feingold said. “With the President set on pursuing his failed policies in Iraq, Congress has the duty to stand up and use its power to stop him. If Congress doesn’t stop this war, it’s not because it doesn’t have the power -- it’s because it doesn’t have the will.”

Feingold’s bill is the latest effort in his long record of opposing the President’s flawed Iraq policy. In August 2005, Feingold, who opposed the authorization to use force in Iraq, became the first Senator to propose a timeline to bring an end to U.S. involvement in Iraq. Yesterday, Feingold chaired a full Judiciary Committee hearing where a diverse panel of constitutional scholars testified that Congress does indeed have the power to end a war.

“From the beginning, this war has been a mistake, and the policies that have carried it out have been a failure,” Feingold said. “Congress must not allow the President to continue a war that has already come at such a terrible cost. We have the constitutional authority and the moral responsibility to end our involvement in Iraq so we can refocus on those who attacked us on 9/11.”

Read the bill here.

“…Congress can, and has, used the power of the purse to restrict presidential war power. If members of Congress are worried about American troops fighting for their lives in a futile war, those lives are not protected by voting for continued funding. The proper and responsible action is to terminate appropriations and bring the troops home.”

- Louis Fisher, Specialist in Constitutional Law, Law Library of Congress, in his book “Presidential War Power.”

Feingold’s legislation:

  • Prohibits the use of funds for continued deployment of U.S. Armed Forces to the Republic of Iraq after six months of enactment. In other words, the President would have to redeploy troops safely by that date.
  • Requires the Administration to report to Congress, within 60 days of enactment, a strategy for safely redeploying U.S. forces from Iraq within the six months prior to the fund termination date.

  • Provides specific exceptions to the prohibition for:

    • Conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations in Iraq.

    • Allowing a limited number of U.S. forces to conduct specific training for Iraqi security services.

    • Providing security for U.S. infrastructure and civilian personnel.

  • Does not prohibit funds for any department or agency of the Government of the United States to carry out political, economic, or general reconstruction activities in Iraq.

  • Does not prevent any U.S. troops from receiving salaries, equipment, training and other resources.

On numerous occasions, Congress has exercised its constitutional authority to end military engagements. Here are just a few examples:

Cambodia – In late December 1970, Congress passes the Supplemental Foreign Assistance Appropriations Act prohibiting the use of funds to finance the introduction of United States ground combat troops into Cambodia or to provide U.S. advisors to or for Cambodian military forces in Cambodia.

Vietnam – In late June 1973, Congress passes the second Supplemental Appropriations Act for FY1973. This legislation contains language cutting off funds for combat activities in Vietnam after August 15, 1973.

Somalia – In November 1993, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act includes a provision that prohibits funding after March 31, 1994 for military operations in Somalia, except for a limited number of military personnel to protect American diplomatic personnel and American citizens, unless further authorized by Congress.

Bosnia – In 1998, Congress passes the Defense Authorization Bill, with a provision that prohibits funding for Bosnia after June 30, 1998, unless the President makes certain assurances.

US 'Victory' against Cult Leader Was 'Massacre'

by Patrick Cockburn
The Independent
January 31, 2007

There are growing suspicions in Iraq that the official story of the battle outside Najaf between a messianic Iraqi cult and the Iraqi security forces supported by the US, in which 263 people were killed and 210 wounded, is a fabrication. The heavy casualties may be evidence of an unpremeditated massacre.

A picture is beginning to emerge of a clash between an Iraqi Shia tribe on a pilgrimage to Najaf and an Iraqi army checkpoint that led the US to intervene with devastating effect. The involvement of Ahmed al-Hassani (also known as Abu Kamar), who believed himself to be the coming Mahdi, or Messiah, appears to have been accidental.

The story emerging on independent Iraqi websites and in Arabic newspapers is entirely different from the government's account of the battle with the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven", planning a raid on Najaf to kill Shia religious leaders.

The cult denied it was involved in the fighting, saying it was a peaceful movement. The incident reportedly began when a procession of 200 pilgrims was on its way, on foot, to celebrate Ashura in Najaf. They came from the Hawatim tribe, which lives between Najaf and Diwaniyah to the south, and arrived in the Zarga area, one mile from Najaf at about 6am on Sunday. Heading the procession was the chief of the tribe, Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, and his wife driving in their 1982 Super Toyota sedan because they could not walk. When they reached an Iraqi army checkpoint it opened fire, killing Mr Hatemi, his wife and his driver, Jabar Ridha al-Hatemi. The tribe, fully armed because they were travelling at night, then assaulted the checkpoint to avenge their fallen chief.

Members of another tribe called Khaza'il living in Zarga tried to stop the fighting but they themselves came under fire. Meanwhile, the soldiers and police at the checkpoint called up their commanders saying they were under attack from al-Qai'da with advanced weapons. Reinforcements poured into the area and surrounded the Hawatim tribe in the nearby orchards. The tribesmen tried - in vain - to get their attackers to cease fire.

American helicopters then arrived and dropped leaflets saying: "To the terrorists, surrender before we bomb the area." The tribesmen went on firing and a US helicopter was hit and crashed killing two crewmen. The tribesmen say they do not know if they hit it or if it was brought down by friendly fire. The US aircraft launched an intense aerial bombardment in which 120 tribesmen and local residents were killed by 4am on Monday.

The messianic group led by Ahmad al-Hassani, which was already at odds with the Iraqi authorities in Najaf, was drawn into the fighting because it was based in Zarga and its presence provided a convenient excuse for what was in effect a massacre. The Hawatim and Khaza'il tribes are opposed to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Dawa Party, who both control Najaf and make up the core of the Baghdad government.

This account cannot be substantiated and is drawn from the Healing Iraq website and the authoritative Baghdad daily Azzaman. But it would explain the disparity between the government casualties - less than 25 by one account - and the great number of their opponents killed and wounded. The Iraqi authorities have sealed the site and are not letting reporters talk to the wounded.

Sectarian killings across Iraq also marred the celebration of the Shia ritual of Ashura. A suicide bomber killed 23 worshippers and wounded 57 others in a Shia mosque in Balad Ruz. Not far away in Khanaqin, in Diyala, a bomb killed 13 people, including three women, and wounded 29 others. In east Baghdad mortar bombs killed 17 people.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Carbon Cloud Over a Green Fuel

by Mark Clayton
The Christian Science Monitor
March 23, 2006

Blogger's note: In response to President Bush's State of the Union speech last night, this blog is revisiting the masquerade of ethanol as a green fuel. See also CorpWatch's "Green Fuel's Dirty Secret" from June 1, 2006.

Late last year in Goldfield, Iowa, a refinery began pumping out a stream of ethanol, which supporters call the clean, renewable fuel of the future.

There's just one twist: The plant is burning 300 tons of coal a day to turn corn into ethanol - the first US plant of its kind to use coal instead of cleaner natural gas.

An hour south of Goldfield, another coal-fired ethanol plant is under construction in Nevada, Iowa. At least three other such refineries are being built in Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota.

The trend, which is expected to continue, has left even some ethanol boosters scratching their heads. Should coal become a standard for 30 to 40 ethanol plants under construction - and 150 others on the drawing boards - it would undermine the environmental reasoning for switching to ethanol in the first place, environmentalists say.

"If the biofuels industry is going to depend on coal, and these conversion plants release their CO2 to the air, it could undo the global warming benefits of using ethanol," says David Hawkins, climate director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington.

The reason for the shift is purely economic. Natural gas has long been the ethanol industry's fuel of choice. But with natural gas prices soaring, talk of coal power for new ethanol plants and retrofitting existing refineries for coal is growing, observers say.

"It just made great economic sense to use coal," says Brad Davis, general manager of the Gold-Eagle Cooperative that manages the Corn LP plant, which is farmer and investor owned. "Clean coal" technology, he adds, helps the Goldfield refinery easily meet pollution limits - and coal power saves millions in fuel costs.

Yet even the nearly clear vapor from the refinery contains as much as double the carbon emissions of a refinery using natural gas, climate experts say. So if coal-fired ethanol catches on, is it still the "clean, renewable fuel" the state's favorite son, Sen. Tom Harkin likes to call it?

Such questions arrive amid boom times for America's ethanol industry.

With 97 ethanol refineries pumping out some 4 billion gallons of ethanol, the industry expects to double over the next six years by adding another 4.4 billion gallons of capacity per year. Tax breaks as well as concerns about energy security, the environment, and higher gasoline prices are all driving ethanol forward.

The Goldfield refinery, and the other four coal-fired ethanol plants under construction are called "dry mill" operations, because of the process they use. The industry has in the past used coal in a few much larger "wet mill" operations that produce ethanol and a raft of other products. But dry mills are the wave of the future, industry experts say. It's their shift to coal that's causing the concern.

Scores of these new ethanol refineries are expected to be built across the Midwest and West by the end of the decade, and many could soon be burning coal in some form to turn corn into ethanol, industry analysts say.

"It's very likely that coal will be the fuel of choice for most of these new ethanol plants," says Robert McIlvaine, president of a Northfield, Ill., information services company that has compiled a database of nearly 200 ethanol plants now under construction or in planning and development.

If all 190 plants on Mr. McIlvaine's list were built and used coal, motorists would not reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions, according to an in-depth analysis of the subject to date by scientists at University of California at Berkeley, published in Science magazine in January.

Of course, many coal-fired ethanol plants on the drawing board will not be built, Mr. McIlvaine says. Others in planning for years may still choose natural gas as fuel to meet air pollution requirements in some states.

Other variations on ethanol-coal are emerging in Goodland, Kan., and Underwood, N.D., where ethanol plants are being built next to coal-burning power plants to use waste heat. Efficient, but still coal.

That could spell trouble for ethanol's renewable image.

"If your goal is to reduce costs, then coal is a good idea," says Robert Brown, director of Iowa State University's office of biorenewables. "If the goal is a renewable fuel, coal is a bad idea. When greenhouse-gas emissions go up, environmentalists take note. Then you've got a problem."

Ethanol industry officials say coal-power is just one possibility the industry is pursuing.

"I think some in the environmental community won't be all that warm and fuzzy about [coal-fired ethanol]," says Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, the national trade association for the US fuel-ethanol industry. "It's fair to say there's a trend away from natural gas, but coal is just one approach. Other technologies are part of the mix, too."

He cites, for instance, a new ethanol plant in Nebraska strategically located by a feed lot, using methane from cattle waste to fire ethanol boilers. Another new plant in Minnesota uses biomass gasification, using plant material as its fuel.

Coal may end up being merely a transitional fuel in the run-up to cellulosic ethanol, including switch grass and wood, says another RFA spokesman. While ethanol production today primarily uses only the corn kernel, cellulosic will use the whole plant.

Cellulosic ethanol, mentioned by President Bush in his State of the Union speech, could turn the tide on coal, too, by burning plant dregs in the boiler with no need for coal at all.

"It's a fact that ethanol is a renewable fuel today and it will stay that way," says Matt Hartwig, an RFA spokesman. "Any greenhouse-gas emissions that come out the tailpipe are recycled by the corn plant. I don't expect the limited number of coal-fired plants out there to change that."

Still, Hawkins insists that if ethanol is made using coal, the carbon dioxide should be captured and injected into the ground.

"We favor getting ethanol production up," Hawkins says. "But we obviously favor a cleaner process. We need large cuts in global warming emissions from transportation. It's not good enough for ethanol to simply be no worse than gasoline."

Copyright © 2007 The Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Step It Up On Global Warming

by Bill McKibben
StepItUp 2007

Dear Friends,

This is an invitation to help start a movement--to take one spring day and use it to reshape the future. Those of us who know that climate change is the greatest threat civilization now faces have science on our side; we have economists and policy specialists, courageous mayors and governors, engineers with cool new technology.

But we don't have a movement—the largest rally yet held in the U.S. about global warming drew a thousand people. If we're going to make the kind of change we need in the short time left us, we need something that looks like the civil rights movement, and we need it now. Changing light bulbs just isn't enough.

So pitch in. A few of us are trying to organize a nationwide day of hundreds and hundreds of rallies on April 14. We hope to have gatherings in every state, and in many of America's most iconic places: on the levees in New Orleans, on top of the melting glaciers on Mt. Rainier, even underwater on the endangered coral reefs off Key West.

We need rallies outside churches, along the tide lines in our coastal cities, in cornfields and forests and on statehouse steps.

Every group will be saying the same thing: Step it up, Congress! Enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions, and pledge an 80% reduction by 2050. No half measures, no easy compromises-the time has come to take the real actions that can stabilize our climate.

As people gather, we'll link pictures of the protests together electronically via the web-before the weekend is out, we'll have the largest protest the country has ever seen, not in numbers but in extent. From every corner of the nation we'll start to shake things up.

By its very nature, this action needs all kinds of people to help out. We can't make it happen-it has to assemble itself.

Sign up to host an action. We'll coordinate the responses, introducing you to others from your area, and give you everything you need to be a leader, from banners to press releases.

You don't have to have ever done anything like this-you're not organizing a March on Washington, just a gathering of scores or hundreds in your town or neighborhood.

We need creativity, good humor, commitment. If you are active in a campus group or a church or a local environmental group or a garden society or a bike club-or if you just saw Al Gore's movie and want to do something-then we need you now.

And by now, we mean now.

The best science tells us we have ten years to fundamentally transform our economy and lead the world in the same direction or else, in the words of NASA's Jim Hansen, we will face a "totally different planet," one infinitely sadder and less flourishing.

The recent elections have given us an opening, and polling shows most Americans know there's a problem. But the forces of inertia and business-as-usual are still in control, and only our voices, united and loud, joyful and determined, can change that reality.

Please join us.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

History is Not Preordained: A New Cold War Can Be Averted

by Mikhail Gorbachev
The Guardian
January 18, 2006

A watershed in international relations has occurred in recent months. Indeed, the past year may well have seen the end of an entire era in world affairs - the post-cold war period of unilateralism and missed opportunities.

When the cold war ended, avenues opened up for progress toward a better world. Major powers, particularly the United States, the Soviet Union and China, were working constructively together in the United Nations security council. International conflicts, including those in Angola, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Cambodia, were brought to an end. Nuclear and conventional arms control agreements were concluded, and democratic changes were under way in dozens of countries in Asia, Latin America and central and eastern Europe.

The Charter of Paris for a New Europe, signed in 1990, marked the beginning of a process that was expected to lead to a new, peaceful and democratic world order. But the movement in that direction soon stalled. The break-up of the Soviet Union was followed by changes in the political elites of the United States and other countries. The Charter of Paris was forgotten. Instead of moving towards a new security architecture, it was decided to rely on the tools inherited from the cold war. The United States - and the west as a whole - succumbed to the "winner's complex".

Europe was shaken by the tragedies in the Balkans. Waves of instability swept through the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Africa as the struggles for spheres of influence, resources and markets gathered momentum.

Nato's promise to evolve into a primarily political organisation was not kept. Instead, it moved to increase its membership and expand its zone of operations. A new arms race is now under way. The problems of nuclear weapons and non-proliferation have taken on a new urgency, with the original members of the nuclear club bearing much of the blame for it.

There is a real danger of a new division of the world; the possibility of a new cold war is being widely discussed. Without regard for the security council or for the opinion of other countries, including its partners and allies, the United States invaded Iraq with disastrous consequences. The arrogance of military power has led to a grave crisis - and to a decline of the United States' role and influence.

Another consequence of unilateralist policies and attempts to claim exclusive leadership is that most international institutions have not been able to address effectively the new century's global challenges - the environmental crisis and the problem of poverty. The unprecedented scale of international terrorism and the proliferation of ethnic and religious conflicts are disturbing signs of troubles to come.

Americans have also felt the effects of the administration's flawed foreign policies. In November the voters made their verdict known, delivering a defeat for the Republicans in the midterm elections. Yet that is a challenge to the entire US political establishment, for Democrats as well as Republicans. There is a need for a correction in the superpower's policies. Is the administration of George Bush capable of such a correction?

Both in the United States and elsewhere, the prevailing view is often negative. The administration gives ample reason for this view, because it seems to prefer the inertia of the old course. It would appear that all the Bush administration wants is to persuade the world that it is still firmly in the saddle. The president's recent statements and the plans being discussed in his administration are cut from the old cloth.

The Republican leadership clearly wants to leave to the next president a legacy that would tie him to its policies and make a change of course impossible. If so it is not just a tactical blunder but a recipe for an even greater disaster.

And yet I think the possibility of change is still there. The administration and Congress still have the time to forge it. They should begin with the Middle East. Not only should America start pulling itself out of the Iraqi quagmire, but it also needs to return to a constructive policy in the region. It is essential that the Middle East peace process be resumed, along with a serious dialogue with Iraq's neighbours.

If America's leaders have the foresight and the courage to look at the world as it really is, they would choose dialogue and cooperation rather than force. What is needed is not a worldwide web of military presence and intervention, but a restraint and a willingness to solve problems by political means.

After all, the world has changed dramatically even when compared to the early 1990s. It has become even more interconnected and interdependent. New giants - China, India and Brazil - have entered the world arena, and their views can no longer be ignored. Europe is uniting, and its economic and political influence is bound to grow.

Although the Islamic world is finding it difficult to adapt to new realities, its adjustment will continue and this great civilisation will insist on being treated with respect. Finally, the democratic transition of Russia (as well as the other former Soviet republics), for all its considerable problems, is bringing a new, strong player to the international scene.

During the 1990s, which were a difficult time for my country, I said that Russia's troubles would pass, that it would rise to its feet and forge ahead. This is what is happening now.

Russia's resurgence, its insistence on protecting its interests, and its ability to play a proper role in the world, are not to everyone's liking. Strangely enough, when Russia was mired in crisis, the west applauded it; today Russia is accused of rejecting democracy and of having imperial ambitions.

Still, there are no real reasons to fear Russia. My country is facing many problems. Learning new ways and building democratic institutions is indeed hard work. But Russia will never go back. The most difficult part of the road is already behind us.

I have always said that in this day and age we cannot afford to be pessimists. There are many reasons to be concerned and even alarmed. But history is not preordained. A new division of the world, a new confrontation, is not inevitable. A democratic world order is not mere rhetoric. It can be built.

Mikhail Gorbachev is former president of the Soviet Union.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Climate Resets Doomsday Clock

by Molly Bentley
BBC News
January 17, 2006

Experts assessing the dangers posed to civilisation have added climate change to the prospect of nuclear annihilation as the greatest threats to humankind.

As a result, the group has moved the minute hand on its famous "Doomsday Clock" two minutes closer to midnight.

The concept timepiece, devised by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, now stands at five minutes to the hour.

The clock was first featured by the magazine 60 years ago, shortly after the US dropped its A-bombs on Japan.

Not since the darkest days of the Cold War has the Bulletin, which covers global security issues, felt the need to place the minute hand so close to midnight.

The decision to move it came after BAS directors and affiliated scientists held discussions to reassess the idea of doomsday and what posed the most grievous threats to civilisation.

Growing global nuclear instability has led humanity to the brink of a "Second Nuclear Age," the group concluded, and the threat posed by climate change is second only to that posed by nuclear weapons.

"When we think about what technologies besides nuclear weapons could produce such devastation to the planet, we quickly came to carbon-emitting technologies," said Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Chicago-based BAS.

The announcement was made at simultaneous events held by the magazine in London and in Washington DC that included remarks from the English Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, and physicist Stephen Hawking.

"Humankind's collective impacts on the biosphere, climate and oceans are unprecedented," said Sir Martin.

"These environmentally driven threats - 'threats without enemies' - should loom as large in the political perspective as did the East/West political divide during the Cold War era."

A number of alarming nuclear trends led to a statement by the Bulletin that "the world has not faced such perilous choices" since the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The worries include Iran's nuclear ambitions, North Korea's detonation of an atomic bomb, the presence of 26,000 launch-ready weapons by America and Russia, and the inability to secure and halt the international trafficking of nuclear materials such as highly enriched uranium and plutonium.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded by former Manhattan Project physicists, has campaigned for nuclear disarmament since 1947.

Its board periodically reviews issues of global security and challenges to humanity, not solely those posed by nuclear technology, although most have had a technological component.

This is the first time it has included climate change as an explicit threat to the future of civilisation.

A less immediate threat, but included in the assessment, is the one posed by emerging life science technologies, such as synthetic biology and genetic modification.

While the harm done to the planet by carbon-emitting manufacturing technologies and automobiles was more gradual than a nuclear explosion, nonetheless, it could also be catastrophic to life as we know it and "irremediable", the board said.

It cited in support the conclusions of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Its broad assessment is that the warning over the last few decades is attributable to human activities, and that its consequences are observable in such events as the melting of Arctic ice.

In the years ahead, rising sea levels, heat waves, desertification, along with new disease outbreaks and wars over arable land and water, would mean climate change could bring widespread destruction, the board said.

It also warned against the use of nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels.

While the technology had the potential to alleviate the climate warming effects of burning coal, its development raised the spectre that nuclear materials would be available for nefarious ends as well, the board argued.

Some scientists - even climate scientists - may not support the comparison of global warming to the catastrophe that would follow a nuclear engagement.

"Whether it's a threat of the same magnitude or slightly less or greater is beside the point," said Michael Oppenheimer, a geoscientist from Princeton University, US.

"The important point is that this organisation, which for 60 years has been monitoring and warning us about the nuclear threat, now recognises climate change as a threat that deserves the same level of attention," he said.

Both the nuclear menace and a runaway greenhouse effect were the result of technology whose control had slipped from humans' grasp, the BAS directors said. But it was also within our power to pull them back under control, they added.

"We haven't figured out how to do that yet, but the potential is within our institutions and our imaginations," said Dr Benedict.

Dr Oppenheimer agrees that people should not despair. After all, he said, for a long time the world took the nuclear threat seriously and reduced the numbers of weapons.

"I'm optimistic that we can address climate change," he said. "We've dealt with such problems before, and we can do it again."

Over the past 60 years, the Doomsday clock has now moved backwards and forwards 18 times. It advanced to two minutes before midnight - its closest proximity to doom - in 1953 after the United States and the Soviet Union detonated hydrogen bombs.

Its keepers last moved the clock's hand in 2002 after the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and amid alarm about the acquisition of nuclear weapons and materials by terrorists.

© BBC 2007

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Enough Time Has Been Wasted

by US Senator Robert C. Byrd
Speech delivered on the floor of the US Senate
January 11, 2007

Last night in his address to the nation, the President called for a "surge" of 20,000 additional U.S. troops to help secure Baghdad against the violence that has consumed it. Unfortunately, such a plan is not the outline of a brave new course, as we were told, but a tragic commitment to a failed policy; not a bold new strategy, but a rededication to a course that has proven to be a colossal blunder on every count. The President never spoke truer words than when he said, "the situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people." But he once again failed to offer a realistic way forward, instead giving us more of his stale and tired "stay the course" prescriptions.

He espoused a strategy of "clear, hold, and build" -- a doctrine of counterinsurgency that one of our top commanders, General David Petraeus, helped to formulate. Clear, hold, and build involves bringing to bear a large number of troops in an area, clearing it of insurgents, and holding it secure for long enough for reconstruction to take place. But what the President did not say last night is that, according to General Petraeus and his own military experts, this strategy of "clear, hold, build" requires a huge number of troops -- a minimum of 20 combat troops for every 1,000 civilians in the area. Applying this doctrine to Baghdad's six million people means that at least 120,000 troops will be needed to secure Baghdad alone. Right now, we have about 70,000 combat troops stationed throughout Iraq; even if they all were concentrated in the city of Baghdad, along with the 20,000 new troops the President is calling for, we would still fall well short of what is needed.

But let us assume that the brave men and women of the U.S. military are able to carry out this Herculean task, and secure Baghdad against the forces that are spiraling it into violence; what is to keep those forces from regrouping in another town, another province, even another country, strengthening, festering, and waiting until the American soldiers leave to launch their bloody attacks again?

It brings to mind the ancient figure of Sisyphus, who was doomed to push a boulder up a mountainside for all eternity, only to have it roll back down as soon as he reached the top. As soon as he would accomplish his task it would begin again, endlessly. I fear that we are condemning our soldiers to a similar fate, hunting down insurgents in one city or province only to watch them pop up in another. For how long will U.S. troops be asked to shoulder this burden?

Over 3,000 American soldiers have now been killed in Iraq, and over 22,000 have been wounded. Staggering. And President Bush now proposes to send 20,000 more Americans into the line of fire, beyond the 70,000 already there. The cost of this war of choice to American taxpayers is now estimated to be over $400 billion, and the number continues to rise. One wonders how much progress we could have made in improving education, or resolving our health care crisis, or strengthening our borders, or reducing our national debt, or any number of pressing issues, with that amount of money. And the President proposes sending more money down that drain.

On every count, an escalation of 20,000 troops is a misguided, costly, unwise course of action. This is not a solution. This is not a march toward "victory." The President's own military advisors have indicated that we do not have enough troops for this strategy to be successful. It will put more Americans in harm's way than there already are. It will cost more in U.S. taxpayer money. It will further stretch an army that many commanders have already said is at its breaking point. It is a dangerous idea.

Why, then, is the President advocating it? This decision has the cynical smell of politics to me. Suggesting that an additional 20,000 troops will alter the balance of this war is a way for the President to look forceful, to appear to be taking bold action. But it is only the appearance of bold action, not the reality -- much like the image of a cocky President in a flight suit declaring "mission accomplished" from the deck of a battleship. This is not a new course, but a continuation of the tragically costly course we have been on for almost five years now. It is simply a policy that buys the President more time: more time to equivocate, more time to continue to resist any suggestion that he was wrong to enter us into this war in this place, in this time, in this manner. And importantly, calling for more troops gives the President more time to hand the Iraq situation off to his successor in the White House. The President apparently believes that he can wait this out, that he can continue to make small adjustments to a misguided policy while he maintains the same trajectory -- until he leaves office and it becomes someone else's problem.

But if you are driving in the wrong direction, anyone knows you will not get to your destination by going south when you should be going north. You turn around. You get better directions. This President is asking us to step on the gas in Iraq -- full throttle, while he has not even clearly articulated where we are going. What is our goal? What is our end game? How much progress will we need to see from the Iraqi government before our men and women come home? How long will American troops be stationed in Iraq to be maimed and killed in sectarian bloodshed?

The ultimate solution to the situation in Iraq is political, and will have to come from the Iraqis themselves. The Iraqi government will have to address the causes of the insurgency, by creating a sustainable power-sharing agreement between Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds -- and it is far from clear that the government has the power or the willingness to do that at this point. But as long as American troops are there to bear the brunt of the blame and the fire, the Iraqi government will not shoulder the responsibility itself. And Iraq's neighbors -- especially Iran and Syria -- won't commit to helping to stabilize the country as long as they see America bogged down, and losing credibility and strength. Keeping the U.S. army tied up in a bloody, endless battle in Iraq plays perfectly into Iran's hands, and it has little incentive to cease its assistance to the insurgency as long as America is there. America's presence in Iraq is inhibiting a lasting solution, not contributing to one. The President has, once again, gotten it backwards.

What I had hoped to hear from the President last night were specific benchmarks of progress that he expects from the Iraqi government, and a plan for the withdrawal of American troops conditioned on those benchmarks. Instead, we were given a vague admonition that "the responsibility for security will rest with the Iraqi government by November" -- with no suggestion of what that responsibility will mean, or how to measure the government's capacity to handle it. The President is asking us, once again, to trust him while he keeps our troops mired in Iraq. But that trust was long ago squandered.

I weep for the waste that we have already seen. Lives, treasure, time, goodwill, credibility, opportunity. Wasted. Wasted. And this President is calling for us to waste more.

I say, enough. If he will not provide leadership and statesmanship, if he does not have the strength of vision to recognize a failed policy and chart a new course, then leadership will have to come from somewhere else. Enough waste. Enough lives lost on this President's misguided venture in Iraq. Enough time and energy spent on a civil war far from our shores, while the problems Americans face are ignored, while we wallow in debt and mortgage our children's future to foreigners. Enough. It is time to truly change course, and start talking about how we rebalance our foreign policy and bring our sons and daughters home.

There are a lot of people making political calculations about the war in Iraq, turning this debate into an exercise of political grandstanding and point-scoring. But this is not a political game. This is life and death. This is asking thousands more Americans to make the ultimate sacrifice for a war that we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt was a mistake. There were those of us who cautioned against the hasty rush to war in Iraq. And unfortunately, our cries, like Cassandra's, went unheeded. And like Cassandra, our warnings and our fears proved prophetic.

But we are not doomed to repeat our mistakes. We must learn from the past. We must understand that more money and more troops are not the answer. The clock is running on our misadventure in Iraq.

Enough time has been wasted, Mr. President. Enough!

© Copyrighted 1997-2006

Global Warming, Warring and Warning

by Amy Goodman
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
January 11, 2007

We begin this year with many milestones. 2006 was among the hottest years in recorded history. In Britain, it was the hottest year since they started keeping records in 1659. Ten of the hottest years in recorded history have occurred in the past 12 years. Snow has yet to fall in New York's Central Park. This hasn't happened in more than 100 years. And other records have been broken. ExxonMobil profits were slated to be the greatest ever. On Dec. 31, the Pentagon announced another grim milestone: 3,000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. It was a year of global warming, global warring and global warning.

ExxonMobil is the world's largest publicly traded company. It is also the most profitable corporation in history. The Union of Concerned Scientists just issued a report documenting how ExxonMobil has implemented tobacco-industry tactics in its efforts to fight the movement to accept global warming as truth and to require massive regulation to help slow its onset.

According to the UCS, ExxonMobil "manufactures uncertainty" with a sophisticated and well-funded campaign. They funded a network of 43 "grass-roots" organizations with $16 million, recruited scientists willing to publish non-peer-reviewed articles that challenge established science, and flooded the media with these "experts," creating the essential "echo chamber." A critical part of ExxonMobil's strategy involves lavish spending on electoral campaigns and lobbying to ensure that Congress and the White House follow the line on questioning human-caused climate change.

While the rest of the world accepts the reality of global warming, the U.S., the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, has been stymied by the disinformation campaigns of the oil industry. Let's hope the new 110th Congress shifts climate-change policy at a glacial pace -- the rapidly receding 21st-century glaciers, that is. Key committees will be chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. Replacing chairman Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who describes global warming as a hoax, Boxer is bullish on fighting greenhouse gases. Dingell, from the heart of the auto industry in Michigan, is less direct and hedges on his willingness, for example, to push for better fuel efficiency in cars.

The flip side of oil consumption is oil production. That is where the warring comes in.

The Independent of London reported this week in a piece titled "SpOILs of War" that the Iraqi Parliament is rushing to pass a law that will open Iraq's oil reserves to exploitation by foreign corporations. The law would allow these foreign companies to retain 75 percent of the profits until they recouped their initial drilling investments, thereafter to retain 20 percent, which is about double the take normally allowed. It would be the first opening for such companies since the Iraqi oil industry was nationalized in 1972. This comports with the recommendation of the business-friendly Iraq Study Group report of James Baker III. One underreported item was the recommendation to privatize the oil industry. Recall that the initial "Shock and Awe" bombing campaign in March 2003 specifically spared the Iraqi Oil Ministry building.

As global temperatures surge, so do oil-company profits, and U.S. soldiers in Iraq. President Bush, despite plummeting to his all-time low popularity in the polls on his handling of Iraq, forces tens of thousands more young Americans to march lock step into another year's deployment into the turmOIL of Iraq. As for Iraqis, the British medical journal The Lancet published a study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health that an estimated 650,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the March 2003 invasion.

As for warning, the alarm has sounded: We need a sane energy policy that decreases our oil consumption (the Germans and French, "Old Europe," use half as much per capita as we do in the U.S.). The potential for environmental disaster, and the prospects of protracted wars for oil, demand no less.

Amy Goodman hosts the radio news program "Democracy Now!" Distributed by King Features Syndicate.

© 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In Cities Is the Preservation of the Word

by Jenny Price
Grist Magazine
January 9, 2007

A plea to nature writers: Come write about Los Angeles. To all the young aspiring Thoreaus out there: Head to this megalopolis in droves, as if to Mecca. Chicago is also good. New York. Pittsburgh. Atlanta. Reno. Providence. Houston. Indianapolis.

Why does the venerable American literary genre of nature writing continue to ignore cities? Sure, a few wonderful writers are traveling the mean streets: very recently, Michael Pollan has rooted urgently through our supermarkets and kitchens. But when I browse the state-of-the-genre bible, the 2002 Norton anthology of nature writing, I can find only two essays -- out of the 83 written after 1960 -- that explore people's connections to nature in the places where most of us live.

It is long past time for Thoreau to get on the bus. In the 1960s and '70s, this literature provided vital nourishment to the environmental movement, and especially to the drive for wilderness preservation. But environmentalists have moved forward, to devote increasing energy to sustainable resource use, livable cities, and environmental justice -- and to emphasize the connections between preserving the wilds in some places and living in nature well in others.

Nature writing generally has not moved on. It has remained, on the whole, a refuge for personal meditations on the soul-saving power of wildness in our modern urban lives. As a consequence, nature writing has lost its essential relevance as well as much of its audience, and environmentalism has lost its muse. Here in L.A., I've taken my own informal opinion survey, which is far from scientific. I just ask colleagues, friends, and family what they think of nature writing. When the most passionate environmental activists I know say "yeechh" and the college students say "huh?" then I suspect we have a problem.

So what would a literature of nature look like that roots around seriously in cities -- and that does justice to environmentalists' wildly proliferating progressive efforts to figure out how to live in nature?

I think that the literature should tell stories that ask at least five questions.

One, what and where are the wild things? Thoreauvians have been good at asking this question, which is an indispensable one. What is this wondrous and insanely complex earth we inhabit, and how exactly does it work?

Two, how do people use nature as resources? Consider, as a close-at-hand example, my coconut hair conditioner, manufactured in a factory in southeast L.A. with coconuts from ... well, where? How (and where in the world) do people grow, ship, transform, buy, and sell the coconuts that keep my hair shiny? And how sustainably? We need natural histories of iMacs, bicycles, refrigerators, baseball caps, paper, Slinkys, Pringles, Manolo Blahniks, and, it goes without saying, Fords and Toyotas.

Three, how do people transform the landscapes they live in, and how does the nature -- the particular climate, ecology, geology, vegetation, and wildlife -- act back? In L.A., if you load nitrogen oxides into the air, the area's climate and topography famously combine to deliver up heavy smog. When you introduce Chihuahuas to the mountains that L.A. is built into, the native coyotes will treat the dogs as snack food. How do we transform airsheds, manage rivers, pave, build, plant, manage fires, keep pets, and create lawns, parks, and gardens? And how could we do it all better?

The fourth question, and the one that nature writing has ignored most completely: How do different people encounter nature differently? And especially, who benefits and who suffers the worst consequences as we turn coconuts into hair conditioner and transform airsheds? I live on Venice Beach, one of the safest places to breathe in L.A. County. The most toxic air blows through southeast L.A., where the predominantly low-income, mostly Latino residents live near and work in L.A.'s abundant factories. These neighborhoods are also remarkably poor in green park space. How equitably -- not just sustainably -- do we inhabit nature?

And the fifth question: How do people imagine and understand nature? In L.A., perhaps the single most enduring myth about the city is that this semiarid spot on earth is a desert. It's not, but ideas can be powerful: whenever it rains here, most of us promptly seem to forget that it might happen again. And ideas have real consequences: L.A. could actually supply the better part of its water through local supplies, but Angelenos tend to believe that we have to import most of it. Of course, perhaps the most consequential way of imagining nature is the popular American delusion, which nature writers have encouraged, that nature is where cities are not.

With these five questions, nature writers can tell stories that urge us to see and reimagine our crucially abundant connections to nature in cities: the nature stories that could be told about any one house in L.A. could marshal a small nouveau-Thoreauvian army. Nature scribes should exploit the considerable imaginative power of literature to show how the quality and equality of life in any city depends in great measure on how people use, change, and understand nature.

Above all, a vital body of nature writing should track the connections between cities and wildness, and between the nature we turn into streets and cars and the nature we leave alone. "In wildness is the preservation of the world," runs Thoreau's cherished line. And certainly, to inhabit nature sustainably requires a whole lot of wildness, both within cities and without. But the reverse is also true. In the city is the preservation of wildness -- since how we use and move nature around in L.A. and other global centers of population and economic power now largely determines the fate and health of ecosystems everywhere, from L.A. to my friend's farm in Missouri to the Indonesian rainforests to the most inaccessible ice fields of Antarctica.

So come write about Los Angeles. Because to figure out how to inhabit nature in L.A. equitably and sustainably is to figure out how to build the cities we want and to preserve the wilderness we need. Write about Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, London, Athens, Nairobi, Beijing -- because in the city, you could say, is now the preservation, as well as the great power, of nature writing.

Jenny Price is a freelance writer in Los Angeles, a recent Gristmill interviewee, and author of Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America. This piece is adapted from her long Believer article, "Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature in L.A."

©2007 Grist Magazine, Inc.

Dark Cloud Over Good Works of Gates Foundation

by Charles Piller, Edmund Sanders and Robyn Dixon
Los Angeles Times
January 7, 2007

Justice Eta, 14 months old, held out his tiny thumb.

An ink spot certified that he had been immunized against polio and measles, thanks to a vaccination drive supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

But polio is not the only threat Justice faces. Almost since birth, he has had respiratory trouble. His neighbors call it "the cough." People blame fumes and soot spewing from flames that tower 300 feet into the air over a nearby oil plant. It is owned by the Italian petroleum giant Eni, whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Justice squirmed in his mother's arms. His face was beaded with sweat caused either by illness or by heat from the flames that illuminate Ebocha day and night. Ebocha means "city of lights."

The makeshift clinic at a church where Justice Eta was vaccinated and the flares spewing over Ebocha represent a head-on conflict for the Gates Foundation. In a contradiction between its grants and its endowment holdings, a Times investigation has found, the foundation reaps vast financial gains every year from investments that contravene its good works.

In Ebocha, where Justice lives, Dr. Elekwachi Okey, a local physician, says hundreds of flares at oil plants in the Niger Delta have caused an epidemic of bronchitis in adults, and asthma and blurred vision in children. No definitive studies have documented the health effects, but many of the 250 toxic chemicals in the fumes and soot have long been linked to respiratory disease and cancer.

"We're all smokers here," Okey said, "but not with cigarettes."

The oil plants in the region surrounding Ebocha find it cheaper to burn nearly 1 billion cubic feet of gas each day and contribute to global warming than to sell it. They deny the flaring causes sickness. Under pressure from activists, however, Nigeria's high court set a deadline to end flaring by May 2007. The gases would be injected back underground, or trucked and piped out for sale. But authorities expect the flares to burn for years beyond the deadline.

The Gates Foundation has poured $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding inoculations to protect health, The Times found, it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe.

Indeed, local leaders blame oil development for fostering some of the very afflictions that the foundation combats.

Oil workers, for example, and soldiers protecting them are a magnet for prostitution, contributing to a surge in HIV and teenage pregnancy, both targets in the Gates Foundation's efforts to ease the ills of society, especially among the poor. Oil bore holes fill with stagnant water, which is ideal for mosquitoes that spread malaria, one of the diseases the foundation is fighting.

Investigators for Dr. Nonyenim Solomon Enyidah, health commissioner for Rivers State, where Ebocha is located, cite an oil spill clogging rivers as a cause of cholera, another scourge the foundation is battling. The rivers, Enyidah said, "became breeding grounds for all kinds of waterborne diseases."

The bright, sooty gas flares — which contain toxic byproducts such as benzene, mercury and chromium — lower immunity, Enyidah said, and make children such as Justice Eta more susceptible to polio and measles — the diseases that the Gates Foundation has helped to inoculate him against.

Investing for profit

AT the end of 2005, the Gates Foundation endowment stood at $35 billion, making it the largest in the world. Then in June 2006, Warren E. Buffett, the world's second-richest man after Bill Gates, pledged to add about $31 billion in installments from his personal fortune. Not counting tens of billions of dollars more that Gates himself has promised, the total is higher than the gross domestic products of 70% of the world's nations.

Like most philanthropies, the Gates Foundation gives away at least 5% of its worth every year, to avoid paying most taxes. In 2005, it granted nearly $1.4 billion. It awards grants mainly in support of global health initiatives, for efforts to improve public education in the United States, and for social welfare programs in the Pacific Northwest.

It invests the other 95% of its worth. This endowment is managed by Bill Gates Investments, which handles Gates' personal fortune. Monica Harrington, a senior policy officer at the foundation, said the investment managers had one goal: returns "that will allow for the continued funding of foundation programs and grant making." Bill and Melinda Gates require the managers to keep a highly diversified portfolio, but make no specific directives.

By comparing these investments with information from for-profit services that analyze corporate behavior for mutual funds, pension managers, government agencies and other foundations, The Times found that the Gates Foundation has holdings in many companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker rights, or unethical practices.

One of these investment rating services, Calvert Group Ltd., for example, endorses 52 of the largest 100 U.S. companies based on market capitalization, but flags the other 48 for transgressions against social responsibility. Microsoft Corp., which Bill Gates leads as board chairman, is rated highly for its overall business practices, despite its history of antitrust problems.

In addition, The Times found the Gates Foundation endowment had major holdings in:

• Companies ranked among the worst U.S. and Canadian polluters, including ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical Co. and Tyco International Ltd.

• Many of the world's other major polluters, including companies that own an oil refinery and one that owns a paper mill, which a study shows sicken children while the foundation tries to save their parents from AIDS.

• Pharmaceutical companies that price drugs beyond the reach of AIDS patients the foundation is trying to treat.

Using the most recent data available, a Times tally showed that hundreds of Gates Foundation investments — totaling at least $8.7 billion, or 41% of its assets, not including U.S. and foreign government securities — have been in companies that countered the foundation's charitable goals or socially concerned philosophy.

This is "the dirty secret" of many large philanthropies, said Paul Hawken, an expert on socially beneficial investing who directs the Natural Capital Institute, an investment research group. "Foundations donate to groups trying to heal the future," Hawken said in an interview, "but with their investments, they steal from the future."

Moreover, investing in destructive or unethical companies is not what is most harmful, said Hawken and other experts, including Douglas Bauer, senior vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a nonprofit group that assists foundations on policy and ethical issues. Worse, they said, is investing purely for profit, without attempting to improve a company's way of operating.

Such blind-eye investing, they noted, rewards bad behavior.

At the Gates Foundation, blind-eye investing has been enforced by a firewall it has erected between its grant-making side and its investing side. The goals of the former are not allowed to interfere with the investments of the latter.

Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

Friday, January 05, 2007

Time for the Father to Chat with the Son

by Garrison Keillor
The Baltimore Sun
January 4, 2007

As the new Congress convenes today and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ascends to the rostrum, you have to wish them all well. These are the kids who got up in school assembly and spoke on Armistice Day and were captains of teams and organized class projects to do good works, a different breed from us wise guys who lurked in the halls and made fun of them, and in the end you want them and not us running your government. Yes, they had serious brown-nose tendencies and a knack for mouthing pieties, but you could count on them to do what needed doing. They were leaders. They weren't going to swipe the lunch money and buy a keg of suds.

You wonder, however, what this earnest bunch can do when things are so far out of whack as they are in Iraq. The gangland-style execution of Saddam Hussein was visible reality, a token of the bloodlust and violence that swirl around Iraq, where our forces are mired, sitting targets, aliens, fighting a colonial war in behalf of a Shiite majority that is as despotic and cruel as what came before, except messier.

Meanwhile, in Washington, memoranda are set out on long, polished tables, men in crisp white shirts sit at meetings and discuss how to rationalize a war that was conceived by a handful of men in arrogant ignorance and that has descended over the past four years into sheer madness.

Military men know there is no military solution here, and the State Department knows that the policy was driven by domestic politics, but who is going to tell the Current Occupant? He is still talking about victory, or undefeat. The word "surge" keeps cropping up, as if we were fighting the war with electricity and not human beings.

Rational analysis is not the way to approach this administration. Bob Woodward found that out. The President Bush who burst into sobs after winning re-election when his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., said, "You've given your dad a great gift," is so far from the President Bush of the photo-ops as to invite closer inspection, and for that you don't want David Broder, you need a good novelist.

Here we have a slacker son of a powerful patrician father who resolves unconscious Oedipal issues through inappropriate acting-out in foreign countries. Hello? All the king's task forces can gather together the shards of the policy, number them, arrange them, but it never made sense when it was whole and so it makes even less sense now.

American boys in armored jackets and night scopes patrolling the streets of Baghdad are not going to pacify this country, any more than they will convert it to Methodism. They are there to die so that a man in the White House doesn't have to admit that he, George W. Bush, the decider, the one in the cowboy boots, made grievous mistakes. He approved a series of steps that he himself had not the experience or acumen or simple curiosity to question and that had been dumbed down for his benefit, and then he doggedly stuck by them until his approval ratings sank into the swamp.

He was the Great Denier of 2006, waving the flag, questioning the patriotism of anyone who dared oppose him, until he took a thumpin' and now, we are told, he is re-examining the whole matter. Except he's not. To admit that he did wrong is to admit that he is not the man his daddy is, the one who fought in a war.

Hey, we've all had issues with our dads. But do we need this many people to die so that one dude can look like a leader?

The earnest folk in Congress are prepared to discuss policy issues, to plant their butts in hard chairs and sit through jargon-encrusted reports and long, dry perorations thereupon. They're trained for that. That's one good reason they're there and not you or me. But to address the war and the White House, you're talking pathology.

It's time for 41 and 43 to work something out, and they can't do it by way of James A. Baker III or Brent Scowcroft. Pick up the phone, old man, and tell 43 you love him dearly and it's time to think about sparing the lives of American soldiers, many of whom have sons too.

Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.

Copyright © 2006 The Baltimore Sun