Two decades to fix Earth's climate

SUBHEAD: The next two decades will make or break humanity. Why are we waiting to fight Climate Change?

By Nicolas Starn on 15 September 2015 in -

Image above: Recently NASA announced finding evidence of intermittent flows of water on Mars surface. What would Mars have looked liked covered in water? Earth! From (

We stand at a crossroads where, consciously or otherwise, we must make fundamental choices that will shape our future economy and climate. Over the next two decades we will see a remarkable coincidence of two vital transformations in world history.

First, it is in this period that we will largely determine whether or not we have a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, usually defined as holding the increase in average global surface temperature to less than 2 ° C above nineteenth-century levels. The link between emissions of greenhouse gases and climate change should be well known.

Our activities cause the emission of these gases (among which carbon dioxide is particularly important) which are not fully absorbed by the earth and which thus accumulate in the atmosphere, thereby raising concentrations of the gases.

These concentrations prevent energy from escaping, resulting in global warming and climate change. We have a period-by-period “ ratchet effect ”of flows of emissions into concentrations in the atmosphere because carbon dioxide, in particular, is very long-lasting in the atmosphere.

The stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is already at worryingly high levels; if we stay substantially above those levels for a long time, it will be difficult or impossible to have a reasonable chance of holding the global temperature increase to 2 ° C.

And delay is dangerous because of the ratchet effect and because we will have locked in more long-lived, high-carbon capital and infrastructure. The window for action is closing.

The second reason why the next two decades are a critical period for climate action has to do with the extraordinary structural changes that will happen anyway over this period. It is a period that will determine the shape of many cities, energy systems, and land use patterns for decades or even centuries to come.

Cities will grow rapidly, and older cities will require reform and renewal. Energy systems will be created as many countries pass through stages of development in which energy demand will grow strongly, while richer countries will be refurbishing their systems.

And many of the battles to save and enhance forests and ecosystems will be resolved in the face of strong pressures from growth of population and demand for materials and food.

Regions, countries, provinces, cities, businesses, and households will have many decisions to make across these critical domains of cities, energy systems, and land use. These decisions can be made well or badly, explicitly or implicitly, haphazardly or thoughtfully.

They can be made with sound judgment, with an eye to the future and with an understanding of the consequences of our actions for the environment and society — we can be thinking, for example, about the kind of cities we wish to live in and the pollution, congestion, and sense of community they might embody, the future of our ecosystems and natural resource usage, and the harnessing of opportunities that come from new technologies.

Or they can be made with an eye to the past and narrowly — we can assume that traditional ways of doing things should be replicated, and that we can ignore consequences to others and the opportunities and challenges that surround us.

If the decisions around this second transformation are made wisely, a great deal of what we need to do to avoid dangerous climate change will have been achieved just by doing what was sensible and desirable during this critical process of structural change, even without factoring in the longer-term climate benefits of reduced emissions.

This structural change will require strong investments. One way or another, investments in and during this transformation will take place in some shape or form. The challenge is to create policies and frameworks that will encourage those investments to be sound in the sense just described. If we do, the challenge of managing climate change will be far less difficult than if we manage this structural change badly.

International cooperation can play an important role in accelerating the transition to the low-carbon economy and making it more equitable. Yet understanding the dynamics of structural change within countries, cities, firms, and households casts the role of international cooperation on climate change in a rather different light from the past.

We need to think rigorously about the kind of cooperative interactions and institutions that can help steer these two transitions, the structural and the climatic, wisely — remembering that the case for each country to make the domestic transition toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy is already strong, but that constructive and equitable international cooperation would greatly strengthen that case and make the two transitions still more attractive, rapid, and efficient.

Part of the collaboration should include global goals on greenhouse gases that could avoid dangerous climate change, expressed in ways that provide clear signals that can induce confidence about the future direction of the global economy.

International institutions, moreover, can help give countries a picture of global progress, through careful measurement of emissions across the globe and by diffusing more specific examples, lessons, and good practice from around the world. And they can also help coordinate the international transfer of more tangible things, like finance and clean technologies.

Much of the cooperation should involve policies that help markets work well, including, for example, the pricing of greenhouse gases, supporting innovation, building networks (for example for electricity and transport), overcoming market obstacles and failures in long-term finance, sharing technologies, fostering measures to protect and enhance forests and ecosystems, and supporting poorer countries. Policies, in other words, that will promote sustainable poverty reduction and growth.

The equity part of the story is basic, not only because ethical principles tell us that equity matters, but also because it is crucial for the sustainability of international understandings — arrangements that are seen to be inequitable or unjust may not last.

If we are to tackle climate change successfully, it will be necessary that those who make and influence climate policy — from treasury officials to business leaders, from international negotiators to ordinary citizens — have a strong understanding of why action is necessary, why now, what form it could take, and what it would deliver.

I remain optimistic about what we can do if we are imaginative, rational, scientific, and collaborative. Yet overall progress is dangerously, indeed recklessly, slow.

Part of the explanation for this delay is that some of the techniques for analyzing the case for action have been weak, wrong, or inappropriately applied; risks from climate change have been grossly underestimated in the economics literature and the distant future far too heavily discounted.

That is why it is so important to both make the analysis robust and rigorous and to show how so much of the opposition to action is based on flawed analysis.

Sound argument should be a necessary condition for sensible and rational action. But it is not sufficient.

The people of the world are gambling for colossal stakes. Two centuries of scientific enquiry, founded in basic physics and powerful evidence, indicate that the risks from a changing climate over the next hundred years and beyond are immense.

There is a strong possibility that the relationship between humans and their environment would be so fundamentally changed that hundreds of millions of people, perhaps billions, would have to move. History tells us that this carries serious risks of severe and extended conflict.

We are the first generation that through its neglect could destroy the relationship between humans and the planet, and perhaps the last generation that can prevent dangerous climate change.

On the other hand, the potential paths of development embodying strong reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and creative adaptation to now unavoidable climate change are becoming ever clearer, and they look ever more attractive in themselves, over and above the fundamental climate risk reductions that they bring.

We are constantly discovering and demonstrating different ways of managing the production and consumption of energy, of organizing cities, and of using land productively, with the aid of new technologies and smarter processes.

We can now see that growth, development, mitigation, and adaptation go hand in hand, and that the portrayal of climate action as being in inexorable conflict with growth, poverty reduction, and radical improvements in human well-being is false and diversionary.

Indeed, an attempt at high carbon growth will self-destruct through the hostile physical environment it will create.

A committed and measured low-carbon transition would likely trigger an exciting new wave of global investment, innovation, and prosperity.

The economic policies that can guide this transition are sufficiently clear to embark on the journey, and we will learn much along the way.

They build on basic ideas about overcoming market failures, on an understanding of technological transformations in economic history, and on theories and experience of economic growth. If such policies are adopted, they will stimulate investment, growth, efficiency, and innovation.

There is much that each country can do now that is in its own interests, even without placing a value on emissions reductions and without the context of an international agreement on climate change: make markets function better, improve infrastructure, stimulate investment and innovation, reduce inefficiencies and waste in the use of energy and other natural resources, improve energy security, and reduce local forms of environmental pollution and damage.

Now is a critical time to make this transition.

A Landscape of Dreams

SUBHEAD: Our political system is so deeply entrenched in its own fantasies that a complete breakdown, near term, is a possibility.

By John Michael Greer on 7 October 2015 for the Archdruid Report -

Image above: The Statue of Liberty mashup up with an oncoming storm. From (

Maybe it’s just the psychology of selective attention, but tolerably often when I want to go into more detail about a point made in a previous essay here, stories relevant to that point in one way or another start popping up on the news.

That’s been true even during this blog’s forays into narrative fiction, so it should be no surprise that it’s happened again—even though, in this case, the point in question may not be obvious to most readers yet.

One of the core themes of the Retrotopia narrative I’ve been developing here over the last month or so is the yawning gap between the abstract notion of progress that we all have in our heads and the rather less pleasant realities to which this notion has been assigned.

The imaginary Atlantic Republic, the home of the narrative’s viewpoint character, is a place where progress as we know it has continued in exactly the same direction it’s been going for the last half century or so.

That’s why it’s a place where income is concentrated in ever fewer hands, leaving most of the population to struggle for survival via poorly paid part-time jobs or no jobs at all; a place where infrastructure has been allowed to fall into ruin, while investment gets focused instead on a handful of high-tech services such as the metanet (my hypothetical 2065 “improvement” of today’s internet); a place where people make do with shoddy, wretchedly unpleasant consumer goods because that’s what a handful of big corporations want to sell them and there are no other alternatives, and so on.

Now of course the immediate response of many people to this characterization can be summed up neatly as “but that’s not progress!” Au contraire, the changes just noted, unwelcome as they are, are the necessary and inevitable consequences of exactly those technological transformations that have been lauded to the skies in recent years as evidence of just how much we’ve progressed.

In the same way, my imaginary Lakeland Republic, with its prosperous working classes, its thriving urban centers, its comfortable clothing, and the like, has those things because it made certain collective choices that fly in the face of everything that most people these days understand as progress.

For instance, to cite a detail that sparked discussion on the comments page last week, the Lakeland Republic has abandoned computer technology—or more precisely, after the Second Civil War and the crises that followed, it rebuilt its infrastructure and economy without making computer technology part of the mix.

There were a variety of reasons for that choice, but one was an issue I’ve raised in these essays several times already: when you have an abundance of people who want steady employment and a growing shortage of the energy and other resources needed to build and operate machines, replacing employees with machines is not necessarily a smart idea, while replacing machines with employees may just be the key to renewed prosperity and stability.

That’s an issue in the story, and also in our lives today, because computers have eliminated vastly more jobs than they’ve created. Before computers came in, tens of millions of Americans supported themselves with steady jobs as typists, file clerks, stenographers, and so on through an entire galaxy of jobs that no longer exist due to computer technology.

The jobs that have been created by computer technology, on the other side of the balance, employ far fewer people, leaving the vast remainder to compete for the remaining bottom-level jobs, and this has driven down wages and widened the gap between the well-to-do and everyone else. That’s not what progress is supposed to do, according to the conventional wisdom, but that’s what it has done—and not just in this one case.

Since 1970, in point of fact, the standard of living for everyone in America outside of the wealthiest 20% or so has skidded unsteadily downward. The nation’s infrastructure has been abandoned to malign neglect, and a great many amenities that used to be taken for granted either cost vastly more than they once did, even corrected for inflation, or can’t be had for any price.

We pretend, or at least the vast majority of us do, that these things either haven’t happened or don’t matter, and certainly nobody’s willing to address the possibility that these things and other equally unwelcome changes have been the result of what we like to call progress—even when that’s fairly obviously the case.

What’s going on here, in other words, is the emergence of a widening chasm between the abstraction “progress” and the things that progress is supposed to represent, such as improved living conditions, a broader range of choices available to people, and so on. The sort of progress we’ve experienced over the last half century or so hasn’t given us these things; quite the contrary; it’s yielded degraded living conditions, a narrower range of choices, and the like.

Point this out to people in so many words and the resulting cognitive dissonance tends to get some truly quirky responses; put it in the form of a narrative and—at least this is my hope—a larger fraction of readers will be able to recognize the tangled thinking at the heart of the paradox, and recognize a dysfunctional abstraction for what it is.

Dysfunctional abstractions, though, are all the rage these days. A glance through the news offers a bumper crop of examples. One that comes forcefully to mind, just at the moment, is the ongoing attempts on the part of US political and military spokescritters to find some way to talk about the US airstrike on a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, without actually mentioning that the US carried out an airstrike on a hospital and killed twenty-two civilians, including three children.

It really has been a remarkable spectacle, and connoisseurs of weasel-worded evasions have had a feast spread out before them. Early on, the media in the US and its allies was full of reports that the hospital had been hit by an airstrike that somehow didn’t get around to mentioning whose aircraft was involved.

Then there were stalwart claims that it hadn’t yet been confirmed that a US aircraft carried out the strike.

Once that evasion passed its pull date—the Taliban, after all, doesn’t have an air force, and the public relations flacks at the Pentagon apparently decided that it just wasn’t going to work to insist that they’d somehow come up with one just for the sake of this one airstrike—the excuses began flying fast and thick.

The fact that the four officially promulgated excuses I’ve seen so far all contradict one another doesn’t exactly make any of them seem particularly convincing.

What the excuses and evasions demonstrate, rather, is that the US military and government are treating what happened entirely as a matter of abstractions, rather than dealing with the harsh but inescapable reality of twenty-two smoldering corpses in a burnt-out hospital.

To the media flacks at the Pentagon, evidently, this is all merely a public relations problem, and the only response to it they can think of involves finding some set of excuses, euphemisms, and evasions that will allow them to efface the distinction between a public relations problem and a war crime.

Now of course it’s not as though this sort of atrocity is unusual for the US at this point on the sorry downslope of its history. The only thing that makes the bombing of the Kunduz hospital at all unusual is that a significant fraction of the targets weren’t locals—they were physicians and hospital staff from the international charity Médecins sans Frontières, who can’t be ignored quite so easily.

For well over a decade now, the US government has been vaporizing assorted groups of people all over the Middle East via drone strikes, and according to everybody but the paid flacks of the US government, a very large fraction of the people blown to bits in these attacks have been civilians.

Here again, Washington DC treats this as a public relations problem, and simply denies that anything of the sort has happened.

The difficulty with this strategy, though, is that sooner or later you run up against an opponent that isn’t stuck on the level of abstractions, isn’t greatly interested in public relations, and intends to do you real, rather than abstract, harm. To some extent that’s what has sown the whirlwind that the US and its allies are now reaping in the Middle East.

In many of the tribal cultures of the Middle East, vengeance against the killers of one’s family members is an imperative duty, and it doesn’t matter how airily the flacks in Washington DC dismiss the possibility that the latest drone strike annihilated a Yemeni wedding party, or what have you.

The relatives of the dead know better, and the young men among them are going to do something about it, whether that involves hiking to Afghanistan or, say, joining the current mass migration into Europe, lying low for a while, and then looking for suitable targets.

The same difficulty has shifted into overdrive over the last few weeks, though, with Russia’s entry into the Syrian civil war. Russia’s current leaders are realists, which is to say, they assign abstractions the limited importance they deserve.

The Russian presence in Syria, accordingly, isn’t a mere gesture, it’s the efficient deployment of an expeditionary force that’s clearly intended to wage war, and is in the early stages of turning that intention into hard reality.

In an impressively short time, the Russians have built, staffed, and stocked a forward air base at Latakia, and begun systematic air strikes against rebel positions; work has gotten under way on two other bases; weapons and munitions are flooding into Syria to rearm the beleaguered Syrian army; the first detachments of Revolutionary Guard soldiers from Russia’s ally Iran have arrived.

Russian Spetsnaz (special forces) and airborne units are en route to Syrian soil, where they and the Iranians will doubtless have something to do besides soak up rays on Latakia’s once-famous Mediterranean beaches.

Meanwhile Russia’s Black Sea fleet, led by its flagship, the guided missile cruiser Moskva, has positioned itself off the Syrian coast. That in itself tells an important story. The Moskva carries long range antiship missiles and an S-300 antiaircraft system; there are reports that another S-300 system has been set up on land, and Russian electronic warfare equipment has also been reported at Latakia.

Neither the Islamic State militia nor any of the other rebel forces arrayed against the Syrian government have a navy, an air force, or electronics sufficiently complex to require jamming in the event of hostilities.

The only nation involved in the Syrian civil war that has all these things is the United States. Clearly, then, Russia is aware of the possibility that the US may launch an air or naval assault on the Russian expeditionary force, and has the weaponry on hand to respond in kind.

Last night, working on this post, I wrote: “The Russian airstrikes so far have concentrated on rebel forces around the edges of the territory the Syrian government still holds, with some longer-range strikes further back to take out command centers, munitions dumps, and the like.

The placement of the strikes says to me that the next moves, probably within weeks, will be against the rebel enclave north of Homs and the insurgent forces in Idlib province.

I expect ground assaults backed up by artillery, helicopter gunships, and close-in air support—vastly more firepower, in other words, that any side in the Syrian civil war has had at its disposal so far.” This morning’s news confirmed that guess, and added in another factor: Russian cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea fleet, most of a thousand miles from Syria.

Once Idlib and the rest of western Syria is secured, I expect the Russians and their allies to march on Raqqa, the Islamic State’s notional capital—and I don’t expect them to waste any more time in doing so than they’ve wasted so far.

All this poses an immense embarrassment to the United States and its allies, which have loudly and repeatedly proclaimed the Islamic State the worst threat to world peace since the end of the Third Reich but somehow, despite a seemingly overwhelming preponderance of military force, haven’t been able to do much of anything about it.

Though it’s hard to say for sure, given the fog of conflicting propaganda, it certainly looks as though the Russians have done considerably more damage to the Islamic State in a week than the US and its allies have accomplished in thirteen months of bombing.

If that’s the case, some extremely awkward questions are going to be asked. Is the US military so badly led, so heavily burdened with overpriced weapons systems that don’t happen to work, or both, that it’s lost the ability to inflict serious harm on an opponent? Or—let’s murmur this one quietly—does the United States have some reason not to want to inflict serious harm on the Islamic State?

I suspect, though, that what’s actually behind the disparity is something far simpler, if no less damaging to the prestige of the United States. I commented in an earlier post here that the US has been waging its inept campaign against Islamic State as though it’s a video game—hey, we killed a commander, isn’t that worth an extra 500 points?

Look at that from a different perspective and it becomes another example of the total disconnection of abstraction from reality.

The abstraction here is “fighting Islamic State.” You’ll notice that it’s not “defeating Islamic State”—in the realm of dysfunctional abstractions, such differences mean a great deal. Obama has decided that under his leadership, the US is going to fight Islamic State, and that’s what the Pentagon is doing.

At intervals, accordingly, planes go flying over various portions of Syria and Iraq to make desultory bombing runs on places where some intelligence analyst in suburban Virginia thinks an Islamic State target might have been located at some point in the last month or so.

That’s “fighting Islamic State.” Nobody can point a finger at Obama and say that he’s not fighting Islamic State, since the Air Force is still obligingly making those bombing runs.

It doesn’t matter that none of this has done anything to slow down the expansion of the Islamic State militia, or to stop its appalling human rights violations; that’s in the grubby realm of realities, into which fastidious minds in Washington DC are unwilling to stoop.

Another abstraction that’s getting a lot of use in the current situation is “moderate Syrian rebels.” In the realm of realities, of course, those don’t exist. The Pentagon’s repeated attempts to find or manufacture some, to satisfy Obama’s insistence that a supply of them ought to be forthcoming, have yielded one embarrassing failure after another.

This is for quite a simple reason, all things considered: the word “moderate” in this context means, in effect, “willing to put the interests of the US and its European allies ahead of their country and their faith.” (When American politicians use the word “moderate” about people in other countries, that’s inevitably what they mean.)

Nonetheless, since the abstraction is so useful, the politicians and the Pentagon keep on waving it around. You have to read carefully to find out that some groups being labeled as potential moderates, such as the al-Nusra Front, are affiliated with al-Qaeda—you know, the outfit that the Global War On Terror was supposed to fight.

Such things should probably come as no surprise during the presidency of a man who got into office via a campaign that was never anything more than a blur of feel-good abstractions: “Hope,” “Change,” “Yes We Can,” and the like. Barack Obama will go down in history as one of the United States’ least competent presidents precisely because everything he’s done has been so utterly fixated on the realm of abstractions.

The wretchedly misnamed “Affordable Care Act” aka Obamacare is a fine example. Its enactment has made health care more expensive and less available for most Americans; it took what was already the worst health care system in the industrial world, and accomplished the not inconsiderable feat of making it even worse.

To Obama and his dwindling crowdlet of supporters, though, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the resulting mess corresponds, to them, to the abstraction “national health care system.”

He promised a national health care system, we have a national health care system—and of course it’s not exactly irrelevant that the privileged few who still praise that system are by and large those whose wealth shields them from having to cope with its disastrous failings.

It’s only fair to note that, deeply immersed in the realm of dysfunctional abstractions as Obama is, he’s got plenty of company there, and it’s not limited to the faux-liberal constituencies that put him into his current address.

Listen to the verbiage spewing out of the overcrowded Republican clown car and you’ll get to witness any number of vague abstractions floating past, serenely disconnected from the awkward realm of facts.

For that matter, take in the outpourings of the establishment’s pet radicals—I’m thinking just now of Naomi Klein’s embarrassingly slipshod and superficial book This Changes Everything, but there are plenty of other examples—and you’ll find no shortage of equally detached abstractions drifting by in the breeze, distracting attention from the increasingly dismal landscape of fact down there on the ground.

What troubles me most about all this is what it says about the potential for really serious disruptions here in the US in the near future.

I’m sure my readers can think of other regimes that reached the stage where moving imaginary armies across a landscape of dreams took precedence over grappling with awkward facts, and once that happened, none of those regimes were long for this world.

The current US political system is so deeply entrenched in its own fantasies that a complete breakdown of that system, and its replacement by something entirely different—not necessarily better, mind you, but different—is a possibility that has to be kept in mind even in the near term.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia Part 1 - Dawn Train from Pittsburgh 8/27/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia Part 2 - View from a Moving Window 9/2/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia Part 3 - A Cab Ride in Toledo 9/9/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia Part 4 - Public Utilities, Private Good 9/23/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia Part 5 - A Change of Habit 10/1/15


Agreement by TPP negotiators

SUBHEAD: An agreement to manage trade and investment relations on behalf of the most powerful business lobbies.

By Michael Snyder on 5 October 2015 for End of the American Dream -

Image above: Trade ministers hold a news conference after reaching agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Atlanta on Monday. From (

We have just witnessed one of the most significant steps toward a one world economic system that we have ever seen.

Negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership have been completed, and if approved it will create the largest trading bloc on the planet.  But this is not just a trade agreement.  In this treaty, Barack Obama has thrown in all sorts of things that he never would have been able to get through Congress otherwise.

And once this treaty is approved, it will be exceedingly difficult to ever make changes to it.  So essentially what is happening is that the Obama agenda is being permanently locked in for 40 percent of the global economy.

The United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam all intend to sign on to this insidious plan.  Collectively, these nations have a total population of about 800 million people and a combined GDP of approximately 28 trillion dollars.

Of course Barack Obama is assuring all of us that this treaty is going to be wonderful for everyone
In hailing the agreement, Obama said, “Congress and the American people will have months to read every word” before he signs the deal that he described as a win for all sides.

“If we can get this agreement to my desk, then we can help our businesses sell more Made in America goods and services around the world, and we can help more American workers compete and win,” Obama said.
Sadly, just like with every other “free trade” agreement that the U.S. has entered into since World War II, the exact opposite is what will actually happen.  Our trade deficit will get even larger, and we will see even more jobs and even more businesses go overseas.

But the mainstream media will never tell you this.  Instead, they are just falling all over themselves as they heap praise on this new trade pact.  Just check out a couple of the headlines that we saw on Monday…

-Time Magazine: “Pacific Trade Deal Is Good for the U.S. and Obama’s Legacy

-The Washington Post: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal worth celebrating

Overseas it is a different story.  Many journalists over there fully recognize that this treaty greatly benefits many of the big corporations that played a key role in drafting it.  For example, the following comes from a newspaper in Thailand
You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade”.
The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations — and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies.
These sentiments were echoed in a piece that Zero Hedge posted on Monday
Packaged as a gift to the American people that will renew industry and make us more competitive, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a Trojan horse. It’s a coup by multinational corporations who want global subservience to their agenda. Buyer beware. Citizens beware.
The gigantic corporations that dominate our economy don’t care about the little guy.  If they can save a few cents on the manufacturing of an item by moving production to Timbuktu they will do it.
Over the past couple of decades, the United States has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities and millions of good paying jobs due to these “free trade agreements”.

As we merge our economy with the economies of nations where it is legal to pay slave labor wages, it is inevitable that corporations will shift jobs to places where labor is much cheaper.  Our economic infrastructure is being absolutely eviscerated in the process, and very few of our politicians seem to care.

Once upon a time, the city of Detroit was the greatest manufacturing city on the planet and it had the highest per capita income in the entire nation.  But today it is a rotting, decaying hellhole that the rest of the world laughs at.  What has happened to the city of Detroit is happening to the entire nation as a whole, but our politicians just keep pushing us even farther down the road to oblivion.

Just consider what has happened since NAFTA was implemented.  In the year before NAFTA was approved, the United States actually had a trade surplus with Mexico and our trade deficit with Canada was only 29.6 billion dollars.  But now things are very different.  In one recent year, the U.S. had a combined trade deficit with Mexico and Canada of 177 billion dollars.

And these trade deficits are not just numbers.  They represent real jobs that are being lost.  It has been estimated that the U.S. economy loses approximately 9,000 jobs for every 1 billion dollars of goods that are imported from overseas, and one professor has estimated that cutting our trade deficit in half would create 5 million more jobs in the United States.

Just yesterday, I wrote about how there are 102.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.  Once upon a time, if you were honest, dependable and hard working it was easy to get a good paying job in this country.  But now things are completely different.

Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, only about 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.

Why aren’t more people alarmed by numbers like this?

And of course the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not just about “free trade”.  In one of my previous articles, I explained that Obama is using this as an opportunity to permanently impose much of his agenda on a large portion of the globe…
It is basically a gigantic end run around Congress.  Thanks to leaks, we have learned that so many of the things that Obama has deeply wanted for years are in this treaty.  If adopted, this treaty will fundamentally change our laws regarding Internet freedom, healthcare, copyright and patent protection, food safety, environmental standards, civil liberties and so much more.  This treaty includes many of the rules that alarmed Internet activists so much when SOPA was being debated, it would essentially ban all “Buy American” laws, it would give Wall Street banks much more freedom to trade risky derivatives and it would force even more domestic manufacturing offshore.
The Republicans in Congress foolishly gave Obama fast track negotiating authority, and so Congress will not be able to change this treaty in any way.  They will only have the opportunity for an up or down vote.

I would love to see Congress reject this deal, but we all know that is extremely unlikely to happen.  When big votes like this come up, immense pressure is put on key politicians.  Yes, there are a few members of Congress that still have backbones, but most of them are absolutely spineless.  When push comes to shove, the globalist agenda always seems to advance.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media will be telling the American people about all of the wonderful things that this new treaty will do for them.  You would think that after how badly past “free trade” treaties have turned out that we would learn something, but somehow that never seems to happen.
The agenda of the globalists is moving forward, and very few Americans seem to care.

So what will it take for people to finally wake up? 


Monsanto and Syngenta stranglehold

SUBHEAD: The possible merger of these two GMO-Chemical giants would threaten world food security.

By Paul Barbot on 6 October 2015 for TruthOut -

Image above: Mashup by Juan Wilson of corporate sign at Monsanto's Creve Couer based headquarters in greater St. Louis. 

There is a corporate monster in the making. If allowed to emerge, it will gain near complete control of one of the most vital elements to human survival: our global food supply. This monster - a conglomeration of two corporate entities, Monsanto and Syngenta - must be stopped for the sake of the planet and future generations.

The companies that would make up this monster conglomeration both want complete control of our food. They envision a world completely inundated with their "patented" genetically modified seeds and saturated in their environmentally destructive chemicals. They seek to put all of their critics and those deemed "in the way" in prison or leave them financially ruined.

They threaten to subvert the democratic process with their "bought" legislators, who are strategically placed inside virtually every facet of the governmental apparatus. And they do all of this while wrapped in the rhetoric of superheroes, sustainability and stewardship.

Fortunately, the behemoth merger is still in its gestational period: Its constituent entities, Monsanto and Syngenta, have yet to fully "consummate" the deal. But when the conglomeration does finally emerge, it will do so with a brand new identity.

And why wouldn't Monsanto and Syngenta want to shed those tired, old skins? Both of their "brands" are mired in criminality, environmental devastation and the exposures of their mafia-style tactics (see Syngenta's transgressions: here, here and here).

Now, before we can even begin to discuss what needs to be done to remedy this predicament that will soon be thrust upon us, we must first take a look at how we've been brought to this seeming impasse.

To do so, it's helpful to look closer at the history of Monsanto, not because Syngenta is innocent of afflicting catastrophe upon the world, but because Monsanto is the greater party in this transaction, and it is Monsanto's crimes and modus operandi that other biotech companies hope to emulate.

Monsanto Plays Dirty
On April 17, 2015, Monsanto's CEO Hugh Grant met with Syngenta's chairman of the board Michel Demaré and CEO Michael Mack to discuss Monsanto's bid to merge with Syngenta - a transaction that would create an unprecedented agro-giant and should have the antitrust alarm bells screaming; this deal would constitute the combination of the first- and third-largest biotech companies in the world.

Syngenta's response to Monsanto, in a letter dated April 30, laid out the company's concerns regarding the proposed deal, which - not surprisingly - never ventured outside of the monetary realm.

Demaré and Mack went on to state that the deal was "grossly inadequate" and that the regulatory process would lead to significant "value destruction" of their integrated crop strategy. They also fretted about the "reputational risk" that Monsanto poses to Syngenta's bottom line.

Syngenta's "concerns" appear to have only been a ploy to garner more for what they have to offer - as evidenced in the results of a survey conducted by Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd, which stated that Syngenta's investors are "overwhelmingly in favor" of talking to Monsanto for an added 5 percent increase.

Outside of the banal aspects of sales negotiations, Syngenta did manage to bring up two very important points of debate. The first is the glaring issue of antitrust laws and regulations that would threaten to shut the whole deal down. As mentioned above, this deal would constitute an unprecedented combination of the world's number one and number three biotech companies.

Secondly, was Syngenta's concern about merging with a company of Monsanto's reputation; given that both companies have practically identical legacies, it is slightly odd that this would concern Syngenta. I suspect that Syngenta's uneasiness stems from the extreme public backlash that Monsanto has deservedly earned as of late.

Looking from Syngenta's standpoint, one would conclude that the company brought up very valid reasons for its initial apprehensiveness about the proposed merger. But it is Monsanto's rebuttal - made in an attempt to allay Syngenta's fears - that should strike fear into people all across the world.

With a level of hubris that one typically reserves for times when a desired outcome has privately been declared a forgone conclusion, Monsanto's CEO, Hugh Grant, easily dismissed Syngenta's antitrust concerns and reiterated his "high degree of confidence" for gaining all the necessary regulatory approvals.

Grant also went on to offer the "highest reverse breakup fee that any company has agreed to." Reverse breakup fees are fines levied on the acquiring company and paid to the target company should a deal be blocked by such pesky things as "regulations."

The $2 billion reverse breakup fee that Monsanto has offered amounts to roughly 25 percent of the company's reported gross profits from 2014. On Monsanto's part, this fee constitutes an "all-in" maneuver.

In the game of poker, when players go "all-in," there are but two possibilities for that action: either they have a hand which they know will win, or they are bluffing and hope the other players don't want to risk calling them on it. This is in stark contrast to how things are played in the corporate world, where a company is legally mandated to consistently make a profit for its investors and shareholders.

The risk associated with an "all-in" approach would come with significant legal and financial ramifications for a company's executives and future in general. With that in mind, there can be only one explanation for Monsanto's "all-in" and that is - to steal a line from the credit card industry - because the company has been "pre-approved."

Given the existence of reports like the 2013 corporate profiling of Monsanto, which shows the extent to which Monsanto has infiltrated regulatory, legislative and educational bodies - not to mention the incalculable amounts of money that it has showered onto Congress - why would the company have any worries?

Everything is going precisely according to plan. And if sheer confidence in the ability to skirt regulations weren't enough to convince Syngenta, Monsanto also wanted to show that it isn't scared to flex its financial muscle and play dirty. Grant, in his rebuttal letter to Syngenta, also went on to imply just how much power and influence Monsanto has over the market by stating,
It is unfortunate that our initial approach to you was leaked to the press shortly before your rejection letter was received by us. The speculation and uncertainty have potentially negative effects on employees in both organizations, and on the value of the combination.
In addition to financial bullying, Monsanto has also openly talked to media sources about a possible hostile takeover, though the company claims this action to be "a ways out." Monsanto's actions reveal just how perverse the quest for absolute power and control can be.

The hijacking of the world's food chain is on full display in Monsanto's dogged determination to acquire Syngenta. Along the way, the agricultural giant is running roughshod over any pretensions to democratic processes and quickly ushering us into the age of the "food führer."

In the hopes of obscuring past infractions and inciting a full-blown case of social amnesia, Monsanto has also proposed to rename the combined company - in addressing Syngenta's final concern - with Grant expressing his desire to "reinvent Monsanto one more time."

Now, I must admit that this proffered rebrand was the issue that originally piqued my interest and drew my ire. How dare this rightly sullied organization attempt to deceive future generations of consumers and farmers by simply changing its mask and hoping that everyone will just forget who it was?

But I have since come to share the same view as Joel Salatin, a well-known organic farmer and author, when he expressed via email, "I guess I'm of the opinion that the folks who hate Monsanto will all know about the change and hate the new entity. When something is this big and in the public eye, the name doesn't mean that much."

He's absolutely right. The great affront at play is clearly the control over government that Monsanto has and the global food monopoly it wishes to create.

So, here we are standing at the precipice of the ultimate battle for our food sovereignty and one naturally has to ask: "What can we do to stop this?" First, we must look at what has already been done.

The Struggle for Food Sovereignty
The groups comprising the anti-Monsanto movement have primarily employed three different tactics in their struggles against the food giant.

The first has been the impassioned call for their members, along with the general public, to "vote with your purchases"; the second has been to move into the political arena in the hopes of stopping Monsanto electorally and legislatively; and lastly, there has been the staging of protests, which have commonly come in the form of marches.

These are three rather distinct tactics, yet common to all is the ideological pathology of deluded deferential dissent - the unflinching deference to and courteous, peaceable appeals for the very system and institutions to solve those problems, which are knowingly outgrowths thereof.

The anti-Monsanto movement's adherence to these three tactics, in conjunction with the full expression of the pathology contained within them, has subsequently led to another commonality: utter ineffectiveness in halting the spread of Monsanto's products and power.

Since 2007, the year the first opposition group arose, Monsanto's net sales and gross profit have both more than doubled, and the company's march toward complete domination of the world's food supply - by controlling its seeds - has not been impeded in any semantical sense of the word.

My intention in pointing out this glaring failure of the anti-Monsanto movement to effect any change is meant to encourage an honest, objective review of the interplay between these movements' tactics and results.

The organizations that stand in defiance to Monsanto have - to their credit - reached millions with their message and sparked people to start engaging the structures of corporate power within our society, but they are simply not taking their actions far enough, not if they want to see their ultimate goals come to fruition.

To stay planted within the political realm, where Monsanto holds all the levers, is to remain impotent. What is needed is the immediate revival of those directly confrontational tactics that were to become the hallmark of the labor movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

These activist groups should be using their vast influence to encourage and stand in solidarity with actions such as those taken by activists in Oregon when they surreptitiously burned 40 tons of Syngenta's genetically modified sugar beets to the ground, or in France where fields were yanked from the earth under the cover of night.
The time for civility is over!

While people are marching around chanting their cleverly worded slogans or pussyfooting in the legislative halls, Monsanto is blatantly consolidating its grasp on the world's food supply. World-renowned environmental activist and anti-globalization author Dr. Vandana Shiva once forebodingly declared:
If they control seed, they control food. They know it and it's strategic. It's more powerful than bombs; it's more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world.
Monsanto's actions clearly indicate that they've taken Shiva's prescient words to heart and twisted them into a new mission statement of insidious design.

The conglomerate that Monsanto wishes to create wants to snatch the building blocks of our food supply away from us. To return the favor in kind, we should start dismantling the building blocks of the very infrastructure that has allowed the company to do so.

If we cannot muster the courage to fight the monstrosity that will soon descend upon us by utilizing the full spectrum of actions that are desperately needed to eradicate it, we will leave a legacy of shame for future generations.

Besides, food fights can be fun! Right?

Monsanto might change name to get Syngenta

By Tim Barker on 8 June 2015 for St. Louis Post-Dispatch - 

As Monsanto intensifies its courtship of Syngenta, emerging details show the Creve Coeur-based agriculture giant is willing to change its name and move its legal headquarters overseas.

The company’s $45 billion offer for its Swiss rival has twice been rejected by the seed and chemical company’s leadership. So Monsanto is changing strategies this week, with plans to take its message directly to Syngenta shareholders in Europe.

Monsanto’s initial approach was rebuffed by Syngenta in May partly on grounds that it failed to address regulatory concerns. On Monday, after its second offer was turned down, a pair of letters offering insight into the negotiations were released by Syngenta. The letters are from Monsanto Chairman Hugh Grant to Syngenta’s leadership.

In a June 6 letter, Grant expressed confidence that its proposed merger would meet regulatory approval. And if that proved not to be true, Monsanto offered Syngenta a $2 billion breakup fee.

“Such a fee would be among the highest reverse breakup fees that any company has agreed to,” Grant said in the letter.

He also expressed “personal disappointment” with the pace of the negotiations.

And according to an earlier letter, dated April 18, Monsanto’s proposal calls for the two companies to merge under a new parent company, with its legal headquarters in the United Kingdom.

“We would also propose a new name for the combined company to reflect its unique global nature,” Grant, a native of Scotland, wrote.

The name Monsanto has been part of the St. Louis business community since 1901.

No suggestions were offered on what the new name would be. And it’s unclear whether any of Monsanto’s key executives would actually move to the U.K. headquarters.

Such moves, known as tax inversion, have been popular recently for large companies looking to reduce their U.S. tax burden. And given the size of the deal, the firm is likely to be looking for ways to make it work financially.

The U.S. government has been pressuring the nation’s firms to abandon the strategy. Indeed, Monsanto was singled out by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who recently sent a letter to the company, urging it not to pursue tax inversion.

“As we’ve previously stated, this is not a tax-driven deal,” Sara Miller, a Monsanto spokeswoman, said in a statement late Monday. “If people view our Syngenta proposal as tax-driven, it misses the vision of what we intend to unlock. This is about creating a new company focused on increased innovation and expanded global reach to support farmers around the world.”

Miller said Syngenta had requested a “neutral site as a corporate base” for the combined company in early negotiations. That offer, she added, was not included in the second, more recent letter, and would be subject to “further negotiations.”

“In any scenario, we remain committed to the U.S. and our hometown of St. Louis,” Miller said. “In fact, part of the strategic rationale we see is that a combined company has the potential to significantly add jobs and economic value to key regions in the U.S., including in St. Louis. We see St. Louis continuing to serve as our global ag innovation hub as it does today, helping deliver on the vision and benefits we expect from the combination.”

Some observers have suggested that Monsanto will have to increase its offer by $5 billion or more if it wants to complete the takeover.

But for now, some of its executives are turning to smaller meetings with Syngenta shareholders this week in London, Zurich and other European cities, according to Reuters.

The U.S. company’s Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann, for instance, is scheduled to meet investors at a Zurich luxury hotel on Tuesday, according to the news service’s sources.

“The objective is to convince shareholders of Syngenta to pressure the company to negotiate with Monsanto,” one source told Reuters.

The person said Monsanto is hesitant go around management with an official offer to shareholders, because it would have to organize the sale of businesses for antitrust reasons without having control of the company.

Syngenta on Monday was dismissive of Monsanto’s second offer, despite the addition of the $2 billion guarantee.

“Monsanto’s second letter represents the same inadequate price, same inadequate regulatory undertakings to close, same regulatory risks and same issues associated with dual headquarters’ moves,” Syngenta said in a statement. “The only change by Monsanto is to add a wholly inadequate reverse regulatory break fee.”

A Critique of Capitalism

SUBHEAD: Learning from a small, locally owned bank, serving a main street of small shop owners who served the surrounding farm country.

By Robert Jensen on 5 October 2015 for Resilience -

Image above: State Bank of Lake as seen in august 2013 from GoogleEarth Street View.

[This is an excerpt from the new book Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully, published by Counterpoint/Soft Skull, which tells the story of Robert Jensen’s intellectual and political collaboration with teacher/activist Jim Koplin.]

Jim Koplin, who developed the most comprehensive and consistent radical left/feminist/anti-racist/ecological politics of anyone I have ever known, talked with great affection about his time as a bank teller.

Jim was good with numbers, liked working with ordered systems in which accounts could be summed and settled at the end of the day, and was satisfied only when a job was done right—which made him perfect for a summer job at the State Bank of Lake Park.

In that small, locally owned bank, serving a main street of small shop owners who served the surrounding farm country in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, Jim saw the importance of neighborliness and trust in a local economy.

That didn’t mean everyone in town loved each other or that people always treated each other kindly, but the economy of Lake Park generally worked. The banker knew the folks to whom he was lending money, the store owners knew the nearby farmers, and the richest person in town didn’t seem all that different from the poorest, though everyone was aware of who was rich and who wasn’t.

Jim spoke fondly of that job, both of the work he did and the people he worked with. And yet throughout his politically conscious life, Jim did not hesitate to describe capitalism as a depraved and destructive economic system that is incompatible with social justice and ecological sustainability. Jim believed that we have to acknowledge not only the successes but the profound failures of capitalism and leave it behind.

Jim saw no contradiction between his early experience in the Lake Park bank and the conclusion he had reached about the larger economy. Jim understood that complex systems produce complex experiences, and we make sense of a system by looking at patterns over time rather than romanticizing the positive and rationalizing away the negative.

hat strategy of avoiding difficult truths about capitalism has always been popular, especially after the financial collapse of 2008, as people have scrambled to avoid facing the fact that our economic system is not viable. The problem is “crony capitalism,” say the libertarians, whose worship of “free markets” is akin to pre-modern religious faith.

The problem is the expansion of “corporate personhood,” say the liberals, who yearn for a return of the New Deal’s belief in a kinder-and-gentler capitalism. The problem is “too big to fail,” say the technocrats, who always believe there is a policy fix just around the corner.

Crony capitalism, corporate personhood, and too-big-to-fail corporations are, of course, problems in today’s economy. But our focus should be on the deeper, and more disturbing, problems inherent in capitalism, a system that is inhuman, anti-democratic, and unsustainable.

Jim understood that what he experienced in the rural economy of his childhood was real, and that at the same time capitalism is a death trap—the system’s corrosive profit-maximizing and obsession with growth were bound to destroy that rural economy and, quite possibly, any hope for a decent future.

How could Jim square that positive experience in small-town America with that anti-capitalist analysis?

First, the community of Lake Park didn’t work because of capitalism, but in spite of capitalism. The sense of mutual obligation that cemented those bonds didn’t come from capitalism, which is based on exactly the opposite idea, that people have no necessary obligation to each other beyond maximizing their self-interest.

The connections people felt to each other came from other ways of understanding what it means to be human, rooted primarily in the social and religious institutions of the community.

Those connections come from philosophies and theologies that understand human life as achieving its fullest meaning in the common body, and in rural communities that also typically meant understanding the common body as one part of a larger living world, with its own rhythms and cycles.

In other words, capitalism is able to function not because of its value system but because it cannibalizes those other value systems.

Second, with every passing generation those other value systems atrophy or are distorted by capitalism’s elevation of narcissism from a character flaw to a virtue. The neighborliness that routinely leads people to share is replaced with purchasing what one needs from professional service providers.

Paradoxically, as people come to think of themselves as being more independent and not reliant on others, they really are becoming more dependent—on the money necessary to buy help when the practice of sharing withers. There are exceptions, but in my experience I’ve found that the more wealth people accrue, the more narcissistic they become.

In the United States, capitalism’s most dramatic distortion of another system has come in the marginalizing of the central Christian ethic of communal life and solidarity. Because that ethic is so clearly incompatible with the narcissism of capitalism, mainstream theology has either ignored the problem or twisted scripture and tradition into a theological defense of self-aggrandizement in the quest for wealth.

Neither capitalism nor socialism existed when the New Testament was written, of course, and it’s facile to suggest that a complex text is an endorsement of any modern system.

But these scriptures consistently assert the idea that people get closest to the God (however one understands that term) not when they pursue self-interest but by becoming part of a community of equals in which wealth is shared according to need.

To avoid accountability for this cultural decay, older generations tend to blame young people for failing to live up to the elders’ standards, when in facts kids are simply paying attention to the reward system that grownups have created. There is, of course, great variation in how individuals react to those rewards, but the pattern is clear:

 Each generation, we lose more of the values that have kept capitalism from completely destroying decent human communities. Gangsterism—the goal of getting ahead no matter what the cost to others—slowly becomes the norm, which has so far happened most notably at the very bottom and very top of the system.

Street gangs and investment bankers both routinely ignore the consequences of their actions on others, because in both those worlds the pursuit of wealth is the only value.

Third, for the community of Lake Park to work, a lot of other communities had to be destroyed and many more continue to be impoverished. No community exists in a vacuum, in history or in the contemporary world.

The state of Minnesota was made possible by the attack on, and forcible displacement of, Anishinaabe and Dakota peoples to make way for the original white settlers, which is part of the capitalist story of Lake Park, as is the slave system that helped propel the United States into the industrial world.

By the time Jim took that job at the bank, the United States was established as the pre-eminent empire, wielding unprecedented economic power that helped further enrich an already rich country.

Lake Park benefitted, at least in the short term, from those acts of violence and domination, and the fact that those acts are either in the past or out of sight in other parts of the world does not reduce their relevance to our affluence. In evaluating the system, we are obligated to use full-cost accounting.

Fourth, a local economy based on common decency wasn’t going to survive indefinitely in Lake Park, given the logic of capitalism. By the 1970s, farmers started to “get big or get out,” the infamous mantra of Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture under Richard Nixon.

The nice people of Lake Park were no match for the growth imperative and profit obsession of modern capitalism as it played out on a global scale. Capitalism’s ideologues like to talk about the “creative destruction” in the system, how innovation often wipes out existing businesses but creates something new, which sounds fine as an abstract concept but which in practice destroys real people, communities, and ecosystems.

If we pay attention to capitalism—not just its critics but its more fervent defenders—none of this should be surprising.

As Jim would say so often when analyzing systems, “it’s in the nature of things,” in this case a capitalist economic system that explicitly values profit over people and other living things.

Again, none of this requires us to pretend Lake Park was once paradise on earth or to yearn for some mythical golden age.

Small rural communities based on traditional values have long struggled with plenty of social problems—most notably racism, narrow-minded religiosity, sexism, xenophobia—problems we also see in allegedly more sophisticated cities. Jim saw no reason to romanticize the world in which he was raised and no reason to trash it. Nostalgia was harmless, as long as it didn’t displace honest analysis.

That honest economic analysis leads, inevitably, to a harsh critique of capitalism.


An Unprecedented Future

SUBHEAD: I can see The Age of Consequences from my home. An Unprecedented Future

By Courtney White on 2 October 2015 for the Cqrbon Pilgrim -

Image above: A burnt juniper tree near Santa Fe, New Mexico. From original article.

We live on a former ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico, that is now a subdivision with more than two thousand houses.

Due to its proximity to a center of colonial Spanish, Mexican, and American administrations, as well as the Santa Fe Trail, the land where live has hosted a variety of livestock for nearly 400 years. In the 1950s, the owner of the 13,000-acre ranch invested in new wells, dirt tanks, roads and a ranch house complex, complete with a swimming pool, in an effort to create a prosperous cattle operation on the property.

This effort continued for two decades, right up to the day the ranch was sold to a real estate company, who had a different definition of prosperity in mind.

Of all the artifacts left over from the ranch’s heyday, the one that I’ve watched closely over the years are the old dirt roads.

When we moved to the subdivision in 2003, the former ranch roads were still in decent shape, especially in the greenbelts where houses were excluded. Mostly two-tracks, the roads were easy to follow.

As my wife and I walked our dogs and chatted side-by-side, we could pick out features of the ranch as we strolled, including dirt tanks for cattle and evidence of tree-cutting from days long gone.

There was a timelessness at play in these parts of the old ranch, a feeling that despite the crop of houses, the land in between hadn’t changed much over the decades – a feeling that history would endure somehow.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

Today, the ranch roads are essentially gone, washed away or eroded into ditches by a series of catastrophic rainstorms over the last five years. In the summer of 2011, five inches of rain fell in a single afternoon – in a land that is lucky to get ten inches all year.

Chased from an outdoor basketball game that afternoon, I watched the deluge from the shelter of the community center. As soon as it ended, I hurried to a nearby greenbelt and our favorite ranch road, fearful that it had been transformed.

It had. As if by magic, two-foot headcuts (dry waterfalls) had appeared in the old road where none had existed before – and by “before” I mean all of the 20th century and probably much longer. There had been big storms in the past, of course, but to our trained eyes destruction on this scale was not visible – until now.

Subsequent deluges, including a monster two summers ago, have unraveled what was left of the old road altogether. We still go for pleasant walks on it with our dogs, but now we walk in single file on a trail that is a challenge to navigate in places. I doubt many people today would recognize it as a former road.

What once endured disappeared in only a handful of years.

It’s the Age of Consequences in our backyards.

I’m certain there are many similar stories from many other backyards around the nation and the world.

Call it what you will – weather weirdness, climate disruption, global warming – what’s happening is something new under the sun. As our ranch road continues to teach us, what we considered ‘normal’ will continue to erode, one storm at a time, until we can’t recognize it any longer.

Change happens, of course, but there’s something about this change that looks and feels very different. There’s a way to describe it – which I’ll explain by way of another backyard story.

Some years ago, Craig Allen, an old friend and colleague, stopped by the office to catch up. He’s a forest ecologist stationed at Bandelier National Monument, in northern New Mexico, and his career is representative of the transition conservation science has undergone, as well as its likely future trajectory.

When I first met Craig, more than twenty years ago, his focus was on ecological change at landscape scales in the Jemez Mountains, in which Bandelier is nestled.

His approach was a systems one; he studied the interlocking variables of ecological function, historical use, and plant and animal community dynamics in order to understand more clearly the condition of the forest. And what he discovered was worrisome.

Specifically, he worried about forest “thickening” due to decades of fire suppression, overgrazing, and other human activities.

In 1998, Craig summarized his concern in an article for the Quivira Coalition titled “Where Have All the Grasslands Gone?” His research revealed that open, grassy areas in the Jemez Mountains were shrinking, due to tree encroachment, at the alarming rate of 1 percent per year. What was missing was fire.

“Most forests, woodlands, and grasslands in northern New Mexico evolved with frequent, low-intensity fires,” he wrote. “The removal of the natural process of fire by human suppression has disrupted these ecosystems in many ways [these areas] need to be restored to more open conditions to protect both ecological values and human communities.”

In the next phase of his career, Craig ‘walked the talk’ of forest restoration by implementing innovative experiments at Bandelier, becoming an enthusiastic advocate of adaptive management in the process.

As a result of this fieldwork, Craig joined a chorus of forest ecologists advocating proactive policies and practices aimed at returning ecosystems to health in the Southwest, principally by restoring natural fire cycles.

Today, Craig is focused on the threat posed to forests by global warming. He thinks the dangers have the potential to be catastrophic not only for trees but also for the animal communities that depend on them, including us.

His goal is resilience – figuring out ways to keep a forest healthy in the face of a changing climate. His research, however, says things don’t look rosy under Business-as-Usual scenarios. “The possibility exists,” he told me that day in my office, “that a 5 degree Celsius warming of the planet could wipe out entire plant communities, including the forests.”

But it was something that Craig said at the end of our meeting that brought home the Age of Consequences for me.

He had been asked to speak to a gathering of federal land managers about the climate crisis. They were looking for options and advice on how to meet that challenge. “What they told me,” Craig said, “was that nothing in their education or experience had prepared them for what was coming down the road in terms of climate.

Their training was for a stable climate, they said, not one that was changing. They literally had no idea what to do. They were facing an unprecedented future for which they were not prepared.”

The words stuck in my mind: an unprecedented future.

For most of his career, Craig focused on a traditional goal of the conservation movement: fighting scarcity.

Unhealthy forests, disappearing meadows, eroding topsoils, too few “cool” natural fires, too many “hot” catastrophic fires, and not enough grass are all indicators of scarcity at work – the scarcity of properly functioning ecosystems. His restoration work aimed at reversing such declines, at replacing scarcity with health and abundance.

Today, however, Craig is working beyond scarcity. He is confronting the specter of loss. Craig and his colleagues predict that the pine forests of New Mexico, as a result of repeated fires, will likely transition to shrublands over the next century.

Hotter and drier conditions under climate change are already feeding record fire seasons across the West and Alaska.

When trees burn up and seedlings can’t get established as a consequence of repeated scorching, forests die. In a recent interview for the New York Times, Craig said “The future in a lot of places is looking shrubbier.”

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It depends on your perspective, I suppose.

f you love forests and the plants and animals they shelter, you probably consider this news to be sad. If you love shrublands, this might be good news. Either way, the transition is underway. In the Age of Consequences, the unprecedented future has arrived.

Image above: Here’s a shrubland biome from a popular video game, Minecraft. (I couldn’t resist). From original article.

Walking the ranch roads where we live over the last few years and thinking about forests and the bigger picture, I’ve come up with five principles (small p) for living in the Age of Consequences that I’d like to share. They’re solely my opinions – use them or not as you like:
  1. Stop living in denial. The previous era is over and gone. We live now in a period of transition between what was and what will be. Exactly what our unprecedented future has in store for us isn’t clear yet, but what is clear is that our actions today will greatly influence tomorrow. We can’t implement those actions, however, if we continue to live in the past – which we’re still doing, big time. Simply acknowledging that we live in new era (whatever you want to call it) is a critical first step to slipping the bonds of denial.

  2. Solutions exist. Because we live in an era of big problems, we tend to spend our time thinking of big solutions. Thinking big, however, can have a paralyzing effect on taking action. Let’s concentrate on the wide variety of low-cost, practical solutions available right now, not in some distant future. There are many innovative practices, for example, that soak up carbon dioxide in soils, reduce energy use, sustainably intensify food production, and increase water quality and quantity. Pick one that motivates you and support it in any way that you can.

  3. Explore and share. Despite the daily cascade of dire predictions, sobering studies, and gloomy headlines, it’s still a beautiful, diverse, amazing world. Go see as much as of it as you can, starting in your own backyard. Share what you find with others. In particular, seek out Age of Consequences stories and explain them to the world. Share research, create art, give a lecture, write a book, post a photo, call a friend – whatever you like to do, big or small, to communicate what it means to be alive today.

  4. Focus on the little normals. These are things that have persisted over the millennia: such as the way water moves across the land, or the love a parent feels for a child. We need food to live. We like to work and enjoy relaxing, as we always have. We need a sense of community, we like to belong. We like to live in proximity to other people. We feel a deep affection for animals. We are moved by spiritual concerns. All of these things persist in the Age of Consequences and can form the foundation for our actions.

  5. Don’t despair. I did. I got over it by concentrating on the four principles described above. Despair is an eddy in the river of life – don’t let it catch you. Force yourself back into the flow of the water, move on, go places, hug people, sing a song.
More on Craig Allen:
You can pre-order my forthcoming book 2% Solutions for the Planet: 50 Low-Cost, Low-Tech, Nature-Based Practices for Combatting Hunger, Drought, and Climate Change. See:]
My web site:


Maui's future is being created now

SUBHEAD: The many decisions we face mean that Maui’s future will probably be significantly different from today.

By Dick Mayer on 2 October 2015 for the Maui News -

Image above: Dow AgroScience GMO worker on Maui. The future of agriculture? From (

Maui is at an important crossroad. Major decisions are being made that will affect every resident and shape our beloved island’s communities and environment. These decisions and their timely implementation will allow us to control anticipated events and may prepare us to react effectively to events beyond our control.

Changes and Challenges:
A) Our agricultural future may face the biggest changes. Numerous forces raise a cloud over HC&S’s sugar operations, including increased concern over the health effects of cane smoke; legal challenges to restore water flow to East Maui streams; reduced electricity sales to Maui Electric; and decreased revenues due to low world sugar prices. Economics may be the decider, and that includes A&B’s desire to “bank” its valuable lands and retain water rights.

In addition, the courts will decide whether Monsanto can continue to grow and experiment with GMO crops on Maui due to health concerns that led to an initiative against GMO agricultural practices by Maui County residents.

Concurrently, there is a movement to make Maui agriculturally self-sufficient and organically healthier. Will Maui’s corporate agriculture be replaced by a more diversified, sustainable agriculture?

B) Our Maui County government has operated with a “Strong-Mayor” format for many decades and may be in serious need of a different structure. Most local governments of Maui’s size utilize a “Council + County Manager” structure where a professional County Manager and department heads are selected based on experience and qualifications, rather than on political connections, “name recognition,” or as a reward for loyal followers. In 2016 residents may vote for a Charter change.

C) Due to the uncontrolled growth of luxury homes that drive up home costs and rental fees, local families are becoming frustrated that their children are being forced to leave Maui. Our County government will need to regulate McMansions and provide for additional work-force housing in livable neighborhoods with proper infrastructure.

D) Our hospital’s management will change from public (State control) to a private operation. To balance its budget will Kaiser cut back on services? Dismiss employees? Raise rates?

E) Our Time-Warner cable system, plus much of our internet and telephone service may be taken over by Charter Communications which doesn’t have the highest reputation. Will the Hawaii DCCA actively protect consumers with tough, pro-active negotiation of contracts and subsequent strict enforcement of conditions? How will Maui’s local Akaku station fare?

F) Maui’s electricity future will change if Hawaii’s Public Utility Commission allows Florida-based NextEra to take over the Hawaiian Electric Company monopoly, including its MECO subsidiary. However, Maui County is now investigating alternative energy management opportunities: a Maui-based public utility, or a consumer-owned cooperative like Kauai’s.

G) Electricity production and distribution may adjust to reflect a need to reduce electricity costs, control climate change, and become less dependent on imported fuels. Solar, wind, and geothermal could play a larger role, especially if we decide to be less reliant on a large centralized power plant and more comfortable with distributed production and local battery capability.

H) Will high tourism employment continue if the County persists in allowing hotels to transform into timeshares with a reduced need for hotel and restaurant employees? With many unemployed workers, wages may be reduced for the remaining workers resulting in housing and rental costs becoming even less affordable.

I) Beyond our local control, but nevertheless significant, are several natural environment trends: modified weather patterns that may mean reduced and more variable rainfall, making agriculture less secure; decreased comforting trade winds; and rising sea levels, forcing Maui to restrict public and private shoreline construction.

J) The County administration’s proposal to push for direct international flights from some Asian cities could open Maui to serious pests for which we are unprepared. The administration wants to allow tourists to have passports checked at the departure airport, but is making no provision for needed inspections of potential invasive species, especially from tropical cities.

The many decisions we face mean that Maui’s future will probably be significantly different from today. Our leaders will need to make politically difficult choices that can reduce negative consequences and enhance benefits. Will they (and we) be up to it? The answers will determine Maui’s future.



SUBHEAD: We might we ask ourselves if there anything to the US’s complaint that Russia is not bombing the right ISIS?

By James Kunstler on 5 October 2015 for -

Image above: Cartoon by Gary Varvel of Putin and Obama about Syria int the Indianapolis Star. From (

Senior administration officials say the new offensive holds promise and may change the dynamics on the ground.

Whew…. That’s reassuring. Finally, a Middle East policy you can believe in.

It’s apparently based on a joint Kurdish-Arab army that our side (the USA) is pretending to assemble around the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, near the Turkish border. We’re informed also that American military officials have screened the leaders of the Arab groups to ensure that they meet standards set by Congress when it approved $500 million last year for the Defense Department to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels. Thank God we have a functioning HR department over there.

Is it safe to say that the table is now set for World War Three? King Salman of Saudi Arabia is itching to mix it up. Of course, the moment he sends official KSA ground troops in there, he will be eligible to have his oil terminal at Ras Tanura in the Persian Gulf blown up. Imagine what that would do to the S & P index.

The Turks, too, are none too happy with their currency imploding and their economy falling apart, and perhaps view a widened war as politically refreshing.

And let’s not forget Iran — having concluded the long, torturous negotiations to make America feel better about their nuke program, Iran is eager to put an end to this barbaric (Sunni-flavored) ISIS nonsense.

Oh, did I leave out Israel. Probably a good idea since so many people just want to hate on it if the subject even comes up. But suffice it to say they are in the mix, too, with the ability to turn their adversaries into ashtrays, should it come to that.

As the old song goes: someone left the cake out in the rain.

You had to at least admire the forthrightness of Mr. Putin. His economy of motion is breathtaking. He goes to the UN and says: “The situation in Syria is intolerable and we’re going to do something about it,” and a few days later they did. Russia commenced bombing groups that the US had labeled “the moderate opposition” to Bashar al-Assad.

The quandary for the US, of course, as Mr. Putin pointed out at the UN, is that we keep on arming and training “moderate oppositions” to this regime and that regime and abracadabra (to use an old Middle Eastern term-of-art) they break bad on us. 

They use the Humvee’s we give them to control the landscape and they blow stuff up with the ordnance we give them, and cut off the heads of Americans on video in the rudest and cruelest manner imaginable.

So, might we ask ourselves: is there anything to the US’s complaint that Russia is not bombing the right ISIS?

I suspect world opinion is not buying our claim that Bashar al-Assad has to go because he bombed his own citizens and used gas on them. I mean, we say that a lot, but is it actually true? US officials say a lot of things a lot that happen not to be true (e.g. the Federal Reserve’s claim that the US economy is humming.) In fact, we’re in this predicament precisely because we have squandered our credibility.

We go into one country after another and destroy the institutions that held these places together, and leave a train of death and chaos behind. Iraq, Libya, Somalia, now Syria.

Maybe we just ought to step aside for a while and see what happens. The Russians could shoot themselves in the foot over there, of course. They did it before in Afghanistan. But that was back in Soviet times, with its clunky leadership. Mr. Putin proved pretty nimble in Georgia.

Whatever else you can say about that little war, the region has been stable for years now. They’re not cutting off people’s heads on TV there. Similarly, you don’t hear much about Chechnyans perpetrating terrorist acts anymore.

Ukraine, for all its faults and troubles, was a stable country until the US decided to pull off regime change there. The deposed president Yanukovych was pressed into choosing between NATO and the Russian-backed Eurasian Custom’s Union and he chose wrong. The US pulled a few levers and a
bracadabra: civil war.

So, Assad still heads a government in Syria. We don’t like him because he is cozy with Iran, and their proxy war machine, Hezbollah. But will eliminating him make the situation any better?

Saudi Arabia may enter war

By Tyler Durden on 5 Octrober 2015 for Zero Hedge - 

While the US has certainly made some epic strategic blunders in Syria that raise serious questions about just how “intelligent” US intelligence actually is, there’s little doubt that if one were to look behind all of the media parroting, the Pentagon and Langley understand all too well what’s going on in the Middle East.

That is, the significance of the Russia-Iran “nexus” in Syria isn’t lost on anyone in the US military and you can bet there have been quite a few high level discussions over the past 72 hours about the best way to counter Moscow and Tehran’s powerplay before it spills over into Iraq and ends up degrading Washington’s influence in Baghdad.

As we put it on Friday, “if Russia ends up bolstering Iran's position in Syria (by expanding Hezbollah's influence and capabilities) and if the Russian air force effectively takes control of Iraq thus allowing Iran to exert a greater influence over the government in Baghdad, the fragile balance of power that has existed in the region will be turned on its head and in the event this plays out, one should not expect Washington, Riyadh, Jerusalem, and London to simply go gentle into that good night.”

Sure enough, some experts now predict Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey will move to counter Russia militarily if Moscow continues to rack up gains for Assad. Here’s The Guardian with more:
Regional powers have quietly, but effectively, channelled funds, weapons and other support to rebel groups making the biggest inroads against the forces from Damascus. In doing so, they are investing heavily in a conflict which they see as part of a wider regional struggle for influence with bitter rival Iran.

In a week when Russia made dozens of bombing raids, those countries have made it clear that they remain at least as committed to removing Assad as Moscow is to preserving him.

“There is no future for Assad in Syria,” Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir warned, a few hours before the first Russian bombing sorties began. If that was not blunt enough, he spelled out that if the president did not step down as part of a political transition, his country would embrace a military option, “which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power”. With at least 39 civilians reported dead in the first bombing raids, the prospect of an escalation between backers of Assad and his opponents is likely to spell more misery for ordinary Syrians.

“The Russian intervention is a massive setback for those states backing the opposition, particularly within the region – Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – and is likely to elicit a strong response in terms of a counter-escalation,” said Julien Barnes-Dacey, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

As the Syrian civil war has unfolded, Saudi Arabia has been clear about its position, say analysts. “Since the beginning of the uprising in Syria, the view in Riyadh has been that Bashar al-Assad must go. There is no indication what-soever that Riyadh will change this position,” said Mohammed Alyahya, associate fellow at the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.

“What is clear to Riyadh and its regional allies is that the recent Russian and Iranian escalation will only create a more unstable region and spill more blood,” he said.

Riyadh has focused support on rebels in the south, say analysts, while allies Turkey and Qatar have reportedly backed northern rebels, including conservative Islamist militias such as Ahrar al Sham.

That group, in alliance with the al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, recently reached a local ceasefire deal with Assad in the north. Its success in taking on government forces is thought to have been one trigger for the Russian bombing campaign and put them among the jets’ first targets.

“Most probably, the coming efforts will focus on boosting the effectiveness of major coalitions, co-ordination and co-operation between the most influential and effective groups in Syria,” said regional analyst Ali Bakeer.
Of course that isn’t going to work.

Say what you will about how successful guerilla/urban warfare can be when it comes to bogging down a conventional army (examples of this include Vietnam, the Soviet-Afghan war, and Somalia during the Black Hawk down debacle), but the disorganization of the Syrian resistance combined with the fact that Iran has its own well-armed militias on the ground that, in combination with Hezbollah, are providing the ground support for Russian airstrikes, means the situation is all but hopeless for the various Riyadh- and Doha-backed groups operating in Syria.

The only way to turn the tide here would be to intervene directly.

But just as Iran is unwilling to risk direct intervention on behalf of the Houthis in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Qatar will likely be unwilling to risk direct intervention on behalf of their proxy armies in Syria. The problem for Riyadh and Doha: Syria is a lot more strategically important than Yemen. Here’s The Guardian again:
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are already embroiled in an expensive and bloody war in Yemen that may limit both their military and financial resources. They have also so far deferred to western bans on transferring hi-tech weapons – including missiles that could take down aircraft – over fears that they might change hands in the chaos of the war and be used against their makers.

“The uncertain question today is the degree of power combined with efficiency that regional powers will be willing to bring to the table,” said Barnes-Dacey. “Do the Saudis now try to take matters decisively into their hands, including by providing rebels with sophisticated weaponry long denied them?

“The new [Saudi] king [Salman] has shown a willingness to be much more assertive and take measures into the kingdom’s own hands. If the Saudis see the situation slipping out of their hands, and there is a real sense that the Iranians are consolidating their position in Syria, you could see much stronger response.”
And speaking of a “strong response,” Russia continued to hit anti-regime targets for a fourth consecutive day on Sunday, making good on the Defense Ministry’s promise to step up strikes. Here’s Reuters:
Air strikes by suspected Russian jets hit targets around the town of Talbiseh in western Syria on Sunday, residents and a group which monitors the civil war in Syria said, a day after Russia promised to step up its air campaign.

Ambulances rushed wounded people to hospital in Talbiseh, north of the city of Homs, and one resident said at least five bodies had been recovered from the western part of the town.

"So far there are seven or six raids in the town," said Abdul Ghafar al Dweik, a former government employee and volunteer rescue worker.

He said he believed the raid was carried out by Russian jets. "They come suddenly... With the Syrian planes, we would get a warning but now all of a sudden we see it over our heads," he said.
We have said time and again that there’s no question Russian airstrikes will contribute to human suffering in Syria. After all, when you drop bombs on populated areas you’re bound to kill civilians (including women and children) no matter what Moscow says. However, the highlighted passages above shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you want your airstrikes to be effective, you’re not going to warn anyone about them beforehand unless of course you're dropping a nuke in which case you can tell civilians to leave ahead of time because you're reasonably sure the destruction will be so vast as to make the element of surprise a non-factor.

As for the effectiveness of the strikes, The Kremlin is out again claiming that ISIS is on its heels. Via Bloomberg and the Russian Defense Ministry (translated):
  • Russian warplanes have made 20 sorties, attacked 10 ISIS targets in Syria in past 24h, Russian Defense Ministry says on website.
  • Air force has attacked militant training camps in Raqqa, Idlib provinces; destroyed explosives workshop
  • Warplanes destroyed at least 4 ammunition depots, several command posts
  • Russian forces have broken “the management and logistics of the terrorist organization” and caused “significant damage to the infrastructure used for preparation of terrorist attacks”
And here's David Cameron repeating the Assad "butcher" accustations (again, via Bloomberg):
Russia is “backing the butcher Assad, which is a terrible mistake for them and for the world,” Cameron told BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday. “It’s going to make the region more unstable, which will lead to further radicalization and increased terrorism.”

Cameron continued: “I would say to them change direction, join us in attacking ISIL but recognize that if we want to have a secure region we need an alternative to Assad,” using an alternative designation for Islamic State. Assad “can’t unite the Syrian people.”
Yes, Assad "can't unite the Syrian people", because clearly that's what this is all about, which explains why the West has been doing anything and everything to promote disunity among Syrians for the better part of a decade, and on that note, we close with the following excerpt from a leaked diplomatic cable penned by then-Deputy Head of Mission in Syria William Roebuck in 2006 which shows just how concerned the West is with Syrian "unity":
-- PLAY ON SUNNI FEARS OF IRANIAN INFLUENCE:  There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis.  Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business. Both the local Egyptian and Saudi missions here, (as well as prominent Syrian Sunni religious leaders), are giving increasing attention to the matter and we should coordinate more closely with their governments on ways to better publicize and focus regional attention on the issue. 

US Syrian propaganda advise

SUBHEAD: State Department prep sheet for mass media outlets on handling stories on Syria.

By Gary Leupp on 2 October 2015 for

Image above: CNN's Christine Amanpour spews the John Kerry State Department's line on Syrian atrocities. From (

State Department talking points on Syria for cable news anchors:

KEEP mentioning the barrel bombs. Do not mention how their use was pioneered by the Israeli Air Force in 1948, and how they were used by the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam in Operation Inferno in 1968. Keep repeating, “barrel bombs, barrel bombs” and stating with a straight face that the Syrian regime is using them “against its own people.” Against its own people. Against its own people. Against its own people.

KEEP mentioning “200,000.” (The UN estimates that 220,000 have been killed in the conflict since 2011.) Declare like you really believe it that this is the number of civilians the Syrian government of Bashar Assad has killed during the war. (Do not be concerned about any need to back the figure up. No one is ever going to call you on it publicly.)

DO NOT mention that around half of the war dead (estimates range from 84,000 to 133,000) are Syrian government forces waging war against an overwhelmingly Islamist opposition, and an additional 73,000 to 114,000 are anti-government combatants.

DO NOT discuss these figures because they would call into question the claim that the Syrian government is targeting and killing tens of thousands of civilians willy-nilly. (If feeling any qualms of conscience, recall Karl Rove’s immortal dictum that “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”)

KEEP mentioning the “Arab Spring” and how in 2011 Syrians peacefully mobilized to challenge the regime were violently repressed. But don’t dwell on the Arab Spring too much. Realize that the State Department was actually shocked by it, particularly by its repercussions in Egypt, where democratization brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power before the U.S.-backed military drowned its opponents in blood.

DO NOT mention how in Bahrain, peaceful demonstrations by the majority Shiites against the repressive Sunni monarchy were crushed by a Saudi-led invasion force tacitly supported by the U.S. And NEVER mention that the bulk of the peaceful protesters in the Syrian Arab Spring want nothing to do with the U.S.-supported armed opposition but are instead receptive to calls from Damascus, Moscow and Tehran for dialogue towards a power-sharing arrangement.

DO NOT explain that the pro-democracy student activists and their allies fear most is the radical Islamists who have burgeoned in large part due to foreign intervention since 2011.

KEEP mentioning the “Free Syrian Army” and the “moderate opposition” to give the impression that they actually exist in the real world.

DO NOT point out that the FSA organization is actually a joke; that its leaders live in Turkey; that its remaining units are headed by CIA officers; that U.S. efforts to train over 5000 FSA troops have been an utter failure; that the tiny group of 54 recently sent to the front were immediately captured by the al-Nusra Front and another 70 dispatched from Turkey immediately turned over their arms to that al-Qaeda-linked group; that their chief of staff has resigned protesting U.S. incompetence; that Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the top American commander in the Middle East, told Congress last month that only “four or five” Syrians had been trained by the U.S. to fight ISIL; and that the U.S.-trained forces have been accused of multiple human rights abuses.

DO NOT mention these things. They are so totally embarrassing that the State Department officials responsible just want to curl up into a ball and roll into a corner. Your mission is to put a bright face on this and continue to pretend there’s something in Syria, supported by the U.S., that falls between the terrorists and the Assad regime.

KEEP expressing consternation if not outrage that Russia is “interfering” in Syria. Scrunch up your face and act like you think it’s puzzling.

DO NOT mention that Syria is much closer to Russia than  to the U.S. and that Russia faces a much greater threat of Islamist terror than the U.S. (in places like Chechnya and Dagestan that your viewers can’t locate on a map).

DOWNPLAY the fact that Russia has had a military relationship with Syria since the 1950s no more nor less legitimate that the U.S. military relationship with Saudi Arabia. (And avoid any objective comparisons of the human rights records of Saudi Arabia and Syria since the former’s is manifestly so much worse than the latter’s!)

DO NOT imply any moral equivalence between Russia’s desire to prevent U.S.-backed regime change in Syria and the U.S.’s desire to inflict another Iraq or Libya-type regime change on that tragically war-torn country.

KEEP treating the Assad regime as an obvious pariah, whose leader has “lost legitimacy.” Say that with an air of authority, like you really believe that U.S. presidents—like Chinese emperors of the past or medieval popes— enjoy so much “legitimacy” that they can confer this on, or remove it from, anybody else.

STUDY CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s facial expressions and body language when he announces—so matter-of-factly, as a self-evident fact, as a done deal—that (come on, everybody!) “Assad hast lost legitimacy.”

(Chris is your model. He’s the State Department’s pleasantly vapid headed scion-of-privilege poster boy, whose occasional dark flashes of indignation—especially those directed towards anyone questioning the official talking points on Russia—embody the attitude Foggy Bottom seeks to encourage in the corporate press.)

DO NOT remind viewers that the Syrian government is internationally recognized, holds a UN seat, retains cordial relations with most nations and is engaged in a life-and-death struggle against people who enslave, crucify, behead, bury alive and burn alive people and want to replace Syria’s modern secular government with a medieval religious one intolerant of any diversity.

KEEP insisting that the Assad regime somehow is responsible for, and even in league with, the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and ISIL. Since this makes no logical sense, just have faith in the ignorance of the viewership and its disinclination to distinguish one Arab from another and to assume that they’re all linked in ways that aren’t worth even trying to sort out. Imply that by staying in power (and not complying with Obama’s demand that he step down) Assad has actually invited the presence of radical Islamists to his country, or provoked their emergence.

DO NOT  mention that al-Qaeda offshoots have proliferated globally since the U.S. invaded and wrecked Iraq in 2003, in a war based entirely on lies, and that there was no al-Nusra Front or ISIL until the U.S. set out to effect regime change throughout the Middle East. Do NOT let on that State Department PR strategy is precisely to obfuscate the real causal relationship, and to impute to the beleaguered Assad phenomena actually generated by U.S. aggression in the region.

KEEP treating Russian President Vladimir Putin as America’s Enemy Number One, an ally of a Syrian government that U.S. has said must go, deploying force in Syria to bolster Assad rather than (as Moscow claims) to target ISIL.

DO NOT lend any credence to the Russian assertion that the Syrian Army is the force best placed to defeat ISIL. Do NOT point out the incongruity of the U.S. invading and attacking countries from Pakistan to Libya since 2001 while expressing alarm that Moscow is (after much hesitation) taking action against Islamist terrorists at Damascus’s invitation.

DO NOT harp on the past, revisit history, or attempt to place the contemporary situation in Syria in perspective. Do NOT complicate the storyline by mentioning Damascus’s cooperation in the “War on Terror” and the U.S. use of Syrian torture chambers in its “special renditions” program after 2001. Do NOT mention Syria’s large Christian minority or its historical support for Assad’s Baath party, which was co-founded by a Syrian Christian.

KEEP everything simple, following the examples set by MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Scarborough and CNN’s Cuomo, and inculcate in the mind of the viewer that Assad is the main problem and most horrible actor in the Syrian situation. Tell them that Putin, while striving to revive the tsarist empire, is backing Assad as a loyal ally and using his military to prolong his rule that Washington condemns rather than (as he states) taking action against ISIL.

If you do all this, you will demonstrate your loyalty to the State Department, the bipartisan foreign policy consensus, the military-industrial complex, the One Percent, your advertisers, your producers and editors, and the unsung heroes behind the scenes who arrange your teleprompter scripts.

You too could be an Andrea Mitchell, or Christiane Amanpour, posturing as an “expert” while trotting out our talking points. And even after they’re exposed as bullshit, you won’t have to say you’re sorry. People will soon forget anyway.

Those unconscionable barrel bombs! 200,000 civilians killed by the illegitimate regime! U.S. support for the moderate opposition! Russia up to no good, supporting Assad and not really targeting ISI!. Russian moves “worrisome” (whereas U.S. moves are not.)

• Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: