Big Island to appeal GMO ruling

SUBHEAD: Dru Kanuha was the only man who voted for Hawaii County to support its GMO ban.

By Shannon Rudolph on 18 December 2014 in Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/12/big-island-ro-appeal-gmo-ruling.html)


Image above: Council members who voted for Hawaii County to appeal overturning of their GMO ban with supporters. From Shannon Rudolph.

Aloha! GREAT NEWS!
MAHALO to all who Showed up!!!  This may not have happened without you!

Today, the Hawaii Island Council voted 5/4 to APPROVE the APPEAL of Federal Judge  Barry Kurren's ruling that invalided the Hawaii County GMO ban! This ruling could also invalidate our 2008 ban on GMO taro and Kona Coffee as well.

Pray our GMO Ban WILL be upheld on appeal! Stay tuned!

Five YES Votes 
The Hawaii County Council members supporting the GMO Ban
Karen Eoff, Maile David, Val Poindexter, Margaret Wille, and Dru Kanuha.

Please send them a quick email "Mahalo Nui Loa!"
margaret.wille@hawaiicounty.gov, karen.eoff@hawaiicounty.gov, maile.david@hawaiicounty.gov, valerie.poindexter@hawaiicounty.gov, dru.kanuha@hawaiicounty.gov


Image above: Council member Dru Mamo Kanuha was the only man who voted for Hawaii County to appeal overturning of their GMO ban. From (http://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2011_10_13_archive.html).

[IB Editor's note: Is this about nurturing versus exploiting? Thank you Dru Kanuha for leaving the Man Cave!]

Four NO Votes
The Hawaii County Council members against the GMO Ban
Aaron Chung, Greggor Ilagan, Dennis Onishi, Daniel Paleka

Their emails:
greggor.ilagan@hawaiicounty.gov, dennis.onishi@hawaiicounty.gov, daniel.paleka@hawaiicounty.gov, aaron.chung@hawaiicounty.gov

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Deja Vu All Over Again

SUBHEAD: Many institutions tried to bail themselves out from the real estate bust by doubling down on fracking.

By John Michael Greer on 17 December 2014 for the Archdruid Report -
(http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/12/deja-vu-all-over-again.html)


Image above: Illustration for "Beware of the Shale Gas Bubble" 2/20/13. From (http://priceofoil.org/2013/02/20/beware-the-shale-gas-bubble/).

Over the last few weeks, a number of regular readers of The Archdruid Report have asked me what I think about the recent plunge in the price of oil and the apparent end of the fracking bubble.

That interest seems to be fairly widespread, and has attracted many of the usual narratives; the blogosphere is full of claims that the Saudis crashed the price of oil to break the US fracking industry, or that Obama got the Saudis to crash the price of oil to punish the Russians, or what have you.

I suspect, for my part, that what’s going on is considerably more important. To start with, oil isn’t the only thing that’s in steep decline. Many other major commodities—coal, iron ore, and copper among them—have registered comparable declines over the course of the last few months.

I have no doubt that the Saudi government has its own reasons for keeping their own oil production at full tilt even though the price is crashing, but they don’t control the price of those other commodities, or the pace of commercial shipping—another thing that has dropped steeply in recent months.

What’s going on, rather, is something that a number of us in the peak oil scene have been warning about for a while now. Since most of the world’s economies run on petroleum products, the steep oil prices of the last few years have taken a hefty bite out of all economic activities.

The consequences of that were papered over for a while by frantic central bank activities, but they’ve finally begun to come home to roost in what’s politely called “demand destruction”—in less opaque terms, the process by which those who can no longer afford goods or services stop buying them.

That, in turn, reminded me of the last time prolonged demand destruction collided with a boom in high-priced oil production, and sent me chasing after a book I read almost three decades ago. A few days ago, accordingly, the excellent interlibrary loan service we have here in Maryland brought me a hefty 1985 hardback by financial journalist Philip Zweig, with the engaging title Belly Up: The Collapse of the Penn Square Bank.

PENN SQUARE
Some of my readers may never have heard of the Penn Square Bank; others may be scratching their heads, trying to figure out why the name sounds vaguely familiar. Those of my readers who belong to either category may want to listen up, because the same story seems to be repeating itself right now on an even larger scale.

The tale begins in the middle years of the 1970s, when oil prices shot up to unprecedented levels, and reserves of oil and natural gas that hadn’t been profitable before suddenly looked like winning bets.

The deep strata of Oklahoma’s Anadarko basin were ground zero for what many people thought was a new era in natural gas production, especially when a handful of deep wells started bringing in impressive volumes of gas.

The only missing ingredient was cash, and plenty of it, to pay for the drilling and hardware. That’s where the Penn Square Bank came into the picture.

The Penn Square Bank was founded in 1960. At that time, as a consequence of hard-earned suspicions about big banks dating back to the Populist era, Oklahoma state banking laws prohibited banks from owning more than one branch, and so there were hundreds of little one-branch banks scattered across the state, making a modest return from home mortgages, auto loans, and the like.

That’s what Penn Square was; it had been organized by the developer of the Penn Square shopping mall, in the northern suburbs of Oklahoma City, to provide an additional draw to retailers and customers. There it sat, in between a tobacconist and Shelley’s Tall Girl’s Shop, doing ordinary retail banking, until 1975.

In that year it was bought by a group of investors headed by B.P. “Beep” Jennings, an Oklahoma City banker who had been passed over for promotion at one of the big banks in town. Jennings pretty clearly wanted to prove that he could run with the big dogs; he was an excellent salesman, but not particularly talented at the number-crunching details that make for long-term success in banking, and he proceeded to demonstrate his strengths and weaknesses in an unforgettable manner.

He took the little shopping mall bank and transformed it into a big player in the Oklahoma oil and gas market, which was poised—or so a chorus of industry voices insisted—on the brink of one of history’s great energy booms.

Now of course this involved certain difficulties, which had to be overcome. A small shopping center bank doesn’t necessarily have the financial resources to become a big player in a major oil and gas market, for example.

Fortunately for Beep Jennings, one of the grand innovations that has made modern banking what it is today had already occurred; by his time, loans were no longer seen as money that was collected from depositors and loaned out to qualified borrowers, in the expectation that it would be repaid with interest. Rather, loans were (and are) assets, which could (and can) be sold, for cash, to other banks.

This is what Penn Square did, and since their loans charged a competitive interest rate and thus promised competitive profits, they were eagerly snapped up by Chase Manhattan, Continental Illinois, Seattle First, and a great many other large and allegedly sophisticated banks.

So Penn Square Bank started issuing loans to Oklahoma oil and gas entrepreneurs, a flotilla of other banks around the country proceeded to fund those loans, and to all intents and purposes, the energy boom began.

OIL BUBBLE
At least that’s what it looked like. There was a great deal of drilling going on, certainly; the economists insisted that the price of oil and gas would just keep on rising; the local and national media promptly started featuring giddily enthusiastic stories about the stunning upside opportunities in the booming Oklahoma oil and gas business.

What’s more, Oklahoma oil and gas entrepreneurs were spending money like nobody’s business, and not just on drilling leases, steel pipe, and the other hardware of the trade.

Lear jets, vacation condos in fashionable resorts, and such lower-priced symbols of nouveau richesse as overpriced alligator-hide cowboy boots were much in evidence; so was the kind of high-rolling crassness that only the Sunbelt seems to inspire. Habitués of the Oklahoma oilie scene used to reminisce about one party where one of the attendees stood at the door with a stack of crisp $100 bills in his hand and asked every woman who entered how much she wanted for her clothes: every stitch, then and there, piled up in the entry.

Prices varied, but apparently none of them turned down the offer.

It’s only fair to admit that there were a few small clouds marring the otherwise sunny vistas of the late 1970s Oklahoma oil scene. One of them was the difficulty the banks buying loans from Penn Square—the so-called “upstream” banks—had in getting Penn Square to forward all the necessary documents on those loans.

Since their banks were making loads of money off the transactions, the people in charge at the upstream banks were unwilling to make a fuss about it, and so their processing staff just had to put up with such minor little paperwork problems as missing or contradictory statements concerning collateral, payments of interest and principal, and so on.

Mind you, some of the people in charge at those upstream banks seem to have had distinctly personal reasons for not wanting to make a fuss about those minor little paperwork problems. They were getting very large loans from Penn Square on very good terms, entering into partnerships with Penn Square’s favorite oilmen, and in at least some cases attending the clothing-optional parties just mentioned.

No one else in the upstream banks seems to have been rude enough to ask too many questions about these activities; those who wondered aloud about them were told, hey, that’s just the way Oklahoma oilmen do business, and after all, the banks were making loads of money off the boom.

All in all, the future looked golden just then. In 1979, the Iranian revolution drove the price of oil up even further; in 1980, Jimmy Carter’s troubled presidency—with its indecisive but significant support for alternative energy and, God help us all, conservation—was steamrollered by Reagan’s massively funded and media-backed candidacy.

REAGANOMICS
As the new president took office in January of 1981, promising “morning in America,” the Penn Square bankers, their upstream counterparts, their clients in the Oklahoma oil and gas industry, and everyone else associated with the boom felt confident that happy days were there to stay.

After all, the economists insisted that the price of oil and gas would just keep rising for decades to come, the most business-friendly and environment-hostile administration in living memory was comfortably ensconced in the White House; and investors were literally begging to be allowed to get a foot in the door in the Oklahoma boom. What could possibly go wrong?

Then, in 1981, without any fuss at all, the price of oil and natural gas peaked and began to decline.

In retrospect, it’s not difficult to see what happened, though a lot of people since then have put a lot of effort into leaving the lessons of those years unlearnt. Energy is so central to a modern economy that when the price of energy goes up, every other sector of the economy ends up taking a hit. The rising price of energy functions, in effect, as a hidden tax on all economic activity outside the energy sector, and sends imbalances cascading through every part of the economy.

As a result, other economic sectors cut their expenditures on energy as far as they can, either by conservation measures or by such tried and true processes as shedding jobs, cutting production, or going out of business. All this had predictable effects on the price of oil and gas, even though very few people predicted them.

As oil and gas prices slumped, investors started backing away from fossil fuel investments, including the Oklahoma boom. Upstream banks, in turn, started to have second thoughts about the spectacular sums of money they’d poured into Penn Square Bank loans.

BOOM & BUST
For the first time since the boom began, hard questions—the sort of questions that, in theory, investors and bankers are supposed to ask as a matter of course when people ask them for money—finally got asked. That’s when the problems began in earnest, because a great many of those questions didn’t have any good answers.

It took until July 5, 1982 for the boom to turn definitively into a bust. That’s the day that federal bank regulators, after several years of inconclusive fumbling and a month or so of increasing panic, finally shut down the Penn Square Bank.

What they discovered, as they dug through the mass of fragmentary, inaccurate, and nonexistent paperwork, was that Penn Square had basically been lending money to anybody in the oil and gas industry who wanted some, without taking the trouble to find out if the borrowers would ever be able to repay it.

When payments became a problem, Penn Square obligingly loaned out the money to make their payments, and dealt with loans that went bad by loaning deadbeat borrowers even more money, so they could clear their debts and maintain their lifestyles.

The oil and gas boom had in fact been nothing of the kind, as a good many of the firms that had been out there producing oil and gas had been losing money all along. Rather, it was a Ponzi scheme facilitated by delusional lending practices.

All those Lear jets, vacation condos, alligator-skin cowboy boots, heaps of slightly used women’s clothing, and the rest of it? They were paid for by money from investors and upstream banks, some of it via the Penn Square Bank, the rest from other banks and investors.

The vast majority of the money was long gone; the resulting crash brought half a dozen major banks to their knees, and plunged Oklahoma and the rest of the US oil belt into a savage recession that gripped the region for most of a decade.

That was the story chronicled in Zweig’s book, which I reread over a few quiet evenings last week. Do any of the details seem familiar to you? If not, dear reader, you need to get out more.

DEJA VU
As far as I know, the fracking bubble that’s now well into its denouement didn’t have a single ineptly run bank at its center, as the Oklahoma oil and gas bubble did. Most of the other details of that earlier fiasco, though, were present and accounted for.

Sky-high fuel prices, check; reserves unprofitable at earlier prices that suddenly looked like a winning deal, check; a media frenzy that oversold the upside and completely ignored the possibility of a downside, check; vast torrents of money and credit from banks and investors too dazzled by the thought of easy riches to ask the obvious questions, check; a flurry of drilling companies that lost money every single quarter but managed to stay in business by heaping up mountains of unpayable debt, check.

Pretty much every square on the bingo card marked “economic debacle” has been filled in with a pen dipped in fracking fluid.

Now of course a debacle of the Penn Square variety requires at least one other thing, which is a banking industry so fixated on this quarter’s profits that it can lose track of the minor little fact that lending money to people who can’t pay it back isn’t a business strategy with a long shelf life. I hope none of my readers are under the illusion that this is lacking just now.
 
With interest rates stuck around zero and people and institutions that live off their investments frantically hunting for what used to count as a normal rate of return, the same culture of short-term thinking and financial idiocy that ran the global economy into the ground in the 2008 real estate crash remains firmly in place, glued there by the refusal of the Obama administration and its equivalents elsewhere to prosecute even the most egregious cases of fraud and malfeasance.

Now that the downturn in oil prices is under way, and panic selling of energy-related junk bonds and lower grades of unconventional crude oil has begun in earnest, it seems likely that we’ll learn just how profitable the fracking fad of the last few years actually was.

My working guess, which is admittedly an outsider’s view based on limited data and historical parallels, is that it was a money-losing operation from the beginning, and looked prosperous—as the Oklahoma boom did—only because it attracted a flood of investment money from people and institutions who were swept up in the craze.

If I’m right, the spike in domestic US oil production due to fracking was never more than an artifact of fiscal irresponsibility in the first place, and could not have been sustained no matter what. Still, we’ll see.

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT
The more immediate question is just how much damage the turmoil now under way will do to a US and global economy that have never recovered from the body blow inflicted on them by the real estate bubble that burst in 2008.

Much depends on exactly who sunk how much money into fracking-related investments, and just how catastrophically those investments come unraveled. It’s possible that the result could be just a common or garden variety recession; it’s possible that it could be quite a bit more.

When the tide goes out, as Warren Buffet has commented, you find out who’s been swimming naked, and just how far the resulting lack of coverage will extend is a question of no small importance.

At least three economic sectors outside the fossil fuel industry, as I see it, stand to suffer even if all we get is an ordinary downturn.

FIRST
 The first, of course, is the financial sector. A vast amount of money was loaned to the fracking industry; another vast amount—I don’t propose to guess how it compares to the first one—was accounted for by issuing junk bonds, and there was also plenty of ingenious financial architecture of the sort common in the housing boom. Those are going to lose most or all of their value in the months and years ahead.

No doubt the US government will bail out its pals in the really big banks again, but there’s likely to be a great deal of turmoil anyway, and midsized and smaller players may crash and burn in a big way. One way or another, it promises to be entertaining.

SECOND
The second sector I expect to take a hit is the renewable energy sector. In the 1980s, as prices of oil and natural gas plunged, they took most of the then-burgeoning solar and wind industries with them. There were major cultural shifts at the same time that helped feed the abandonment of renewable energy, but the sheer impact of cheap oil and natural gas needs to be taken into account.

If, as seems likely, we can expect several years of lower energy prices, and several years of the kind of economic downdraft that makes access to credit for renewable-energy projects a real challenge, a great many firms in the green sector will struggle for survival, and some won’t make it.

Those renewable-energy firms that pull through will find a substantial demand for their services further down the road, once the recent talk about Saudi America finds its proper home in the museum of popular delusions next to perpetual motion machines and Piltdown Man, and the US has to face a future without the imaginary hundred-year reserve of fracked natural gas politicians were gabbling about not that long ago.

Still, it’s going to take some nimble footwork to get there; my guess is that those firms that get ready to do without government subsidies and tax credits, and look for ways to sell low-cost homescale systems in an era of disintegrating energy infrastructure, will do much better than those that cling to the hope of government subsidies and big corporate contracts.

THIRD
The third sector I expect to land hard this time around is the academic sector. Yes, I know, it’s not fashionable to talk of the nation’s colleges and universities as an economic sector, but let’s please be real; in today’s economy, the academic industry functions mostly as a sales office for predatory loans, which are pushed on unwary consumers using deceptive marketing practices.

The vast majority of people who are attending US universities these days, after all, will not prosper as a result; in fact, they will never recover financially from the burden of their student loans, since the modest average increase in income that will come to those graduates who actually manage to find jobs will be dwarfed by the monthly debt service they’ll have to pay for decades after graduation.

One of the core reasons why the academic industry has become so vulnerable to a crash is that most colleges and universities rely on income from their investments to pay their operating expenses, and income from investments has taken a double hit in the last decade. First, the collapse of interest rates to near-zero (and in some cases, below-zero) levels has hammered returns across the spectrum of investment vehicles.

As a result, colleges and universities have increasingly put their money into risky investments that promise what used to be ordinary returns, and this drove the second half of the equation; in the wake of the 2008 real estate crash, many colleges and universities suffered massive losses of endowment funds, and most of these losses have never been made good.

Did the nation’s colleges and universities stay clear of the fracking bubble? That would have required, I think, far more prudence and independent thinking than the academic industry has shown of late.

Those institutions that had the common sense to get out of fossil fuels for ecological reasons may end up reaping a surprising benefit; the rest, well, here again we’ll have to wait and see.

My working guess, which is once again an outsider’s guess based on limited data and historical parallels, is that a great many institutions tried to bail themselves out from the impact of the real estate bust by doubling down on fracking.

If that’s what happened, the looming crisis in American higher education—a crisis driven partly by the predatory loan practices mentioned earlier, partly by the jawdropping inflation in the price of a college education in recent decades, and partly by rampant overbuilding of academic programs—will be hitting shortly, and some very big names in the academic industry may not survive the impact.

As Yogi Berra liked to point out, it’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future. Still, it looks as though we may be in the opening stages of a really ugly fiscal crisis, and I’d encourage my readers to take that possibility seriously and act accordingly.

See also:
Ea O KA Aina: The Oil Bubble Bursts 12/8/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Bubble About to Burst 10/22/12 

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The Last Straw

SUBHEAD: We need to work within the water, soil and solar budget that we have available.

By Juan Wilson on 17 December 2014 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-last-straw.html)


Image above: Former floating bathrooms at what was once a marina in the now depleted Lake Mead. From (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2692335/Water-levels-Lake-Mead-time-low-14-year-drought-leaves-marinas-abandoned-tourist-attractions-bone-dry.html).

Las Vegas recently had a battle victory in their Water War. Since 2011 there has been a difficult and expensive effort to drill a new and lower tunnel into nearby Lake Mead (the largest capacity water reservoir in the United States). Without Lake Mead there is no Las Vegas.

The previous tunnels into Lake Mead (called straws) are now too low to draw that last water resources from behind the Hoover Dam. Las Vegas has been facing extinction. But on 10 December 2014 a historic breakthrough was announced during a Southern Nevada Water Authority board meeting.

The workers from general contractor Vegas Tunnel Constructors would guide the $25 million tunneling machine as it broke through the concrete wall of the intake structure already in place on the bottom of the lake, the last step in building the 3rd straw to supply water to the Las Vegas Valley. See (http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/las-vegas/historic-breakthrough-lake-mead-comes-during-water-board-meeting).

But this will be the Last Straw for Las Vegas. This one is at the bottom of the lake. Unless the climate in the region gets wetter soon, or Las Vegas Valley can capture water from other parts of the drought stricken Southwest the area will return to undisturbed desert. The Vegas gondolas of the Venetian Hotel & Casino will no longer ply their fake canals.


Image above: Gondola in the canals of the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. From (http://www.virtuar.com/click/2006/las_vegas/large_picture.htm).

If the canals of the Venetian, the fountains of the Bellagio, or the sprinklers on the twenty "World Class" golf courses of Vegas were to go dry it would be no great tragedy. Nothing essential to the survival of human culture is conducted there. People would move on or adjust to the desert.

California Dust
A much bigger problem concerning water shortages is now facing the Central Valley of California - the fruit and vegetable "basket" of the Untied States.There 90% of the world's almonds are grown. In recent years that valley produced 10% of the agricultural economic output of the Untied States.


Image above: California once sought millions of immigrants by advertising itself as "The Cornucopia of America", and "The Promised Land". From (http://pocho.com/come-to-california-immigrants-1867-poster/).

But now, in the middle of what is likely a Global Warming induced drought, and with the competition from encroaching residential suburban water needs, the Central Valley is in the process of sliding into desertification.

On 16 December 2014 NASA published the results of a survey of water supply needs in California (see http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/16dec_drought/).

The conclusion: according to a new analysis of satellite data it will take about 11 trillion gallons of water (42 cubic kilometers) - or about 1.5 times the maximum volume of lake Mead - to recover from California's continuing drought.

As a reference, the recent rain storms in California dropped an estimated 8 billion gallons of water. If it rained 8 billion gallons of water every day stating today it would take until almost 2018 for California to return to normal.


Image above: Aerial photo showing effects of drought in the Central Valley in California.  From (http://www.nasa.gov/jpl/smap/satellite-data-help-farmers-facing-drought-20140814/#.VJHwUyf3DZM).

Neighboring water authorities in western states have been emphatic they they will not share additional precious water with California. But other regions maybe the subject of scouting.

The Great Lakes 
Even near the Great Lakes (the largest bodies of fresh water in the world) there is pressure. Waukesha, Wisconsin is thirsty. According to Earth Island Journal:

"Waukesha is the first community to seek an exception to the ban on diversion of water out of the Great Lakes.

The city of Waukesha, Wisconsin, wants to draw water from Lake Michigan. But to do that the Milwaukee suburb will need the approval of all eight Great Lakes states, and nods from a couple Canadian provinces.

In the late 1800s, Waukesha was celebrated for its natural springs. But over time, the aquifer from which the city draws its water has shrunk, concentrations of radium have risen to unsafe levels, and the water has become increasingly brackish. Waukesha is under a court order to find a better drinking water source by 2018.

“Even with conservation — even with the demand reduction we’re looking at implementing — we don’t have a sustainable water supply for the long term,” says Dan Duchniak, the general manager of the city’s water utility. After considering other options, including a failed legal challenge to the radium standard, Waukesha settled on a solution just 15 miles to the east: Lake Michigan.

But the city lies just outside of the Great Lakes basin — and within, therefore, restrictions imposed by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, aka the Great Lakes Compact, the historic 2008 international agreement on protecting Great Lakes water.

“The Great Lakes have a long history of relatively crazy ideas for sending water in ships over to Asia, or pipelines to the Rocky Mountains, or things like that,” says Joel Brammeier, the president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, a conservation group. “The reality is that the proposals to use water in new ways are going to come much closer to home.”
Water in Hawaii 
Water is life. Keeping it clean and slowing its runoff is a vital issue. Energy sources are certainly an issue for our health and well being. But a growth based economy will run into a cement wall when it comes to a lack of water.


Image above: The Five Sisters waterfalls in Hanapepe Valley on Kauai.  From (http://jame1030.fotki.com/favs/img_2027.html).

We in Hawaii have been blessed with water. The sugar plantations and other private agencies have tried to control water. However the real threat to us is related to climate change. Change in temperature due to global warming, can raise the elevation of water bearing clouds. Even just a few hundred feet higher than current cloud altitudes would have a significant impact on the amount of rain that 5,000 foot high Kauai would receive if we could not skim the sky.

We need to anticipate the need and apply permaculture practices to conserve, store and reuse water here on Kauai while we have some time. How water transforms itself in the clouds, on the ground and below it should be a focus of our hearts and minds.

We need to work within the water, soil and solar budget that we have available. There will be little else to rely on in the future.


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The Power of the Flerd

SUBHEAD: Flerd is the coexistence of a variety of grazing animals in a community that compliments the soil.

By Courtney White on 15 December 2014 for The Carbon Pilgrim -
(https://carbonpilgrim.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/coexistence/)


Image above: A photo of Eric’s flerd in action at Gilgai. From original article.

The power of carbon and coexistence struck me while visiting a farm in New South Wales, Australia, a few years ago. It hit when I learned that the number of native grass species on the farm had increased from seven to 130 in only seven years! The key? Using cattle and sheep managed together as one herd.

The man responsible for this accomplishment was Eric Harvey, a gregarious former wool trader who had decided to try his hand at the other end of the supply chain by purchasing a 7000-acre farm called Gilgai, located a few miles from the crossroads city of Dubbo. Shortly after buying Gilgai in 2004, however, Eric nearly “bought the farm” himself when he had a massive heart attack, as he explained to me on the drive in from Dubbo.

After recovering, Eric was astonished to learn from his doctor that his body was almost completely devoid of minerals, which are essential to human health. He knew there weren’t many minerals in rainwater – due to water scarcity Australians collect and drink a lot of rainwater – but he assumed he was getting enough minerals from the plants and animals he ate, which in turn get their minerals from the soil. Ninety-five tests showed he wasn’t. This was a huge eye-opener, he said.

Eric had soil tests conducted at Gilgai, discovering that it too was depleted of essential minerals, including carbon. This meant that the farm and Eric’s health were now one and the same – both had to recover.

But where were the minerals going to come from, he wondered? A mine? A factory? That didn’t sound very practical or economical. And what about carbon? Was he supposed to spread compost over all 7000 acres of land? That didn’t sound economical either.

A chance conversation with a neighbor provided Eric with an unexpected answer: the sky. Carbon was freely available in the air, his neighbor said, in the form of carbon dioxide, and all Eric had to do was get it into the soil via photosynthesis, livestock, and planned grazing practices. The goal, he told Eric, was to grow native grass –diverse and copious amounts of it.

So that’s what he did. First, he studied the principles of planned grazing and then, after deciding to put them to work, he made another unconventional decision: to run cattle and sheep together as one grazing unit. It’s called a flerd – a flock of sheep and a herd of cattle, comingled.

Years ago, he saw sheep and cattle grazing on a farm in Africa and thought “that makes sense.” Maybe to Eric – but not to many others. To say that it is not traditional to run cows and sheep together would be a huge understatement. It’s hardly done anywhere.

Not only do many in agriculture consider the two types of herbivores to be incompatible with each other from a grazing perspective, most sheep and cattle farmers consider each other to be incompatible as well. In fact, Australia endured its share of range wars between sheepmen and stockmen over the decades, much like America did in the nineteenth century.

Eric ignored all that and in 2005 he put together his first flerd, eventually comingling 5000 sheep and 600 cows. His goal was to use the different grazing behaviors of sheep and cattle to benefit plant vigor, diversity, and density. Nature likes mixed-species grazing, Eric said, because animals often complement each other in what they will eat, the composition of their manure and the way their hooves interact with the soil.

As Eric described it, herbivory creates an organic “pulse” below the ground surface as roots expand and contract with grazing. This feeds carbon to hungry fungi, protozoa, and nematodes, which in turn feed grass plants. The manure “pulse” aboveground helps too, especially with nutrient cycling. His plan with the flerd was to make both “pulses” beat stronger and more steadily.

To accomplish this goal, Eric divided the 7000-acre farm into 196 paddocks, mostly with electric fencing, creating an average paddock size of 140 acres (the smallest is six acres). The flerd moves from paddock to paddock every few days, giving each paddock plenty of time to grow more grass. And with only one “mob” to watch, Eric is often back home by 10 am.

As further work reduction, Eric monitors the watering troughs remotely via sensors linked to the computer in his office, as he showed me, which supply up-to-the-minute data. He also pays for a service that provides aerial infrared images of his farm daily, which allows Eric to monitor the growth rate in his paddocks at a 7-acre scale. He calls this service “pastures from space” and says it gives him an invaluable snapshot of forage conditions, which helps adjust his grazing schedule.

Eric also ground-truths the monitoring data he receives. That’s how he knows he has been able to expand the number of plant species on Gilgai from seven to 130. This improvement in diversity has substantially enhanced the mineral content of the plants, since they can now access nutrients more widely, as well as deeper in the soil profile, and process them more effectively.

And when these plants are eaten by animals, which are in turn eaten by us, the minerals enter our bodies, as Eric can personally attest (his physical health has improved dramatically). That’s why Eric and his family grow and sell only grassfed products from their farm.

By definition, grassfed means an animal has spent its entire life on grass or other green plants, from birth to death. This contrasts with the feedlot model in which an animal finishes its life in confinement, fattened on grain and assorted agricultural by-products and pumped full of medication and other chemicals.

Thanks to a lot of digging in the scientific literature over two decades by Jo Robinson, an independent researcher (www.eatwild.com), the health benefits of grassfed over feedlot meat have become widely known. They include:
More omega-3 fatty acids (“good” fats) and fewer omega-6 (“bad” fats)
Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease
Much higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a cancer fighter
Much more vitamin A
Much more vitamin E
Higher in beta-carotene
Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
Higher in calcium, magnesium, and potassium
Enhanced immunity, increased bone density, and suppression of cancer cells
Does not contain traces of added hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs
As Jo Robinson says, “If it’s in their feed, it’s in our food” – which means if you’re a meat-eater, it’s in us.

As for the flerd itself, Eric Harvey has hardly had any trouble running sheep and cattle together. The key is to raise them as one family, he said, especially the lambs. Sheep will bond with cows at a young age and remain bonded for the rest of their lives.

As a result, the sheep follow the cattle wherever they go, which means they’ll move from paddock to paddock with the herd without much fuss. This is great news for a multi-paddock farm like Gilgai. It also means Eric doesn’t have to train any sheep to electric fencing, only the cattle. “Needless to say, moving one herd of livestock is a lot easier than moving two,” he said. “You just make to make sure there’s enough forage and water ahead of them.”

The only trouble he’s had, other than an occasional grumpy cow who doesn’t like sheep – quickly culled – happens during calving, when mama cows become highly protective and might kill a ewe that comes too close.

Eric solves this by separating the cattle from the sheep during their respective birthing seasons. “The only other conflict I’ve ever seen is over shade,” says Eric. “And that’s been minor. Otherwise, they get along great.”

We went to see for ourselves. After quick stop for a look inside a sheep-shearing shed (which I had only seen in Australian movies), Eric and I walked down a dirt lane, crossed through a gate, and entered a grassy field. The cattle saw us coming.

A number of them jogged hopefully towards us until it became clear that we weren’t going to open a gate so they could move to fresh grass. They drifted off, followed closely by small flocks of sheep.

We stopped in the middle of the paddock. Looking around, I saw cattle and sheep everywhere. “Look how they spread themselves out,” Eric said. “Cattle prefer grass over forbs [broad-leaf plants], but it’s vice versa with the sheep. If you keep them in a paddock just the right amount of time, everything gets a nibble. That’s good for the plants and the soil.”

“They’ll all be out of here tomorrow,” he added.

Although Eric doesn’t run goats as part of the flerd, he said there’s no reason it couldn’t be done. Not only do goats get along with sheep and cattle just fine, but, if bonded properly, goats prefer brush and weeds over grass and forbs, which means they would add another level of grazing diversity to a pasture – also good for the soil.

According to some research I had done prior to my trip, another benefit to a flerd is protection from predators, such as coyotes. In the American West, coyotes are the scourge of sheep, lambs especially, which is one reason why sheep-only ranching has declined steadily over the decades as predator populations rebounded, wolves especially.

Experiments, however, have shown that when sheep are bonded to cattle they are protected from predation by coyotes, which are reluctant to take their chances with a closely packed herd of bovines. Experiments have also demonstrated that sheep gain weight faster when grouped with cattle compared with sheep that are managed as a separate flock.

Wool production was also greater with the flerd than with sheep foraging alone – a fact that Eric said he could confirm.

He attributed both improvements to the healthier soil and increased diversity of plants on Gilgai – a result of his careful stewardship.

• Excerpted from Soil, Grass, Hope: a Journey Through Carbon Country by Courtney White http://www.amazon.com/Grass-Soil-Hope-Journey-Through/dp/1603585451
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What choice do we have?

SUBHEAD: For the vast majority of us there is a high price to be paid for independence from Corporate America.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 15 December 2014 for Of Two Minds -
(http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/what-choice-do-we-have.html)


Image above: Detail of painting "The MadTea Party" by Mark Bryan, 2010. From (http://www.artofmarkbryan.com/wp-content/gallery/politics/mad-tea-party-detail-2.jpg).


It's jolly good fun to discuss alternatives to the doomed status quo, but what choice do most of us have to participating in the current system, even if we loathe it? The lack of choice is of course a key characteristic of the status quo-- if alternatives were plentiful, how many would opt out of Corporate America and the Financial Nobility's manor house of debt servitude?

The absence of alternatives results from several interacting dynamics.The first is false choice, the illusion of choice that enables the Powers That Be to claim we live in a democracy that is also a meritocracy where anyone can rise to the top if they follow the prescribed pathway: a four-year university degree, followed by a graduate degree, and so on.

The political slaughterhouse has two entrances: Democratic and Republican. Nothing about the system changes regardless of which door you enter. "Democracy" is a false choice in a nation in which the big banks order their politico flunkies, toadies and lackeys to do their bidding: Fed Vice Chairman Shocked At Wall Street Influence After Jamie Dimon "Whips" Congressional Votes.

Going to college is also a false choice, given that those who choose not to get a 4-year degree are (we're assured) doomed to lifelong financial insecurity. Meanwhile, having a 4-year degree does little to guarantee an escape from lifelong financial insecurity.

The second factor is the status quo grants all the advantages to global corporations and the central state.The mechanisms used to enforce these advantages are both numerous and well-masked. One is cheap, limitless access to capital--what I call free money for financiers. Imagine how many profitable assets you could buy if you too could borrow $1 billion at .25% interest from the Federal Reserve or another central bank.

Several of these mechanisms are described in these articles, recommended by correspondent Chad D. (transnational is another way of saying global):

Why Transnationals Thrive
The Problem with Transnationals and what to do about it

Once you can access unlimited nearly-free capital, it's a snap to buy political influence, at which point the state (government) enforces your monopoly/cartel on the populace as rule of law. And we all know what happens if you challenge the state: you are targeted for marginalization, impoverishment and trumped-up Kafkaesque charges.

Given all these advantages, Corporate America and the State can afford to pay those who pledge their fealty far more handsome sums than can typically be earned outside these fortified fiefdoms. Above the entry level, Corporate America and the State both pay far in excess of the median wage in salary and benefits, and in the security promised to government employees.

It's not that difficult to earn $60,000 or more in government service (remember to include all the bennies--healthcare, vacation, personal days off, sick leave, pensions, etc.) and Corporate America pays its managerial/technocratic class very well.

Try earning enough outside the State or Corporate America to equal the pay and benefits offered to those inside. Of course a slice of professionals (accountants, attorneys, surgeons, engineers, etc.) can make handsome incomes as independents, but this is becoming more difficult even for highly educated professionals.

Below this level, making an upper-middle class income requires owning a profitable business. an increasingly challenging task in an economy which over-regulates all enterprise. As I have noted here many times, the fixed costs of doing legitimate business in America are rising constantly: healthcare insurance costs have skyrocketed for employers, along with junk fees, regulatory compliance, penalties for non-compliance, property taxes, rent, and on and on.

The sacred creed of the American economy is that the proper set of values, innovation and work ethic can make anybody wealthy (and thus powerful). The hype surrounding the "living proof" of this creed (Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, et al.) fails to describe the considerably bleaker truth that the income earned by those outside the Corporate America/State fiefdoms follows a long tail distribution.

The long tail distribution is a handful of people (A-list actors, sports stars, tech entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, top-tier attorneys, corporate raiders, etc.) earn the majority of the money, while a relative pittance is distributed to the vast majority of those outside the fiefdoms.

The bottom line for the vast majority of us is that there is an extremely high price to be paid for independence from fealty to the State or Corporate America. Comparing the financial benefits and security offered in exchange for one's working life and fealty to Corporate America and the State, and the low income and precariousness of independence, most people choose the safety and security of working within the fiefdoms.

But there is a cost to this sacrifice of one's working life and fealty. It's difficult to put a price tag on it, but for most of us it's a significant sum--often hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. For those who can't stomach the absurdity of spending their lives in service to these fiefdoms, it's not really a choice; it simply isn't an option.

While we understand the price is far too steep for most people, for us it's a bargain. We will never have the corner office, the fat pension, the gold-plated healthcare, the Mercedes, or any of the other trappings of working in the top rungs of the fiefdoms. We may never own a new vehicle, or a house. We may never get a college degree.

We understand the immense appeal of the financial rewards and the security, and we don't begrudge those who choose to spend their lives in the fiefdoms. They have kids to raise, and dreams of a house and pension and all the rest. Nobody willingly accepts insecurity and low income if there is any way to avoid those burdens.

But for some of us, the price of independence is worth it for the simple reason we have no choice. 
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Crash-O-Matic Finance

SUBHEAD: Finance was the lifeblood of the global economy and scam after scam left it with wormholes of fragility.

ByJames Kunstler on 15 December 2014 for Kunstler.com  -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/crash-o-matic-finance/)


Image above: Photo of Janet Yellen in a New Yorker magazine article titled "Janet Yellen and the Fed’s Boom-and-Bust Problem'From (http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/janet-yellen-and-the-feds-boom-and-bust-problem).
“Oil prices have dropped $50 a barrel. That may not sound like much. But when you take $107 and you take $57, that’s almost a 47 percent decline…!”
–James Puplava, The Financial Sense News Network

May not sound like much? I guess when you hunker down in the lab with the old slide rule and do the math, wow! Those numbers really pop!

This, of course, is the representative thinking out there. But then, these are the very same people who have carried pompoms and megaphones for “the shale revolution” the past couple of years. Being finance professionals they apparently failed to notice the financial side of the business, for instance the fact that so much of the day-to-day shale operation was being run on junk bond financing.

It all seemed to work so well in the eerie matrix of zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) where investors desperate for “yield” — i.e. some return more-than-zilch on their money — ended up in the bond market’s junkyard. These investors, by the way, were the big institutional ones, the pension funds, the insurance companies, the mixed bond smorgasbord funds. They were getting killed on ZIRP.

In the good old days of the late 20th century, before Federal Reserve omnipotence, they could depend on a regular annual interest rate churn of between 5 and 10 percent and do what they had do — write pension checks, pay insurance claims, and pay clients, with a little left over for company salaries.

ZIRP ruined all that. In fact, ZIRP destroyed the most fundamental index in the financial universe: the true cost of borrowing money. In doing so, it twerked and torqued the concept of “risk” so badly that risk no longer had any meaning.

In “risk-on” financial weather, there was no longer any risk. Imagine that? It also destroyed the entire relationship between borrowed money and the cost-structure of the endeavors it was borrowed for. Take shale oil, for instance.

The fundamental limiting factor for shale oil was that the wells were only good for about two years, and then they were pretty much shot.

So, if you were in that business, and held a bunch of leases, you had to constantly drill and re-drill and then drill some more just to keep production up. The drilling cost between $6 and $12-million per well. What happened the past seven years is that the drillers and their playmates on Wall Street hyped the hoo-hah out of the business — it was a shale revolution!

In a few short years they drilled to beat the band and the results seemed so impressive that investment money poured into the sector like honey, so they drilled some more. It was going to save the American way of life. We were going to be “energy independent,” the “new Saudi America.” We would be able to drive to Wal-Mart forever!

Be careful what you wish for, the old saw goes. The shale oil “miracle” was an epochal stunt. They goosed so much oil out of the ground in a short period of time that they killed the goose — demand for oil at a price that made it worth drilling for.

Now, much of the junk financing will default, and the result of that is no more junk financing for a long, long time, meaning that a lot of planned wells will not be drilled and completed, meaning that the current crop of short-lived wells will crap out in the 24 months ahead, and production will not be replaced by new wells, which will not be there.

When and if the riggers get busy again in the Bakken and the Eagle Ford, you can be sure it will be at a much lower level of activity than the glorious year 2014.

Of course, it remains to be seen how much financial illness the spoiled junk bond paper will spread through the derivatives markets, not to mention the boring old stock and bond markets and the big banks that traffic there. You can only fool reality so long. Eventually risk-on returns for real and swipes the ground with its mighty tail.

Finance was the lifeblood of the global economy and scam after scam left it riddled with wormholes of fragility. That fragility has been waiting to express itself and the ability of bank wizards to squelch and conceal it may have come to an end. There will be no quick cure for cratering oil prices and the damage it will wreak among the shale drillers. Does that sound like much?

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Right to Land and Seed

SUBHEAD: A film about food sovereignty in times of climate change and global warming.

By Jürgen Kraus and Heiko Thiele on 15 December 2014 for Grain -
(http://www.grain.org/bulletin_board/entries/5109-right-to-land-and-seed)


Image above: Still from movie "Right to Land and Seed" of traditional community farming in Bangladesh.

“Food sovereignty” is the main political demand of the landless and peasant movement in Bangladesh in times of climate change and intensifying land conflicts. The concept of food sovereignty is based on the right to grow their own food, with own seeds and in an ecologically sustainable way of farming.

The peasant movement fights for a revolutionary land reform and self-determined food production, in order to improve and guarantee the local and national food supply.

One strategy to strengthen the demand for food sovereignty is the occupation of land by groups of small farmers. According to the law, landless farmers have a right to land which often isn't enforced due to corruption and unequal power relations.

The capitalization of the agricultural sector is a threat for the local markets and self-sustained food production. Since the so called “green revolution” in the 1960s, there is a growing influence of international seed- and chemical-companies on the agricultural market in Bangladesh.

The dependency on fertilizers, pesticides and modified seeds along with the infrastructural adjustments made by the state of Bangladesh and the World Bank have significantly changed the living conditions of small farmers.

Higher production costs as well as lower productivity and fertility of the soil is the reason why many peasants end up in dept.

Around three fourths of those engaged in the farming sector are landless workers. Many would have the right to receive land through the “Kash land”-legislation. But corruption of local politicians and administration are immediate and structural obstacles that prevent landless workers from obtaining land-titles of state-owned or unused land.

Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world. The rise of sea level causes loss of agricultural land. Cyclones and salinization are a threat for the whole farming sector.

Nevertheless, the government sticks to the concept of „food security“, relying on transnational agro-companies for food supply on the one hand and on the other on export of agricultural products to markets in Asia and abroad.

This results in monocultures and ecological destruction. The vast areas of fish- and shrimp-farming in the southwestern part of the country is only one example.

The documentation team participated in the “South-Asian Caravan for climate justice, food sovereignty and gender” which went through Bangladesh from North to South.

Later on it conducted interviews and investigated issues such as the impact of climate change, the economic situation of peasants, the “green revolution”, the difference between “food sovereignty” and “food security”, the processes of land-grabbing and conflicts around land and the strategies, resistance and alternatives created by the landless movement in Bangladesh.

The documentary includes voices of peasants, landless workers, activists of various South Asian grassroot movements, NGOs, politicians and scientists of the field.


Video above: Trailer from movie "Right to Land and Seed" of traditional community farming in Bangladesh. From (http://youtu.be/UyV33cKbftU).

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Support appeal Big Island GMO Bill

SUBHEAD: Big Island County Council meeting vote on appeal of court overturn of GMO Bill recently passed.

By Shannon Rudolph on 14 December 2014 in Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/12/support-appeal-big-island-gmo-bill.html)


Image above: Official portrait of judge Barry M. Kurren overturned. From (http://www.hid.uscourts.gov/dsp_bio.cfm).

WHAT:
Big Island County Council meeting vote on appeal of court overturn of GMO Bill recently passed.

WHEN:
Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 at 9:00am

WHERE:
West Hawaii Civic Center
74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway
Kailua-Kona, Big Island, HI 96740

Please come if you can! We're going to need A LOT of people to show up!

This Hawaii County resolution won't pass UNLESS A LOT OF PEOPLE SHOW UP!!!

The Hawaii County Council will be deciding on Wednesday December 17th at 9am, West Hawai`i Civic Center - whether or not to appeal the ruling overturning our GMO Ordinance 13-121, which protected Hawaii Island from any new propagation of genetically engineered seed or open air testing.

Resolution 22-14 will support our appeal of tJudge Kurren's ruling invalidating our GMO bill 13-121. This appeal is critical in getting this case heard by a higher court.

The Hawaii Center for Food Safety has started an online petition asking the Hawaii County Council to SUPPORT a motion to APPEAL. Please sign petition and forward/share.
HERE: http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/1881/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15274

Also, you can send email testimony to SUPPORT Reso 22-14
HERE: counciltestimony@co.hawaii.hi.us

Please Note: ALL council members email addresses have been recently CHANGED.
HERE: valerie.poindexter@hawaiicounty.gov, greggor.ilagan@hawaiicounty.gov, dennis.onishi@hawaiicounty.gov, daniel.paleka@hawaiicounty.gov, aaron.chung@hawaiicounty.gov, margaret.wille@hawaiicounty.gov, maile.david@hawaiicounty.gov, karen.eoff@hawaiicounty.gov, dru.kanuha@hawaiicounty.gov

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Judge sides with Big Ag 11/14/14


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Congress protects medical marijuana

SUBHEAD: Congress passes historic medical marijuana protections for states that legalized it.

[IB Publisher's note: A small silver lining to the $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill that included poison pills of FDIC guarantees for bankster ponzi schemes and almost unlimited political dollar donations for elites. I guess even elites smoke marijuana too.]

By Matt Ferner on 14 December 2014 for Huffington Post -
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/14/congress-medical-marijuana_n_6317866.html)


Image above: George Soros, a supporter of pot legalization, with marijuana leaf poster. From (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/2/billionaire-george-soros-turns-cash-into-legalized/).

Congress dealt a historic blow to the United States' decades-long war on drugs Saturday with the passage of the federal spending bill, which contains protections for medical marijuana and industrial hemp operations in states where they are legal.

The spending bill includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis programs. If the bill is signed into law, it will bring the federal government one step closer to ending raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as stopping arrests of individuals involved with pot businesses that are complying with state law.

“When the House first passed this measure back in May, we made headlines; today we made history," Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), who in May introduced the medical marijuana protections amendment with co-sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), told The Huffington Post regarding the bill's passage.

"The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws," Farr added. "This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.”

The bill protects medical marijuana programs in the 23 states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, as well as 11 additional states that have legalized CBD oils, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that has shown to be beneficial in some severe cases of epilepsy.

“Congress has finally initiated a drawdown in the federal government’s war on medical marijuana,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. “This legislation makes it clear that the DEA has no business interfering in states’ medical marijuana laws. Taxpayer money should not be used to punish seriously ill people who use medical marijuana and the caregivers who provide it to them.”

Under the Obama administration, the DEA and several U.S. attorneys have raided marijuana dispensaries and sent people to prison, even though they complied with state laws. According to a report released last year by advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, the Obama administration has spent nearly $80 million each year cracking down on medical marijuana, which amounts to more than $200,000 per day.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance with "no currently accepted medical use," alongside heroin and LSD. Since that doesn't change with the passage of the omnibus package, it's not entirely clear how the protections will work in practice.

"This isn't finely written policy yet," Farr said in June after the amendment first passed in the House, Forbes' Jacob Sullum reported. “This is a statement of congressional intent that [the] DEA [should] back off on these issues. We will have to continue to reconcile federal policy with state policy.”

A statement issued by Americans for Safe Access following the spending bill's passage Saturday called the measure "historic" and said patients' rights advocates believe it "will dramatically impact DOJ enforcement, including ending federal medical marijuana raids, arrests, criminal prosecutions, and civil asset forfeiture lawsuits."

Industrial hemp also received new protections from DEA intervention under the spending bill. The same plant species as marijuana, cannabis sativa, hemp contains little to no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana associated with the "high" sensation. The farm bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law in February, legalized industrial hemp production in states that permit it.

Eighteen states have legalized industrial hemp production, and more than a dozen others have introduced legislation that would authorize research into the plant, set up a regulatory framework or legalize growing it.

Earlier this year, the DEA made headlines when it seized hemp seeds intended to be used in the launch of Kentucky's legal hemp research pilot program. A month later, the hemp seeds were released, and the state began planting its research crop.

It wasn't all victories for marijuana in the spending bill -- the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington, D.C., which nearly 70 percent of voters approved, appears to be blocked. However, several members of Congress have taken issue with the language used in bill, arguing that law may still be able to move forward.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Congress looting the Commons 12/11/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Bank derivative losses 12/9/14
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US tortured to justify Endless War

SUBHEAD: Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld committed torture to get false confessions to link Iraq to Al Qaida.


Image above: VP Dick Cheney as Satan himself. From (http://wonkette.com/568694/dick-cheney-gives-torture-five-stars-would-torture-again).

Comment by editor Mike Slavo at SHTF Plan concerning the article below:
As this article makes quite clear, while the debate over the use of torture by the CIA and other entities against enemies and terrorists is important, the framing of the report sidesteps the pertinent question of why torture was being used during the Bush Administration’s prosecution of the War on Terror.
And the answer was pointed out by the 2009 Armed Service Committee report – that torture has been used historically to produce false confession. FALSE confessions. Why? To produce bogus and sensational stories to support pro-war, pro-torture, pro-clandestine propaganda.


Cheney, Rumsfeld and others in the Bush Administration were trying to justify and goad on the war in Iraq by linking Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden and 9/11. The rhetoric is in countless media clips from the time, but the factual case was not there. Torture victims were pressed to provide the links the administration needed to open the door to endless war, and to stir fear in the minds of the American population.


Isn’t this relevant to the renewed debate over the merits of waterboarding and other forms of enhanced interrogation? Not only are the ethics already compromised, but they were ultimately carried out to support a larger lie for war. These people should not have longer leashes; rather the People should be told the truth about why we went to war and what has been driving the last few decades of history.
By Staff on 12 December 2014 for the Washington Blog -
(http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/12/doesnt-mainstream-media-discuss-torture-issue.html)

While the torture report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee is very important, it doesn’t
Instead, it is the Senate Armed Services Committee’s report that dropped the big bombshell regarding the U.S.  torture program. Senator Levin, commenting on a Armed Services Committee’s report on torture in 2009, explained:
The techniques are based on tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during the Korean War for the purpose of eliciting FALSE confessions for propaganda purposes. Techniques used in SERE training include stripping trainees of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, subjecting them to face and body slaps, depriving them of sleep, throwing them up against a wall, confining them in a small box, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures [and] waterboarding.
McClatchy filled in important details:
Former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration

For most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document…

When people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.”  Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam . . .


A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General.

The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

“I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq),” [Senator] Levin said in a conference call with reporters. “They made out links where they didn’t exist.”

Levin recalled Cheney’s assertions that a senior Iraqi intelligence officer had met Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, in the Czech Republic capital of Prague just months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The FBI and CIA found that no such meeting occurred.
The Washington Post reported the same year:
Despite what you’ve seen on TV, torture is really only good at one thing: eliciting false confessions. Indeed, Bush-era torture techniques, we now know, were cold-bloodedly modeled after methods used by Chinese Communists to extract confessions from captured U.S. servicemen that they could then use for propaganda during the Korean War.

So as shocking as the latest revelation in a new Senate Armed Services Committee report may be, it actually makes sense — in a nauseating way. The White House started pushing the use of torture not when faced with a “ticking time bomb” scenario from terrorists, but when officials in 2002 were desperately casting about for ways to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks — in order to strengthen their public case for invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 at all.

Gordon Trowbridge writes for the Detroit News:
“Senior Bush administration officials pushed for the use of abusive interrogations of terrorism detainees in part to seek evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq, according to newly declassified information discovered in a congressional probe.
Colin Powell’s former chief of staff (Colonel Larry Wilkerson) wrote in 2009 that the Bush administration’s “principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaeda.”

Indeed, one of the two senior instructors from the Air Force team which taught U.S. servicemen how to resist torture by foreign governments when used to extract false confessions has blown the whistle on the true purpose behind the U.S. torture program.
As Truthout reported:
[Torture architect] Jessen’s notes were provided to Truthout by retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns, a “master” SERE instructor and decorated veteran who has previously held high-ranking positions within the Air Force Headquarters Staff and Department of Defense (DoD).

The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered – not just ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar,” he said. “What I think is important to note, as an ex-SERE Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the focus of Jessen’s instruction.

It is EXPLOITATION, not specifically interrogation. And this is not a picayune issue, because if one were to ‘reverse-engineer’ a course on resistance to exploitation then what one would get is a plan to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them.

The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press.”
In a subsequent report, Truthout notes:
Air Force Col. Steven Kleinman, a career military intelligence officer recognized as one of the DOD’s most effective interrogators as well a former SERE instructor and director of intelligence for JPRA’s teaching academy, said …. 

“This is the guidebook to getting false confessions, a system drawn specifically from the communist interrogation model that was used to generate propaganda rather than intelligence”  …. “If your goal is to obtain useful and reliable information this is not the source book you should be using.”
Interrogators also forced detainees to take drugs … which further impaired their ability to tell the truth.And one of the two main architects of the torture program admitted this week on camera:
You can get people to say anything to stop harsh interrogations if you apply them in a way that does that.
And false confessions were, in fact, extracted. For example:
And the 9/11 Commission Report was largely based on a third-hand account of what tortured detainees said, with two of the three parties in the communication being government employees. And the government went to great lengths to obstruct justice and hide unflattering facts from the Commission.

According to NBC News:
  • Much of the 9/11 Commission Report was based upon the testimony of people who were tortured
  • At least four of the people whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators information as a way to stop being “tortured.”
  • The 9/11 Commission itself doubted the accuracy of the torture confessions, and yet kept their doubts to themselves
Details here.
Today, Raymond McGovern – a 27-year CIA veteran, who chaired National Intelligence Estimates and personally delivered intelligence briefings to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, their Vice Presidents, Secretaries of State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many other senior government officials – provides details about one torture victim (Al-Libi) at former Newsweek and AP reporter Robert Parry’s website:
But if it’s bad intelligence you’re after, torture works like a charm. If, for example, you wish to “prove,” post 9/11, that “evil dictator” Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaeda and might arm the terrorists with WMD, bring on the torturers.

It is a highly cynical and extremely sad story, but many Bush administration policymakers wanted to invade Iraq before 9/11 and thus were determined to connect Saddam Hussein to those attacks. The PR push began in September 2002 – or as Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card put it, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

By March 2003 – after months of relentless “marketing” – almost 70 percent of Americans had been persuaded that Saddam Hussein was involved in some way with the attacks of 9/11.

The case of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, a low-level al-Qaeda operative, is illustrative of how this process worked. Born in Libya in 1963, al-Libi ran an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan from 1995 to 2000. He was detained in Pakistan on Nov. 11, 2001, and then sent to a U.S. detention facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was deemed a prize catch, since it was thought he would know of any Iraqi training of al-Qaeda.

The CIA successfully fought off the FBI for first rights to interrogate al-Libi. FBI’s Dan Coleman, who “lost” al-Libi to the CIA (at whose orders, I wonder?), said, “Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links” between Iraq and al-Qaeda.


CIA interrogators elicited some “cooperation” from al-Libi through a combination of rough treatment and threats that he would be turned over to Egyptian intelligence with even greater experience in the torture business.

By June 2002, al-Libi had told the CIA that Iraq had “provided” unspecified chemical and biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda operatives, an allegation that soon found its way into other U.S. intelligence reports. Al-Libi’s treatment improved as he expanded on his tales about collaboration between al-Qaeda and Iraq, adding that three al-Qaeda operatives had gone to Iraq “to learn about nuclear weapons.”

Al-Libi’s claim was well received at the White House even though the Defense Intelligence Agency was suspicious.

“He lacks specific details” about the supposed training, the DIA observed. “It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest.”

Meanwhile, at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, Maj. Paul Burney, a psychiatrist sent there in summer 2002, told the Senate, “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq and we were not successful. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link … there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

President Bush relied on al-Libi’s false Iraq allegation for a major speech in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, just a few days before Congress voted on the Iraq War resolution. Bush declared, “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases.”

And Colin Powell relied on it for his famous speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, declaring: “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.”

Al-Libi’s “evidence” helped Powell as he sought support for what he ended up calling a “sinister nexus” between Iraq and al-Qaeda, in the general effort to justify invading Iraq.

For a while, al-Libi was practically the poster boy for the success of the Cheney/Bush torture regime; that is, until he publicly recanted and explained that he only told his interrogators what he thought would stop the torture.

You see, despite his cooperation, al-Libi was still shipped to Egypt where he underwent more abuse, according to a declassified CIA cable from early 2004 when al-Libi recanted his earlier statements. The cable reported that al-Libi said Egyptian interrogators wanted information about al-Qaeda’s connections with Iraq, a subject “about which [al-Libi] said he knew nothing and had difficulty even coming up with a story.”

According to the CIA cable, al-Libi said his interrogators did not like his responses and “placed him in a small box” for about 17 hours. After he was let out of the box, al-Libi was given a last chance to “tell the truth.” When his answers still did not satisfy, al-Libi says he “was knocked over with an arm thrust across his chest and fell on his back” and then was “punched for 15 minutes.”

After Al-Libi recanted, the CIA recalled all intelligence reports based on his statements, a fact recorded in a footnote to the report issued by the 9/11 Commission. By then, however, the Bush administration had gotten its way regarding the invasion of Iraq and the disastrous U.S. occupation was well underway.

Intensive investigations into these allegations – after the U.S. military had conquered Iraq – failed to turn up any credible evidence to corroborate these allegations. What we do know is that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were bitter enemies, with al-Qaeda considering the secular Hussein an apostate to Islam.

Al-Libi, who ended up in prison in Libya, reportedly committed suicide shortly after he was discovered there by a human rights organization. Thus, the world never got to hear his own account of the torture that he experienced and the story that he presented and then recanted.

Hafed al-Ghwell, a Libyan-American and a prominent critic of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime at the time of al-Libi’s death, explained to Newsweek, “This idea of committing suicide in your prison cell is an old story in Libya.”
Paul Krugman eloquently summarized the truth about the torture used:
Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.
There’s a word for this: it’s evil.

Torture Program Was Part of a Con Job

As discussed above, in order to “justify” the Iraq war, top Bush administration officials pushed and insisted that interrogators use special torture methods aimed at extracting false confessions to attempt to create a false linkage between between Al Qaida and Iraq. And see this and this.
But this effort started earlier …

5 hours after the 9/11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld said “my interest is to hit Saddam”.

He also said “Go massive . . . Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
And at 2:40 p.m. on September 11th, in a memorandum of discussions between top administration officials, several lines below the statement “judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [that is, Saddam Hussein] at same time”, is the statement “Hard to get a good case.” In other words, top officials knew that there wasn’t a good case that Hussein was behind 9/11, but they wanted to use the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to justify war with Iraq anyway.

Moreover, “Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the [9/11] attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda”.

And a Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summary issued in February 2002 by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency cast significant doubt on the possibility of a Saddam Hussein-al-Qaeda conspiracy.

And yet Bush, Cheney and other top administration officials claimed repeatedly for years that Saddam was behind 9/11. See this analysis. Indeed, Bush administration officials apparently swore in a lawsuit that Saddam was behind 9/11.

Moreover, President Bush’s March 18, 2003 letter to Congress authorizing the use of force against Iraq, includes the following paragraph:
(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
Therefore, the Bush administration expressly justified the Iraq war to Congress by representing that Iraq planned, authorized, committed, or aided the 9/11 attacks.

Indeed, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind reports that the White House ordered the CIA to forge and backdate a document falsely linking Iraq with Muslim terrorists and 9/11 … and that the CIA complied with those instructions and in fact created the forgery, which was then used to justify war against Iraq. And see this.

Suskind also revealed that “Bush administration had information from a top Iraqi intelligence official ‘that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion.’ ”

Cheney made the false linkage between Iraq and 9/11 on many occasions.

For example, according to Raw Story, Cheney was still alleging a connection between Iraq and the alleged lead 9/11 hijacker in September 2003 – a year after it had been widely debunked. When NBC’s Tim Russert asked him about a poll showing that 69% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein had been involved in 9/11, Cheney replied:
It’s not surprising that people make that connection.
And even after the 9/11 Commission debunked any connection, Cheney said that the evidence is “overwhelming” that al Qaeda had a relationship with Saddam Hussein’s regime , that Cheney “probably” had information unavailable to the Commission, and that the media was not ‘doing their homework’ in reporting such ties.

Again, the Bush administration expressly justified the Iraq war by representing that Iraq planned, authorized, committed, or aided the 9/11 attacks. See this, this, this.

Even then-CIA director George Tenet said that the White House wanted to invade Iraq long before 9/11, and inserted “crap” in its justifications for invading Iraq.

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill – who sat on the National Security Council – also says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11.

Top British officials say that the U.S. discussed Iraq regime change even before Bush took office.
And in 2000, Cheney said a Bush administration might “have to take military action to forcibly remove Saddam from power.” And see this.

The administration’s false claims about Saddam and 9/11 helped convince a large portion of the American public to support the invasion of Iraq. While the focus now may be on false WMD claims, it is important to remember that, at the time, the alleged link between Iraq and 9/11 was at least as important in many people’s mind as a reason to invade Iraq.

So the torture program was really all about “justifying” the ultimate war crime:  launching an unnecessary war of aggression based upon false pretenses.

Postscript:   It is beyond any real dispute that torture does not work to produce any useful, truthful intelligence.  Today, the following question made it to the front page of Reddit:
Why would the CIA torture if torture “doesn’t work”? Wouldn’t they want the most effective tool to gather intelligence?
The Senate Armed Services Committee report gave the answer.

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