Reports: Big Oil, Big Coal have known and lied about global warming for decades

Hundreds of pages of recovered documents suggest that even with detailed knowledge of the link between carbon emissions and climate change, the fossil fuels industry has lied for decades and spent hundreds of millions to deceive and defraud the public.

Detailed reports released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, and Inside Climate News claim that fossil fuel companies have lied continuously about climate science, paid phony scientists, created phony front organizations, forged phony documents, and recruited the Bush Administration and members of Congress, all in efforts to mislead the public and halt progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This article is a compression of the research and reporting performed by those named organizations.

What they knew and when they knew it

According to the reports, fossil fuel companies have known for nearly 40 years that CO2 emissions are harming the Earth. In 1977, representatives from BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and Peabody Energy attended dozens of congressional hearings that discussed the effects of CO2 on climate. In the late 1970s and early 80s, Exxon’s own senior scientist, James F. Black warned Exxon’s senior management that the burning of fossil fuels was influencing global climate, that increases in CO2 would cause global warming, that rainfall might increase in some areas while other areas turn to desert. He warned that the human race had only five to ten years before the need to make “hard decisions” about CO2 emissions might become “critical” (emphasis added).

By 1988 the then CEO of Mobil Oil, Richard Tucker stated in a speech to the American Institute of Chemical Engineers that the growing greenhouse effect might require a “dramatic reduction in our dependence on fossil fuels.” That year, Jim Hansen of NASA testified before Congress that the burning of fossil fuels was harming the climate. Also in 1988, the UN formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the US Congress introduced the National Energy Policy Act of 1988, all in efforts to begin to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The scientific community was fully aware that CO2 was causing global warming. One of Exxon’s staff scientists even served as an expert reviewer to the IPCC’s first report on climate change. Industry scientists were secretly warning each other of the risks of CO2 emissions on the climate.

In 1995, a secret report titled Predicting the Future of Climate Change: A Primer was released by a team of scientists at Mobil Oil and distributed to the Global Climate Coalition, an industry group whose members included most of the largest fossil fuel companies. This “primer” from Mobil made several warnings over human-caused climate change, including this statement: “The scientific basis for the greenhouse effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.” This document was revealed in 2009 after surfacing during a lawsuit filed by the auto industry against California. A preliminary version of this document addressed and dismissed the most common arguments denying human-caused climate change, arguments that are still being promoted by the fossil fuel industry today.

By 1988, with obviously abundant knowledge of the growing harm their products are causing to the climate, what did the fossil fuels companies do? They produced much more product and CO2 emissions skyrocketed. The industrial revolution began over 200 years ago, but half of all industrial carbon emissions have occurred since 1988. And according to documents, they embarked on an all-out campaign to deceive that continues to this day.

The Coal Industry and ICE

In 1991, major players in the coal industry, including the National Coal Association, Edison Electric, and others formed a group called the Information Council on the Environment. Internal documents show that ICE’s strategy was to “reposition global warming as a theory (not fact)” and to “use a spokesman from the scientific community” since “technical sources have the highest credibility ratings.” This, in spite of the fact that ICE was fully aware of the science showing a long-term warming trend was (and is) underway.

ICE’s approach, supported by a $500,000 campaign budget and revealed by internal documents, showed that the group planned to target “older, less-educated males from larger households who are not typically active information seekers” and “lower-income women… who are more likely to soften their support for federal legislation…” Propaganda typical of ICE included this advertisement aired during a Rush Limbaugh program, spoken by Mr. Limbaugh: “Stop panicking! I’m here to tell you that the facts simply don’t jibe with the theory that catastrophic global warming is taking place! Try this fact on for size: Minneapolis has actually gotten colder! So has Albany, New York!”

ICE was disbanded in 1991 when the press learned that ICE’s “science advisory panel” consisted principally of three people who were well-known climate science contrarians with no legitimate experience in the field, and that their primary message, that global warming could not be occurring because a few named cities had recently recorded warmer temperatures, was junk science.

The fossil fuels industry builds a disinformation machine

In their initial report in 2007, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that, in spite of extensive warnings within the industry regarding the danger of carbon emissions, ExxonMobil secretly spent $16 million from 1998 to 2005 on 43 separate “grass roots” organizations with the explicit purpose of spreading lies about the causes of global warming. ExxonMobil also used its access to a fully-complicit Bush administration, which itself had strong ties to the oil industry, to block federal policies and to shape the administration’s position on global warming. And a withering Greenpeace report reveals that from 1997 to 2010, the Koch brothers spent over $61 million on the same front groups, with the same purpose of using bogus “science” on climate change to deceive and create confusion.

From there, the industry’s deception has only grown. The biggest carbon polluters, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, Peabody Energy and Koch Industries and others have worked for decades spending hundreds of millions of dollars to spread falsehoods and deceive the public regarding carbon emissions and global warming.

The American Petroleum Institute’s plan to kill Kyoto

In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute created a detailed strategy and planning document titled the Global Climate Science Communications Plan. The API is the most powerful US trade association for the oil and gas industry, representing all of the big players, including ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhilips, etc. The API’s 1998 communications plan is essentially a propaganda manifesto that is still in use. It spells out a diverse misinformation strategy to be carried out by fossil fuel companies, their PR firms, and phony front organizations to reach the public, the US Senate, and policy makers with messaging attacking the links between greenhouse gases and climate change. This plan was initially created for the purpose of derailing the US Senate’s approval of the Kyoto Protocol Agreement. It specifically instructs that “victory” would be achieved when “average citizens” believed there were too many “uncertainties” in climate science to attribute the cause of climate change to CO2, and that promoting the Kyoto treaty “would appear to be out of touch with reality.” This, despite nearly unanimous agreement by the worldwide scientific community even then, that CO2 emissions are causing global warming.

The API’s plan recognizes that independent scientists have the public’s trust, and so the API sought to recruit and train a team of five “independent scientists” as propaganda mouthpieces to generate “peer-reviewed papers” to undercut the “conventional wisdom on climate science.” These phony papers would be “peer-reviewed” −by their own scientists. The API plan even warns that the fact that these chosen scientists will be employed by the fossil fuels industry, paid for their “independent analysis,” can never be revealed.

Executing to the API’s propaganda plan

The API’s propaganda plan was concerned about future “Kyoto-like” efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. To manipulate the thinking of today’s students (tomorrow’s voters), it called for targeting the National Science Teachers Association and individual elementary school teachers with bogus study materials to directly counter the pervasive scientific evidence regarding CO2 and climate change. The propaganda plan states that emphasizing “uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect a barrier against efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future”. This reveals the far-reaching planning of fossil fuel companies to lie to the public for as long as they can get away with it. By the way, the original API propaganda plan assumed that Kyoto Protocol, signed by President Clinton, would be killed in the US Senate, and it ultimately was.

In 2009, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 was approved by the US House of Representatives. This bill would have established a carbon emissions trading plan, in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. In response, the API staged rallies in 20 states that were designed to appear as spontaneous public opposition to the act. An API memo leaked to Greenpeace reveals that the API urged executives of all the major fossil fuel companies to send their employees to those staged rallies. Ultimately, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 was passed by the House, but never taken up by the US Senate.

Documents released in 2015 resulting from FOIA requests by Greenpeace show that ExxonMobil, Southern Company (the top carbon emitter among all US utility companies), and other major players in the industry, secretly employed an aerospace engineer named Wei-Hock Soon (among others) from 2001 to 2012. Mr. Soon’s job was to masquerade as a climate scientist and fabricate numerous misleading and baseless claims and theories about the causes of global warming. Mr. Soon had connections to the Smithsonian Institution, which routinely published his propaganda and agreed to not reveal the source of his funding. Soon’s work was presented as independent research and has been often quoted by Republican politicians who receive generous campaign contributions from the fossil fuels industry. However, Soon’s work was also repeatedly challenged by actual climate scientists.

Senator Inhofe invites a phony climate scientist to Congress

Soon’s fraud went on for over ten years, with him even testifying before Congress at the invitation of Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, a boldfaced shill for Big Oil and Big Coal. It was eventually found that Soon was paid over $1.2 million by the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, and others for his years of propaganda, and that Soon had no other source of income during that time. These revelations killed Soon’s credibility with everyone, except of course, the fake “grass roots” organizations that still act as conduits for Soon’s fabrications, and for blatant political sellouts like Senator Inhofe, who even today continues to quote his sham work. In what appears to be a perfect storm of greed and contempt for humanity, the Republicans appointed Senator Inhofe as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Among other displays of mental disorder, Inhofe has stated that “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” He has also stated that the EPA is comparable to the “Gestapo”, and that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change resembles “a Soviet-style trial, in which ideological purity trumps technical and scientific rigor.”

Tragically, the Republican science committee on the environment cares nothing about science or the environment. What motivates Senator Inhofe? Money. The oil and gas industry has made the largest campaign contributions to Inhofe, $1.7 million over his career as a senator. Inhofe has even published a book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, which presents the fantastical conspiracy theory that thousands of scientists worldwide have for decades been fabricating a giant hoax with mountains of fraudulent science for what purpose, no one really knows. Inhofe tries to support his claims with broken logic and Mr. Soon’s trash science, along with attacks on the Ph. D level professionals who are actual climate scientists. Mr. Inhofe will happily sell his book to you, as he promotes it in his public appearances.

The Coal Industry attempts to manipulate Congress with forgery

As stated above, in mid-2009 Congress was debating the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. This bill would have instituted a carbon emissions reduction plan at the federal level. A coal industry lobbying firm named Bonner and Associates mailed out thirteen letters to three House members who were known to be leaning in favor of the act, but whose votes was vulnerable. However, all of the letters were forgeries, written on the letterhead of organizations including the American Legion, the NAACP, and the American Association of University Women. As an example, and an excerpt from one letter read: “We ask you to use your important position to help protect minorities and other consumers in your district from higher electricity bills. Please don’t vote to force costs increases on us…”

An investigation into the forgeries by the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming found that Bonner and Associates has been hired by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which itself is another front group funded directly by representatives of the coal industry. Note that Bonner and Associates has extensive experience in propagating lies, having worked for years for the tobacco industry.

It is worth noting here that currently, the wholesale price of wind energy, per kilowatt-hour, is as low as half the price of electricity produced by coal-fired power plants, even without federal subsidies.

The Western States Petroleum Association’s propaganda campaign 

The Western States Petroleum Association, headquartered in Sacramento, represents BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and other major petroleum companies. These are many of the same players in the American Petroleum Institute, and the WSPA is the primary opponent of California’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. From 2009 to 2014, the WSPA spent $27 million to manipulate public and legislator opinion. To do so, the WSPA and its allies created and funded 16 utterly fake “grass roots” groups and campaigns that they used to broadcast messages intended to appear as public backlash against the state’s carbon reduction efforts. In a secret presentation to business allies, WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd explained that the WSPA’s plan is to “activate a significant number of campaigns and coalitions.” Her presentation slide explains that the WSPA “has invested in several coalitions that are best suited to drive consumer and grassroots messages to regulators and policy makers.” These phony “citizen’s coalitions” were given names such as Fed Up at the Pump, the California Drivers Alliance, and Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy. At least two of these phony groups spent large sums on radio ads and billboards attacking California’s carbon regulation efforts. Thankfully, these efforts failed, but the WSPA is still actively working in California, Oregon, and Washington to misrepresent public opinion to state legislators and thwart carbon reduction efforts.

Corruption sanctified: the American Legislative Exchange Council

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a sham. ALEC was founded by Reagan-era Republican politicians to create a direct, private forum that member corporations (those willing to pay) can use to directly access and influence state legislators. ALEC proclaims itself to be “the nation’s largest nonpartisan, individual membership association of state legislators.” However, every one of the 30 board members and officers is a Republican politician; there are no Democrats. And although they say that it’s an “association of state legislators”, 98% of ALEC’s roughly $8 million in annual operating cash comes in the form of “gifts” from corporations, trade associations, and conservative foundations.

A large portion of ALEC’s corporate cash is handed out in August of each year to pay for lavish vacations for each legislative member and their families. These are the annual ALEC meetings where the corporations and their lobbyists work to set the following year’s conservative legislative agenda in each state. ALEC members (legislators and corporate interests) meet three times a year, but the summer meeting is the largest.

Predictably, many of the same fossil fuel companies that belong to API and WSPA pay thousands in membership dues to join ALEC, and then may pay sums sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as “gifts” to ALEC to be able to “vote” on “model legislation”, authored by ALEC’s corporate members. If approved by ALEC’s voting members, its Republican legislators then carry this “model legislation” home to their state legislators and lobby hard for its passage, with the financial assistance of ALEC. Some companies give large sums to ALEC. Through their various foundations, the billionaire Koch brothers gave ALEC over $200,000 in gifts in 2009 and at least $600,000 in gifts over the period from 2001 to 2011. And Koch Industries has contributed an undisclosed amount of money to ALEC, probably much more because it is hidden. Incredibly, ALEC is registered as a 501c corporation, so that the roughly $8 million in corporate and foundation “gifts” are tax-exempt.

In ALEC, Republican state legislators have effectively created a tax-free shell entity within which they promise to sell (exchange?) their legislative allegiance to corporations in return for free junkets and vacations for themselves and their families. Any state limits on gifts from lobbyists to legislators are flagrantly blown apart by ALEC, and the concept of quid-pro-quo is perfected and immortalized in gold-plated greed. In a normal world, ALEC legislators would be charged with multiple crimes, including influence peddling, accepting bribes, and operating a criminal enterprise.

Of course, many of ALEC’s largest contributors are fossil fuel companies and organizations. At ALEC’s 2014 annual meeting, an ALEC member and president of the Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast claimed that “there is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change,” which is a blatant lie. Bast went on to attack the IPCC, which is the world’s largest and most respected scientific body concerned with climate change, with recognized experts from over 130 countries. One of Bast’s slides stated: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a project of the United Nations, is not a credible source of science or economics” (emphasis added). Such a claim is beyond arrogance. Bast, who has no relevant education, claims that he knows more about climate science than the international community of doctorate-level professionals working in the field.

ALEC’s diet of lies is breathtaking. At the same 2014 ALEC meeting, David Rothbard, previously a contributor to the API’s Global Climate Science Communications Plan, stated in his presentation titled Climate Science Talking Points 2014, that “the scientific reality is that on virtually every claim – from A to Z – the claims of promoters of manmade climate fears are falling short or going in the opposite direction” (emphasis added). So according to ALEC, the Earth is cooling. These lies are frequently retold in various forms at each ALEC convention.

At this same 2014 ALEC conference, legislators and fossil fuel representatives gathered to craft sample state resolution against the EPA’s then-pending carbon emissions standard for electric power plants. And ALEC is currently pushing legislation in nine states in the northeastern US to kill the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the northeast and parts of Canada. Between 2013 and July of 2015, ALEC’s Republican state legislators introduced 65 (yes, sixty-five) bills designed to repeal or dilute state laws requiring increased utility power generation from renewable energy. ALEC’s efforts to deceive the public on climate change and to buy legislation to undercut greenhouse gas reduction efforts are ongoing, nationwide.

A déjà vu of deception

So what does this effort by the fossil fuels industry, costing hundreds of millions of dollars and carried out over decades to defraud and deceive the American public, what does this resemble? A conspiracy? Definitely. The tobacco industry? Indeed. Big Tobacco spent many millions over decades, spreading lies about how their products didn’t cause cancer and other deadly diseases, even though they knew early on from their own research that their addictive products kill. And just like Big Oil and Big Coal, the Republicans defended Big Tobacco for decades. Republicans fought warning labels on cigarettes, tried to defund government research on tobacco, attacked the evidence showing links between cigarettes and cancer, etc. The Republicans defended the Big Tobacco at every opportunity, because many Republicans received their largest campaign contributions from Big Tobacco and enjoyed the wealth guaranteed by the revolving door between government, Big Tobacco, and the lobbyist industry. The states finally sued Big Tobacco for damages and ultimately won a total of $206 billion from the industry. Big Tobacco got off easy.

Given Big Tobacco’s liability, one can only wonder: What is the liability for Big Oil and Big Coal, when the victims are the entire human race?


Obama’s bold carbon plan is in fact, a work of fiction

President Obama’s plan to reduce CO2 power plant emissions by 32 percent, in fact, only cuts emissions by 16 percent, and cuts total emissions by 7 percent. Meanwhile, the first six months of 2015 were the hottest ever recorded. And runaway global warming might be reality.

Each of us must grasp the fact that we humans are building a time bomb, unprecedented in lethality, that may kill more people than all of history’s wars and terrorism and disasters combined. We’ve been building this bomb since the start of the industrial revolution, exponentially dumping more and more CO2 into the atmosphere nearly every year for over 200 years, and in 2014, we added a record 39.8 billion metric tons of CO2.

The resulting climate changes are escalating and will stay with us for centuries. Imagine massive summer heat waves across the US, exceeding 115 degrees F for months at a time, with many thousands of deaths. Imagine crop failures from Florida to California, with 80 percent losses across the board. Imagine grocery stores empty of beef and poultry because farmers can’t keep their livestock alive. Imagine rivers and oceans nearly void of fish. Imagine global record heat waves, crop failures, food shortages, hundreds of millions of human deaths, and hundreds of millions of refugees. Imagine the inevitable wars as nations try to slow the crush of refugees and protect resources. Now imagine this beginning in the next few decades and continuing for centuries or longer.

You can’t imagine this? “Ridiculous,” you say?

Before the start of the industrial revolution, atmospheric CO2 levels remained around 275 parts per million (ppm), for roughly 10,000 years. Earth’s climate was safe for humans throughout that period. In fact, over the past 800,000 years, atmospheric CO2 levels have never exceeded 300 ppm. In only the last 200 years, CO2 has soared from 275 ppm to 404 ppm as of April of this year. The consequences have been severe and are escalating each year:

  • In 2003, the record European heat wave killed 70,000 people and devastated crops across Europe. Many countries saw their worst harvests since the end of World War II. Ukraine’s wheat harvest fell by 75 percent. Moldova’s harvest fell by 80 percent.
  • The record 2006 heat wave in the US and Canada killed at least 225 people. In California, the heat killed 25,000 cattle and 700,000 fowl, both records.
  • Successive heat waves of 2006 and 2007 set new records throughout Europe, affecting hundreds of millions of people. In the summer 2007, temperatures in Athens reached a killing 115.1°F.
  • 2010 again saw new heat records around the world. In Europe, the heat wave engulfed over 1.2 million square miles and burned several hundred thousand acres. In Russia, the heat killed over 14,000 people, burned a stunning 2.5 million acres, and caused crop failures of 25 percent.
  • In 2010, record monsoons created widespread flooding in in Pakistan, making 11 million homeless and wiping out several hundred thousand acres of farmland and crops. At least 1.2 million livestock were lost. Soon after, continued flooding in Pakistan in 2011 and 2012 made 10 million people homeless.
  • 2012 was again the hottest year in history for the contiguous United States, killing 4,000 cattle in Iowa, 500 in Minnesota, and 1,500 in South Dakota. The USDA declared more than half the continental US to be a disaster area. U.S. farmers sustained a record $17.3 billion in crop losses. Farmers in many nations including the US are reducing their animal herds because they can’t keep their livestock alive.
  • 2014 was the hottest year on Earth ever recorded. The ten hottest years recorded have all occurred within the last 16 years, from 1998 to 2014.
  • This year, the first three months of 2015 have each already set new global high-temperature records. From January to June, the average land surface temperature was 2.52° above the 20th century average. The first six months of this year was the hottest six-month period ever recorded on Earth.
  • This year, record heat has again stretched across the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and the Arctic. In June, temperatures in Karachi, Pakistan hit 112.6 degrees F and killed 1,150 people. The heat killed 2,500 in India, where temperatures reached a record 117 degrees F.
  • This year in the U.S., with drought and extreme temperatures, farmers cannot afford to keep their livestock alive. U.S. cattle herd sizes are at a 63-year low. Overall beef supplies in the US are down by 20 percent over the preceding 12 years.
  • This year, California is breaking that state’s 2014 record drought, again. Total agricultural losses are expected to exceed a record of $2.7 billion. In July, Idaho declared a state of emergency as drought has killed a record 40 percent of the wheat crop. Washington and Oregon each expect record crop losses of $1.2 billion. Mountain snow packs in the three West Coast states are at less than 11 percent of their normal capacity, threatening severe water shortages. The entire U.S. West Coast has declared a drought emergency.

The future? NASA warns that a decades-long mega-drought is coming to the western US and plain states, which grow nearly all of the nation’s produce and livestock, and also supply much of the world. The results would be catastrophic.

President Obama has taken the first “significant” step for the US in mandating that the country reduce its CO2 emissions from power plants by 32 percent of the year 2005’s CO2 emissions, over the next 15 years. However, this “target” is frankly a disingenuous falsehood, since as of 2014, CO2 emissions from power plants have already dropped by 15.5 percent from 2005 levels. That’s 374 million tons of emissions already cut, and the plan only calls for an additional 400 million tons of reductions. How can you claim you’re going to do something that you’ve already done? Obama’s plan simply codifies a trend toward natural gas and renewable energy that is already under way, driven by the high price of coal versus gas, wind, and solar. And of the total 5.4 billion tons of US CO2 emissions in 2014, this future cut equals a paltry 7 percent, over the next 15 years. Given the gravity of the climate crisis we face, this is pathetic, and would be laughable if the situation were not so dire.

We need to understand this: Tragically, even if we could globally halt all global CO2 emissions today, this disaster would continue, worsening year-by-year for decades. This reason is, between 65 percent and 80 percent of CO2 released into the air dissolves into the ocean over a period of 20–200 years. The rest is removed by slower processes that take up to several hundreds of thousands of years. (Let’s remember that it took us 200 years to get here.)

If our global, complete failure to act so far is any clue, we will be lucky to reduce total CO2 emissions by 5-10 percent in the next 50 years. And because of the built-in delay described above, the net effect on climate will be inconsequential. Unless we drastically cut CO2 emissions soon, the climate will continue to heat up for the next several hundred years, and therein lies an unprecedented and extremely dangerous risk for humanity.

Earth’s Permafrost is Rapidly Melting

Twenty-four percent of the land masses in Earth’s northern hemisphere are covered with permafrost up to 700 meters thick. This frozen organic matter contains 1,700 gigatons of carbon. The permafrost is a planetary store of frozen carbon that has been locked away for millennia. Global warming is now melting the permafrost and releasing large quantities of CO2 and methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane is over 20 times more potent as a global warming gas than CO2. In regions of Russia, Canada, and Alaska, roads, houses, and forests are sinking into the Earth because the “permafrost” is no longer permanent. Dozens of large, mysterious craters have appeared in northern Siberia and the cause has been determined to be the sudden release of large quantities of methane gas and CO2. The great risk is that continued melting is now creating a positive feedback loop, where global warming causes more melting, causing more global warming, etc. Runway permafrost melting would release gargantuan amounts of CO2 and methane and cause runaway overheating of the planet. The incredible fact is this: Most of the Earth would become uninhabitable and a major die-off of human life would result.

In fact, permafrost melting and positive feedback heating is already occurring in the Arctic, and this is demonstrated by the fact that Arctic air temperatures are increasing twice as fast as the rest of the planet. The Earth is rapidly approaching, and may have already passed a tipping point where so much heating has occurred that future, frantic human efforts to slash CO2 and methane emissions will not be sufficient reverse this process. If that is the case, the results will be disastrous for the Earth.

We humans have known of the risks of global warming for more than 40 years and we have done nothing about it. Many reputable scientists fear that we have already passed that tipping point, and that the end of the Earth as we know it today, is inevitable. We can only hope that they are wrong.

The race is on today for humans to dramatically slash CO2 emissions. This is why President Obama’s plan to cut CO2 emissions, while laudable, falls terribly short. The President’s 32 percent reduction in power plant CO2 emissions is really only a 7 percent reduction in today’s total U.S. emissions that we won’t achieve for another 15 years. Seriously?

Given the undeniable risk to humankind, both now and for centuries to come, the U.S. must take urgent and meaningful action. We must ban new coal-fired power plants immediately. Existing coal-fired plants must be re-built to burn biomass or be closed by 2030. All new power plant construction must be wind or solar based. The transition currently underway to natural gas must stop. The burning of natural gas for power generation releases half the CO2 of coal, however the fracking, mining, refining, storage, and distribution of natural gas releases so much methane and CO2 as to significantly defeat the benefit of gas.

From 1850 to 2011, the US dumped more CO2 into the atmosphere than any other nation, and historically far more CO2 per capita than any other nation. The complete conversion of America’s power generation to renewable energy by 2035 is absolutely mandatory for the US to do its share and, with the rest of humanity, have any hope of slowing global warming. We cannot possibly expect other nations to get serious about cutting their emissions, if we in the U.S. refuse to get serious about cutting ours.

We must also stop shipping coal. Clearly it makes little sense to stop burning coal in the U.S., but then ship American coal to China or India, to be burned there. The U.S. must reduce, and by 2025, ban coal exports entirely. We must team with other coal exporting nations to slash global coal supplies, thereby making the price prohibitive.

It’s cheaper to go renewable!

Complete conversion to renewables by 2035 is entirely achievable. Today in the U.S., wholesale wind energy is priced as low as 1.4 cents per kilowatt hour, and solar energy as low as 3.87 cents. Even without federal subsidies, the cost of wind energy is priced as low as 3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, while natural gas is priced at 6.1 cents, and coal, the dirtiest of all sources, is priced at 6.6 cents.

“Impossible,” you say? Not enough wind?

A study from the National Academy of Sciences revealed that in the contiguous U.S., the total potential for power generation from the wind is a stunning 84 petawatt-hours, that is 84 million gigawatt-hours. That’s 21 times the current power consumption of the entire U.S.

Can we really do this?

Without even trying, simply driven by the plummeting cost of renewables and limited tax and clean air incentives, power companies have been abandoning coal and moving to wind and solar. In 2015 alone, US power companies will add more than 20 gigawatts of power generation capacity, and nearly half of that will be wind energy (9.8 GW). Wind energy capacity is forecasted to increase by 12.8 percent in 2015 and by 13.0 percent in 2016. As of 2014, the country’s total installed wind energy capacity has increased nearly 23-fold since 2000.

Still, America is playing catch-up in wind energy. As of 2014, the U.S. has fallen behind China and Japan and we’re even falling behind South Korea and Vietnam in wind energy production. Frankly, this fact is pathetic.

Solar power is also expanding dramatically. In just five years, the U.S. solar panel market — which does not include concentrated solar plants — grew by an astounding 418 percent. The U.S. installed 1,306 megawatts of solar photo-voltaics (PV) in the first quarter of 2015, to reach 21,300 megawatts of total installed capacity, enough to power 4.3 million American homes. Solar accounted for a 32 percent of the nation’s new generating capacity in 2014.

But what can solar power do when the sun isn’t shining?

Concentrated solar power (CSP), uses mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy to drive steam turbines. Importantly, CSP can store energy and produce electricity later when the sun isn’t shining. The number of CSP plants have grown tremendously and by 2013, over 3.5 gigawatts were being generated globally. CSP generation capacity is expected to grow by nearly 20 percent annually over the next five years, and now, is cost-competitive in the U.S. with coal and gas.

The Bottom Line

Currently, 67 percent of America’s total electrical power generation is from fossil fuels. Wind and solar now provide 5 percent of the nation’s total, however some states are far ahead. Iowa produces 28.5 percent of its electricity from the wind, followed by South Dakota at 25.3 percent and Kansas at 21.7.

For the U.S. to drive its CO2 power plant emissions to zero over the next 20 years, wind and solar power generation must grow by 20-fold over that period. This may seem like a tall order, but only because we have been so incredibly irresponsible and lethargic for over 40 years. Given the truly unprecedented and imminent threat mankind faces, and the fact that clean, cheap, and limitless energy from the wind and the sun can meet America’s needs today, many times over, our path forward is clear. And we must act now, not 10 or 20 or 30 years from now. Based on the mountain of legitimate scientific evidence, that could be too late.

Those who say that the conversion to renewable energy will create hardships on coal producers or hurt global economic growth are guilty of extreme indifference to the unfolding climate crisis that over 7 billion people are now facing. Note however, that from 2008 to 2012, while the coal industry lost roughly 49,530 jobs, the wind and solar energy industries created more than 79,000 new direct and supporting jobs. Do we want to kill coal now and go to renewables and the many thousands of jobs renewables will create? Or do we want to kill the planet for an industry that is absolutely going to die, regardless?

Except for the risk of thermonuclear war, we have never truly faced the possibility of a major human die-off. So far, we have avoided nuclear war, but we are bringing on this climate crisis with our eyes wide open. Global warming is not a risk, it is not a distant possibility, it is a certainty, here and now, and the evidence proving this is pervasive and undeniable. The health and well-being of our children and future generations demand that we act. Now.

America: The real Lord of War

Originally published January, 2012.

No other nation offers a remote threat to America’s global military dominance, yet the nation spends nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on defense. The U.S. is in an arms race, but against whom?

In 2011, the U.S. defense budget was over eight times that of China and ten times that of Russia. BBC News, Bloomberg In the middle of the worst global recession in decades, with the United States approaching a record $15 trillion in federal debt, absent a competing super power and with 50 million Americans living in poverty, America’s military buildup continues. Even with the proposed “cuts” America’s defense budget for 2012 will be more than twice the $328 billion budget of 2002.

Budget cuts that aren’t

The recent failure by the American Congress to reach a deficit reduction agreement triggered automatic “cuts” in defense spending, and this has many conservatives reacting in horror. Republican Congressman McKeon, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee claimed that he would “not preside over the crippling of the U.S. military”. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claimed that cuts in spending would be “devastating” and “invite aggression against the U.S.”

Let’s pause here for a reality check: There has been no state aggression directly against the U.S. since WWII. These statements by McKeon and Panetta are absurd. Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration, claimed that predictions of disaster are “palpable nonsense”. NPR

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, reviewed data from the Congressional Budget Office and found that the so-called “cuts” to defense spending are only cuts in the rate of growth. Even with the $662 billion 2012 defense budget approved by Congress in December 2011 (the Whitehouse initially requested $693 billion) defense spending is still forecast to grow by 16% from 2012 to 2021, to a staggering $818 billion by 2021. Without these “cuts,” the Pentagon would have seen a 23% increase. National Review. President Obama admitted in his Pentagon speech January 5, 2012, that the defense budget will still grow, only more slowly. CNN

How many bases?

In 2009, the Pentagon acknowledged maintaining 865 active U.S. military bases in 130 countries outside of the U.S. but this number didn’t include any of the bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. By 2011 the total was likely over 1000, and still excludes the several hundred bases within the United States. Foreign Policy in Focus, Politifact

In fact, depending on exactly what kinds of activities are counted, the total number of U.S. military installations worldwide is over 5,000. U.S. Department of Defense.

No other nation operates such a massive and costly network of military sites. China, with an economy as large as the U.S., has no foreign bases. Japan has no foreign bases. India with its rising economy has no foreign bases. Russia has a few small operations in central Asia. Britain and France have a few foreign bases, miniscule operations compared America’s mega bases.

America’s worldwide military footprint is hundreds of times larger than any other country. Add to this force-multiplier effects that make the American military far more destructive than sheer numbers suggest. America’s military leverages the integration of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I), letting commanders detect and analyze battlefield developments in real time and rapidly deploy the most effective response. This, with stealth technology gives the American military lethality in all but the most highly defended or remote locations.

America’s new F-35 Lightning II fighter plane costs at least $90 million per copy. Even with Obama’s new budget proposal, the Pentagon will spend a mind-blowing $384 billion to purchase 2,443 F-35s over the next ten years and spend another $650 billion for their operation and maintenance, making it the most expensive weapons program in history. The Atlantic. At 2,443 planes, that will be 15 times as many modern fighter planes as China, 20 times as many as Russia. What justifies such a massive over-investment in war preparations? Who threatens America? Russia? China, with no foreign bases? Al Qaeda?

How many troops?

Of course, American bases are operated by people. Worldwide, 1.5 million soldiers serve on active duty in the U.S. military, with over 350,000 soldiers deployed on foreign soil (November 2011) and another 1.4 million soldiers in reserve status. Add to these the legions of contractors. According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon employs 1.2 million private contractors, bringing the total number serving the U.S. military to a whopping 2.7 million, 4.1 million including reserves.

Military superiority needed to defend the the nation’s vital interests is legitimate, but pervasive overkill is incredibly costly for American taxpayers, is destabilizing for other nations, and contributes to a global arms race. In real dollars, America’s defense budget has never been greater except at the peak of WWII. Even during the Viet Nam and Korean wars, America spent less.

America: Arms merchant to the world

In addition to spending nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on weapons, America is also the world’s largest merchant of war machines, capturing 53% of total global sales in 2010. Advanced weaponry is one of America’s hottest exports. CNN. In 2011, America sold $34.8 billion in military weapons, short of the $46 billion “targeted” earlier in the year. Business Week. And 2012 sales could be far higher, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Pentagon agency that oversees foreign arms sales. Arms sales to Saudi Arabia are expected to jump from $3 billion in 2010 to $60 billion in 2012, the largest arms sale ever, putting total sales for 2012 at nearly $100 billion. Christian Science Monitor. This sale to Saudi Arabia is driven by the fact that since America’s trillion-dollar invasion of Iraq, that country is now allied with Iran, which is a potential adversary of Saudi Arabia. So the United States will now be selling advanced F-16s to both Saudi Arabia and Iraq, countries that could one day be enemies. America has sold weapons worth many billions to Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Note that aside from the tension between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, none of these countries face mortal enemies and many of the weapons America sells are more likely to be used against citizen uprisings than defense.

Weapons of war, gifts from American taxpayers

Many weapon “sales” to other nations are paid for by American taxpayers. From 2006 to 2012, American taxpayers gave $30 billion in military assistance (known as “foreign military financing”) to other countries. In 2011 alone, U.S. taxpayers gave $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt and a whopping $3 billion to Israel. These dollars are then used to buy weapons from the U.S. arms industry. U.S. Department of State.

Fully 28,000 American infants die each year in the U.S. The United States is ranked 30th against other nations in infant mortality, equal to Poland and Slovakia and far behind nearly all other industrialized nations. In an era of massive federal budgets cuts to the needy, to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutritional program, to the Pell program which helps low income students earn a college education, and to jobs training programs for the unemployed, it is obscene that this government is spending such unnecessary amounts on defense and giving billions of dollars away in free weapons of war.

The U.S. is the single largest maker, buyer, purveyor and giver of the most destructive, most expensive weapons on Earth, and has been for several decades. Unquestioned military readiness is essential, but this nation continuously spends unreasoned and unjustified sums on global military dominance – over the health and well-being of its own citizens. This is the America that General and President Dwight Eisenhower warned of in his dire farewell speech, except that it’s far worse than even he feared. Some argue that overwhelming military superiority reduces the likelihood of war, but that argument is made suspect by the fact that when including all major military operations over the last several decades, the U.S. has been at war more often than at peace. In fact, American history suggests that having the most lethal weapons in the world makes their use inevitable.

Killing our future: Are you ready to choose the last generation?

We love our kids, of course. And every grandparent can’t help but fall in love with their grandkids. After that, what? Is it our great grandchildren that we’re willing to write off? Chances are good they’ll never meet us. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Is that the point in human history where we decide, in advance, that we’ll kiss-off humanity so that we can keep burning our precious fossil fuels?

When it comes to worldwide CO2 emissions, for us to believe that half-hearted, marginal attempts to reduce emissions will somehow stave off catastrophic climate change, is to embrace absolute self-delusion. Accelerated global warming is happening now. Heatwaves happen locally; they don’t happen globally, until now. Each year brings a raft of new broken records. Globally, nearly every year is warmer than the last. As of 2014, the last 16 years have seen the ten hottest years ever recorded on Earth. The year 2014 was the hottest year ever, and 2015 is on track to beat that. Just last month, July 2015 was officially the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. And in spite of Senator Inhofe’s claim that snow in Washington DC proves climate change is a hoax, the record-breaking isn’t going to stop there.

The unprecedented signs of this gathering catastrophe are everywhere:

  • Continuous, record-breaking heatwaves, worldwide.
  • Globally over the last 12 years, nearly 100,000 humans perished from excessive heat. In Europe, 70,000 died of heat in 2003 alone.
  • Ongoing, extreme droughts in the western US. Over-pumping of California’s Central Valley aquifers, ancient underground water reservoirs, has caused the region to sink by ten feet or more. These aquifers will never be replenished.
  • In 2006 in the US, the heat killed tens of thousands of cattle and over 700,000 fowl. Worldwide in 2010, millions of cattle were lost to heat.
  • Large-scale crop failures in the US and around the world. In 2012, the US suffered 17 billion dollars in crop losses.
  • Lengthening fire seasons have grown globally by as much as a month. Fire seasons are impacting larger areas of land. Growing and record fire seasons are charring the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, South America.
  • As of August 27, 2015, over 100 wildfires are actively burning in Washington, Oregon, and California. This season in the western US, over 44,000 wildfires have already burned 8.2 million acres. Only six other years have seen fire seasons burn more than 8 million acres, and all of those have been since 2004. All-time record fire seasons are now underway in Alaska, Washington, and California, with a likely record in Oregon.
  • Earth’s oceans are becoming deserts. Fisheries we humans rely on for food are collapsing. Massive die-offs of marine life including sea lions, birds, whales. Ever-growing ocean dead zones.

No one can honestly say this isn’t the result of global warming. And no one can honestly say this isn’t human caused.

Now with the Earth warming so quickly, the Arctic permafrost has begun to melt. Roads, houses, and forests are for the first time, sinking into the melting permafrost. The permafrost contains a planetary store of carbon equivalent to 6,800 gigatons of CO2, and this melting permafrost is now releasing large amounts of CO2 and methane into the Artic atmosphere. Critically, this is causing the Arctic to warm twice as fast as the rest of the planet, causing evermore-rapid permafrost melting, resulting in a positive feedback loop. A 15 percent release of permafrost CO2 would add about 125 ppm to the atmosphere, quickly skyrocketing global CO2 to over 530 ppm. Such levels have not been seen on Earth for at least 800,000 years, and likely tens of millions of years.

At such CO2 concentrations, Earth will become uninhabitable. Coastal cities will drown. Many millions if not billions of people will perish, as will countless species of plants and animals. Earth’s bounty, as we know it today, will be no more.

President Obama’s initiative to reduce US power plant CO2 emissions by 32 percent of the year 2005’s emission levels, applauded by many, can only be called “sandbagging”, given that US power plant CO2 emissions have already dropped by 15.5 percent from 2005 levels, as power companies have begun a slow transition to natural gas. So the president’s real goal is only a 16.5 percent cut in plant emissions. Granted, the plan would hold us to those cuts, but given the severity of the crisis humanity faces, this simply is not a serious effort. What must we do?

We can, and we must, leave carbon behind. Obviously China and India must get join in, but the US has disgorged more CO2 into the atmosphere than any other nation and we have an urgent responsibility to lead.

The incredibly elegant solutions to this growing disaster hit us in the face, every time we step outside. It’s in the wind and the sunlight. Wind and solar energy are clean, carbon-free, cheap, and effectively unlimited alternatives to coal and natural gas. US wind-energy capacity is forecasted to increase by 12.8 percent in 2015 and by 13 percent in 2016. As of 2014, the country’s total installed wind-energy capacity has increased nearly 23-fold since 2000. Solar power is also expanding dramatically. In just five years, the U.S. solar panel market grew by an astounding 418 percent.

But these advances are happening nowhere near fast enough to reduce the rate of global warming any time soon, because humans are still adding 2.4 ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere each year.  This crisis demands serious action. Within 20 years, US power generation should and must be entirely based on renewables. A study from the National Academy of Sciences revealed that in the contiguous US and excluding off-shore wind farms, the total potential for power generation from the wind is capacity is 16 times our total electricity consumption. That value is already discounted to consider for the variability of wind. We have far more wind energy than needed to meet all of the nation’s energy demands, including transportation. The energy is here, if we would simply harvest it.

Would it be expensive? Wind energy is far cheaper than coal or natural gas over the long run. A wind farm does require a larger initial investment to purchase and install the turbines and to update or expand the transmission grid, but this is quickly offset by the savings in the coal or natural gas not purchased. A rapid, nationwide conversion to wind and solar would place major demands on manufacturing and deployment capabilities, but so far, the growth of renewable energy has contributed greatly to plummeting costs. Today in the US, wholesale wind energy is priced as low as 1.4 cents per kilowatt hour, and solar energy as low as 3.87 cents. Even without federal subsidies, the wholesale cost of wind energy is priced as low as 3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Compare that to natural gas at 6.1 cents, and coal at 6.6 cents.

A Stanford University study indicates that an 80 percent conversion of all of America’s energy needs by 2030, with 100 percent conversion by 2050 is affordable and achievable. The current average cost to build a large scale wind farm is currently around $1.6 million per megawatt of installed capacity, and has fallen dramatically over the past decade. Of the nation’s total electrical generation capacity, 13 percent is renewable, leaving 87 percent, or 1,020,165 megawatts to be converted to renewables. Other sources including solar would be part of the mix, but for the sake of a general estimation, we’ll use wind. This results in a rough price tag of $1.63 trillion to convert all power generation in this country to wind. Added capacity would need to be built to meet demand when the wind is not blowing, but experience has shown that wind is much more reliable than previously thought. Additional costs for grid expansion would need to be included, but the US power distribution grid is outdated, regardless, and needs updating. So in fact, the $1.63 trillion figure for complete conversion is an entirely valid baseline. That is less than the $2 trillion cost of George W. Bush’s war on Iraq war, and what did we get for that?

This $1.6 trillion would be spent over 30 years, roughly $54 billion per year. It’s nearly guaranteed that those costs would continue to fall over time due to efficiencies of scale. And importantly, the cost would be dramatically offset by the avoided costs associated with roughly 60,000 premature annual American deaths and other healthcare costs caused by power plant air pollution, and by the many of billions of dollars that we will otherwise spend each year to battle the compounding consequences of global warming. A complete conversion will not halt global warming, but it will obviously slow it down.

Compare that $54 billion investment to the nearly $600 billion Americans spend annually on defense. Even the US Pentagon sees global warming as a national security threat. How much justification do we need?

Frankly though, I couldn’t care less how much the conversion to renewables might cost. The true cost of carbon-based capitalism on Earth has been horrific. In the addition to the staggering costs that unaddressed global warming will bring, over the many decades we’ve suffered countless coal mining calamities, like the Tennessee Coal Ash Disaster, the Massey Energy Mining Disaster, the Sago Mine Disaster, the endless onslaught of oil spills including the Exxon Valdez disaster, the BP Gulf Oil disaster, the Amoco Cadiz spill, the Gulf War Spill, mercury poisoning, continuous acidification of soils, lakes, streams and oceans, mountaintop removal mining, black lung disease, oil train derailments and fires. The list of environmental and human disasters is endless. Did you know that outdoor air pollution kills 200,000 Americans every year? What pathological disorder compels us to embrace so much destruction?

This Earth and the life it supports (including humans) have paid a very, very dear price for carbon capitalism. In truth, the cost of carbon capitalism has been immeasurable.  So what is it worth to you? As if saving humanity from catastrophic die-off might be a little too expensive. We often gush over ourselves for being the most intelligent, most magnificent creatures ever to walk this Earth. Today, right now, we are reaching out across time and committing an act of planet-wide genocide. It’s not in the usual sense of how humans like to kill ethnic groups, but in a generational sense. We are killing our future.

The earliest signs are pervasive. Yes, this record US west coast fire season will end. Yes, this record drought will eventually end (although NASA isn’t so sure of that). And yes, the brilliant Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma will still be able to make snowballs next winter. But a child born this year will witness first-hand the gathering of our human undoing: the agonizing and sometimes convulsive die-off of much of humanity, unless we decide very, very soon that the human species should live on. Otherwise, Darwinian laws will playout as they have for countless eons and vanished species. The survival of the fittest. But fitness for survival isn’t only about brains or brawn. It’s also about common sense. There’s not much time left to decide, and this is in fact the most important decision we will ever make. So I ask you, are you ready to pick the generation that witnesses first-hand the beginning of our end? The generation that finally pays the true price for carbon capitalism, and our insanity? Because by failing to act, now, we already have. We may never meet them. But they will surely remember us.

The American GOP: Spoon-feeding the rich, bankrupting the nation

Originally published June 2011.

The GOP has executed the largest transfer of wealth in U.S. history. Due to unfair tax schemes and an obsession for selling out to corporations while hobbling the middle class, the U.S. has record numbers of billionaires and people living in poverty.

The world’s most powerful political block is the U.S. Republican Party, a party that dominates American politics, is heavily funded by the world’s wealthiest corporations and individuals, and devoutly caters to their class. While progressive nations struggle with efforts to advance the quality of life for the average citizen, the U.S. Republican Party makes little effort to hide its true allegiance. In good economic times and bad, even in the face of dangerously high U.S. deficits, the Republican Party’s decades-old obsession is still to cut personal income taxes for the rich, cut corporate income taxes, cut capital gains taxes, and cut inheritance and estate taxes, all while slashing programs that benefit those truly in need.

After decades of fiscal mismanagement, the consequences are clear. Today the effective income tax on the wealthy is the lowest it’s been since 1932, nearly 80 years. The highest personal income tax rate is 35%, but because of numerous loopholes, most of which can only be used by the rich, the wealthiest Americans pay only 17 percent of their income in taxes (Atlantic Wire). The extension of the Bush tax cuts passed in 2010 will, on average, give $146,000 in annual tax savings to each of the wealthiest Americans. This is more than three times the income that the average American will earn in one year. (Mother Jones)

And it’s not just wealthy individuals. Despite trillions of dollars in sales, many highly successful of companies doing business in the United States pay no federal income taxes. This is because even though the corporate tax rate is set at 35%, the smorgasbord of Republican-favored loopholes and credits dramatically reduces or even eliminates the corporate tax bill. (Reuters News, New York times)

Two glaring examples are General Electric and Exxon-Mobil. In FY 2010 GE globally generated $149 billion in gross income and $13.8 billion in pretax income, with $5 billion of that earned in the U.S, but GE paid no federal income taxes. In fact, it recorded tax credits of more than $3 billion. Yes, American taxpayers gave GE $3.3 billion, almost the same amount that GE paid out in foreign taxes. (New York Times)

In 2010 Exxon-Mobil, the most profitable company in the world, earned over $30 billion in profits on gross revenue of over $350 billion and paid no U.S federal income taxes. In fact, the industry receives over $4 billion per year in direct taxpayer handouts to promote drilling – as if the energy industry needs to be motivated to drill. This contradiction is obscene. (New York Times)

Corporate taxes accounted for about 9 percent of all U.S federal revenue in 2010. At a paltry $191 billion, this is equal to only 1.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Other industrial countries collect roughly 2.5 percent of output, or twice what the United States collects. Compared to the rest of the world, corporations in the U.S. are under taxed by roughly half. Yet the Republicans insist on cutting corporate income taxes even more. (New York Times)


Nations are measured by the standard of living of their citizens, by factors like infant mortality, life expectancy, access to health care, income disparity between the rich and the poor, and real wage growth. Americans often claim proudly and naively that the U.S. leads the world in most of these metrics, but what are the facts?

Current tax laws, loopholes, and preferential legislation have made the richest Americans stratospherically wealthy, while middle-class wages have stagnated for decades and nearly 50 million Americans have slipped into poverty. Cuts to social programs such as student grants and low interest loans, child nutrition programs, low-income housing programs, and job re-training programs result in millions of lost opportunities to fundamentally change the status quo. In 1987, the average bonus on Wall Street was $30,000 (in today’s dollars). Shockingly, the average Wall Street bonus in 2007 was $180,000, a six-fold increase – while average American wages have stagnated.

Over the last 20 years, the average American’s income has remained flat, yet the wealth amassed by the rich has exploded. According to data from the Internal Revenue Service, in 2008, the top 3 percent of Americans earned nearly $25 trillion, equal to 30 percent of the total income earned in America. Additionally, the top 0.6 percent of returns, 1 million filers, accounted for nearly 18 percent of the nation’s total income, or $14 trillion.

The income gap between the rich and the poor is more severe today than at any time since the 1920s, just before the start of the Great Depression. According to the American CIA, income disparity is more severe in the United States than in 97 other countries, including China, Iran, Russia, Egypt, and all of Europe. Nearly 1 in 3 American working families is struggling just to meet basic needs. Except for the privileged top 3 percent, the United States is falling behind.

Fully 28,000 American children under one year of age die each year in the U.S. The infant death rate declined from 1950 until 2000, but has since remained at around 6.8 deaths per thousand births. In 2005, the U.S. was ranked 30th in the world for infant deaths, equal to Poland and Slovakia, and behind nearly all other industrialized nations including Canada, most of Europe, and Israel. The rate of infant deaths in Japan is 2.9, less than half of the U.S. rate. For the U.S, this is a travesty. (Reuters News)

According to data from the CIA, the U.S. ranks 50th in life expectancy against other nations, down from 11th place 25 years earlier. A person born in the United States in 2011 will live an average of 78.4 years, while the average age at death for a citizen in Macao is 84.4, and 89.7 in Monaco. (CIA World Fact Book)

Republican obsessions are not limited to giveaways to the wealthy. Following are some of the most recent examples of the long-term, legislative battle the party has waged on the health and well-being of the middle class and those suffering in poverty. One can go back decades and find hundreds of examples.

  • Senate Republicans block boost in minimum wageLos Angeles Times
  • Senate Republicans block minimum wage hikeReuters News
  • Republicans call for lowering, eliminating federal minimum wageExaminer
  • Republicans Block 9/11 Health-Care BillWall Street Journal. A bill to provide health care for sick Ground Zero workers failed a Senate vote, as Republicans remained united in opposition…
  • Republicans block child nutrition bill –  The Raw Story. Republicans block legislation to feed more children, improve school lunches.
  • GOP Senator Mike Lee of Utah: Federal ban on child labor is unconstitutional – The Raw Story. New Republican senator wants to throw out half-century-old child labor laws that have already been upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • House GOP Block Extension of Jobless BenefitsCBS News. Republicans in the House Thursday blocked a bill that would have extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed through the 2010 Christmas holiday season.
  • House Republicans want to cut WIC by 10%CNN. In the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, Republicans plan to cut funding for mothers in need of food assistance and related services provided by the federal Women Infants, and Children (WIC) nutritional program.
  • House Republicans’ Spending Bill Would Cut Pell GrantThe Chronicle. For millions of Americans, the only way out of a recession is education. However the Republicans pushed to cut the Pell Grant by $845 to each of the neediest students now, and make 1.7 million students ineligible for Pell Grants.
  • Republicans Move to Block COBRA Benefits ExtensionRollcall. GOP denies an extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA health care benefits to millions of unemployed.
  • GOP blocks Senate action on mine safety billCoal Tattoo. Following a decade that saw 70 deaths in six major coal mining disasters in the U.S., the Obama Administration proposed badly needed mine safety reforms. The Republicans quickly moved to block the rules, claiming they were too expensive and would hurt industry profits.
  • White House slams Republican offshore drilling billReuters News, May 2011… Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 and injured 17 workers and created the worst oil-related environmental disaster in world history, the Republicans moved to defeat new drilling safety reforms.
  • Republicans block investigation of BP oil spill – Examiner. In a stunning and grand display of irresponsibility and abuse of power, Senate Republicans blocked the subpoena power of the bipartisan commission investigating the infamous BP Oil spill. What possibly criminal behavior by BP officials did the Republicans not want to have discovered?
  • Republicans block attempt to repeal $21 billion in Big Oil subsidiesThink Progress. The oil industry is the most profitable in the world, yet the U.S. taxpayer subsidizes the industry to the tune of $21 billion. Republicans block Democratic attempts to eliminate these costly and completely unnecessary subsidies.
  • Republicans block Wall Street reform Following the most destructive meltdown in the American financial system since the Great Depression, senate Republicans worked to block a Democratic effort to bring needed reform and oversight to Wall Street. Who benefits? Possibly criminal bankers and investment houses.
  • Republicans Block Bill to Tax Firms That Export JobsNPR. Unbelievably, American companies are actually given tax breaks by the U.S. for sending job overseas. To correct this costly absurdity, Democrats proposed a Senate bill that would tax companies that send jobs overseas and reward those that bring them back. Republicans promptly blocked it.
  • Republicans block campaign finance disclosure billCNN. In the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that gave corporations and wealthy individuals the ability to secretly spend unlimited sums of money on political campaigns – thereby defeating over 100 years of U.S. campaign finance laws – the Democrats proposed the Disclose Act. The Act would have required the disclosure of all political contributors and their amounts. Of course, the Republicans reliably blocked passage of the Disclose Act.
  • Senate Republicans promise to block all legislation until Bush tax cuts are extended – Newsweek. Yes, you read it correctly. Republicans refused to consider all other legislation and effectively shutdown the U.S. Congress until the Democrats agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts. President Obama had already agreed to extend tax cuts for the middle class, but for the Republicans, tax cuts for the rich always take top priority.
  • Bachmann plan would cut veterans benefitsAir Force Times. Tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has unveiled a plan for cutting $400 billion in federal spending that includes cutting veteran’s disability payments.
  • The end of Medicare/Medicaid: Republican cuts target Medicaid, The Republican Medicare/Medicaid proposal would move seniors to private insurance carriers and eliminate Medicare and Medicaid as they currently exist.

Much of the decade’s increase in health care costs can be blamed on the insurance companies – the five largest carriers earned $11.7 billion in profits in 2010 – a staggering 51% increase since 2008. The Republicans think this is how health care should be managed for the entire country: Give it all to the insurance companies, who cut patient services, cancel policies when patients gets sick, push premiums through the roof, and pocket record profits and CEO bonuses. Republicans Protect Billions in Health Insurance

In such a severe recession, the millions of unemployed Americans who have lost health care, are barely living month-to-month, are unable to adequately feed their children, or are trying to advance through education, these millions of people are the least able to absorb cuts to services. Yet, the endless Republican drumbeat is to give away billions in tax cuts to the rich, who do not need the money, by slashing critically important social programs and exploding the federal debt. The stated Republican belief is that somehow, this free wealth will trickle down from the rich to the poor. This logic is not only absurd, it’s a callous expression of contempt for millions of Americans. And this dogma has been proved utterly false in this recession by a few simple facts: Many large corporations are now enjoying record profits but are NOT hiring because they have been able to squeeze even more productivity out of workers frightened of job loss. Businesses only hire when they absolutely must, not when they are moved by benevolence.

The giant tax refunds for the wealthy don’t go to purchase the necessities of rent, food, appliances, utilities, clothes, etc., but are simply invested in CDs, tax shelters, stocks, foreign investments, etc. These investments don’t stimulate the economy directly and may actually have a negative effect because money in foreign investments leaves the country. In fact, as reported in the Atlantic, testimony given by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found in September of 2010 that the $100 billion in tax cuts given to those with income above $250,000 would no affect on reducing the unemployment at all. None.

Based on Republican priorities, we can’t help the poorest among us to lift themselves up, but we can give $21 billion to the wealthiest companies on earth. We can’t help our own young people get through college, but we can give billions in tax cuts to the wealthiest who do not need the money. We can’t provide needed nutritional and medical assistance to unwed mothers or afford to pay full disability to our veterans, but we can buy a new $8 billion nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (

The rationale the Republicans use to keep throwing billions of dollars at the wealthiest while the nation sinks into economic despair is utterly broken, and decades of history prove it. And the message sent to our own fellow American citizens, many of them veterans of our ongoing wars? You don’t matter. This obstructionist, Republican dominated government simply does not work for you.

Failure to prosecute George W. Bush is America’s disgrace

Originally published March 2011.

A large body of information shows that the Bush Administration misrepresented most of the ‘evidence’ used to justify invading Iraq. Documents obtained under the FOIA reveal that neo-conservatives and Bush were planning the invasion years before 9-11.

In April of 2003, 148,000 American troops, 45,000 British troops, and small contingents from Australia and Poland mounted a massive military invasion of Iraq. To justify the war, the Bush Administration made repeated, urgent claims of Saddam Hussein’s capabilities to spread terror and his intentions to do so. America’s allies Canada, France, Germany, and Italy doubted the claims and refused to participate, and they were right. All of the major claims the Bush Administration made against Iraq were later proven to be false, and the administration made them with that knowledge. Additionally, recently released documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and available at George Washington University’s National Security Archives reveal that President Bush was obsessed with invading Iraq and began making plans to invade from day one of his administration. Records also show that Bush was heavily influenced by neo-conservatives who had been planning for the U.S. to invade Iraq for over a decade.

The claimed al Qaeda connection

The Bush Administration repeatedly accused Saddam Hussein of conspiring with al Qaeda, and indirectly, responsibility for 9-11. Making this connection was powerful because it leveraged deep American anger over 9/11. President Bush, The New York Times, 9/25/2002: ‘You can’t distinguish between al-Qaida and Saddam.’

Vice President Cheney: USA Today, 1/22/2004: ‘There’s overwhelming evidence there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government. I am very confident that there was an established relationship there.’

Vice President Cheney: Washington Post, 9/14/2003: ‘There was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda.’

President Bush: Seattle PI, 9/17/2003: ‘There’s no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties.’

President Bush to the UN: The New York Times, 9/23/2003: ‘The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction.’ And: ‘Iraq [is] the central front in the war on terror.’

Fact: There was no al Qaeda connection

The Europeans doubted the Iraq–al Qaeda connection before the invasion and resented American pressure to say otherwise. Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2002: ‘We have found no evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda,’ said a top European investigator. ‘If there were such links, we would have found them. But we have found no serious connections whatsoever.’

Following the invasion in April of 2003: The New York Times, 6/27/2003: ‘The chairman of the monitoring group appointed by the United Nations Security Council to track Al Qaeda told reporters that his team had found no evidence linking Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein.’

There never was solid evidence of a link: The New York Times, 1/9/2004 ‘Sec. of State Colin Powell conceded Thursday that despite his assertions to the United Nations last year, he had no ‘smoking gun’ proof of a link between the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and terrorists of al-Qaeda. ‘I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection,’ Powell said.’

Huffington Post, March 14, 2006: ‘Three former Bush Administration officials who worked on intelligence and national security issues said the prewar evidence tying Al Qaeda was tenuous, exaggerated and often at odds with the conclusions of key intelligence agencies.’ (author’s emphasis)

The Guardian, 3, 13, 2008: ‘A US military study officially acknowledged for the first time yesterday that Saddam Hussein had no direct ties to al-Qaida, undercutting the Bush Administration’s central case for war with Iraq.’

Bush Admin claims of Iraqi nuclear, biological and chemical weapons

Preceding the war, the Bush Administration worked feverishly to generate fear and justify the coming invasion. From March 24 of 2002 through July of 2003, on at least 17 separate occasions, the administration claimed to the world that Iraq was busy developing nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. But there were early, stark contradictions. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on February 24, 2001 that Saddam Hussein ‘has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.’ And on September 18, 2002, six months before the invasion, CIA Director George Tenet briefed George Bush on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not possess any weapons of mass destruction.

Facts would not derail the Bush Administration

Vice President Cheney: CNN, 3/24/2002: ‘[Saddam] is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time.’

Vice President Cheney: Bush White house Archives, 8/26/2002: ‘Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.’ Dick Cheney had a penchant for making the most outlandish, baseless claims. And American bought them.

National Security Advisor Rice: CNN, 9/8/2002: ‘We know that he has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon. And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought — maybe six months from a crude nuclear device. The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.’

National Security Adviser Rice: The Telegraph, 9/10/2002: ‘We do know that [Saddam] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon.’

On September 18, 2002, the CIA director George Tenet briefed George Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not possess any weapons of mass destruction. The Guardian, Turning truth into lies.

By this time, based on statements from European intelligence agencies and information from his own Director of the CIA George Tenet, and Sec. of State Colin Powell, President Bush must have known that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. But the Administration’s claims only grew more urgent. Either the intelligence agencies of the entire Western World, including the CIA, were incompetent, or the White house was lying. According to UN inspectors, no hard evidence was ever found to contradict Tenet’s briefing to the White house. In fact, there was never any solid, substantiated evidence to support any of the following claims.

President Bush: Washington Post, 9/26/2002: ‘The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons… And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes.’

President Bush: The Guardian, 10/7/2002: ‘Evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program…Iraq could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.’

Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld: Harper’s Magazine, 1/20/2003: ‘His regime has large, unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons — including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas; anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox — and he has an active program to acquire and develop nuclear weapons.’

President Bush: BBC, 1/28/2003: ‘The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.’ In this State of the Union message of January, 2003, President Bush claimed that Iraq had purchased large quantities of yellow cake uranium from Niger (which after extensive processing using high-technology equipment and knowledge that Iraq never had, could eventually be used to build a nuclear bomb). However, the CIA had warned President Bush a full ten months before this speech that the evidence of the uranium purchase was fraudulent. The only conclusion one can draw is that President Bush knowingly made false statements in his State of the Union message to take the America to war.

President Bush: Washington Post, 1/28/2003: ‘Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.’

Colin Powell: Harper’s Magazine, 2/5/2003: ‘There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more…Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets.’

Colin Powell before the U.N. Security Council: The New York Times. 2/8/2003: ‘Iraq has at least seven mobile factories for the production of biological agents – equipment mounted on trucks and rails to evade discovery.’ This famously absurd claim came from “Curveball”, an Iraqi defector who has since confessed that he lied to German intelligence about mobile bio-weapons labs. German intelligence had already determined that Curveball was a liar and his stories were fabrications, and shared this conclusion with the CIA before Powell’s speech to the U.N. But again, the Bush Administration used evidence that it must have already known was false.

VP Cheney: CNN, 3/16/2003: ‘We believe Saddam has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.’ This claim and others like it were simply ludicrous. A nuclear weapons program takes at least a decade to develop to the point of having an explosive device and the effort is detectable in the form of construction programs, truly illegal acquisitions from existing nuclear powers, the purchase of advanced processing equipment, and telltale emissions from these sites. Iraq was under tight scrutiny for a decade and any such program would have been discovered.

After months of lies and manufactured hysteria, Bush takes America to war

President Bush declares war, 3/19/2003: ‘The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.’

The following three claims reveal obsessive attachment to the lies, because no WMDs were ever found and the truth could well be damning -if the nation has the courage.

Sec of Defense Rumsfeld: U.S. Dept of Defense, 3/30/2003: ‘We know where the WMDs are.’

Colin Powell: PBS, 5/4/2003: ‘I’m absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We’re just getting it now.’

What can one say? President Bush: Bush White house Archives, 5/29/2003: ‘We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories.’ Of course, this never happened.

National Security Adviser Rice: Washington Post 7/11/2003: ‘Iraqis were actively trying to pursue a nuclear weapons program.’

But the White house knew there were no WMDs

Colin Powell: CBS News, 9/26/2003: Secretary of State Colin Powell stated on 2/24/01, two years before the war began, that Saddam Hussein ‘has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.’

The Guardian, Turning truth into lies. ‘On September 18, 2002, the CIA director George Tenet briefed George Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not possess any weapons of mass destruction.’

CBS News, 7/8/2003: ‘White House Admits WMD Error. Withdraws Claim That Iraq Tried To Buy Uranium From Africa.’ Of course this admission came well after the invasion. The intelligence community warned that the documents Bush planned to cite as evidence of the yellow cake uranium purchase were forgeries, but he used them regardless to support the lie.

Huffington Post. The International Atomic Energy Agency denounced documents purportedly proving yellow cake uranium purchases as forgeries before the invasion, but President Bush ignored the IAEA and America went to war. In the face of worldwide protests and contradicting evidence, Americans trusted their President and sent their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, to fight an illegal war.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), led by Hans Blix, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, led by Mohamed ElBaradei, scoured Iraq for WMD. These teams were forced out out the American-led invasion. But this is what they had to say:

CBS News, 9/8/2003: ‘UN International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei reiterated that his experts uncovered no signs of a nuclear weapons program before they withdrew from Iraq just before the war began in March.’

After the invasion, another team of inspectors called the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) was sent into Iraq to find the elusive WMD. David Kay, a weapons inspector after the first Gulf War, headed the ISQ. According to David Kay, Washington Post, 10/3/2003: ‘We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile biological weapons production effort. Technical limitations would prevent any of these processes from being ideally suited to these trailers.’

David Kay’s above statement regarding mobile bio-weapons labs confirmed what many people suspected when this absurd claim was made: Could anyone actually cram a complex, dangerous biological weapons laboratory, a lab that would need highly-sophisticated and delicate equipment, extremely pure supplies, isolation control areas, etc, into a trailer that was expected to then travel over Iraq’s desert roads? Absurd.

Weapons Inspector David Kay, Washington Post, 10/3/2003 ‘We have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material.’ And: ‘Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled chemical weapons program after 1991… Iraq’s large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new chemical weapon munitions was reduced – if not entirely destroyed – during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections.’

Bush’s own CIA: Salon, 9/6/2007: ‘Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.’ ‘Two former CIA officers say the president squelched top-secret intelligence and a briefing by George Tenet, months before invading Iraq.’

The Final Report by the Iraq Survey Group: The Duelfer Report, the final word on Iraq’s non-existent WMD program concluded that Iraq ceased all WMD efforts in 1991. The report told us what we already knew. Americans had been conned by their own president.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Bush planned well before 9-11 to invade Iraq

The most recent and most damning information comes largely from the U.S. government itself. Under the Freedom of Information Act, George Washington University has obtained and compiled a trove of information showing long-term planning and efforts by neo-conservatives during the 1990s and later by the Bush Administration to remove Saddam Hussein from power and seize Iraqi oil fields. A detailed Timeline and three part history show that George W. Bush was committed well before 9-11 to invading Iraq and worked obsessively to make it happen. The National Security Archives are a vital study of a successful conspiracy by a group of neo-conservatives and later the Bush Administration to decide years in advance to invade another country, fabricate the needed justification, manipulate news coverage and public perception of a national disaster (9-11), and throw the country into a highly-destructive, costly, long-term and illegal war. And the 9-11 disaster was irresistible for Bush because it provided the needed pretext.

Absurd claims about the war’s cost

Vice President Cheney claimed that the war would take ‘weeks, rather than months’. This claim was fantastic for its absurdness. A nation cannot possibly move half way around the world 140,000 soldiers and countless tanks, helicopters, armored personal carriers, resupply vehicles, food, fuel, munitions, naval air and support units, invade a country, subdue all military resistance, presumably install a new government, and depart in a matter of weeks. Dick Cheney seemed to relish making the most fantastic and truly absurd statements.

Secretary Rumsfeld low-balled the cost of the war to between $50 billion to $60 billion – to remove Hussein, restore order and install a new government. Contrary to their fantastically erroneous estimations, the war and ensuing occupation has gone on for over eight years. The direct cost of the war approaches $1 trillion and consequential costs resulting from the war will consume a staggering $2 trillion, with the final price tag of $3 trillion, or nearly 40 times more than the Bush Administration’s estimation. This may be the war that bankrupts America. See The Three Trillion Dollar War.

The human cost

More than anything else, the human cost is what matters, and it has been an epic nightmare. Over 6,000 coalition soldiers have died in Iraq. The American toll includes over 4,439 dead soldiers with 32,000 injured and permanently maimed. (See U.S. Dept. of Defense and CNN). Some Americans have been conditioned by our history to think that unless tens of thousands of our sons and daughters perish, the toll is ‘low’ and somehow acceptable. Over the last century, on average, America has engaged in a massively destructive, massively expensive war about once every ten years, and because these wars last several years, we are more often at war than not.

Iraqi dead and maimed

Many Americans seem oblivious to the toll the war has taken on the Iraqi people, and that toll has been truly brutal. Estimates of Iraqi civilian and combatant deaths range from an unlikely low of 100,000 to nearly 800,000 deaths from all causes related to the invasion and the ensuing civil war.

See Iraq, the Human Cost, a site managed by MIT.

In January of 2008, the World Health Organization put the Iraqi death toll at over 150,000, while the respected British journal, The Lancet placed the Iraqi death toll at between 425,000 and 800,000. (See Congressional Research Service.)

Higher estimations include all deaths from sectarian violence, conflict-related accidental deaths and murders by security contractors. Even if the number is “only” 150,000 that is 150,000 dead mothers, dead fathers, dead brothers, dead sisters, and dead children. Historically, the number injured in armed conflict and other disasters ranges from 3 to 10 times higher than the number of deaths. With 150,000 deaths as a baseline, this means that from at least 450,000 to possibly 1 million or more Iraqis were seriously injured and likely crippled from this war. The actual numbers may be far higher.

Iraqi widows and orphans

Add to this the hundreds of thousands of women made widows by the American invasion of Iraq. Estimates of their numbers vary widely and due to the two gulf wars Iraq has suffered, range as high as a million. But in Iraq the widows are everywhere, and most live in abject poverty. Most are also mothers and these helpless families suffer from a lack of services, malnutrition, and violence. See CNN: ‘”Women are the forgotten victims of Iraq,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs’

Then, of course, there are the orphans. These are the utterly innocent child victims, most of whom, by the way, will grow up one day. Note that the term ‘orphan’ applies in Arabic to any child whose father only or both parents have died. This tragedy has been all but ignored by the Western news media. The actual number of children orphaned by the second gulf war is not well established and estimates vary. However on January 21, 2008 the Iraqi Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs estimated that there were 500,000 orphans living on the streets without any home or family. These numbers result from two gulf wars and the ensuing civil war.

Iraq’s homeless now number in the millions

In a country of 27 million citizens, fully 7.5% of the population, two million people became refugees, fleeing the war’s carnage to neighboring countries. Since 2008, 100,000 refugees have attempted to return, but conditions are nearly as bad as when they left, with their previous homes often confiscated. These refugee’s lives are in shambles, relatives lost, homes lost, possessions lost, jobs lost.

A U.S. Government Accounting Office report of 12-2-2010, put the number of internally displaced Iraqis at at least 1.6 million. These are people whose homes have been destroyed, or who have been evicted by force and are now homeless in their own land. This brings the total number of persons who were forced to flee their homes by this war to a stunning 3.6 million or more, an epic human disaster by any measure, and the tragedy continues to this day.

It must be said that much of the toll on the Iraqi civilian population was due to the sectarian violence and civil war that erupted between Shia and Sunni populations, and reprisals for years of oppression under Saddam Hussein. However Bush ignored warnings from experts that an invasion of Iraq could ignite a bloody civil war, and the carnage that unfolded in Iraq is a direct result of the invasion. By invading Iraq, George W. Bush and Tony Blair brought on an human tragedy of historic dimensions.

America needs to face a terrible truth: The Bush Administration perpetrated a massive conspiracy to deceive and manipulate America and the world in order to illegally invade Iraq. This was not an accident. This was not some perfect storm of ignorance and incompetence. This was intentional, organized, and premeditated well before the 9-11 disaster. Even after all of the Bush Administration claims were proven to be false, other than Colin Powell’s weak statements, we have heard no regrets. There is no precedent in American history for an abuse of power with such scope and far-reaching impact on so many innocent victims. No truth was left sacred and no lie beyond the bounds. If this were a natural disaster, the world would be responding with aid. But this a man-made disaster and the true cost of the invasion of Iraq will be paid out for several decades.

The American public’s trust in their president is vital. George W. Bush demolished that trust. ‘Sempre Fi’ is the supreme commitment that Americans hold in the highest regard, and to perish for the country is a sacrifice unbounded. The President has a responsibility to honor those lives he is in charge of and never break that trust. The Bush Administration flagrantly violated that trust from the start. In its obsession to invade Iraq, the Bush Administration fabricated a pile of lies and cynically used American anger over 9-11 to throw the country into war. The Iraq war is searing testimony to President Bush’s unlimited arrogance and willingness to violate the law.

Unless we Americans act to hold the Bush Administration accountable, Bush’s disgrace becomes our own, and we invite a future abuse of power of equivalent or greater magnitude. What will history say of our failure to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute? Does our collective failure to act not indict us all?

A side note: In the lead up to the war and its early prosecution, Fox News, the mouthpiece of the Republican Party, blared the Bush Administration’s dire warnings to the nation and the world. Yet, while I searched and verified links to all the articles above, I could not find a single hit to a Fox News web page. Using the search function at, I finally found three articles still claiming the presence of WMD in Iraq. Other news organizations’ sites are rich with information, but except for speeches to the U.N and the State of the Union, Fox News has apparently purged from its servers most articles containing Bush Administration claims and statements countering those claims. History appears to be in revision at Fox News.

U.S. EPA enters the battle raging over massive Pebble Mine

Originally published February 2011.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced February 7, 2011 that it will review the consequences of the proposed massive Pebble Mine project on the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska

The EPA’s decision was welcomed by the many opponents of the mine and criticized by the mine’s supporters. The EPA’s announcement is in response to an urgent request from nine native tribes that depend on the Bristol Bay and its rivers for subsistence

What is Pebble Mine?

As reported in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere, the proposed Pebble Mine will be the largest mining operation of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, eventually extracting up to $300 billion worth of gold, copper and molybdenum from the undeveloped Alaskan wilderness. Pebble Mine is being developed by the Pebble Partnership, a venture between London-based global mining company Anglo American and Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. of Canada. What has thousands of Alaskans and many diverse groups alarmed is that massive Pebble Mine will be sited in the middle of a pristine watershed that feeds the most productive sockeye salmon fishery in the world: Bristol Bay.

As proposed, Pebble Mine will actually consist of two mining operations, Pebble West and Pebble East. Pebble West will be the largest open-pit mine in North America, with a pit two miles wide and at least 2000 feet deep. Pebble East will be a large underground block caving mine. The waste from this operation, roughly ten billion tons of highly-toxic effluent, spent ore, and mine tailings, will be forever contained in two toxic lakes covering ten square miles. These lakes, poisonous with sulfuric acid and heavy metals such as copper, chromium and arsenic, will be held behind four earthen dams. Two of these dams will be the largest in the world, dwarfing China’s Three Gorges Dam.

Pebble Mine will be easily visible from space. A 100-mile road and pipelines built for the project will transport supplies, highly-toxic ore slurry, and water between the mine site and a new deep-water port at Cook Inlet. Again, the port will be built for the Pebble Mine project. The operation will require as much energy as Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, and likely draw power from a dedicated, new power plant. Pebble Mine will be a leach mine and the common leach agent for such a mine is sodium cyanide. A mine of this size might use from 20 to 40 tons of sodium cyanide per month. This cyanide will be trucked 100 miles on a road that will cross streams and rivers and border pristine Iliamna Lake, which drains into Bristol Bay.

Pebble Mine promises to bring 2000 jobs during construction and up to 1000 jobs over the life of the mine (see Juneau Empire). However, Bristol Bay supports a regional commercial and sports fishery worth roughly $2.2 billion. The region teams with diverse wildlife including moose, caribou, grizzly bear, wolverines, seals, sea birds and bald eagles. And then there are the millions of salmon surging upstream to spawn. All of these animals require clean water. A spill from Pebble Mine could easily decimate the region, both environmentally and economically. But what are the odds?  Mining companies always promise to employ the best technologies and take the greatest possible care to keep their poisons out of the environment. So what is their track record?

Over 89% of such mines leak into the surrounding environment. Some of the world’s most horrific environmental disasters have come from mining operations. In January 2000 at an operation run by the Romanian-Australian firm AURUL, a containment dam similar to those proposed at Pebble Mine burst, resulting in a mammoth spill of toxic effluent. The spill poisoned the Szamos, Tisza, and Danube Rivers, exterminated aquatic life in over 150 miles of river systems and poisoned water supplies for communities (people) in Romania, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria. Hungary removed over 300 tons of dead fish from its rivers and Hungarian officials declared it the worst disaster since Chernobyl. (See New York Times and BBC News.)

In 1990, the Summitville Gold Mine in Colorado released a flood of cyanide, heavy metals, and sulfuric acid into the Alamosa River. The spill killed all aquatic life in over 17 miles of the river. The Canadian company, Galactic Resources, quickly filed for bankruptcy and abandoned the site. The mine is today a U.S. EPA Superfund site and to date, the EPA has spent over $250 million for ongoing clean-up and recovery. (See USGS.)

Robert Friedland, the former CEO of Galactic Resources, then formed Golden Star Resources and with another company, opened the Omai Gold Mine in Guyana. In 1995 the Omai Gold Mine released a major spill of cyanide and heavy metals into the Essequibo River, Guyana’s main river. The disaster killed many thousands of fish, the main food supply for people living along the river. President Cheddi Jagan of Guyana declared a 50-mile stretch of the river an Environmental Disaster Zone. (See Statement by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the Organization of American States) and Omai Gold Mine, Halifax Initiative). These are only a few of the disasters. There are many.

A large number of organizations and individuals have come out against Pebble Mine. These include Robert Redford, National Resources Defense Council, Bristol Bay Alliance, the Moore Foundation (endowed by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel Corporation), the New York Times, and a long list of retail jewelers.

The EPA’s obligation under the U.S. Clean Water Act is to stop any project that would have an “unacceptable adverse effect” on water quality and wildlife. However a new wrinkle may have entered the picture. On January 30, 2011, Alaskan Republican Congressman Don Young introduced a bill that if passed, would amend the Clean Water Act to remove the EPA’s ability to veto an Army Corps of Engineers decision regarding Clean Water Act Section 404 permits. This legislation was introduced in the 111th U.S. Congress as H.R. 5992.

According to Don Young: “Projects in Alaska and across the country have been shut down or delayed time and time again by the EPA, which serves only as an extension of the Administration’s anti-resource development stance. The Corps of Engineers is more than capable of making decisions regarding permitting without being second guessed. The EPA’s involvement in such permitting is unnecessary, and must be removed.”  According to Congressman Young, the EPA should not be involved with protecting the environment. Stay tuned.