Comcast Family Values

July 20, 2014 - Comments Off

This morning I received an email from Comcast Xfinity telling me about their program to pay a premium to current subscribers who bring in new subscribers.

Keep in mind that Comcast, already a huge and powerful corporation, is seeking to merge with Time-Warner to become a gigantic internet and entertainment provider, the largest in the United States, if I recall correctly.

I think it’s fair to assume that their advertising speaks to their mindset, to their values, to their morals. And I think we would do well to heed the thinking behind the slogan that headed the email. It said:

“The most valuable friends are the ones that make you money.”

Think on that.

Comcast already controls much of what you see and hear in the electronic media. They are seeking more control of more of that, as well as the destruction of  the internet neutrality that has up to now provided a fair shot to everyone who wants to use the Web.

“The most valuable friends are the ones that make you money.”

Is that the America you want?

-30-

The Lie That Won’t Die, And The Latest Liar Lying

March 27, 2014 - Comments Off

 

Published on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 by Common Dreams

Anger, Disbelief as Obama Defends US Invasion of Iraq
‘In order to not appear hypocritical, Obama rewrites history around Iraq War while denouncing Russia’
- Jon Queally, staff writer

President Barack Obama delivers a speech Palais des Beaux-Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels. (Reuters)

President Obama is on the receiving end of scorn for remarks made during a high-profile speech in Brussels on Wednesday in which he defended the U.S. invasion of Iraq in an attempt to chastise Russia for recent developments in Crimea and Ukraine.

Speaking to the international community about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and fending off repeated accusations that the U.S. has lost its moral authority given the invasion of Iraq and other breaches of international law in recent years, Obama said:

    “Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. Now, it is true that the Iraq war was a subject of vigorous debate, not just around the world but in the United States, as well. I participated in that debate, and I opposed our military intervention there.

    “But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.”

But instead of tamping down accusations of hypocrisy, Obama inflamed it.

Responding to the speech on FireDogLake, DSWright shot back: "Worked within the international system? So if Russia had gone to the UN to get a resolution, failed, then annexed Crimea it would have been OK?"

Reaction on Twitter was swift—and among those with a seemingly better memory of the devastation caused by the U.S. invasion of Iraq than the president—fierce:

Ross Caputi and Matt Howard, members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, spoke with Common Dreams by phone and said that President Obama’s argument was both weak factually and morally. As it happens, both IVAW members were together in Washington, DC on Wednesday, organizing an evening event focused on the devastating impacts of the Iraq War—both for veterans like themselves and the Iraqi civilian population—when they heard news about what the president had said.

"What President Obama said is false," said Caputi. "The U.S. did not attempt to work within the international system. We acted unilaterally, without the approval of the UN Security Council."

Howard said the president’s narrative on the events that led up to the Iraq invasion, inside or outside the context of Ukraine, was simply "not grounded in reality."

"We went from one lie, which was weapons of mass destruction, to another lie which was liberation and freedom," said Howard. Citing the devastation cited by Iraqi civil society allies, especially women in the country, he continued, "This idea that Iraq is somehow better off or that the U.S. waged a so-called ‘Good War’ is ridiculous."

In addition, argued Caputi, the U.S. did make very real and successful attempts to gain access to Iraqi resources, namely through the writing of the new Iraqi Constitution and aspects of the so-called "Bremer Orders," referring to Paul Bremer who was the U.S.-appointed Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq during the aftermath of the 2003 invasion. Those efforts "privatived Iraq’s formally nationalized energy resources," paving the way for foreign oil companies, including those from U.S., to gain coveted access to Iraq oil and gas fields.

The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim also made note of this false assertion by Obama regarding Iraqi "resources," writing:

  • In fact, the U.S. forced Iraq to privatize its oil industry, which had previously been under the control of the state, and further required that it accept foreign ownership of the industry. The effort to transfer the resources to the control of multinational, largely U.S.-based oil companies has been hampered in part by the decade of violence unleashed by the invasion.

    Obama’s assertion also hinges on how broadly one construes the word "our." Taxpayers on the one hand are worse off, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have added $2 trillion to the national debt, according to one study. But contractors reaped tremendous gains, and Halliburton — a company often associated with the invasion, of which former Vice President Dick Cheney served as CEO — saw its stock price surge from under $10 a share to over $50, before falling along with the rest of the market in 2008. (It has since recovered.)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

NB: The original article at CD contains a video of Obama’s speech.

“The laws of physics are non-negotiable.”

March 24, 2014 - Comments Off

That phrase should be ringing in everyone’s brain, all day, all night, 24/7.  It means you and the politicians can’t sit down at a big table across from the laws of physics and reach a sensible compromise. There’s no discussion, there’s no give-and-take, there’s no compromise possible. And given that humanity is doing, for all practical purposes, absolutely nothing to mitigate its role as primary contributor and cause of global disaster, you might as well consider yourself screwed, fucked, and the walking dead. If you have children or grandchildren you may rest assured they will die miserably and they will curse you and your generation for its greed and its stupidity and its arrogance.

Have a nice day.

Published on Monday, March 24, 2014 by Common Dreams

Most Extreme Weather ‘Virtually Impossible’ Without Man-Made Warming

13 of the 14 warmest years on record occured in 21st century

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Satellite image of Typhoon Haiyan prior to landfall (NOAA)

Extreme weather systems wreaking havoc across the world would have been "virtually impossible" without man-made climate change, says a report released Monday by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

This year’s report, released annually by the WMO, also states unequivocally that the world has warmed dramatically over the last one hundred years and continues to heat up.

According to the report, 13 of the 14 warmest years on record all occurred in the 21st century. 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record, in a tie with 2007. Over the last 30 years, each decade has been warmer than the last, "culminating with 2001-2010 as the warmest decade on record," said the WMO.

While natural disasters would occur regardless of climate change and have been historically exacerbated my natural changes in weather patterns, this human-induced warming is quickly magnifying those events and making them far worse than they would have been without anthropogenic causes, explained Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO.

A primary example given by the scientists is the record hot Australian summer of 2012/13. "Comparing climate model simulations with and without human factors shows that the record hot Australian summer of 2012/13 was about five times as likely as a result of human-induced influence on climate and that the record hot calendar year of 2013 would have been virtually impossible without human contributions of heat-trapping gases, illustrating that some extreme events are becoming much more likely due to climate change,” the study concludes.

"Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change," Jarraud said. "We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea level rise — as Typhoon Haiyan so tragically demonstrated in the Philippines."

Among the list of events ‘consistent’ with human-induced climate change, the scientists list:

  • Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, devastated parts of the central Philippines.
  • Surface air temperatures over land in the Southern Hemisphere were very warm, with widespread heat waves; Australia saw record warmth for the year, and Argentina its second warmest year and New Zealand its third warmest.
  • Frigid polar air plummeted into parts of Europe and the southeast United States.
  • Angola, Botswana and Namibia were gripped by severe drought.
  • Heavy monsoon rains led to severe floods on the India-Nepal border.
  • Heavy rains and floods impacted northeast China and the eastern Russian Federation.
  • Heavy rains and floods affected Sudan and Somalia.
  • Major drought affected southern China.
  • Northeastern Brazil experienced its worst drought in the past 50 years.
  • The widest tornado ever observed struck El Reno, Oklahoma in the United States.
  • Extreme precipitation led to severe floods in Europe’s Alpine region and in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.
  • Israel, Jordan, and Syria were struck by unprecedented snowfall.
  • Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached record highs.
  • The global oceans reached new record high sea levels.
  • The Antarctic sea ice extent reached a record daily maximum.

Additionally, “there is no standstill in global warming,” said Jarraud, in response to claims that global warming has slowed down, or paused in recent years. "The warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths. More than 90 percent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. Levels of these greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.”

______________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

To clarify that last item on the list, from Scientific American: “Antarctica experienced its second-largest minimum sea-ice extent during the melt season in 2013 and, during the growth season, the largest sea-ice extent since records began in 1979.”

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda. Didn’t. Please Pay The Piper.

March 20, 2014 - Comments Off

 

Published on Thursday, March 20, 2014 by Common Dreams

40 Years On: ‘It’s Time We Start Listening’ to Global Warming Prediction

Paper written four decades ago warned of global warming, accurately predicted temperature rise

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

NOAA handout satellite image of Hurricane Sandy taken on October 27, 2012 (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce)

Citing a peer reviewed scientific paper written over 40 years ago that clearly demonstrated the dangers of human-made carbon pollution and accurately predicted it would create a future of global warming, Dana Nuccitelli at the Guardian points out Thursday that "perhaps it’s about time that we start listening" to climate scientists.

The paper, written by renowned British meteorologist John Stanley Sawyer and published in the journal Nature (pdf) in 1972, estimated that carbon dioxide levels would increase 25 percent by 2000 from 1850 levels and that global average surface temperatures would rise by 0.6°C.

Sawyer’s numbers were just about dead on, Nuccitelli reports.

The rise in human-made carbon pollution and increase in temperature were undeniably related, Sawyer warned, and would cause changes in weather and wind patterns around the world.

A recent reading from the he carbon dioxide monitoring program at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography showed atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide temporarily surpassed 400 parts per million two months earlier than last year. Ralph Keeling at the institute warned it is only a matter of time before the atmosphere permanently maintains those levels, which climate scientists have long said the earth cannot withstand without tipping the scales against human life once and for all.

Sawyer and his colleagues saw this coming four decades ago.

"Bolin has estimated that the concentration of carbon dioxide will be about 400 ppm by the year 2000," wrote Sawyer. "A recent conference put the figure somewhat lower (375 ppm)."

The year 2000 saw carbon around 370 ppm, which has gone up since, and, as Keeling warns, may soon permanently surpass the tipping point.

"Industrial development has recently been proceeding at an increasing rate so that the output of man-made carbon dioxide has been increasing more or less exponentially," wrote Sawyer. "So long as the carbon dioxide output continues to increase exponentially, it is reasonable to assume that about the same proportion as at present (about half) will remain in the atmosphere and about the same amount will go into the other reservoirs."

While half of the carbon adds to the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere, the rest is absorbed in the ocean and biosphere, Sawyer accurately noted. Hence, this relentless excess of carbon has also led to what scientists are now calling global warming’s "evil twin"—the acidification of the world’s oceans.

"All in all, Sawyer’s 1972 paper demonstrated a solid understanding of the fundamental workings of the global climate, and included a remarkably accurate prediction of global warming over the next 30 years," writes Nuccitelli. "Sawyer’s paper was followed by similarly accurate global warming predictions by Wallace Broecker in 1975 and James Hansen in 1981."

______________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Don’t You Love The Smell Of Carbon In The Morning?

March 18, 2014 - Comments Off

 

Published on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by Common Dreams

400 PPM: ‘Just a Matter of Time’ Before We Cross Climate Threshold ‘Forever’

Fossil fuel burning increasing greenhouse gases to levels ‘not seen in human history’

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

The graph known as the Keeling Curve shows steady rise in carbon dioxide and seasonal variations (NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory/Scripps Institute of Oceanography)Climate scientists have long said that the earth cannot withstand more than 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for very long without tipping the scales against human life once and for all.

And according to Ralph Keeling, who runs the carbon dioxide monitoring program at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, that atmospheric concentration was recorded last week for the first time this year, two months earlier than last. Now, warns Keeling, it is only a matter of time before the atmosphere permanently maintains those levels.

"We’re already seeing values over 400. Probably we’ll see values dwelling over 400 in April and May. It’s just a matter of time before it stays over 400 forever,” said Keeling whose team at Scripps have taken daily measurements from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since March 1958 when carbon was at 313 ppm.

The 400 parts per million threshold was first recorded during a brief moment in the month of May last year, notes Brian Kahn at Climate Central. It was the first time carbon levels had reached that high in human history.

But as Robert Monroe writes on Keeling’s blog, "Fossil fuel burning continues to increase concentrations of the greenhouse gas to levels not seen in human history and not in perhaps as many as 3 to 5 million years."

According to Monroe:

Instruments at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide greater than 400 parts per million on March 12, 2014 nearly two months earlier than the date on which the milestone was passed in 2013.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, reported a reading of 401.62 ppm on March 12 and a reading of 400.2 on March 13. Readings by instruments operated by NOAA also exceeded 400 ppm on those days.

In a related story on Tuesday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) released a series of key messages and videos calling on Americans to wake up to the threat of climate change, which is likely to cause "abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible" changes to the world’s ecosystems and subsequently the lives of billions of people. Americans must act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst case climate-change scenario, the scientists warn.

______________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Get Your Fresh Dead Scallops Here! With A Tasty Side Of Carbon!

March 18, 2014 - Comments Off

 

Published on Monday, March 17, 2014 by Common Dreams

Mass Scallop Die Off a ‘Red Flag’ for the World’s Oceans

Rise of carbon in the atmosphere raising acidity in oceans and causing ‘cascading effect’ at all levels of the food chain

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

(Flickr / thumeco / Creative Commons License)

An increase of acidity in the Pacific Ocean is quickly killing off one of the world’s most beloved shellfish, the scallop, according to a report by the British Columbia Shellfish Grower’s Association.

“By June of 2013, we lost almost 95 per cent of our crops,” Rob Saunders, CEO of Island Scallops in B.C. told Canada’s CTV News.

The cause of this increase in acidity, scientists say, is the exponential burning of fossil fuels for energy and its subsequent pollution. Oceans naturally absorb carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fossil fuel emissions, which causes acidity to rise.

An overdose of carbon in the atmosphere subsequently causes too much acidity in the world’s oceans, Chris Harley, a marine ecologist from the University of British Columbia, told CTV News. Overly acidic water is bad for shellfish, as it impairs them from developing rigid shells. Oyster hatcheries along the West Coast are also experiencing a steep decline, CTV News reports.

“This is a bit of a red flag,” said Harley.

And this red flag has a much bigger impact than one might imagine. “Whenever we see an impact at some level of the food chain, there is a cascading effect at other levels of the food chain,” said Peter Ross, an expert in ocean pollution science.

A recent study warned that ocean acidification is accelerating at a rate unparalleled in the life of the oceans—perhaps the fastest rate in the planet’s existence—which is degrading marine ecosystems on a mass scale.

"The current rate of change is likely to be more than 10 times faster than it has been in any of the evolutionary crises in the earth’s history," said German marine biologist Hans Poertner upon the release of a recent study published in the journal Nature.

Ocean acidification has been referred to as the "evil twin" of climate change.

Poertner says that if humanity’s industrial carbon emissions continue with a "business as usual" attitude, levels of acidity in the world’s oceans will be catastrophic.

______________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Not Global Catastrophe Or Politics. Just Kissing…

March 11, 2014 - Comments Off

Here’s a fun little bit from Digg. And stay for the credits.

Truthtelling, At Long Last

March 7, 2014 - Comments Off

Long, but well worth reading…

Published on Friday, March 7, 2014 by Common Dreams

What Europe Should Know about US Mass Surveillance

Whistleblower delivers written testimony to European Parliament

by Edward Snowden

Common Dreams editor’s note: What follows is a statement addressed to an investigative panel of the European Parliament looking into the nature and scope of U.S. surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency and its partner agencies in Europe. Subsequent to the statement are specific answers to written questions posed by the panel to Mr. Snowden. The original statement from which this was reproduced is available here as a pdf.

–Introductory Statement–

I would like to thank the European Parliament for the invitation to provide testimony for your inquiry into the Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens. The suspicionless surveillance programs of the NSA, GCHQ, and so many others that we learned about over the last year endanger a number of basic rights which, in aggregate, constitute the foundation of liberal societies.Whistleblower Edward Snowden. (Photograph by Barton Gellman/Getty)

The first principle any inquiry must take into account is that despite extraordinary political pressure to do so, no western government has been able to present evidence showing that such programs are necessary. In the United States, the heads of our spying services once claimed that 54 terrorist attacks had been stopped by mass surveillance, but two independent White House reviews with access to the classified evidence on which this claim was founded concluded it was untrue, as did a Federal Court.

Looking at the US government’s reports here is valuable. The most recent of these investigations, performed by the White House’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, determined that the mass surveillance program investigated was not only ineffective — they found it had never stopped even a single imminent terrorist attack — but that it had no basis in law. In less diplomatic language, they discovered the United States was operating an unlawful mass surveillance program, and the greatest success the program had ever produced was discovering a taxi driver in the United States transferring $8,500 dollars to Somalia in 2007.

After noting that even this unimpressive success – uncovering evidence of a single unlawful bank transfer — would have been achieved without bulk collection, the Board recommended that the unlawful mass surveillance program be ended. Unfortunately, we know from press reports that this program is still operating today.

I believe that suspicionless surveillance not only fails to make us safe, but it actually makes us less safe. By squandering precious, limited resources on "collecting it all," we end up with more analysts trying to make sense of harmless political dissent and fewer investigators running down real leads. I believe investing in mass surveillance at the expense of traditional, proven methods can cost lives, and history has shown my concerns are justified.

Despite the extraordinary intrusions of the NSA and EU national governments into private communications world-wide, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "Underwear Bomber," was allowed to board an airplane traveling from Europe to the United States in 2009. The 290 persons on board were not saved by mass surveillance, but by his own incompetence, when he failed to detonate the device. While even Mutallab’s own father warned the US government he was dangerous in November 2009, our resources were tied up monitoring online games and tapping German ministers. That extraordinary tip-off didn’t get Mutallab a dedicated US investigator. All we gave him was a US visa.

Nor did the US government’s comprehensive monitoring of Americans at home stop the Boston Bombers. Despite the Russians specifically warning us about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the FBI couldn’t do more than a cursory investigation — although they did plenty of worthless computer-based searching – and failed to discover the plot. 264 people were injured, and 3 died. The resources that could have paid for a real investigation had been spent on monitoring the call records of everyone in America.

This should not have happened. I worked for the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency. The National Security Agency. The Defense Intelligence Agency. I love my country, and I believe that spying serves a vital purpose and must continue. And I have risked my life, my family, and my freedom to tell you the truth.

The NSA granted me the authority to monitor communications world-wide using its mass surveillance systems, including within the United States. I have personally targeted individuals using these systems under both the President of the United States’ Executive Order 12333 and the US Congress’ FAA 702. I know the good and the bad of these systems, and what they can and cannot do, and I am telling you that without getting out of my chair, I could have read the private communications of any member of this committee, as well as any ordinary citizen. I swear under penalty of perjury that this is true.

These are not the capabilities in which free societies invest. Mass surveillance violates our rights, risks our safety, and threatens our way of life.

If even the US government, after determining mass surveillance is unlawful and unnecessary, continues to operate to engage in mass surveillance, we have a problem. I consider the United States Government to be generally responsible, and I hope you will agree with me. Accordingly, this begs the question many legislative bodies implicated in mass surveillance have sought to avoid: if even the US is willing to knowingly violate the rights of billions of innocents — and I say billions without exaggeration — for nothing more substantial than a "potential" intelligence advantage that has never materialized, what are other governments going to do?

Whether we like it or not, the international norms of tomorrow are being constructed today, right now, by the work of bodies like this committee. If liberal states decide that the convenience of spies is more valuable than the rights of their citizens, the inevitable result will be states that are both less liberal and less safe. Thank you.

I will now respond to the submitted questions. Please bear in mind that I will not be disclosing new information about surveillance programs: I will be limiting my testimony to information regarding what responsible media organizations have entered into the public domain. For the record, I also repeat my willingness to provide testimony to the United States Congress, should they decide to consider the issue of unconstitutional mass surveillance.

–Rapporteur Claude Moraes MEP, S&D Group–

Given the focus of this Inquiry is on the impact of mass surveillance on EU citizens, could you elaborate on the extent of cooperation that exists between the NSA and EU Member States in terms of the transfer and collection of bulk data of EU citizens?

- A number of memos from the NSA’s Foreign Affairs Directorate have been published in the press.

One of the foremost activities of the NSA’s FAD, or Foreign Affairs Division, is to pressure or incentivize EU member states to change their laws to enable mass surveillance. Lawyers from the NSA, as well as the UK’s GCHQ, work very hard to search for loopholes in laws and constitutional protections that they can use to justify indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance operations that were at best unwittingly authorized by lawmakers. These efforts to interpret new powers out of vague laws is an intentional strategy to avoid public opposition and lawmakers’ insistence that legal limits be respected, effects the GCHQ internally described in its own documents as "damaging public debate."

In recent public memory, we have seen these FAD "legal guidance" operations occur in both Sweden and the Netherlands, and also faraway New Zealand. Germany was pressured to modify its G-10 law to appease the NSA, and it eroded the rights of German citizens under their constitution. Each of these countries received instruction from the NSA, sometimes under the guise of the US Department of Defense and other bodies, on how to degrade the legal protections of their countries’ communications. The ultimate result of the NSA’s guidance is that the right of ordinary citizens to be free from unwarranted interference is degraded, and systems of intrusive mass surveillance are being constructed in secret within otherwise liberal states, often without the full awareness of the public.

Once the NSA has successfully subverted or helped repeal legal restrictions against unconstitutional mass surveillance in partner states, it encourages partners to perform “access operations.” Access operations are efforts to gain access to the bulk communications of all major telecommunications providers in their jurisdictions, normally beginning with those that handle the greatest volume of communications. Sometimes the NSA provides consultation, technology, or even the physical hardware itself for partners to "ingest" these massive amounts of data in a manner that allows processing, and it does not take long to access everything. Even in a country the size of the United States, gaining access to the circuits of as few as three companies can provide access to the majority of citizens’ communications. In the UK, Verizon, British Telecommunications, Vodafone, Global Crossing, Level 3, Viatel, and Interoute all cooperate with the GCHQ, to include cooperation beyond what is legally required.

By the time this general process has occurred, it is very difficult for the citizens of a country to protect the privacy of their communications, and it is very easy for the intelligence services of that country to make those communications available to the NSA — even without having explicitly shared them. The nature of the NSA’s "NOFORN," or NO FOREIGN NATIONALS classification, when combined with the fact that the memorandum agreements between NSA and its foreign partners have a standard disclaimer stating they provide no enforceable rights, provides both the NSA with a means of monitoring its partner’s citizens without informing the partner, and the partner with a means of plausible deniability.

The result is a European bazaar, where an EU member state like Denmark may give the NSA access to a tapping center on the (unenforceable) condition that NSA doesn’t search it for Danes, and Germany may give the NSA access to another on the condition that it doesn’t search for Germans. Yet the two tapping sites may be two points on the same cable, so the NSA simply captures the communications of the German citizens as they transit Denmark, and the Danish citizens as they transit Germany, all the while considering it entirely in accordance with their agreements. Ultimately, each EU national government’s spy services are independently hawking domestic accesses to the NSA, GCHQ, FRA, and the like without having any awareness of how their individual contribution is enabling the greater patchwork of mass surveillance against ordinary citizens as a whole.

The Parliament should ask the NSA and GCHQ to deny that they monitor the communications of EU citizens, and in the absence of an informative response, I would suggest that the current state of affairs is the inevitable result of subordinating the rights of the voting public to the prerogatives of State Security Bureaus. The surest way for any nation to become subject to unnecessary surveillance is to allow its spies to dictate its policy.

The right to be free unwarranted intrusion into our private effects — our lives and possessions, our thoughts and communications — is a human right. It is not granted by national governments and it cannot be revoked by them out of convenience. Just as we do not allow police officers to enter every home to fish around for evidence of undiscovered crimes, we must not allow spies to rummage through our every communication for indications of disfavored activities.

Could you comment on the activities of EU Member States intelligence agencies in these operations and how advanced their capabilities have become in comparison with the NSA?

- The best testimony I can provide on this matter without pre-empting the work of journalists is to point to the indications that the NSA not only enables and guides, but shares some mass surveillance systems and technologies with the agencies of EU member states. As it pertains to the issue of mass surveillance, the difference between, for example, the NSA and FRA is not one of technology, but rather funding and manpower. Technology is agnostic of nationality, and the flag on the pole outside of the building makes systems of mass surveillance no more or less effective.

In terms of the mass surveillance programmes already revealed through the press, what proportion of the mass surveillance activities do these programmes account for? Are there many other programmes, undisclosed as of yet, that would impact on EU citizens rights?

- There are many other undisclosed programs that would impact EU citizens’ rights, but I will leave the public interest determinations as to which of these may be safely disclosed to responsible journalists in coordination with government stakeholders.

–Shadow Rapporteur Sophie Int’Veld MEP, ALDE Group–

Are there adequate procedures in the NSA for staff to signal wrongdoing?

- Unfortunately not. The culture within the US Intelligence Community is such that reporting serious concerns about the legality or propriety of programs is much more likely to result in your being flagged as a troublemaker than to result in substantive reform. We should remember that many of these programs were well known to be problematic to the legal offices of agencies such as the GCHQ and other oversight officials. According to their own documents, the priority of the overseers is not to assure strict compliance with the law and accountability for violations of law, but rather to avoid, and I quote, "damaging public debate," to conceal the fact that for-profit companies have gone "well beyond" what is legally required of them, and to avoid legal review of questionable programs by open courts. (http://www.theguardian.com/uk- news/2013/oct/25/leaked-memos-gchq-mass-surveillance-secret-snowden) In my personal experience, repeatedly raising concerns about legal and policy matters with my co-workers and superiors resulted in two kinds of responses.

The first were well-meaning but hushed warnings not to "rock the boat," for fear of the sort of retaliation that befell former NSA whistleblowers like Wiebe, Binney, and Drake. All three men reported their concerns through the official, approved process, and all three men were subject to armed raids by the FBI and threats of criminal sanction. Everyone in the Intelligence Community is aware of what happens to people who report concerns about unlawful but authorized operations.

The second were similarly well-meaning but more pointed suggestions, typically from senior officials, that we should let the issue be someone else’s problem. Even among the most senior individuals to whom I reported my concerns, no one at NSA could ever recall an instance where an official complaint had resulted in an unlawful program being ended, but there was a unanimous desire to avoid being associated with such a complaint in any form.

Do you feel you had exhausted all avenues before taking the decision to go public?

- Yes. I had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them. As an employee of a private company rather than a direct employee of the US government, I was not protected by US whistleblower laws, and I would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information about lawbreaking in accordance with the recommended process.

It is important to remember that this is legal dilemma did not occur by mistake. US whistleblower reform laws were passed as recently as 2012, with the US Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, but they specifically chose to exclude Intelligence Agencies from being covered by the statute. President Obama also reformed a key executive Whistleblower regulation with his 2012 Presidential Policy Directive 19, but it exempted Intelligence Community contractors such as myself. The result was that individuals like me were left with no proper channels.

Do you think procedures for whistleblowing have been improved now?

- No. There has not yet been any substantive whistleblower reform in the US, and unfortunately my government has taken a number of disproportionate and persecutory actions against me. US government officials have declared me guilty of crimes in advance of any trial, they’ve called for me to be executed or assassinated in private and openly in the press, they revoked my passport and left me stranded in a foreign transit zone for six weeks, and even used NATO to ground the presidential plane of Evo Morales – the leader of Bolivia – on hearing that I might attempt to seek and enjoy asylum in Latin America.

What is your relationship with the Russian and Chinese authorities, and what are the terms on which you were allowed to stay originally in Hong Kong and now in Russia?

- I have no relationship with either government.

–Shadow Rapporteur Jan Philipp Albrecht MEP, Greens Group–

Could we help you in any way, and do you seek asylum in the EU?

- If you want to help me, help me by helping everyone: declare that the indiscriminate, bulk collection of private data by governments is a violation of our rights and must end. What happens to me as a person is less important than what happens to our common rights.

As for asylum, I do seek EU asylum, but I have yet to receive a positive response to the requests I sent to various EU member states. Parliamentarians in the national governments have told me that the US, and I quote, "will not allow" EU partners to offer political asylum to me, which is why the previous resolution on asylum ran into such mysterious opposition. I would welcome any offer of safe passage or permanent asylum, but I recognize that would require an act of extraordinary political courage.

Can you confirm cyber-attacks by the NSA or other intelligence agencies on EU institutions, telecommunications providers such as Belgacom and SWIFT, or any other EU-based companies?

- Yes. I don’t want to outpace the efforts of journalists, here, but I can confirm that all documents reported thus far are authentic and unmodified, meaning the alleged operations against Belgacom, SWIFT, the EU as an institution, the United Nations, UNICEF, and others based on documents I provided have actually occurred. And I expect similar operations will be revealed in the future that affect many more ordinary citizens.

–Shadow Rapporteur Cornelia Ernst MEP, GUE Group–

In your view, how far can the surveillance measures you revealed be justified by national security and from your experience is the information being used for economic espionage? What could be done to resolve this?

- Surveillance against specific targets, for unquestionable reasons of national security while respecting human rights, is above reproach. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a growth in untargeted, extremely questionable surveillance for reasons entirely unrelated to national security. Most recently, the Prime Minister of Australia, caught red-handed engaging in the most blatant kind of economic espionage, sought to argue that the price of Indonesian shrimp and clove cigarettes was a "security matter." These are indications of a growing disinterest among governments for ensuring intelligence activities are justified, proportionate, and above all accountable. We should be concerned about the precedent our actions set.

The UK’s GCHQ is the prime example of this, due to what they refer to as a "light oversight regime," which is a bureaucratic way of saying their spying activities are less restricted than is proper (http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/21/legal-loopholes-gchq-spy-world). Since that light oversight regime was revealed, we have learned that the GCHQ is intercepting and storing unprecedented quantities of ordinary citizens’ communications on a constant basis, both within the EU and without http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/21/gchq-cables-secret- world-communications-nsa). There is no argument that could convince an open court that such activities were necessary and proportionate, and it is for this reason that such activities are shielded from the review of open courts.

In the United States, we use a secret, rubber-stamp Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that only hears arguments from the government. Out of approximately 34,000 government requests over 33 years, the secret court rejected only 11. It should raise serious concerns for this committee, and for society, that the GCHQ’s lawyers consider themselves fortunate to avoid the kind of burdensome oversight regime that rejects 11 out of 34,000 requests. If that’s what heavy oversight looks like, what, pray tell, does the GCHQ’s "light oversight" look like?

Let’s explore it. We learned only days ago that the GCHQ compromised a popular Yahoo service to collect images from web cameras inside citizens’ homes, and around 10% of these images they take from within people’s homes involve nudity or intimate activities (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/27/gchq-nsa-webcam-images-inte…). In the same report, journalists revealed that this sort of webcam data was searchable via the NSA’s XKEYSCORE system, which means the GCHQ’s "light oversight regime" was used not only to capture bulk data that is clearly of limited intelligence value and most probably violates EU laws, but to then trade that data with foreign services without the knowledge or consent of any country’s voting public.

We also learned last year that some of the partners with which the GCHQ was sharing this information, in this example the NSA, had made efforts to use evidence of religious conservatives’ association with sexually explicit material of the sort GCHQ was collecting as a grounds for destroying their reputations and discrediting them (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/nsa-porn-muslims_n_4346128.html). The "Release to Five Eyes" classification of this particular report, dated 2012, reveals that the UK government was aware of the NSA’s intent to use sexually explicit material in this manner, indicating a deepening and increasingly aggressive partnership. None of these religious conservatives were suspected of involvement in terrorist plots: they were targeted on the basis of their political beliefs and activism, as part of a class the NSA refers to as "radicalizers."

I wonder if any members of this committee have ever advocated a position that the NSA, GCHQ, or even the intelligence services of an EU member state might attempt to construe as "radical"? If you were targeted on the basis of your political beliefs, would you know? If they sought to discredit you on the basis of your private communications, could you discover the culprit and prove it was them? What would be your recourse?

And you are parliamentarians. Try to imagine the impact of such activities against ordinary citizens without power, privilege, or resources. Are these activities necessary, proportionate, and an unquestionable matter of national security? A few weeks ago we learned the GCHQ has hired scientists to study how to create divisions amongst activists and disfavored political groups, how they attempt to discredit and destroy private businesses, and how they knowingly plant false information to misdirect civil discourse (https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/02/24/jtrig-manipulation/).

To directly answer your question, yes, global surveillance capabilities are being used on a daily basis for the purpose of economic espionage. That a major goal of the US Intelligence Community is to produce economic intelligence is the worst kept secret in Washington.

In September, we learned the NSA had successfully targeted and compromised the world’s major financial transaction facilitators, such as Visa and SWIFT, which released documents describe as providing "rich personal information," even data that "is not about our targets" (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-exclusive-nsa-spies-on… transactions-a-922276.html). Again, these documents are authentic and unmodified – a fact the NSA itself has never once disputed.

In August, we learned the NSA had targeted Petrobras, an energy company (http://g1.globo.com/fantastico/noticia/2013/09/nsa-documents-show-united… brazilian-oil-giant.html). It would be the first of a long list of US energy targets. But we should be clear these activities are not unique to the NSA or GCHQ. Australia’s DSD targeted Sri Mulyani Indrawati, a finance minister and Managing Director of the World Bank (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/18/australia-tried-to-monitor-… presidents-phone). Report after report has revealed targeting of G-8 and G-20 summits. Mass surveillance capabilities have even been used against a climate change summit.

Recently, governments have shifted their talking points from claiming they only use mass surveillance for "national security" purposes to the more nebulous "valid foreign intelligence purposes." I suggest this committee consider that this rhetorical shift is a tacit acknowledgment by governments that they recognize they have crossed beyond the boundaries of justifiable activities. Every country believes its "foreign intelligence purposes" are "valid," but that does not make it so. If we are prepared to condemn the economic spying of our competitors, we must be prepared to do the same of our allies. Lasting peace is founded upon fundamental fairness.

The international community must agree to common standards of behavior, and jointly invest in the development of new technical standards to defend against mass surveillance. We rely on common systems, and the French will not be safe from mass surveillance until Americans, Argentines, and Chinese are as well.

The good news is that there are solutions. The weakness of mass surveillance is that it can very easily be made much more expensive through changes in technical standards: pervasive, end-to-end encryption can quickly make indiscriminate surveillance impossible on a cost- effective basis. The result is that governments are likely to fall back to traditional, targeted surveillance founded upon an individualized suspicion. Governments cannot risk the discovery of their exploits by simply throwing attacks at every "endpoint," or computer processor on the end of a network connection, in the world. Mass surveillance, passive surveillance, relies upon unencrypted or weakly encrypted communications at the global network level.

If there had been better independent and public oversight over the intelligence agencies, do you think this could have prevented this kind of mass surveillance? What conditions would need to be fulfilled, both nationally and internationally?

- Yes, better oversight could have prevented the mistakes that brought us to this point, as could an understanding that defense is always more important than offense when it comes to matters of national intelligence. The intentional weakening of the common security standards upon which we all rely is an action taken against the public good.

The oversight of intelligence agencies should always be performed by opposition parties, as under the democratic model, they always have the most to lose under a surveillance state. Additionally, we need better whistleblower protections, and a new commitment to the importance of international asylum. These are important safeguards that protect our collective human rights when the laws of national governments have failed.

European governments, which have traditionally been champions of human rights, should not be intimidated out of standing for the right of asylum against political charges, of which espionage has always been the traditional example. Journalism is not a crime, it is the foundation of free and informed societies, and no nation should look to others to bear the burden of defending its rights. Shadow Rapporteur Axel Voss MEP, EPP Group

Why did you choose to go public with your information?

- Secret laws and secret courts cannot authorize unconstitutional activities by fiat, nor can classification be used to shield an unjustified and embarrassing violation of human rights from democratic accountability. If the mass surveillance of an innocent public is to occur, it should be authorized as the result of an informed debate with the consent of the public, under a framework of laws that the government invites civil society to challenge in open courts.

That our governments are even today unwilling to allow independent review of the secret policies enabling mass surveillance of innocents underlines governments’ lack of faith that these programs are lawful, and this provides stronger testimony in favor of the rightfulness of my actions than any words I might write.

Did you exhaust all possibilities before taking the decision to go public?

- Yes. I had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them. As an employee of a private company rather than a direct employee of the US government, I was not protected by US whistleblower laws, and I would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information about lawbreaking in accordance with the recommended process.

It is important to remember that this is legal dilemma did not occur by mistake. US whistleblower reform laws were passed as recently as 2012, with the US Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, but they specifically chose to exclude Intelligence Agencies from being covered by the statute. President Obama also reformed a key executive Whistleblower regulation with his 2012 Presidential Policy Directive 19, but it exempted Intelligence Community contractors such as myself. The result was that individuals like me were left with no proper channels.

Are you aware that your revelations have the potential to put at risk lives of innocents and hamper efforts in the global fight against terrorism?

- Actually, no specific evidence has ever been offered, by any government, that even a single life has been put at risk by the award-winning journalism this question attempts to implicate.

The ongoing revelations about unlawful and improper surveillance are the product of a partnership between the world’s leading journalistic outfits and national governments, and if you can show one of the governments consulted on these stories chose not to impede demonstrably fatal information from being published, I invite you to do so. The front page of every newspaper in the world stands open to you.

Did the Russian secret service approach you?

- Of course. Even the secret service of Andorra would have approached me, if they had had the chance: that’s their job.

But I didn’t take any documents with me from Hong Kong, and while I’m sure they were disappointed, it doesn’t take long for an intelligence service to realize when they’re out of luck. I was also accompanied at all times by an utterly fearless journalist with one of the biggest megaphones in the world, which is the equivalent of Kryptonite for spies. As a consequence, we spent the next 40 days trapped in an airport instead of sleeping on piles of money while waiting for the next parade. But we walked out with heads held high.

I would also add, for the record, that the United States government has repeatedly acknowledged that there is no evidence at all of any relationship between myself and the Russian intelligence service.

Who is currently financing your life?

- I am.

–Shadow Rapporteur, Timothy Kirkhope MEP, ECR Group–

You have stated previously that you want the intelligence agencies to be more accountable to citizens, however, why do you feel this accountability does not apply to you? Do you therefore, plan to return to the United States or Europe to face criminal charges and answer questions in an official capacity, and pursue the route as an official whistle-blower?

- Respectfully, I remind you that accountability cannot exist without the due process of law, and even Deutsche Welle has written about the well-known gap in US law that deprived me of vital legal protections due to nothing more meaningful than my status as an employee of a private company rather than of the government directly (http://www.dw.de/us-whistleblower-laws-offer- no-protection/a-17391500). Surely no one on the committee believes that the measure of one’s political rights should be determined by their employer.

Fortunately, we live in a global, interconnected world where, when national laws fail like this, our international laws provide for another level of accountability, and the asylum process provides a means of due process for individuals who might otherwise be wrongly deprived of it. In the face of the extraordinary campaign of persecution brought against me by my the United States government on account of my political beliefs, which I remind you included the grounding of the President of Bolivia’s plane by EU Member States, an increasing number of national governments have agreed that a grant of political asylum is lawful and appropriate.

Polling of public opinion in Europe indicates I am not alone in hoping to see EU governments agree that blowing the whistle on serious wrongdoing should be a protected act.

Do you still plan to release more files, and have you disclosed or been asked to disclose any information regarding the content of these files to Chinese and Russian authorities or any names contained within them?

As stated previously, there are many other undisclosed programs that would impact EU citizens’ rights, but I will leave the public interest determinations as to which of these may be safely disclosed to responsible journalists in coordination with government stakeholders. I have not disclosed any information to anyone other than those responsible journalists. Thank you.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Edward Snowden

Whistleblower Edward Joseph Snowden is a US former technical contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who leaked details of top-secret US and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.

The New Retirement? You’re Better Off Dead. The Kochs And The Waltons Got Your Money.

March 3, 2014 - Comments Off

From Common Dreams:

Seven Numbers that Add Up to a Death Tax for Retirement

by Paul Buchheit

The dream of a comfortable retirement is dying for many Americans. It’s being extracted as a form of tribute to the very rich, a redistribution of our nation’s wealth, a "tax" imposed on the middle and lower classes and paid for with their retirement savings.


1. A $6.8 Trillion Retirement Deficit in America. But $8 Trillion in New U.S. Wealth Was Created in 2013.
The problem is that most of the new financial wealth went to the richest 10% (almost 90 percent of all stocks excluding fast-disappearing pensions). Basically you already had to be rich to share in the new wealth, and the people taking the wealth can defer taxes as long as they want, and then pay a smaller rate than income earners. Meanwhile, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security, Americans are at least $6.8 trillion short of what they need for a comfortable retirement.

2. $6,500 is the Median Retirement Fund for Upper-Middle-Class 50- to 64-Year-Olds
That’s based on an analysis of the second-highest quartile of Americans by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. It may get worse before it gets any better. The percentage of 75- to 84-year-old seniors falling into poverty doubled from 2005 to 2009. That was BEFORE the recession. And the number of elderly Americans, notes the Administration on Aging, is steadily rising, likely by 75 percent between 2010 and 2030, to almost 70 million people.

3. ZERO Wealth Gained among 93% of Us, While the Richest 12,000 Families Made $100,000 EVERY Day
It’s estimated that the richest .01% each made at least $40 million last year. A work day for many of them consists of logging in to their portfolio to see how many tens of thousands of dollars were added in the previous 24 hours. A stunning 93 percent of Americans LOST wealth, on average, in the post-recession "recovery."

4. TWICE the Cost of Pensions — That’s What Ten States Pay in Corporate Subsidies
This comes from a study by Good Jobs First of ten states with severe pension issues. The study found that "in all 10 states, the total annual cost of corporate subsidies, tax breaks and loopholes exceeds the total current annual pension costs."
Americans who have worked all their lives, dutifully paying for their retirement years, continue to be accused of greed and threatened with pension cutbacks. David Cay Johnston calls it "nothing short of theft."

5. 40 Cents of Every 401(k) Dollar Goes to the Banks
Saving $1,000 a year for 30 years in a non-fee 401(k) fund and then holding the accumulated sum for another 20 years would net an investor $269,000. With a smallish-sounding industry average fee of 1.3%, the same investor would net just $165,000, a 39% reduction.

6. Two Dollars: The Approximate Wealth of Black Families for Every $100 of Wealth for White Families
According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), median wealth for black families in 2009 was $2,200, compared to $97,900 for white families. (Pew Research reported $5,677 for blacks, $113,149 for whites).
It doesn’t seem possible that this number could get worse. But since the recession, black and Hispanic wealth has dropped further, by 30 to 40 percent, as the wealth of white families dropped 11 percent.

7. Almost 10 Percent of an Underserved Household’s Retirement Money Goes for Financial Fees
A U.S. Office of Inspector General survey reports that "The average underserved household has an annual income of about $25,500 and spends about $2,412 of that just on alternative financial services fees and interest." That includes fees for payroll cards, prepaid cards, subprime auto loans, and numerous other financial products that are sold to over 68 million financially underserved U.S. households.

A Death Tax? It’s not the tiny amount paid on multi-million dollar estates. Instead, it’s the slow death of millions of baby boomers, the victims of 35 years of deregulated greed at the very top of our nation’s mountain of wealth.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

#

The Call of the Walking Dead

February 28, 2014 - Comments Off

Published on Friday, February 28, 2014 by Common Dreams

Through the Climate Portal: Humanity’s Tragic Flaw

by David Goldstein

The planet is sick and we’re ignoring all the signs at our own peril. (Image: Getty)In the autumn of 1992, I was alone in my studio apartment in Philadelphia, puking my guts out. Something bad had happened inside; it felt like a bomb had gone off in my belly. Just how bad was it? Was I bleeding internally? Was I dying?

I suspected what needed to be done: I had to call for an ambulance. But still, I hesitated. I just couldn’t believe it — I was not the sort of person who needed an ambulance. I was only 29-years-old. I’d been a three-sport athlete in high school. This sort of thing only happened to "other people" — people I read about in newspapers.

Fortunately, my survival instincts won out and I made the call. If you had asked at the time, even as the paramedics loaded me onto the stretcher, to name my strongest sensation, it would not have been the pain (though that was considerable); it would not have been the fear (ditto). It would have been this: I felt utterly stunned.

Stunned, because the doctor’s warnings had finally come to pass. I’d been diagnosed with an inflammatory disease of the large intestine called ulcerative colitis in 1984. The disease essentially directs excess heat/inflammation toward the walls of the colon. Over time, this can result in scarring, narrowing and, eventually, obstruction of the passageway.

Though doctors had repeatedly warned me of this scenario. I had refused to follow their treatment prescriptions. Why had I refused? For my own (in retrospect, quite unwise) personal reasons, I did not trust the doctors and so ignored their advice. Now there I was on the stretcher, my life unnecessarily put at risk.

Stunned, because even though the symptoms of the disease had been progressively worsening, I had not, until that very point, crossed "that line" where things become suddenly different, where the system suddenly flips into a different state of functioning. What had been manageable, though increasingly challenging, was, in an eye-blink, no longer manageable at all.

Looking back, I realize that a part of me simply had not been able to imagine this to be possible. It was as if I had stepped trough a portal. Up to that moment, I had been "David," living my familiar "David" life, with its ups and its downs. On the other side of the portal, a single train of thought crowded out all other motivations and desires: "Please, make this stop, please make it better. Please make it go back to the way it was before."

We find ourselves in a similar situation in 2014. The scientists are telling us that every second our planet is accruing excess heat equivalent to the heat generated by four Hiroshima atomic bombs. The physics is elementary and beyond dispute: The heat-trapping greenhouse blanket in our atmosphere is thickening primarily due to fossil fuels. The solution is, though hugely challenging, equally elementary: Stop thickening the blanket!

At the rate we are going, one thing is certain: A day will come when we will be stunned. Perhaps temperatures will cross a threshold beyond which our staple crops cannot grow. Perhaps the glaciers that provide water for hundreds of millions will shrink beneath a critical level. Perhaps storms of warming and rising oceans will make life in our many coastal megalopolises untenable. There are many candidates: We are moving ourselves out of our climate "Goldilocks Zone."

We will have crossed through the portal (in actuality, in the vast and complex climate system, there will be multiple lines to cross with multiple portals) and a single train of thought will crowd out all other motivations and desires: "Please make this stop, please make it better. Please make it go back to the way it was before."

But it’s even worse than that. I was one person with one specific problem, a problem that had been addressed by doctors thousands of times before. I was rushed to the hospital where, for three weeks, they pumped me full of cooling (and chock full of harmful side effects) prednisone and antibiotics. They stabilized me but, a couple years later, had to surgically remove my entire colon. The damage was just too much.

It won’t be like that for us as a species. The hotter we get, the less likely it will be that we can prevent further warming. The Arctic is recognized as the canary in the coalmine and the canary is doing even worse than we had thought. The Arctic has already warmed 2 degrees centigrade (3.6F) since 1970, three times faster than the planet overall. Over 40 percent of its summer sea ice cover has melted away. As the heat reflecting "mirror" ice is replaced by dark heat-absorbing sea water, the region warms which, in turn, melts more ice which leads to more dark water and more heat… and so on.

Scientists already knew about this classic feedback effect. But until now, they hadn’t realized how bad it truly was. A recent study finds that the ice-melt is absorbing two to three times more heat than estimated. It is, in fact, absorbing extra heat equivalent to fully one-quarter of the amount of heat being held in by atmospheric carbon dioxide. This is where we are headed: more heat creating more heat, to a point where further warming will simply take the situation out of our hands.

Theoretically, we can still pull back via a World War II level green energy mobilization together with rapid and permanent fossil fuel reduction. But we are not stopping. In fact, we are accelerating the process. We can’t imagine it. It is our tragic flaw. We’re still on the good side of the line. Yes, the symptoms are becoming more challenging, but things are still fundamentally manageable. They won’t stay that way for too much longer.

There is no prednisone for the planet short of enormously risky geo-engineering interventions. And, of course, if the damage is too much, we can’t just "cut out" human civilization. Well, more accurately, human civilization and many millions or billions can be "cut out," but that would suck.

Go to any climate blog and you will see scientists and "lay" people who profess alarm being ridiculed as "Chicken Littles." But sometimes the sky is actually falling. It happens. It is happening now and in rapidly shrinking time frames. We show every sign that we will simply have to cross over multiple lines, through multiple portals. Then, assuming our survival instincts kick in, we will act — at least more of us will. Will it be enough? Will it be too late? Time will tell.

———————————————————————–

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 160 other followers