Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oliver Stone's SOUTH of the BORDER" opens, Honduras: One Year Later

The US is pushing for normalisation with Honduras, but violence and
repression are rising - and journalists are in the crosshairs.

By Joseph Huff-Hannon
Guardian.UK.: 28 June, 2010

"Right now there are a bunch of military trucks driving around the city,
full of soldiers, surrounding most of the important buildings downtown,"
Karla Lara tells me over the phone from the capital of Honduras, on the eve
of the one-year anniversary of last year's coup d'etat. "It's pretty clear
they're trying to scare people."

The renowned singer and human rights activist was speaking to me from her
recording studio in Tegucigalpa, where she was rehearsing for a big public
concert, organised by the National Front of Popular Resistance, to mark the
anniversary. "The 28th [June] isn't about commemorating the coup, it's about
repudiating it. We want to celebrate the day as a year of being in
resistance. I have the coverage of being a public person, but it's been
very, very intense. You get physically exhausted, but also emotionally

The National Front of Popular Resistance, a coalition of hundreds of diverse
civil society groups, was born out of last year's coup d'etat - when the
military kidnapped then president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and forcibly
exiled him and his family from the country. The rupture of the
constitutional order in Honduras, Latin America's first and only 21st
century coup, unleashed a violent campaign of repression across the country
under the coup government of Roberto Micheletti. That wave of violence and
generalised impunity, largely directed against opponents of the coup regime,
continues to this day under the government of president Porfirio Lobo,
elected last November while the country was under a state of siege, in an
election to which the UN and the OAS didn't even bother to send observers,
and which a plurality of Latin American governments have refused to

"In Honduras right now there is a military-business regime, with a little
bit of democratic makeup," Gerardo Torres, a Honduran activist visiting the
United States Social Forum last week, told me. "But what people need to know
is that more assassinations are happening now during the 'democratic' rule
of President Lobo than during the era of Micheletti. When Micheletti ran the
coup government, killings of students or resistance members were at least
controversial, they made the international news. But the international news
media has moved on - which is sad since now they're killing journalists."

Indeed, in 2010 at least eight journalists have been killed in mysterious
circumstances in Honduras, all of them critics of the coup and/or of
powerful business interests in the country. None of those murders have been
solved, and Reporters Without Borders has called Honduras the world's most
dangerous country for journalists in the first half of 2010. Dozens of
anti-coup activists, members of the National Resistance Front, and union
activists have also been murdered in the last year, often in broad daylight
by men wearing masks or dressed in fatigues. The era of the death squad,
that ignominious feature of Latin American state terrorism of the 70s and
the 80s, appears to have made a come back in Honduras.

And sadly, but predictably, the US appears to have sided with the death
squads. "Now it's time for the hemisphere as a whole to move forward and
welcome Honduras back into the inter-American community," the US secretary
of state, Hillary Clinton, said earlier this month, imploring other members
of the Organisation of American States to re-admit Honduras to the
organisation. A majority bloc of Latin American nations, led by Argentina,
Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador, disagreed, citing the horrendous human rights
record in the country, and a lack of accountability for those behind the
coup. And while hypocrisy in foreign policy is hardly news, it's worth
noting here that the US state department released a harshly worded statement
earlier this month chastising the Venezuelan government's "continuing
assault on the freedom of the press" following that country's issuance of an
arrest warrant for a media tycoon. A week later, with no fanfare and not a
word about press freedoms, the US resumed military aid to the pariah
government of Honduras.

A year after the coup the polarising figure of deposed president Zelaya, who
elicited the ire of the Honduran ruling class by, among other things,
raising the minimum wage, still dominates much of the media coverage. But
the broad-based democracy movement born in the bloody aftermath of the coup
continues to organise inside and outside of the country, at great personal
risk, and makes great pains to express that the long-term fight in Honduras
is much bigger than who sits in the presidential palace.

"A lot of people can't quite understand a movement that doesn't revolve
around a caudillo," Gerardo tells me. "This resistance movement is wide and
complex. We have feminists working with Christian activists, who are working
with labour activists. Zelaya is important, but the popular movement more
so. And we think the repression has built up because those who have always
run the country are scared, and this is their desperate response. Them with
their arms, us with our ideas."
Subject: Oliver Stone's New Film, SOUTH of the BORDER"~ Opens in LA on Friday, July 2nd

Margaret Prescod to Interview Oliver Stone tomorrow morning (Thursday) between 7:00 & 8:00 AM on KPFK 90.7 FM Radio ~


Oliver Stone's Important New Film


Coming to Los Angeles on Friday, July 2nd  

There's a revolution underway in South America, but most of the world doesn't know it. In South of the Border, Oliver Stone sets out on a road trip across five countries to explore the social and political movements as well as the mainstream media's misperception of South America while interviewing seven of its elected presidents. In casual conversations with Presidents Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Cristina Kirchner  (Argentina), as well as her husband and ex-President Néstor Kirchner,  Fernando Lugo  (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Raúl Castro (Cuba), Stone gains unprecedented access and sheds new light upon the exciting transformations in the region.


Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex in Santa Monica

Friday,  July 2nd

1:00pm  3:00pm  5:10pm  7:20pm  10:00pm  
1332 2nd Street, Santa Monica 90401


Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood

Friday,  July 2nd


8000 Sunset Blvd.

West Hollywood


Laemmle's Playhouse 7 in Pasadena

Friday,  July 2nd


673 East Colorado Blvd.



Regency Theatre

1561 W. Sunflower Ave.
Sunflower & South Coast Plaza Drive
Santa Ana  92704



Oliver Stone on 'Democracy Now' with Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez & Tariq Ali, talking about his new film SOUTH of the BORDER.






"...a VALUABLE and INTERESTING CORRECTIVE to the mainstream media's often-atrocious coverage of Latin America, and a fascinating account of the rise of a new generation of political leaders." - Andrew O'Hehir,


"LOVED THE MOVIE! Great perspective that people here in the US should see and hopefully it (will) make them understand what is going on in South America and with US foreign policy." -Jason Smith, IMPACTO Latin News



From:  National Latino Congreso


As you may have heard, Oliver Stone's powerful new film, South of the Border, the first documentary by a major American director to explore the social transformation underway in South America, will be released in US theaters nationwide starting June 25. The film will also be shown at the Silverdocs FIlm Festival on June 23rd in Silver Spring, MD, and at the US Social Forum on June 24. 


The film, co-written by CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot, is the product of Oliver Stone's 2009 road trip across five countries to explore the social and political movements taking place in those countries and the mis-perceptions most people have about Hugo Chavez and other leaders in South America, mostly due to a skewed portrayal by major US media.

In casual conversations with seven sitting presidents, Stone gains unprecedented access to and sheds new light upon the exciting transformations in the region.  Mr. Stone was most struck by the extent to which the presidents are committed to determining the future of their own nations without undue outside influence and control. 


South of the Border will be released in US theatres by Cinema Libre Studio starting June 25 in NYC, followed by Los AngelesPasadena and Washington, D.C./ArlingtonVA (7/2), Chicago (7/9), San Francisco and Berkeley (7/16), Dallas and Houston (7/23), Minneapolis and Seattle (7/30) with more to come!  Internationally, the film is currently playing in Venezuela (both in regular theaters and via the Gran Cine Movil mobile screening network), and in Argentina. It opens in Ecuador on July 9th in the "Multicines" theaters and the Ochoymedio theater, and opens in London on July 30.


Please help spread the word  - will you consider helping with any of the following:


1) "Like" the official theatrical trailer @ .  (Sign up may be required.)


2) Embed the trailer into your blog or website:


3) Make mention of the film coming to your community by including it in a newsletter, radio program, community calendar listing or posting details to a high-traffic discussion board or blog.  Details can be found at


4) If you able to help in a more impactful way, please email us at


Distributed by Cinema Libre Studios:  









Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stephen Kinzer: BP in the The Persian Gulf , Wed Report from Israel and Palestine

From: Leonard Potash

Report from Israel and Palestine, Wed. June 30 at 7:30 p.m.

AR member Lenny Potash (also member of Sholem Community and Jewish Labor
Committee and longtime labor activist) and Ben Potash have just returned
from a study tour and visit to Israel and Palestine in conjunction with
ICAHD - Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions. They were mostly in
Jerusalem and the West Bank, meeting with human rights groups, and
individuals and families who've been impacted by Israeli policies. They'll
lead a discussion on how progressive Palestinians and Israelis view the
facts on the ground in light of their desire for a just and sustainable
peace, and will show visuals of the stories and the historical context of

There will be ample time for questions and discussion
No admission fee (voluntary donations accepted).

Co-Sponsored by Sholem Community and Arbeter Ring SoCal

Arbeter Ring (Workmen's Circle) SoCal District
1525 S Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035


Tomgram: Stephen Kinzer, BP's First "Spill"

Posted by Stephen Kinzer at 10:05am, June 29, 2010.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Some of you may remember Stephen Kinzer for
his groundbreaking work on the CIA's overthrow of a democratic Guatemalan
government in 1954 in Bitter Fruit, or his more recent history, Overthrow:
America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Well, his newest
book, Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future, has just been published.
Andrew Bacevich calls it "history with a bite"; Juan Cole, "a must-read for
anyone concerned with the future of the United States in the Middle East."
It's a history-cum-critique-cum-policy-review of American folly in the
Middle East, especially in relation to Iran, but also Turkey, Israel, and
Saudi Arabia. It couldn't be more relevant to this moment or more riveting.
I'm almost done and can hardly put it down. Tom]

BP in the Gulf -- The Persian Gulf
How an Oil Company Helped Destroy Democracy in Iran

By Stephen Kinzer
Tomgram: June 29, 2010

To frustrated Americans who have begun boycotting BP: Welcome to the club.
It's great not to be the only member any more!

Does boycotting BP really make sense? Perhaps not. After all, many BP
filling stations are actually owned by local people, not the corporation
itself. Besides, when you're filling up at a Shell or ExxonMobil station,
it's hard to feel much sense of moral triumph. Nonetheless, I reserve my
right to drive by BP stations. I started doing it long before this year's
oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

My decision not to give this company my business came after I learned
about its role in another kind of "spill" entirely -- the destruction of
Iran's democracy more than half a century ago.

The history of the company we now call BP has, over the last 100 years,
traced the arc of transnational capitalism. Its roots lie in the early
years of the twentieth century when a wealthy bon vivant named William Knox
D'Arcy decided, with encouragement from the British government, to begin
looking for oil in Iran. He struck a concession agreement with the
dissolute Iranian monarchy, using the proven expedient of bribing the three
Iranians negotiating with him.

Under this contract, which he designed, D'Arcy was to own whatever oil he
found in Iran and pay the government just 16% of any profits he made --
never allowing any Iranian to review his accounting. After his first strike
in 1908, he became sole owner of the entire ocean of oil that lies beneath
Iran's soil. No one else was allowed to drill for, refine, extract, or sell
"Iranian" oil.

"Fortune brought us a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams,"
Winston Churchill, who became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, wrote
later. "Mastery itself was the prize of the venture."

Soon afterward, the British government bought the D'Arcy concession, which
it named the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. It then built the world's biggest
refinery at the port of Abadan on the Persian Gulf. From the 1920s into the
1940s, Britain's standard of living was supported by oil from Iran. British
cars, trucks, and buses ran on cheap Iranian oil. Factories throughout
Britain were fueled by oil from Iran. The Royal Navy, which projected
British power all over the world, powered its ships with Iranian oil.

After World War II, the winds of nationalism and anti-colonialism blew
through the developing world. In Iran, nationalism meant one thing: we've
got to take back our oil. Driven by this passion, Parliament voted on April
28, 1951, to choose its most passionate champion of oil nationalization,
Mohammad Mossadegh, as prime minister. Days later, it unanimously approved
his bill nationalizing the oil company. Mossadegh promised that,
henceforth, oil profits would be used to develop Iran, not enrich Britain.

This oil company was the most lucrative British enterprise anywhere on the
planet. To the British, nationalization seemed, at first, like some kind of
immense joke, a step so absurdly contrary to the unwritten rules of the
world that it could hardly be real. Early in this confrontation, the
directors of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and their partners in Britain's
government settled on their strategy: no mediation, no compromise, no
acceptance of nationalization in any form.

The British took a series of steps meant to push Mossadegh off his
nationalist path.

They withdrew their technicians from Abadan, blockaded the port, cut off
exports of vital goods to Iran, froze the country's hard-currency accounts
in British banks, and tried to win anti-Iran resolutions from the U.N. and
the World Court. This campaign only intensified Iranian determination.
Finally, the British turned to Washington and asked for a favor: please
overthrow this madman for us so we can have our oil company back.

American President Dwight D. Eisenhower, encouraged by his Secretary of
State John Foster Dulles, a lifelong defender of transnational corporate
power, agreed to send the Central Intelligence Agency in to depose
Mossadegh. The operation took less than a month in the summer of 1953. It
was the first time the CIA had ever overthrown a government.

At first, this seemed like a remarkably successful covert operation. The
West had deposed a leader it didn't like, and replaced him with someone who
would perform as bidden -- Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

From the perspective of history, though, it is clear that Operation Ajax,
as the operation was code-named, had devastating effects. It not only
brought down Mossadegh's government, but ended democracy in Iran. It
returned the Shah to his Peacock Throne. His increasing repression set off
the explosion of the late 1970s, which brought to power Ayatollah Khomeini
and the bitterly anti-Western regime that has been in control ever since.

The oil company re-branded itself as British Petroleum, BP Amoco, and
then, in 2000, BP. During its decades in Iran, it had operated as it
pleased, with little regard for the interests of local people. This
corporate tradition has evidently remained strong.

Many Americans are outraged by the relentless images of oil gushing into
Gulf waters from the Deepwater Horizon well, and by the corporate
recklessness that allowed this spill to happen. Those who know Iranian
history have been less surprised.

Stephen Kinzer is a veteran foreign correspondent and the author of Bitter
Fruit and Overthrow, among other works. His newest book is Reset: Iran,
Turkey, and America's Future.

Copyright 2010 Stephen Kinzer

Baker: Wall Street Congratulates DC, Klein: Sticking the public with the bill

Wall Street Congratulates Washington: A Job Well Done

by: Dean Baker,
t r u t h o u t: June 28, 2910

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is well known for pretentious
columns that consist of letters that he suggests some prominent person
write. I licensed Friedman's literary tool in order to present the following
letter from the Wall Street CEOs to the political leadership in Washington.

Dear Friends:

We want you know how much we value the support of the leadership of both
political parties in your efforts to ensure that we did not suffer from the
crisis that we ourselves created. As you recall, back in the fall of 2008,
our banks were flat on their backs. If you had not rushed to our rescue with
trillions of dollars in loans and guarantees from the Fed and the Treasury
at a time where no sane investor would talk to us, most of us would be among
the unemployed today. Instead, our banks are hugely profitable and we're
happy to say that bonuses are again hitting record highs.

While this is the sort of support that we expect in exchange for our
generous campaign contributions, we are especially impressed how you have
managed to so effectively blunt any backlash from the public. After all,
with the unemployment rate still near double-digit levels, millions of
people facing the loss of their homes and tens of millions seeing their
savings wiped out, there is naturally considerable anger. However, you have
managed to deftly deal with this problem by diverting their attention

Instead of people being angry at us for the billions that we are pocketing
while the economy is still in the tank, you have managed to make scapegoats
out of the unemployed. At a time when there are five unemployed workers for
every job opening, you have been able to whip up public resentment over
unemployment benefits that average $300 a week (a few minutes' pay for us).
This is truly skillful politics.

We were also impressed to see that you are taking steps to have the
government punish people who default on their mortgage loans to us. Just
because we are enormously rich and have huge banks doesn't mean that we know
what we are doing when we issue a mortgage. We didn't think about things
like the housing bubble when we issued a lot of those mortgages back in the
boom. As a result, we lost a lot of money. We stand to lose even more if
people keep defaulting - even when they are able to pay back our loans
(sometimes referred to as a "strategic default").

Therefore, we appreciate your actions to have the government punish
borrowers who default. By telling defaulters that they will not be able to
have future mortgages insured by the Department of Housing and Urban
Development or purchased by Fannie Mae, you are helping us squeeze more
money out of these homeowners. This must be especially difficult since we
know how much pressure there is on many of you to actually be helping the
homeowners. But you folks have had the courage to stand with us even as
foreclosures are continuing at a near record pace. We appreciate this.

And now, you have decided to put cuts to Social Security at the center of
your agenda. This really takes courage. Here is a program that people have
paid for with their taxes. This tax will be sufficient to fully fund
benefits for the next 33 years, according to the Congressional Budget
Office, and even after that date it could indefinitely pay more than 70
percent of scheduled benefits, assuming no changes are ever made to the
program. This means that current and near retirees have already paid for
their Social Security benefits.

But you're going to cut Social Security benefits anyhow. And this is even
after the collapse of the housing bubble and the resulting downturn wiped
out most of the housing equity of the baby boomers and much of the value of
their 401(k)s. Frankly, under the circumstances, we wouldn't have been
surprised if you were talking about increasing Social Security benefits.
But, we're absolutely delighted to see you moving forward with plans for
cuts. This will mean that we won't have to be taxed to repay the bonds held
by the trust fund.

And, of course, there is the financial reform bill. You killed any plans to
break up too big to fail banks (leaving us with huge government subsidies)
and kept any talk of a financial speculations tax from being taken

Keep up the great work; we'll remember you at campaign contribution time.

Best wishes,

The Wall Street CEOs


Sticking the public with the bill for the bankers' crisis

How else can we interpret the G20 communiqué that includes not even a measly
tax on financial transactions?

By Naomi Klein
The Globe and Mail: June 28, 2010


My city feels like a crime scene and the criminals are all melting into the
night, fleeing the scene. No, I'm not talking about the kids in black who
smashed windows and burned cop cars on Saturday.
I'm talking about the heads of state who, on Sunday night, smashed social
safety nets and burned good jobs in the middle of a recession. Faced with
the effects of a crisis created by the world's wealthiest and most
privileged strata, they decided to stick the poorest and most vulnerable
people in their countries with the bill.

How else can we interpret the G20's final communiqué, which includes not
even a measly tax on banks or financial transactions, yet instructs
governments to slash their deficits in half by 2013. This is a huge and
shocking cut, and we should be very clear who will pay the price: students
who will see their public educations further deteriorate as their fees go
up; pensioners who will lose hard-earned benefits; public-sector workers
whose jobs will be eliminated. And the list goes on. These types of cuts
have already begun in many G20 countries including Canada, and they are
about to get a lot worse.

They are happening for a simple reason. When the G20 met in London in 2009,
at the height of the financial crisis, the leaders failed to band together
to regulate the financial sector so that this type of crisis would never
happen again. All we got was empty rhetoric, and an agreement to put
trillions of dollars in public monies on the table to shore up the banks
around the world. Meanwhile the U.S. government did little to keep people in
their homes and jobs, so in addition to hemorrhaging public money to save
the banks, the tax base collapsed, creating an entirely predictable debt and
deficit crisis.

At this weekend's summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper convinced his fellow
leaders that it simply wouldn't be fair to punish those banks that behaved
well and did not create the crisis (despite the fact that Canada's highly
protected banks are consistently profitable and could easily absorb a tax).
Yet somehow these leaders had no such concerns about fairness when they
decided to punish blameless individuals for a crisis created by derivative
traders and absentee regulators.

Last week, The Globe and Mail published a fascinating article about the
origins of the G20. It turns out the entire concept was conceived in a
meeting back in 1999 between then finance minister Paul Martin and his U.S.
counterpart Lawrence Summers (itself interesting since Mr. Summers was at
that time playing a central role in creating the conditions for this
financial crisis - allowing a wave of bank consolidation and refusing to
regulate derivatives).

The two men wanted to expand the G7, but only to countries they considered
strategic and safe. They needed to make a list but apparently they didn't
have paper handy. So, according to reporters John Ibbitson and Tara Perkins,
"the two men grabbed a brown manila envelope, put it on the table between
them, and began sketching the framework of a new world order." Thus was born
the G20.

The story is a good reminder that history is shaped by human decisions, not
natural laws. Mr. Summers and Mr. Martin changed the world with the
decisions they scrawled on the back of that envelope. But there is nothing
to say that citizens of G20 countries need to take orders from this
hand-picked club.

Already, workers, pensioners and students have taken to the streets against
austerity measures in Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Greece, often
marching under the slogan: "We won't pay for your crisis." And they have
plenty of suggestions for how to raise revenues to meet their respective
budget shortfalls.

Many are calling for a financial transaction tax that would slow down hot
money and raise new money for social programs and climate change. Others are
calling for steep taxes on polluters that would underwrite the cost of
dealing with the effects of climate change and moving away from fossil
fuels. And ending losing wars is always a good cost-saver.

The G20 is an ad hoc institution with none of the legitimacy of the United
Nations. Since it just tried to stick us with a huge bill for a crisis most
of us had no hand in creating, I say we take a cue from Mr. Martin and Mr.
Summers. Flip it over, and write on the back of the envelope: Return to

Naomi Klein is the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rich: 36 Hours That Shook Washington

Hi I wouldn't bore you with yet another piece on McKrystal, but this is
far deeper, wider, and with a lot only a DC insider and intrepid reporter
could have known or written.

The 36 Hours That Shook Washington

By Frank Rich
NY Times Op-Ed: June 27, 2010

THE moment he pulled the trigger, there was near-universal agreement that
President Obama had done the inevitable thing, the right thing and, best of
all, the bold thing. But before we get carried away with relief and elation,
let's not forget what we saw in the tense 36 hours that fell between late
Monday night, when word spread of Rolling Stone's blockbuster article, and
high noon Wednesday, when Obama MacArthured his general. That frenzied
interlude revealed much about the state of Washington, the Afghanistan war
and the Obama presidency - little of it cheering and none of it resolved by
the ingenious replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David
Petraeus, the only militarily and politically bullet-proof alternative.

What we saw was this: 1) Much of the Beltway establishment was blindsided by
Michael Hastings's scoop, an impressive feat of journalism by a Washington
outsider who seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than
most insiders did; 2) Obama's failure to fire McChrystal months ago for both
his arrogance and incompetence was a grievous mistake that illuminates a
wider management shortfall at the White House; 3) The present strategy has
produced no progress in this nearly nine-year-old war, even as the monthly
coalition body count has just reached a new high.

If we and the president don't absorb these revelations and learn from them,
the salutary effects of the drama's denouement, however triumphant for Obama
in the short run, will be for naught.

There were few laughs in the 36 hours of tumult, but Jon Stewart captured
them with a montage of cable-news talking heads expressing repeated shock
that an interloper from a rock 'n' roll magazine could gain access to the
war command and induce it to speak with self-immolating candor. Politico
theorized that Hastings had pulled off his impertinent coup because he was a
freelance journalist rather than a beat reporter, and so could risk "burning
bridges by publishing many of McChrystal's remarks."

That sentence was edited out of the article - in a routine updating, said
Politico - after the blogger Andrew Sullivan highlighted it as a devastating
indictment of a Washington media elite too cozy with and protective of its
sources to report the unvarnished news. In any event, Politico had the big
picture right. It's the Hastings-esque outsiders with no fear of burning
bridges who have often uncovered the epochal stories missed by those with
high-level access. Woodward and Bernstein were young local reporters,
nowhere near the White House beat, when they cracked Watergate. Seymour
Hersh was a freelancer when he broke My Lai. It was uncelebrated reporters
in Knight Ridder's Washington bureau, not journalistic stars courted by
Scooter and Wolfowitz, who mined low-level agency hands to challenge the
"slam-dunk" W.M.D. intelligence in the run-up to Iraq.

Symbolically enough, Hastings was reporting his McChrystal story abroad just
as Beltway media heavies and their most bold-faced subjects were dressing up
for the annual White House correspondents' dinner. Rolling Stone has never
bought a table or thrown an afterparty for that bacchanal, and it has not
even had a Washington bureau since the mid-1970s. Yet the magazine has not
only chronicled the McChrystal implosion - and relentlessly tracked the
administration's connections to the "vampire squid" of Goldman Sachs - but
has also exposed the shoddy management of the Obama Interior Department. As
it happens, the issue of Rolling Stone with the Hastings story also contains
a second installment of Tim Dickinson's devastating dissection of the Ken
Salazar cohort, this time detailing how its lax regulation could soon lead
to an even uglier repeat of the Gulf of Mexico fiasco when BP and Shell
commence offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

The Interior Department follies will end promptly only if Obama has learned
the lessons of the attenuated McChrystal debacle. Lesson No. 1 should be to
revisit some of his initial hiring decisions. The general's significant role
in the Pentagon's politically motivated cover-up of Pat Tillman's
friendly-fire death in 2004 should have been disqualifying from the start.
The official investigation into that scandal - finding that McChrystal
peddled "inaccurate and misleading assertions" - was unambiguous and

Once made the top commander in Afghanistan, the general was kept on long
past his expiration date. He should have been cashiered after he took his
first public shot at Joe Biden during a London speaking appearance last
October. That's when McChrystal said he would not support the vice
more limited war strategy, should the president choose it over his own.
According to Jonathan Alter in his book "The Promise," McChrystal's London
remarks also disclosed information from a C.I.A. report that the general
"had no authority to declassify." These weren't his only offenses.
McChrystal had gone on a showboating personal publicity tour that culminated
with "60 Minutes" - even as his own histrionic Afghanistan recommendation
somehow leaked to Bob Woodward, disrupting Obama's war deliberations. The
president was livid, Alter writes, but McChrystal was spared because of a
White House consensus that he was naïve, not "out of control."

We now know, thanks to Hastings, that the general was out of control and the
White House was naïve. The price has been huge. The McChrystal cadre's utter
distaste for its civilian colleagues on the war team was an ipso facto death
sentence for the general's signature counterinsurgency strategy. You can't
engage in nation building without civilian partnership. As Rachel Maddow
said last week of McChrystal, "the guy who was promoting and leading the
counterinsurgency strategy has shown by his actions that even he doesn't
believe in it."

This fundamental contradiction helps explain some of the war's failures
under McChrystal's aborted command, including the inability to hold Marja
(pop. 60,000), which he had vowed to secure in pure counterinsurgency
fashion by rolling out a civilian "government in a box" after troops cleared
it of the Taliban. Such is the general's contempt for leadership outside his
orbit that it extends even to our allies. The Hastings article opens with
McChrystal mocking the French at a time when every ally's every troop is a
precious, dwindling commodity in Afghanistan.

In the 36 hours between the Rolling Stone bombshell and McChrystal's firing,
some perennial war cheerleaders in the Beltway establishment, including the
editorial page of The Washington Post and Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings
Institution, did rally to the general's defense and implored Obama to keep
him in place. George Stephanopoulos, reflecting a certain strain of received
Beltway wisdom, warned on ABC that the president risked looking
"thin-skinned and petulant" if he fired McChrystal.

But none of the general's defenders had an argument for him or the war
beyond staying the course, poor as the results have been. What McChrystal's
supporters most seemed to admire was his uniquely strong relationship with
Hamid Karzai, our Afghanistan puppet. As if to prove the point, Karzai was
the most visible lobbyist for McChrystal's survival last week. He was
matched by his corrupt half-brother, the reported opium kingpin Ahmed Wali
Karzai, who chimed in to publicly declare McChrystal "honest." Was Rod
Blagojevich unavailable as a character witness?

You have to wonder whether McChrystal's defenders in Washington even read
Hastings's article past its inflammatory opening anecdotes. If so, they
would have discovered that the day before the Marja offensive, the general's
good pal Hamid Karzai kept him waiting for hours so he could finish a nap
before signing off on the biggest military operation of the year. Poor
McChrystal was reduced to begging another official to wake the sleeping
president so he could get on with the show.

The war, supported by a steadily declining minority of Americans, has no
chance of regaining public favor unless President Obama can explain why
American blood and treasure should be at the mercy of this napping Afghan
president. Karzai stole an election, can't provide a government in or out of
a box, and has in recent months threatened to defect to the Taliban and
accused American forces of staging rocket attacks on his national peace
conference. Until last week, Obama's only real ally in making his case was
public apathy. Next to unemployment and the oil spill, Karzai and
Afghanistan were but ticks on our body politic, even as the casualty toll
passed 1,000. As a senior McChrystal adviser presciently told Hastings, "If
Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would
become even less popular."

To appreciate how shielded Americans have been from Afghanistan, revisit
Rahm Emanuel's appearance last Sunday morning on "This Week," just before
the McChrystal firestorm erupted. Trying to put a positive spin on the war,
the president's chief of staff said that the Afghans were at long last
meeting their army and police quotas. Technically that's true; the numbers
are up. But in that same day's Washington Post, a correspondent in Kandahar
reported that the Afghan forces there are poorly equipped, corrupt,
directionless and infiltrated by Taliban sympathizers and spies. Kandahar
(pop. 1 million) is supposed to be the site of the next major American

The gaping discrepancy between Emanuel's upbeat assessment and the reality
on the ground went unremarked because absolutely no one was paying
attention. Everyone is now. That, at least, gives us reason to hope that the
president's first bold move to extricate America from the graveyard of
empires won't be his last.

Wallace: help me save the library, Herbert: Worse Than a Nightmare

----- Original Message -----
Subject: help me save the library

Join us to picket in front of City Council President Eric Garcetti's house! 

Thurs. July 1 8AM - 12PM  (the day 160 library workers are laid off)

 2120 Avon St.,  in Echo Park  (LA 90026)

Bring signs and books to read (fewer library hours mean we have to go elsewhere to read)

Bring your friends, children and pets.

The Political Action Committed of the Librarians' Guild is organizing this event to show public dissatisfaction with the City's plan to make disproportionate cuts to the Library budget.  The city council and the mayor know that the lay-offs and shortened hours are not necessary to balance the city's budget.  During negotiations we demonstrated many other ways to close the deficit without reducing library staff and services, but the city refused to listen.  We can only wonder why.

Worse Than a Nightmare

By Bob Herbert
NY Times Op-Ed: June 25, 2010

President Obama can be applauded for his decisiveness in dispatching the
chronically insubordinate Stanley McChrystal, but we are still left with a
disaster of a war in Afghanistan that cannot be won and that the country as
a whole will not support.

No one in official Washington is leveling with the public about what is
really going on. We hear a lot about counterinsurgency, the latest hot
cocktail-hour topic among the BlackBerry-thumbing crowd. But there is no
evidence at all that counterinsurgency will work in Afghanistan. It's not
working now. And even if we managed to put all the proper pieces together,
the fiercest counterinsurgency advocates in the military will tell you that
something on the order of 10 to 15 years of hard effort would be required
for this strategy to bear significant fruit.

We've been in Afghanistan for nearly a decade already. It's one of the most
corrupt places on the planet and the epicenter of global opium production.
Our ostensible ally, President Hamid Karzai, is convinced that the U.S.
cannot prevail in the war and is in hot pursuit of his own deal with the
enemy Taliban. The American public gave up on the war long ago, and it is
not at all clear that President Obama's heart is really in it.

For us to even consider several more years of fighting and dying in
Afghanistan - at a cost of heaven knows how many more billions of American
taxpayer dollars - is demented.

Those who are so fascinated with counterinsurgency, from its chief advocate,
Gen. David Petraeus, all the way down to the cocktail-hour kibitzers inside
the Beltway, seem to have lost sight of a fundamental aspect of warfare: You
don't go to war half-stepping. You go to war to crush the enemy. You do this
ferociously and as quickly as possible. If you don't want to do it, if you
have qualms about it, or don't know how to do it, don't go to war.

The men who stormed the beaches at Normandy weren't trying to win the hearts
and minds of anyone.

In Afghanistan, we are playing a dangerous, half-hearted game in which
President Obama tells the America people that this is a war of necessity and
that he will do whatever is necessary to succeed. Then, with the very next
breath, he soothingly assures us that the withdrawal of U.S. troops will
begin on schedule, like a Greyhound leaving the terminal, a year from now.

Both cannot be true.

What is true is that we aren't even fighting as hard as we can right now.
The counterinsurgency crowd doesn't want to whack the enemy too hard because
of an understandable fear that too many civilian casualties will undermine
the "hearts and minds" and nation-building components of the strategy. Among
the downsides of this battlefield caution is a disturbing unwillingness to
give our own combat troops the supportive airstrikes and artillery cover
that they feel is needed.

In an article this week, The Times quoted a U.S. Army sergeant in southern
Afghanistan who was unhappy with the real-world effects of
counterinsurgency. "I wish we had generals who remembered what it was like
when they were down in a platoon," he said. "Either they never have been in
real fighting, or they forgot what it's like."

In the Rolling Stone article that led to General McChrystal's ouster,
reporter Michael Hastings wrote about the backlash that counterinsurgency
restraints had provoked among the general's own troops. Many feel that
"being told to hold their fire" increases their vulnerability. A former
Special Forces operator, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, said of
General McChrystal, according to Mr. Hastings, "His rules of engagement put
soldiers' lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the
same thing."

We are sinking more and more deeply into the fetid quagmire of Afghanistan
and neither the president nor General Petraeus nor anyone else has the
slightest clue about how to get out. The counterinsurgency zealots in the
military want more troops sent to Afghanistan, and they want the president
to completely scrap his already shaky July 2011 timetable for the beginning
of a withdrawal.

We're like a compulsive gambler plunging ever more deeply into debt in order
to wager on a rigged game. There is no victory to be had in Afghanistan,
only grief. We're bulldozing Detroit while at the same time trying to
establish model metropolises in Kabul and Kandahar. We're spending endless
billions on this wretched war but can't extend the unemployment benefits of
Americans suffering from the wretched economy here at home.

The difference between this and a nightmare is that when you wake up from a
nightmare it's over. This is all too tragically real.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Naomi Klein: A hole in the world

Gulf oil spill: A hole in the world

The Deepwater Horizon disaster is not just an industrial accident - it is a
violent wound inflicted on the Earth itself. In this special report from the
Gulf coast, a leading author and activist shows how it lays bare the hubris
at the heart of capitalism

By Naomi Klein
The Guardian(UK): 19 June, 2010

Obama cannot order pelicans not to die (no matter whose ass he kicks). And
no amount of money - not BP's $20bn, not $100bn - can replace a culture
lost its roots.

Everyone gathered for the town hall meeting had been repeatedly instructed
to show civility to the gentlemen from BP and the federal government. These
fine folks had made time in their busy schedules to come to a high school
gymnasium on a Tuesday night in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, one of many
coastal communities where brown poison was slithering through the marshes,
part of what has come to be described as the largest environmental disaster
in US history.

"Speak to others the way you would want to be spoken to," the chair of the
meeting pleaded one last time before opening the floor for questions.

And for a while the crowd, mostly made up of fishing families, showed
remarkable restraint. They listened patiently to Larry Thomas, a genial BP
public relations flack, as he told them that he was committed to "doing
better" to process their claims for lost revenue - then passed all the
details off to a markedly less friendly subcontractor. They heard out the
suit from the Environmental Protection Agency as he informed them that,
contrary to what they have read about the lack of testing and the product
being banned in Britain, the chemical dispersant being sprayed on the oil in
massive quantities was really perfectly safe.

But patience started running out by the third time Ed Stanton, a coast guard
captain, took to the podium to reassure them that "the coast guard intends
to make sure that BP cleans it up".

"Put it in writing!" someone shouted out. By now the air conditioning had
shut itself off and the coolers of Budweiser were running low. A shrimper
named Matt O'Brien approached the mic. "We don't need to hear this anymore,"
he declared, hands on hips. It didn't matter what assurances they were
offered because, he explained, "we just don't trust you guys!" And with
that, such a loud cheer rose up from the floor you'd have thought the Oilers
(the unfortunately named school football team) had scored a touchdown.

The showdown was cathartic, if nothing else. For weeks residents had been
subjected to a barrage of pep talks and extravagant promises coming from
Washington, Houston and London. Every time they turned on their TVs, there
was the BP boss, Tony Hayward, offering his solemn word that he would "make
it right". Or else it was President Barack Obama expressing his absolute
confidence that his administration would "leave the Gulf coast in better
shape than it was before", that he was "making sure" it "comes back even
stronger than it was before this crisis".

It all sounded great. But for people whose livelihoods put them in intimate
contact with the delicate chemistry of the wetlands, it also sounded
completely ridiculous, painfully so. Once the oil coats the base of the
marsh grass, as it had already done just a few miles from here, no miracle
machine or chemical concoction could safely get it out. You can skim oil off
the surface of open water, and you can rake it off a sandy beach, but an
oiled marsh just sits there, slowly dying. The larvae of countless species
for which the marsh is a spawning ground - shrimp, crab, oysters and fin
fish - will be poisoned.

It was already happening. Earlier that day, I travelled through nearby
marshes in a shallow water boat. Fish were jumping in waters encircled by
white boom, the strips of thick cotton and mesh BP is using to soak up the
oil. The circle of fouled material seemed to be tightening around the fish
like a noose. Nearby, a red-winged blackbird perched atop a 2 metre (7ft)
blade of oil-contaminated marsh grass. Death was creeping up the cane; the
small bird may as well have been standing on a lit stick of dynamite.

And then there is the grass itself, or the Roseau cane, as the tall sharp
blades are called. If oil seeps deeply enough into the marsh, it will not
only kill the grass above ground but also the roots. Those roots are what
hold the marsh together, keeping bright green land from collapsing into the
Mississippi River delta and the Gulf of Mexico. So not only do places like
Plaquemines Parish stand to lose their fisheries, but also much of the
physical barrier that lessens the intensity of fierce storms like hurricane
Katrina. Which could mean losing everything.

How long will it take for an ecosystem this ravaged to be "restored and made
whole" as Obama's interior secretary has pledged to do? It's not at all
clear that such a thing is remotely possible, at least not in a time frame
we can easily wrap our heads around. The Alaskan fisheries have yet to fully
recover from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and some species of fish never
returned. Government scientists now estimate that as much as a Valdez-worth
of oil may be entering the Gulf coastal waters every four days. An even
worse prognosis emerges from the 1991 Gulf war spill, when an estimated 11m
barrels of oil were dumped into the Persian Gulf - the largest spill ever.
That oil entered the marshland and stayed there, burrowing deeper and deeper
thanks to holes dug by crabs. It's not a perfect comparison, since so little
clean-up was done, but according to a study conducted 12 years after the
disaster, nearly 90% of the impacted muddy salt marshes and mangroves were
still profoundly damaged.

We do know this. Far from being "made whole," the Gulf coast, more than
likely, will be diminished. Its rich waters and crowded skies will be less
alive than they are today. The physical space many communities occupy on the
map will also shrink, thanks to erosion. And the coast's legendary culture
will contract and wither. The fishing families up and down the coast do not
just gather food, after all. They hold up an intricate network that includes
family tradition, cuisine, music, art and endangered languages - much like
the roots of grass holding up the land in the marsh. Without fishing, these
unique cultures lose their root system, the very ground on which they stand.
(BP, for its part, is well aware of the limits of recovery. The company's
Gulf of Mexico regional oil spill response plan specifically instructs
officials not to make "promises that property, ecology, or anything else
will be restored to normal". Which is no doubt why its officials
consistently favour folksy terms like "make it right".)

If Katrina pulled back the curtain on the reality of racism in America, the
BP disaster pulls back the curtain on something far more hidden: how little
control even the most ingenious among us have over the awesome, intricately
interconnected natural forces with which we so casually meddle. BP cannot
plug the hole in the Earth that it made. Obama cannot order fish species to
survive, or brown pelicans not to go extinct (no matter whose ass he kicks).
No amount of money - not BP's recently pledged $20bn (£13.5bn), not $100bn -
can replace a culture that has lost its roots. And while our politicians and
corporate leaders have yet to come to terms with these humbling truths, the
people whose air, water and livelihoods have been contaminated are losing
their illusions fast.

"Everything is dying," a woman said as the town hall meeting was finally
coming to a close. "How can you honestly tell us that our Gulf is resilient
and will bounce back? Because not one of you up here has a hint as to what
is going to happen to our Gulf. You sit up here with a straight face and act
like you know when you don't know."

This Gulf coast crisis is about many things - corruption, deregulation, the
addiction to fossil fuels. But underneath it all, it's about this: our
culture's excruciatingly dangerous claim to have such complete understanding
and command over nature that we can radically manipulate and re-engineer it
with minimal risk to the natural systems that sustain us. But as the BP
disaster has revealed, nature is always more unpredictable than the most
sophisticated mathematical and geological models imagine. During Thursday's
congressional testimony, Hayward said: "The best minds and the deepest
expertise are being brought to bear" on the crisis, and that, "with the
possible exception of the space programme in the 1960s, it is difficult to
imagine the gathering of a larger, more technically proficient team in one
place in peacetime." And yet, in the face of what the geologist Jill
Schneiderman has described as "Pandora's well", they are like the men at the
front of that gymnasium: they act like they know, but they don't know.

BP's mission statement

In the arc of human history, the notion that nature is a machine for us to
re-engineer at will is a relatively recent conceit. In her ground-breaking
1980 book The Death of Nature, the environmental historian Carolyn Merchant
reminded readers that up until the 1600s, the Earth was alive, usually
taking the form of a mother. Europeans - like indigenous people the world
over - believed the planet to be a living organism, full of life-giving
powers but also wrathful tempers. There were, for this reason, strong taboos
against actions that would deform and desecrate "the mother", including

The metaphor changed with the unlocking of some (but by no means all) of
nature's mysteries during the scientific revolution of the 1600s. With
nature now cast as a machine, devoid of mystery or divinity, its component
parts could be dammed, extracted and remade with impunity. Nature still
sometimes appeared as a woman, but one easily dominated and subdued. Sir
Francis Bacon best encapsulated the new ethos when he wrote in the 1623 De
dignitate et augmentis scientiarum that nature is to be "put in constraint,
moulded, and made as it were new by art and the hand of man".

Those words may as well have been BP's corporate mission statement. Boldly
inhabiting what the company called "the energy frontier", it dabbled in
synthesising methane-producing microbes and announced that "a new area of
investigation" would be geoengineering. And of course it bragged that, at
its Tiber prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, it now had "the deepest well ever
drilled by the oil and gas industry" - as deep under the ocean floor as jets
fly overhead.

Imagining and preparing for what would happen if these experiments in
altering the building blocks of life and geology went wrong occupied
precious little space in the corporate imagination. As we have all
discovered, after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, the
company had no systems in place to effectively respond to this scenario.
Explaining why it did not have even the ultimately unsuccessful containment
dome waiting to be activated on shore, a BP spokesman, Steve Rinehart, said:
"I don't think anybody foresaw the circumstance that we're faced with now."
Apparently, it "seemed inconceivable" that the blowout preventer would ever
fail - so why prepare?

This refusal to contemplate failure clearly came straight from the top. A
year ago, Hayward told a group of graduate students at Stanford University
that he has a plaque on his desk that reads: "If you knew you could not
fail, what would you try?" Far from being a benign inspirational slogan,
this was actually an accurate description of how BP and its competitors
behaved in the real world. In recent hearings on Capitol Hill, congressman
Ed Markey of Massachusetts grilled representatives from the top oil and gas
companies on the revealing ways in which they had allocated resources. Over
three years, they had spent "$39bn to explore for new oil and gas. Yet, the
average investment in research and development for safety, accident
prevention and spill response was a paltry $20m a year."

These priorities go a long way towards explaining why the initial
exploration plan that BP submitted to the federal government for the
ill-fated Deepwater Horizon well reads like a Greek tragedy about human
hubris. The phrase "little risk" appears five times. Even if there is a
spill, BP confidently predicts that, thanks to "proven equipment and
technology", adverse affects will be minimal. Presenting nature as a
predictable and agreeable junior partner (or perhaps subcontractor), the
report cheerfully explains that should a spill occur, "Currents and
microbial degradation would remove the oil from the water column or dilute
the constituents to background levels". The effects on fish, meanwhile,
"would likely be sublethal" because of "the capability of adult fish and
shellfish to avoid a spill [and] to metabolise hydrocarbons". (In BP's
telling, rather than a dire threat, a spill emerges as an all-you-can-eat
buffet for aquatic life.)

Best of all, should a major spill occur, there is, apparently, "little risk
of contact or impact to the coastline" because of the company's projected
speedy response (!) and "due to the distance [of the rig] to shore" - about
48 miles (77km). This is the most astonishing claim of all. In a gulf that
often sees winds of more than 70km an hour, not to mention hurricanes, BP
had so little respect for the ocean's capacity to ebb and flow, surge and
heave, that it did not think oil could make a paltry 77km trip. (Last week,
a shard of the exploded Deepwater Horizon showed up on a beach in Florida,
306km away.)

None of this sloppiness would have been possible, however, had BP not been
making its predictions to a political class eager to believe that nature had
indeed been mastered. Some, like Republican Lisa Murkowski, were more eager
than others. The Alaskan senator was so awe-struck by the industry's
four-dimensional seismic imaging that she proclaimed deep-sea drilling to
have reached the very height of controlled artificiality. "It's better than
Disneyland in terms of how you can take technologies and go after a resource
that is thousands of years old and do so in an environmentally sound way,"
she told the Senate energy committee just seven months ago.

Drilling without thinking has of course been Republican party policy since
May 2008. With gas prices soaring to unprecedented heights, that's when the
conservative leader Newt Gingrich unveiled the slogan "Drill Here, Drill
Now, Pay Less" - with an emphasis on the now. The wildly popular campaign
was a cry against caution, against study, against measured action. In
Gingrich's telling, drilling at home wherever the oil and gas might be -
locked in Rocky Mountain shale, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and
deep offshore - was a surefire way to lower the price at the pump, create
jobs, and kick Arab ass all at once. In the face of this triple win, caring
about the environment was for sissies: as senator Mitch McConnell put it,
"in Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and Texas, they think oil rigs are
pretty". By the time the infamous "Drill Baby Drill" Republican national
convention rolled around, the party base was in such a frenzy for US-made
fossil fuels, they would have bored under the convention floor if someone
had brought a big enough drill.

Obama, eventually, gave in, as he invariably does. With cosmic bad timing,
just three weeks before the Deepwater Horizon blew up, the president
announced he would open up previously protected parts of the country to
offshore drilling. The practice was not as risky as he had thought, he
explained. "Oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are
technologically very advanced." That wasn't enough for Sarah Palin, however,
who sneered at the Obama administration's plans to conduct more studies
before drilling in some areas. "My goodness, folks, these areas have been
studied to death," she told the Southern Republican leadership conference in
New Orleans, now just 11 days before the blowout. "Let's drill, baby, drill,
not stall, baby, stall!" And there was much rejoicing.

In his congressional testimony, Hayward said: "We and the entire industry
will learn from this terrible event." And one might well imagine that a
catastrophe of this magnitude would indeed instil BP executives and the
"Drill Now" crowd with a new sense of humility. There are, however, no signs
that this is the case. The response to the disaster - at the corporate and
governmental levels - has been rife with the precise brand of arrogance and
overly sunny predictions that created the disaster in the first place.

The ocean is big, she can take it, we heard from Hayward in the early days.
While spokesman John Curry insisted that hungry microbes would consume
whatever oil was in the water system, because "nature has a way of helping
the situation". But nature has not been playing along. The deep-sea gusher
has bust out of all BP's top hats, containment domes, and junk shots. The
ocean's winds and currents have made a mockery of the lightweight booms BP
has laid out to absorb the oil. "We told them," said Byron Encalade, the
president of the Louisiana Oysters Association. "The oil's gonna go over the
booms or underneath the bottom." Indeed it did. The marine biologist Rick
Steiner, who has been following the clean up closely, estimates that "70% or
80% of the booms are doing absolutely nothing at all".

And then there are the controversial chemical dispersants: more than 1.3m
gallons dumped with the company's trademark "what could go wrong?" attitude.
As the angry residents at the Plaquemines Parish town hall rightly point
out, few tests had been conducted, and there is scant research about what
this unprecedented amount of dispersed oil will do to marine life. Nor is
there a way to clean up the toxic mixture of oil and chemicals below the
surface. Yes, fast multiplying microbes do devour underwater oil - but in
the process they also absorb the water's oxygen, creating a whole new threat
to marine life.

BP had even dared to imagine that it could prevent unflattering images of
oil-covered beaches and birds from escaping the disaster zone. When I was on
the water with a TV crew, for instance, we were approached by another boat
whose captain asked, ""Y'all work for BP?" When we said no, the response -
in the open ocean - was "You can't be here then". But of course these
heavy-handed tactics, like all the others, have failed. There is simply too
much oil in too many places. "You cannot tell God's air where to flow and
go, and you can't tell water where to flow and go," I was told by Debra
Ramirez. It was a lesson she had learned from living in Mossville,
Louisiana, surrounded by 14 emission-spewing petrochemical plants, and
watching illness spread from neighbour to neighbour.

Human limitation has been the one constant of this catastrophe. After two
months, we still have no idea how much oil is flowing, nor when it will
stop. The company's claim that it will complete relief wells by the end of
August - repeated by Obama in his Oval Office address - is seen by many
scientists as a bluff. The procedure is risky and could fail, and there is a
real possibility that the oil could continue to leak for years.

The flow of denial shows no sign of abating either. Louisiana politicians
indignantly oppose Obama's temporary freeze on deepwater drilling, accusing
him of killing the one big industry left standing now that fishing and
tourism are in crisis. Palin mused on Facebook that "no human endeavour is
ever without risk", while Texas Republican congressman John Culberson
described the disaster as a "statistical anomaly". By far the most
sociopathic reaction, however, comes from veteran Washington commentator
Llewellyn King: rather than turning away from big engineering risks, we
should pause in "wonder that we can build machines so remarkable that they
can lift the lid off the underworld".

Make the bleeding stop

Thankfully, many are taking a very different lesson from the disaster,
standing not in wonder at humanity's power to reshape nature, but at our
powerlessness to cope with the fierce natural forces we unleash. There is
something else too. It is the feeling that the hole at the bottom of the
ocean is more than an engineering accident or a broken machine. It is a
violent wound in a living organism; that it is part of us. And thanks to
BP's live camera feed, we can all watch the Earth's guts gush forth, in real
time, 24 hours a day.

John Wathen, a conservationist with the Waterkeeper Alliance, was one of the
few independent observers to fly over the spill in the early days of the
disaster. After filming the thick red streaks of oil that the coast guard
politely refers to as "rainbow sheen", he observed what many had felt: "The
Gulf seems to be bleeding." This imagery comes up again and again in
conversations and interviews. Monique Harden, an environmental rights lawyer
in New Orleans, refuses to call the disaster an "oil spill" and instead
says, "we are haemorrhaging". Others speak of the need to "make the bleeding
stop". And I was personally struck, flying over the stretch of ocean where
the Deepwater Horizon sank with the US Coast Guard, that the swirling shapes
the oil made in the ocean waves looked remarkably like cave drawings: a
feathery lung gasping for air, eyes staring upwards, a prehistoric bird.
Messages from the deep.

And this is surely the strangest twist in the Gulf coast saga: it seems to
be waking us up to the reality that the Earth never was a machine. After 400
years of being declared dead, and in the middle of so much death, the Earth
is coming alive.

The experience of following the oil's progress through the ecosystem is a
kind of crash course in deep ecology. Every day we learn more about how what
seems to be a terrible problem in one isolated part of the world actually
radiates out in ways most of us could never have imagined. One day we learn
that the oil could reach Cuba - then Europe. Next we hear that fishermen all
the way up the Atlantic in Prince Edward Island, Canada, are worried because
the Bluefin tuna they catch off their shores are born thousands of miles
away in those oil-stained Gulf waters. And we learn, too, that for birds,
the Gulf coast wetlands are the equivalent of a busy airport hub - everyone
seems to have a stopover: 110 species of migratory songbirds and 75% of all
migratory US waterfowl.

It's one thing to be told by an incomprehensible chaos theorist that a
butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas. It's
another to watch chaos theory unfold before your eyes. Carolyn Merchant puts
the lesson like this: "The problem as BP has tragically and belatedly
discovered is that nature as an active force cannot be so confined."
Predictable outcomes are unusual within ecological systems, while
"unpredictable, chaotic events [are] usual". And just in case we still
didn't get it, a few days ago, a bolt of lightning struck a BP ship like an
exclamation mark, forcing it to suspend its containment efforts. And don't
even mention what a hurricane would do to BP's toxic soup.

There is, it must be stressed, something uniquely twisted about this
particular path to enlightenment. They say that Americans learn where
foreign countries are by bombing them. Now it seems we are all learning
about nature's circulatory systems by poisoning them.

In the late 90s, an isolated indigenous group in Colombia captured world
headlines with an almost Avatar-esque conflict. From their remote home in
the Andean cloud forests, the U'wa let it be known that if Occidental
Petroleum carried out plans to drill for oil on their territory, they would
commit mass ritual suicide by jumping off a cliff. Their elders explained
that oil is part of ruiria, "the blood of Mother Earth". They believe that
all life, including their own, flows from ruiria, so pulling out the oil
would bring on their destruction. (Oxy eventually withdrew from the region,
saying there wasn't as much oil as it had previously thought.)

Virtually all indigenous cultures have myths about gods and spirits living
in the natural world - in rocks, mountains, glaciers, forests - as did
European culture before the scientific revolution. Katja Neves, an
anthropologist at Concordia University, points out that the practice serves
a practical purpose. Calling the Earth "sacred" is another way of expressing
humility in the face of forces we do not fully comprehend. When something is
sacred, it demands that we proceed with caution. Even awe.

If we are absorbing this lesson at long last, the implications could be
profound. Public support for increased offshore drilling is dropping
precipitously, down 22% from the peak of the "Drill Now" frenzy. The issue
is not dead, however. It is only a matter of time before the Obama
administration announces that, thanks to ingenious new technology and tough
new regulations, it is now perfectly safe to drill in the deep sea, even in
the Arctic, where an under-ice clean up would be infinitely more complex
than the one underway in the Gulf. But perhaps this time we won't be so
easily reassured, so quick to gamble with the few remaining protected

Same goes for geoengineering. As climate change negotiations wear on, we
should be ready to hear more from Dr Steven Koonin, Obama's undersecretary
of energy for science. He is one of the leading proponents of the idea that
climate change can be combated with techno tricks like releasing sulphate
and aluminium particles into the atmosphere - and of course it's all
perfectly safe, just like Disneyland! He also happens to be BP's former
chief scientist, the man who just 15 months ago was still overseeing the
technology behind BP's supposedly safe charge into deepwater drilling. Maybe
this time we will opt not to let the good doctor experiment with the physics
and chemistry of the Earth, and choose instead to reduce our consumption and
shift to renewable energies that have the virtue that, when they fail, they
fail small. As US comedian Bill Maher put it, "You know what happens when
windmills collapse into the sea? A splash."

The most positive possible outcome of this disaster would be not only an
acceleration of renewable energy sources like wind, but a full embrace of
the precautionary principle in science. The mirror opposite of Hayward's "If
you knew you could not fail" credo, the precautionary principle holds that
"when an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health"
we tread carefully, as if failure were possible, even likely. Perhaps we can
even get Hayward a new desk plaque to contemplate as he signs compensation
cheques. "You act like you know, but you don't know."

Naomi Klein visited the Gulf coast with a film-crew from Fault Lines, a
documentary programme hosted by Avi Lewis on al-Jazeera English Television.
She was a consultant on the film