The End of Oil

end-of-oil

The End of Oil

by Paul Roberts

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (20014)

Book Review

Although fourteen years old, The End of Oil offers an invaluable historical analysis about the absolute link between cheap fossil fuels and the development of industrial capitalism. Roberts starts his analysis with the first century Persians who first distilled surface petroleum for use as lamp fuel. According to Roberts, widespread use of oil as a fuel was impossible until drill technology became available in the 19th century to drill for it at deep levels.

Roberts identifies coal mining as the first really capital intensive industry requiring extensive external funding. Building the infrastructure to mine and process all three fossil fuels is always extremely capital intensive. The fact that a coal or gas-fired power plant takes three or four decades to pay off is one of the main reasons fossil fuel companies, and the banks and governments that subsidize them, are so reluctant to replace them with renewable energy infrastructure. The End of Oil also emphasizes the absolute importance of cheap fossil fuel to the economic health of industrialized countries, Between1945 and 2004 (when the book was published), there were six big spikes in the price of oil – each was accompanies by a major economic recession.

Roberts maintains the cheap, easily accessible oil is all used up, explaining its steady price increase since the late 70s. Russian oil, which is fairly costly to mine, only became economically viable when the price of oil hit $35 a barrel in 1980.

Prior to the final chapters, which review the economics of various forms of renewal energy, the book also discusses the geopolitics of oil. Roberts leaves absolutely no doubt that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an effort by neoconservatives Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz et al to control the volatile price of oil and the devastating effects of this lability on the US economy. Although the US wars in Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen occurred after the book’s publication, Roberts’s analysis left me with no doubt whatsoever they were driven by similar geopolitical objectives.

Roberts also discusses the geopolitical threats posed by China, India and Southeast Asian countries as their growing middle classes put pressure on a finite supply of oil. He also explores the threat the growing political/military alliance between Russian and Iran creates. Between them, the two countries control half the world supply of natural gas. He leaves no doubt, in other words, that the current US military threats against China, Russia and Iran are also about fossil fuel security, just like the war on Iraq.

The Billionaires Who Helped Destroy Democracy

The Mayfair Set: Four Stories About the Rise of Business and the Decline of Political Power

Directed by Adam Curtis (1999)

Film Review

The Mayfair Set is a four part documentary series profiling the right wing financiers responsible for the financialization of the British-American economy in the seventies and eighties. It also explores the simultaneous transfer of real power away from elected representatives to banks and financial markets. “Mayfair Set” refers to a private London gambling club – the Clermont Club – where many of these future billionaires were members.

Part 1 – concerns British aristocrat Colonel David Sterling, founder of the British SAS (Special Air Service). In the sixties and seventies, Sterling created a series of private mercenary armies to fight independence movements in Africa and elsewhere. In addition to secretly fighting Egypt’s invasion of Yemen in 1962, he also set up numerous arms deals for Saudi Arabia,* with the assistance of notorious Saudi arms dealer, Adnan Khashoggi.** He also created the Saudi air force.

Part 2 – concerns two right wing Clermont Club members John Slater and Tiny Rollin. Slater was a corporate raider who almost singlehandedly wiped out Britain’s manufacturing sector in the seventies and eighties. He did so by targeting specific companies for hostile takeover, stripping their assets, sacking thousands of workers, and investing the proceeds in the share market. Rollin was responsible for bilking newly independent African nations of their mines, factories and plantations.

Part 3 – concerns Slater’s fellow corporate raider, Michael Goldsmith, who emigrated to the US in 1980 and paired up with junk bond guru Michael Milken to destroy America’s manufacturing base by initiating dozens of hostile takeovers of US companies. In 1990 Milken was sentenced to 3 ½ years prison on 94 counts of fraud, racketeering and insider trading.

Part 4 – concerns the rise to power of Clermont Club darling Margaret Thatcher and her (controversial) embrace of Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed. Al-Fayed saved her government when currency speculator George Soros led a vicious attack on the British pound in 1992. Al-Fayed would subsequently blow the whistle to the Guardian on all the British MPs who accepted bribes from him. Al-Fayed was father to Dodi, the boyfriend killed in the car crash with Princess Diana.


*British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which continue to the present day, have become extremely controversial owing to the Saudis’ carpet bombing of Yemen and the resulting humanitarian crisis.  See Shelve UK arms sales to Saudis over Yemen, say two MPs’ committees

**Khashoggi first came to public attention for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, in which George Herbert Walker Bush and other members of the Reagan administration illegally sold weapons to Iran to finance their illegal war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. Khashoggi also had direct links with the alleged 9-11 terrorists (see Spike the News) and was the uncle of Dodi Al Fayed, the boyfriend killed in the car crash with Princess Diana.

 

The Revolutionary Mud House Movement

First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture

Directed by David Sheen (2010)

Film Review

First Earth is about the growing movement to build homes from wood rather than word or concrete. The film is divided into 12 segments, providing an intriguing glimpse into the 50% of the world who already live or work in mud structures. A growing number of third world leaders are highly critical of industrial society’s efforts to colonize them by destroying their cultures and dragging them into a cash economy.

Part 1 Intro Any civilization that continually consumes its non-renewable resources will eventually destroy the land base that supports it. According to the US Department of Energy, wood and concrete buildings consume 40% of total global energy and 40% of the raw materials the world consumers. In North America, 75% of the trees felled are used in construction.

Ravaging our forests in this way is responsible for approximately 200 species extinctions every day. Replanting trees is ineffective in preventing extinctions because it doesn’t replace the delicate forest ecosystems which have been destroyed.

Part 2 African Earth visits a Ghanaian village where every member knows how to build their own house from free locally sourced materials.

Part 3 American Earth explores the history of Pueblo architecture, based on adobe bricks and plaster, and the US permaculture movement, which is studying and teaching how to build homes out of cob.*

Part 4 Why Earth argues that cheap energy has allowed westerners to move building materials long distances. Building with locally sourced mud is far more sustainable, as it requires no fossil fuel energy and produces no end of life waste. Mud is also an ideal (free) insulator for homes relying on passive solar heating.

Part 5 Empowering Earth describes the history of the cob building movement, which started in Oregon and now offers courses across North America.

Part 6 Another Earth is Possible discusses the ins and outs of obtaining building permits and mortgages for a cob home.

Part 7 European Earth describes the spread of the cob movement to the UK.

Part 8 Arabian Earth describes the long history of earth building in Yemen, which uses mud bricks to construct high rise buildings and has mud brick structures standing that pre-date Islam (600 AD).

Part 9 Urban Earth explores how the earth building movement and similar experiments in sustainability are helping Portland residents improve civic engagement and regain their sense of community.

Part 10 Inner City Earth explores how African American activists in Oakland are fighting gentrification by engaging community members in earth building projects.

Part 11 International Earth is about bringing the cob movement to Thailand, where it’s reducing local villagers’ reliance on cement. The move 30 years ago to cement (from traditional bamboo and thatch) has caused a massive debt crisis in many areas of the country. Thailand now has 18 earth building centers teaching around 600 people a month how to build homes out of free, locally sourced mud.

Part 12: The Future of Earth – epilogue.


*Cob is a natural building material made of subsoil, water and some kind of fibrous material (usually straw)

Untold History of the US – Bush and Obama Age of Terror

Part 10 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States covers the Bush II and Obama presidency.

The Bush II Presidency

Stone begins this section by reminding viewers that Al Gore won the 2000 election by 540,000 votes. He asserts Gore would also have won the electoral college if the Supreme Court hadn’t intervened and stopped the recount in Florida.

Under the heavy influence of Vice President Dick Cheney and other Project for a New American Century (PNAC) members, Bush immediately withdrew from the International Criminal Court treaty (which Clinton supported), the Nuclear Test Ban Treat, the Kyoto Accord and the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty. He also suspended US-led talks for Korean unification and for peace in Israel-Palestine.

Following 9-11 (which Stone refers to as the new Pearl Harbor PNAC called for), Bush launched illegal wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to authorizing the illegal indefinite detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo, he also authorized the use torture and significantly expanded the US of “extraordinary rendition”* by the CIA, a program started by Clinton.

During his two terms as president, Bush doubled the defense budget, forcing massive cuts in domestic spending – which Stone maintains destroyed the US economy.

Meanwhile he pushed the Patriot Act through Congress to suppress domestic dissent against these policies.

The Obama Presidency

Stone begins this segment by reminding us that Obama rejected public campaign financing in 2008. His opponent John McCain, in contrast, accept public financing. As a result, Obama received all the major donations from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks. This enabled him to significantly outspend McCain.

Stone blasts Obama for campaigning as the anti-war, change candidate. Who immediately on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, massively increased troop numbers in Afghanistan, as well as expanding the war on terror to Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and the Philippines.

In addition to continuing NATO expansion to increase the likelihood of war with Russia, Obama significantly expanded the southern military command (SouthCom) to target democratic populism in South America (eg Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina). In 2008 he created AfriCom a sixth military command aimed at countering Chinese investment in Africa.

Obama has also significantly increased the likelihood of war with China by encircling them with new troop deployment and sophisticated nuclear weapons systems.


*Extraordinary rendition is the term used when the CIA kidnaps criminal or terrorist suspects in a foreign country and secretly (and illegal) transports them to a country known to engage in torture.

The Arab Spring: Made in the USA

arabesques image

Arabesque$: Enquête sur le rôle des États-Unis dans les révoltes arabes

(Investigation into the US Role in the Arab Uprisings)

by Ahmed Bensaada

Investig’Action (2015)

(in French)

Book Review

Arabesque$, an update of Ahmed Bensaada’s 2011 book L’Arabesque Américaine, concerns the US government role in instigating, funding and coordinating the Arab Spring “revolutions.” Obviously most of this history has been carefully suppressed by the western media.

The new book devotes much more attention to the personalities leading the 2011 uprisings. Some openly admitted to receiving CIA funding. Others had no idea because it was deliberately concealed from them. A few (in Egypt and Syria) were officially charged with espionage. In Egypt, seven sought refuge in the US embassy in Cairo and had to be evacuated by the State Department.

Democracy: America’s Biggest Export

According to Bensaada, the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Arab Spring revolutions have four unique features in common:

1. None were spontaneous – all required careful and lengthy (5+ years) planning, by the State Department, CIA pass through foundations, George Soros, and the pro-Israel lobby.*.
2. All focused exclusively on removing reviled despots without replacing the autocratic power structure that kept them in power.
3. No Arab Spring protests made any reference whatsoever to powerful anti-US sentiment over Palestine and Iraq
4. All the instigators of Arab Spring uprisings were middle class, well educated youth who mysteriously vanished after 2011.

Nonviolent Regime Change

Bensaada begins by introducing non-violent guru Gene Sharp (see The CIA and Nonviolence), his links with the Pentagon and US intelligence, and his role, as director of the Albert Einstein Institution, in the “color” revolutions** in Eastern Europe and the attempted coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002.

The US goal in the Arab Spring revolutions was to replace unpopular despotic dictators while taking care to maintain the autocratic US-friendly infrastructure that had brought them to power. All initially followed the nonviolent precepts Sharp outlines in his 1994 book From Dictatorship to Democracy. In Libya, Syria and Yemen, the US and their allies were clearly prepared to introduce paid mercenaries when their Sharpian “revolutions” failed to produce regime change.

Follow the Money

Relying mainly on Wikileaks cables and the websites of key CIA pass through foundations (which he reproduces in the appendix), Bensaada methodically lists every State Department conference and workshop the Arab Spring heroes attended, the dollar amounts spent on them by the State Department and key “democracy” promoting foundations,*** the specific involvement of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Obama’s 2008 Internet campaign team in training Arab Spring cyperactivists in encryption technologies and social media skills, US embassy visits, and direct encounters with Hillary Clinton,  Condoleezza Rice, John McCain, Barack Obama and Serbian trainers from CANVAS (the CIA-backed organization that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in 2000).

Bensaada focuses most heavily on the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt. The Washington Post has estimated approximately 10,000 Egyptians took part in NED and USAID training in social media and nonviolent organizing techniques. For me the most astonishing information in this chapter concerned the role of an Egyptian exile (a former Egyptian policeman named Omar Afifi Suleiman) in coordinating the Tahrir Square protests from his office in Washington DC. According to Wikileaks, NED paid Suleiman a yearly stipend of $200,000+ between 2008-2011.

When Nonviolence Fails

Arabesques$ devotes far more attention to Libya, Syria and Yemen than Bensaada’s first book.

In the section on Libyia, Bensaada zeroes in on eleven key US assets who engineered the overthrow of Gaddafi. Some participated in the same State Department trainings as the Middle East opposition activists and instigated nonviolent Facebook and Twitter protests to coincide with the 2011 uprisings in Tunisian and Egypt. Others, in exile, underwent guerrilla training sponsored by the CIA, Mossad, Chad and Saudi Arabia. A few months after Kaddafi’s assassination, some of these same militants would lead Islamic militias attempting to overthrow Assad in Syria.

Between 2005 and 2010, the State Department funneled $12 million to opposition groups opposed to Assad. The US also financed Syrian exiles in Britain to start an anti-government cable TV channel they beamed into Syria.

In the section on Syria, Bensaada focuses on a handful of Syrian opposition activists who received free US training in cyberactivism and nonviolent resistance beginning in 2006. One, Ausama Monajed, is featured in the 2011 film How to Start a Revolution about his visit with Gene Sharp in 2006. Monajed and others worked closely with the US embassy, funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). This is a State Department program that operates in countries (such as Libya and Syria) where USAID is banned.

In February 2011, these groups posted a call on Twitter and Facebook for a Day of Rage. Nothing happened. When Sharpian techniques failed to produce a sizable nonviolent uprising, as in Libya, they and their allies (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan) were all set up to introduce Islamic mercenaries (many directly from Libya) to declare war on the Assad regime.


*I was astonished to learn that Forum Fikra, a forum for Arab activists working against authoritarian governments, was mainly funded by the Nathan and Esther K Wagner Family Foundation. The latter also funds numerous pro-Israel groups and projects, as well as the Washington Institute for Near East policy (a pro-Israel group with close ties to AIPAC).

**The color revolutions were CIA-instigated uprisings that replaced democratically elected pro-Russian governments with equally autocratic governments more friendly to US corporate interests:

Serbia (2000) – Bulldozer Revolution
Georgia (2002) – Rose Revolution
Ukraine (2004) – Orange Revolution
Kyrgyzstan (2005) – Tulip Revolution

***Democracy promoting foundations (as used here, “democracy” is synonymous with capitalism, ie favorable to the interests of US investors). Here are seven of the main ones involved in funding and training Arab Spring activists:
USAID (US Agency for International Development) – State Department agency charged with economic development and humanitarian aid with a long history of financing destabilization activities, especially in Latin America.
NED (National Endowment for Democracy) – national organization supported by State Department and CIA funding dedicated to the promotion of democratic institutions throughout the world, primary funder of IRI and NDI.
IRI (International Republican Institute) – democracy promoting organization linked with the Republican Party, currently chaired by Senator John McCain and funded by NED.
NDI (National Democratic Institute for International Affairs) – democracy promoting organization linked with the Democratic Party, currently chaired by Madeline Albright and funded by NED.
OSI (Open Society Institute) – founded by George Soros in 1993 to help fund color revolutions in Eastern Europe. Also contributed major funding to Arab Spring revolutions.
• Freedom House – US organization that supports nonviolent citizens initiatives in societies were liberty is denied or threatened, financed by USAID, NED and the Soros Foundation.
CANVAS (Center for Applied Non Violent Action and Strategies) – center originally founded by the Serbian activists of Otpor who the US funded and trained to over throw Slobodan Milosevic and who were instrumental in training Arab Spring activists. Funded by Freedom House, IRI and George Soros.

Originally published in Dissident Voice

 

Inside the Brutal Reality of Saudi Arabia

Inside the Dark Kingdom: Butchery, Slavery and History of Revolt

Abby Martin (2015)

Film Review

Inside the Dark Kingdom is a documentary celebrating the irony of Saudi Arabia’s selection to head the UN Panel of Human Rights. The blatant hypocrisy of the (successful) US campaign for this tyrannical kingdom to champion global human rights is obvious from the simple statement of facts. As is the duplicity of trying to depose the so-called “bloody dictator” of Syria while openly supporting the Saudi reign of terror.

The film investigates Saudi Arabia’s brutal and arbitrary criminal justice system, their brutal oppression of women, their virtual enslavement of migrant workers, their recent invasion of Yemen, their role in 9-11 and their reliance on US military assistance to suppress human rights organizing.

Saudi trials take place in secret, often without legal representation for the accused. Saudi subjects can be beheaded, stoned or crucified for crimes such as adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality and drug use and imprisoned and lashed for human rights advocacy or being victimized by sexual assault (typically rape victims receive more lashes than the men who rape them). Forty-five percent of Saudi executions are for non-violent drug crimes.

Saudi Uprisings

You rarely hear about Saudi Arabia’s long history of popular uprisings (and their brutal suppression) in the corporate media. The US first began collaborating with the Saudi royal family to suppress human rights in 1953, when Aramco (Arabian Oil Company workers) went on strike demanding a union. The US responded by establishing the US Training Mission in Saudi Arabia, which assisted the Saudi government in torturing and assassinating union leaders.

Saudi Arabia had their first failed revolution in 1962, when a Shia-led uprising demanded that oil profits be used to address poverty rather than to increase the wealth of American oil companies and the Saudi royal family.

Inspired by the 1979 revolution in Iran, rebels in the eastern Shia region of Saudi people launched massive street protests. These were crushed when the government tortured and assassinated key leaders and destroyed (via bombing) of dissident civilian enclaves.

The Saudi Arab Spring

Following the Arab Spring rebellions that blossomed in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011, there were Arab Spring rebellions in three major Saudi cities. The royal family responded by declaring martial law and banning any mainstream or social media favorable to the Arab Spring or unfavorable to the royal family. After arresting, torturing and/or assassinating of key organizers (and their families), the government immediately quadrupled their arms imports from the US.

The primary purpose of all this military hardware is to suppress dissent, not only in Saudi Arabia, but in Bahrain (the Saudi Army invaded Bahrain to suppress their Arab Spring uprising) and Yemen. Since April, 150,000 Saudi troops have invaded Yemen and killed 4,000 Yemenis – more than half of them civilians.

The 1945 Oil Protection Agreement

Martin also traces the history of the unique US-Saudi relationship, which started in 1945 with the signing of an official Oil Protection Agreement and the installation of a US naval base.

Dating back to 1988 the last four US presidents have had close business and personal relationships with the Saudi royal family. At present the Saudi princes are major donors to the Clinton Foundation.

Hundreds of Drone Operators Quit Air Force

predator drone“We didn’t even really know who we were firing at.”

The traumatic nature of their work is leading drone operators to quit the Air Force by the hundreds.

In the following video, former senior drone operator Brandon Bryant expresses deep regret for the six years he spent with the US drone program between 2005 and 2011. It especially bothered him that he was expected to fire on targets without being clear of their identities: “We didn’t even really know who we were firing at.”

Last November the human rights group Reprieve published a study indicating attempts to kill 41 alleged terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen resulted in more than 1100 civilian deaths.

photo credit: KAZVorpal via photopin cc

 

Also published in Veterans Today