This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015



Earth Day has passed, but the task of saving the Earth continues. Since the annual observance of the first large scale People’s conference on the environment has become in many cases a memorial to past victories and in others a celebration of greenwashing, it’s true purpose now may  be to inspire us to take the time to reassess our strategies for accomplishing our most important goals.

As world temperatures continue to hit record highs year after year since the turn of the century, an increasing number of climate change skeptics are admitting that global warming is real. The problem is that most resisted the idea in the first place because it was too frightening.
Now they look for reasons to argue it is not an emergency. The problem is not that they are too frightened to face the reality of the human consequences if they are wrong: they are clearly capable of believing what they want to believe. Despite the scientific consensus that the phenomenon most of them denied until recently is real and caused by human activity, they are still willing to bet their children’s future that they are right and the vast majority of the scientific community is wrong. Therefore, it behooves those of us trying to get something done about climate change to start using some different arguments.

Naomi Klein pointed out in This Changes Everything that the real fear that is causing so many people to be in denial is the recognition that any real solution short of a miraculous scientific breakthrough would require violating the first commandment of free market theology:

“The government shalt not mess with the right of transnational corporations to extract the maximum profit out of their activities regardless of the environmental and other human costs.”

If we want to generate support for serious action to halt dependence on fossil fuels, we need to come up with arguments that do not depend on violating the dictates of the imaginary free market that most Americans believe real. Those who cash in on their gullibility have convinced them that regulation is root of all economic problems. In truth of course, it is the lack of rules to assure truly competitive markets that has undermined the stability of traditionally defined capitalism faster than its inherent flaw of requiring continuous growth would have alone. Perhaps they can be educated eventually, but getting people to question the almost religious belief that capitalism as they understand it is the ideal economic system cannot be done in time to save the planet from almost certain destruction. Here are a few arguments for getting off fossil fuels that do not require abandoning free market principles.

The costs of maintaining the world’s largest military should be added to fuel costs

My favorite argument is one that should appeal to the millions of Ron Paul fans who agree with his isolationism. Far from accepting the neocon use of the term as an insult, they recognize that refusal to engage in war for corporate Empire is consistent with real conservative principles. Making the case that US foreign interventions in recent history have been mostly about gaining control of fossil fuel resources is not difficult. This reduces the competition that is supposed to keep prices low in free markets. On top of that, around 50% of the US discretionary budget is spent on a military that acts as the muscle for the oil and gas oligarchs when the US has no real global rival. These wars have created a costly domestic surveillance system that is an affront to the rights of a free people. It is hard to see how any real conservative could object to ending the support of global conflicts for access to fossil fuels. In the process, it would also cut the tremendous amount of fuels used by a bloated US military.

Free market principles predict that prices will inexorably rise

This argument is simpler and easier to understand for those who don’t think deeply about politics or economics. It is obvious that as long as our dependence on fossil fuels continues, accessible supplies become more expensive. Prices will rise, especially when demand begins to exceed extractable supplies. This cycle of rising prices might have already happened if not for the slowdown in the global economy the banksters produced, even if it would have still been obscured by Saudi Arabia’s decision to overproduce as a weapon against an Iran desperate for oil revenue. Americans loathe any rise in gas prices. If they know that the increases would continue indefinitely and that the Wall Street types who have repeatedly wiped out their wealth before demanding to be bailed out by taxpayers were the chief beneficiaries, their loyalty to the system might be shaken.

Fossil fuels are protected from free market influences by the government it has corrupted

Everyone knows government has been corrupted by fossil fuels and other special interest money in politics. Making them bear the true costs of our dependence on fossil fuels can help turn the tide in favor of renewables in the market. Oil and gas are hardly subject to free market forces when they are subsidized by US taxpayers to the tune of $37.5 billion per year. Worldwide, that figure might be as much as $1 trillion. And these subsidies do not begin to cover the real costs of pollution and health care costs paid for by localities in affected areas. Despite these advantages, renewables are increasingly becoming competitive in a variety of markets, even without subsidies. One expert estimated that sometime this year, solar will become cheaper than fossil fuels in half the states. Renewables are already cheaper in Australia, most of the developing world and 42 of the largest 50 cities in the US. How much faster could we reach emissions goals if fossil fuels were not so heavily subsidized?

How can fossil fuels compete with free energy?

Some authors point out that individual rooftop solar does not produce energy as cheaply as either fossil fuel- or renewably generated power, but this does not change the fact that after upfront costs are paid, power is free to the homeowner or municipality that owns public buildings powered by solar. In addition, it can generate income from the sale of excess energy generated. It pays for itself, and with falling prices does so much faster than just a few years ago.  That should be a big inducement for those to whom the issue of addressing global warming is purely an economic one. In addition, the idea of freeing ourselves from the grip of an industry that isusually monopolistic should appeal to the free market true believer. If it destroys the centralized power industry, so what? That is what is supposed to happen in a free market when an industry becomes obsolete. In the process, the number of jobs produced will dwarf those lost. The only losers in this scheme are those who are so determined to see every penny of profit they can squeeze from a dying planet that they refuse to minimize their losses by getting out before it is too late.

The costs of converting are less than cleaning up the mess

There is an increasing willingness in the corporate media to admit that the costs of dealing with the global climate change that sane people now admit exists will be astronomical. It is getting more difficult to believe the lies about these costs with each passing year. Some of these costs will be born directly by the taxpayer, such as replacing vulnerable military bases on coastlines such as those in Virginia that are already experiencing significant impacts. In addition to the expense, this means that climate change is becominga real national security risk. Unlike those cited as the reasons for America’s obsession with getting involved in conflicts in the Mideast and North Africa. Those who aren’t swayed by the immorality of these wars may care about the cost.

This argument of course only belongs on this list if it does not challenge free market economics. Admittedly, for the government to spend money to try to save the planet would have an effect on the competitiveness of fossil fuels compared to renewables. Climate experts also believe this will require a massive government investment comparable to fighting WWII. If the effect is to devastate the fossil fuel industry and strand trillions of dollars in potential profits, it is a hard argument to sell. We can only hope that by making climate deniers think about these other issues, we can wake them up to the fact that if they are wrong, the consequences will be much worse than doing what scientists are telling us we need to do.

Friday, April 3, 2015


Iran has become the latest front in the resistance to the advance of the Anglo-American-Israeli Empire. As the US-led War of Terror has been raging all around the region, Iran has played a key role in defending Syria, Iraq and Lebanon from Saudi-financed and American and Israeli-backed terrorists who have become the proxy troops carrying out the Obama doctrine, first unveiled in the now-failed state of Libya. Iran is also believed to be providing some level of assistance to the Yemeni resistance to the GCC’s attempt to reinstall the imperial governor placed in power as a result of the 2011 revolt that toppled previous governor Saleh. Without apparent irony, this is claimed by the US and its Israeli partners to be justified in the name of “preserving stability,” even while they destabilize the entire region in accordance with the Oded Yinon plan.

As should be obvious to any informed and thinking observer, the intent of those nations leading the endless wars is to establish global full spectrum dominance, as outlined in the 2000 PNAC white paper Rebuilding America’s Defenses. While the main front in this offensive has been centered on the oil and gas-rich Mideast, the US and its partners in this criminal enterprise are operating everywhere on Earth. Ukraine is aflame while the CIA-backed USAID works toward its grandiose goal of staging another Color Revolution in Russia ala the Yeltsin coup. Northern Africa has been attacked by NATO in Mali and Libya, while the US sets up a neocolonial system with willing governments and Africom establishes a dominant military presence across the continent. Efforts to stage further coups against leftist governments continue. The pivot to the East has been heralded as a “response” to trumped-up Chinese hegemonic ambitions, though the clear intent is to militarily challenge China’s peaceful rise to economic dominance.

Thanks in large part to CIA influence, the corporate media has been remarkably effective at controlling discourse about US foreign policy, so much so that the average American remains clueless that their tax dollars are financing the expansion of a global Empire ruled by the transnational corporations that control US foreign policy in collaboration with their Israeli partners. They have yet to recognize that the US has become the victim of a corporate coup starting with the October surprise that led to the election of Ronald Reagan and completed when George Bush the Lesser was selected as the figurehead leader of the “free” world by the US Supreme Court. Stunning as it seems to outside observers, Americans still haven’t recognized that after 9/11, neocon plans were launched to establish a permanent fascist New World Order under cover of a “War on Terror.” If Americans allow that plot to succeed, they will be as much the slaves of those who carried it out as the rest of the world.

That is why events in Tehran are critical to all of us. Well-meaning peace activists who think it appropriate to attack authoritarian regimes for repressing criticism of their rule are aiding the propagandists by diverting attention from the point that the US is behind all the chaos in the Mideast. You do not have to support the domestic policies of governments that are resisting the advance of Empire in order to hope that they succeed. If they cannot successfully defend their sovereignty in accordance with international law, no nation is safe. There is no hope for freedom for any of us if the nations in the axis of resistance cannot hold the line against the spread of fascism.

Those who claim that the use of the term fascism is unjustified hyperbole need to look up the definition. The US and Israel have become hyper-nationalistic, imperialist and dominated by corporate interests. The US government in particular is spying on its citizens, punishing dissent and expanding police powers. Such a government does not need a dictator to be classified as fascist, particularly when like Germany in the 1930s it has willingly handed power to those who would now presume to rule them without their consent. Americans need to relearn the lesson that dissent is patriotic and that submission to an oppressive and imperialist government is not.

Now that there is a framework in place for an agreement on constraining Iran's fictional nuclear weapons program, the furious neocon backlash to peaceful negotiations will intensify. Even as the negotiations were approaching success, unreformed neocons like John Bolton were calling for an illegal preemptive attack on Iran. Having learned nothing from the severe damage aligning with the right-wing Netanyahu government against President Obama has done to the Zionist cause, brain-dead Republicans and Democrats who have sold their souls to AIPAC are determined to undermine what would be Obama's legacy achievement: Ending neocon control of US foreign policy and creating conditions to end America's War of Terror.

Cynics will point to some of Obama's actions and claim that it is naive to say that he really intends to challenge the criminal cartel that seized control of US foreign policy following the coup of 2000. They have a point, but the counterargument is stronger.

To review the evidence of his perfidy regarding his expressed desire for peace with Iran:

-In 2009, Obama called for Iran to ship a substantial portion of its enriched uranium to a neutral country. With the aid of Turkey and Brazil, an agreement was reached. Obama and his hardline neocon Secretary of State Killery Clinton promptly nixed the deal.

-In 2012, Obama proposed severe sanctions on Iran, citing its nonexistent nuclear weapons program, which both Israeli and US intelligence agencies had repeatedly declared to be imaginary, starting with the 2007 intelligence report that killed Cheney’s push for war at that time.

In view of this history, what is the evidence that Obama now wants to make a deal?

-His latest negotiations are obviously far more serious. He suggested the talks shortly after he decided not to bomb Syria following the false flag attack there. That required him to call for a vote in Congress, something that no one thought he would do. It was entirely unnecessary in the post-9/11 world of unrestrained executive war powers.

Israelis and Saudis, already apoplectic over the failure of their push for war with Syria, became almost hysterical in their reaction to Obama’s overture of peace with their common nemesis. This was a direct challenge to the power of AIPAC to determine US foreign policy.

-Recall that this all took place after Netanyahu spoke to Congress during the 2012 election, challenging the candidates to make a vow support an Israeli first strike on Iran. Romney jumped to the bait while Obama ignored it, letting his Jewish supporters point out the outrageousness of this interference in a US Presidential election.

-Obama has fought off neocon assaults on the peace process and turned many of them into political assets. His actions have made many Americans aware for the first time that the interests of Israel as defined by its  right wing government and their neocon allies are inconsistent with those of the US and the region. Though neocons never admit defeat even in the wake of serial disasters, the latest example of Netanyahu’s arrogance followed by the overwhelming show of support by Israelis in the recent election following his racist remarks and rejection of the peace process spells long-term trouble for neocon ideology and the Zionist interests it incorporates.

The momentum is clearly in favor of reaching a favorable  final agreement. The reaction to this prospect will further illustrate the dangerous control that AIPAC and its supporters have over the US government. If neocons continue to overplay their hand, it will be a win-win for those opposed to US imperialism and the War of Terror which has provided a cover sufficient to fool American into supporting endless war for corporate Empire. It will also brighten prospects for an eventual just settlement for Palestine.

So why has Obama had such an inconsistent policy?

As former CIA analyst Ray McGovern reported, Obama has admitted that his actions have been constrained by the knowledge of what happens to those who, like Martin Luther King, Jr, are too successful at fostering resistance to the power elite. Furthermore, McGovern argues that all Presidents who might be inclined to oppose the CIA toe the line because they fear it, especially after what happened to the last one who tried to oppose the military-industrial complex. That has led him to protect the CIA from responsibility for its crimes and to support some neocon policies that are clearly inimical to US interests. McGovern called that cowardly, but it is clear that a dead President is not in a position to change anything.

Let's give credit to Obama where it is due and work to make sure that this time, the US keeps its promises. Contrary to the claims of the corporate media about Iranian betrayals, the US record has been one of consistently lying and breaking agreements as a means to further Israel's claimed interests and those of the bankers behind the military-industrial complex. These are the real powers that ultimately determine US foreign policy, in part by always representing a mortal threat to any President who might dare act like one. If Americans speak with one voice as they did when Congress prepared to vote on attacking Syria, they may meet with similar success by providing Obama with the cover he need to avoid the fire of those who put Israel's declared interests above that of peace.