links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter

Brazil China IBSA
CanadaIsraelIndonesiaJapanKoreaMexicoRussiaTurkey
Other Europe  Africa  Asia & Australia  Latin America  Island States
 

Archives
Green Sources Jobs
Real World's News Promptbook
FuturismCharts DatabaseBook reviewsArt and Peformance ReviewsCartoonsFuture MeetingsEco Friendly Tourism
Recent articles:
Ethical Markets Media works to reform markets and grow the green economy worldwide, focusing on the best practices, the most ethical, best-governed, cleanest, greenest organizations so as to raise global standards. EthicalMarkets.com provides news and perspective on climate prosperity,  reforming global finance, LOHAS and more through reports, articles, newsletters and analysis by our editor-in-chief, Hazel Henderson.  Ethicalmarkets.tv streams original Ethical Markets productions and video gathered from around the world. fowpal-banner.gif

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

U.S.
Obama’s Plan: Allow Drilling in Atlantic, but Limit It in Arctic.

By CORAL DAVENPORT for the New York Times – JAN. 27, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration moved Tuesday to open up a vast stretch of East Coast waters to oil and gas drilling, a decision that could have a profound impact on the economic and environmental future of states from Virginia to Georgia. The move also adds a new dimension to the legacy of President Obama.

In an announcement that outraged environmentalists and brought grudging cheers from the oil and gas industry, the Interior Department unveiled the latest part of its five-year plan for the government to sell leases for oil and gas development in federal waters from 2017 to 2022.

The plan would open up one lease sale area off the southeast stretch of the Atlantic Seaboard, an area the oil industry has long hungered to exploit. It would also open new portions of the Gulf of Mexico, which is already open to drilling. And in a move that appeased environmentalists but angered Alaskan Republicans, it will ban drilling in portions of the Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

“This is a balanced proposal that would make available nearly 80 percent of the undiscovered technically recoverable resources, while protecting areas that are simply too special to develop,” the interior secretary, Sally Jewell, said in a statement.

Environmentalists said opening the Atlantic waters would put the coasts of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia at risk for an environmental disaster like the BP spill that struck the Gulf Coast in 2010, when millions of barrels of oil washed ashore after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig. Advocacy groups in those states said that the drilling could harm tourism, fishing and other coastal industries that are already major drivers of the Southeastern economy.

But lawmakers from both parties in those coastal states have pushed for years to open their waters for drilling. The Interior Department estimates there are 3.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil on the Atlantic’s outer continental shelf and 31.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Continue reading the main story
Where Offshore Drilling Would Be Allowed

The Obama administration’s latest plan would open up the Eastern Seaboard to leasing for oil and gas drilling, but ban exploration in some Arctic waters off Alaska.

Areas in Alaska designated by President Obama in December and January as off limits for consideration for future oil and gas leasing.

The estimates are based on seismic surveys done in the early 1980s, and energy industry experts say the true reserves may be far higher. In opening up the waters to drilling, coastal states see the opportunity for billions of dollars in new revenue and royalties to flow from oil companies to state coffers, which would help pay for roads and schools and fill in budget shortfalls left by the recession.

For the president, the proposal is a new chapter in his complex and evolving environmental legacy. In announcing the drilling now, he is trying to achieve a balancing act on energy and the environment that he failed to achieve in his first term, in large part because of the BP disaster. Throughout his six years in office, he has tried to push a sweeping, aggressive and controversial plan to fight climate change while offering an appeasement to his opponents in the oil industry and the Republican Party.

“He giveth, and he taketh away,” said Kevin Book, an analyst at Clearview Energy Partners, a Washington analysis firm, of the president’s strategy. “The pairing of environmental policy with energy policy is something that, conceptually, this administration has done since the first term. Sometimes it looks like a balancing act, sometimes it’s serendipitous.”
Continue reading the main story

In early 2010, while trying to push a climate change bill through the Senate, Mr. Obama’s Interior Department put forth its first five-year plan for oil and gas development, which opened up the Atlantic coast for offshore drilling. The pairing of the two policies was done to ease opposition from Senate Republicans to the climate change bill. But after the deadly April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, Mr. Obama withdrew the proposal for Atlantic drilling. A few months later the climate bill died in the Senate.

Five years later he is trying again, this time trying to force through a historic climate change policy by using his executive authority to push Environmental Protection Agency regulations on planet-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants. The regulations, if enacted, could force states to shutter hundreds of coal plants in a transition to clean and renewable energy, and they have prompted fierce opposition from Republican governors.

But the new offshore drilling plan won praise from some of them. Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina, a Republican who is a fiercely conservative opponent of Mr. Obama’s energy and climate change policies, said in a statement on Tuesday that Mr. Obama was “taking a step in the right direction to help North Carolina become a significant energy-producing state.”

Mr. McCrory added that oil and gas drilling would “create thousands of good paying jobs, spur activity in a host of associated industries, generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and move America closer to energy independence.”

Mr. McCrory and other Southeastern governors envision a future in which new offshore drilling stimulates job growth and new onshore industries that support it, aligning Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia with states like Texas and Louisiana as major offshore oil producers.

But local advocacy groups fear not only oil spills but also the destruction of a distinctive coastal economy.

“Risky drilling off our Southern coasts jeopardizes the communities, jobs and beloved beaches that are the very heart of our coastal states,” said Sierra Weaver, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Our coastal economies are the backbone of hundreds of towns and cities along the Southern coast, providing thousands of jobs, multibillion-dollar tourism industries, multimillion-dollar fishing industries, and critical local tax revenues.”

Administration officials pointed out on Tuesday that the proposal would be subject to revision. Interior Department officials said that they expected to hold over 20 public hearings on the plan, but it does not require congressional approval. Ms. Weaver said environmental groups would gear up to fight the proposals.

Environmental advocates noted that since the 2010 BP spill, Congress has not passed any new law intended to tighten safety regulations on the offshore oil industry. But Interior Department officials said they were planning to put forth new regulations ahead of the new drilling.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

“As a result of that incident, there were investigations to reduce the likelihood of problems in the future,” said Janice Schneider, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management. Ms. Schneider said the agency was working with the industry to develop regulations on improved technology to prevent blowouts in offshore drilling rigs.

“We are working actively to get those proposed rules out on the street as soon as possible, and working with industry to ensure those rules reflect the best technology,” she said.

Interior Department officials said the drilling in the Atlantic would take place a minimum of 50 miles offshore so that it would not get in the way of the Navy’s military exercises, offshore wind turbines, and commercial and recreational fishing.

Ms. Jewell said that since so little was known about the proposed Atlantic lease sale areas, the coming years would be devoted to exploration of the area to determine the extent of its oil and gas resources and ecological sensitivity. She said that the government was unlikely to sell a drilling lease before 2021, meaning it could be a decade before new drilling begins.

“In the Atlantic, we know very little,” she said.

————————————————–
A version of this article appears in print on January 28, 2015, on page A1 of the New York editionn.

For illustrations look please at:  www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/us/oba…

————————————————–

Some of the comments:

Ben
10 hours ago

Excellent compromise. Let the spills and other “accidents” pollute the waterfront homes of the “movers and shakers” instead of wiping out a…

Patrick
12 hours ago

Just two thoughts on the subject of leasing Americans land to private industry………The excuse of making us energy independent means,…
westvillage
12 hours ago

“…lawmakers in Virginia and other Southeastern states have pushed to open up their waters to oil companies, lured by the prospect of new…

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

While on his way to Saudi Arabia, Obama released his opposition to drilling in a sensitive area of he Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Could this allay some Saudi worries?

————————————————————-

Obama’s Arctic Refuge Drill Ban Won’t Change Much, For Now
January 26, 2015

by John Ydstie of NPR

President Obama says he will ask Congress to give wilderness status to protect more than 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The president announced his intention Sunday in a video, describing the area as a pristine habitat with abundant wildlife:

“It’s very fragile. That’s why I’m very proud that my Department of Interior has put forward a comprehensive plan to make sure that we’re protecting the refuge and that we’re designating new areas, including coastal plains, for preservation,” he said.

But Obama’s action could put billions of barrels of oil beneath the wilderness out of reach of energy companies. Industry representatives are criticizing the decision, but also say Obama’s request will have little immediate effect.

Obama’s request for wilderness status reverses a recommendation by the Reagan administration in 1987 to allow drilling in a small area of the ANWR. In the intervening quarter of a century Democrats and Republicans have continuously sparred over the issue and no drilling has taken place.

Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the industry’s views, says despite the glut of oil on the market today because of the U.S. shale boom, the country will eventually need the oil from ANWR.

“If you look at Department of Energy forecasts, we’re gonna need oil and natural gas to fuel this economy for decades to come,” Milito says. “So, we gotta plan well ahead so we have the ability to fuel this economy for future generations.”

He points to a U.S. Geological Survey estimate that projects ANWR contains between 5 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil. He says the industry would likely find even more once it begins drilling.

Fadel Gheit, a managing director and oil expert at Oppenheimer & Co., says he believes the president’s decision does not change the outlook for developing the ANWR reserves significantly.

“It will make life more difficult for the industry; it will put another hurdle — but technology will always bring the hurdle down,” Gheit says.

He says the shale revolution reduces the urgency of tapping the ANWR oil.

“There’s really no need to take a chance on ANWR, since ANWR is still a very sensitive area,” he adds.

Gheit says the shale oil glut gives the oil industry five to 10 years to develop the technology it needs to convince the public that it can drill safely in such an environmentally sensitive place.

It’s virtually certain the new Republican-controlled Congress will reject the president’s recommendation. But Obama’s request does effectively block drilling for the next two years and he could veto a congressional bill to allow it.

But if Republicans keep control of Congress and the country elects a Republican president, Obama’s effort to protect ANWR from drilling could be swept aside.

=====================================================


Battle Over Offshore Drilling In Arctic Dwarfs ANWR

April 15, 2009

by Elizabeth Arnold of NPR

Melting ice in the Arctic may not be good for species that live there, but it does mean those icy waters are much more accessible and cost-effective places to drill for oil and gas.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in Alaska this week as part of an “information gathering” tour to help craft a new Outer Continental Shelf drilling policy. After two days of public testimony from those for and against offshore drilling, Salazar pronounced Alaskans passionate and divided.

Just over a year ago, the oil and gas industry bid $2.6 billion for drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea, located in the Arctic between Alaska and Russia. It’s the largest oil and gas lease sale in history, and it’s staggering when compared with the $7 million that the same leases went for in 1991.

Though rapidly retreating sea ice makes it easier and more cost-effective to drill in the Chukchi Sea, it also means the area is more fragile. Just about every marine mammal and seabird in the Chukchi Sea is already endangered or a candidate for listing. And, the opposition from native villages that rely on fish, walrus, seals and whales for subsistence dwarfs the fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


Melting Ice Could Mean More Drilling, More Controversy

The biggest lease of the most recent sale went to Shell Gulf of Mexico, which spent $105 million for rights in the Chukchi Sea. Shell already had bought leases even further north and was ready with rigs when then-President George W. Bush lifted the ban on drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf.

“We are drill-bit ready to move in the Arctic right now, and this is stuff that can happen right now, and with a few things going our way, we will be ready to go in 2010,” says Pete Slaiby, Shell’s Alaska general manager.

But those few things are now largely in the hands of Salazar, who went to Alaska this week as part of the process of developing this administration’s offshore energy plan. He has called a time out on new leasing, for more public input, and he got plenty Tuesday.

Whaling captain and mayor of the North Slope Borough Edward Itta advised slowing down: “Mr. Secretary, like all Alaskans, the people of the North Slope depend on the economic engine of oil and gas development. We have supported onshore for well over 30 years now. But, Mr. Secretary, offshore is a different matter.”

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin advised speeding up: “Delays or major restrictions in accessing our needed resources for environmentally responsible development are not in the nation’s or our state’s best interest.”

Passionate Protests From Both Sides

From laborers in hard hats chanting “jobs, jobs, jobs” to environmentalists dressed as polar bears and puffins, division and emotion over offshore drilling was apparent.

Shell’s Slaiby says the industry has learned from problems like the Exxon Valdez spill. Of the total volume of oil, less than 1 percent ends up in the oceans, he says. And, he says, more than 100 exploratory wells have been drilled in U.S. and Canadian Arctic waters without a single accident.

But concern over offshore drilling in Arctic waters doesn’t just center on spills. The Interior Department is also responsible for endangered species. An increasing number of marine mammals and seabirds in the arctic are in decline, and the fear is that the impacts of a warming climate will be compounded by new development.

Species At Risk

Traveling on an icebreaker in the northern Bering Sea, University of Wyoming researcher Jim Lovvorn studies seabirds that breed in the Arctic, including the spectacled eider. On both hands, he counts off other species in danger: Steller’s eiders, king eiders, common eiders, red-throated loons, yellow-billed loons, four species of ice seal, walruses and bowhead whales.

“You could not find a more sensitive habitat,” Lovvorn says.

On the same ship, USGS research ecologist Chad Jay is tracking the Pacific walrus, which is also under consideration for listing as a threatened or endangered species. Reductions in the extent of ice over the past few years have forced walruses onto small pieces of remnant ice.

In 2007, there was no ice at all near the shelf.

“As a result of [ice shelf melting] we saw upwards of 6,000 walruses hauling out along the shore of northwest Alaska, which is the first ever,” Jay says. “It means that a greater number of animals are using a smaller space to forage in and to haul out on — probably not a good thing.”

But the very thing that is cause for concern with regard to walrus and other species in the Arctic is what’s made drilling in these waters more attractive to industry: less sea ice.

Whether and how to balance development of a what is a fragile ecosystem — and what some believe is the next best answer to America’s thirst for oil — poses a major policy decision for the new Department of Interior. Salazar says he doesn’t expect to make everybody happy.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We find it astonishing how not even the Alternate Media sees the whole picture. The Glenn Greenwald following article is surely a great further contribution to his efforts to open hidden content – but even he missed a more up-to date point – the fact that January 27, 2015 happens to be the date much of Europe commemorates the freeing 70 years ago, January 27, 1945, of the Auschwitz death camp by the Russian Army. Simply put – even at the UN – January 27 is HMD – Holocaust Memorial Day while quite a few Muslim/Islamic States are effectively Holocaust deniers something outlawed in civilized States. I am just not sure where the Saudis present and past stand on this issue.

Many European leaders will be at Auschwitz that day but Putin will not be there. Oh well – he just was not invited by the Poles! Now come the news that President Obama will be in Ryadh! Ryadh of all places? A town where Jews are not allowed even as tourists – in 2015?

We did not condemn President Obama for not going to the Paris reunion of Heads of State after the ISIS/AQAP attacks on that Jewish supermarket and Charlie Hebdo. We felt that he was right to let the Europeans deal with this by themselves – rather then make a token appearance – but Auschwitz is just another matter. It was the US that took on the responsibility to save Europe from itself, and at that time the World at large as well. And that is something that calls for the US participation at highest level at this 70th commemoration that happens to be when the World is threatened again – and this time by Islamic fanatics – and don’t forget it – that started out in Saudi Arabia – and the White House and Congress choices seem all wrong.
——————-

So far we read that Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck, France President Francois Hollande, King Willem-Alexander of the Niederlands and Queen Maxima, Crown Princess Viktoria of Schweden, and Crown Prince Haakon von Norway are among the Heads of State that are going to Auschwitz for the January 27, 2015 memorial. Then the announcement that President Obama and Vice-President Biden go to Ryadh. President Obama even shortened his all-important trip to India to pass on the way back through Ryadh. This seemingly detours now also President Hollande and Prime Minister Cameron who seemingly will switch from going to Auschwitz and go to Ryadh instead. Oh well – this smells of oil. Today this means that the new Saudi King will be asked to reciprocate by continuing the policy of cheap oil that hurts mainly Iran and Russia while being a boon to short-sighted industrial economies.

—————————————-

It seems like somebody had an after-thought in the White House – and voila:

The White House – Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
January 17, 2015
President Obama Announces Presidential Delegation to Attend the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to Oswicim, Poland, to attend the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 2015.

The Honorable Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Department of Treasury, will lead the delegation.

Members of the Presidential Delegation:

The Honorable Stephen D. Mull, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Poland, Department of State

The Honorable Crystal Nix-Hines, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Department of State

The Honorable David Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Department of State

Dr. Charles A. Kupchan, Senior Director for European Affairs, National Security Council

Mr. Nicholas Dean, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, Department of State

Ms. Aviva Sufian, Special Envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services, Department of Health and Human Services

Mr. Israel Arbeiter, Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivor

Mrs. Irene Weiss, Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivor

Mr. David Harris, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee

————

But this is a Jewish delegation headed by the White House Jewish appointee – this is not the political delegation that the hour demands. Why is the trip to the family of the Tyrant King more important to President Obama and then – seemingly also Congress – did not yet think of sending someone to the Auschwitz Memorial?

————

Another e-mail we just got is from Antony Beevor of the Guardian
–  www.theguardian.com/commentisfree…he tells us that Putin does not go to the Auschwitz Memorial because the Poles did not invite him – and this is a terrible mistake of the Europeans – to let the Poles take such a stand.

The note starts: “Why Vladimir Putin should be at the Auschwitz memorial ceremony.
We should forget neither the Soviet Union’s role in liberating the camps nor its antisemitic blind spots.”

It continues: “On 27 January 1945 a reconnaissance patrol from the Soviet 107th Rifle Division emerged from the snow-laden forest 70km west of Kraków. The soldiers were mounted on shaggy ponies, their submachine guns slung across their backs. In front of them stood Auschwitz-Birkenau, the grimmest symbol of modern history. Officers gazed around in disbelief, then called in medical teams to care for the 3,000 sick prisoners left behind.

It is a great shame that Vladimir Putin, having not been invited, won’t be present at a memorial ceremony next week to mark the 70th anniversary – at the very least, it would have reminded the world that the advance of Stalin’s Red Army forced the SS to abandon the extermination camps in the east. And yet the muted row over the Russian president’s absence is a reminder that this particular chapter in Russia’s second world war history was, and remains, full of contradictions.

. The first death camp to be liberated by the Red Army was Majdanek just outside Lublin, in July 1944. The novelist and war correspondent Vasily Grossman was on the spot with the 8th Guards Army, which had defended Stalingrad, but an order came down that he was not to cover the story. The job was given instead to Konstantin Simonov, a favourite of the regime, who managed to avoid mentioning that any of the victims in Majdanek were Jewish. Grossman, despite warnings from his friend Ilya Ehrenburg, had been slow to believe that antisemitism could exist within the Soviet hierarchy during the death struggle with Nazism. But in 1943 he had noticed that any reference to Jewish suffering was being cut from his articles. He wrote to complain to Aleksandr Shcherbakov, the chief of the Red Army political department. Shcherbakov replied: “The soldiers want to hear about [Russian military hero of the Napoleonic era] Suvorov, but you quote [German 19th-century poet] Heine”. Grossman joined Ehrenburg on the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee to chronicle Nazi crimes, unaware of how dangerous this might prove to be. Several of their colleagues were murdered by the secret police.

Certain truths about the Shoah could never be published in the Sovet Union. When Grossman wrote about the extermination camp of Treblinka, he could not reveal that the auxiliary guards were mostly Ukrainian. Collaboration with the enemy was a taboo subject since it undermined the rhetoric of the Great Patriotic War.


As the end of the war approached, controls became even stricter. Auschwitz may have been liberated at the end of January 1945, but no details were released until the final victory in May. The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee soon found that its work was in direct opposition to the party instruction: “Do not divide the dead!” Jews were not to be seen as a special category of suffering. They were to be described only as citizens of the USSR and Poland. Thus in a way Stalin was the first Holocaust denier, even if his antisemitism was not quite the same as that of the Nazis. It was probably based more on a xenophobic suspicion of international connections than on racial hatred.

Soviet propaganda, while designating those killed at Auschwitz in collectively anonymous terms as “victims of fascism”, also portrayed the extermination camp as the ultimate capitalist factory, where the workers were murdered when no longer useful.

And there was a further twist away from the truth. The Stalinists emphasised how many Poles had died there to distract attention from their own crimes against the Polish people, both following the Red Army’s unprovoked invasion in 1939 under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and its brutal occupation from 1944. They portrayed Auschwitz as the place of martyrdom for the Polish nation. By talking only of the Polish Catholics who had died there, they hoped that the Poles might focus any anger at their bitter fate entirely against Germany and not against the Soviet Union.

Few Poles were taken in during those postwar years of Soviet oppression. And now Putin’s ill-disguised attempts to reassert Russian control over Ukraine have of course reminded the Polish people all too clearly of what Soviet “liberation” meant for them in 1945. It is not therefore surprising that we should be seeing a certain amount of diplomatic shadow-boxing in the background, while both sides insist everything is normal.

The Kremlin is pretending not to have been snubbed by the fact that President Putin has not been asked to the commemoration event; meanwhile, the Polish government insists it was not issuing formal invitations. The Auschwitz international committee, which includes a Russian representative, was simply asking each government who would be representing them.

Putin made a speech at Auschwitz 10 years ago on the 60th anniversary, and no doubt he will again proclaim in Moscow on 9 May – Russia’s Victory Day – that the Red Army’s defeat of “the fascist beast” saved Europe from Nazi slavery. {and we think he is right to claim that but this is obviously only a half truth as the Soviets did in effect exchange one slavery for another.}

But those countries, especially Poland and the Baltic states, that experienced the ensuing 40 years of Communist dictatorship glance nervously now east once more.

Russia, obsessed for centuries by a fear of encirclement and surprise attack, has always felt justified in dominating its “near abroad”. It was Stalin’s shock at Hitler’s invasion in 1941, and his consequent determination to create a defensive cordon, that led to the cold war. Putin, fortunately, is a very pale imitation of his hero.

• Antony Beevor’s next book, Ardennes – 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble, is out in May 2015.

————————————————————————————————
AND THE VIEW FROM THE ALTERNATE MEDIA THAT GOT US INTERESTED IN THIS – WHY INDEED DID PRESIDENT OBAMA AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS NOT CHOSE TO GO TO OSWIECIM (Auschwitz-Birkenau) AND ARE GOING TO RYADH INSTEAD? This being written after reading next story:


Glenn Greenwald | Compare and Contrast: Obama’s Reaction to the Deaths of King Abdullah and Hugo Chavez

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, 24 January 2015

Greenwald writes: “The effusive praise being heaped on the brutal Saudi despot by western media and political figures has been nothing short of nauseating; the UK Government, which arouses itself on a daily basis by issuing self-consciously eloquent lectures to the world about democracy, actually ordered flags flown all day at half-mast to honor this repulsive monarch.”

Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela four times from 1998 through 2012 and was admired and supported by a large majority of that country’s citizens, largely due to his policies that helped the poor. King Abdullah was the dictator and tyrant who ran one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.

The effusive praise being heaped on the brutal Saudi despot by western media and political figures has been nothing short of nauseating; the UK Government, which arouses itself on a daily basis by issuing self-consciously eloquent lectures to the world about democracy, actually ordered flags flown all day at half-mast to honor this repulsive monarch. My Intercept colleague Murtaza Hussain has an excellent article about this whole spectacle, along with a real obituary, here.

I just want to focus on one aspect: a comparison of the statements President Obama issued about the 2013 death of President Chávez and the one he issued today about the Saudi ruler. Here’s the entire Obama statement about Chávez (h/t Sami Khan):

Statement covering the reaction from President Obama regarding the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (photo: The Guardian)

Statement covering the reaction from President Obama regarding the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (photo: The Guardian)

One obvious difference between the two leaders was that Chávez was elected and Abdullah was not. Another is that Chávez used the nation’s oil resources to attempt to improve the lives of the nation’s most improverished while Abdullah used his to further enrich Saudi oligarchs and western elites. Another is that the severity of Abdullah’s human rights abuses and militarism makes Chávez look in comparison like Gandhi.

But when it comes to western political and media discourse, the only difference that matters is that Chávez was a U.S. adversary while Abdullah was a loyal U.S. ally – which, by itself for purposes of the U.S. and British media, converts the former into an evil villainous monster and the latter into a beloved symbol of peace, reform and progress. As but one of countless examples: last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron – literally the best and most reliable friend to world dictators after Tony Blair – stood in Parliament after being questioned by British MP George Galloway and said: “there is one thing that is certain: wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of [Galloway]”; last night, the very same David Cameron pronounced himself “deeply saddened” and said the Saudi King would be remembered for his “commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.”

That’s why there is nobody outside of American cable news, DC think tanks, and the self-loving Oxbridge clique in London which does anything but scoff with scorn and dark amusement when the US and UK prance around as defenders of freedom and democracy. Only in those circles of tribalism, jingoism and propaganda is such tripe taken at all seriously.

————————-==================———————-
And Some of the Comments:

+37 # wrknight 2015-01-24 10:53
Democracy has never been a factor in determining whether a nation and its ruler are allies or enemies of the U.S.. All that matters is whether or not the ruler of that country allows U.S. Corporations to exploit their resources and/or their people.

Witness the fact that the U.S. has engineered the overthrow of numerous democratically elected presidents, while simultaneously supporting numerous ruthless dictators. The difference? The “allies” opened their markets to U.S. Corporate exploitation while the “enemies” put constraints on U.S. Corporations, nationalized U.S. Corporate assets or closed their markets entirely.

The pattern is consistent throughout U.S. history, is easily verified, and clearly tells who really dictates U.S. foreign policy.

+17 # reiverpacific 2015-01-24 11:22

So when has the US EVER NOT supported or imposed upon other nations trying to establish Democracy, a feudalist, regressive, violent or right-wing death-squad-enf orced regime, before but figuratively starting with Mossadegu’s Iran in 1953, Arbenz’s Guatemala in 1954 and almost annually since, most recently supporting the Oligarchy-drive n removal of Zelaya in Honduras, whilst high-handedly proclaiming it’s superiority, democracy and exceptionalism worldwide (for exceptionalism, substitute “‘Cause we can and if you don’t like it, we’ll do it to you too”, or “selective self-definition”).

I’m glad that Greenwald brought this up but unfortunately, the US owner-media will probably just ignore it all. In this case though, I can’t imagine even the average American somnambulistic infotainment-in formed citizen shedding any tears for this “Sheik of Arabee” leader of the oppressive Wahabist interpreters of much-abused Islam, whilst “Chop-chop square” continues as #1 public entertainment in Riyadh.

Very disappointing from Obama: I’d have expected it from Dimwits/Cheney after these revolting photos of Shrub the dumbest holding hands with the Royal Petroleum-pumpe rs, wielding a scimitar but being a lifelong incurious, clueless pinhead about the world in general.

None of them were fit to wipe Chavez’s boots!
This is proof, if any were needed, that much of International Diplomacy is forked-tongue bullshit and hypocrisy.
Good job Mr. Greenwald!

+2 # cordleycoit 2015-01-24 11:50

One has to be careful licking depots boots, Blood carries a price on the boot licker’s health. Mr. Chavez was not blameless as a leader. Of course the king shed rivers of blood to appease religious bigots men women it didn’t matter. Obama gets to supplicate to the late butcher.

+5 # Guy 2015-01-24 12:21
Nauseating is the most accurate wording for this behavior in the West .I can’t believe what I am seeing .A severe case of blindness has affected the Western view of reality.

+4 # Anonymot 2015-01-24 12:25
Well observed. Thanks.

What everyone has forgotten or never knew was how and why Abdulazis and his family became so rich. They were not poor, ever. Then came who? Richard Nixon! Wha?

After his successful re-election in 11/1973 Nixon owed a great debt to Texas oilmen who had financed his campaign. They wanted an oil pipeline from Alaska. I remember it as in the State Of The Union address, Jan. 1973 that Nixon promised to get the pipeline approved. Using the usual fear tactics he pointed out that oil prices had gone from $3 to $12 per barrel. “We cannot let OPEC have this Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.” Nixon said.

Well, the Arabs looked at each other, Abdulaziz included. They were smart like desert foxes. We didn’t realize we were a Sword of Damocles, they said – or something like that – and that was the end of cheap oil. Nixon had just given them the arms to destroy the West and they have used them ever since.

You won’t find this documented anywhere, not even in Wikipedia. I just happened to put several disparate things together when I was sitting on a veranda on the Kenya coast and said, “Whoa!!”

It was one of those great “unintended consequences” that our brilliant politicians make, like the little Vietnam War or the little topple Saddam incursion or the Arab Spring regime changes. The Ukraine, Venezuela, Putin, and China are waiting to be played out.

-9 # daruten1 2015-01-24 12:27

Why is it necessary to evaluate every ruler and country through the lenses of our own experiences and values? Mr Greenwald is ethnocentric, judgmental and unable to perceive where other cultures are coming from given their past historical cultures and experiences. Who is he to tell other countries that they do not measure up to the Western world’s values? The world is a complicated place and diplomacy is but one instrument of getting along with people and countries whose views differ from our values and who are difficult. The trick in life is getting along with people whether you agree or disagree with them. Obama has shown intelligence and emotional intelligence in this instance.

+1 # reiverpacific 2015-01-24 12:58
Quoting daruten1:

Why is it necessary to evaluate every ruler and country through the lenses of our own experiences and values? Mr Greenwald is ethnocentric, judgmental and unable to perceive where other cultures are coming from given their past historical cultures and experiences. Who is he to tell other countries that they do not measure up to the Western world’s values? The world is a complicated place and diplomacy is but one instrument of getting along with people and countries whose views differ from our values and who are difficult. The trick in life is getting along with people whether you agree or disagree with them. Obama has shown intelligence and emotional intelligence in this instance.

“Mr Greenwald is ethnocentric, judgmental and unable to perceive where other cultures are coming from given their past historical cultures and experiences.”
Au contraiare, it’s his job as an investigative and world-respected reporter, who has had his own share of Imperialist persecution and fingers pointed at him, to comment on what he perceives as inter-cultural hypocrisy!

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from: Martin Indyk
please reply to:  foreign_policy at brookings.edu

Subject: Brookings Search for a New Energy Security and Climate Initiative Director

THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION – FOREIGN POLICY
 www.brookings.edu/about/employmen….

Please share this job posting with qualified candidates. We appreciate your help in getting the word out to qualified candidates in the energy security and climate policy communities.

Best Regards,

Martin Indyk
Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy
The Brookings Institution

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Taormina has 10,000 people. They live mainly from tourism that lasts from Easter to October. Below the mountains on which sits Taormina there is now the community of Giardini Naxos. Our guide on New Year’s eve – 2015 kept saying that she was born in Taormina and for 25 years she is a tourist guide – she has never seen snow here. MAMA MIA! THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING!

Mesina is to the North with its 300,00 people – only 3 km. from Italy’s boot. Towards the south there is Catania with its 500,000 people and then Siracusa, Palermo has 1 million people of the 5 million people of all of Sicily.

3 seas surround the Sicily triangle – Mare Ionium which was right there in front of us, with Mare Africano to the Sout-West and Mare Tireneum to the North-West. The three capes at the three points of this triangle – Capo Lilibeo, Capo Pelaio, Capo Passero form the Sicilan Trinacria that makes up the Island’s flag.

I am in the tour-bus – Mama Mia!- See the Greek Theater covered snow!

The Etna grew in stages from the sea – it had 4 active craters – and a new one – now 3-4 years which is very active. There are new side outlets – so now we have five craters – sometimes they have a white flag and sometimes a black flag – when there is ash – it is dark.

There is a difference between seismic movements of earth quakes, and volcanic movements.

Giardini was a citrus orchard. We are 52 in the tour bus. Next to us is a lemon orchard – snow covered – our guide takes a look and says MAMA MIA – What will it be? Lemons covered with snow? We are going now South – towards the South Side of Etna. The sky shows a few blue spots. Etna is not very large or destructive – it is generous spewing out in its ash productive soil.

We are not afraid when Etna erupts – we have learned from experience, she says. It happens often. The Etna Roso is a high quality wine produced on the elements rich soil. 20-30 meter wide streams of lava precede an eruption that can then last hours or years.
It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world with 350 side craters and 1,190 km2 – the biggest in Europe. its top is at 3,350 m. In 1928 there was an eruption that sent lava 150 km to the sea coast. Settlement communities are only up to 200m heights. The Italians say – “Cosi Vole Dio” and “Como Vene Vene” the equivalent of their neighbors to the south that say InshAllah!

Etna is a “She” – like a big Mama with little mountains next to her – her children. The lava deposits the granite that comes probably from 50,000 m. depth. It is beyond the Earth crust. We see black strips among the snow cover – these are 2 day olds – that happened the night before we came to the island. The lava reached Catania 8 times – in 1669 there was a big one with 8 streams of lava that reached the sea and wiped out the city. A stream of lava burns everything to hundreds of meters depth.
The present day Catania is thus only 300 years old – post 1669. Catania had a long history but much of it was destroyed in that eruption.

Even the old Domo is gone and a new one was built instead – with a black elephant obelisk in front of it – the elephant carved out of the black lava stone – this as a memory to the 1669 disaster.

Our guide says – every volcano has different composition – or a different personality. The Sicilians call her Seniora Etna.

Now our bus crosses the border into the Etna Park. On Road Etna – the Burning – and I see a poster that shows the natural fireworks in context of the Silvester – or the New Year celebration that will go on tonight. There are expected lots of Tarantela and you get a croissant following the big dinner. They love the Insalata de Mare and an eventual panetone made with sheep ricota. The Italians do not eat soups – she said. Family dinners are set up with contributed food by the members – then dancing in the piazza.

The Etna – she is on the edge where the African and Euro-Asian plates meet. The line includes also the Vesuvio, the Stromboli, the Pelerin and the Santorini. Quakes happen in a degasification process. Scientists measure the CO2 and the S (sulphur) content of the gases. They go up to 2000-3000 m. but not to the top. We get to Nikoloso at 700 m, pass the Ai-Pina settlement. Are told Mama Mia – there is snow! it was possible to ski at 2,800 m. but the last two years was no snow – now it will be great. We stop for 10 minutes at about 1,000m. and are told that we cannot continue because the bus is not equipped with snow tires. We wonder – so why did they not provide a bus with snow tires – with all that Mama Mia?

She points out the Goethe Road – the oldest road of Etna – it is 12 km long. We pass pines and chestnuts – Mama Mia – this snow!
We have foxes no deers she says – yes wild pigs, hares, rabbits. It seems we reached the farthest she is ready to take us.
She tells us the last explosion of Etna was just yesterday at 6pm and lasted 2 hours – December 29th – and you see from the distance the black stripe of lava in the white cover of snow.

Our guide decreed a 10 minutes stop for us to enjoy the snow like the Italians in front of us. Some entrepreneur even stood there selling snow-slides. Where did he get them crossed my mind? Then she asks us what we want to do. Four people – fed up – said let us go back to our Giardini/Naxos. I smelled rat – we came all that way so the bus driver and guide have a short day of work? I told the guide that the program of the day said we get back at 6 PM – not 2 PM. She said we will get back the money for the wine we dd not drink. Then she made some phone calls and said “she will improvise.” We ended up going south to Catania – the kind of trip for which I never would have booked an organized tour – and as our guide might have felt guilty of something – she never stopped talking. I heard a lot of things I read in the Wikipedia, but there were also some pearls. Our free time in Catania I spent at the fish-market and surrounding streets.

We learned that the Italians conquered Sicily in 1806 and since then the locals switched to speak Italian from their original Sicilian language that was heavily influenced by Arabic. The generous Italians allowed for Sicilian to be defined as an Italian dialect that is still spoken by villagers. The interesting thing about Sicilian is that it did not recognize a future tense – they have only a present and history which is what we call past. So, in the Sicilian mentality you can not project or program things. Now, this is a nice explanation of what we experienced that day. Her improvisation was already to be considered progress.
The Sicilian lives for the “now” – “we have cultural difficulties thinking about tomorrow or the future” – she said.

Sicilia lived from agriculture and mainly from exports of fruit trees. They adapted to many new trees – like the kivi, cherries, small apples. Tourism is being promoted now. Unemployment in Sicily is at 40% and is first in Italy in poverty. Taxation is at 52%. There is an ongoing change of population. The young leave to find a better life elsewhere and new immigrants arrive from North Africa. Many have vehicles and can work in hotels. Herself, from October to April has no work in tourism so she has a second position in the lemon industry.

At first she told us something about Catania and said she will take us to a favorite restaurant of fish – I thought this was good for business, but I was wrong – she never took us there – she just let us lose in Catania after walking us to see the lava-sculpted black elephant obelisk placed in front of the rebuilt cathedral. In 1868 8 streams of lava descended from Etna obliterated Catania on their way to the sea. 20,000 people drowned and the city had to be rebuilt from scratch. The Islamic influenced city was gone – a European style city built instead. They got now wide streets that replaced the old Greek and Renaissance architecture. Nevertheless, I still saw an Egyptian monument and the fish market was markedly in Islamic style.
We were told that Palermo still has 300 Mosques and Siracuse was influenced by the Normands.

We learned about the benefactor of the city – the Holy Agate – who cut off her breasts and is now remembered in February with a big procession like in Sevilla. The coffee shops carry little cakes, covered with white glaze and a black cherry on top – the Agate breasts – a must for you to try. Also, don’t forget the a la Norma backed dish made of thick macaroni, aubergine, melanzani and ricotta cheeses. It is delicious – I had it a couple of days later in Taormina. We also learned of a big yellow – lemon like fruit that its pulp is cut up and added to salads. She bought one to take home.

So, we walked around for a couple of hours by ourselves and with the return of the bus we started our trip back north along the shore line. We saw the Cyclopes Coast of the Odyssey and got to walk up at Aci Castello the stairs to a castle in order to take in the views. At the bottom there was a monument to Giancinta Pezanna. It had an Orpheus alike baso-relief on its stand.
I asked our guide who she was but she did not know. Back home I googled and discovered she was an amazing woman. She was the European “Actress of Emancipationism” (1841–1919) and her monument was there because she retired to Aci Castello and is buried there.

We still make a stop at the Gole Alcantara Park where there is a cannion and a creek – a nice environmental site, and eventually reach the hotel at 6 pm and I go to my room to prepare for the New Year’s dinner and party I did organize myself as no help was available from the local organizer for the PRIMA tours of Vienna.

Let me put this mildly – I felt cheated by the tour agency – but let me say immediately that the whole experience was great because I met some very nice people in Giardini-Naxos and Taormina. All this by myself – thus wondering who needed those PRIMA people?

I bought the 30.12.2014 – 03.01.2015 trip from Joe24Reisen of Vienna according to a paper advertisement of www.joe24.at I paid 519 Euro plus 89 Euro for a December 31st excursion to Aetna, Gambino & Castiglione. Joe24 was just the marketer and the trip was by PRIMA REISEN www.primareisen.com of Friedrichstrasse 10, 1060 Vienna.

When we arrived at the Catania airport a Mr.Dario Solzano received us and gave to each of us a prepared envelope “Tuto Bene” that contained a sheet with his phone numbers – at the “Marliestour Sicil Travel” office and his Handy number – two cards for restaurants – a restaurant in Naxos and one in Taormina – told us that for the New Year reservations for festive events were all expensive and booked well in advance – mind you – the restaurant in Naxos that he gave us that card – a really nice restaurant – but it turned out that on new Year’s eve they were going to be closed, and the one in Taormina would not be accessible from our location in Giardini-Naxos. He also said he will pass by the hotels for further advice – this turning out really just an effort to market excursions.

On this occasion, at my hotel, I pulled out my little note with weather forecasts and showed him – that for Wednesday the 31st the predictions were the worst – at that stage it said only clouds and winds and the lowest temperatures – this while for Friday it said Sunny and a 10 degrees F higher temperatures. I suggested he switch the trips so that Etna should be on Friday while Syracuse on Wednesday – this surely without premonition that there will be this snow coming in on Tuesday night. He said it would be too much work to switch the people. “Too much work he said.” I pulled out from the Syracuse trip preferring to use the nice day for Taormina.

That was the last I saw him until by chance – I bumped into his office near the sea-shore on Friday. During Holidays the public transportation is practically non-existent and a round-trip between Giardini-Naxos and Taormina is 50 Euro. His idea of tourism was to advise us to take cabs – this while other organizations had local guides that worked with them and a bus to get along as well. He also told us about “Presepe Vivente” – a Christmas display with some 50 real people – even a real baby – that we could still have seen on Thursday – New Year’s Day at the outskirts at Trappitello – but again – no transportation.
So, let me just say that this PRIMA was not even third class. Further – that miserable Mama Mia guided tour that cost me 89 Euro, could be bought at all hotels – even the most expensive one in Taormina – the 5 star San Domenico – for 45 Euro.

Having said this, let me now proceed to put in some very good words for very good people and why I hope to return to this area – surely – not with a fake PRIMA:

First – Rosario of the ROYAL Ristorante and more, Via Lungomare Schiso 34, Giardini Naxos, the New Year’s Eve dinner and party location I found just by trying to get a place to operate my computer as it did not interact with the WiFi at my hotel.
The food, ambiance, the all-Italian crowd – except me – his mother who seeing me as the lonely outsider – came over and gave me a kiss. Great people – others said hallo and we wished itch other AUGURI – a great place I hope to see again someday.

The desk people at the San Domenico hotel in Taormina in a building that was once part of a church castle – that were very helpful indeed.

And the people at the Libreria Mondadori (Libreventi Taormina -the bookstore on the main street) the daughter of the lady that runs the store – a journalist by the name Antonella Ferrara – wrote a booklet “Taormina Cult” – an aid to culture seeking people that came and some of them lived for a while at least in this most beautiful town. The booklet has a self guided tour for people that want to look up these places. Among those that had homes in Taormina – D.H. Lawrence, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde, Otto Gleng and many more that stayed at hotels. Then a must is the visit to the old Greek Theater that has as stage back drop no less then Seniora Etna. I could have spent many more days just walking up and down those streets and steps – with neat discoveries wherever you look. This summer in August 2015 the Antic Theater will host “The trilogy of Seville” as the “Euro-Mediterraneo” Festival – the three operas – “Carmen” by Bizet, “Don Giovani” by Mozart and “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” by Rossini. I take a bet – it will be sold out.

Back at the sea-shore of Giardini-Naxos I spent half a day at the archeology museum of Naxos – the first Greek colony in Sicilia.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Middle East | News Analysis

New Saudi King and U.S. Face Crucial Point in the Relationship

By HELENE COOPER, ROD NORDLAND and NEIL MacFARQUHAR, of The New York Times – January, 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — Almost a decade ago, an Arab diplomat famously likened the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia to a Catholic marriage “where you can have no divorce.”

But there can be estrangement. As the Obama administration begins the arduous task of assessing the newly reconstituted House of Saud after the death of King Abdullah on Friday, the relationship between the United States and its most important Arab ally, one fostered with great care and attention to detail over the years, is at a critical and tumultuous point.

Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman, 79, inherits both the policies put in place by the more assertive brother he is succeeding and the conflicts that in recent years have characterized relations with Washington. On issues from Iran to the Arab Spring, from Syria to domestic issues within Saudi Arabia like the recent flogging of a journalist, there have been significant differences between American officials and the Saudi royal family.

The close ties once nurtured so lovingly by the Bush administration have given way to complaints from the Saudis about an aloof American president who should have done more to unseat President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and less to unseat former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. The Saudis also remain deeply skeptical about President Obama’s efforts to negotiate an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.

“The Saudis are hard pressed to think of any country or collection of countries that can do what the United States can do,” said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “At the same time, they are worried that the United States’ intentions are changing at a time when they don’t have an alternative or even the structure to find an alternative.”

Yet Saudi Arabia is still managing to change the global economy at a crucial time by flooding oil markets, keeping oil output so high that it is aiding Mr. Obama on a number of fronts. By depressing oil prices, Saudi Arabia has given him a boost at home. The Saudis have helped Mr. Obama abroad as well, because those lowered prices help pressure Iran over its nuclear ambitions and Russia over its aggression in Ukraine. As a result, Obama administration officials are treading carefully as they navigate the Saudi succession. While Mr. Obama is going ahead with a long-planned trip to India, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will lead a delegation to Saudi Arabia to pay respect and offer condolences.

“The president certainly hopes, and we expect, that the strong relationship that exists between the United States and Saudi Arabia will endure under the leadership of the new king,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Friday. The Saudis have long relied on the United States as their military umbrella. But that relationship soured after King Abdullah felt that Mr. Obama was ignoring the region, or at least Saudi concerns. According to a leaked diplomatic memo, in 2008 King Abdullah urged the United States to weigh military action against Iran to “cut off the head of the snake.” Now the Saudis worry about an American deal with Iran, and Saudi Arabia, like Israel, relishes the split between Congress and the White House over more sanctions and the possibility that they could scuttle an agreement.
Continue reading the main story

And the interests of the two countries tend to diverge on other issues, especially combating Al Qaeda and other extremist organizations, which receive some of their funding from Saudi sources. “I think the Saudis and the Americans have developed the habit of coexisting with their disagreements,” said Khalid al-Dakhil, a political-science professor in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

White House officials said they were confident that the United States and Saudi Arabia would continue to work together on a range of issues, including the fight against the Islamic State and the response to the recent instability in Yemen. And they said the relationship had improved in recent months, in part because of Mr. Obama’s decision to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State, a campaign that Saudi Arabia has joined and that King Salman’s ascension to the throne was not expected to derail.

“We are much closer now,” a senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I wouldn’t say we are completely aligned, but it’s far less than it was at times.”

Others are not so sure.

“The recent shift in Saudi regional and foreign relations is not how outspoken it has become, but how muscular it has become,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “It has long prided itself on acting behind the scenes.”

An annual “intelligence” dinner at a hotel in Washington every year illustrates that point. The host is the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, the guests a group of American and Arab spies and intelligence officials, Middle East policy experts and top national security officials in the American government like John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director who served as the agency’s Saudi Arabia station chief in the late 1990s. Save welcoming remarks by Mr. al-Jubeir, there is no set program, no keynote speech, just high-level national security officials and foreign policy experts networking. Attendees describe the affairs as a Saudi show of force.

“There’s no desire even to talk to the gathered public,” said one foreign policy expert who attended last year’s dinner, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he didn’t want to lose his invitation to this year’s dinner. “The point seems to be to say, ‘Hey, we can get 300 important people in a room. Now let’s move on.’ ”

Lacking American support in key areas, Saudi Arabia is increasingly striking out on its own. Without the military means to sway events in Syria, and with Mr. Obama balking at forcibly removing Mr. al-Assad in Syria, Saudi Arabia used oil to try to influence Syria’s two main backers, Iran and Russia. As worldwide demand softened, Saudi Arabia continued pumping, even as prices tumbled to around $50 a barrel from more than $100.

To maintain its own social spending, including $130 billion in benefits designed to ensure domestic stability, the kingdom needs an oil price of $100. But given its foreign reserves of around $730 billion, it could hold out for a few years with lower prices, analysts say.

Saudi Arabia has not been drawn directly into the Arab uprisings in Tunisia, which is relatively stable, or Libya, although that may yet occur. Its main problem is next door in Yemen.

Militiamen from the Houthis, a Zaydi sect of Shiite Islam and traditional rulers of Yemen, have seized power. Seeing the Houthis as modeled on Hezbollah in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia had already cut off the $4 billion in annual aid to the pro-American government. The United States has seemed much more inclined to try to reach an agreement with the Houthis, at least on the fight against Al Qaeda.

But despite these differences, the pattern of accommodation that emerged under King Abdullah is likely to endure. “The default setting for the Saudis is always the status quo,” added Eugene L. Rogan, the director of the Middle East Center at St. Antony’s College, Oxford.

Still, the days when American and Saudi leaders acted in unison in the Middle East, and when Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador, was the toast of Washington and a constant presence at the Bush White House, are in the past. And if King Salman is anything like his brother, a certain amount of friction will be a given. Late in January 2011, King Abdullah became so angry during a phone call with Mr. Obama over the president’s determination to abandon support for Mr. Mubarak that he hung up on him.

Saudi aides were quick to leak the anecdote.

————————–
Helene Cooper reported from Washington; Rod Nordland from Amman, Jordan; and Neil MacFarquhar from Moscow. Michael D. Shear contributed reporting from Washington, Ranya Kadri from Amman, and David D. Kirkpatrick from Cairo.

Related Coverage:

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2007.
New King in Saudi Arabia Unlikely to Alter Oil PolicyJAN. 23, 2015
King Abdullah in 2014.
King Abdullah, a Shrewd Force Who Reshaped Saudi Arabia, Dies at 90JAN. 22, 2015.
Yemen Calm but Confused After President’s ResignationJAN. 23, 2015

========================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Saudi King Abdullah Dead.

from: Readers Supported News January 24, 2015

Saudi Arabia’s Tyrant King Misremembered as Man of Peace.

By Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept

23 January 15

fter nearly 20 years as de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah ibn-Abdulaziz al-Saud died last night at the age of 90. Abdullah, who took power after his predecessor King Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995, ruled as absolute monarch of a country which protected American interests but also sowed strife and extremism throughout the Middle East and the world.

In a statement last night Senator John McCain eulogized Abdullah as “a vocal advocate for peace, speaking out against violence in the Middle East”. John Kerry described the late monarch as “a brave partner in fighting violent extremism” and “a proponent of peace”. Not to be outdone, Vice President Joe Biden released a statement mourning Abdullah and announced that he would be personally leading a presidential delegation to offer condolences on his passing.

It’s not often that the unelected leader of a country which publicly flogs dissidents and beheads people for sorcery wins such glowing praise from American officials. Even more perplexing, perhaps, have been the fawning obituaries in the mainstream press which have faithfully echoed this characterization of Abdullah as a benign and well-intentioned man of peace.

Tiptoeing around his brutal dictatorship, The Washington Post characterized Abdullah as a “wily king” while The New York Times inexplicably referred to him as “a force of moderation”, while also suggesting that evidence of his moderation included having had: “hundreds of militants arrested and some beheaded” (emphasis added).

While granting that Abdullah might be considered a relative moderate within the brazenly anachronistic House of Saud, the fact remains that he presided for two decades over a regime which engaged in wanton human rights abuses, instrumentalized religious chauvinism, and played a hugely counterrevolutionary role in regional politics.

Above all, he was not a leader who shied away from both calling for and engineering more conflict in the Middle East.

In contrast to Senator McCain’s description of Abdullah as “a vocal advocate of peace”, a State Department diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks revealed him in fact directly advocating for the United States to start more wars in the region.

In a quote recorded in a 2008 diplomatic cable, Abdullah exhorted American officials to “cut the head off the snake” by launching fresh military action against Iran. Notably, this war advocacy came in the midst of the still-ongoing bloodshed of the Iraq War, which had apparently left him unfazed about the prospect of a further escalation in regional warfare.

Abdullah’s government also waged hugely destructive proxy conflicts wherever direct American intervention on its behalf was not forthcoming. Indeed, in the case of almost every Arab Spring uprising, Saudi Arabia attempted to intervene forcefully in order to either shore up existing regimes or shape revolutions to conform with their own interests.

In Bahrain, Saudi forces intervened to crush a popular uprising which had threatened the rule of the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy, while in Syria Saudi-backed factions have helped turn what was once a popular democratic uprising into a bloody, intractable proxy war between regional rivals which is now a main driver of extremism in the Middle East.

Saudi efforts at counterrevolution and co-optation under Abdullah took more obliquely brutal forms as well.

In the midst of the 2011 revolution in Egypt, when seemingly the entire world was rallying in support of the protestors in Tahrir Square, King Abdullah stood resolutely and unapologetically on the side of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. When it seemed like Mubarak was wavering in the face of massive popular protests, the king offered to step in with economic aid for his government and demanded that President Obama ensure he not be “cast aside”.

A few years later when the pendulum swung back towards dictatorship after General Abdelfattah al Sisi’s bloody 2013 coup, Abdullah and his fellow monarchs were there to lavish much needed financial assistance upon the new regime. This support came with the endorsement of Sisi’s unrelentingly brutal crackdown on Egypt’s former revolutionaries.

With increasingly disastrous consequences, Abdullah’s government also employed sectarianism as a force to help divide-and-conquer regional populations and insulate his own government from the threat of uprising. It also cynically utilized its official religious authorities to try and equate political dissent with sinfulness.

This ostentatiously reckless behavior nevertheless seemed to win Abdullah’s regime the tacit approval of the American government, which steadfastly continued to treat him as a partner in fighting terrorism and maintaining regional stability.

Despite recent tensions over American policy towards Iran and Syria, Saudi under King Abdullah played a vital role in U.S. counterterrorism operations. The country quietly hosts a CIA drone base used for conducting strikes into Yemen, including the strike believed to have killed American-born preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. More controversially, Abdullah’s government is also believed to have provided extensive logistical support for American military operations during the invasion of Iraq; an uncomfortable fact which the kingdom has understandably tried to keep quiet with its own population.

Perhaps most importantly however, King Abdullah upheld the economic cornerstones of America’s long and fateful alliance with Saudi Arabia: arms purchases and the maintenance of a reliable flow of oil from the country to global markets. The one Saudi king who in past failed to hold up part of this agreement met with an untimely end, and was seemingly on less positive terms American government officials.

{This is about the 25 March 1975 killing of King Faisal- supposedly by his nephew – Prince Faisal Bin Musaed – as reported by the BBC} Some of the background of this was reposted today by the Pakistani DAWN from their May 5, 1975 article:

{“RIYADH, May 4: The United States had threatened to use force against Saudi Arabia in 1973 after King Faisal and other Arab and Muslim leaders imposed an embargo on oil shipments to western countries which supported Israel during the October War, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, said in an interview with the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat.” These days Prince Turki is meeting with a former Israeli Head of the Intelligence Services in order to find common ground on matters of the Middle East. We posted about that as well.}

In the interview that appeared ahead of a seminar on King Faisal, Prince Turki, son of the former Saudi king, shed light on important events that took place during his father’s rule.

Prince Turki, who was an adviser at the Royal Court in 1973 when King Faisal took the oil embargo decision, said the king was not shaken by the US threat and stood firm.

Given the foundations upon which American-Saudi ties rest, its unlikely that the relationship will be drastically altered by the passing of King Abdullah and the succession of his brother Prince Salman. Regardless of how venal, reckless, or brutal his government may choose to be, as long as it protects American interests in the Middle East it will inevitably be showered with plaudits and support, just as its predecessor was.

—————————————-

And Some of the Comments:

# ronnewmexico 2015-01-23 22:10
It is simply amazing the line of BS they give us, through mass media, and no one hardly questions it. And they want to limit internet speed so even our alternative truth sites, will be barely accessible(like this place)…

And on and on we go. What gets me a bit is some will see these obvious lies here and call it..liar liar pants on fire..

but then some other issue … and they buy it, hook line and sinker — it defies my understanding..

Nevertheless good story … ..at least some places are telling the truth.
Reminds me of our notables many of them attending the emperor of Japans funeral back in the day….have they no shame, no morality?

0 # FDRva 2015-01-24 01:11
It is likely a mistake to label the deceased as strictly a guardian of American interests.

The late King sounds like a leader schooled in British intelligence methods and tactics.

About those missing 28 pages from the 9-11 commission report…

0 # FDRva 2015-01-24 01:35
When did British intelligence quit running ops through the Saudi Royal family?

Well, they didn’t.

Not even after 9-11.

HMMM…

==============================
====================================================================

AND THE CONVENTIONAL VERSION TELLING ABOUT THE KING’S DEATH – as by Officialdom’s
RT

23 January 15

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has died in hospital while undergoing treatment for pneumonia. An official statement has named Saudi Crown Prince Salman the new king.

“His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 1 a.m. this morning,” said the statement on Saudi Arabian state TV channel attributed to Salman.

Salman has immediately appointed his half-brother Muqrin as his crown prince and heir.

Prior to the confirmation, conflicting reports suggested that the Saudis had initially dismissed the news of the king’s death on social media. However, Saudi television cut to Koranic verses early on Friday – a practice known to signify the death of a senior royal, Reuters reported.

King Abdullah had been in hospital for several weeks as he had been suffering from pneumonia and temporarily needed to breathe through a tube on account of his illness.

US President Barack Obama has expressed his condolences and praised the late Saudi King for his “steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the US-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.”

Meanwhile, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has announced that he will be leaving the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in order to travel to Saudi Arabia and pay his respects.

Abdullah was officially appointed king in 2006, but prior to that he had run the country for at least 10 years as de facto regent, after his predecessor, King Fahd, suffered a debilitating stroke.

The royal’s age is not officially known, however, it is believed that he was born in 1923, according to Reuters. Abdullah had approximately a dozen wives and was a father to more than 30 children, AP reported.

The new head of state of the number one oil exporter in the world is thought to be 79 years old. King Salman was appointed Crown Prince in 2012 and in the same year started serving as a defense minister. Before assuming these responsibilities, he had been governor of Riyadh province for five decades.

Abdullah was a staunch US ally, who supported the western fight against Al-Qaeda and maintained attempts to keep rival Shia Iran in check. Under his rule, Saudi Arabia strongly backed Syrian rebels trying to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The monarch had also been the first international head of state to congratulate the interim government of Egypt after the July 2013 military coup deposed Mohamed Morsi.

King Abdullah implemented some modest reforms in the areas of women’s rights and economic deregulation, but largely stayed away from any severe changes to the kingdom’s political system. King Salman is said to be part of the royal circle that will continue to pursue similar policies.

Despite Abdullah’s reforms, women in Saudi Arabia are still not allowed to drive and require male “approval” to work, travel outside the country, open up a bank account, and sometimes, even to have surgery. Under Abdullah the country remained an absolute monarchy, guided by Sharia law, with severe punishments such as public beheadings.

The US has repeatedly turned a blind eye towards Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. For example, the US government chose to classify 28 pages of a bipartisan congressional 9/11 report, which pointed to the Saudi government as a partial financier of the terrorist attacks. More recently, the State Department came under media fire for not going beyond verbal disagreement when Saudi Arabia’s blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1000 lashes for criticizing Islam.

Abdullah has been a critic of the Arab Spring movement, harboring fears that it may have inspired local unrest and would have subsequently given more power to Iran or Al-Qaeda. His attempts at keeping local demonstrations to a minimum cost the country some $110 billion in social benefits.

Any discontent has landed activists in jail. The country’s reaction to protesters has caused grave concern in human rights communities.

=========================

Some of the Comments:

+9 # fredboy 2015-01-23 10:17
So powerful here there was never a complete criminal investigation of 9/11. All roads led to the White House, and all questions stopped at the gate.

-4 # ronnewmexico 2015-01-23 14:14
Interestng that fred. Not the comment I understand that. What it is saying is the white house was complicit in 9/11…

What is interesting to me is how many of these markers , who abound this place..firmly agree with you 7 right now.

Kudos…fred… I guess we find out who represents the green red marker folks..thanks for providing that.
Quite interesting.

+5 # reiverpacific 2015-01-23 11:05
“US President Barack Obama has expressed his condolences and praised the late Saudi King for his “steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the US-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.” (Quote from article). Another example that in most cases, “International Diplomacy” = “Nicely worded hypocrisy and bullshit”!
Meanwhile, Riyadh’s “Chop-chop Square” will still function as the public State murder, hand-removal and whipping center of the world and a living example of surviving Hereditary Patriarchal Monarchy-driven feudalism.
Such a friend indeed (It’s the only country I’ve been offered a high-paying job in and refused).
With Saudi-Arabia and LIKUD’S Israel as “Allies”, the US is really choosing it’s associations well but not wisely, what?!

+5 # jdd 2015-01-23 11:15
Yes, the powerful ally that is the sponsor of world-wide jihadist terrorism, going back at least to the Al-Yamamah deal with BAE. Until the 28 pages of the 911 Joint Commission Report detailing the Saudi hand behind the 911 attacks, which were redacted and classified by Pres. Bush, are released over the obstruction of Barack Obama, the Saudis will continue their assault on civilization.

+4 # Billy Bob 2015-01-23 11:54
So, once again, there are “good” Islamic extremist states with Sharia Law, and “bad” Islamic extremist states with Sharia Law.

It all depends on who’s willing to play ball with the dirty sludge cartel, not to mention who OWNS the dirty sludge cartel.

In fact, where a Middle-Eastern country is too democratic, and unwilling to play ball with the international filthy sludge cartel, often, “measures must be taken”, to ensure that an “Islamic extremist state with Sharia Law” is put in place – specifically so the U.S. military can be used as a tax-funded bodyguard for the filthy sludge industry.

0 # ronnewmexico 2015-01-23 14:01
Well put…agree 100%

+1 # reiverpacific 2015-01-23 16:38
Quoting ronnewmexico:

Interestng that fred. Not the comment I understand that. What it is saying is the white house was complicit in 9/11…

What is interesting to me is how many of these markers , who abound this place..firmly agree with you 7 right now.

Kudos…fred… I guess we find out who represents the green red marker folks..thanks for providing that.
Quite interesting.

Quoting ronnewmexico:

Interestng that fred. Not the comment I understand that. What it is saying is the white house was complicit in 9/11…

What is interesting to me is how many of these markers , who abound this place..firmly agree with you 7 right now.

Kudos…fred… I guess we find out who represents the green red marker folks..thanks for providing that.
Quite interesting.

Lest ye forget, immediately post-9-11, when US airspace was closed to ALL, a jet was waiting at Bluegrass Field, Lexington, KY, for the Saud party who were at the Keenland horse sales and which spirited them out of US empty (but surely traffic -controlled) skies to safety.

That sets up nicely with the Dimwits/Cheney/ Rice/Rumsfeld complicity scenario; and I’m no conspiracy-buff , just like to connect dots logically. I’m a member of “Architects and Engineers for 9-11 Truth” of which there are many across the country (See the website) and the official line’s about as plausible as the post JFK Warren Report.

“All governments lie ——-” as “Izzy” Stone reminded us. He’d ha’ loved this mess.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  readersupportednews.org/opinion2/… January 23, 2015


Congress Seeks Netanyahu’s Direction

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

23 January 15


Showing who some in Congress believe is the real master of U.S. foreign policy, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session and offer a rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s comments on world affairs in his State of the Union speech.

Boehner made clear that Netanyahu’s third speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress – scheduled for Feb. 11 – {now seemingly re-scheduled for March 3, 2015} - was meant to counter Obama’s assessments. “There is a serious threat in the world, and the President last night kind of papered over it,” Boehner said on Wednesday. “And the fact is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”

The scheduling of Netanyahu’s speech caught the White House off-guard, since the Israeli prime minister had apparently not bothered to clear his trip with the administration. The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.

In the past when Netanyahu has spoken to Congress, Republicans and Democrats have competed to show their devotion by quickly and frequently leaping to their feet to applaud almost every word out of the Israeli prime minister’s mouth. By addressing a joint session for a third time, Netanyahu would become only the second foreign leader to do so, joining British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who never used the platform to demean the policies of a sitting U.S. president.

Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East. Boehner doesn’t seem to realize that Netanyahu has developed what amounts to a de facto alliance with extremist Sunni forces in the region.

Not only is Israel now collaborating behind the scenes with Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist leadership but Israel has begun taking sides militarily in support of the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Syrian civil war. A source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria said Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces that control territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The quiet cooperation between Israel and al-Qaeda’s affiliate was further underscored on Sunday when Israeli helicopters attacked and killed advisers to the Syrian military from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran. In other words, Israel has dispatched its forces into Syria to kill military personnel helping to fight al-Nusra. Iran later confirmed that one of its generals had died in the Israeli strike.

Israel’s tangled alliances with Sunni forces have been taking shape over the past several years, as Israel and Saudi Arabia emerged as strange bedfellows in the geopolitical struggle against Shiite-ruled Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon. Both Saudi and Israeli leaders have talked with growing alarm about this “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.


Favoring Sunni Extremists

Senior Israelis have made clear they would prefer Sunni extremists to prevail in the Syrian civil war rather than President Bashar al-Assad, who is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam. Assad’s relatively secular government is seen as the protector of Shiites, Christians and other minorities who fear the vengeful brutality of the Sunni jihadists who now dominate the anti-Assad rebels.

In one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, its Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, a close adviser to Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013 that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia shares Israeli’s strategic view that “the Shiite crescent” must be broken and has thus developed a rapport with Netanyahu’s government in a kind of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship. But some rank-and-file Jewish supporters of Israel have voiced concerns about Israel’s newfound alliance with the Saudi monarchy, especially given its adherence to ultraconservative Wahhabi Islam and its embrace of a fanatical hatred of Shiite Islam, a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that dates back 1,400 years.

Though President Obama has repeatedly declared his support for Israel, he has developed a contrary view from Netanyahu’s regarding what is the gravest danger in the Middle East. Obama considers the radical Sunni jihadists, associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, to be the biggest threat to Western interests and U.S. national security.

That has put him in a different de facto alliance – with Iran and the Syrian government – since they represent the strongest bulwarks against Sunni jihadists who have targeted Americans and other Westerners for death.

What Boehner doesn’t seem to understand is that Israel and Saudi Arabia have placed themselves on the side of the Sunni jihadists who now represent the frontline fight against the “Shiite crescent.” If Netanyahu succeeds in enlisting the United States in violently forcing Syrian “regime change,” the U.S. government likely would be facilitating the growth in power of the Sunni extremists, not containing them.


But the influential American neoconservatives want to synch U.S. foreign policy with Israel’s and thus have pressed for a U.S. bombing campaign against Assad’s forces (even if that would open the gates of Damascus to the Nusra Front or the Islamic State). The neocons also want an escalation of tensions with Iran by sabotaging an agreement to ensure that its nuclear program is not used for military purposes.

The neocons have long wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran as part of their “regime change” strategy for the Middle East. That is why Obama’s openness to a permanent agreement for tight constraints on Iran’s nuclear program is seen as a threat by Netanyahu, the neocons and their congressional allies – because it would derail hopes for militarily attacking Iran.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama made clear that he perceives the brutal Islamic State, which he calls “ISIL” for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as the principal current threat to Western interests in the Middle East and the clearest terror threat to the United States and Europe. Obama proposed “a smarter kind of American leadership” that would cooperate with allies in “stopping ISIL’s advance” without “getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.”


Working with Putin

Thus, Obama, who might be called a “closet realist,” is coming to the realization that the best hope for blocking the advances of Sunni jihadi terror and minimizing U.S. military involvement is through cooperation with Iran and its regional allies. That also puts Obama on the same side with Russian President Vladimir Putin who has faced Sunni terrorism in Chechnya and is supporting both Iran’s leaders and Syria’s Assad in their resistance to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Obama’s “realist” alliance, in turn, presents a direct threat to Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran represents an “existential threat” to Israel and that the “Shiite crescent” must be destroyed. There is also fear among Israeli right-wingers that an effective Obama-Putin collaboration could ultimately force Israel into accepting a Palestinian state.

So, Netanyahu and the U.S. neocons believe they must do whatever is necessary to shatter this tandem of Obama, Putin and Iran. That is one reason why the neocons were at the forefront of fomenting “regime change” against Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year. By splintering Ukraine on Russia’s border, the neocons drove a wedge between Obama and Putin. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]

Even the slow-witted mainstream U.S. media has begun to pick up on the story of the emerging Israeli-Saudi alliance. In the Jan. 19 issue of Time magazine, correspondent Joe Klein noted the new coziness between top Israeli and Saudi officials.

He wrote: “On May 26, 2014, an unprecedented public conversation took place in Brussels. Two former high-ranking spymasters of Israel and Saudi Arabia – Amos Yadlin and Prince Turki al-Faisal – sat together for more than an hour, talking regional politics in a conversation moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

“They disagreed on some things, like the exact nature of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement, and agreed on others: the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat, the need to support the new military government in Egypt, the demand for concerted international action in Syria. The most striking statement came from Prince Turki. He said the Arabs had ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and ‘don’t want to fight Israel anymore.’”

Not only did Prince Turki offer an olive branch to Israel, he indicated agreement on what the two countries consider their most pressing strategic interests: Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war. In other words, in noting this extraordinary meeting, Klein had stumbled upon the odd-couple alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia – though he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama had shifted his position on Syria as the West made a “quiet retreat from its demand” that Assad “step down immediately.” The article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta noted that the Obama administration still wanted Assad to exit eventually “but facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.”

    At the center of that diplomatic initiative was Russia, again reflecting Obama’s recognition of the need to cooperate with Putin on resolving some of these complex problems (although Obama did include in his speech some tough-guy rhetoric against Russia over Ukraine, taking some pleasure in how Russia’s economy is now “in tatters”).

    But the underlying reality is that the United States and Assad’s regime have become de facto allies, fighting on the same side in the Syrian civil war, much as Israel had, in effect, sided with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front by killing Hezbollah and Iranian advisers to the Syrian military.

    The Times article noted that the shift in Obama’s position on Syrian peace talks “comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism.

    “American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.”

    Yet, as Obama adjusts U.S. foreign policy to take into account the complex realities in the Middle East, he now faces another front in this conflict – from the U.S. Congress, which has long been held in thrall by the Israel lobby.

    Not only has Speaker Boehner appealed to Netanyahu to deliver what amounts to a challenge to President Obama’s foreign policy but congressional neocons are even accusing Obama’s team of becoming Iranian stooges. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democratic neocon, said, “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”

    If indeed Netanyahu does end up addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, its members would face a stark choice of either embracing Israel’s foreign policy as America’s or backing the decisions made by the elected President of the United States.

    ___________________________________________

    Precisely, and therefore the Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement is *illegal* by the simple *reason* of being obviously, and egregiously Unconstitutiona l.

    As Indian Weaver notes above, if the Justice Department and the White House bend over, lie down and accept *this* “rogering”, they deserve everything they get.

    And we, the American “observers” of Government, get a full shout out about the fact that Obama and Holder are COMPLICIT in this bullshit – simply demonstrated by their refusal to ENFORCE against a clearly cut violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    This Kabuki Theater that *IS* U.S. Government is really beginning to grow quite threadbare. It now takes nothing to “see through” all of the phony posturing.

    =================================

    And Some of the Comments:

    +26 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:45
    .
    So Boehner is actually bringing a foreign leader into the — US — House of Representatives ‘ chamber? … to challenge the US President.

    Say it ain’t so, Joe.
    .

    +18 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:49
    .
    Or is it that this foreign leader will simply take the opportunity to challenge the President, even though he/she is in the US House of Representatives ‘ chamber?
    .

    +24 # ericlipps 2015-01-23 18:42
    Netanyahu is coming to Congress to give its new Republican members the opportunity to kiss his ring before he puts one through their noses. And of course to sound off against President Obama, something Republicans are always happy to hear someone do (they’d feel the same way if it were Bashir Assad)—but that’s just a bonus.

    +15 # X Dane 2015-01-23 19:52
    nice2bgreat.
    I am beyond furious. Why has nobody pointed out that Boehner and the republicans are TRAITORS. They are asking a warmongering prime minister of ANOTHER COUNTRY to dictate how we should conduct our foreign policy.

    This is what happens when so many in congress has dual citizenship with Israel. They do not grasp that they owe loyalty to USA …..NOT Israel.

    Traitors used to be thrown in jail and hanged for actions like this. Something is seriously wrong. And Netanyaho forgets who is propping up his country with BILLIONS annually.

    I can’t believe that Boehner is allowed to get away with this. It is sickening.

    -1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:04
    I too am beyond furious! Our Congress is full of people who should be charged with TREASON!! Those corrupt creatures deserve to so charged and if guilty PUT TO DEATH!!

    The United States has no business to be sending billions of dollars and our armed forces to the Middle East. Day by day we are causing the growth of terrorist forces who have damn good reason to hate Americans. We are killing people day and night all over the Middle East. We sure as hell are not winning the hearts and minds of those people. We need to get the hell out and take care of our problems here at home. That money for the endless wars could be used to put Americans to work rebuilding our failing infrastructure.

    Don’t vote for anyone in Congress now. NO ONE! They are not working for us. They work for their Israeli paymasters.

    +3 # LGNTexas 2015-01-23 21:04
    Just another example of the racist reich-wing delegitimizing our first black president.

    +6 # Interested Observer 2015-01-23 19:52
    It will save the time usually spent getting our Mid-east policy translated from Hebrew.

    +34 # indian weaver 2015-01-23 14:35
    Hard to believe Boehner would do this – not. I think crass now amounts to treason, or sedition? Where is our worthless spineless AG now? Time for being cute is over. Attack Netanyahoo criminally, whatever it takes. Such is the state of the union – what union?

    +39 # MEBrowning 2015-01-23 18:20
    Yes! During Dubya’s presidency, the Republicans constantly harangued anybody they thought didn’t have “respect for the office of the president.” In other words, anyone who dared to criticize neocon chickenhawks who pandered to the 1% and ignored everybody else. Where’s their respect for the office of the president now? Hypocrites all.

    +14 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:32
    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    +1 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:43
    Quoting wrknight:

    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    I presume you mean loyalty to Israel.

    +25 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:30
    “Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East.”

    Boehner’s ignorance extends far beyond foreign policy. In fact, one should question whether he is simply ignorant or just plain stupid.

    +20 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:35
    Along with those who vote for him.

    +20 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:33
    Makes you want to re-open the 9/11 and Iraq invasion investigations, doesn’t it? Sniff, sniff…

    +26 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:34
    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    +2 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:45
    Quoting fredboy:

    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    I hope the doghouse has a big, tough lock on the door and a high fence topped with razor wire around it.

    +24 # Ausmar 2015-01-23 19:05
    Boehner’s action is despicable. He has snubbed the president, impaired his diplomatic efforts with Iran, and implicitly acknowledged the Congress subservience to the Israeli lobby. Clearly, by calling on Netanyahu, his aim is to put pressure on some hesitant, AIPAC intimidated Democrats to fall in line with right wing Israeli policy and thereby have enough votes to overcome a presidential veto on further immediate sanctions on Iran, thus opening the way to armed intervention in Iran alongside Israel. Hopefully, enough of the American people will support the president in expressing their disdain for this kind of devious, dangerous, and servile behavior by the US Congress, so as to put a strain on American-Israel i relations. It would be about time for the US to stop being a lackey of Israel.

    +12 # angelfish 2015-01-23 19:16
    WHO the Hell does Boehner think he IS? WHAT gives him the ability OR the right to invite foreigners to speak to our Congress? Murderous NAZI foreigners, at that? It smacks of subversion and outright TREASON! I am appalled at his lack of judgment in taking it upon himself to do this. My only hope is that this might be the beginning of the end of the ReTHUGlican Party. Sane Americans EVERYWHERE should rise up and demand that he be REMOVED as Speaker and that they search High and Low for a ReTHUGlican with Bat’s sense! I know it’s a stretch but there has GOT to be someone out there with a modicum of intellect and sense of decorum. God help us and save us from these intellectual defectives!

    +13 # NOMINAE 2015-01-23 19:34
    From the article : “The Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.”
    ___________________________________________

    Precisely, and therefore the Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement is *illegal* by the simple *reason* of being obviously, and egregiously Unconstitutiona l.

    As Indian Weaver notes above, if the Justice Department and the White House bend over, lie down and accept *this* “rogering”, they deserve everything they get.

    And we, the American “observers” of Government, get a full shout out about the fact that Obama and Holder are COMPLICIT in this bullshit – simply demonstrated by their refusal to ENFORCE against a clearly cut violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    This Kabuki Theater that *IS* U.S. Government is really beginning to grow quite threadbare. It now takes nothing to “see through” all of the phony posturing.

    +10 # reiverpacific 2015-01-23 19:44
    Isn’t Mr “Cancer-bed-sun tan” Boner actually doing what he accused Obama of and wants to sue him for, as in “Overreaching his power” over the ACA, which actually helped a lot of people, it’s imperfections notwithstanding?
    All Nutty-Yahoo and his proto-Fascist and by default Rabidly Nationalist LIKUD party has done is press for “Israeli Exceptionalism” in committing attempted genocide, mass-murder, apartheid destruction of habitat and livelihood on a people forced to live in “The biggest open-air prison in the World”!
    They should both be locked up in the Abu-Grahib Country Club for delusional rogue leaders!

    0 # angelfish 2015-01-23 21:48
    Thank you reiverpacific, you are right ON the money!

    +1 # Paul Larudee 2015-01-23 20:18
    Can we commission a suitable crown that quickly?

    +2 # Activista 2015-01-23 20:19
    Great analysis and focus on the problem – this is essential – USA can NOT fight another war – can not afford it morally and economically.
    We are not helping Israel by solving their problems with neighbors by killing them.
    2014 killing of Gaza – 2140 Palestinians, mostly civilians – is direction where Netanyahu wants to go.
    Hope that people of Israel (and USA) wake up and stop this psychopath.

    +1 # Jayceecool 2015-01-23 20:31
    Does anyone else see the portents of a coup-de-etat here?

    +3 # jdd 2015-01-23 20:38
    While Boehner’s move is disgraceful, the bigger threat at this time if Obama’s quite open admission of financial warfare against Russia and his support for Unkrain’s assault on the Donbas region and intent to send advisors to the “National Guard.” Obama also made threatening statements against China. So while it is true that Obama realizes that he needs Russia’s help to defeat ISIS, he continues to threaten and harden relations with two of the world’s greatest nuclear powers.

    0 # Anonymot 2015-01-23 21:54
    Obama is not a foreign policy mind – he has none. The CIA dictates to him. His own policy advisors are all CIA oriented or simply stupid in the field of diplomacy.

    The last real foreign policy we had was Dick Cheney’s – who had a brain transplant as a boy. I think he got Palin’s.

    +2 # Shorey13 2015-01-23 20:43
    Boehner is both stupid and a traitor. He either doesn’t understand our democracy or chooses to violate it. Foreign policy is the province of the Executive Branch, with Congressional approval of Treaties, Wars and other formal matters. Boehner clearly has no interest in responsible governance.

    But, I was not really unhappy when the Republicans won the last election, because I like to see stupid, evil people given enough rope to hang themselves. The Republicans will be roundly defeated in 2016. You can bet on it.

    +1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:14
    I hope they will be defeated but not by Democrats. The two corporate parties are equally bad. We need to follow the foot steps of Spain and Greece and form a new political party to represent the working people and throw the plutocrats out of our government. We don’t need endless wars and austerity. We need a government to serve the people of this nation and protect our mother the Earth. Down with this rotten government!

    0 # Saberoff 2015-01-23 21:14
    The world may well not last that long.

    0 # shgo 2015-01-23 21:36
    setting up for 2016 – hope it all backfires – on all these fools who purport to represent the people of this country. NONE OF THEM DO. They represent the corporate plutocracy. Maybe more of us will take to the streets, phones, legislators offices, and come together in a movement that says NO to all of it – but with a vision for social and economic justice for ALL!

    0 # Anonymot 2015-01-23 21:39
    All of this is historically normal. Mussolini invited Hitler to speak before the Italian parliament. Franco and Hitler were close allies in the Spanish Civil War. Fascists stick together. We and the CIA have always embraced dictators. So what’s new?

    I assume that Obama alone doesn’t have the power to shut off our payments to Israel.

    0 # CarolYost 2015-01-23 21:54
    I’m thrilled to see intelligent comments in relation to Israel, for once–no Zionists. Of course Boehner is stupid and treacherous. I would love it if, while Netanyahu’s away from his home, there was a coup d’etat in Israel and a good leader put in his place!–One who would work toward a single state for all, Jews, Palestinians, everybody, as there should have been all along. No Jewish state for Jews only. When you have a country set up on behalf of one religion or group, the results are ugly. The Holocaust taught us that.

    Yes, let’s rise up against the Boehner-Netanya hu fraud. And let’s end the US devotion to Israel once and for all. Buchanan was so right when he called Congress–what? –Israeli-occup ied territory.

    Refresh comments list

    ======================================

    Pincas Jawetz

    5:50 AM (5 minutes ago)

    to Uri, Uri
    Dear Uri

    IN CASE YOU DID NOT SEE THIS ALREADY – I THOUGHT IT MIGHT INTEREST YOU .

    Pincas

    from:  readersupportednews.org/opinion2/… January 23, 2015

    Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington. (photo: AP)

    Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington. (photo: AP)

    go to original article

    ALSO SEE: Obama to Netanyahu: Stop Pushing Congress Toward New Sanctions on Iran

    Congress Seeks Netanyahu’s Direction

    By Robert Parry, Consortium News

    23 January 15

    howing who some in Congress believe is the real master of U.S. foreign policy, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session and offer a rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s comments on world affairs in his State of the Union speech.

    Boehner made clear that Netanyahu’s third speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress – scheduled for Feb. 11 – was meant to counter Obama’s assessments. “There is a serious threat in the world, and the President last night kind of papered over it,” Boehner said on Wednesday. “And the fact is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”

    The scheduling of Netanyahu’s speech caught the White House off-guard, since the Israeli prime minister had apparently not bothered to clear his trip with the administration. The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.

    In the past when Netanyahu has spoken to Congress, Republicans and Democrats have competed to show their devotion by quickly and frequently leaping to their feet to applaud almost every word out of the Israeli prime minister’s mouth. By addressing a joint session for a third time, Netanyahu would become only the second foreign leader to do so, joining British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who never used the platform to demean the policies of a sitting U.S. president.

    Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East. Boehner doesn’t seem to realize that Netanyahu has developed what amounts to a de facto alliance with extremist Sunni forces in the region.

    Not only is Israel now collaborating behind the scenes with Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist leadership but Israel has begun taking sides militarily in support of the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Syrian civil war. A source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria said Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces that control territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

    The quiet cooperation between Israel and al-Qaeda’s affiliate was further underscored on Sunday when Israeli helicopters attacked and killed advisers to the Syrian military from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran. In other words, Israel has dispatched its forces into Syria to kill military personnel helping to fight al-Nusra. Iran later confirmed that one of its generals had died in the Israeli strike.

    Israel’s tangled alliances with Sunni forces have been taking shape over the past several years, as Israel and Saudi Arabia emerged as strange bedfellows in the geopolitical struggle against Shiite-ruled Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon. Both Saudi and Israeli leaders have talked with growing alarm about this “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.

    Favoring Sunni Extremists

    Senior Israelis have made clear they would prefer Sunni extremists to prevail in the Syrian civil war rather than President Bashar al-Assad, who is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam. Assad’s relatively secular government is seen as the protector of Shiites, Christians and other minorities who fear the vengeful brutality of the Sunni jihadists who now dominate the anti-Assad rebels.

    In one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, its Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, a close adviser to Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013 that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

    “The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

    Saudi Arabia shares Israeli’s strategic view that “the Shiite crescent” must be broken and has thus developed a rapport with Netanyahu’s government in a kind of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship. But some rank-and-file Jewish supporters of Israel have voiced concerns about Israel’s newfound alliance with the Saudi monarchy, especially given its adherence to ultraconservative Wahhabi Islam and its embrace of a fanatical hatred of Shiite Islam, a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that dates back 1,400 years.

    Though President Obama has repeatedly declared his support for Israel, he has developed a contrary view from Netanyahu’s regarding what is the gravest danger in the Middle East. Obama considers the radical Sunni jihadists, associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, to be the biggest threat to Western interests and U.S. national security.

    That has put him in a different de facto alliance – with Iran and the Syrian government – since they represent the strongest bulwarks against Sunni jihadists who have targeted Americans and other Westerners for death.

    What Boehner doesn’t seem to understand is that Israel and Saudi Arabia have placed themselves on the side of the Sunni jihadists who now represent the frontline fight against the “Shiite crescent.” If Netanyahu succeeds in enlisting the United States in violently forcing Syrian “regime change,” the U.S. government likely would be facilitating the growth in power of the Sunni extremists, not containing them.

    But the influential American neoconservatives want to synch U.S. foreign policy with Israel’s and thus have pressed for a U.S. bombing campaign against Assad’s forces (even if that would open the gates of Damascus to the Nusra Front or the Islamic State). The neocons also want an escalation of tensions with Iran by sabotaging an agreement to ensure that its nuclear program is not used for military purposes.

    The neocons have long wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran as part of their “regime change” strategy for the Middle East. That is why Obama’s openness to a permanent agreement for tight constraints on Iran’s nuclear program is seen as a threat by Netanyahu, the neocons and their congressional allies – because it would derail hopes for militarily attacking Iran.

    In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama made clear that he perceives the brutal Islamic State, which he calls “ISIL” for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as the principal current threat to Western interests in the Middle East and the clearest terror threat to the United States and Europe. Obama proposed “a smarter kind of American leadership” that would cooperate with allies in “stopping ISIL’s advance” without “getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.”

    Working with Putin

    Thus, Obama, who might be called a “closet realist,” is coming to the realization that the best hope for blocking the advances of Sunni jihadi terror and minimizing U.S. military involvement is through cooperation with Iran and its regional allies. That also puts Obama on the same side with Russian President Vladimir Putin who has faced Sunni terrorism in Chechnya and is supporting both Iran’s leaders and Syria’s Assad in their resistance to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

    Obama’s “realist” alliance, in turn, presents a direct threat to Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran represents an “existential threat” to Israel and that the “Shiite crescent” must be destroyed. There is also fear among Israeli right-wingers that an effective Obama-Putin collaboration could ultimately force Israel into accepting a Palestinian state.

    So, Netanyahu and the U.S. neocons believe they must do whatever is necessary to shatter this tandem of Obama, Putin and Iran. That is one reason why the neocons were at the forefront of fomenting “regime change” against Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year. By splintering Ukraine on Russia’s border, the neocons drove a wedge between Obama and Putin. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]

    Even the slow-witted mainstream U.S. media has begun to pick up on the story of the emerging Israeli-Saudi alliance. In the Jan. 19 issue of Time magazine, correspondent Joe Klein noted the new coziness between top Israeli and Saudi officials.

    He wrote: “On May 26, 2014, an unprecedented public conversation took place in Brussels. Two former high-ranking spymasters of Israel and Saudi Arabia – Amos Yadlin and Prince Turki al-Faisal – sat together for more than an hour, talking regional politics in a conversation moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

    “They disagreed on some things, like the exact nature of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement, and agreed on others: the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat, the need to support the new military government in Egypt, the demand for concerted international action in Syria. The most striking statement came from Prince Turki. He said the Arabs had ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and ‘don’t want to fight Israel anymore.’”

    Not only did Prince Turki offer an olive branch to Israel, he indicated agreement on what the two countries consider their most pressing strategic interests: Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war. In other words, in noting this extraordinary meeting, Klein had stumbled upon the odd-couple alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia – though he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing.

    On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama had shifted his position on Syria as the West made a “quiet retreat from its demand” that Assad “step down immediately.” The article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta noted that the Obama administration still wanted Assad to exit eventually “but facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.”

    At the center of that diplomatic initiative was Russia, again reflecting Obama’s recognition of the need to cooperate with Putin on resolving some of these complex problems (although Obama did include in his speech some tough-guy rhetoric against Russia over Ukraine, taking some pleasure in how Russia’s economy is now “in tatters”).

    But the underlying reality is that the United States and Assad’s regime have become de facto allies, fighting on the same side in the Syrian civil war, much as Israel had, in effect, sided with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front by killing Hezbollah and Iranian advisers to the Syrian military.

    The Times article noted that the shift in Obama’s position on Syrian peace talks “comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism.

    “American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.”

    Yet, as Obama adjusts U.S. foreign policy to take into account the complex realities in the Middle East, he now faces another front in this conflict – from the U.S. Congress, which has long been held in thrall by the Israel lobby.

    Not only has Speaker Boehner appealed to Netanyahu to deliver what amounts to a challenge to President Obama’s foreign policy but congressional neocons are even accusing Obama’s team of becoming Iranian stooges. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democratic neocon, said, “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”

    If indeed Netanyahu does end up addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, its members would face a stark choice of either embracing Israel’s foreign policy as America’s – or backing the decisions made by the elected President of the United States.
    __________________________________________

    And Some of the Comments:

    +26 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:45
    .
    So Boehner is actually bringing a foreign leader into the — US — House of Representatives ‘ chamber? … to challenge the US President.

    Say it ain’t so, Joe.

    +18 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:49
    .
    Or is it that this foreign leader will simply take the opportunity to challenge the President, even though he/she is in the US House of Representatives ‘ chamber?
    .

    +24 # ericlipps 2015-01-23 18:42
    Netanyahu is coming to Congress to give its new Republican members the opportunity to kiss his ring before he puts one through their noses. And of course to sound off against President Obama, something Republicans are always happy to hear someone do (they’d feel the same way if it were Bashir Assad)—but that’s just a bonus.

    +15 # X Dane 2015-01-23 19:52
    nice2bgreat.
    I am beyond furious. Why has nobody pointed out that Boehner and the republicans are TRAITORS. They are asking a warmongering prime minister of ANOTHER COUNTRY to dictate how we should conduct our foreign policy.

    This is what happens when so many in congress has dual citizenship with Israel. They do not grasp that they owe loyalty to USA …..NOT Israel.

    Traitors used to be thrown in jail and hanged for actions like this. Something is seriously wrong. And Netanyaho forgets who is propping up his country with BILLIONS annually.

    I can’t believe that Boehner is allowed to get away with this. It is sickening.

    -1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:04
    I too am beyond furious! Our Congress is full of people who should be charged with TREASON!! Those corrupt creatures deserve to so charged and if guilty PUT TO DEATH!!

    The United States has no business to be sending billions of dollars and our armed forces to the Middle East. Day by day we are causing the growth of terrorist forces who have damn good reason to hate Americans. We are killing people day and night all over the Middle East. We sure as hell are not winning the hearts and minds of those people. We need to get the hell out and take care of our problems here at home. That money for the endless wars could be used to put Americans to work rebuilding our failing infrastructure.

    Don’t vote for anyone in Congress now. NO ONE! They are not working for us. They work for their Israeli paymasters.

    +3 # LGNTexas 2015-01-23 21:04
    Just another example of the racist reich-wing delegitimizing our first black president.

    +6 # Interested Observer 2015-01-23 19:52
    It will save the time usually spent getting our Mid-east policy translated from Hebrew.

    +39 # MEBrowning 2015-01-23 18:20
    Yes! During Dubya’s presidency, the Republicans constantly harangued anybody they thought didn’t have “respect for the office of the president.” In other words, anyone who dared to criticize neocon chickenhawks who pandered to the 1% and ignored everybody else. Where’s their respect for the office of the president now? Hypocrites all.

    +14 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:32
    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    +1 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:43
    Quoting wrknight:

    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    I presume you mean loyalty to Israel.

    +25 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:30
    “Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East.”

    Boehner’s ignorance extends far beyond foreign policy. In fact, one should question whether he is simply ignorant or just plain stupid.

    +20 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:35
    Along with those who vote for him.

    +20 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:33
    Makes you want to re-open the 9/11 and Iraq invasion investigations, doesn’t it? Sniff, sniff…

    +26 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:34
    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    +2 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:45
    Quoting fredboy:

    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    I hope the doghouse has a big, tough lock on the door and a high fence topped with razor wire around it.

    +24 # Ausmar 2015-01-23 19:05
    Boehner’s action is despicable. He has snubbed the president, impaired his diplomatic efforts with Iran, and implicitly acknowledged the Congress subservience to the Israeli lobby. Clearly, by calling on Netanyahu, his aim is to put pressure on some hesitant, AIPAC intimidated Democrats to fall in line with right wing Israeli policy and thereby have enough votes to overcome a presidential veto on further immediate sanctions on Iran, thus opening the way to armed intervention in Iran alongside Israel. Hopefully, enough of the American people will support the president in expressing their disdain for this kind of devious, dangerous, and servile behavior by the US Congress, so as to put a strain on American-Israel i relations. It would be about time for the US to stop being a lackey of Israel.

    +12 # angelfish 2015-01-23 19:16
    WHO the Hell does Boehner think he IS? WHAT gives him the ability OR the right to invite foreigners to speak to our Congress? Murderous NAZI foreigners, at that? It smacks of subversion and outright TREASON! I am appalled at his lack of judgment in taking it upon himself to do this. My only hope is that this might be the beginning of the end of the ReTHUGlican Party. Sane Americans EVERYWHERE should rise up and demand that he be REMOVED as Speaker and that they search High and Low for a ReTHUGlican with Bat’s sense! I know it’s a stretch but there has GOT to be someone out there with a modicum of intellect and sense of decorum. God help us and save us from these intellectual defectives!

    +13 # NOMINAE 2015-01-23 19:34
    From the article : “The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.”
    ___________________________________________

    Precisely, and therefore the Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement is *illegal* by the simple *reason* of being obviously, and egregiously Unconstitutional.

    As Indian Weaver notes above, if the Justice Department and the White House bend over, lie down and accept *this* “rogering”, they deserve everything they get.

    And we, the American “observers” of Government, get a full shout out about the fact that Obama and Holder are COMPLICIT in this bullshit – simply demonstrated by their refusal to ENFORCE against a clearly cut violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    This Kabuki Theater that *IS* U.S. Government is really beginning to grow quite threadbare. It now takes nothing to “see through” all of the phony posturing.

    +10 # reiverpacific 2015-01-23 19:44
    Isn’t Mr “Cancer-bed-sun tan” Boner actually doing what he accused Obama of and wants to sue him for, as in “Overreaching his power” over the ACA, which actually helped a lot of people, it’s imperfections notwithstanding?
    All Nutty-Yahoo and his proto-Fascist and by default Rabidly Nationalist LIKUD party has done is press for “Israeli Exceptionalism” in committing attempted genocide, mass-murder, apartheid destruction of habitat and livelihood on a people forced to live in “The biggest open-air prison in the World”!
    They should both be locked up in the Abu-Grahib Country Club for delusional rogue leaders!

    0 # angelfish 2015-01-23 21:48
    Thank you reiverpacific, you are right ON the money!

    +1 # Paul Larudee 2015-01-23 20:18
    Can we commission a suitable crown that quickly?

    +2 # Activista 2015-01-23 20:19
    Great analysis and focus on the problem – this is essential – USA can NOT fight another war – can not afford it morally and economically.
    We are not helping Israel by solving their problems with neighbors by killing them.
    2014 killing of Gaza – 2140 Palestinians, mostly civilians – is direction where Netanyahu wants to go.
    Hope that people of Israel (and USA) wake up and stop this psychopath.

    +1 # Jayceecool 2015-01-23 20:31
    Does anyone else see the portents of a coup-de-etat here?

    +3 # jdd 2015-01-23 20:38
    While Boehner’s move is disgraceful, the bigger threat at this time if Obama’s quite open admission of financial warfare against Russia and his support for Unkrain’s assault on the Donbas region and intent to send advisors to the “National Guard.” Obama also made threatening statements against China. So while it is true that Obama realizes that he needs Russia’s help to defeat ISIS, he continues to threaten and harden relations with two of the world’s greatest nuclear powers.

    0 # Anonymot 2015-01-23 21:54
    Obama is not a foreign policy mind – he has none. The CIA dictates to him. His own policy advisors are all CIA oriented or simply stupid in the field of diplomacy.

    The last real foreign policy we had was Dick Cheney’s – who had a brain transplant as a boy. I think he got Palin’s.

    +2 # Shorey13 2015-01-23 20:43
    Boehner is both stupid and a traitor. He either doesn’t understand our democracy or chooses to violate it. Foreign policy is the province of the Executive Branch, with Congressional approval of Treaties, Wars and other formal matters. Boehner clearly has no interest in responsible governance.

    But, I was not really unhappy when the Republicans won the last election, because I like to see stupid, evil people given enough rope to hang themselves. The Republicans will be roundly defeated in 2016. You can bet on it.

    +1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:14
    I hope they will be defeated but not by Democrats. The two corporate parties are equally bad. We need to follow the foot steps of Spain and Greece and form a new political party to represent the working people and throw the plutocrats out of our government. We don’t need endless wars and austerity. We need a government to serve the people of this nation and protect our mother the Earth. Down with this rotten government!

    0 # Saberoff 2015-01-23 21:14
    The world may well not last that long.

    0 # shgo 2015-01-23 21:36
    setting up for 2016 – hope it all backfires – on all these fools who purport to represent the people of this country. NONE OF THEM DO. They represent the corporate plutocracy. Maybe more of us will take to the streets, phones, legislators offices, and come together in a movement that says NO to all of it – but with a vision for social and economic justice for ALL!

    Refresh comments list

    ======================================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Blogger Who Uncovered GOP Leader’s White Supremacist Ties Had Home Internet Lines Cut.

By Aaron Sankin, The Daily Dot, 23 January 2015

Earlier this month, Lamar White, Jr. woke up to discover his Internet connection wasn’t working. He had just gotten a new cable box installed at his Dallas, Texas, home and figured his lines should still be in ship shape because it hadn’t been long since they were last checked.

Rather than just assume he had crappy Internet service, like you or I might, he thought his home computer system was on the receiving end of a denial of service attack. White, you see, is something of a major figure in the political media. And there are a good many people who may want revenge for the things he’s dug up.

Last month, the Louisiana native and current Southern Methodist University law student, set off a firestorm in Washington when a post on his personal blog revealed that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, was a featured speaker at a white nationalist conference put on by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

While Scalise retained his leadership position after conservatives from around the country quickly circled the wagons, the story has generated headlines for nearly a month—even causing a new round of controversy when left-leaning news outlets started making a fuss over Scalise’s multiple votes against making Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday. Nevertheless, when the cable guy came a few days later, and the first thing he asked after looking at White’s Internet connection was, “Do you have any enemies?” White couldn’t help but be more than a little surprised.

“I don’t have any scorned ex-girlfriends,” White recalled saying with a laugh. “Everyone I know in Dallas seems to like me.”

“[The cable guy] said that whatever had happened to me was the result of someone invading my backyard and using a power tool to cut the line,” he recalled. “There’s no conceivable way this could have happened on its own or been done by an animal. It wasn’t just that they cut it, they also tugged at the line [after it was severed].”

White was naturally pretty freaked out. He has since upped both his physical and online security. He’s replaced the security equipment on his house, changed all his passwords, and enabled two-factor authentication on every online account he could.

“I don’t think it was anybody associated in Steve Scalise’s office,” White insisted, adding that he’s not the type of person who tends to lean toward conspiracy theories. “I respect the folks that have spoken out in his favor. I think he has a lot of explaining to do. But I absolutely, unequivocally, do not think that he is in any way connected.”

“This just shows you the nastiness of some of the people who are associated with the white nationalist movement,” he added.

Even so, the direct attack surprised him. While the Scalise scoop certainly brought a lot of attention, it didn’t come with a significant amount of hostility directed against him personally. Some conservatives have attempted to poke holes in his narrative, but the focus of nearly all opposition was primarily the story rather than White himself.

White knows the difference first-hand because it stood in contrast to another media flap in which White was recently at the center. In the midst of last year’s race for Texas governor, White attended a campaign rally in support of gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. Just prior to the event, an advertisement released by Davis raised eyebrows nationally for attacking how her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, was being hypocritical for aggressively pushing tort reform after earning millions in a lawsuit when part of an oak tree fell on him, paralyzing him for life from the waist down. The ad was slammed as being insensitive to Abbott’s disability, and Davis responded with a event featuring a number of her disabled supporters—including White, who has cerebral palsy.

Some on the right blasted Davis for using White as a campaign “prop.” White naturally fired back with the line, “I am a human being, not a campaign prop,” which created another round of headlines.

He said that the criticism he received after that incident was far more vicious and personal in nature than what he experienced after publishing the Scalise story.

White first came to the story through a tip from a woman named Gilda Reed. A Democrat, Reed had lost a congressional election against Scalise in 2008. She had mentioned to White, who regularly does investigative journalism about Louisiana politics, about a connection between Scalise and David Duke.

Despite being the highest-profile Ku Klux Klan member in generations, Duke was a serious political force in Louisiana for many years. In 1991, he won 60 percent of the state’s white vote in an attempt to beat Edwin Edwards in the race for governor.

White started digging. He sat down at his computer and did a simple Google search for “David Duke Steve Scalise.” Within a few seconds, he came across a series of posts on the infamous white supremacist forum Stormfront.org (slogan: “Every month is white history month”) indicating that Scalise had attended a conference put on by European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), a group founded by Duke to promote white civil rights, while Scalise was a Louisiana state legislator.

A post on Stormfront, which has since been removed but is still accessible via the Internet Archive’s invaluable Wayback Machine, noted that Scalise spoke to the group regarding the “gross mismanagement of tax revenue.”

In addition to plans to implement tactical strategies that were discussed, the meeting was productive locally as State Representative, Steve Scalise, discussed ways to oversee gross mismanagement of tax revenue or “slush funds” that have little or no accountability. Representative Scalise brought into sharp focus the dire circumstances pervasive in many important, under-funded needs of the community at the expense of graft within the Housing and Urban Development Fund, an apparent give-away to a selective group based on race.

A second post, which is still up on Stormfront’s site, noted:

It was just announced that Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson will enter the race in the 1st Congressional District. Those that attended the EURO conference in New Orleans will recall that Scalise was a speaker, offering his support for issues that are of concern to us. I suppose if Duke does not make the election for whatever reason, this gentleman would be a good alternative.

Scalise has admitted that he spoke to the group, but maintains that he was there to exclusively speak about economic issues and was unaware of the organization’s ties to the white supremacist movement. “I didn’t know who all of these groups were, and I detest any kind of hate group,” the lawmaker told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous.”

The tie between Scalise and EURO was there for anyone to find. White just happened to be the first person to Google precisely the right thing at precisely the right time. Of course, the axe swings both ways—the Internet is likely the tool whoever cut his cable used to discovered where White lives.

“It might not be the Klan or the white nationalists, it could just be a random person who found my address and didn’t like what I was posting,” he said. “I understand my address is public record. If someone wants to find where you live, they can find where you live, no matter who you are. I’m really not intimidated by that.

———–

SOME COMMENTS:

+12 # Billy Bob 2015-01-23 11:57
As someone who lived too long in Dallas, all I can say for it is that it’s a dirty city with a degree of corruption I don’t think you can match anywhere outside of hell.

———-

” ‘I understand my address is public record. If someone wants to find where you live, they can find where you live, no matter who you are. I’m really not intimidated by that.’ “

-Well, White’s a hell of a lot braver than I am. I AM intimidated by that. I DO have scorned ex-girlfriends I’d like to keep in my past. I DO have children I’d like to protect from psychopaths. I DO fear for my “security” in a world where everyone seems to know personal information about everybody.

Your address and phone number were always, traditionally, public record, but I question the wisdom of that, in this day and age. In the past, there were never so many tools that could be used to destroy your life, simply through access to public information. I see no real reason why we shouldn’t be allowed at least some privacy, EVEN about our address and phone number.

—–

Sorry, but one more thought:

If everyone can find everyone’s phone number and address, what’s stopping all of us from just dropping in Billy Joel? I’m just picking on him because I’d like to meet him, so, what’s stopping me? Could we all just decide to pay a visit to Bill O’Reilly?

My guess is, um, NO.

My guess is that there IS a way for someone famous to stay private. Am I wrong? If not, what is it? I’d like some privacy, please.

——————–

+2 # Banichi 2015-01-23 13:26
I once thought to find the addresses of a few of the justices of the SCOTUS, to send them a letter discussing the impact of Citizens United. I thought they might not be paying attention to the oaths they swore to ‘defend and protect’ the Constitution. But not surprisingly, such information is not easily available, not to ordinary citizens anyway. I admit I did not try too hard, since we are all watched over by too many government agencies and I don’t need to know that badly.

So yes, privacy does have a price…but if you are important enough, who can discover your information is a pretty small group, apparently.

=====================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Thw Washington Post Politics: U.S. mayors to file legal brief in support of Obama’s immigration executive actions.

By David Nakamura January 23, 2015

A group of big-city mayors led by New York’s Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles’s Eric Garcetti announced plans Friday to file a legal brief supporting President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which are being challenged in federal court by 25 states. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is among those who signed onto the brief.

The brief will argue that “the public interest across the country is served clearly and overwhelmingly by implementing immigration reform by executive action,” the mayors said in a statement. They made the announcement at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which is taking place in Washington.

“Delaying implementation of the President’s executive action will further hurt our families, negatively impact our economies, and create unnecessary insecurity in our communities,” de Blasio said in a statement.

Obama announced in November that he would use his executive powers to protect as many as 4 million illegal immigrants from deportation and make other changes to border control policies designed to focus federal resources on violent and repeat criminals. The president said he acted after Congress failed to approve a comprehensive immigration reform bill last summer.

But Republicans have challenged the actions, calling them unconstitutional. The lawsuit from 25 states, led by Texas, argues that the “unilateral suspension of the Nation’s immigration laws is unlawful.”

The mayors of Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Denver and San Francisco also joined the brief in support of Obama’s actions. So far 28 mayors in all have signed on.

—————–
David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

=========================================================

The Post Recommends: US loosens embargo on Cuba, making trade and travel easier.

The Obama administration says new rules to significantly loosen the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and open up the communist island to greater American travel will go into effect Friday.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 www.theguardian.com/sustainable-b…

Head of UN climate talks: ‘the pain in the shoe is not great enough’ for businesses to take action.

Businesses have a fundamental role to play in securing a climate deal, Christiana Figueres says, but don’t yet feel immediately threatened by the situation

World Bank chief makes climate action plea
Al Gore: ‘oil companies use our atmosphere as an open sewer’
World leaders failing on ‘social cohesion’

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, says “we all have a responsibility to the future”.

Thursday 22 January 2015 – By Jo Confino in Davos

Christiana Figueres, who heads up the global climate change talks, was visibly moved as she urged business leaders to take action to avoid runaway climate change at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos on Thursday.

“This is the first generation that is becoming aware of what we have done, because the previous generation had no clue,” said the executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. “We can’t blame them, we can’t blame ourselves because we’ve been put in this situation, but we do have a responsibility to do something about it and not to pass it on to the next generation.”

Looking at her daughter sitting nearby, Figueres’ eyes well up. Her desire to secure a meaningful climate deal later this year in Paris is clearly as much a personal concern as a global one.

While it is incumbent on the world’s politicians to secure a deal, it’s apparent they need help: just yesterday, the US Senate failed to pass resolutions acknowledging that climate change is the result of human activity. The private sector can play a pivotal role in giving politicians the confidence to act, Figueres said.

US tech giants launch fierce fightback against global tax avoidance crackdown.

“I don’t think anybody can question the fact the role of business is fundamental, independently of [on] what side of the spectrum business stands,” she said.

Engagement from the private sector, Figueres says, needs to come in three forms: vision, action and voice.

Vision is about business leaders understanding the consequence of climate change for their companies and ensuring they align their operations with staying within a 2C rise in global temperatures.

Executives then need to think through what they need from governments at both national and international level in order to pursue that path.

“This is about vision, not short-termism,” Figueres said. “It’s not just about energy efficiency measures today, which represents only a tiny, tiny little first step. It’s about starting there but then understanding where we have to be over the next 50 years.”

Once companies have a clear destination, they need to focus on closing the distance between where they are now and where they want to be, she says. The final step is to become much more vocal about the need for transformational action.

“It is no secret that we have a very small number of corporations that are being very vocal, and that there’s a huge number of companies – the silent majority – that are not participating in this discussion and are not engaging with governments with respect to the very clear guidance and regulatory certainty that they need,” she said.

Figueres believes the lack of advocacy by companies is due to the fact that most of them still do not feel immediately threatened by climate change. In a PwC survey this week, global warming didn’t even make the list of CEO’s top priorities or concerns.
‘It is profitable to let the world go to hell’

But Figueres warns that if executives continue to focus only on what’s in front of their noses, they will put their companies’ long-term survival at risk.

They can see that in the long run, having a stable planet and economic system is actually better for them in their operations and their business continuity, and that there is a huge opportunity for growth and for new profit, for new jobs, new industries and new technologies,” she said.

“But that is not compelling enough to actually have the CEO get up there and use his voice and leadership because the pain in the shoe is not enough. There is this abstract sense of yeah, we all want to be better off, but maybe somebody else should be doing something about that. In the meantime, I have my payroll to worry about.

Whereas those companies that are very active and do have a voice perceive that they’re immediately threatened.”

Businesses, regardless of their size, have largely failed to look deeply at the impacts of fossil fuels, she said: “They just use electricity and that’s the sum total of their engagement in this process.”

Despite the need for more action, Figueres said she was heartened by the number of major businesses that attended the climate change summit in New York last year, and in particular by the engagement by whole sectors, such as insurers and more progressive sections of the investment industry.

There has also been a sea change in the attitude from governments about the need to collaborate with the private sector.

“There has been quite an evolution in the understanding of the very positive contribution that the private sector can make,” she says. “I remember when I got to the secretariat five years ago that the private sector was a taboo word that never would have appeared in any text of governments. Yet now you have the text actually inviting quite openly the participation of corporations.

She acknowledged that there’s still a long way to go in what she calls “an evolutionary process”. But with just 10 months to go before the Paris talks open, Figueres also recognised the need for urgent action and referred to having a time bomb on our hands.
How concerned are CEOs about climate change? Not at all
Read more

When one strips everything away, Figueres says that what business leaders need to do most is get in touch with their common humanity.

We speak of business as though there was a head there, a thinking brain, and that’s not so,” she says. “We have a role to play in life, whether that is being the head of a Fortune 500 company, or being a junior professional in an NGO, and we must step up to those roles.

“However, what cuts across all of those differences is the fact that we’re all human beings, all of us, and we all are either parents or aunts and uncles or grandparents and we all have a responsibility to the future.”

This year’s Davos coverage is funded by The B Team. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled “brought to you by”.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Trickle-Down Was Nothing More Than the Politics of Helping the Rich and Powerful Get Richer and More Powerful.

By Elizabeth Warren, Reader Supported News

21 January 2015 – posted by Readers Supported News.

Today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke at the AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages. The text of Senator Warren’s remarks as prepared for delivery follows, and a PDF copy of her remarks is available here:

Good morning, and thank you MaryBe for the introduction, and for your work with the North Carolina AFL-CIO. Your efforts make a real difference for our families.

I want to start by thanking Rich Trumka and Damon Silvers for your leadership on economic issues, for your good counsel, and, for a long time now, your friendship. I also want to give special thanks to my good friends from the Massachusetts AFL-CIO who are here today, Steve Tolman and Lou Mandarini.

I love being with my labor friends, and I’m especially glad to join you today for the AFL’s first-ever National Summit on Wages. You follow in the best tradition of the American labor movement for more than a century-always fighting for working people, both union and non-union. Today you’ve spotlighted an economic issue that is central to understanding what’s happening to people all over this country.


I recently read an article in Politico called “Everything is Awesome.” The article detailed the good news about the economy: 5% GDP growth in the third quarter of 2014, unemployment under 6%, a new all-time high for the Dow, low inflation.(i)

Despite the headline, the author recognized that not everything is awesome, but his point has been repeated several times: On many different statistical measures, the economy has improved and is continuing to improve. I think the President and his team deserve credit for the steps they’ve taken to get us here. In particular, job growth is a big deal, and we celebrate it.

I’ve spent most of my career studying what’s happening to America’s middle class, and I know that these four widely-cited statistics give an important snapshot of the success of the overall economy. But the overall picture doesn’t tell us much about what’s happening at ground level to tens of millions of Americans. Despite these cheery numbers, America’s middle class is in deep trouble.

Think about it this way: The stock market is soaring, and that’s great if you have a pension or money in a mutual fund. But if you and your husband or wife are both working full time, with kids in school, and you are among the half or so of all Americans who don’t have any money in stocks,(ii) how does a booming stock market help you?

Corporate profits(iii) and GDP are up. But if you work at Walmart, and you are paid so little that you still need food stamps to put groceries on the table, what does more money in stockholders’ pockets and an uptick in GDP do for you?

Unemployment numbers are dropping. But if you’ve got a part-time job and still can’t find full-time work — or if you’ve just given up because you can’t find a good job to replace the one you had — you are counted as part of that drop in unemployment,(iv) but how much is your economic situation improving?

Inflation rates are still low. But if you are young and starting out life with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt locked into high interest rates by Congress, unable to find a good job or save to buy a house, how are you benefiting from low inflation?

A lot of broad national economic statistics say our economy is getting better, and it is true that the economy overall is recovering from the terrible crash of 2008. But there have been deep structural changes in this economy, changes that have gone on for more than thirty years, changes that have cut out hard-working, middle class families from sharing in this overall growth.

It wasn’t always this way.

Coming out of the Great Depression, America built a middle class unlike anything seen on earth. From the 1930s to the late 1970s, as GDP went up, wages went up pretty much across the board. In fact, 90% of all workers-everyone outside the top 10%-got about 70% of all the new income growth.(v) Sure, the richest 10% gobbled up more than their share-they got 30%. But overall, as the economic pie got bigger, pretty much everyone was getting a little more. In other words, as our country got richer, our families got richer. And as our families got richer, our country got richer. That was how this country built a great middle class.

But then things changed.

By 1980, wages had flattened out, while expenses kept going up. The squeeze was terrible. In the early 2000s, families were spending twice as much, adjusted for inflation, on mortgages as they had a generation earlier. They spent more on health insurance, and more to send their kids to college. Mom and dad both went to work, but that meant new expenses like childcare, higher taxes, and the costs of a second car. All over the country, people tightened their belts where they could, but it still hasn’t been enough to save them. Families have gone deep into debt to pay for college, to cover serious medical problems, or just to stay afloat a while longer.(vi) And today’s young adults may be the first generation in American history to end up, as a group, with less than their parents.(vii)

Remember how up until 1980, 90% of all people-middle class, working people, poor people-got about 70% of all the new income that was created in the economy and the top 10% took the rest? Since 1980, guess how much of the growth in income the 90% got? Nothing. None. Zero. In fact, it’s worse than that. The average family not in the top 10% makes less money than a generation ago.(viii) So who got the increase in income over the last 32 years? 100% of it went to the top ten percent. All of the new money earned in this economy over the past generation-all that growth in the GDP-went to the top.(ix) All of it.

That is a huge structural change. When I look at the data here – and this includes years of research I conducted myself – I see evidence everywhere about the pounding that working people are taking. Instead of building an economy for all Americans, for the past generation this country has grown an economy that works for some Americans. For tens of millions of working families who are the backbone of this country, this economy isn’t working. These families are working harder than ever, but they can’t get ahead. Opportunity is slipping away. Many feel like the game is rigged against them – and they are right. The game is rigged against them.

Since the 1980s, too many of the people running this country have followed one form or another of supply side – or trickle down – economic theory. Many in Washington still support it. When all the varnish is removed, trickle-down just means helping the biggest corporations and the richest people in this country, and claiming that those big corporations and rich people could be counted to create an economy that would work for everyone else.

Trickle-down was popular with big corporations and their lobbyists, but it never really made much sense. George Bush Sr. called it voodoo economics.(x) He was right, and let’s call it out for what it is: Trickle-down was nothing more than the politics of helping the rich-and-powerful get richer and more powerful, and it cut the legs out from under America’s middle class.

Trickle-down policies are pretty simple. First, fire the cops-not the cops on Main Street, but the cops on Wall Street. Pretty much the whole Republican Party – and, if we’re going to be honest, too many Democrats – talked about the evils of “big government” and called for deregulation. It sounded good, but it was really about tying the hands of regulators and turning loose big banks and giant international corporations to do whatever they wanted to do-turning them loose to rig the markets and reduce competition, to outsource more jobs, to load up on more risks and hide behind taxpayer guarantees, to sell more mortgages and credit cards that cheated people. In short, to do whatever juiced short term profits even if it came at the expense of working families.

Trickle down was also about cutting taxes for those at the top. Cut them when times are good, cut them when times are bad. And when that meant there was less money for road repairs, less money for medical research, and less money for schools and that our government would need to squeeze kids on student loans, then so be it. And look at the results: The top 10% got ALL the growth in income over the past 30 years-ALL of it-and the economy stopped working for everyone else.

The trickle-down experiment that began in the Reagan years failed America’s middle class. Sure, the rich are doing great. Giant corporations are doing great. Lobbyists are doing great. But we need an economy where everyone else who works hard gets a shot at doing great!

The world has changed beneath the feet of America’s working families. Powerful forces like globalization and technology are creating seismic shifts that are disrupting our economy, altering employment patterns, and putting new stresses on old structures. Those changes could create new opportunities-or they could sweep away the last vestiges of economic security for 90% of American workers. Those changes demand new and different economic policies from our federal government. But too many politicians have looked the other way. Instead of running government to expand opportunity for 90% of Americans and to shore up security in an increasingly uncertain world, instead of re-thinking economic policy to deal with tough new realities, for more than 30 years, Washington has far too often advanced policies that hammer America’s middle class even harder.

Look at the choices Washington has made, the choices that have left America’s middle class in a deep hole:

the choice to leash up the financial cops,

the choice in a recession to bail out the biggest banks with no strings attached while families suffered,

the choice to starve our schools and burden our kids with billions of dollars of student loan debt while cutting taxes for billionaires,

the choice to spend your tax dollars to subsidize Big Oil instead of putting that money into rebuilding our roads and bridges and power grids,

the choice to look the other way when employers quit paying overtime, reclassified workers as independent contractors and just plain old stole people’s wages,

the choice to sign trade pacts and tax deals that let subsidized manufacturers around the globe sell here in America while good American jobs get shipped overseas.

For more than thirty years, too many politicians in Washington have made deliberate choices that favored those with money and power. And the consequence is that instead of an economy that works well for everyone, America now has an economy that works well for about 10% of the people.

It wasn’t always this way, and it doesn’t have to be this way. We can make new choices – different choices – choices that put working people first, choices that aim toward a better future for our children, choices that reflect our deepest values as Americans.

One way to make change is to talk honestly and directly about work, about how we value the work that people do every day. We need to talk about what we believe:

We believe that no one should work full time and still live in poverty – and that means raising the minimum wage.
We believe workers have a right to come together, to bargain together and to rebuild America’s middle class.
We believe in enforcing labor laws, so that workers get overtime pay and pensions that are fully funded.
We believe in equal pay for equal work.
We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions.

We also need a hard conversation about how we create jobs here in America. We need to talk about how to build a future. So let’s say what we believe:

We believe in making investments – in roads and bridges and power grids, in education, in research – investments that create good jobs in the short run and help us build new opportunities over the long run.
And we believe in paying for them-not with magical accounting scams that pretend to cut taxes and raise revenue, but with real, honest-to-goodness changes that make sure that we pay-and corporations pay-a fair share to build a future for all of us.
We believe in trade policies and tax codes that will strengthen our economy, raise our living standards, and create American jobs – and we will never give up on those three words: Made in America.

And one more point. If we’re ever going to un-rig the system, then we need to make some important political changes. And here’s where we start:

We know that democracy doesn’t work when congressmen and regulators bow down to Wall Street’s political power – and that means it’s time to break up the Wall Street banks and remind politicians that they don’t work for the big banks, they work for US!

Changes like this aren’t easy. But we know they are possible. We know they are possible because we have seen David beat Goliath before. We have seen lobbyists lose. We’ve seen it all through our history. We saw it when we created the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, when we passed health care reform. We saw it when President Obama took important steps to try and reform our immigration system through executive order just weeks ago. Change is difficult, but it is possible.

This is personal for me. When I was 12, my big brothers were all off in the military. My mother was 50 years old, a stay at home mom. My daddy had a heart attack, and it turned our little family upside down. The bills piled up. We lost the family station wagon, and we nearly lost our home. I remember the day my mother, scared to death and crying the whole time, pulled her best dress out of the closet, put on her high heels and walked to the Sears to get a minimum wage job. Unlike today, a minimum wage job back then paid enough to support a family of three. That minimum wage job saved our home-and saved our family.

My daddy ended up as a maintenance man, and my mom kept working at Sears. I made it through a commuter college that cost $50 a semester and I ended up in the United States Senate. Sure, I worked hard, but I grew up in an America that invested in kids like me, an America that built opportunities for kids to compete in a changing world, an America where a janitor’s kid could become a United States Senator. I believe in that America.


I believe in an America that builds opportunities. An America that ensures that all hardworking men and women earn good wages. An America that once again grows a strong, vibrant middle class.

I believe in that America, and I will fight for that America! And if we fight-side-by-side-I know we will build that America again.

———————————-
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

ALTERNET Environment

Free Trade Deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership Are Bad News For Climate Change
Obama vows to fight for climate policies in SOTU (State of The Union), but what he didn’t mention was telling.

By Mike Gaworecki / DeSmogBlog
January 21, 2015


President Barack Obama could not have signaled more clearly in his 2015 State of the Union address that he intends to fight for his legacy on climate change in the face of a hostile, anti-science GOP-led House and Senate.

But it was what the President didn’t mention that could negate his climate legacy: free trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership that undermine local efforts to lower emissions, projects like Keystone XL that lock us into decades of continued dirty energy use, and the exporting of American-made coal, crude oil and natural gas to overseas markets.

Which is not to say that every policy position Obama laid out regarding energy and the environment entirely matched his lofty rhetoric about climate change.

At this moment?—?with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production?—?we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

While Obama went on to list a number of achievements made in growing domestic renewable energy capacity under his watch, he also continued to pay lip service to an “all of the above” energy strategy—a strategy scientists tell us we most definitely do not have 15 more years to continue subscribing to.

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.

Given that the U.S. currently has the lowest gas prices it’s had in years, every SOTU Bingo game board across the country probably had an “American families saving at the pump” square this year. So, perhaps it was inevitable and even understandable for Obama to take a victory lap on low gas prices. Do the rest of his claims hold up?

It remains to be seen how long that freedom from foreign oil Obama claims will actually last, given that there are signs the shale boom is already going bust.

As Joe Romm points out over at Climate Progress, the wind energy claim is true—if you’re counting actual electricity from wind produced and delivered, not total installed capacity. And solar is indeed doing well in America—so well the industry is adding jobs at 20 times the rate of the rest of the economy.


But the Obama Administration quietly handed the oil industry a year-end gift that allows it to skirt the crude oil export ban, which DeSmog’s Justin Mikulka reports could make fracking for oil in the US more profitable. The controversial move also makes it easier to export Canadian tar sands oil from US ports, lest you forget this president is all about “all of the above.”
Free Trade Is Good For Polluters, Bad For The Climate

Speaking of exports, Obama made an appeal for fast-track authority to approve the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), though he didn’t say it directly:

“Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.”

Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, says so-called “free trade” deals like the TPP would threaten efforts to combat climate change:

“In order to combat climate disruption, we need to rein in the power of the fossil fuel industry and keep the majority of fossil fuels in the ground,” Solomon told DeSmog in an email. “But the Trans-Pacific Partnership would offer new rights to big polluters, including the right to sue governments in private trade courts over laws and policies that corporations allege reduce their profits.”

Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica lists a few more ways the TPP deal poses a sort of existential threat to Obama’s legacy: “As currently negotiated, the Trans Pacific Partnership would undermine President Obama’s commitments to empower the middle class, regulate greenhouse emissions, and make the financial and banking industries pay for their past sins.”


The president seemed to mention the need for international trade agreements at another point, this time as a preface to his most pointed remarks on global warming, but still no direct mention of TPP.

In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules?—?in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And no challenge?—?no challenge?—?poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

As Naomi Klein documents in great detail in her latest book, This Changes Everything, no challenge poses a greater threat to efforts to combat climate change than free trade agreements, which is probably why Obama didn’t want to get into many specifics.

The “Keystone XL Clone”

Another topic Obama only referenced in passing was Keystone XL. Obama has said he will veto the pipeline if and when the Republican-controlled Congress passes legislation to force its approval, though he did not reiterate that stance in his speech. He mentioned it obliquely, however:

21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure?—?modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.

The President didn’t provide further details on what should actually be called for in that bipartisan infrastructure plan, but one thing is clear: using Keystone XL as a baseline for job creation is not that bold of a choice, since it would only create about 35 permanent jobs.

And while Obama may be planning on vetoing the highly controversial Keystone XL, he hasn’t opposed all infrastructure projects that would make it easier to move tar sands crude and U.S. fossil fuels around the globe. In fact, as DeSmog’s Steve Horn reported, the“Keystone XL Clone” Obama permitted went into operation just last month.


Obama Is Not A Scientist—But He Knows A Lot Of “Really Good” Ones


Obama had some rather pointed statements for the Keystone XL boosters in the Republican Party—and not just his epic comeback when several of them applauded his remark that he had no more elections to run. Obama mocked the climate deniers in the GOP and their “I’m not a scientist” line, usually used right before arguing that we should do nothing about global warming.

“2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does?—?14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.”

“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what?—?I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

“That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement?—?the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.”

It was inevitable that Obama would tout his climate deal with China because, for all its faults, it is indeed historic—even though it is not nearly enough to keep the US or China from contributing to runaway global warming.

The Obama Administration rolled out one of the final pieces of its Climate Action Plan just last week—a proposal to limit methane emissions from oil and gas development. The Climate Action Plan is the basis for domestic action to honor our international commitments to combat climate change and the foundation of Obama’s climate legacy.

But as Mother Jones reports, the new methane rules would only apply to new wells and pipelines, not existing ones.

Meanwhile, methane emissions aside, if we burn all of the natural gas in the world we would be creating as much as 23 times the greenhouse gas emissions allowable under any reasonable carbon budget aimed at keeping global warming to just 2 degrees Celsius,according to Hugh MacMillan at Food & Water Watch.

When Obama touted “booming energy production?” the US has seen the past few years, he wasn’t just talking about wind and solar, of course. He was also talking about the oil and gas “renaissance” in the US, unlocked by technologies like high-volume horizontal slickwater hydraulic fracking.

It’s striking but perhaps not surprising, then, that Obama did not mention fracking even once in his speech. He might be sick of hearing about it, since his Administration was just sued over the fracking it has allowed in the Gulf of Mexico.

Friends of the Earth’s Erich Pica puts it succinctly enough in saying that “while the President is rightfully calling on Americans to ‘forcefully’ address global warming… his claim of climate change leadership is weakened by his administration’s continued pursuit of fracking and fossil fuel exploration and export.”

————————

At SustainabiliTank we never forget the experience the US had with WTO when the US decided to go Unleaded Gasoline phasing out the use of Tetra-Ethyl Lead, and how the then oil industry relate Dupont Company of Delaware exported their production facility to Canada in order to force the issue that you can not hold back from allowing the importation of the Lead compound from Canada to the US. The State of California had then to pay ransom of $450 million to the “Canadian” Company in order to get them of America’s back.

That is what you get when allowing arguments of free trade bulldoze good local legislation with dirty American business interests. I keep telling the Europeans, that usually have better laws then the US, watch what you do when you agree to be charmed with FREE TRADE arguments. You may be very sorry in the end.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THE HILL

Home | Policy | Energy & Environment

Senate votes that climate change is real

The Senate on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, voted 98-1 in favor of a an amendment stating that “climate change is real and is not a hoax.”

The provision offered by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to put Republicans on record about climate change ahead of the 2016 election passed with near unanimous support, with only Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the chairman of the campaign committee for Senate Republicans, voting “no.”


In a surprise, one of the Senate’s staunchest climate change skeptics, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), voted in favor of the amendment. But he made clear he doesn’t believe humans are the primary driver of climate change.


The amendment will now be attached to legislation that would approve the $8 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline — a project that environmentalists vigorously oppose.

————————————————-

BUT WE ALL KNOW THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA IS COMMITTED TO VETO THE BILL ABOUT THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE WHEN IT IS BROUGHT BEFORE HIM – THIS IS THUS ONE OF THE QUIRKS OF THIS ISSUE – HE WILL ALSO VETO IN THE PROCESS THE WHITEHOUSE AMENDMENT TO THE BILL – SO THE REPUBLICANS ARE ENTITLED TO SAY AFTER THAT THAT EVEN THE PRESIDENT DID NOT ACCEPT THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS NOT A HOAX – MAN MADE OR NOT.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

based on edition.cnn.com/2015/01/20/politi…
and please see also our added paragraphs at the end of this piece.

———————————————————————————————–


State of the Union 2015: Full transcript.

Updated 0208 GMT – January 21, 2015

I watched the OBAMA January 20, 2015 STATE OF THE UNION – THE REAL FIRST SPEECH IN WHAT WILL BE REMEMBERED AS THE START OF TWO YEARS OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S INDEPENDENT PRESIDENCY – live, at 2 AM VIENNA TIME – January 21st.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.

Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.

America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:

The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.


At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

=======================================================================================================


AND THE BOTTOM LINE – WRITTEN IN SERIOUS HUMOR THE DAY BEFORE THE SOTU 2015:

Obama Addresses Extremist Group

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker

21 January 2015


The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, “The Borowitz Report.”

President Obama is courting controversy with his decision to address a group that has become dominated in recent years by extremists.

Some have questioned the appropriateness of the President speaking to such an extremist group, especially because in the past it has issued threats against the United States government.

As recently as 2013, for example, the extremists threatened to shut down the entire federal government if their demands were not met.

On Tuesday afternoon, the White House defended the President’s decision to speak to the extremists, pointing out that the Administration had also initiated dialogues with Iran and North Korea.

Some of the immediate Comments:

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We’ll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn’t work we’ll have to ramp up the moderation.

+33 # wrknight 2015-01-21 22:33
I still can’t figure out why they call this satire.

+9 # joan 2015-01-21 23:25
Hear hear!

0 # cymricmorty 2015-01-22 01:02
My favorite news source and Borowitz, too, though sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference lately.

+17 # sharag 2015-01-21 22:58
At least Iran and North Korea are willing to talk and even show signs of being… reasonable.

+9 # Thinking 2015-01-21 23:43
Laughing out loud — with each sentence. How fun. What a treat after a serious day at a hearing.

=============================================================================================================


And the President continues:

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?

Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?

Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another — or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?

In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan. And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.

So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.

It begins with our economy.

Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction.
Their first child, Jack, was on the way.

They were young and in love in America, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

“If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. Rebekah took out student loans, enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed for each other. And slowly, it paid off. They bought their first home. They had a second son, Henry. Rebekah got a better job, and then a raise. Ben is back in construction — and home for dinner every night.

“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.

America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled. You are the reason I ran for this office. You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.

We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.

So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.

Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007. But here’s the thing — those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.

Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.


In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet — tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.

That’s what middle-class economics is — the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success — we want everyone to contribute to our success.

So what does middle-class economics require in our time?

First — middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement — and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

Here’s one example. During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority — so this country provided universal childcare. In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America — by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.

Here’s another example. Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.

Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government. To give working families a fair shot, we’ll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice. But things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage — these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families. That is a fact. And that’s what all of us — Republicans and Democrats alike — were sent here to do.


Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.

America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.

By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future.

That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.

Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt. Understand, you’ve got to earn it — you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today. And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.

Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics. Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships — opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.

And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend. Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care. We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs. Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs. So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran.

Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.

Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined. Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago — jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America. That’s why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.

21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.

Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine — one that delivers the right treatment at the right time. In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes — and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.

I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.

I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain — and make sure to Instagram it.

Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber. Members of both parties have told me so. Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments. As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with giveaways the super-rich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do.

This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America. Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home. Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford. And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college. We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.

Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go. I believe it’s where the American people want to go. It will make our economy stronger a year from now, fifteen years from now, and deep into the century ahead.

Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.

My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military — then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. That’s what our enemies want us to do.

I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now — and around the globe, it is making a difference.

First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists — from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.

At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years.

Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition. Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America. In Iraq and Syria, American leadership — including our military power — is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.


Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.

That’s how America leads — not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new. Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan.

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies — including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century.

No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.

In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola — saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But the job is not yet done — and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.

In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules — in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.

That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement — the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

There’s one last pillar to our leadership — and that’s the example of our values.

As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.

As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice — so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.

As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties — and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.

Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading — always — with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards — our own.

You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America — but a United States of America. I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home — a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.

Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws — of which there are many — but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.

I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.

I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains; from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.


So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.

Understand — a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.

A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.

A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.

If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments — but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.

We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.

Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.

We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.

That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.

I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol — to do what I believe is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.

Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth — that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.

I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.

I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:

“It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter — together — and let’s start the work right now.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

==========================================================================================================


Reading this great speech you do not get the full gist of what went on in that chamber. You had to see this with your own eyes on that CNN screen that transmitted it alive – you had to see that young new Lady Republican Senator who stood up and applauded the President – her President – who fought her party on issues of Women Rights of Human Rights and Human Freedoms.

Further, you had to see this with your own eyes how a well tanned House Speaker – Republican John Boehner – sitting on the podium next to Vice-President Joe Biden – glued to his chair – was getting more and more red in his face making his checkered off-red tie look more and more purple. This while VP Biden had a dark blue tie filled in with some red – but President Obama had a very light blue tie with his dark suit. Yes – that light blue tie signaled that he did not intend to dwell on Democrats’ orthodoxy; Obama is ready to work with the Republicans in the name of his ONE AMERICA theme.

This while Boehner did not miss a beat and in the morning invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address US Congress on February 11th on the issue of Iran – this as part of the Republican proposal to increase sanctions on Iran despite the fact that Obama government inspired international negotiations try to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Obama had just said that he would veto any new sanctions bill. We understand that Boehner’s game is to go after Obama, but we do not understand why Netanyahu allows himself to be used in such a game – putting at risk Israel’s special relationship with an American Administration – any American sitting Administration. A Conflict with an American President – Does Netanyahu think that this will play well in the Israeli elections to the Knesset – to be held March 17, 2015?

President Obama’s Vetoes – on the Keystone Pipeline and on Iran Sanctions can not be overruled as the Republicans are well short of the needed 60 votes in the Senate. If the Republicans will deny the President war powers in regard to ISIS they will just show to the World at large how anti-American they are. Much everything else Obama said he wants to do – except the needed taxes on the rich – he can do without Congress – without the Republicans – even without the Democrats. To avoid such a development, it is possible that we shall see more purple Republicans start to come out – this as a self preservation move by people that see the evolving world for what it is – with their own eyes rather then via those irresponsible Washington lobbyists.

————————————

UPDATE ON THIS:

Far from holding their fire, Democrats who support a sanctions bill, like Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, have increased their criticism of the White House.

“The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran,” railed Menendez at a hearing with administration officials on Capitol Hill.

Asked by CNN if this was a deliberate poke at the President, Boehner replied “I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye. There is a serious threat that exists in the world and the president last night kind of papered over it.”

He added, “the fact is there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is — from radical Islamic jihadists and from the threat posed by Iran.”

Boehner declined to say when the House would vote on another Iran sanctions bill, but said committees are planning hearings on the issue. Multiple House GOP aides say there are plans for a vote, but the timing is still unclear.

Boehner announced his invitation for Netanyahu to address Congress about Iran the day after President Obama pled with Congress during his State of the Union address to allow the talks to progress.

DOES BOEHNER EXPECT TO SIPHON OF ENOUGH DEMOCRATS ON THIS ISSUE TO OVERRULE THE PRESIDENT’S VETO ON THIS AND COOPTED NETANYAHU TO HELP SPLIT AMERICA?

======================================================================================================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times

The Keystone XL Illusion

January 16, 2015

by: Joe Nocera


Joe Nocera writes: Greg Rickford, Canada’s minister of natural resources, was in the United States most of this past week, on a trip that didn’t get much attention in the media with so much bigger news swirling about. So let me fill you in.

Rickford spent the first two days of his trip in Washington, where of course debate over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is underway in earnest in the new Republican-led Senate. The Republican-led House, meanwhile, has already passed a bill giving the go-ahead to the pipeline, which, if it’s ever built, will transport heavy crude from the tar sands of Alberta to American refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. And of course President Obama has threatened to veto any such bill, should one land on his desk.

In Washington, Rickford met with his Obama administration counterpart, Ernest Moniz, the secretary of energy. Although the Keystone pipeline was not on the agenda, the two men talked about it anyway. Rickford paid a visit to Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic senator from North Dakota, who strongly supports the Keystone pipeline. (In addition to the Alberta crude, the pipeline would transport shale oil from North Dakota.)

He met with State Department officials to get a Keystone update; because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canada border, the department has to do a review, which it has done several times, always coming down in favor of the project. In several speeches, Rickford talked up the close energy relationship between the United States and Canada, noting that Canada sends three million barrels per day to America — more than Venezuela and Saudi Arabia combined. He mentioned Canada’s new pipeline safety law. He said he thought the Keystone XL pipeline should be approved, which is essentially what Canadian officials have been saying for the past six years.

Then on Wednesday, Rickford went to Texas for two days. This is the part of his trip that really caught my attention. His main focus in Texas was on two new Canadian-controlled pipelines that became operational in mid-December. One is called the Flanagan South pipeline, which cost $2.8 billion. It covers nearly 600 miles, from Pontiac, Ill., to Cushing, Okla. The other pipeline, called the Seaway Twin, runs an additional 500 miles, from Cushing to Freeport, Tex., where the refineries are. It cost $1.2 billion. Guess where some of the oil that is going to run through those pipelines is coming from? Yep — the tar sands of Alberta.

If you are wondering why the environmental community hasn’t been chaining itself to the White House fence to protest these two new pipelines, the way it has with Keystone, the answer is that neither of these pipelines crosses the Canadian border, so they don’t require the same complicated approval process that Keystone requires. (The Flanagan South line will connect with a pipeline that already crosses the border.) More to the point, perhaps, they were never the symbol that the high-profile Keystone XL became, so that even the approvals they did require never aroused the same attention from environmentalists.

Yet these new pipelines are going to be carrying some 200,000 barrels per day of the heavy crude mined from the tar sands. True, that is only a third of what the Keystone XL would be able to deliver, but it essentially helps double the amount of tar sands oil that can be exported to the United States. In addition, there will be expanded rail capacity for Alberta’s oil, which is a far more dangerous way to move it than a state-of-the-art pipeline.

The point is: With or without Keystone, Canada’s tar sands oil is coming to the United States. One of the stated reasons that environmental activists wanted to prevent Keystone from being built was that doing so would force Canada to stop mining the oil. Without Keystone, it was said, Canada would have no means to export it. But that has never been a particularly plausible argument. Even before the opening of these two new pipelines, tar sands oil was coming to the United States, primarily by rail. Indeed, the only thing that can slow it down now is the rapid drop in the price of oil, which is likely to make expensive tar sands crude unprofitable.

Even as the Keystone debate reaches its current crescendo, all that is left, really, is the symbolism. The Republican right claims that Keystone will create jobs. It won’t, not to any significant degree. The Democratic left says that the oil Keystone will bring to the Gulf is so dirty, so carbon laden, that it will wreak havoc on the climate. It won’t do that either. If the president ultimately decides not to approve Keystone, he will do so knowing full well that he has not stopped the tar sands oil in any meaningful way. To expect another outcome is, well, a pipe dream. It always was.

Some Comments:

Why not refine the oil in Canada or a northern US state? Is building a pipeline to Texas the best option? I realize that the pipeline to…
Campesino
2 hours ago

Thank you for telling the truth that I and other commenters have been saying on other articles on this subject. If this oil doesn’t come in…
Fitzcaraldo
2 hours ago

Do I think we need to make a concerted effort to reduce carbon pollution? Absolutely. And methane too.Do I think scuppering the XL pipeline…

——————————-

OUR QUESTION IS – WHY DO THE CANADIANS NOT FOLLOW THEIR OWN INTERESTS AND BUILD THEIR PIPELINES TO THE WEST RATHER THEN TO THE SOUTH?

THE ANSWER IS VERY SIMPLE – THESE ARE NOT CANADIANS – THESE ARE THE AMERICAN OIL PEOPLE – AND FOLKS – WASHINGTON JUST CANNOT BEAT AMERICAN OIL INTERESTS!

——————————
A version of this op-ed appears in print on January 17, 2015, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: The Keystone XL Illusion.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Lessons from Lima, Prospects for Paris: What Future for Climate Change?
The view, on reflection, from United Nations Headquarters, New York City.

For SustainabiliTank by George Baumgarten, United Nations Correspondent, January 18, 2015.

The United Nations Climate Conference in Lima, Peru {(known as “COP-20” (of the UNFCCC)} produced an outcome which could at least be called “hopeful”. But it really just foreshadows the real show: the forthcoming ultimate Conference, to be held in Paris, this coming December. And the Lima outcome was itself largely upstaged by the announcement — just a month earlier — of an historic bilateral agreement, between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China.

The Lima Conference was the latest in a string of annual such conferences, dating back to the one held in Berlin in 1995. These annual conclaves have plodded along now for two tortured decades, as the greenhouse gas emissions just go on, the industrial smokestacks go on belching, and the conferee politicians–slowly, deliberately, ploddingly, and tortuously–go on endlessly talking.

The most interesting product of the Lima conference was one of Hope: Perhaps—just perhaps—an agreement could be crafted, at or before Paris, to achieve the critical emissions reductions.
Charles Frank, writing for a bulletin of the Brookings Institution, notes that Chinese greenhouse gas emissions have been rising at a rate of 10% per year, with the country’s galloping rate of industrialization. Therefore, the Chinese Agreement with the U.S. — while a breakthrough — reflects a “weak” commitment, on the part of the Chinese. But his Brookings colleague Joshua Meltzer regards even this weak commitment as a plus. That China has agreed to any target at all, he sees as a “…significant step for climate change diplomacy.”

The U.S.-China Climate Accord, which overshadowed the results of the Lima conference, dealt with the thorny — and, in the U.S., controversial – issue of carbon emissions. It was the very first agreement by which China agreed on targets for the reduction of such emissions – in fact – to stop the growth of such emissions by 2030. This agreement was the product of nine long months of negotiations, and—it was hoped—would become a catalyst for a world emissions agreement at Paris next December.

By the Agreement, the U.S. undertakes to emit 26-28% less carbon by 2025 than it did in 2005. And China promised to stop increasing its carbon emissions by 2030. Commenting on this Agreement, President Obama told his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, that he wanted to take the U.S.-China relationship “to a new level.”

In the official press release giving the text of the Agreement, the very first paragraph says, succinctly and directly: “The seriousness of the challenge calls upon the two sides to work constructively together for the common good.” And they acknowledged “…the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.”

Thus – to summarize – the following paragraph states the two aforementioned goals: The U.S. commits to an “economy-wide target” of reducing its emissions by 26-28% of 2005 levels, by 2025. And China, for its part, undertakes to reduce its CO2 emissions, after their peaking no later than 2030, and to make efforts to peak early.

The Agreement also proposes that “The United States and China hope that by announcing these targets now, they can inject momentum into the global climate negotiations.” It further notes that “The global scientific community has made clear that human activity is already changing the world’s climate system.” To follow up – the agreement provides for the creation of a U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG).


Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s address, delivered on Tuesday, December 9, 2014, made very clear one of his primary hopes: “There is still a chance to stay within the internationally-agreed ceiling of less than 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise”. In short, concise, successive statements, he asserted:

“All countries must be part of the solution. All of society must be engaged.”

“This is not a time for tinkering—it is a time for transformation,” and

“The momentum for action is building.”

The Conference’s “Lima Call for Climate Action” made clear that there is still a long way to go toward the Paris Conference of next December, but it did state without elaborating that “governments have left with a far clearer vision of what the draft Paris agreement will look like…”

Among the other results were pledges that for the first time took the new “Green Climate Fund” (GCF) past the initial $10 billion budget. And “new levels of transparency” on the part of industrialized nations were said to have been achieved. This was also reflected in the “increased visibility” of National Adaptation Plans (NAP’s). New instruments were announced with regard to forests, the provision of technology to developing countries, and the role of women, which was said to be “key to the response to climate change.”

A particular initiative was established for Education and Awareness Training, so that far greater numbers of persons, worldwide, can be made aware and conscious of the challenges faced by humanity. Peru and France also announced a joint “Lima-Paris Action Agenda”, to point the way to next year’s final, climatic Conference.

The U.N.’s official response to the Lima outcome, released by the office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, congratulated the Conference, and noted that its actions “pave the way for the adoption of a universal and meaningful agreement in 2015.” He applauded the finalization of an “institutional architecture for a mechanism on loss and damage.”
The Secretary-General also called “… on all parties, especially the major economies, to submit their ambitious national commitments well in advance of Paris.”

While the COP-20 Conference can point to some [long-overdue] accomplishments, this is clearly a situation of having “still very far to go, and a [relatively] short time to do so.” And an awful lot of scientists of all sorts – not to mention the diplomats and politicians – can expect to be kept very busy this year.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

SundayReview | Op-Ed Columnis, at The New York Times

Smart Guns Save Lives. So Where Are They?

January 17, 2015 by Nichoals Kristof

BOULDER, Colo. — JUST after Christmas, Veronica Rutledge of Blackfoot, Idaho, took her 2-year-old son to a Walmart store to spend holiday gift cards. As they strolled by the electronics section, according to news reports, the toddler reached into his mom’s purse and pulled out a handgun that she legally carried. He pulled the trigger once and killed her.

The previous month, a 3-year-old boy in Washington State was shot in the face by a 4-year-old. Earlier, a 2-year-old boy in Pennsylvania shot and killed his 11-year-old sister.

About 20 children and teenagers are shot daily in the United States, according to a study by the journal Pediatrics.

Indeed, guns kill more preschool-age children (about 80 a year) than police officers (about 50), according to the F.B.I. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This toll is utterly unnecessary, for the technology to make childproof guns goes back more than a century.

Beginning in the 1880s, Smith & Wesson (whose gun was used in the Walmart killing) actually sold childproof handguns that required a lever to be depressed as the trigger was pulled.

“No ordinary child under 8 years of age can possibly discharge it,” Smith & Wesson boasted at the time, and it sold half-a-million of these guns, but, today, it no longer offers that childproof option.

Doesn’t it seem odd that your cellphone can be set up to require a PIN or a fingerprint, but there’s no such option for a gun?

Which brings us to Kai Kloepfer, a lanky 17-year-old high school senior in Boulder, Colo. After the cinema shooting in nearby Aurora, Kloepfer decided that for a science fair project he would engineer a “smart gun” that could be fired only by an authorized user.

“I started with iris recognition, and that seemed a good idea until you realize that many people firing guns wear sunglasses,” Kloepfer recalls. “So I moved on to fingerprints.”

Kloepfer designed a smart handgun that fires only when a finger it recognizes is on the grip. More than 1,000 fingerprints can be authorized per gun, and Kloepfer says the sensor is 99.999 percent accurate.

A child can’t fire the gun. Neither can a thief — important here in a country in which more than 150,000 guns are stolen annually.

Kloepfer’s design won a grand prize in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Then he won a $50,000 grant from the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation to refine the technology. By the time he enters college in the fall (he applied early to Stanford and has been deferred), he hopes to be ready to license the technology to a manufacturer.

There are other approaches to smart guns. The best known, the Armatix iP1, made by a German company and available in the United States through a complicated online procedure, can be fired only if the shooter is wearing a companion wristwatch.

The National Rifle Association seems set against smart guns, apparently fearing that they might become mandatory.

One problem has been an unfortunate 2002 New Jersey law stipulating that three years after smart guns are available anywhere in the United States, only smart guns can be sold in the state. The attorney general’s office there ruled recently that the Armatix smart gun would not trigger the law, but the provision has still led gun enthusiasts to bully dealers to keep smart guns off the market everywhere in the U.S.

Opponents of smart guns say that they aren’t fully reliable. Some, including Kloepfer’s, will need batteries to be recharged once a year or so. Still, if Veronica Rutledge had had one in her purse in that Idaho Walmart, her son wouldn’t have been able to shoot and kill her.

“Smart guns are going to save lives,” says Stephen Teret, a gun expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “They’re not going to save all lives, but why wouldn’t we want to make guns as safe a consumer product as possible?”

David Hemenway, a public health expert at Harvard, says that the way forward is for police departments or the military to buy smart guns, creating a market and proving they work.

An interfaith group of religious leaders is also appealing to gun industry leaders, ahead of the huge annual trade show in Las Vegas with 65,000 attendees, to drop opposition to smart guns.


Smart guns aren’t a panacea. But when even a 17-year-old kid can come up with a safer gun, why should the gun lobby be so hostile to the option of purchasing one?

Something is amiss when we protect our children from toys that they might swallow, but not from firearms. So Veronica Rutledge is dead, and her son will grow up with the knowledge that he killed her — and we all bear some responsibility when we don’t even try to reduce the carnage.

———————–

Some Comments:

serban
14 minutes ago

A smart gun goes against everything the NRA stands for, mainly ensuring that even a 2 year old should be able to fire a gun. How else is…

Katie 1
28 minutes ago

Why would this not be refined and immediately endorsed by everyone with effect as soon as possible? After the spate of mass killings and…
tom
32 minutes ago

We have, in this country, long ago accepted the premise that a line in the constitution makes the unhindered proliferation of weaponry a must.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The following is an article that questions indirectly the concept that what the West called the Arab Spring and supported in terms that viewed those revolutions as moves towards democracy, were in major part nothing more then a way of putting extremist religion into politics. Nasser wanted to lead an Arab World – Sisi seems to be content to lead a more pluralistic Egypt. After the Paris events, ought not the West realistically line up now behind Sisi?

————————————————


Brushing Aside Media Criticism, Egypt’s Sisi Preaches Tolerance

by Raymond Ibrahim
PJ Media, January 13, 2015
 www.meforum.org/4978/egypt-sisi-t…

Sisi made history as the first Egyptian president to enter a church during Christmas mass.

Originally published under the title, “Sisi’s Brave New Egypt?”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with Coptic Pope Tawadros II on Christmas Day

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi continues to be the antithesis of longstanding mainstream media portrayals of him.

First there was his historic speech where he, leader of the largest Arab nation, and a Muslim, accused Islamic thinking of being the scourge of humanity—in words that no Western leader would dare utter. This remarkable speech—which some say should earn him the Nobel Peace Prize—might have fallen by the wayside had it not been posted on my website and further disseminated by PJ Media’s Roger L. Simon, Michael Ledeen, Roger Kimball, and many others, including Bruce Thornton and Robert Spencer.

Instead, mainstream media headlines on the day of and days after Sisi’s speech included “Egypt President Sisi urged to free al-Jazeera reporter” (BBC, Jan 1), “Egyptian gays living in fear under Sisi regime” (USA Today, Jan. 2), and “George Clooney’s wife Amal risks arrest in Egypt” (Fox News, Jan. 3).

Of course, the mainstream media finally did report on Sisi’s speech—everyone else seemed to know about it—but, again, to portray Sisi in a negative light. Thus, after briefly quoting the Egyptian president’s call for a “religious revolution,” the New York Times immediately adds:

Others, though, insist that the sources of the violence are alienation and resentment, not theology. They argue that the authoritarian rulers of Arab states — who have tried for decades to control Muslim teaching and the application of Islamic law — have set off a violent backlash expressed in religious ideas and language.

In other words, jihadi terror is a product of Sisi, whom the NYT habitually portrays as an oppressive autocrat—especially for his attempts to try to de-radicalize Muslim sermons and teachings.

Next, Sisi went to the St. Mark Coptic Cathedral during Christmas Eve Mass to offer Egypt’s Christian minority his congratulations and well wishing. Here again he made history as the first Egyptian president to enter a church during Christmas mass—a thing vehemently criticized by the nation’s Islamists, including the Salafi party (Islamic law bans well wishing to non-Muslims on their religious celebrations, which is why earlier presidents—Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, and of course Morsi—never attended Christmas mass).

Accordingly, the greetings Sisi received from the hundreds of Christians present were jubilant. His address was often interrupted by applause, clapping, and cheers of “We love you!” and “hand in hand”—phrases he reciprocated.

Part of his speech follows:


Egypt has brought a humanistic and civilizing message to the world for millennia and we’re here today to confirm that we are capable of doing so again. Yes, a humanistic and civilizing message should once more emanate from Egypt. This is why we mustn’t call ourselves anything other than “Egyptians.” This is what we must be—Egyptians, just Egyptians, Egyptians indeed! I just want to tell you that Allah willing, Allah willing, we shall build our nation together, accommodate each other, make room for each other, and we shall like each other—love each other, love each other in earnest, so that people may see… So let me tell you once again, Happy New Year, Happy New Year to you all, Happy New Year to all Egyptians!

Sisi stood side-by-side with Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II—perhaps in remembrance of the fact that, when General Sisi first overthrew President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Pope Tawadros stood side-by-side with him—and paid a heavy price: the Brotherhood and its sympathizers unleashed a Kristallnacht of “reprisals” that saw 82 Christian churches in Egypt attacked, many destroyed.

Under Sisi, Egyptian police have vigorously defended Coptic Christian churches and businesses from Islamist attacks.

It is also significant to recall where Sisi came to offer his well-wishing to the Christians: the St. Mark Cathedral—Coptic Christianity’s most sacred church which, under Muhammad Morsi was, for the first time in its history, savagely attacked, by both Islamists and the nation’s security (the article shows pictures here).

Once again, all of this has either been ignored or underplayed by most mainstream media.

There is, of course, a reason the mainstream media, which apparently follows the Obama administration’s lead, has been unkind to Sisi. One will recall that, although Sisi led the largest revolution in world history—a revolution that saw tens of millions take to the streets and ubiquitous signs and banners calling on U.S. President Obama and U.S. ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson to stop supporting terrorism (i.e., the Brotherhood)—U.S. leadership, followed by media, spoke only of a “military coup” against a “democratically elected president,” without pointing out that this president was pushing a draconian, Islamist agenda on millions who rejected it.

That Sisi would criticize the Muslim world and Islamic texts and thinking — a big no-no for Muslim leaders — is unprecedented.

So what is the significance of all this—of Sisi? First, on the surface, all of this is positive. That Sisi would criticize the Muslim world and Islamic texts and thinking—in ways his Western counterparts could never—and then continue his “controversial” behavior by entering the Coptic Christian cathedral during Christmas mass to offer his greetings to Christians—a big no-no for Muslim leaders—is unprecedented. Nor can all this be merely for show. In the last attac
k on a Coptic church, it was two Muslim police officers guarding the church who died—not the Christian worshippers inside—a rarity.

That Sisi remains popular in Egypt also suggests that a large percentage of Egyptians approve of his behavior. Recently, for instance, after the Paris attacks, Amru Adib, host of Cairo Today, made some extremely critical comments concerning fellow Muslims/Egyptians, including by asking them “Are you, as Muslims, content with the fact that today we are all seen as terrorists by the world?… We [Egyptians] used to bring civilization to the world, today what? — We are barbarians! Barbarians I tell you!”

That said, the others are still there—the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, those whom we call “Islamists,” and their many sympathizers and allies.

Worst of all, they have that “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas” that has been “sacralized over the centuries” (to use Sisi’s own words) to support them—texts and ideas that denounce Sisi as an “apostate” deserving of death, and thus promising a continued struggle for the soul of Egypt.

——————————————————
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a CBN News contributor. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007).

Related To

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 16th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Church has come a long way!

“Freedom of expression is a right, but there are limits when it comes to insulting faiths,” Pope Francis told reporters today, referring to events surrounding the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

“One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith,” Francis said.
Likewise, he said, people have religious liberty, but “one can’t kill in the name of God.”
He said this after a reporter asked him about religious liberty and freedom of expression.

The pope made the comments on a trip to the Philippines.

###