The clincher for them was when Francis wrote an official Papal document in which he asked in outrage: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” See, cried the carpers, that’s proof that Francis is the Red Pope!
25 December 14
Tere’s a twist on Christmas that would make Jesus weep.
First, a right-wing faction in the US has been wringing its hands over a hokey cultural “crisis” cooked up by the faction itself, namely that liberals, atheists, humanists, and – God Forbid – Marxists are waging a “War on Christmas.” The infidels are not accused of lobbing bombs in this war, but Words of Mass Destruction. Specifically, the right-wing purists wail that unholy lefties are perverting the season by saying “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
Second, some ultra conservative members of this same faction have launched their own war – against Jesus! How twisted is this? They say no one should mess with the word “Christmas,” yet they’re messing with the guy Christmas is supposed to be about.
They’ve decided that the Pope is a “Marxist,” pointing out that Francis speaks often about “the structural causes of poverty,” the “idolatry of money,” and the “new tyranny” of unfettered capitalism. Obviously, say the Pontiff’s pious critics, that’s commie talk.
The clincher for them was when Francis wrote an official Papal document in which he asked in outrage: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” See, cried the carpers, that’s proof that Francis is the Red Pope!
But wait – that was a very good question he asked, one ripe with the moral wrath that Jesus himself frequently showed toward the callous rich and their “love of money.” Indeed, the Pope’s words ring with the deep ethics you find in Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. Was he a commie, too?
A FEW OF THE COMMENTS:
+52 # RCW 2014-12-25 14:07
+10 # goodsensecynic 2014-12-25 15:33
+36 # Pickwicky 2014-12-25 14:14
Merry Christmas, everyone.
+2 # LGNTexas 2014-12-25 17:25
+1 # Charles3000 2014-12-25 19:07
+4 # Brian Flaherty 2014-12-25 14:45
It seems that He has dropped the ball somewhere over the past 2000 years and it’s gonna take awhile to get him back on track if he wants to play the lead in the Passion Play! If he won’t “play ball” they’ll just hafta replace him with a “body double” who’s willing to do the Cruci-FICTION and wear the thorny Crown while saying all the “RIGHT” Things!
+9 # DaveM 2014-12-25 15:03
+6 # Brian Flaherty 2014-12-25 15:16
+14 # asbpab1966 2014-12-25 14:52
+11 # goodsensecynic 2014-12-25 15:43
The point is that there are lots of cultures (especially where snow falls regularly) that get cheerful when the days begin to get longer.
+15 # margpark 2014-12-25 15:01
0 # Regina 2014-12-25 18:59
+6 # Corvette-Bob 2014-12-25 15:18
+12 # goodsensecynic 2014-12-25 15:28
And, as for the unpleasantness in the temple, it certainly wasn’t a sign that we should be mad at Wall Street (after all, Jesus only went after the “Jewish” moneylenders!).
The real problem comes in Acts 4(32), where it is written that none of the apostles ever said “nought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common.”
Or worse, Acts 4(34-35) in which we learn that “neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man as he had need.”
Now, fast forward 1800 years to Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program (1875), where he says “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need.”
So, either the disciples were communists or Marx was a Christian (absent the “God” part).
In any case, Marx can be accused of many things but only one charge firmly sticks: Plagiarism!
+2 # Arden 2014-12-25 16:39
+1 # goodsensecynic 2014-12-25 17:55
I don’t know the truth of it or if Jesus even existed or if he said anything remotely similar to the words reported in Matthew 19(24); but, I do know that those words, taken literally, would knock Michele Bachmann and the rest of them for a loop. So, absent overwhelming evidence, I’ll stick with the way King James’ translation committee expressed it.
+7 # kalpal 2014-12-25 15:30
-2 # Arden 2014-12-25 16:45
0 # Regina 2014-12-25 19:02
-2 # anarchteacher 2014-12-25 15:54
The outstanding chronicler of Political Religions writing today is Michael Burleigh, who is following in the bold path blazed by scholars such as Eric Voegelin, Murray Rothbard, Norman Cohn, Gerhart Niemeyer, James Billington, and Henri de Lubac.
Utopian Nightmares and Gnostic Political Religions – an Amazon book list
I have long believed that at the core of the political and economic challenges we face as a civilization is an ongoing warfare within the spiritual dimension at the root of our being.
For two millennia, Western civilization has been rent and torn asunder by this struggle.
The unity of Christendom was shattered by the Reformation. After Martin Luther came the seeds for the rise of the leviathan state. The fertile soil of Europe had been sown but the time was not yet ready. The gestation would take centuries to come to full fruition.
-3 # anarchteacher 2014-12-25 15:59
The Enlightenment, Freemasonry, Illuminism & the Religion of Humanity – an Amazon book list
It was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose writings so influenced the French Revolution, who first announced that human beings could be transformed for the better by the political process, by social engineering. This idea would have fatal consequences for millions in the 20th century.
0 # ericlipps 2014-12-25 17:22
-3 # anarchteacher 2014-12-25 16:02
Secularism and the crisis of faith, born of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, would provide the vital fertilizing nutrients for totalitarianism to finally bloom in the 20th century.
For it was in the 20th century where the West faced its greatest challenges via two satanic-inspired regimes, that of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. These two antipodal gnostic political religions were bent on using terror and mayhem to subjugate and remold humanity.
They wanted to coercively refashion a New Aryan Man or a New Soviet Man from our spiritual and material essence created by the hand of God.
Millions died in this cataclysmic process of “social engineering.”
In the 21st century our increasingly post-Christian West faces many new challenges but two in particular stand out: a return to its spiritual roots and a renascence of growth, promise, and renewal; and the renunciation of the deceitful illusions and lies upon which the corporatist welfare-warfare state was built and imposed on our civilization, this secular monstrosity which has led to so much misery, false hope, and insecurity.
If that means what I think it means; namely, that people squabble about their competing versions of “spirituality” and that inequalities of wealth and power arise from the results of those contests, then I respectfully submit that the relationship is exactly the reverse and that explicitly religious or ideologically political world-views are mainly propagandistic cover for local and geopolitical struggles that are more about material than spiritual matters.
That said, while I agree with your condemnation of 20th century “political religions” and your rejection of “social engineering,” I do not think that rejecting the “corporatist welfare-warfare state” is a sound alternative. In fact (unless you’re saying that it’s the corporations that get the welfare), public policies dedicated to social equity are the basis upon which the quest for social justice must be built – either that or we can all gather in self-sustaining anarcho-syndicalist communes (which is charming but unlikely, except perhaps in the wake of a global ecological collapse and/or military conflagration – not impossible, I admit).
Even less likely, however, is some sort of spontaneous spiritual process of “renunciation” and “renewal.” How, precisely, would that work?
-2 # goodsensecynic 2014-12-25 17:08
As a final query, what exactly do you mean to be the content of the “renascence of growth, promise and renewal.” At the risk of sounding churlish, it sounds a little too much like President Obama’s “hopey-changey- thingie” (the only apt thing Sarah bin-Palin ever said).
-2 # goodsensecynic 2014-12-25 17:08
As a final query, what exactly do you mean to be the content of the “renascence of growth, promise and renewal”? At the risk of sounding churlish, it sounds a little too much like President Obama’s “hopey-changey- thingie” (the only apt thing Sarah bin-Palin ever said).
+5 # JetpackAngel 2014-12-25 16:05
0 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-12-25 17:17
-2 # goodsensecynic 2014-12-25 17:51
Of course, what Americans mean by Conservatives (i.e., neoliberals), Liberals (i.e., center-right liberals) and Socialists (i.e., the hordes of Hell … or people with library cards who use public transit) is a matter of eternal mirth to those outside the fabulous fifty states.
Perhaps a global conference should be called to officially designate which color applies to which ideology (I suspect the biggest fight would be between ISIL and the Anarchists over the color BLACK.
Me? I would support anyone who claimed to wave a WHITE flag (and I’m not – believe me – being “racist” here).
+42 # Corvette-Bob 2014-12-25 14:20
+13 # asbpab1966 2014-12-25 14:48
ISIS is to America as Hamas is to Israel
Austria is Rising with Queen Conchita Wurst. Chancelor Werner Fayman And Education Minister Dr. Jposef Ostermayer have recognized the transformative moment of Tom Neuwirth’s win of the Eurovision 2014 as self-declared example of diversity. We also mention here Dana International who won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest in Birmingham.
AUSTRIA, SINCE THE MAY 11, 2014, CROWNING IN COPENHAGEN, HAS A QUEEN -
Eurovision Song Contest 2014 The winner
Performer: Conchita Wurst
Rise Like a Phoenix
Waking in the rubble
Peering from the mirror
You wouldnt know me at all today
Rise like a phoenix
Go about your business
From the fading light I fly
I rise up to the sky
And rise like a phoenix
Eurovision 1998, that was held in Birmingham, the UK, was won by someone very similar to To Tom Neuwirth / Conchita Wurst.
That person was the Israeli performer of Yemenite and Romanian Jewish parentage, named Dana International, whose real registered name was Sharon Cohen born February 2, 1972 as Yaron Cohen. She was a clear trans-gender woman that was born a man.
Dana was chosen to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Diva“. Orthodox Jews and others with conservative views were opposed to her appointment and attempted to void her participation in the contest. However, in May 1998, Dana performed “Diva” at the Eurovision final and won the contest with 172 points.
Conchita Wurst, a transvestite dressed in woman’s closing but sporting a beard to match in color her long black hair wig, won the Copenhagen 2014 Eurovision getting the smashing 290 points result. Indeed – in these last 16 years the world made tremendous progress in recognizing the human diversity as stressed by Tom Neuwirth when he chose to himself the name “WURST” which in German signifies – “it does not matter – all is equal to me.”
I am talking here politics and must notice that despite tremendous progress – nevertheless not every thing has changed. This is signified by the fact that nobody in the media has remembered Dana International. Is this because of her Israeli origin? Also, so far as I know, our website was the only example in the media that linked the Mauthausen Memorial of Sunday May 11, 2014 with the Eurovision Song Contest that gave such acclaim to Wurst – the person – and let us also say – the concept.
Further, let me stress that Austria is in the forefront of these achievements – the same Austria that it’s people were responsible for running the Mauthausen extermination plant in the 1940′s established to wipe out all diversity has now a Chancellor, the Honorable Werner Faymann, Who sat for four hours on May 11th, and watched the march of memory at Mauthausen and gave recognition to the honored documentary journalist Arnold Schwarzman who in 1981 helped prepare the Mauthausen documentary GENOCIDE and now was the US Representative at the 2014 Memorial. We wrote this up at:
One week later, on Sunday May 18, 2014, the Chancellor and his Minister of Culture, Dr. Josef Ostermayer, and their wives, stood in the official halls of Austrian Government, in front of the Nation’s cameras – or all to see, and with 10,000 people gathered in front of his windows facing the Balhausplatz, and acclaimed Conchita Wurst’s victory saying this was a victory for Austria. We say – this was a recognition that not only Tom Neuwirth and his friends have risen from the Mauthausen ashes – but all of Austria ought to consider itself as risen from its ashes. Yes, we know that there are exceptions also in Austria – but at least the leadership is stating that the change is welcome.
We are not going to post our notes from the Balhausplatz event, which I watched on location as media, and the Chancellor’s speech. Those were covered by the media in general. Watching the debates towards next Sunday’s elections for the European Parliament we are aware that not all Europe has not overcome the disease of excessive Nationalism and hatred of diversity. We will get back to this after the results of the elections are in and do not want to preempt this.
For now, trying to contribute here something the rest of the media does not focus on to their discredit,
1990–93: Dana International
At 18 years of age, Cohen (still legally male) earned a living as Israel’s first drag queen parodying many famous female singers. During one of her performances, she was discovered by Offer Nissim, a well-known Israeli DJ, who produced her debut single “Saida Sultana” (“My Name is Not Saida”), a satirical version of Whitney Houston‘s song “My Name Is Not Susan“. The song received considerable exposure and helped launch her career as a professional singer.
In 1993, Dana International flew to London for male-to-female sex reassignment surgery and legally changed her name to Sharon Cohen.Returning home with her new name, that same year Cohen released her first album, titled Danna International, in Israel. Soon after, the album was also released in several other countries including Greece, Jordan, and Egypt (In Jordan and Egypt the album sold illegally). Sharon’s stage name Dana International comes from the title track of the album, and was originally spelled with two n:s. Danna International soon became a gold record in Israel.
1994: Umpatampa and Best Female Artist
In 1994, Dana released her second, Trance-influenced album Umpatampa, which built on the success of her debut and provided further hit singles. The album went platinum in Israel and has sold more than 50,000 copies to date. Because of her popularity and the success of this album, she won the award for Best Female Artist of the Year in Israel.
1995: Eurovision song contest
In 1995, Dana attempted to fulfill her childhood dream of performing in the Eurovision Song Contest. She entered the Eurovision qualifying contest in Israel with a song entitled “Layla Tov, Eropa” (“Good Night Europe”) which finished second in the pre-selections, but became another hit single.
In late 1995, Dana released an E.P. called E.P. Tampa with three new songs and four remixes and special versions of her earlier songs.
1996–97: Consolidating popularity
In 1996, Dana released her third album, Maganuna. Although this album was less successful than her previous efforts, it still reached gold record sales in Israel and included the hits “Don Quixote,” “Waving,” and the club smash “Cinque Milla.” In 1997, Dana collaborated with the Israeli artist Eran Zur on his album Ata Havera Sheli, and together they sang the duet “Shir Kdam-Shnati (Sex Acher)” (“Pre-Bed Song (A Different Kind of Sex)”) which became a huge hit.
1998: Diva and mainstream spotlight
Dana was chosen to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest 1998 in Birmingham with the song “Diva“. Orthodox Jews and others with conservative views were opposed to her appointment and attempted to void her participation in the contest. However, in May 1998, Dana performed “Diva” at the Eurovision final and won the contest with 172 points. She became an international superstar, and was interviewed by CNN, BBC, Sky News, and MTV among others mostly focusing on her life as a transsexual person before winning the contest. Dana’s own words “the message of reconciliation” were; “My victory proves God is on my side. I want to send my critics a message of forgiveness and say to them: try to accept me and the kind of life I lead. I am what I am and this does not mean I don’t believe in God, and I am part of the Jewish Nation.”
Dana released “Diva” as a single in Europe and it became a hit, reaching number 11 in the UK charts and the top ten in Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, and the Netherlands.
1999–2001: Stage falling, Streisand cover and new albums
In 1999, Dana released Woman In Love, a Barbra Streisand cover, but it was not the hit that “Diva” had been. In May 1999, Dana again participated in the Eurovision Song Contest held in Jerusalem. Dana was a part of the interval act and sang the Stevie Wonder song “Free”. She also presented the award to the winners of the contest but accidentally managed to steal their thunder. Whilst she was carrying the heavy trophy, one of the composers of the winning Swedish entry by mistake stepped on the long trail of her dress and she fell over on stage – in front of a television audience estimated be to one billion or more, making it one of the most memorable moments in the 50-year-long history of the contest.
She released her next album Free in Europe in 1999, which enjoyed moderate success. A few months later Dana moved back to Israel and started to work on different projects. Israeli and Japanese editions of Free were released in 2000. That same year, an Israeli documentary film was made about Dana called Lady D.
In 2001, after a break, Dana released her seventh album Yoter Ve Yoter (More and More). The album put her career in Israel back on track and provided two hits called “I Won” and “After All”, which eventually both went gold.
2002–06: Fading from the scene and Sony incident
Dana was about to sign with a major label, Sony/BMG, for an international recording contract but something went wrong in negotiations. These were disagreements that led to Sony cancelling the deal before it was completed. In 2002, she released another album, HaHalom HaEfshari (The Possible Dream), which was a minor chart success. In 2003, she released an exclusive 8-CD box set, containing all singles from The Possible Dream and a new house version of the hit single “Cinque Milla”, titled A.lo.ra.lo.la. A few years later, in 2005, Dana participated in the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision song contest, held in Copenhagen, after “Diva” was selected as one of fourteen songs considered to be the best Eurovision songs. The song did not make it into the final top five but, Dana got the chance to perform both “Diva” and an old Eurovision favourite of hers; Baccara‘s 1978 entry “Parlez-Vous Francais?“. She also recorded the song “Lola” (sung in French), to which she released a video. This video can be found on the CD Hakol Ze Letova, released in 2007 as a bonus CD-rom video.
In 2005, Dana was voted the 47th-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet, to determine who the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.
2007–11: Return to music and Eurovision comeback
After a few years away from show business, together with the relaunch of her official website, a first single of the upcoming album was released in March 2007: “Hakol Ze Letova” (“It’s All For the Best”). The second single to be released from the album, “Love Boy”, became the most played song on Israeli radio in a decade. It also gained a respectable place on the airplay of the Greek radio station FLY FM 89,7. The following album, also titled Hakol Ze Letova, was released on August 15, 2007. “At Muhana” was the third single and “Seret Hodi” (feat. Idan Yaniv) the fourth to be released from the album, which became a bestseller in many online stores. The next single released from the album was “Yom Huledet”.
On February 26, 2008, Dana gained an additional achievement when the song “Ke’ilu Kan” written and composed by her and performed by Boaz Mauda, was chosen on Kdam Eurovision to represent Israel at Eurovision Song Contest 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia. It came 5th in the semi-final and gained 9th place in the final rank.
Dana also recorded the song “Mifrats Ha Ahava” (“The Love Bay”) for an Israeli version of the TV-show “Paradise Hotel”. She also collaborated with the Ukrainian duo NeAngely (Not Angels), recording “I Need Your Love” and releasing a video. In 2009, Dana starred in a mock reality show called Dana Kama/Nama for cellphone provider Cellcom
Dana campaigned for Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni shortly before 2009 legislative elections in Israel. At a women’s political rally in Jerusalem Dana performed a disco song alongside Livni onstage, announcing “I now formally invite you to the diva sisterhood.”
In April 2009, Dana performed in the opening concert of Tel Aviv-Yafo Centennial Year. She performed a cover version of Danny Robas‘ song “Lo nirdemet Tel Aviv” (Tel Aviv Doesn’t Fall Asleep) in front of 250,000 people.
Dana made a guest appearance, as herself, in an episode of the second series of UK sitcom Beautiful People, which was set around her Eurovision appearance.
On March 8, 2011, Dana International won the Israeli National Final for Eurovision with the song Ding Dong, and represented Israel at Eurovision for a second time. However, she did not make it into the final; she was the first Eurovision winner not to do so.
2013–present: new singles, TV show and album
In April 2013, after a two-year break, Dana released a new single, “Ma La’asot”. It was released digitally worldwide on April 24, 2013. On May 29, Dana released a video clip for the song Loca, to promote the Gay Pride Tel Aviv 2013. Dana will perform on the main event for the Gay Pride on June 7. Her third single for that year, “Ir Shlema”, was released in July. Late in January 2014, Dana’s new music reality show “Yeshnan Banot” premiered. Dana is the main judge on the show, attempting to find Israel’s next girl group.
THE WORDS OF THE SONG “DIVA.”
She is all
And when she cries
And when she cries
The Opinion Pages — Op-Ed Contributors to the New York Times
Global Warming Scare Tactics.
OAKLAND, Calif. — IF you were looking for ways to increase public skepticism about global warming, you could hardly do better than the forthcoming nine-part series on climate change and natural disasters, starting this Sunday on Showtime. A trailer for “Years of Living Dangerously” is terrifying, replete with images of melting glaciers, raging wildfires and rampaging floods. “I don’t think scary is the right word,” intones one voice. “Dangerous, definitely.”
Showtime’s producers undoubtedly have the best of intentions. There are serious long-term risks associated with rising greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from ocean acidification to sea-level rise to decreasing agricultural output.
But there is every reason to believe that efforts to raise public concern about climate change by linking it to natural disasters will backfire. More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.
For instance, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” popularized the idea that today’s natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency because of human-caused global warming. It also contributed to public backlash and division. Since 2006, the number of Americans telling Gallup that the media was exaggerating global warming grew to 42 percent today from about 34 percent. Meanwhile, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on whether global warming is caused by humans rose to 42 percent last year from 26 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center.
Other factors contributed. Some conservatives and fossil-fuel interests questioned the link between carbon emissions and global warming. And beginning in 2007, as the country was falling into recession, public support for environmental protection declined.
Still, environmental groups have known since 2000 that efforts to link climate change to natural disasters could backfire, after researchers at the Frameworks Institute studied public attitudes for its report “How to Talk About Global Warming.” Messages focused on extreme weather events, they found, made many Americans more likely to view climate change as an act of God — something to be weathered, not prevented.
Some people, the report noted, “are likely to buy a SUV to help them through the erratic weather to come” for example, rather than support fuel-efficiency standards.
Since then, evidence that a fear-based approach backfires has grown stronger. A frequently cited 2009 study in the journal Science Communication summed up the scholarly consensus. “Although shocking, catastrophic, and large-scale representations of the impacts of climate change may well act as an initial hook for people’s attention and concern,” the researchers wrote, “they clearly do not motivate a sense of personal engagement with the issue and indeed may act to trigger barriers to engagement such as denial.” In a controlled laboratory experiment published in Psychological Science in 2010, researchers were able to use “dire messages” about global warming to increase skepticism about the problem.
Many climate advocates ignore these findings, arguing that they have an obligation to convey the alarming facts.
But claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can’t be supported by the science. Our warming world is, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasing heat waves and intense precipitation in some places, and is likely to bring more extreme weather in the future. But the panel also said there is little evidence that this warming is increasing the loss of life or the economic costs of natural disasters. “Economic growth, including greater concentrations of people and wealth in periled areas and rising insurance penetration,” the climate panel noted, “is the most important driver of increasing losses.”
Claims that current disasters are connected to climate change do seem to motivate many liberals to support action. But they alienate conservatives in roughly equal measure.
What works, say environmental pollsters and researchers, is focusing on popular solutions. Climate advocates often do this, arguing that solar and wind can reduce emissions while strengthening the economy. But when renewable energy technologies are offered as solutions to the exclusion of other low-carbon alternatives, they polarize rather than unite.
One recent study, published by Yale Law School’s Cultural Cognition Project, found that conservatives become less skeptical about global warming if they first read articles suggesting nuclear energy or geoengineering as solutions. Another study, in the journal Nature Climate Change in 2012, concluded that “communication should focus on how mitigation efforts can promote a better society” rather than “on the reality of climate change and averting its risks.”
Nonetheless, virtually every major national environmental organization continues to reject nuclear energy, even after four leading climate scientists wrote them an open letter last fall, imploring them to embrace the technology as a key climate solution. Together with catastrophic rhetoric, the rejection of technologies like nuclear and natural gas by environmental groups is most likely feeding the perception among many that climate change is being exaggerated. After all, if climate change is a planetary emergency, why take nuclear and natural gas off the table?
While the urgency that motivates exaggerated claims is understandable, turning down the rhetoric and embracing solutions like nuclear energy will better serve efforts to slow global warming.
Weakness has a cost beyond the first issue when you create expectations and flee implementation. The Washington Post seems to step away from traditional Jounalistic neutrality writing – “Iran fantasy, Syria farce.”
The Post reports: “The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved a resolution demanding that Syria immediately halt attacks on civilians and allow unfettered humanitarian access to besieged areas and across neighboring borders, threatening unspecified ‘further steps’ if the government does not comply. The action marked the first time Russia has agreed to a binding resolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since the conflict in his country began nearly three years ago. China, which vetoed three previous resolutions along with Russia, joined in approving the measure.” This is a cruel joke, and for Russia which has supported Bashar al-Assad, a cynical one.
Mind you — to reach this empty gesture took “lengthy negotiations over the past week.” In order to accommodate the Russians, in fact, the agreement had to be as tough on the rebels as it was on Assad. (“To secure Russia’s agreement, sponsors of the resolution agreed to include specific demands for opposition fighters to cease their own violations of human rights international law, to condemn terrorism and to drop a demand that government violators be referred for prosecution to the International Criminal Court.”) The last is an abomination; if ever a pack of murderers should be prosecuted for war crimes it is Assad and his cohorts.
So now the message to rogue states is: If you use WMD’s against your own people, you might have to very sloooowly give part of your treasure trove back. And if you continue to kill thousands by other means, you need not worry about prosecution for war crimes. The complete lack of seriousness – geopolitical and moral — is quite striking:
What happened to Power’s doctrine that the United States should use force to stop mass human rights atrocities? You need more than words, she acknowledges but actions now can be just words. No, really: “‘A resolution is just words. It is implementation that matters, and that’s what we are starting to measure right now.’ Language committing the council to further actions, she said, is a ‘significant hook, a significant commitment by the parties on the Security Council.’” You wonder if even she can believe such double talk.
And in calling for further political negotiations, this following the failed Geneva talks, the Obama administration itself signals that it has lost touch with reality. Reality, of course, does not include the fantasy that a decade of war is “ending.” It does not permit the United States to shrug its shoulders and declare it merely wants to “nation build at home.” And reality means that when you dawdle for three years, do not take swift and forceful action to back nonjihadi rebels and do not exact a price for use of WMD’s, the country will descend into chaos, sending a stream of refugees pouring into surrounding countries.
Even more troubling than the lack of a Syria policy that could pass the laugh test is the impression this certainly makes with the mullahs in Tehran. They by now consider the United States to be gullible and all too eager to make a deal that will mask Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state. Seeing the Syrian sideshow must convince Iranian negotiators that any fig leaf will do for the United States to end remaining sanctions.
Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams this week warned that we should be wary of just such a deal with Tehran. In a press call he explained, “My biggest worry is that the administration is desperately committed to the appearance of a foreign policy success and that they will therefore agree to a deal and claim that it’s a great deal, but it will not actually do much to retrain and limit the Iranian program.” If that wasn’t obvious before, surely our farcical approach to Syria would leave little doubt that the United States is unwilling to back up what it says with hard power. We seem to be systematically undercutting what credibility we have, first with the interim deal and now with our feckless approach to Syria. Abrams worries, “The more immediate problem is, there’s very strong Iranian rhetoric now suggesting that any terms like those that, for example, [Iran experts] seem to me to be talking about would be acceptable to Iran, and Iran may think that it is seeing a weakened P5-plus-1 unity, it is seeing a weakened American determination to maintain the sanctions, in which case we’re in for, at the very least, an extremely tough negotiation and, at worse, no deal.”
So there you have it. “Smart diplomacy” detached from a willingness to use U.S. power (economic and military) serves as a green light for rogue regimes to continue their bad behavior. To the extent there are any “moderates” in Iran (I personally think the notion is absurd, but let’s assume so for purposes of discussion), then our weakness only undercuts them and enhances the stature of so-called hard-liners. (“I think that you need to show that bad behavior on the part of the Iranians will hurt Iran. I don’t think that, for example, weakening our position so that we give gifts to the so-called moderate [President Hassan] Rouhani or the so-called moderate [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif, who just visited the tomb of Imad Mughniyeh. I don’t think that’s the way to do it. I think the way to do it is to show that we have a united front at least of the E.U.-3 plus the United States and that Iranian refusal to compromise will be punished by very heavy additional sanctions.”)
All of this suggests the administration, having lost its credibility, will find it difficult to get it back, which in turn will make the situations in Syria and Iran worse. It should also serve as a reminder to opponents on the right and left of a muscular foreign policy that refusal to confront real dangers when they are manageable results in fewer options and greater threats to U.S. security down the road. This is no way for a super power to behave.
Polar Bears, Grizzlies to Merge.
16 February 14
n what observers are calling the largest merger ever between two species of mammal capable of mauling humans to death, polar bears and grizzly bears announced on Friday that they were joining forces in a friendly acquisition.
If the merger goes through, the polar bears and grizzly bears would together be able to terrorize a much larger landmass than ever before, experts said.
Speaking at a packed press conference in New York accompanied by their investment bankers from Goldman Sachs, the jubilant bears gave their spin on the unprecedented deal.
“To say that we’re excited would be an understatement,” said a spokesman for the grizzlies. “For years, we’ve admired the way polar bears have dismembered hikers who’ve encroached on their territory. To be on the same team with talent like that—whoa. It’s a dream come true.”
While critics of the merger have argued that it is anticompetitive, a spokesman for the polar bears disagreed.
“I think working with the grizzlies is just going to push us to savage more human flesh than ever before. Speaking for myself, I’m ready to start mauling,” he said, underscoring his point by eating a reporter.
The merger is not expected to face regulatory hurdles.
This time, top honors goes to the Federalist, which can’t get over the irony of Senate Democrats scheduling a hearing on global warming right as a blizzard is expected to hit D.C. In fact, there’s good reason to believe that global climate change is linked to extreme weather like this, but arguing that is an advanced move. Demonstrating that cold and snowy weather in no way disproves global warming? Anyone can do that.
Below, three tried-and-true retorts to climate deniers. You can try a fast and simple zinger, back it up with a blunt chart or, if you’re tired of explaining, let one of these smart videos do it for you. Why not try a healthy combination of all three? And, as a last resort, there’s always the weather report for Australia.
– SkepticalScience, a reliable font of detailed information, also breaks it down into this one-sentence explanation:
“A local cold day has nothing to do with the long-term trend of increasing global temperatures.”
– Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy is something of an evangelist for the cause. He recently tweeted:
– Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer sums up the current reality of climate change:
“Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch. That’s the new world we live in.”
– And, courtesy of the NRDC, a simple analogy:
“The effect of global warming on our climate is not unlike the effect of steroids on an athlete’s performance: It supercharges storms; it causes abnormal conditions like drought and heat and ultimately, it causes damage.”
Here, data from the NOAA and NASA clearly shows that global temperatures have been higher than average for the past 37 consecutive years:
This one, courtesy of Skeptical Science, plots the annual numbers of record high maximum temperatures (the red dots) along with the record lows (the blue dots), averaged over the U.S. That black line — the one that doesn’t line up with what’s plotted — shows where the dots would theoretically lie should no global warming or cooling be taking place. You can see how, over time, we’ve ended up with more record highs than lows:
Heavy precipitation (Oppenheimer’s “occasional knockout punch”) is also becoming more common, as this next map from the Global Change Research Research program shows:
As to the less overall snow, SkepticalScience has this nice breakdown of seasonal and annual snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere. It demonstrates how earlier and more extensive melting in the spring and summer more than makes up for the smaller increase in fall and winter precipitation. The total decline in snow extent between 1972 and 2010 was a full 1.3 million square kilometers:
Chris Hayes, an ironic sparkle in his eyes, asks climate scientist Michael Mann how it’s possible for snow and global warming to be happening at the same time. His reply: “Well, we climate scientists actually have a technical term for this phenomenon. It’s called winter” (you can file that one away with the other zingers):
Peter Sinclair of ClimateCrocks delves deeper into the science with this 2009 video response to that infallible argument: ”I looked outside, and it was snowing, therefore, there is no climate change”:
The Climate denial crook of the week said that The White House released this “propaganda” in honor of the infamous polar vortex, which received a fair amount of trolling. Featuring John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, it’s notable both for its acknowledgment that man-made climate change could actually be responsible for patterns of extreme cold, and for its reminder that no single weather event can either prove or disprove global warming.
To see the videos go to original - www.alternet.org/environment/ulti…
The Cat of the Vizhnitz Cemetery (former Seat of a major Rabbi’s Court in the former Austrian Bukowina – now the Chernivtsi Oblast in the Ukraine) that haunts Middle East negotiations. The Rabbi sits in Haifa, Israel.
Annexation and the return of the one-state solution.
Monday, January 6, 2014 – published by the Palestine Center, The Jerusalem Fund, Washington DC – Written by Jack LeVine it was previously posted by Al Jezeera.www.thejerusalemfund.
From time to time, the Palestine Center distributes articles it believes will enhance understanding of the Palestinian political reality. The following article is by Mark LeVine was published by Al Jazeera on 2 January 2014.
Mark LeVine writes what he writes – and we like to extend it to its logical target – the establishment of an Abrahamic State that is neither Jewish nor Muslim, in parts of the pre-Abraham Land of Canaan, and to allow our readers the right to think for themselves and decide if this albatross can fly:
“Annexation and the return of the one-state solution “
In direct response to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to establish a set of “security arrangements” that would, some day (Kerry apparently is suggesting after another decade), allow some level of Palestinian control over the security of the West Bank (wasn’t that supposed to happen during Oslo? And isn’t it in fact already the de jure arrangement in Areas A and B?), the Ministerial Legislative Committee voted to annex the Jordan Valley permanently to Israel.
This is, by no means, the first vote or decision taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu government to challenge the Obama Administration’s attempts to play at peace-making in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In fact, announcing settlement expansion plans whenever a senior US official is visiting Israel to “jumpstart” or “save” the “peace process” has long been standard operating procedure for the Israeli government, as the Obama Administration learned early in 2010 when Vice President Joe Biden was greeted upon arriving in Israel with the “highly inflammatory announcement” of plans for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem. The Americans feigned anger at the “brutally contemptuous rebuff” to their good-faith efforts to resuscitate Oslo, but no one should have been surprised at the actions of Netanyahu then, or now. Indeed, Netanyahu has been outmanoeuvering Obama since day one of the relationship.
This latest slap in the face comes after PA President Mahmoud Abbas once again “renounced claims” to Israel within its 1967 borders, this time singling out the one-time Palestinian-populated towns of Jaffa and Haifa, and accepted on-going settlement construction in return for freeing Palestinian prisoners. A few hundred Palestinian “detainees” are wonderful bargaining chips to play in lieu of actual policy changes whenever negotiations get serious.
Not surprisingly, the vote on annexation provoked the usual outcries by Palestinian officials, who decried the “indifference” to and “disrespect” for international law the vote represented.
Falling on deaf ears
This evaluation is certainly true, although the PA attacking Israel for disregarding international law is about as meaningful as the US criticising Saudi Arabia for refusing to let women drive. That is to say, it’s utterly devoid of meaning as long as they continue business as usual, which for the PA means doing whatever is necessary to keep the foreign aid, and salaries, flowing through its coffers.
But this latest attempt to annex the West Bank, as 2013 came to a close, offers both a tantalising glimpse of the future of Israel/Palestine and a good opportunity for Palestinians to start the New Year off in a way that throws the Israeli government back on its heels. It could also turn the tide in the century-long conflict over the territory of Mandate-era Palestine. It was not the PA, however, but the liberal Zionist Party Meretz that have taken the lead in doing so however.
Rather than denouncing the latest attempt to annex the West Bank as marking yet another nail in the coffin of a long rotted Oslo peace process, Meretz publicly declared it would no longer oppose votes to annex the Jordan Valley, which increases the likelihood such a vote could in fact pass the Knesset.
Meretz leaders have neither suddenly become territorial maximalists nor have they joined the one or bi-state camp that most self-described Zionists, regardless of how comparatively liberal their politics (from an Israeli perspective), still broadly refuse to support. But I don’t buy the refusal of Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon even to discuss a one-state future as reflecting the true nature of the shift inside Israeli liberal politics. As the Israeli right becomes ever bolder in asserting territorially maximalist policies, and the religious establishment more blatantly bigoted, there is simply less space for liberal Zionists to operate as both liberal and Zionist.
The fact is that soon Israeli liberals, who are still a sizable minority of the population, are either going to vote with their heads or their feet – if the mainstream of Israeli political culture keeps moving to the right. A democratic state with rough demographic parity with Palestinians suddenly would offer a more positive alternative than an ultra-chauvinistic Jewish state that holds them in almost as much scorn as it does “Arabs” and “Africans”.
A new coalition?
The question is: When will the majority of Palestinians, who long ago lost faith in Oslo and in their hearts would prefer a one-state solution, give up the two-state illusion and come out in force demanding precisely what the Ministerial Legislative Committee voted to do – be annexed to Israel, and have the same voting rights as their fellow Palestinians across the quickly evaporating Green Line. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned of just this eventuality as the doomsday scenario facing Zionism, which is why a man who did more than almost anyone to create a Jewish-dominated Jerusalem became a firm supporter of two-states.
The PA will never go down this route because it would mean its dissolution and the loss of jobs, money and power for the entire political class, and perhaps the fatal weakening of Fatah along with it. Neither, strangely, would Hamas accept it as it would become moot in a one or bi-national solution.
Of course, while the Israeli right would actually welcome Palestinian acquiescence to the annexation of the West Bank, whose population can be absorbed into Israel without creating a Palestinian majority, their plan for a Greater Israel specifically excludes Gaza, whose incorporation would tip the demographic balance immediately, and permanently, in the Palestinian’s favour. A test of wills and political strategisation would emerge between the two sides as to whether Israel could convince West Bank Palestinians permanently to separate their fortunes from benighted Gaza, or Palestinians once “inside” Israel would constitute a large enough force with 1948 Palestinians and liberal/left Israeli to push, however fitfully, for a bi-national or even parallel states solution.
This leads to a final question:Will 2014 be the year Palestinian and Israeli exhaustion with Oslo and fear of a bleak and chauvinistic future creates the unstoppable force that finally buries Oslo and moves both peoples, and the land they inevitably share, towards a common future?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.
And an Israeli description of what it looks like now in the Israeli political arena – the Uri Avnery article of this week –
January 11, 2014
PERHAPS I am too stupid, but for the heck of me I cannot understand the sense of the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
On the face of it, it seems like a clever trick by Binyamin Netanyahu to divert attention from the real issues. If so, the Palestinian leadership has fallen into a trap.
Instead of talking about the independence of the putative State of Palestine and its borders, its capital in Jerusalem, the removal of the settlements, the fate of the refugees and the solution of the many other problems, they quarrel endlessly about the definition of Israel.
One is tempted to call out to the Palestinians: what the hell, accord them this damn recognition and be done with it! Who cares!?
THE ANSWER of the Palestinian negotiators is twofold.
First, recognizing Israel as a Jewish State would be an act of betrayal towards the million and a half Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, If Israel is a Jewish State, where does that leave them?
Well, that problem could be solved by a provision in the peace treaty stating that irrespective of anything else in the agreement, the Palestinian citizens of Israel will enjoy full equality in every respect.
Second, that the recognition of Israel’s Jewishness would block the return of the refugees.
That argument is even less valid than the first. The solution of the refugee problem will be a central plank of the treaty. The Palestinian leadership, at the time of Yasser Arafat, already tacitly accepted that the solution will be an “agreed” one, so that any return will be at most symbolic. The recognition issue will not affect it.
The debate on this Israeli demand is entirely ideological. Netanyahu demands that the Palestinian people accept the Zionist narrative. The Palestinian refusal is based on the Arab narrative, which contradicts the Zionist one on practically every single event that happened during the last 130 years, if not the last 5000.
Mahmoud Abbas could just come forward and announce: OK, if you accept our practical demands, we shall recognize Israel as whatever you want – a Buddhist State, a Vegetarian State, you name it.
On September 10, 1993 – which happened to be my 70th birthday – Yasser Arafat, on behalf of the Palestinian people, recognized the State of Israel, in return for the no less momentous recognition of the Palestinian people by Israel. Implicitly, each side recognized the other as it is. Israel defined itself in its founding document as a Jewish State. Ergo, the Palestinians have already recognized a Jewish State.
By the way, the first step towards Oslo was made by Arafat when he told his representative in London, Said Hamami, to publish in the “Times” of London on December 17, 1973, a proposal for a peaceful solution, which stated among other things that “the first step must be the mutual recognition of these two sides. The Jewish-Israelis and the Palestinian-Arabs must recognize each other as peoples with all the rights of peoples.”
I saw the original draft of this statement with corrections in Arafat’s hand.
THE PROBLEM of the Palestinian minority in Israel – about 20% of Israel’s eight million citizens – is very serious, but it has now acquired a humorous twist.
Since his acquittal from corruption charges and return to the Foreign Office, Avigdor Lieberman is at it again. He has come out supporting John Kerry’s peace efforts, much to the chagrin of Netanyahu, who does not.
Why, for heaven’s sake? Lieberman aspires to become prime minister some day, as soon as possible. For this he has to (1) unite his “Israel Our Home” party with the Likud, (2) become leader of the Likud, (3) win the general elections. But over all these there hovers (4): obtain the approval of the Americans. So Lieberman now supports the American effort and peace.
Yes, but under one condition: that the US accept his master plan for the Jewish State.
This is a masterpiece of constructive statesmanship. Its main proposal is to move the borders of Israel – not eastward, as could be expected from an arch-nationalist, but westward, slimming Israel’s narrow hips even further, to a mere 9 (nine!) km.
The Israeli territory that Lieberman wants to get rid of is the site of a dozen Arab villages, which were given Israel as a gift by the then king of Jordan in the armistice agreement of 1949. Abdallah I, the great-great-grandfather of the current Abdallah II of Jordan, needed the armistice at any price. Lieberman now wants to give these villages back, thank you.
Why? Because for this stalwart of Jewish Israel, the reduction of the Arab population is a sacred task. He does not advocate expulsion, God forbid. Not at all. He proposes attaching this area, with its population, to the Palestinian state. In return, he wants the Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank to be joined to Israel. A transfer of areas with their populations, reminiscent of Stalin’s redrawing the borders of Poland, except that Lieberman’s borders look completely crazy.
Lieberman presents this as a peaceful, liberal, humane plan. No one will be displaced, no property expropriated. Some 300 thousand Arabs, all of them ardent supporters of the Palestinian struggle for statehood, will become Palestinian citizens.
SO WHY do the Palestinians in Israel cry out? Why do they condemn the plan as a racist assault on their rights?
Because they are far more Israeli than they care to admit, even to themselves. After living in Israel for 65 years, they have become accustomed to its ways. They don’t love Israel, they don’t serve in its army, they are discriminated against in many ways, but they are deeply rooted in the Israeli economy and democracy, much more than is generally recognized.
“Israeli Arabs”, a term they hate, play a significant role in Israeli hospitals and courts, including the Supreme Court, and in many other institutions.
Becoming citizens of Palestine tomorrow would mean losing 80% or 90% of their standard of living. It would also mean losing the social security net enjoyed in Israel (though Lieberman promises to continue payments to those currently eligible(. After being used for decades to fair elections and the lively give-and-take of the Knesset, they would have to get used to a society in which, as of now, important parties are forbidden, elections are postponed and parliament plays a minor role. The place of women in this society is very different from their role in Israel.
The situation of the Palestinians in Israel is unique in many respects. On the one side, as long as Israel is defined as a Jewish State, the Arabs will not be fully equal. On the other side, in the occupied Palestinian territories, these Israeli citizens are not accepted as fully belonging. They straddle both sides of the conflict. They would like to be mediators, the link between the two sides, bringing them closer to each other. But this has remained a dream.
A complicated situation, indeed.
IN THE meantime, Netanyahu and Lieberman are hatching another plan to make Jewish Israel even Jewisher.
There are today three factions in the Knesset which derive their votes from the Arab population. They constitute almost 10% of the Knesset. Why not 20%, to reflect their part in the general population? First because they have many more children, who have not yet reached voting age (18 years). Second, their rate of abstention is significantly higher. Third, some Arabs are bribed to vote for Zionist parties.
The part of the Arab MKs in enacting laws is negligible. Any bill they introduce is almost automatically voted down. No Jewish party ever considered including them in a government coalition. Yet they have a very noticeable presence, their voice is heard.
Now, in the name of “governability” (a trendy new term that can be used to justify any attack on human rights), Bibi & Libie, as someone called them, want to change the minimum share of votes that any election list needs to enter the Knesset.
I was elected three times to the Knesset when the threshold was 1%. Later it was raised to 2%. Now the plan is to raise the threshold to 3.25%, which in the elections a year ago would have equaled 123,262 votes. Only one of the three “Arab” parties crossed this line – and then only barely. There is no assurance that it could do so again.
In order to survive, they would have to unite and form a large Arab bloc. Many would think that this was a good thing. But it is very difficult to accomplish. One party is communist, another Islamist, another secular-nationalist. Also, competing extended families play an important role in Arab electoral politics.
The Arab lists may disappear altogether. Or two may unite, eliminating the third.
Some Israeli leftists fantasize about a dream party – a united parliamentary bloc that would include all the Arab parties with the Labor party and Meretz, turning it into a formidable challenger of the right wing.
But that would be too good to be true – no chance at all of this happening in the near future.
IT SEEMS that Kerry and his Zionist advisors already identify with the Israeli demand for recognition as a Jewish State or, worse, the State of the Jewish People (who were not even consulted).
The Palestinian side is unable to accept this.
If the negotiations come to naught on this point, Netanyahu will have achieved his real aim: to abort the negotiations in a way that will enable him to blame the Palestinians.
As long as we have a Jewish State – who needs peace?
Israelis Demand End to US Spying.
22 December 2013
enior Israeli officials on Sunday demanded an end to U.S. spying on Israel, following revelations that the National Security Agency intercepted emails from the offices of the country’s top former leaders.
It was the first time that Israeli officials have expressed anger since details of U.S. spying on Israel began to trickle out in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The scandal also spurred renewed calls for the release of Jonathan Pollard, a former American intelligence analyst who has been imprisoned in the U.S. for nearly three decades for spying on behalf of Israel.
“This thing is not legitimate,” Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio. He called for both countries to enter an agreement regarding espionage.
“It’s quite embarrassing between countries who are allies,” Tourism Minister Uzi Landau said. “It’s this moment more than any other moment that Jonathan Pollard [should] be released.”
Documents leaked by Snowden and published in The Guardian, Der Spiegel and The New York Times last week revealed that British intelligence agency GCHQ worked with the NSA from 2008 to 2011 to target email addresses belonging to the offices of then-serving Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Amir Dan, a spokesman for Olmert, played down the revelations. He said the email address targeted was one meant for queries from the public and was not used for sensitive communications. “There is no chance there was a security or intelligence breach caused from this email address,” Dan said.
Barak could not immediately be reached for comment.
But top Israeli officials work on the assumption that they are being monitored. Officials use special secure lines for certain types of communications, and for the most sensitive matters, issues are discussed only face to face in secure rooms.
Even so, Israeli officials reacted with uncharacteristic anger toward the U.S., Israel’s closest and most important ally.
Lawmaker Nachman Shai, a member of the parliamentary foreign affairs and defense committee, which deals with intelligence matters, called for an urgent intelligence briefing on the reported spying.
Shai called for a “full report about what we know, what we have done, and just to find out.”
He added that he was “really surprised that my government, which is very easily responsive on any given issue, on this we keep silent, which is not the right policy and right behavior.”
Espionage is a sensitive subject between Israel and the U.S. because of the Pollard affair.
Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing classified material to Israel. Israeli leaders frequently call for his release and say his nearly three decades in prison are punishment enough, but stiff opposition from the American military and intelligence community has deterred a string of American presidents from releasing him.
Since Pollard’s conviction, Israel has promised not to spy on the U.S. Ministers stressed Sunday that Israel does not spy on the U.S. president or defense secretary. “I think we should expect the same relations from the U.S.,” Steinitz said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a more subdued reaction, saying that Israel continues to press for the convicted spy’s release.
“This is not conditional and not connected to the latest events, even though we gave our opinion about these developments,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet, presumably referring to the reported U.S. spying.
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ENJOY AND BE MERRY – ONLY IN MODERN BIZANTINE WASHINGTON DC OF 2013 CAN THIS FLY AS AN ALLIANCE OF INTERESTS.
True to our motto – “Basta, Enough – We interpret all that is worthwhile to be said” and with the closing of the 5th Session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals for the post-2015 era at the UN in mind, we post this as an observation and holiday fun.
We will be reporting in other postings on the good work of many delegates to the UN and as well point out how insiders at the UN undermine that work. That is our job – both – as Sustainable Development media and as stakeholders at the UN because many of us at the World Association of Former UN Interns and Fellows (WAFUNIF) have invested their time and money in the UN organization. Myself, I have not received those single dollars per year that the UN contracted to pay me while a Fellow of the organization on a One Dollar per year basis. Neither did I get those $3000 the UN contracted me for work on an issue paper for the 1982 Nairobi UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy. Those are clear motivations to tell things as they are.
We understand that Saudi Arabia is leading now the Arab States to a position of disregard of the UN. We may share their evaluation of the situation as it is today, but we keep pointing out that it is crystal clear that they are a main reason why the UN is incapable to live up to its intended goals.
This week I had the opportunity to watch those sitting side by side in the seats of Egypt and Saudi arabia – their hugging and kissing and disinterest in what went on in the room. Then the Saudi wished a Happy Christmas holidays at the breaking up of the meeting which led to the dry remark from the chair that the meeting will restart in two weeks – on December 9th – that is prior to Christmas. The delegate from the Netherlands then made sure that all get the correct notion that the break is for the Thanksgiving and Chanukah holidays.
Furthermore, when the chair asked specifically that the delegations speak only to topics that were the subjects of panels, and to leave National statements to a different timing which he programed for that purpose, the Tunisians had a lower level member of their delegation read a statement in the name of the Arab States that was old boiler-plate stuff that had nothing to do with the topic of the meeting. On the other hand, Iranian Mission’s Councelor Mr. Taghi M. Ferami, whatever his country’s position in other matters may be, he tried to show that he is on board with the topics dealt with.
The UN may sometimes be likened to a urkey or a camel – being that seem to be the result of planning by committee – so let us at least follow now with the fun that was dished out to us in the New York Times of today – an edition full as well with serious matter about the meaning of giving thanks.
The Turkey’s Turkey Connection.
By MARK FORSYTH who wrote this for the New York Times
A Journalist from O Estado de S. Paulo, largest Brazilian Daily, learns first hand the short end of Yale University Police hiding the Brazilian Chief Justice who was a Person-of-Interest to the paper.
The Journalist says:
The University says:
A Brazilian reporter trying to interview Brazil’s Supreme Court President, Joaquim Barbosa, was arrested for trespassing after she allegedly entered a Yale Law School building on Thursday.
O Estado de S Paulo correspondent Claudia Trevisan claims the University was trying to keep quiet Barbosa’s participation in the 2013 Global Constitutionalism Seminar (one of the University’s “signature international programs“), and denied her request to attend, saying it was held in a private building.
Trevisan says she told Yale Law School communications director Janet Conroy that she would go anyway and wait for Barbosa on the sidewalk.
According to Trevisan, she eventually entered Woolsey Hall, a Yale concert hall, where tourists, students, and pedestrians were walking around, to find out if she was in the right place. She asked a Yale police officer if the seminar was in that building, and he apparently recognized her as a journalist and began questioning her. She says the officer also took her passport, detained her for an hour inside a police car, then handed her over to New Haven Police, where she was held in a cell for more than three hours. Trevisan was reportedly able to report her arrest over the phone to a diplomat at the Brazilian embassy.
A second reporter for Folha de São Paulo, also there to talk to Barbosa, was apparently better received — a policeman escorted him outside of the building and warned him if he tried to enter again he would be arrested.
A spokesperson for Yale gave a statement to the Guardian, saying that Trevisan was dishonest with police.
No one answered at the Yale Police Department communications line, but according to the Yale PD website, there was an arrest for trespassing outside Woolsey at 6:44 p.m. Trevisan says she arrived at Yale at 3:30 p.m.
Yale says that because the seminar was a private event closed to the public and the media, Trevisan was not permitted on Yale property. This raises an interesting question since Trevisan claims that the building was open to the general public — and that she was singled out as a journalist merely for entering to ask a cop if she was in the right place. Legally, she was probably fine on the sidewalk, while the building would probably be classified as a “limited public forum”. If other tourists and non-members of the seminar were permitted to ask the cop inside for help or directions, arresting Trevisan for engaging in the same behavior while being a journalist could be illegal.
Either way, the argument will probably never be heard — Yale says it does not intend to pursue the trespassing charges.
Wise Guys Say:
If you are in a place you aren’t supposed to be don’t the authorities to ask. Ask someone that looks like a student not the cops.
Since she had previously contacted them to ask for credentials, I think it’s quite likely (especially if they had give so far as to let cops know who she was) that she was in fact not welcome. She probably would have been better off never having asked ahead of time.
Having said that, arresting, handcuffing and jailing a journalist under these circumstances is a ridiculous abuse of power. On the other hand, her stealth reporting skills need some honing.
If you *bought anything* in the State of São Paulo you´ve paid a sales tax, and 10% of this sales taxes goes directly to the State Universities, including the Universidade de São Paulo.
You – and everyone else – had the right to walk there.
Andy Borowitz, a popular satire writer columnist at The New Yorker, looks at ultra-conservative activist US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as a potential initiator of a move to remove Pope Francis.
Scalia Forms Search Committee for New Pope – writes Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker.
20 September 2013
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.”
Saying he was “sorry it had to come to this,” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said today that he was forming an “independent search committee” to select a new Pope.
The visibly upset jurist appeared at a press conference with the sole other member of the newly formed search committee, Justice Clarence Thomas.
Justice Scalia said he had “no other alternative” but to pick a new Pope himself after reading what he called a “disturbing” interview with Pope Francis today: “The Pope said he doesn’t want to speak out against abortion and gay marriage. Well, sorry, my friend, but that’s the entire job description. You should have thought of that before you let them blow that white smoke in Rome.”
Justice Scalia acknowledged that only the College of Cardinals has the legal authority to choose a Pope, but added, “Quite frankly, those jokers got us into this mess. Right, Clarence?”
Justice Thomas had no comment.
Michael T. Klare does it again. He warns us that we are worshiping the old Golden Calf set up there by the Fossil Fuels Establishment.
Don’t for a second imagine we are heading for an era of renewable energy.
Look at it any way you want, and if you’re not a booster of fossil fuels on this overheating planet of ours, it doesn’t look good. Hardly a month passes, it seems, without news about the development of some previously unimaginable way to extract fossil fuels from some thoroughly unexpected place. The latest bit of “good” news: the Japanese government’s announcement that natural gas has been successfully extracted from undersea methane hydrates. (Yippee!) Natural gas is gleefully touted as the “clean” fossil-fuel path to a green future, but evidence is mounting that the newest process for producing it also leaks unexpected amounts of methane, a devastating greenhouse gas. The U.S. cheers and is cheered because the amount of carbon dioxide it is putting into the atmosphere is actually falling. Then Duncan Clark at the British Guardian does the figures and discovers that “there has been no decline in the amount of carbon the U.S. is taking out of the ground. In fact, the trend is upwards. The latest year for which full data is available – 2011 – is the highest level on record.” It’s just that some of it (coal, in particular) was exported abroad to be burned elsewhere.
In the meantime, the next set of articles come out of scientific circles suggesting that the results of all this are far from cheery. An example: a recent paper in the prestigious journal Scienceindicates that “climate change is now set to occur at a pace ‘orders of magnitude more rapid’ than at any other time in the last 65 million years,” and we should prepare for a wave of species extinctions. In other words, the much-ballyhooed coming of North American energy “independence” is an upbeat way of saying that we will continue to heat the planet till hell boils over. Of course, those who run the giant energy companies, the politicians in their pay, and their lobbyists and associated think tanks — the real global “terrarists” for their urge to make historic profits off the heating of the planet — will, of course, continue to cheer. Though it is notoriously hard to claim climate change as the author of any specific weather event, in theever-hotter continental U.S., the experience of what’s being called “extreme weather” — fromdrought to record wildfires, record heat waves to devastating tornadoes — is increasingly part of the warp and woof of everyday life.
In this context, the latest TomDispatch post by Michael Klare, author of The Race for What’s Left, is singularly important, if also singularly unnerving. Klare, who has long been ahead of the curve in his work on energy and resources, offers a clear-eyed look at the energy road chosen, and the view to the horizon is anything but pretty.
When it comes to energy and economics in the climate-change era, nothing is what it seems. Most of us believe (or want to believe) that the second carbon era, the Age of Oil, will soon be superseded by the Age of Renewables, just as oil had long since superseded the Age of Coal. President Obama offered exactly this vision in a much-praised June address on climate change. True, fossil fuels will be needed a little bit longer, he indicated, but soon enough they will be overtaken by renewable forms of energy.
Many other experts share this view, assuring us that increased reliance on “clean” natural gas combined with expanded investments in wind and solar power will permit a smooth transition to a green energy future in which humanity will no longer be pouring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. All this sounds promising indeed. There is only one fly in the ointment: it is not, in fact, the path we are presently headed down. The energy industry is not investing in any significant way in renewables. Instead, it is pouring its historic profits into new fossil-fuel projects, mainly involving the exploitation of what are called “unconventional” oil and gas reserves.
The result is indisputable: humanity is not entering a period that will be dominated by renewables. Instead, it is pioneering the third great carbon era, the Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas.
That we are embarking on a new carbon era is increasingly evident and should unnerve us all. Hydro-fracking – the use of high-pressure water columns to shatter underground shale formations and liberate the oil and natural gas supplies trapped within them -is being undertaken in ever more regions of the United States and in a growing number of foreign countries. In the meantime, the exploitation of carbon-dirty heavy oil and tar sands formations is accelerating in Canada, Venezuela, and elsewhere.
It’s true that ever more wind farms and solar arrays are being built, but here’s the kicker: investment in unconventional fossil-fuel extraction and distribution is now expected to outpace spending on renewables by a ratio of at least three-to-one in the decades ahead.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an inter-governmental research organization based in Paris, cumulative worldwide investment in new fossil-fuel extraction and processing will total an estimated $22.87 trillion between 2012 and 2035, while investment in renewables, hydropower, and nuclear energy will amount to only $7.32 trillion. In these years, investment in oil alone, at an estimated $10.32 trillion, is expected to exceed spending on wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, hydro, nuclear, and every other form of renewable energy combined.
In addition, as the IEA explains, an ever-increasing share of that staggering investment in fossil fuels will be devoted to unconventional forms of oil and gas: Canadian tar sands, Venezuelan extra-heavy crude, shale oil and gas, Arctic and deep-offshore energy deposits, and other hydrocarbons derived from previously inaccessible reserves of energy. The explanation for this is simple enough. The world’s supply of conventional oil and gas – fuels derived from easily accessible reservoirs and requiring a minimum of processing — is rapidly disappearing. With global demand for fossil fuels expected to rise by 26% between now and 2035, more and more of the world’s energy supply will have to be provided by unconventional fuels.
In such a world, one thing is guaranteed: global carbon emissions will soar far beyond our current worst-case assumptions, meaning intense heat waves will become commonplace and our few remaining wilderness areas will be eviscerated. Planet Earth will be a far – possibly unimaginably – harsher and more blistering place. In that light, it’s worth exploring in greater depth just how we ended up in such a predicament, one carbon age at a time.
The first carbon era
The first carbon era began in the late eighteenth century, with the introduction of coal-powered steam engines and their widespread application to all manner of industrial enterprises. Initially used to power textile mills and industrial plants, coal was also employed in transportation (steam-powered ships and railroads), mining, and the large-scale production of iron. Indeed, what we now call the Industrial Revolution was largely comprised of the widening application of coal and steam power to productive activities. Eventually, coal would also be used to generate electricity, a field in which it remains dominant today.
This was the era in which vast armies of hard-pressed workers built continent-spanning railroads and mammoth textile mills as factory towns proliferated and cities grew. It was the era, above all, of the expansion of the British Empire. For a time, Great Britain was the biggest producer and consumer of coal, the world’s leading manufacturer, its top industrial innovator, and its dominant power – and all of these attributes were inextricably connected. By mastering the technology of coal, a small island off the coast of Europe was able to accumulate vast wealth, develop the world’s most advanced weaponry, and control the global sea-lanes.
The same coal technology that gave Britain such global advantages also brought great misery in its wake. As noted by energy analyst Paul Roberts in The End of Oil, the coal then being consumed in England was of the brown lignite variety, “chock full of sulfur and other impurities.” When burned, “it produced an acrid, choking smoke that stung the eyes and lungs and blackened walls and clothes.” By the end of the nineteenth century, the air in London and other coal-powered cities was so polluted that “trees died, marble facades dissolved, and respiratory ailments became epidemic.”
For Great Britain and other early industrial powers, the substitution of oil and gas for coal was a godsend, allowing improved air quality, the restoration of cities, and a reduction in respiratory ailments. In many parts of the world, of course, the Age of Coal is not over. In China and India, among other places, coal remains the principal source of energy, condemning their cities and populations to a twenty-first-century version of nineteenth-century London and Manchester.
The second carbon era
The Age of Oil got its start in 1859 when commercial production began in western Pennsylvania, but only truly took off after World War II, with the explosive growth of automobile ownership. Before 1940, oil played an important role in illumination and lubrication, among other applications, but remained subordinate to coal; after the war, oil became the world’s principal source of energy. From 10 million barrels per day in 1950, global consumption soared to 77 million in 2000, a half-century bacchanalia of fossil fuel burning.
Driving the global ascendancy of petroleum was its close association with the internal combustion engine (ICE). Due to oil’s superior portability and energy intensity (that is, the amount of energy it releases per unit of volume), it makes the ideal fuel for mobile, versatile ICEs. Just as coal rose to prominence by fueling steam engines, so oil came to prominence by fueling the world’s growing fleets of cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships. Today, petroleum supplies about 97% of all energy used in transportation worldwide.
Oil’s prominence was also assured by its growing utilization in agriculture and warfare. In a relatively short period of time, oil-powered tractors and other agricultural machines replaced animals as the primary source of power on farms around the world. A similar transition occurred on the modern battlefield, with oil-powered tanks and planes replacing the cavalry as the main source of offensive power.
These were the years of mass automobile ownership, continent-spanning highways, endless suburbs, giant malls, cheap flights, mechanized agriculture, artificial fibers, and – above all else – the global expansion of American power. Because the United States possessed mammoth reserves of oil, was the first to master the technology of oil extraction and refining, and the most successful at utilizing petroleum in transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, and war, it emerged as the richest and most powerful country of the twenty-first century, a saga told with great relish by energy historian Daniel Yergin in The Prize. Thanks to the technology of oil, the US was able to accumulate staggering levels of wealth, deploy armies and military bases to every continent, and control the global air and sea-lanes – extending its power to every corner of the planet.
However, just as Britain experienced negative consequences from its excessive reliance on coal, so the United States – and the rest of the world – has suffered in various ways from its reliance on oil. To ensure the safety of its overseas sources of supply, Washington has established tortuous relationships with foreign oil suppliers and has fought several costly, debilitating wars in the Persian Gulf region, a sordid history I recount in Blood and Oil. Overreliance on motor vehicles for personal and commercial transportation has left the country ill-equipped to deal with periodic supply disruptions and price spikes. Most of all, the vast increase in oil consumption — here and elsewhere — has produced a corresponding increase in carbon dioxide emissions, accelerating planetary warming (a process begun during the first carbon era) and exposing the country to the ever more devastating effects of climate change.
The age of unconventional oil and gas
The explosive growth of automotive and aviation travel, the suburbanization of significant parts of the planet, the mechanization of agriculture and warfare, the global supremacy of the United States, and the onset of climate change: these were the hallmarks of the exploitation of conventional petroleum. At present, most of the world’s oil is still obtained from a few hundred giant onshore fields in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Venezuela, among other countries; some additional oil is acquired from offshore fields in the North Sea, the Gulf of Guinea, and the Gulf of Mexico. This oil comes out of the ground in liquid form and requires relatively little processing before being refined into commercial fuels.
But such conventional oil is disappearing. According to the IEA, the major fields that currently provide the lion’s share of global petroleum will lose two-thirds of their production over the next 25 years, with their net output plunging from 68 million barrels per day in 2009 to a mere 26 million barrels in 2035. The IEA assures us that new oil will be found to replace those lost supplies, but most of this will be of an unconventional nature. In the coming decades, unconventional oils will account for a growing share of the global petroleum inventory, eventually becoming our main source of supply.
The same is true for natural gas, the second most important source of world energy. The global supply of conventional gas, like conventional oil, is shrinking, and we are becoming increasingly dependent on unconventional sources of supply — especially from the Arctic, the deep oceans, and shale rock via hydraulic fracturing.
In certain ways, unconventional hydrocarbons are akin to conventional fuels. Both are largely composed of hydrogen and carbon, and can be burned to produce heat and energy. But in time the differences between them will make an ever-greater difference to us. Unconventional fuels – especially heavy oils and tar sands – tend to possess a higher proportion of carbon to hydrogen than conventional oil, and so release more carbon dioxide when burned. Arctic and deep-offshore oil require more energy to extract, and so produce higher carbon emissions in their very production.
“Many new breeds of petroleum fuels are nothing like conventional oil,” Deborah Gordon, a specialist on the topic at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in 2012. “Unconventional oils tend to be heavy, complex, carbon laden, and locked up deep in the earth, tightly trapped between or bound to sand, tar, and rock.”
By far the most worrisome consequence of the distinctive nature of unconventional fuels is their extreme impact on the environment. Because they are often characterized by higher ratios of carbon to hydrogen, and generally require more energy to extract and be converted into usable materials, they produce more carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy released. In addition, the process that produces shale gas, hailed as a “clean” fossil fuel, is believed by many scientists to cause widespread releases of methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas.
All of this means that, as the consumption of fossil fuels grows, increasing, not decreasing, amounts of CO2 and methane will be released into the atmosphere and, instead of slowing, global warming will speed up.
And here’s another problem associated with the third carbon age: the production of unconventional oil and gas turns out to require vast amounts of water – for fracking operations, to extract tar sands and extra-heavy oil, and to facilitate the transport and refining of such fuels. This is producing a growing threat of water contamination, especially in areas of intense fracking and tar sands production, along with competition over access to water supplies among drillers, farmers, municipal water authorities, and others. As climate change intensifies, drought will become the norm in many areas and so this competition will only grow fiercer.
Along with these and other environmental impacts, the transition from conventional to unconventional fuels will have economic and geopolitical consequences hard to fully assess at this moment. As a start, the exploitation of unconventional oil and gas reserves from previously inaccessible regions involves the introduction of novel production technologies, including deep-sea and Arctic drilling, hydro-fracking, and tar-sands upgrading. One result has been a shakeup in the global energy industry, with the emergence of innovative companies possessing the skills and determination to exploit the new unconventional resources — much as occurred during the early years of the petroleum era when new firms arose to exploit the world’s oil reserves.
This has been especially evident in the development of shale oil and gas. In many cases, the breakthrough technologies in this field were devised and deployed by smaller, risk-taking firms like Cabot Oil and Gas, Devon Energy Corporation, Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation, and XTO Energy. These and similar companies pioneered the use of hydro-fracking to extract oil and gas from shale formations in Arkansas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and later sparked a stampede by larger energy firms to obtain stakes of their own in these areas. To augment those stakes, the giant firms are gobbling up many of the smaller and mid-sized ones. Among the most conspicuous takeovers was ExxonMobil’s 2009 purchase of XTO for $41 billion.
That deal highlights an especially worrisome feature of this new era: the deployment of massive funds by giant energy firms and their financial backers to acquire stakes in the production of unconventional forms of oil and gas — in amounts far exceeding comparable investments in either conventional hydrocarbons or renewable energy. It’s clear that, for these companies, unconventional energy is the next big thing and, as among the most profitable firms in history, they are prepared to spend astronomical sums to ensure that they continue to be so. If this means investment in renewable energy is shortchanged, so be it. “Without a concerted policymaking effort” to favor the development of renewables, Carnegie’s Gordon warns, future investments in the energy field “will likely continue to flow disproportionately toward unconventional oil.”
In other words, there will be an increasingly entrenched institutional bias among energy firms, banks, lending agencies, and governments toward next-generation fossil-fuel production, only increasing the difficulty of establishing national and international curbs on carbon emissions. This is evident, for example, in the Obama administration’s undiminished support for deep-offshore drilling and shale gas development, despite its purported commitment to reduce carbon emissions. It is likewise evident in the growing international interest in the development of shale and heavy-oil reserves, even as fresh investment in green energy is being cut back.
As in the environmental and economic fields, the transition from conventional to unconventional oil and gas will have a substantial, if still largely undefined, impact on political and military affairs.
US and Canadian companies are playing a decisive role in the development of many of the vital new unconventional fossil-fuel technologies; in addition, some of the world’s largest unconventional oil and gas reserves are located in North America. The effect of this is to bolster US global power at the expense of rival energy producers like Russia and Venezuela, which face rising competition from North American companies, and energy-importing states like China and India, which lack the resources and technology to produce unconventional fuels.
At the same time, Washington appears more inclined to counter the rise of China by seeking to dominate the global sea lanes and bolster its military ties with regional allies like Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. Many factors are contributing to this strategic shift, but from their statements it is clear enough that top American officials see it as stemming in significant part from America’s growing self-sufficiency in energy production and its early mastery of the latest production technologies.
“America’s new energy posture allows us to engage [the world] from a position of greater strength,” National Security Advisor Tom Donilon asserted in an April speech at Columbia University. “Increasing US energy supplies act as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions [and] affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”
For the time being, the US leaders can afford to boast of their “stronger hand” in world affairs, as no other country possesses the capabilities to exploit unconventional resources on such a large scale. By seeking to extract geopolitical benefits from a growing world reliance on such fuels, however, Washington inevitably invites countermoves of various sorts. Rival powers, fearful and resentful of its geopolitical assertiveness, will bolster their capacity to resist American power – a trend already evident in China’s accelerating naval and missile buildup.
At the same time, other states will seek to develop their own capacity to exploit unconventional resources in what might be considered a fossil-fuels version of an arms race. This will require considerable effort, but such resources are widely distributed across the planet and in time other major producers of unconventional fuels are bound to emerge, challenging America’s advantage in this realm (even as they increase the staying power and global destructiveness of the third age of carbon). Sooner or later, much of international relations will revolve around these issues.
Surviving the third carbon era
Barring unforeseen shifts in global policies and behavior, the world will become increasingly dependent on the exploitation of unconventional energy. This, in turn, means an increase in the buildup of greenhouse gases with little possibility of averting the onset of catastrophic climate effects. Yes, we will also witness progress in the development and installation of renewable forms of energy, but these will play a subordinate role to the development of unconventional oil and gas.
Life in the third carbon era will not be without its benefits. Those who rely on fossil fuels for transportation, heating, and the like can perhaps take comfort from the fact that oil and natural gas will not run out soon, as was predicted by many energy analysts in the early years of this century. Banks, the energy corporations, and other economic interests will undoubtedly amass staggering profits from the explosive expansion of the unconventional oil business and global increases in the consumption of these fuels. But most of us won’t be rewarded. Quite the opposite. Instead, we’ll experience the discomfort and suffering accompanying the heating of the planet, the scarcity of contested water supplies in many regions, and the evisceration of the natural landscape.
What can be done to cut short the third carbon era and avert the worst of these outcomes? Calling for greater investment in green energy is essential but insufficient at a moment when the powers that be are emphasizing the development of unconventional fuels. Campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions is necessary, but will undoubtedly prove problematic, given an increasingly deeply embedded institutional bias toward unconventional energy.
Needed, in addition to such efforts, is a drive to expose the distinctiveness and the dangers of unconventional energy and to demonize those who choose to invest in these fuels rather than their green alternatives. Some efforts of this sort are already underway, including student-initiated campaigns to persuade or compel college and university trustees to divest from any investments in fossil-fuel companies. These, however, still fall short of a systemic drive to identify and resist those responsible for our growing reliance on unconventional fuels.
For all President Obama’s talk of a green technology revolution, we remain deeply entrenched in a world dominated by fossil fuels, with the only true revolution now underway involving the shift from one class of such fuels to another. Without a doubt, this is a formula for global catastrophe. To survive this era, humanity must become much smarter about this new kind of energy and then take the steps necessary to compress the third carbon era and hasten in the Age of Renewables before we burn ourselves off this planet.
Courtesy of API “Saturday Morning Headlines–Presented by the American Petroleum Institute [Aug 3, 2013]” – The Washington Post says that there might be an Iran willingness now to accept limits that prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. Studies by Political Scientist Gerald M. Steinberg present a clearer view of achievements by Mr. Hassan Rouhani.
Courtesy of API “Saturday Morning Headlines–Presented by the American Petroleum Institute [Aug 3, 2013]” – The Washington Post says that there might be an Iran willingness now to accept limits that prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
Where is the evidence? Why Should Anyone Believe API – specially after reading the Anti-Ethanol Posted Advertisement that bought The Washington Post?
At a June 17 news conference in Tehran, Iranian President-elect Hasan Rouhani criticized the outgoing administration, saying it has mismanaged the country’s economy.
By Joby Warrick and Jason Rezaian, Published: August 2, 2013 – in print Saturday August 3, 2013.
Iran’s economy is showing signs of foundering just as the country prepares to inaugurate its first new president in eight years, with Western sanctions cutting ever deeper into the Islamic republic’s financial lifelines and increasing pressure for a nuclear deal with the West.
A welter of new data shows accelerated financial hemorrhaging across multiple sectors, from plummeting hard-currency reserves to steadily falling oil exports, Iran’s main source of foreign cash. U.S. officials and analysts say the tide of bad news will complicate the task awaiting Hassan Rouhani, the incoming president, but it could also increase Iran’s willingness to accept limits that would preclude it from developing nuclear weapons.
“The Iranian elite now publicly admits that the economy is in serious trouble, and this president was elected with a mandate to do something about that,” said Clifford Kupchan, a former State Department official and a Middle East consultant with the Eurasia Group. “Despite Iranian rhetoric, that can only make the prospect of a deal more attractive.”
Rouhani, a cleric and a moderate within the clique of conservative advisers to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, assumes the presidency Sunday at a critical juncture in the country’s decade-long struggle with the West over its nuclear policies. The Obama administration, which has imposed a succession of increasingly harsh economic sanctions on Iran in the past two years, hopes to find a more accommodating negotiating partner in Rouhani, who campaigned on a promise of a more pragmatic foreign policy.
But the White House has been repeatedly outflanked by Congress, as lawmakers from both parties have pushed for still-tougher sanctions even before Rouhani takes office. Brushing aside warnings from U.S. diplomats, the House on Wednesday voted 400 to 20 to adopt measures intended to further decimate Iran’s economy by virtually shutting off the export of Iranian oil.
“There is no doubt that such decisions will unnecessarily complicate the current situation between the two countries,” said Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York.
The grim economic reports contrast with a relatively buoyant atmosphere in Tehran on the eve of inaugural festivities for Rouhani, who scored a surprise victory over a slate of more-conservative politicians in the June presidential election. In speeches after his win, the president-elect repeated his promises to expand political and social freedoms for ordinary Iranians, reversing policies that defined the eight-year tenure of his predecessor, the deeply unpopular Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani’s aides also have leaked the names of several key cabinet appointees, a slate dominated by veteran bureaucrats and pragmatists who, as a group, are more accustomed to dealing with the West. Rouhani in recent weeks has also repeated his campaign pledge to improve Iran’s economy. Yet his advisers have sought to temper expectations about how quickly relief could come, accusing Ahmadinejad of covering up the true extent of the economic crisis.
Analysts in both Iran and the West agree that the key to improving the economy is finding a way to ease the pressure of sanctions. The only economic bright spot in recent weeks has been a stabilizing of Iran’s currency, the rial, which gained ground based on speculation that Rouhani would have a better chance of achieving a rapprochement with the West.
Throughout Tehran, Iranians who voted for Rouhani said they expect him to honor his promises of “moderation” in diplomacy and in domestic politics.
“I voted for Rouhani and think we have to give him at least three months to see how he is going to implement the promises he has made,” said Bahman Khalafi, 46, who works in marketing.
The sanctions have been blamed for slashing Iran’s oil exports and undermining the value of the rial. But in recent months, new Western restrictions and tougher enforcement have significantly deepened the pain.
Iran’s oil exports, which had declined nearly 40 percent by the end of last year, have taken a further hit in recent weeks as Tehran’s remaining Asian customers have cut back on purchases of Iranian crude. And a draft analysis by the economic research firm Roubini Global Economics estimated that Iran’s foreign currency holdings are declining at a rate of about $15 billion a year as Tehran is forced to tap into savings to meet its current budget needs.
Worsening matters for Iran, banking sanctions are preventing the government from accessing some of its remaining overseas reserves, said Mark Dubowitz, director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank that co-sponsored the Roubini study.
Iran’s New Leader and the Limits of Diplomacy
Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president, may sometimes talk like a “moderate”, but he clearly knows how to maximize power in the international arena. Rouhani’s record as Iran’s top nuclear negotiator reflects his inner Clausewitz — behind the winks and nods, the opening and closing of “windows of opportunity”, diplomacy is simply warfare by other means.
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So while the leaders of the international community and accompanying choir of pundits sing Rouhani’s praises, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu strikes a different note:
“Fifteen years ago, the election of another president, also considered a moderate by the West, led to no change in these aggressive policies. Over the last twenty years, the only thing that has led to a temporary freeze in the Iranian nuclear program was Iran’s concern over aggressive policy against it in 2003.”
As Yehuda Yaakov, an Israeli Foreign Ministry senior specialist in political-military affairs, has documented in detail, Rouhani successfully shepherded Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program through its greatest crisis in 2003-2004. Yaakov’s research was presented in his MA thesis for the Israeli National Defense College, and the English text was published in June. (Full disclosure — I served as his academic adviser.) The analysis is based on extensive interviews with key Western diplomats, as well as documents from this period and public records, including a revealing speech by Rouhani in 2004 and the 2012 memoir of his aide Houssein Mousavian.
The case made by this evidence is compelling.
A thorough analysis of Rouhani’s conduct and statements while chief negotiator reveals the cardinal goals he sought to achieve through diplomatic engagement with the “international community” to advance the nuclear program; to deflect the use of force and sanctions; to bolster Iran’s regional status in strategic terms; and to orient the country’s inter-agency dynamic to confronting an international crisis waged against it. In conceiving and implementing this strategy, Clausewitz would have given him high marks.
In 2003, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic in Teheran had good reason to worry that their slow but steady progress towards becoming a nuclear weapons state, in blatant violation of their legal obligations, was about to be halted, and worse. US President Bush had recently overthrown Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq, citing the nuclear ambitions of this regime. As Rouhani admitted, throughout 2003 the Iranians greatly feared the possibility of an American military strike – and Rouhani job was to prevent this, while protecting their nuclear assets. As Yaakov’s analysis demonstrates, the chief negotiator did his job very well. Through carefully packaged diplomatic feints, he kept his country off of the Security Council’s agenda and away from America’s target list.
Rouhani acknowledged that his model was Pakistan, whose leaders had managed to walk the tightrope of building nuclear weapons while avoiding becoming the target for a military strike. In his 2004 speech, he also discussed the North Korean experience of negotiating while producing weapons, and Brazil, which used diplomatic engagement for two decades to quietly progress towards a threshold nuclear weapons capability.
With Washington busy attempting to create democracy in Iraq, the European Union claimed Iran as its chance to play a leading international role. But the Europeans, led by Britain, Germany and France, talked softly and instead of sticks, carried carrots designed to buy Iran’s cooperation. Rouhani saw his opportunity to gain from European naïveté, and played along, encouraging the facade of progress through agreements that were never implemented. In parallel, Iran provided deceptive evidence by hiding and slowing the visible production of weapons grade material.
Rouhani’s strategy also took in the Bush Administration. A US National Intelligence Council Estimate in 2007 concluded: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” As consistently documented by IAEA reports, this slowdown was a temporary, tactical move; as soon as the immediate threat had passed, Iran made up the lost ground, and far more.
Throughout this period, Rouhani navigated to maximize gains while minimizing the price Iran paid for keeping its nuclear ambitions alive during the period of greatest threat. The agreements that he negotiated, declared by European interlocutors as major diplomatic triumphs, were disposable political band-aids without substance. Iran’s commitments evaporated as soon as the immediate need had passed.
Indeed, Rouhani himself repeatedly emphasized throughout the campaign that his greatest achievement as chief nuclear negotiator between 2003-2005 was advancing the nuclear program while preventing both force and sanctions.
Clausewitz would have been proud. Using diplomatic skill, under Rouhani’s guiding hand, Iran not only preserved its power, but expanded it, particularly in progressing towards nuclear weapons. The only costs were economic, and the leadership was immune.
For his service, Rouhani was rewarded, and after winning the Iranian version of a presidential election (closely supervised by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni), he declared that his “future government will protect Iran’s fundamental rights [code for nuclear weapons], while seeking to gradually remove sanctions." His previous experience suggests that this is not empty rhetoric, and his reported appointments to key positions suggest a rerun of the successful policies from the earlier decade.
But much has changed since 2003, and Rouhani will find that the political environment that encouraged long negotiations towards meaningless agreements has changed. His European interlocutors have learned some lessons, hardened by years of Tehran's cat-and-mouse game at their expense. Despite the severe economic crisis, today’s European leaders are willing to pay the cost of increased sanctions to increase pressure on the regime. And Obama, although a very reluctant warrior, has shown that he is capable of ordering effective military strikes to protect vital US interests including international stability.
At the same time, since Rouhani's term as chief negotiator, Tehran has made significant progress and is now on the verge of having a first-generation weapons capability. As Iran sprints towards the nuclear finish line, Rouhani faces an Israeli leadership that also understands Clausewitz. In some cases, diplomacy can serve as war by other means, but Netanyahu also knows that in the current Middle Eastern reality, credible military threats are necessary to ensure that international obligations are actually honored.
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“Thursday Morning Headlines–Presented by the American Petroleum Institute [Aug 1, 2013]“
Then comes an Advertisement that when we opened gave us all that what we post here, and which is old hat so far as we are concerned – clear US OIL INDUSTRY PROPAGANDA that was discredited years ago. We were then part of the research that went on in Washington about the dark alleys of the American Petroleum Institute – the API – that is the strongest lobby in Washington and a major source of the US Problematique.
TO SEE THE WASHINGTON POST BEING BOUGHT UP BY THIS GIANT KNOCKED US OF OUR CHAIR THIS MORNING.
JUST SEE – IT IS ALL THERE:
FillUpOnFacts – Reform the Ethanol Mandate - filluponfacts.com/reform-the-etha… – is the ADVERTISEMENT that paid for –
Did You Know? it says – More corn for fuel means less for livestock which raises your grocery bill on beef, milk and eggs.
OH MY! THE WASHINGTON POST PART OF THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE’S SCARE TECHNIQUE?
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Then on the issue at hand – the target of this advocacy campaign – “Reform the Ethanol Mandate”
The federal corn ethanol mandate is prima facie evidence that the law of unintended consequences is always in effect.
Once heralded as a way to help farmers, reverse climate change and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, the mandate to blend up to 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol into gasoline every year has hurt more farmers than it has helped, increased greenhouse gas emissions and been rendered irrelevant by new fuel efficiency standards. Plus, the mandate has driven up food and gas prices, worsened air and water pollution and may soon void the warranties of millions of cars.
The mandate has driven up energy prices, the authors write.
Few Americans imagined that the 2007 law to raise the amount of corn ethanol blended into gasoline would end up diverting 40 percent of the corn crop from feed and food to fuel. This diversion has dramatically increased the price of animal feed and pushed some livestock operators out of business. Although many factors influence commodity prices, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief economist testified last month that the corn ethanol mandate accounted for more than a third of the hike in corn prices from 2006 to 2009.
High prices have encouraged farmers to plow up millions of acres of grasslands, releasing carbon stored in the soil and increasing fertilizer use, which has also swelled emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. When the Environmental Protection Agency studied the “life-cycle” impact of corn ethanol in 2010, its scientists found that the “carbon debt” created by plowing up so much land actually helped boost greenhouse gas emissions compared with gasoline.
In particular, the EPA’s 2010 Regulatory Impact Analysis found that two of the most common ways of producing corn ethanol — in dry mill plants fired by either natural gas or coal — increased greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent and 66 percent, respectively, compared with gasoline.
Most corn ethanol, unlike second-generation biofuels made from crop wastes and nonfood sources, is exempt from the renewable fuel mandate’s greenhouse gas reduction standards — a fact that corn ethanol advocates conveniently ignore.
Moreover, a 2009 study cited recently by Growth Energy, a pro-ethanol group, that found corn ethanol significantly reduces greenhouse gases failed to properly account for the land-use change spurred by the mandate. Plowing up more land to grow crops has also increased water pollution and emissions of air pollutants, including particulate matter, according to the National Academy of Sciences.
Blending corn ethanol into gasoline has also turned out to be a particularly inefficient way to reduce dependence on foreign sources of fuel. Simply improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles by just one mile per gallon would do as much to reduce demand for oil as blending 14 billion gallons of corn ethanol a year into gasoline.
But the biggest problem with the current mandate is that the United States produces more corn ethanol than it can use. Although refiners can produce almost 15 billion gallons of ethanol a year, American cars can safely absorb only 13.4 billion gallons of ethanol a year, and the pool is shrinking as demand falls. Pushing the amount of ethanol in gasoline above 10 percent would void car warranties, damage boat and other small engines and require billions in costly upgrades to gas pumps. And because corn ethanol yields less energy than gasoline, increasing the ethanol content would cost consumers more at the pump, according to recent testimony by the Energy Information Administration.
By contrast, reforming the corn ethanol mandate to accelerate the development of second-generation biofuels, such as switch grass — and capping the amount of ethanol in gasoline at 10 percent — could help combat climate change, lower food and feed prices and avoid damage to engines. That’s because second-generation biofuels — unlike corn ethanol — are legally required to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent compared with gasoline. Combined with limits on ethanol blends, reforms designed to accelerate the development of “drop-in” biofuels — hydrocarbons that do not require costly changes to engines and infrastructure — could meet the nation’s energy needs without compounding food or environmental challenges.
In the short run, reforming — rather than repealing — the Renewable Fuel Standard would have little impact on corn ethanol production and use. The infrastructure to use corn ethanol is in place, and gasoline refiners will continue to blend corn ethanol to boost octane. But phasing out the mandate would create more room in the fuel mix for more promising fuels.
Scott Faber is senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, a health and research advocacy organization. Alex Rindler is a policy associate at EWG.
Source: Opinion Contributor Politico By SCOTT FABER and ALEX RINDLER | 7/29/13 9:25 PM EDT
Read more: www.politico.com/story/2013/07/re…
We are furious as we were involved in the 1970s-1980s in debunking most of this rubbish that was also the subject of two studies of the US General Accounting Office – one of which looked how Mobil Oil at the time infiltrated a famous Professor/Consultant into the Department of Energy ERAB (Energy Research Advisory Board) whose report I had to rewrite for the GAO. Also, in Congressional Hearings, I had the honor to uncover a technical miles/gallon testimony by an important Professor emeritus who just misused Thermodynamics to get an untrue statement into the public’s mind.
The subject of ethanol as an octane boosting additive to gasoline is complicated indeed, and is matter of not only energy policy but also of US farm policy – this when in the real Washington world enormous amounts of money were being dished out to agri-business in order to keep land out of cultivation of grains in order to “support prices.” On the other hand, the highest efficiency in using ethanol is when it replaced all other methods of bringing up the octane value of a first cut gasoline stream at the petroleum refinery – and quantitatively this is dependent on the crude used and the refinery equipment – thus it cannot be said that a 10% or 15% ethanol in the gasoline mix is preferable. It best be left open so that it is adjusted to the need for octane addition, Our goal was to maximize the savings in petroleum – but this is not what the API aims for – they would prefer to serve you a 100% petroleum product and pass all costs to the consumer. But this is a long story and not the reason why we bring this posting today.
Raped, Accused of having sex outside mariage, now PARDONED? This is the height of Chutzpah! Any future for tourism to the UAE before those Islamic judges are jailed and their books destroyed? NOW UPDATED – PART OF THE DEAL WAS THAT THE RAPIST WAS PARDONED AS WELL FROM HAVING HAD EXTRAMARITAL SEX!
UAE- Norwegian woman who claimed rape pardoned.
(Khaleej Times) A Norwegian woman, who was jailed for having illicit sex and for giving a false report to the authorities about being raped, has been granted pardon, a prosecution source has confirmed.
“Her case has reached authorities beyond the Public Prosecution including the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the source told Khaleej Times.
Marte Deborah Dalelv, in a statement to a Press agency, said that she was given back her passport by the Attorney-General’s Office and the case was dropped against her which made her free to leave the UAE.
The 24-year old woman, who works as an interior design executive, had been sentenced by the Court of Misdemeanours to 16 months in jail, followed by deportation, for falsely reporting a rape, having sex out-of-wedlock and consuming alcohol.
Her lawyer has already appealed the sentencing and a hearing was scheduled for September 5. She told police and prosecutors that her Sudanese boss raped her in his hotel room in the Safa area in Bur Dubai in March, taking advantage that she was under the influence of alcohol. The man was sentenced to 13 months in jail and deportation. She had been on a business trip with him when the incident happened.
Marte’s case has created media frenzy in the west after she told her story to the Press recounting her ordeal and shock over being held in custody for reporting a rape. She claimed that during the interrogation, she changed her testimony claiming to the investigators that she had consensual sex in a desperate bid to get a reduced sentence.
In Oslo, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said that Dalelv was being allowed to leave the UAE.
“Marte (Dalelv) is released! Thanks to everyone who signed up to help,” the minister wrote on Twitter, adding that she would be returning home soon.
A spokeswoman from the ministry told AFP that Dalelv was not deported.
“She hasn’t been deported, she has been pardoned. She can remain in Dubai if she wishes. Her passport has been returned to her,” said Ragnhild Imerslund.
“She will travel home shortly,” the spokeswoman added.
UPDATED: We learn from BBC that the the pardon came from the ruler of Dubai himself and that part of the deal was that he pardoned the rapist as well – that is the RAPIST was PARDONED from having had EXTRAMARITAL SEX – as the language of the Islamic Prosecutor. Really – this makes it even worse.