FROM COHA – The Washington DC based Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Photo Source: AP.
NOW IT IS THE TIME FOR A WASHINGTON—CARACAS DIALOG, NOT SANCTIONS.
By: Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs; Frederick B. Mills, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and Professor of Philosophy at Bowie State University.
February 28, 2014
At a time when Washington ought to seize upon overtures from Caracas for the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations and direct talks, the champions of the antiquated embargo against Cuba in the Senate are calling for sanctions against Venezuela. Such an approach to diplomacy with Venezuela would be detrimental to the development of a more constructive and mutually respectful US policy towards the region. Now is the time for a Washington—Caracas dialog, not sanctions.
Democratic Senator Bob Menéndez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have introduced a proposed resolution in the Senate that would call on the Obama administration to study sanctions against Venezuela. The sanctions would be aimed at punishing “the violent repression suffered by pacific protesters” by targeting individual Venezuelan government officials. Of course, any state actors responsible for the repression of pacific demonstrations ought to be held accountable not only in Venezuela, but anywhere in the world. Indeed, the Venezuelan government is already taking steps to address this. The problem with the resolution is that it reflects a very myopic view of political violence in that nation. It also reflects an unproductive approach to diplomacy towards Venezuela as well as the region.
Not all demonstrations have been pacific. A significant amount of the violent demonstrations are ostensively anti- government. The “exit” strategy being sought after by the ultra-right in Venezuela has generated violent anti-government demonstrations that have called for regime change through extra constitutional means. In other words, through a coup or by creating the escalating violence on the ground that might provoke a coup or an international intervention.
No doubt opposition demonstrators are not a homogeneous group and many prescribe to non-violent means of protesting. Yet it is indisputable that elements of anti-government protests, using the slogans of “exit,” have deployed incendiary bombs, rocks, guns, barricades, wire, and other instruments of violence against government and public property as well as people, resulting in injuries and death. But those who have resorted to violence are most often portrayed in the press as responding to repression, as if the government has no legitimate recourse in response to violent attacks on persons and property. To be sure, violence is generally condemned by the State Department, but accountability is selectively applied predominantly to government actors.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has been calling for a change of course in US policy towards Venezuela and the rest of the region based on mutual respect and dialog, not imperial intervention and subordination.
It was Caracas that instigated the tit for tat after the expulsion of consular officials, and COHA called the expulsion of US consular officials into question at the time. But now President Maduro has proposed a new ambassador to the US and direct talks with the Obama administration. The State Department has also, on occasion, expressed an openness to rapprochement, so now is the time to seize the moment, not wait to see which way the political winds will blow in Venezuela.
There is obviously a great ideological divide between nations that prescribe to some version of neoliberalism and those engaging in various experiments in 21st century socialism. Yet such differences need not translate into either hard or soft wars. At the January CELAC meeting in Cuba, the member states, despite their political differences, figured out a way to declare all of Latin America a region of peace and mutual respect. Meanwhile, there is a national peace conference underway in Caracas, called by the government, that commenced two days ago and includes an increasingly broad spectrum of opinion in the opposition, and seeks to overcome the boycott of the MUD. This will take a pull back against war and for political competition through the ballot box.
Surely, in this context, there is room for Washington-Caracas diplomacy. Rather than impose sanctions on Venezuela, Washington ought to accept the proposed Venezuelan ambassador and enter into a dialog with Caracas based on mutual respect and the common goal of regional peace and human development.
Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution.
*Full house for February’s Sustainability Event. A standing-room only crowd enthusiastically engaged in a presentation by Ron Gonen, NYC Deputy Commissioner for Recycling.
Gonen stressed that it is possible for NYC to divert all but 18% of waste from landfills. He explained both the economic and environmental benefits of intensive recycling, and the planning for future residential and commercial composting. To get composting in your building or neighborhood, ask your city councilmember to contact the Sanitation Dept (email@example.com). Other presenters included: Brooklyn College Professor Brett Branco, who stressed sustainable use of phosphorous, a finite resource for agriculture; Elizabeth Balkan, a senior policy advisor to Mayor de Blasio, who talked about how the new city law requiring commercial food waste recycling will be rolled out; and Vandra Thorburn, who established Vokashi, a unique composting service using the Japanese method of fermenting organic matter and returning it to the earth. There was much enthusiastic discussion.
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
*On the Bus to Baltimore. On February 20th, about 30 activists, including a number of Sierra Club members, got on a bus at 7:00 in NYC, picking up another 10-15 at two New Jersey stops, to join a rally against an LNG export facility in Cove Point, Marylandon the Chesapeake Bay. Dominion Resources which built an import facility there, wants to break its agreement to set aside wetlands and build an export facility on those wetlands. The demonstration was spirited and the speakers, including Sierra Club’s Josh Tulkin, were inspiring. The Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (see picture) made a strong case to the environmental justice aspect of this issue, see picture right. For more pictures, see here.
Divestment Forum Panelists
*Fossil Fuel Stock Divestment is a movement that is quickly gathering steam on campuses across the country. While still principally on campuses, it is moving into city and state governments. Six speakers at a February 26th “Divestment Open House” at the Ethical Culture Society discussed the divestment movement from a variety of perspectives. Sierra Club’s Lisa DiCaprio (far left in photo), spoke about how successful divestment efforts might shift the way investors view the value of fossil fuel investments, making them less attractive. The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session with the audience.
THE FOLLOWING SHOWS THAT UNDER UK LEADERSHIP, AND US BACKING, THE UN TURNS TO ITS MEMBER STATES’ LEGISLATORS IN ORDER TO FIND A WAY TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE. IT SEEMS THAT FINALLY THE UN HAS LANDED ON SOMETHING – AND WE GIVE A LOT OF CREDIT FOR THIS TO Dr. ROBERT ORR – a US citizen - UN Assistant Secretary General in the UN Secretary-General’s office.
We are told that In 2013 there was substantive legislative progress in 8 countries (passage of “flagship legislation”) and positive advances in a further 19 countries:
– Americas: Bolivia passed its Framework Law on Mother Earth and Integral Development to Live Well; El Salvador adopted its National Climate Change Strategy; In Ecuador, Decree 1815 established the Intersectoral National Strategy for Climate Change; and in Costa Rica a draft General Law on Climate Change has been introduced and is expected to pass in 2014.
– Asia-Pacific: China published its National Adaptation Plan and made progress in drafting its national climate change law; Indonesia extended its forest moratorium; Kazakhstan introduced a pilot emissions trading scheme; Micronesia passed its Climate Change Act in late 2013.
– Europe: Poland adopted its National Strategy for Adaptation and Switzerland overhauled its CO2 Act to increase ambition. – Middle East and North Africa: Jordan passed its National Climate Change Policy; and the United Arab Emirates launched a mandatory Energy Efficiency Standardization and Labelling Scheme. – Sub-Saharan Africa: Kenya adopted 2013-2017 Climate Change Action Plan; Mozambique adopted 2013-2025 National Strategy for Climate Change;Tanzania passed its National Strategy on REDD+; Nigeria’s Legislative Council approved the adoption of a National Climate Change Policy and Response Strategy.
BUT WHEN THINGS MOVE UP THEY MAY ALSO COME DOWN – SO - * Two countries began processes to reverse legislation: – Following an election, the new Australian government has proposed to repeal aspects of the Clean Energy Act in 2014. – Japan announced a lowering of its ambition on climate change in response to its reduced reliance on nuclear energy after the tsunami and resulting accident at Fukushima. Key information on the GLOBE Partnership for Climate Legislation (supported by the UN and the World Bank Group):
* The Partnership For Climate Legislation will support national legislators in 66 countries to share best practice and to develop and oversee the implementation of legislation on climate change, natural capital accounting and forests/REDD+. The Partnership directly responds to the demand from legislators for technical, policy and analytical capacity.
* Specific aims: i. To share best legislative practice through the annual GLOBE Climate Legislation Study, national case studies and the convening of GLOBE Climate Legislation Summits. ii. To provide a dedicated international process that supports legislators – on a demand-led basis – to develop and implement climate change legislation. iii. To explore how commitments made in national legislation can be recognised within the architecture of an international climate change agreement. iv. To develop a Climate Legislation Resolution to be agreed at the World Summit of Legislators and to be taken by legislators to their respective national parliaments. v. To support legislators to obtain, use and exchange relevant climate data. * Climate-related legislation and policies (including mitigation, adaptation and forests/REDD), once implemented, carry the potential to bring additional benefits including disaster risk reduction and resilience, new sources of income/livelihoods, sustainable energy access and positive effects on public health.
* Recognizing that developing and passing laws is not sufficient in itself, the Partnership will support legislators to ensure they are equipped to effectively oversee the implementation of the law by national governments, including ensuring national budgets are consistent with climate goals, as well as assessing the impact of climate-related laws on the national economy and key sectors of society.
About the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE): * GLOBE was established in 1989 by cross party legislators from the EU, Japan, Russia and the USA. Today GLOBE International is the world’s largest organisation of legislators dedicated to advancing laws on climate change, forests/REDD+ and natural capital accounting . * Legislators from 86 countries have participated in GLOBE’s dedicated policy initiatives and legislators from 40 countries work through formal national and regional chapters of the organization. * With headquarters in Great Britain, offices in 8 countries and over 25 locally-recruited policy advisors across a global network, GLOBE is uniquely placed to support national legislators to develop and implement laws.
FURTHER – A PRESS RELEASE – THAT WAS EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:01 UK/GMT 27 FEBRUARY 2014
STUDY REVEALS RAPID ADVANCE OF NATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE LAWS CREATING BASIS FOR NEW INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE AGREEMENT
UN and World Bank support partnership with the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE) to encourage development of national climate change laws. ********
Thursday 27th February, US Senate, Washington DC, 115 senior national legislators from 50 countries along with the heads of key United Nations Institutions, United Nations Climate Negotiations and the World Bank Group receive the results of the most comprehensive analysis to date of the reach and depth of national climate changes laws in 66 of the world’s countries. The Summit will be hosted in the US Senate Kennedy Caucus Room by Senator Edward Markey.
The Study covering countries responsible for 88% of global carbon emissions was co-authored by the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE) and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics (LSE). The Study sets out a series of politically significant findings that will have a direct bearing on success of the international negotiations. Legislators will also consider how national laws can be recognised within a 2015 international climate change agreement.
Responding to the Study, the Global Legislators Organisation is launching a major new international initiative, The Partnership for Climate Legislation, supported by the United Nations and the World Bank Group. The Partnership will help national legislators to develop and implement climate change laws. It will work across the 66 nations covered by the Study by sharing best legislative practice, provide detailed policy, analytical and legal capacity to cross party groups of legislators as they develop their own laws.
The GLOBE Climate Legislation Study findings show: * Almost 500 national climate laws have been passed in the 66 countries covered by the Study. The 66 countries account for 88% of global emissions. * 64 of 66 countries have progressed or are progressing significant climate and/or energy-related legislation. * Much of the substantive progress on legislative activity on climate change in 2013 took place in emerging economies, including China and Mexico, which will provide the motor of global economic growth in coming decades. * Whilst the legislative approach often differs (whether directly inspired by climate change, energy efficiency, energy security or competitiveness), national legislation is achieving similar results — improved energy security, greater resource-efficiency and cleaner, lower carbon economic growth. * While current national legislation does not yet add up to what needs to be done to avoid dangerous climate change, it is putting in place the mechanisms to measure, report and verify emissions, a pre-requisite for a credible global climate treaty. * There is an urgent need for those countries that have not yet passed climate legislation to do so
US Senator Edward Markey, said: “Climate action is happening in legislatures around the globe because climate change is harming countries and their people around the globe. We need an international movement to pass climate legislation, and nowhere is that movement needed more than here in the United States. The GLOBE study show legislators around the world are taking actives steps to develop significant national legislation and I urge colleagues here in the United States to acknowledge the movement and take action”.
President of the Global Legislators Organisation, Rt Hon John Gummer, Lord Deben, said: “The message from the 4th GLOBE Climate Legislation Study is clear – more countries than ever before are passing credible and significant national climate change laws. This is changing the dynamics of the international response to climate change and poses a serious question to the international community about how we can recognise credible commitments made by governments within their national legislature. It is by implementing national legislation and regulations that the political conditions for a global agreement in 2015 will be created.”
“Understanding this message from the Study and embracing it in how major international processes and institutions work between now and Paris 2015 will be critical. We must see more countries develop their own national climate change laws so that when governments sit down in 2015 they will do so in very different political conditions to when they did in Copenhagen. The Partnership for Climate Legislation will support legislators across party political lines to advance climate change-related legislation. The Partnership will provide a combination of political, analytical and administrative capacity. It will also serve as a platform where legislators from across the world can meet, discuss common barriers, issues and successes and share information about best legislative practice”.
Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres said: “It is no exaggeration to say that theclean revolution we need is being carried forward by legislation. Domestic legislation is critical because it is the linchpin between action on the ground and the international agreement. At the national level, it is clear that when countries enact clean energy policies, investment follows. At the international level, it is equally clear that domestic legislation opens the political space for international agreements and facilitates overall ambition”.
World Bank Group Vice-President and Special Envoy Rachel Kyte said: “2014 is the year we need to step up climate action. Legislators have a critical role to play in raising political ambition and ensuring that effective laws and regulations support low carbon and resilient development. For this reason, we’re pleased to support the new Partnership for Climate Legislation”.
The President of the Mexican Congress, Hon. Ricardo Anaya Cortes said: “With the support of GLOBE, Mexico has passed ambitious climate legislation. We are here today in the US Senate to share our experience, to build a global coalition of parliamentarians against the damaging effects of climate change and to challenge inaction.”
UK Foreign Secretary Rt. Hon William Hague said: “A global and legally binding deal on emissions reductions in the UNFCC in 2015 is imperative. As we work towards that agreement, it is clear that domestic legislation has a key role to play in building consensus and cementing ambition, which is why GLOBE’s work is so important. The launch of GLOBE’s Partnership forClimate Legislation, with the backing of the UN and World Bank, is an important step towards sustaining this work for long term, which the UK Government wholeheartedly supports”.
Confirmed Keynote Speakers included:
Representing the United Nations Secretary General’s Office: * UN Assistant Secretary-General, Dr Robert Orr Representing the World Bank: * World Bank Group President, Dr Jim Yong Kim * World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, Rachel Kyte
Representing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: * UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres
Representing the United Nations Environment Programmes: * UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner
Representing the Congress of Mexico: * President of Congress, Hon. Ricardo Anaya Cortes
————————————————— For further information, please contact:
Apr. 15 (Tues): “Can We Avert the Unfolding Climate Crisis?” to the wide MIT community (in the afternoon/early evening)
Apr. 16 (Wed): “Ice Sheet Melt, Sea Level and Storms” to MIT Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science Department, 4 p.m.
Dr. Hansen periodically posts commentary on his recent papers and presentations and on other topics of interest to an e-mail list. To receive announcements of new postings, please click here.
Feb. 26, 2014: Beijin Charts: Charts shown at Symposium on a New Type of Major Power Relationship, organized by the Counsellors’ Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.
Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil. (photo: World Economic Forum)
Fracking Infrastructure? Not in My Backyard, Says Exxon CEO
By Eve Andrews, Grist
23 February 14
oe is Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil.
Public utility Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp. has had the nerve to plan a water tower in Bartonville, Texas – right next to Tillerson’s own personal horse ranch! Not only is the tower a blight on Tillerson’s very own piece of Texas forever, but it’s also going to bring all kinds of noise, traffic, and plebeians to his driveway. Oh, and one more thing – it’s also going to supply the energy companies that are quickly growing their fracking operations in the area. Included among these companies is XTO Energy, which ExxonMobil acquired in 2009.
Tillerson and his wife have brought suit against Cross Timbers to block the proposed water tower, and they’re not alone. Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R) and his wife are the lead plaintiffs in the suit. Armey’s impressive track record includes a stint as chairman of Tea Party-affiliated FreedomWorks, a D.C.-based nonprofit committed to “helping activists fight for lower taxes, less government, and more freedom.”
The Cross Timbers case has been going on since 2012, and was recently sent back to the district court after a ruling reversal by an appellate judge, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Tillersons, Armeys, and their co-plaintiffs argue that they were promised that utility construction would not come near their homes. Cross Timbers’ position has been that, as a public utility, they can build wherever they goddamn please.
Tillerson’s primary concern seems to lie in damage to the aesthetics and privacy of the property in which, as he repeatedly reminded the audience at a Bartonville town meeting in November, he’s invested millions of hard-fracked dollars. We might focus more on the danger of water contamination that tends to accompany fracking infrastructure, for which XTO Energy currently faces criminal charges in Pennsylvania. But, hey – you do you, Rex!
UPDATE: Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has released a statement kindly inviting Tillerson to an exciting new club:
“I would like to officially welcome Rex to the ‘Society of Citizens Really Enraged When Encircled by Drilling’ (SCREWED). This select group of everyday citizens has been fighting for years to protect their property values, the health of their local communities, and the environment. We are thrilled to have the CEO of a major international oil and gas corporation join our quickly multiplying ranks.”
Blogger Richard Silverstein’s racism was laid bare today when he tweeted the following to his followers, referring to an African-American Zionist named Chloe Valdary who had published an op-ed at Times of Israel about Judith Butler. He also posted the offensive message to his Facebook page.
Richard Silverstein’s offensive tweet. Photo: Screenshot.
Silverstein - a ‘Comment is Free‘ contributor through 2012 who, until now, was best known for his anti-Israel (and at times pro-Hamas) activism and his faux scoops - has now revealed himself to be bigoted towards black Americans as well. The term “Negro” stopped being used in America in the late 60s or early 70s, and the term “Uncle Tom“ of course is a horrible epithet used historically to accuse African-Americans of being subservient to whites, and betraying their own group by participating in systematic white racism.
As Valdary’s column about Butler had nothing to do with the issue of American racism, Silverstein’s ugly assault seems to have been motivated by his disgust at seeing a woman of color expressing support for Israel.
Silverstein seems to have deleted the post from his Facebook account (though the Tweet is still there), but let the snapshots above serve as a reminder of the narrow-mindedness of some on the Left when confronted with information contradicting their anti-Zionist assumptions.
Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
A flyer for a Feb. 28-March 2 anti-Israel event at NYU titled “Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel, and Palestine,” hosted by the American Studies Association’s president-elect. Photo: Facebook.
JNS.org – The American Studies Program at New York University (NYU), with the support of American Studies Association (ASA) President-Elect Professor Lisa Duggan, is set to hold a two-day anti-Israel conference.
The Feb. 28-March 1 event, titled “Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel, and Palestine,” comes “following an unprecedented wave of public dialogue in response to the American Studies Association’s recent endorsement of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions,” according to an event flyer.
The ASA voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions last December. Since then, about 200 universities have condemned the move.
The flyer says the conference seeks to address the “convergence between international justice movements and emerging scholarly directions within the increasingly transnational field of American Studies.”
Duggan, who teaches in NYU’s department of social and cultural analysis, in a Facebook post describes the event as a “kick ass” conference that will feature speakers solely from the anti-Israel perspective, such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. The event registration page directs all questions on the conference to NYU.
Additionally, Duggan wrote on her Facebook, “PLEASE DO NOT post or circulate the flyer. We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention. Feel free to share it with friends, colleagues and grad students though.”
Truly impressive how she promotes open discourse with statements like “PLEASE DO NOT post or circulate the flyer. We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention. Feel free to share it with friends, colleagues and grad students though.” Useful idiots all.
This is the kind of person we have teaching our children? When is she planning to grow up?
But the reasoned approach and solution to the entire problem makes sense. And that the anti-Jewish stance of the neighbours too, would vanish, as would their one-sided attitude toward the exclusion of the displaced, self-exiled Arabs from into inclusion into their society! Imagine, Palestinian Arabs actually being in a position to sustain themselves instead of being held in camps, often prisoners of their own self-serving leaders.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power will travel to Los Angeles and San Francisco February 23-24, where she will meet with students, the philanthropic community, and technology leaders as part of her effort to engage and enlist a broad set of voices in foreign policy.
In Los Angeles on February 23, Ambassador Power will deliver the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture on the UCLA campus. This event is on-the-record.
The following day, Ambassador Power will travel to Silicon Valley for events hosted by Tech4America, the Global Philanthropy Forum, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to explore how non-traditional partners in the private and philanthropic sectors can engage in developing solutions to global problems. She will also participate in a Facebook chat at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA at 3:15pm PST (6:15 EST).
According to Viking mythology, today, February 22nd, 2014, is Ragnarok; the end of the world.
Well, as I write this, the world has not ended. Therefore, barring a slight margin of error in Viking calculations or some other catastrophe, Renegade Sufi’s performance tomorrow (2/23) at The Delancey will go on as scheduled.
The Delancey is located at 168 Delancey st. NYC. Renegade Sufi will hit at 8pm.
And remember: a Renegade Sufi concert is not like other concerts.
WE POST THIS FOR THE SAKE OF IMAD BORNAT AND THOSE THAT GATHERED IN HATRED AT THE UN FEBRUARY 19th IN AN EFFORT TO CELEBRATE THE HATRED COMMODITY BEING MARKETED WITH THE HELP OF THE UN INSTITUTION. SEE – EVEN MJ ROSENBERG THINKS YOU ARE A BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES – THE RATIONAL THING TO DO IS TO DEAL WITH THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL RATHER THEN HELP ENLARGE ON THE HATRED OF JEWS. SEE OUR POSTING ON COMMODITIES THAT LEADS TO THE REALIZATION OF THIS HATE COMMODITY. FOR ME IT ALL HAPPENED IN ONE DAY. (Pincas Jawetz, editor SustainabiliTank)
The Arrogance of Americans Boycotting Israel.This will be a short one as I only choose to make one point. I make it as someone who absolutely supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) as applied to the West Bank. Even if I deeply desired a seltzer machine, I would not buy the one manufactured in occupied territory.
However, I do not support boycotting Israel itself because, although I have no problem at all about applying collective economic punishment on settlers and the loathsome settlement enterprise, I do not feel that way about Israelis in general. I am not anti-Zionist. I am, for lack of a better term, a liberal Zionist. I want the Jewish state to survive and prosper which is impossible so long as it maintains its colonial and oppressive regime in the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza.
But all that is beside the one point I need to make today.
Where do Americans come by the sheer gall of demanding sanctions on all Israelis when they themselves have never been subjected to sanctions for the crimes of our government? After all, if every Israeli including old socialist kibbutzniks, school kids, and opponents of the occupation, deserve to pay a personal price for an occupation they may not support, shouldn’t all Americans pay a price for American crimes that Israel could not match in a hundred years?
Start with the Iraq war, a war engineered by American politicians and their neocon cheerleaders that killed (in addition to almost 5,000 Americans) at least 500,000 Iraqis. Then there is Afghanistan which, thanks to our glorious efforts (read Charlie Wilson’s War) fell to the mujaheddin and ultimately the Taliban and which is now a killing field where American drones kill whoever we suspect is allied with the crazed religious extremists we helped install there. And, of course, there was Vietnam. where the U.S. was responsible for millions of dead. And the coups we engineered in Iran, Chile and Guatemala and the death squads we supported in El Salvador. There was the Nixon administration’s enthusiastic support for the Pakistani slaughter of hundreds of thousands in, what is now, Bangla Desh.
I could go on and on. But I won’t because you get the point.
And the point is this: who are we to support punishing all Israelis for the crimes of their government when we ourselves are equally complicit in the crimes of ours?
Nonetheless, I do not believe that all Americans should be punished for those crimes although I would love to see the perpetrators in the dock. Just not the ordinary people I know who had nothing to do with any of this.
In short, Americans who get so self-righteous about Israel should look in the mirror. Or move to Denmark or any of those other countries whose crimes do not dwarf anything Israel has ever done.
Physician, heal thyself.
And, Israel, end the damn occupation because, whether I like it or not, the boycott movement against Israel itself is getting stronger every day. What kind of lunacy would jeopardize Tel Aviv to preserve the right of a bunch of lunatics to live in Hebron?
“The Arctic Circle is nonprofit and nonpartisan. Organizations, forums, think tanks, corporations and public associations around the world are invited to hold meetings within the Arctic Circle platform to advance their own missions and the broader goal of increasing collaborative decision-making without surrendering their institutional independence.
The Arctic Circle is designed to increase participation in Arctic dialogue and strengthen the international focus on the future of the Arctic. Participating organizations will maintain their full institutional independence, identity and decision-making abilities. To this end, the Arctic Circle aims to create opportunities for everyone to attend different meetings, conduct their own networking and engage in one-on-one informal discussions. Organizations will be able to decide their own agendas and convene their own meetings.”
The Reykjavik 20013 meeting was the Assembly’s Inaugural – to be followed by a 20014 Assembly in a location that was to be decided at a closed meeting following immediately the open 2013 meeting. We post this now because the 2014 meeting was set already – it wil be held at the same place in Reykjavik September 5-7, 2014. Then in 2015 it will move to Anchorage, Alaska, USA.
“Following the meeting, participating organizations will be invited to a brainstorming session to contribute ideas for the 2014 Arctic Circle assembly.”
NOW THE NEW MATERIAL CAN BE FOUND WITH THE HELP OF INFORMATION WE JUST RECEIVED:
As someone who attended the inaugural ArcticCircle Assembly, held October 12-14, 2013, in Reykjavík, Iceland, you might like to see ourlatest brief, which summarizes the event and describes the mission and structure of the ArcticCircle.
The Assembly attracted more than 1,200 attendees from more than 40 countries and proved to be the most diverse international gathering of its kind.
You can download the brief at ArcticCircle.org. We encourage you to share it with interested colleagues and with other individuals and organizations in your network to promote participation at the second annual Assembly.
Thank you for participating in the ArcticCircle
and helping advance the dialogue on these crucial issues.
We look forward to reconvening with you September 5-7, 2014, in Reykjavík.
The White House Seder in April 2009. Lesser is fifth from President Obama’s right. (White House / Pete Souza)
Back in April 2008, Eric Lesser began what would become a White House tradition when he helped organize a seder for staffers on the Obama campaign trail. “We were feeling a little down because we realized it wouldn’t be possible to get home for Passover,” the 28-year-old recalled. “So we set up our makeshift seder in this windowless basement in the Sheraton in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and when we were down there getting ready to begin, all of a sudden Senator Obama popped his head in and said, ‘Is this where the seder is?’ and asked, ‘Can I join?’ It was actually a little funny, because we were planning to have a bit of a briefer version, but he was very interested in it, and so we went through almost the entire haggadah, which is much more than I had ever done with my own family.”
The seder became a yearly tradition for the Obama family, and Lesser would go on to serve as a special assistant to David Axelrod and later director of strategic planning for the Council of Economic Advisers. He was profiled–along with his weekly shabbat dinners with other young Obama administration staffers–in the New York Times, and then moved on to Harvard for law school, where he’d previously attended college. And just this week, he launched his own political career by announcing his candidacy for State Senate in Massachusetts.
Lesser casts his campaign as a community-building exercise, rather than a particularly partisan affair. “My family wasn’t very political per se, but was very community-oriented,” he explained. “I was very active in my synagogue in Springfield, MA., Sinai Temple. I was active in my synagogue youth group, which was a branch of NFTY. And that was one of my early paths into community work,” he said. One of Lesser’s first political acts was to work with his local community to successfully fight budget cuts for his high school in 2002. “I’m a proud Democrat, but I don’t particularly care if an idea comes from a Democrat, from a Republican, or from none of the above. My focus is on good ideas,” he said. “We didn’t even know what party the community members and the volunteers were, and we didn’t care. What we cared about was that we fought for a good idea.”
Both of Lesser’s parents worked their way through college in New York–his father as a taxi driver–and became professionals in Holyoke, MA. Lesser’s goal is “to give more families that kind of opportunity”–to enable others to live the success story of his own family’s rise into the middle class. At the moment, however, he is still in listening mode. He intends to release “a variety of new innovative policy proposals.” Until then, he’s demurring on hot button issues like the role of charter schools, which has split progressives across the country, and pitted his former boss President Obama against liberal leaders like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. “My goal now is to listen to people, and to make sure I’m hearing from all people in the district, regardless of party or position.”
In the end, Lesser’s hope for his political career is simple. “My background in Judaism is there’s no greater work than tikkun olam, and that’s always been a very strong part of my identity and my motivating force,” he said. “The idea is that you work in some small way to try to leave things a little better off than how you found them.”
A prominent rabbi and imam, each raised in orthodoxy, overcome the temptations of bigotry and work to bridge the chasm between Muslims and JewsRabbi Marc Schneier, the eighteenth generation of a distinguished rabbinical dynasty, grew up deeply suspicious of Muslims, believing them all to be anti-Semitic. Imam Shamsi Ali, who grew up in a small Indonesian village and studied in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, believed that all Jews wanted to destroy Muslims. Coming from positions of mutual mistrust, it seems unthinkable that these orthodox religious leaders would ever see eye to eye. Yet in the aftermath of 9/11, amid increasing acrimony between Jews and Muslims, the two men overcame their prejudices and bonded over a shared belief in the importance of opening up a dialogue and finding mutual respect. In doing so, they became not only friends but also defenders of each other’s religion, denouncing the twin threats of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and promoting interfaith cooperation.
In Sons of Abraham, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali tell the story of how they became friends and offer a candid look at the contentious theological and political issues that frequently divide Jews and Muslims, clarifying erroneous ideas that extremists in each religion use to justify harmful behavior. Rabbi Schneier dispels misconceptions about chosenness in Judaism, while Imam Ali explains the truth behind concepts like jihad and Shari’a. And on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the two speak forthrightly on the importance of having a civil discussion and the urgency of reaching a peaceful solution.
As Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali show, by reaching a fuller understanding of one another’s faith traditions, Jews and Muslims can realize that they are actually more united than divided in their core beliefs. Both traditions promote kindness, service, and responsibility for the less fortunate—and both religions call on their members to extend compassion to those outside the faith. In this sorely needed book, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali challenge Jews and Muslims to step out of their comfort zones, find common ground in their shared Abrahamic traditions, and stand together and fight for a better world for all.
“Sons of Abraham represents the culmination of years of work by Rabbi Schneier, my partner at the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Imam Ali, and myself to bring Muslims and Jews together all across the world. Few people thought that these orthodox religious leaders could be friends, and even fewer believed their work would succeed, but Sons of Abraham shows how their friendship has created a model for a worldwide Muslim-Jewish reconciliation.”
—Russell Simmons, Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and co-founder of Def Jam Records“Through a robust discussion of the history and mindsets that define both Judaism and Islam, Imam Shamsi Ali and Rabbi Marc Schneier offer that the truest illustration of faith lies not in traditions or a myopic approach to piety, but rather in a deeply held belief in one God, a concern for human dignity, and a commitment to mutual respect. The authors—in their friendship and in their service—offer a rare example of cooperation and provide a beacon of hope as we pursue peace between peoples torn apart by millennia of misunderstanding and mistrust. Sons of Abraham is a work of political, social, and religious significance and a roadmap for how we should and can move forward.”
—Congressman André Carson
“In this book my friends Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali show us that Muslims and Jews are not enemies, but friends who are united by our belief in a monotheistic god and our lineage to our forefather Abraham. The Rabbi and Imam’s friendship is a reminder that peace and friendship are possible between our peoples.”
—S. Daniel Abraham, Chairman, Center for Middle East Peace
SAN DIEGO — The bathtub rings in the reservoirs that hold California’s liquid life have never been more exposed. Shorelines are bare, brown and bony. Much of the Sierra Nevada is naked of snow. And fields in the Central Valley may soon take to the sky. A Dust Bowl? Not yet. Though this drought will surely go down as the worst in the state’s recorded history. Until next year.
But something else is evident in this cloudless winter: when you build a society with a population larger than Canada’s, and do it with one of the world’s most elaborate plumbing systems, it’s a fragile pact. California is an oasis state, a hydraulic construct. Extreme stress brings out the folly of nature-defiance.
The whole fantasy of modern California has long been dependent on an audacious feat of engineering. You could drain the Owens Valley to allow Los Angeles to metastasize. (See “Chinatown.”) You could grab water from Yosemite to keep San Francisco alive. And you could move all that snowmelt up north to the south, and feed the world.
When it works, it’s a marvel. Golden Gate Park is green. Los Angeles has a river (sort of). The fragrance of fruit trees fills Fresno. But what if there is no snow, no rain, and nothing left in the aquifers underground? To date, going back to the start of its water year last July, Los Angeles has received 1.2 inches of rain. Yes, for the year. San Diego will soon notch its driest winter ever. And 80 percent of the state is in extreme drought.
California will get through it, though not without significant pain. And while there will be some reordering of power, nothing will put to lie the old line about the arid West: Water flows uphill to money.
But at the least, these days of desiccation call for some honesty — to look at this state and see, in all its dimensions, the fragility of this kind of pact. And beyond that, to see in California a precursor of what could happen elsewhere if we think we can out-engineer a fevered planet. The drought itself may not be a result of climate change, but it is made worse by all the meteorological complications.
Media myopia tends to feed a one-sided narrative: There’s no global warming because, after all, much of the United States is cold and snowy. The West is the exception, but it’s a long way from Al Roker’s studio at 30 Rock. Even farther is Australia, where the warmest winter on record has been followed by a summer of wildfires and heat waves pushing 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The Millennial Drought, which lasted from 1995 to 2012, now looks like the new normal down under.
No surprise, some of the worst deniers of the obvious come from places where it pays to look the other way. Let me introduce Representative Devin Nunes, Republican from Fresno. Like most elected members of his party, Nunes apparently skipped out of science class.
“Global warming is nonsense,” he said last week, when President Obama visited the Central Valley. “We want water, not welfare.”
They’ve certainly got plenty of welfare. The Central Valley Project is a tangle of aqueducts, pumps, canals and dams, the largest water development project in the United States. Yes, we taxpayers built it, and still subsidize it. Its 20 reservoirs hold enough water to irrigate three million acres.
But Nunes prefers the myth, firmly planting himself with the fact-denial majority of Republican lawmakers. He took to the floor of Congress a few days ago to explain. “Our ancestors in California built an amazing irrigation system that can deliver a reliable water supply even during severe droughts,” he said.
Our ancestors! You know, those long-dead wise ones, the socialists from the New Deal and the bureaucrats of the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Better not to name them.
Then, more explanation: You see, he said, holding up a large sign with a picture of the sun, snow and a droplet of water, “Government doesn’t create water.” Oh, of course not. Then let’s just take government out of the picture and watch what happens to farms in the congressman’s district.
The enemy, he concluded, is nature. Fish in particular — “stupid little fish,” he said. Some pretty smart big fish, Pacific salmon, are in trouble as well. He didn’t mention them. Nunes was referring to the delta smelt, a key link in keeping the hydraulic heart of California healthy, but small and imperiled by the switcheroo of the smelt’s habitat to Nunes’s home. As for stupid, the fish yields its time to the congressman from California.
Following his lead, the Republican House has passed a bill moving precious water from the north to big farmers in the Republican-rich lower Central Valley. Government may not create water, but Congress can dole it out. The bill is dead in the Senate.
California’s big urban areas, after years of smart conservation measures, will get by. But in a state where agriculture consumes 75 percent of the water, farms will go fallow. This drought for the ages should prompt some imaginative thinking on what foods grow best in an arid land.
The congressman from Fresno could take his cue from another ancestor, William Randolph Hearst. Up high on a dry perch overlooking the Pacific, Hearst built his Mediterranean castle. Last month, the keepers of the compound started draining the big Neptune Pool and many of its fountains, a concession to the drought. Fantasy has its limits.
‘The Son of God’ to open February 28 after editing out an Obama lookalike character in the Satan Role – and getting some guidance from Jewish clergy.
By Debra KaminFebruary 18, 2014, for The Times of Israel.
The role of Satan was scrubbed from ‘The Son of God’ after allegations of a resemblance to US President Barack Obama
(screen capture: YouTube/CNN channel)
It’s not Easter yet in Hollywood, but Jesus is nevertheless getting resurrected, splashing back onto the silver screen on February 28 in “Son of God,” the first of several Bible-themed blockbuster films set to be unveiled in 2014.
Before the opening credits can roll, however, “Son of God’s” husband-and-wife producers, Mark Burnett and actress Roma Downey, have taken pains to avoid any potential controversy or upset, especially among two key communities: American Democrats and Jews. That meant cutting out one character entirely, and doing a great deal of Jewish outreach and research to avoid ruffling Semitic feathers.
“Son of God” is a 20th Century Fox production that is essentially a condensed version of Burnett and Downey’s wildly successful 2013 TV History Channel miniseries “The Bible.” That 10-hour television event made waves in the blogosphere last year when online commentators noticed a nearly uncanny physical similarity between the actor playing Satan, Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, and US President Barack Obama.
So much Internet focus was put on Obama’s devilish doppelganger, Downey told TheBlaze.com, that she was truly upset.
“It was all over TV and all over the Internet and that next day, when I was sure everyone would be talking about Jesus, they were all talking about Satan instead,” Downey, who stars as Mary in both the miniseries and the full-length film, is quoted as saying:
“I was saddened. It was really disappointing, because it became such a distraction and then it became ugly and people were making such nasty statements.”
This time around, Ouazanni’s character has been entirely eliminated in “Son of God,” with Downey telling The Hollywood Reporter, “I wanted all of the focus to be on Jesus. I want his name to be on the lips of everyone who sees this movie, so we cast Satan out. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the devil is on the cutting-room floor.”
Another issue that is as prickly as a crown of thorns? The film’s reception among Jewish audiences, who were none too pleased at the last mega-Jesus blockbuster, “Passion of the Christ,” and attacked that film with allegations of anti-Semitism and hate-mongering.
Burnett says that he and his production team conducted extensive market research and asked for help from the religious community to make sure their film struck the right tone and wouldn’t upset Jewish audiences in any way.
“We had a massive responsibility in making this film, and we enlisted the help of over 40 academics and church leaders across all faiths, including rabbis, Catholic leaders, Protestant leaders, to make sure that we were faithful to the text and considerate and respectful across faith,” Burnett told ABC news.
Should “Son of God” garner the massive ticket sales that producers and Christian leaders hope it will, it will bode well for the slew of other Bible-themed films ready for release in 2014. In March, Darren Aronovsky’s star-packed “Noah” will hit the big screen, followed by Sir Ridley Scott’s “Exodus,” due out in August, and “Mary, Mother of Christ,” starring 16-year-old Israeli ingénue Odeya Rush in the title role, arriving just in time for Christmas.
A billionaire retired investor is forging plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election, seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers.
The donor, Tom Steyer, a Democrat who founded one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, burst onto the national political scene during last year’s elections, when he spent $11 million to help elect Terry McAuliffe governor of Virginia and millions more intervening in a Democratic congressional primary in Massachusetts. Now he is rallying other deep-pocketed donors, seeking to build a war chest that would make his political organization, NextGen Climate Action, among the largest outside groups in the country, similar in scale to the conservative political network overseen by Charles and David Koch.
In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.
The money would move through Mr. Steyer’s fast-growing, San Francisco-based political apparatus into select 2014 races. Targets include the governor’s race in Florida, where the incumbent, Rick Scott, a first-term Republican, has said he does not believe that science has established that climate change is man-made. Mr. Steyer’s group is also looking at the Senate race in Iowa, in the hope that a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests.
Mr. Steyer also prospected for potential donors on a recent trip to New York City, where he met with aides to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has made championing climate change a focus of his post-mayoral political life, but whose own “super PAC” has focused chiefly on gun control.
“Our feeling on 2014 is, we want to do things that are both substantively important and will have legs after that,” Mr. Steyer said in an interview. “We don’t want to go someplace, win and move on.”
Mr. Steyer, 56, accumulated more than $1.5 billion during his days at the hedge fund Farallon Capital Management, before he retired in 2012. Today, he is among the most visible of a new breed of wealthy donors on the left who call themselves “donor-doers,” taking a page from the Kochs, Mr. Bloomberg and others to build and run their own political organizations — outside the two parties and sometimes in tension with them.
But the newest wave of single-issue super PACs — including groups seeking greater regulation of guns and of campaign fund-raising — has drawn criticism even from those who share those priorities.
“A small number of the richest individuals in America are attempting to use their enormous wealth to purchase government decisions to advance their own personal interests,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a group that favors tighter limits on money in politics. “This is about as far away as we can get from ‘representative government.’ ”
Mr. Steyer poured tens of millions of dollars into a successful 2012 ballot initiative in California that eliminated a loophole in the state’s corporate income tax and dedicated some of the resulting revenue to clean-energy projects. He also has helped finance opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, appearing in a series of self-funded 90-second ads seeking to stop the project.
Those efforts cemented his partnership with Chris Lehane, a California-based Democratic strategist, and heralded the emergence of NextGen Climate, now a 20-person operation encompassing a super PAC, a research organization and a political advocacy nonprofit. The group employs polling, research and social media to find climate-sensitive voters and spends millions of dollars in television advertising to try to persuade them.
It already is among the biggest environmental pressure groups in the country: For example, the League of Conservation Voters, considered the most election-oriented of such groups, reported spending about $15 million on campaign ads in 2012. And while Mr. Steyer has been critical of Democrats who waver on climate issues, he has aimed most of his firepower so far at Republicans.
The new fund-raising push seeks to tap into the booming fortunes of Silicon Valley, where many donors rank climate change as their top political issue. It also signals a shift within the environmental movement, as donors — frustrated that neither Democratic nor Republican officials are willing to prioritize climate change measures — shift their money from philanthropy and education into campaign vehicles designed to win elections.
“There are some people I like and am friends with in the Senate, and if not for Tom’s effort I would probably write a check to support them,” said Wendy Abrams, a Chicago-based philanthropist and donor who raised money for President Obama’s re-election campaign. “But the party is afraid to fight the fight, because they’re afraid to lose more conservative Democratic votes.”
This month, NextGen asked supporters to pick one congressional candidate, from five running this year, for the group to target in its next ads. Four of the five candidates were Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. But the fifth was a vulnerable Democratic incumbent, Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, who has close ties to the oil and gas industries and has been an outspoken supporter of the Keystone pipeline.
It is unclear how aggressively his group will move against other Senate Democrats: Asked whether Democratic control of the Senate was necessary to advance his climate agenda, Mr. Steyer said, “As long as we have this partisan divide on energy and climate, it’s got to be important.”
But he is also seeking to upend the partisan split that has come to infuse the climate debate. In their advertising and research, Mr. Steyer and his aides have sought to craft appeals that would reach beyond affluent white liberals on the coasts. Ads in California were tailored to Hispanic voters by emphasizing the negative health impacts of power plant emissions. In the Virginia governor’s race, NextGen sought to show that a Democrat could win with a message emphasizing “green” job creation over one emphasizing threats to the state’s coal industry.
David Topper, a New York private equity investor who attended the meeting at Mr. Steyer’s ranch, said: “You need to be agnostic as to party. If I find someone who has the right position on climate change, do I care if he owns six guns? Not at all.”
Unlike some on the left, Mr. Steyer has embraced the political toolbox that was opened to wealthy donors and other interests in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which made it easier for businesses, unions and rich individuals to pour unlimited money into elections.
“We have a democratic system, there are parts we would want to reform or change, and Citizens United is prominent in that,” Mr. Steyer said. “But we’ve accepted the world as it is.”
Mr. Steyer said there was no fixed budget for his group and declined to confirm his fund-raising target.
“Is it going to take $100 million? I have no idea,” he said, before suggesting that might be a lowball number. “I think that would be a really cheap price to answer the generational challenge of the world.”
Fossil Free NYC Open House Fossil Free NYC: A Divestment Open House Wednesday, February 26th, 7- 9pm New York Society for Ethical Culture 2 West 64th St, NY, NY (Near Columbus Circle & Lincoln Center)
(** Rain/snow date is 2/27 – hope we don’t need it!)
We are excited that our long-awaited Fossil Free NYC Open House will take place in just over a week. We are building a movement to shift investment away from the big fossil fuel companies and we need your voice and your action to make this a truly effective campaign. Please RSVP to let us know you plan to join us and help us spread the word.
On February 26th, join 350NYC and partners for an Open House to launch a fossil fuel divestment campaign in New York City. One by one, cities around the world are making the commitment to divest from fossil fuels and we want New York City to be a leader in this effort. Come learn what this important movement means for our communities, get the latest news on what’s happening with the city campaign, and how you and your organization can help create a Fossil Free NYC. Join with us to become part of the solution for a sustainable future for all.
If it’s wrong for coal, oil and gas companies to wreck the climate, then it’s wrong for NYC to profit from that wreckage.
Event is free and open to the public. RSVP encouraged but not required. Hosted by New York Society for Ethical Culture. Co-sponsored by Responsible Endowments Coalition, GreenFaith, and the NYC Grassroots Alliance
“It is clear that cities and local governments – whose citizens will bear the brunt of impacts from the climate crisis – should refuse to financially benefit from fossil fuels and should seriously consider the future volatility of those assets. We shouldn’t be funding our retirement by investing in companies whose operations ensure we won’t have a safe planet to retire on.” -Mayor’s Innovation Project
Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, “The Borowitz Report.”
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.