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

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

The Keystone XL Illusion

January 16, 2015

by: Joe Nocera


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“The momentum for action is building.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smart Guns Save Lives. So Where Are They?

January 17, 2015 by Nichoals Kristof

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Some Comments:

serban
14 minutes ago

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

Katie 1
28 minutes ago

Why would this not be refined and immediately endorsed by everyone with effect as soon as possible? After the spate of mass killings and…
tom
32 minutes ago

We have, in this country, long ago accepted the premise that a line in the constitution makes the unhindered proliferation of weaponry a must.

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

The following is an article that questions indirectly the concept that what the West called the Arab Spring and supported in terms that viewed those revolutions as moves towards democracy, were in major part nothing more then a way of putting extremist religion into politics. Nasser wanted to lead an Arab World – Sisi seems to be content to lead a more pluralistic Egypt. After the Paris events, ought not the West realistically line up now behind Sisi?

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Brushing Aside Media Criticism, Egypt’s Sisi Preaches Tolerance

by Raymond Ibrahim
PJ Media, January 13, 2015
 www.meforum.org/4978/egypt-sisi-t…

Sisi made history as the first Egyptian president to enter a church during Christmas mass.

Originally published under the title, “Sisi’s Brave New Egypt?”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with Coptic Pope Tawadros II on Christmas Day

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi continues to be the antithesis of longstanding mainstream media portrayals of him.

First there was his historic speech where he, leader of the largest Arab nation, and a Muslim, accused Islamic thinking of being the scourge of humanity—in words that no Western leader would dare utter. This remarkable speech—which some say should earn him the Nobel Peace Prize—might have fallen by the wayside had it not been posted on my website and further disseminated by PJ Media’s Roger L. Simon, Michael Ledeen, Roger Kimball, and many others, including Bruce Thornton and Robert Spencer.

Instead, mainstream media headlines on the day of and days after Sisi’s speech included “Egypt President Sisi urged to free al-Jazeera reporter” (BBC, Jan 1), “Egyptian gays living in fear under Sisi regime” (USA Today, Jan. 2), and “George Clooney’s wife Amal risks arrest in Egypt” (Fox News, Jan. 3).

Of course, the mainstream media finally did report on Sisi’s speech—everyone else seemed to know about it—but, again, to portray Sisi in a negative light. Thus, after briefly quoting the Egyptian president’s call for a “religious revolution,” the New York Times immediately adds:

Others, though, insist that the sources of the violence are alienation and resentment, not theology. They argue that the authoritarian rulers of Arab states — who have tried for decades to control Muslim teaching and the application of Islamic law — have set off a violent backlash expressed in religious ideas and language.

In other words, jihadi terror is a product of Sisi, whom the NYT habitually portrays as an oppressive autocrat—especially for his attempts to try to de-radicalize Muslim sermons and teachings.

Next, Sisi went to the St. Mark Coptic Cathedral during Christmas Eve Mass to offer Egypt’s Christian minority his congratulations and well wishing. Here again he made history as the first Egyptian president to enter a church during Christmas mass—a thing vehemently criticized by the nation’s Islamists, including the Salafi party (Islamic law bans well wishing to non-Muslims on their religious celebrations, which is why earlier presidents—Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, and of course Morsi—never attended Christmas mass).

Accordingly, the greetings Sisi received from the hundreds of Christians present were jubilant. His address was often interrupted by applause, clapping, and cheers of “We love you!” and “hand in hand”—phrases he reciprocated.

Part of his speech follows:


Egypt has brought a humanistic and civilizing message to the world for millennia and we’re here today to confirm that we are capable of doing so again. Yes, a humanistic and civilizing message should once more emanate from Egypt. This is why we mustn’t call ourselves anything other than “Egyptians.” This is what we must be—Egyptians, just Egyptians, Egyptians indeed! I just want to tell you that Allah willing, Allah willing, we shall build our nation together, accommodate each other, make room for each other, and we shall like each other—love each other, love each other in earnest, so that people may see… So let me tell you once again, Happy New Year, Happy New Year to you all, Happy New Year to all Egyptians!

Sisi stood side-by-side with Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II—perhaps in remembrance of the fact that, when General Sisi first overthrew President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Pope Tawadros stood side-by-side with him—and paid a heavy price: the Brotherhood and its sympathizers unleashed a Kristallnacht of “reprisals” that saw 82 Christian churches in Egypt attacked, many destroyed.

Under Sisi, Egyptian police have vigorously defended Coptic Christian churches and businesses from Islamist attacks.

It is also significant to recall where Sisi came to offer his well-wishing to the Christians: the St. Mark Cathedral—Coptic Christianity’s most sacred church which, under Muhammad Morsi was, for the first time in its history, savagely attacked, by both Islamists and the nation’s security (the article shows pictures here).

Once again, all of this has either been ignored or underplayed by most mainstream media.

There is, of course, a reason the mainstream media, which apparently follows the Obama administration’s lead, has been unkind to Sisi. One will recall that, although Sisi led the largest revolution in world history—a revolution that saw tens of millions take to the streets and ubiquitous signs and banners calling on U.S. President Obama and U.S. ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson to stop supporting terrorism (i.e., the Brotherhood)—U.S. leadership, followed by media, spoke only of a “military coup” against a “democratically elected president,” without pointing out that this president was pushing a draconian, Islamist agenda on millions who rejected it.

That Sisi would criticize the Muslim world and Islamic texts and thinking — a big no-no for Muslim leaders — is unprecedented.

So what is the significance of all this—of Sisi? First, on the surface, all of this is positive. That Sisi would criticize the Muslim world and Islamic texts and thinking—in ways his Western counterparts could never—and then continue his “controversial” behavior by entering the Coptic Christian cathedral during Christmas mass to offer his greetings to Christians—a big no-no for Muslim leaders—is unprecedented. Nor can all this be merely for show. In the last attac
k on a Coptic church, it was two Muslim police officers guarding the church who died—not the Christian worshippers inside—a rarity.

That Sisi remains popular in Egypt also suggests that a large percentage of Egyptians approve of his behavior. Recently, for instance, after the Paris attacks, Amru Adib, host of Cairo Today, made some extremely critical comments concerning fellow Muslims/Egyptians, including by asking them “Are you, as Muslims, content with the fact that today we are all seen as terrorists by the world?… We [Egyptians] used to bring civilization to the world, today what? — We are barbarians! Barbarians I tell you!”

That said, the others are still there—the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, those whom we call “Islamists,” and their many sympathizers and allies.

Worst of all, they have that “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas” that has been “sacralized over the centuries” (to use Sisi’s own words) to support them—texts and ideas that denounce Sisi as an “apostate” deserving of death, and thus promising a continued struggle for the soul of Egypt.

——————————————————
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a CBN News contributor. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007).

Related To

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 16th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Church has come a long way!

“Freedom of expression is a right, but there are limits when it comes to insulting faiths,” Pope Francis told reporters today, referring to events surrounding the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

“One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith,” Francis said.
Likewise, he said, people have religious liberty, but “one can’t kill in the name of God.”
He said this after a reporter asked him about religious liberty and freedom of expression.

The pope made the comments on a trip to the Philippines.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We re-post this because we bow to Freedom of Speech and realize that this posting actually shows that Greenwald’s position here is a


We re-post this because we do believe in freedom of the press but we do not believe in one’s calling out FIRE when such a call can do harm. Greenwald’s position here is a give-away to a total misunderstanding – some sacred cows – like fight against budding Antisemitism – are sacred indeed.

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France Arrests a Comedian for His Facebook Comments, Showing the Sham of the West’s ‘Free Speech’ Celebration

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

14 January 2015

orty-eight hours after hosting a massive march under the banner of free expression, France opened a criminal investigation of a controversial French comedian for a Facebook post he wrote about the Charlie Hebdo attack, and then this morning, arrested him for that post on charges of “defending terrorism.” The comedian, Dieudonné (above), previously sought elective office in France on what he called an “anti-Zionist” platform, has had his show banned by numerous government officials in cities throughout France, and has been criminally prosecuted several times before for expressing ideas banned in that country.

The apparently criminal viewpoint he posted on Facebook declared: “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” Investigators concluded that this was intended to mock the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan and express support for the perpetrator of the Paris supermarket killings (whose last name was “Coulibaly”). Expressing that opinion is evidently a crime in the Republic of Liberté, which prides itself on a line of 20th Century intellectuals – from Sartre and Genet to Foucault and Derrida – whose hallmark was leaving no orthodoxy or convention unmolested, no matter how sacred.

Since that glorious “free speech” march, France has reportedly opened 54 criminal cases for “condoning terrorism.” AP reported this morning that “France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and glorifying terrorism.”

As pernicious as this arrest and related “crackdown” on some speech obviously is, it provides a critical value: namely, it underscores the utter scam that was this week’s celebration of free speech in the west. The day before the Charlie Hebdo attack, I coincidentally documented the multiple cases in the west – including in the U.S. – where Muslims have been prosecuted and even imprisoned for their political speech. Vanishingly few of this week’s bold free expression mavens have ever uttered a peep of protest about any of those cases – either before the Charlie Hebdo attack or since. That’s because “free speech,” in the hands of many westerners, actually means: it is vital that the ideas I like be protected, and the right to offend groups I dislike be cherished; anything else is fair game.

It is certainly true that many of Dieudonné’s views and statements are noxious, although he and his supporters insist that they are “satire” and all in good humor. In that regard, the controversy they provoke is similar to the now-much-beloved Charlie Hebdo cartoons (one French leftist insists the cartoonists were mocking rather than adopting racism and bigotry, but Olivier Cyran, a former writer at the magazine who resigned in 2001, wrote a powerful 2013 letter with ample documentation condemning Charlie Hebdo for descending in the post-9/11 era into full-scale, obsessive anti-Muslim bigotry).

Despite the obvious threat to free speech posed by this arrest, it is inconceivable that any mainstream western media figures would start tweeting “#JeSuisDieudonné” or would upload photographs of themselves performing his ugly Nazi-evoking arm gesture in “solidarity” with his free speech rights. That’s true even if he were murdered for his ideas rather than “merely” arrested and prosecuted for them. That’s because last week’s celebration of the Hebdo cartoonists (well beyond mourning their horrifically unjust murders) was at least as much about approval for their anti-Muslim messages as it was about the free speech rights that were invoked in their support – at least as much.

The vast bulk of the stirring “free speech” tributes over the last week have been little more than an attempt to protect and venerate speech that degrades disfavored groups while rendering off-limits speech that does the same to favored groups, all deceitfully masquerading as lofty principles of liberty. In response to my article containing anti-Jewish cartoons on Monday – which I posted to demonstrate the utter selectivity and inauthenticity of this newfound adoration of offensive speech – I was subjected to endless contortions justifying why anti-Muslim speech is perfectly great and noble while anti-Jewish speech is hideously offensive and evil (the most frequently invoked distinction – “Jews are a race/ethnicity while Muslims aren’t” – would come as a huge surprise to the world’s Asian, black, Latino and white Jews, as well as to those who identify as “Muslim” as part of their cultural identity even though they don’t pray five times a day). As always: it’s free speech if it involves ideas I like or attacks groups I dislike, but it’s something different when I’m the one who is offended.

Think about the “defending terrorism” criminal offense for which Dieudonné has been arrested. Should it really be a criminal offense – causing someone to be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned – to say something along these lines: western countries like France have been bringing violence for so long to Muslims in their countries that I now believe it’s justifiable to bring violence to France as a means of making them stop? If you want “terrorism defenses” like that to be criminally prosecuted (as opposed to societally shunned), how about those who justify, cheer for and glorify the invasion and destruction of Iraq, with its “Shock and Awe” slogan signifying an intent to terrorize the civilian population into submission and its monstrous tactics in Fallujah? Or how about the psychotic calls from a Fox News host, when discussing Muslims radicals, to “kill them ALL.” Why is one view permissible and the other criminally barred – other than because the force of law is being used to control political discourse and one form of terrorism (violence in the Muslim world) is done by, rather than to, the west?

For those interested, my comprehensive argument against all “hate speech” laws and other attempts to exploit the law to police political discourse is here. That essay, notably, was written to denounce a proposal by a French minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, to force Twitter to work with the French government to delete tweets which officials like this minister (and future unknown ministers) deem “hateful.” France is about as legitimate a symbol of free expression as Charlie Hebdo, which fired one of its writers in 2009 for a single supposedly anti-Semitic sentence in the midst of publishing an orgy of anti-Muslim (not just anti-Islam) content. This week’s celebration of France – and the gaggle of tyrannical leaders who joined it – had little to do with free speech and much to do with suppressing ideas they dislike while venerating ideas they prefer.

Perhaps the most intellectually corrupted figure in this regard is, unsurprisingly, France’s most celebrated (and easily the world’s most overrated) public intellectual, the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. He demands criminal suppression of anything smacking of anti-Jewish views (he called for Dieudonné’s shows to be banned (“I don’t understand why anyone even sees the need for debate”) and supported the 2009 firing of the Charlie Hebdo writer for a speech offense against Jews), while shamelessly parading around all last week as the Churchillian champion of free expression when it comes to anti-Muslim cartoons.

But that, inevitably, is precisely the goal, and the effect, of laws that criminalize certain ideas and those who support such laws: to codify a system where the views they like are sanctified and the groups to which they belong protected. The views and groups they most dislike – and only them – are fair game for oppression and degradation.

The arrest of this French comedian so soon after the epic Paris free speech march underscores this point more powerfully than anything I could have written about the selectivity and fraud of this week’s “free speech” parade. It also shows – yet again – why those who want to criminalize the ideas they most dislike are at least as dangerous and tyrannical as the ideas they target: at least.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 9th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Culture Change – run by former oil analyst Jan Lundberg of the family that propelled oil market newsletters that were a must read for the oil industry.

08 January 2015

Peak Oil and the Fracking Bubble: Could this Mimic the 2004-2008 Housing Bubble?

from – PoorBest
by Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
07 January 2015

Has fracking reached its twilight?

TO SEE THE ARTICLE WITH ALL GRAPHS – PLEASE SEE  www.culturechange.org/cms/content…

I’ll admit that I was completely caught off guard by the recent (and ongoing?) crash in oil prices. It’d be a stretch to say I’m embarrassed by my lack of foresight, although perhaps “dumb-ass” would be a bit deserving.

I would say I’m well enough versed with the reality of peak oil: I’ve read perhaps a couple dozen books on the topic, pored through several of the peak oil blogs (upon deciding to end my 5-year Internet hiatus a year ago), have seen several talks given by various writers on the topic, and I’ve attended two Age of Limits conferences.

Nevertheless, even though there were bloggers out there discussing the possible ramifications of low oil prices, its possibility still didn’t register with me. I’ll explain what I mean by that shortly, but to do that it’d be best if I first give a recap of what the mainstream media have been saying about collapsing oil prices the past couple of months.

If you’ve been following the recent oil-related news stories then you’ll be familiar with two things: first, that the price of a barrel of oil has been crashing (to nearly 50% of its value half a year ago), and second, that OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) has refused to cut back its production, the hope being that a cut in supplies would have resulted in a rise in prices.

The first sign of trouble came after OPEC’s November 27th meeting in Vienna whereupon it was announced that OPEC was going to maintain its production levels. Seeing how no explanation or elaboration was given, it was no surprise when the expected theories on the topic began appearing, and, of course, the conspiracy theories.

Some of the more mundane theories (not to say that there isn’t any truth in them) include (1) that a rising US dollar has resulted in a downward pressure on the price of oil (since oil is priced and predominantly purchased in US dollars); (2) that Libyan production has increased and so contributed to a glut in supply; (3) that demand in Europe has been declining, also leading to a glut in supply; and (4) that increased production in the United States has meant increased consumption of domestic supplies and so a decrease in need for imports, once again resulting in a glut on world oil-supply markets. To name just a few.

Jumping over into the conspiracy theory realm (again, not to say that there isn’t any truth in them), first is the notion that Saudi Arabia has colluded with the United States (something to do with the United States’ Secretary of State having made a trip to Saudi Arabia a few months back), the intent being to bring down oil prices so as to crush the Russian economy (oil and natural gas make up about three-quarters of Russia’s exports and more than half of its budget revenues).

Image
United States oil production levels, in thousands of barrels per day

Another of the popular conspiracy theories is that rather than colluding with the United States, Saudi Arabia is actually attempting to crush the tight oil (otherwise known as shale oil or fracking) boom in the U.S., the idea here being to restore its and OPEC’s dominance in the oil markets. For what’s been going on is that since 2008 the United States has increased its production levels of oil – thanks to fracking – by some 4 million barrels a day, nearly doubling its previous extraction rate.

Secondly, since the peak in conventional oil supplies (that found under the ground and deserts and such) occurred in 2005, the only thing that’s been keeping overall extraction levels increasing (in order to maintain worldwide economic growth) are the newly tapped unconventional oils – tight oil, tar sands, and deepwater offshore oil. And since tapping these forms of oil is similar to the extra effort required when scraping the bottom of a barrel, these unconventional sources require more energy and so cost more money to extract.

The idea then is that since tight oil in the United States is rather expensive to produce, if Saudi Arabia lets the oil price drop, this could very well bankrupt shale oil producers in the U.S. With a drop in production levels, prices would level off if not rise again, and not only would OPEC reap the restored higher prices, but they wouldn’t have lost any market share.

That all being said, deciding to finally end the silence and partially put to rest lingering conspiracy theories, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister was quoted on December 18th as stating that “The share of OPEC, as well as Saudi Arabia, in the global market has not changed for several years… while the production of other non-OPEC [countries] is rising constantly.” Similarly, the oil minister for the United Arab Emirates stated that “No one likes the price drop, but it is not right that one party should interfere to fix the matter. [The party] responsible for the price fall [by causing the current oil glut] should contribute to fix the imbalance in the market.”

In other words, while OPEC members have maintained their overall production levels of roughly 30 million barrels a day for about a couple of years now, it is the United States’ fracking industry that since 2008 has significantly increased worldwide production levels, earning itself, no less, the rather idiotic moniker of “Saudi America.”

A few days after the aforementioned statements were made, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister again pleaded for non-OPEC members to cut back on production, then adding that those countries “will realize that it is in their interests to cooperate to ensure high prices for everyone.” Furthermore, he also added that OPEC doesn’t intend to cut supply “whatever the price is.” “Whether it goes down to $20, $40, $50, $60, it is irrelevant.”

And finally, in his response to conspiracy theories bandied about regarding Saudi Arabia pulling out the oil weapon on so-and-so countries, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister stated that “Talking about such alleged conspiracies… is absolutely incorrect and indicates a misunderstanding in some minds… Our economy is based on strictly economic strategies, no more, no less.”

So. I suppose that what one could do is wonder whether these statements are simply a smoke-screen for some nefarious, underhanded deals going on. But not only do I not have the faintest clue whether that’s the case or not, and see no good reason for throwing uneducated guesses around, author Ugo Bardi put it even better when he said that “we tend to interpret the present downward cycle as the result of strategic choices or conspiracies, but this is mostly an illusion (the illusion of control).” That being said, what I do see as being important (and useful) is looking at why prices started to get so low in the first place.

Image
Estimated oil price levels needed for OPEC members to balance their government budgets in 2014

First off, certain OPEC members – namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar – have either built up such substantial financial reserves and/or can extract oil so cheaply that they are able to bear the brunt of low oil prices for some time. Not so much others.

While Iran needs oil in the $100+ range in order to balance its books, Venezuela is in the worst position of all. While the Latin American country is already a very polarized nation, oil accounts for 95% of its export revenue. Low oil prices could therefore easily make a grim situation worse, some people having a propensity to become hostile when their standards of living continually depreciate. Likewise, a default on Venezuela’s debt wouldn’t be out of the blue.

But perhaps more pertinent and interesting is: what of the non-OPEC producing countries? This, I think, would be a much better area to look at, seeing how it would shed much light on how we got into this situation in the first place.

First off, it’s worth noting that for the past three years or so, before oil’s recent crash, the price of crude has been bouncing around the $100 mark. This was a relatively expensive range, particularly in comparison to its long-standing rate of $20-$40 per barrel for more than a decade, before its gradual then meteoric rise to $147 in 2008.

Since oil is entwined with the price of pretty much everything nowadays, its changes in price can have a significant effect on economies (as we currently [mis]understand the term). With higher and higher oil prices sapping a greater percentage from expenditures – be it of “consumers” or businesses – a price point is eventually reached where goods become so expensive that those who can’t afford them anymore simply stop buying them. This is what is called “demand destruction.”

When demand dries up and fewer goods thus end up being bought and sold, a glut in oil supply results, which ends up crashing prices. This is simple supply and demand. Along with other factors, this is what happened after the $147 oil price spike in July of 2008, and resulted in oil tumbling down to $32 by December of that same year.

While the ensuing low oil prices get seen by some as a boon (via the expectation that consumers will have more money to spend), the opposite problem actually kicks in – namely, “offer destruction.” Since many businesses get forced to close down due to crashing oil demand and so in effect get fewer sales, and since a significant number of people get their hours cut or even lose their jobs, there often-times isn’t enough money to pay for oil and other goods, regardless of how low the prices go. This is what happened in 2009, referred to as the Great Recession.

To return to the first paragraph of this post, this is where I got thrown off. To digress:

As mentioned earlier, 2005 is seen by some as the year that conventional supplies of oil peaked. It is because of this (and a few other factors, like speculation) that oil climbed to $147. Although prices subsequently crashed due to demand destruction, they eventually made their way back up, to the point that several unconventional forms of oil (shale oil/fracking, tar sands, and deepwater offshore oil) became somewhat profitable.

The problem with peak oil is that when (if?) growth kicks in again, and since more and more energy is getting used, soon enough the increasing levels of energy-use may very well butt up against maximum extraction levels, resulting in a shortage in supply and causing the whole demand and offer destruction cycle to kick back in again.

Furthermore, and as far as one theory goes, higher highs and higher lows will occur. That is, instead of maxing out at $147 per barrel, oil will reach, say, $200 per barrel, before crashing down to $80 or so instead of $40. And so forth.

And it is because of this notion that peak oil pulled a fast one on me. Expecting the higher high having to happen, what I didn’t clue into was that oil prices at a high enough level for a prolonged period of time would be enough to have a similar effect as a quick rise to $147.

Case in point, one can look at countries that have recently slipped into recession or simply haven’t gotten out since 2009 – Greece, Spain, Italy, Brazil, and so forth. Furthermore, some of the more robust and rich countries are seeing their growth wane – Japan, China, Germany, to name just a few. For what is a slowdown in Europe leads to fewer consumer purchases from China leads to less iron ore and coal bought from Australia.

Image

For a closer look, take a look at Italy. Oil and gas consumption peaked in 2004 and has been on a decline ever since. According to Ugo Bardi over at Resource Crisis, “Italy is in full collapse.” One not only sees that industries are closing down, but also that restaurants are popping up in the attempt to attract the wallets of globe-trotting, placeless tourists, along with all the chic restaurant-hoppers. What is being witnessed, says Bardi, is “unreal.”

Unfortunately, and much like the aforementioned countries, if one is looking for solid explanations about these economic collapses from mainstream news sources, then one is pretty much SOL. As Bardi then explains,

When the crisis is mentioned, different culprits periodically appear in the first pages of the newspapers: the Euro, the European Union, politicians, immigrants, government employees, bureaucracy, lazy workers, terrorism, femicide, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, and more. It is a cycle that never stops, it keeps turning, every time pointing at something – new or old – that the government will target to solve the crisis once and for all.

In turn, not only could low-priced oil ($20!?) usher in another Great Recession via a meltdown of the oil market, but the newly enshrined oil ventures are at serious risk of collapse, and whose bubble bursting could be akin to the recent housing bubble. (To be fair, I can’t imagine oil reaching that low if not staying there for very long, for the very simple reason that any number of unfortunate conflicts around the world could cause its price to increase overnight.)

Image
Cost of oil production for various projects and countries

In short, many of the unconventional sources of oil require $100 prices in order to remain financially viable (or at least give that impression). Since many of the fracking plays in the United States are owned by independents who don’t have the financial reserves to weather a prolonged period of prices below costs of production, things could get hairy.

Furthermore, since fracking is capital-intensive, drillers have borrowed ridiculous amounts of money in order to acquire leases, drill wells, as well as purchase and install processing equipment and infrastructure. And since fracked wells have both steep production increase levels and decrease levels, drillers have been forced to continually drill more and more wells to keep up the semblance of growth – and to keep the debt piling up. What’s resulted is a junk bond market possibly akin to what was witnessed a few years back with the housing fracas.

And not to let all the boosters off the hook, for it was once again an all-too-giddy media that kept itself busy cheering on the latest (fraudulent?) money-making scheme, pumping up all the debt with nary a peep about any possible consequences.

And so what’s going on now that prices have crashed? That would be sellers panicking to unload their energy-related junk bonds and other investments in unconventional oil and related industries, and it’s anybody’s guess as to how much of a collapse will occur in these fields – and if it’s significant enough, if they’ll even have a chance to recover.

And as mentioned earlier, a round of offer destruction is expected to kick in after a round of demand destruction. For instance, nearly 40% of the jobs created since 2009 in the United States have been in energy related fields, those being some of the higher paying jobs in the nation, a catastrophe to the U.S. economy if lost.

As John Michael Greer recently put it over at The Archdruid Report, “If I’m right, the spike in domestic US oil production due to fracking was never more than an artifact of fiscal irresponsibility in the first place, and could not have been sustained no matter what.”

What we might be about to find out is how vulnerable the United States’ shale boom is to low prices, and how profitable fracking actually is.

Regardless, what happens next is anybody’s guess, and it would be a fool’s game to try and give any predictions. Nonetheless, it’s worth quoting Terry Lynn Karl from a recent conversation with Andrew Nikiforuk. “We are in a situation where oil supply limits can cause recessions and oil supply gluts can cause stock market failures.”

The reasons to get off oil seem to be piling up.

* * * * *

Allan Stromfeldt Christensen:

About the author: After four years in the film studies program at Ryer­son University in Toronto, Allan Stromfeldt Chris­tensen decided to turn his back on film­making and refrained from submitting what became his final film into the short film program of the Toronto International Film Festival. He is currently finishing off his first book, From Filmers to Farmers: From Couch Potatoes to Potato Cultivators , which will be followed by the starting of a small fruit wine and cider operation (and the raising of goats), on an experimental, demonstration, and educational farm: The Centre for Recovering Filmmakers. The original article appeared on Allan’s website fromfilmerstofarmers.com. For a condensed version of this article without the OPEC-related theories, see fromfilmerstofarmers.com – condensed.

Sources:
The image for fracking in twilight is via Imahornfan.
The graph for United States oil production levels is courtesy of Peak Oil Barrel.
The OPEC break-even graph is from Wall St. Journal data.
The image for Italy: Oil and Gas Consumption is courtesy of Resource Crisis.
The Cost of Oil Production for Various Projects and Countries graph is from The Oil Drum.

——————

FIRST COMMENT POSTED BY CULTURE CHANGE:

Superb article, Excellent analysis. I can’t overstress h
January 08, 2015
Excellent analysis. I can’t overstress how refreshing it is to read such an insightful, well thought-out review of the present oil situation at a time when so many Cornucopians/Economists are busy patting themselves on the back while organizing the victory parade for their long-awaited Peak-Oil-Is-Dead celebration.

One wonders whether if low prices persist long enough to ruin U.S. tight oil producers, they’ll ever be able to bounce back. Who’s still going to want to lend money to them once it has become clear that the whole fracking boom was pretty much nothing but a Ponzi scheme to begin with?

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On Tuesday, the Obama administration further lifted the 40-year ban on exporting domestic crude.

After sitting on them for a year, the Department of Commerce began approving a backlog of requests to sell processed light oil abroad, and the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued new export guidelines.

Analysts now believe the U.S. could be exporting one million barrels of oil per day by the end of 2015, five times what we export today.

That promises to be a major boon to U.S. companies, because U.S. shale oil can fetch a premium of $10 or more a barrel overseas.

But it’s not just oil. OPEC nations like Qatar will also face new competition from U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports in 2015.

Two major LNG export facilities will begin sending gas abroad within the next few months: Cheniere’s Sabine Pass and Sempra’s Cameron LNG projects.

———————–

Obama: Gas prices aren’t forever
 www.cnn.com//2015/01/07/politics/…

by – Jeremy Diamond, CNN
January 7, 2014

Story highlights

President Barack Obama advised Americans to be wise about their gas savings
In an interview with the Detroit News, he reminded Americans that gas prices will eventually rise again
Obama will travel to Michigan on Wednesday to tout the resurgence of the auto industry

(CNN)Enjoy it while you can, but remember it won’t last forever.

That was President Barack Obama’s message to American consumers on Tuesday as he discussed near six year-low gas prices in an interview with The Detroit News ahead of a visit to Michigan on Wednesday to tout the recovery of the auto industry and the growth of American manufacturing.

“I would strongly advise American consumers to continue to think about how you save money at the pump because it is good for the environment, it’s good for family pocketbooks and if you go back to old habits and suddenly gas is back at $3.50, you are going to not be real happy,” Obama said.

The nationwide average is sitting just below $2.20 a gallon and many gas stations around the country are advertising gas prices below $2 a gallon.

But instead of returning to “old habits,” Obama advised Americans to save their money, “or better yet” use the savings to buy a new car, for example.

He said Americans should “not believe that” gas prices won’t rise again, explaining that demand for oil in booming countries like China and India will continue to rise, kicking costs back up. Oil prices have dropped more than 50% in recent months, falling below $50 a barrel for the first time since 2009 on Monday.

Many members of Congress are counting on gas prices to remain low, however, as they hope to use the low prices as an opportunity to increase the gas tax for the first time in more than two decades.

As he touts the results of his bailout of the auto industry on Wednesday, Obama will also promote fuel efficiency at the Ford plant he is set to visit, which produces alternative fuel vehicles and small cars, The News reported.

Obama gave the newspaper a preview of his speech Wednesday, in which he is expected to tout the resurgence of the auto industry and the boom of American manufacturing — two key points of his plan for economic recovery, and elements he hopes will become a part of his legacy as president.

“The auto industry has led a resurgence of manufacturing in America,” Obama said. “The quality of the cars has gotten so much better that we are competitive — not just in SUVs — but up and down the line. The branding of American cars is back to where it should be. Michigan’s unemployment rate has fallen faster than the overall employment rate.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The killings – at the offices of a satirical newspaper in Paris – execution style – were done by three hooded individuals – two of them brothers.


BREAKING NEWS: French police have published the names and photographs of two suspects wanted in Wednesday’s terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.

In a statement posted on its website, French national police ask for information on the whereabouts of two suspects: They are brothers – Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi, warning that both are potentially armed and dangerous.

The gunmen who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris asked for people by name before killing them, according to a doctor who helped the wounded and spoke with survivors.

Dr. Gerald Kierzek said the gunmen divided the men from the women before opening fire. The shooting was not a random spray of bullets, he said, but more of a precision execution.

A dozen people died in the attack. Authorities are searching for the three suspects.

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

AIC (The American Iranian Council) Statement on the Charlie Hebdo Terrorist Attack:

On Wednesday, January 7, 2015, three heavily armed men staged a sophisticated attack on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. The paper is known for its provocative content on Islam, including satirical depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, something the religion prohibits. The attack was almost certainly a response to this content, as assailants were heard screaming “We have avenged the prophet,” and “Allahu Akbar.”

Speaking live on television, French President Francois Hollande said it was “a terrorist attack without a doubt.” All indications point toward an act of terrorism indeed. While it is not yet certain which individuals or group(s) are responsible for the attack, police officials named three suspects, and the Associated Press quoted one official who said they were linked to a Yemeni terrorist network. Al Qaeda is most active in Yemen.

The American Iranian Council stands with the French people, stands up for the rights and protections of free speech, and unequivocally condemns the gruesome violence conducted in the name of Islam. This horrific and sad event is another reminder that the entire civilized world needs to work together to stem the tide of radical Islamist violence wherever it exists.

At times like this tragic moment, it is particularly crucial that we remind ourselves that there is nothing more urgent in today’s chaotic world than the task of promoting better international understanding, dialogue and mutual respect towards world peace and development. The AIC is proud to have pioneered such a task in US-Iran relations and sustained it for over 25 years.

We continue to believe that the US and Iran face common enemies in terrorism, from Al Qaeda and the Taliban to ISIS and other similar groups, and must work together to eradicate it. Wednesday’s tragic event is yet another reminder of the need for these two countries to think more strategically about the imperative of reaching a mutually gainful deal on the Iranian nuclear dispute towards better relations.

-The American Iranian Council

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

As Reported by a US Press Release:
Security Council Press Statement on terrorist attack on French newspaper

The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack against the headquarters of French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, France, on 7 January 2015, causing numerous deaths among journalists, media professionals and associated personnel as well as of two policemen.

The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this intolerable terrorist act targeting journalists and a newspaper.

The members of the Security Council expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the Government of France.

The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.

7 January

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

FROM MEMBERS OF THE SAUDI DELEGATION to the Lima COP20 of the UNFCCC:

WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN THE SIDE EVENTS ORGANIZED AT THE GCC PAVILION AND IN THE SAUDI ARABIA’S ACTIVITIES DURING COP20.

All Reports and videos can be found on:
 www.ksa-cop.com/#!gcc-side-events…

&
 www.ksa-cop.com/#!ksacop-videos/c…

We are also pleased to announce that from now on, and until Paris 2015, we will inform you about Saudi Arabia’s activities in Climate Change on a regular basis on our dedicated website: www.ksa-cop.com

Follow us on Facebook & @KsaCop20

——————=====================—————–

ALSO

The Clean Energy Solutions Center and IRENA cordially invite you to attend our policy workshop to be held on January 20th from 1600-1900 during the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

The event will be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Capital Suite 14). The title of this workshop is ‘The Next Generation of Renewable Electricity Policies: How Rapid Change is Breaking Down Conventional Labels’.

This event will inform participants on rapid changes occurring in the realm of renewable electricity policies, and will takes a closer look at the next generation of policies for insights into what it could mean for the future of renewable electricity development, both in developed and developing countries.

We hope you will be able to attend. If you would like further information, please contact Victoria Healey at  victoria.healey at nrel.gov. Looking forward to seeing you in Abu Dhabi.

Happy New Year and Warm Wishes,
Victoria Healey
Project Leader for the Clean Energy Solutions Center
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL based in Colorado, the US)

REALLY – WHY BURN PRECIOUS OIL THAT WILL HAVE IMPORTANCE TO FUTURE GENERATIONS AS A CHEMICAL FEEDSTOCK?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The White House said today, Tues day December 7, 2014 - President Obama would veto a bill that would allow for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“If this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn’t sign it,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

The White House’s announcement came as the Republican-controlled Congress was being sworn in. GOP leaders have pledged to pass a bill authorizing the pipeline’s construction. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced legislation Tuesday authorizing the pipeline’s construction.

“The president is going to see the Keystone XL pipeline on his desk,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

Senate Democrats narrowly blocked passage of the bill in November. The White House said at the time that the bill was something Obama “doesn’t support.”

“If this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn’t sign it either,” Earnest said.

Earnest said there is a “well-established process in place” for approving projects such as Keystone. The $7.6 billion project would stretch nearly 1,700 miles and deliver 830,000 barrels of oil a day from western Canada to the United States. Earnest said that because there is a process, Congress should not meddle.

That process is held up by a lawsuit in Nebraska over whether the state legislature could allow the governor to make decisions on the pipeline rather than the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

“I think the president has been pretty clear that he does not think that circumventing a well-established process for evaluating these projects is … the right thing for Congress to do,” Earnest said.

Obama rejected a Canadian firm’s application to build the pipeline in 2012.

At a year-end news conference in December, Obama sought to downplay the benefits of the pipeline. He said the benefits for U.S. citizens and workers from the pipeline would be “nominal.”

“I think that there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy,” Obama said.

House Speaker John Boehner said Obama has sided with “fringe extremists” in the Democratic party who do not support Keystone, not Americans who do want the pipeline to be built. Boehner said the veto threat shows that Obama is “hopelessly out of touch” and has “no plans” to listen to his constituents.

“After years of manufacturing every possible excuse, today President Obama was finally straight with the them about where he truly stands. His answer is no to more American infrastructure, no to more American energy, and no to more American jobs,” Boehner said in a statement.

Jack Gerard, chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute, said the group is “very disappointed” by the veto threat.

“And I think it doesn’t bode well for relationships between the White House and Capitol Hill” Gerard said. “I’m disappointed the president has made that decision. I’m hopeful he and his advisers will reconsider.”

The move angered not just Republicans and oil industry officials but some Democrats such as Manchin.

“It’s the most discouraging thing I’ve ever heard,” Manchin said in a phone interview, minutes after Earnest had made his comments. “For the leader of the country to say basically, ‘Forget it, this is all for naught,’ is not what this country is about, it’s not what we’re all about, and it’s not the process that I’m used to working through.”

Manchin said the move made a mockery of a legislative process under which Democrats as well as Republicans would have a chance to offer amendments to alter the bill. “To say that he won’t give it a chance is absolutely a disservice to our country,” he added.

At the same time that the White House issued its veto threat, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) objected to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holding a hearing Wednesday on the Keystone XL bill. Durbin said another Democrat, whom he did not identify, objected to the session.

“While this means we won’t be having a hearing tomorrow, it does not slow down the Keystone XL floor process,” the panel’s spokesman, Robert Dillon, wrote in an e-mail. “Sen. Murkowski was committed to moving legislation through regular committee order and having a robust hearing process. Working with the incoming ranking member, we had lined up witnesses from a labor union and the Center for American Progress (CAP) to testify on the Keystone XL. Democrats will no longer have an opportunity to hear that testimony or make statements. We think that’s unfortunate.”

Environmentalists, meanwhile, lauded the president’s veto threat.

“The new Republican majority in Congress wants to play pipeline politics with our future, and the president is focused on a single question: is the tar sands pipeline in our national interest,” said Bob Deans, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s not.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he applauds Obama “for standing up to Republicans trying to ram through Congress a bill to let a Canadian oil company ship some of the dirtiest oil on the planet across the United States on its way to overseas markets.”

Supporters of Keystone argue that the pipeline will create jobs tied to the pipeline’s construction and boost a source of reliable energy, helping the economy. Opponents counter that it will extract oil from dirty tar sands in Canada and do little to help the U.S. economy
.

Juliet Eilperin and Lori Montgomery contributed reporting.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

An AIC Update comes at a very important time. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave a speech on January 4 in which he indirectly took issue with the Supreme Leader’s call for “resistance economy,” saying that Iran cannot live in “isolation” and still hope for economic development. Crippled by mismanagement, corruption and sanctions, Iran’s economy must now also cope with falling oil prices.

He also said that the Constitution (Article 59) anticipates a “referendum” on important issues facing the nation but failed to single out one and mention that any such referendum must pass two thirds of the conservative Parliament. Rouhani surely had the nuclear issue in mind, but given that he still has no deal and the negotiations are held in secret, his hint toward a nuclear referendum is premature.

Mr. Rouhani and his “hard line” rivals disagree on the extent of compromises Iran must make or gain. It is in this context that Dr. Amirahmadi’s article (below) is a must-read. He gleans the basic parameters of an emerging deal and posits that the negotiations will gradually “melt away” Iran’s nuclear program to a symbolic level in return for a phased lifting of some sanctions and Iranian assets.

Further, we agree with the basic assumption of AIC founder – Professor Amirahmadi -that Iran is a much more complicated case then Cuba and that here there cannot be a full one-piece agreement. It is rather an easing into such an agreement by stages that will make it eventually possible in the reality that opposition to an agreement lurches in every corner with serious non-forgiving stake-holders involved.

The Nuclear Negotiations: The Melting Strategy and the Missiles Time Bomb.
By AIC News – Posted on December 31st, 2014

by Hooshang Amirahmadi
Founder of The American Iranian Council

Melting Strategy-AIC – Given the secrecy of the P5+1 negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, it is hard to surmise the concessions being made or the structure of a final settlement. However, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: the path to a nuclear deal will involve many “mini deals” by which Iran’s nuclear program will be slowly “melted” away to a symbolic level in return for a measured release of its frozen oil money and lifting of some sanctions. This “melting strategy by default” is becoming increasingly attractive to both sides, given that the US and Iran cannot publicly and quickly succumb to each other’s “maximum” demands, knowing it will be seen as a “bad” deal by their respective opponents and thus not implementable. Besides, the word “comprehensive” is too loaded with expectations and has by itself become an obstacle.


As a sign that this strategy is at work, both sides are avoiding grand results and are making compromises in increments, with Iran offering disproportionate concessions. For the Rouhani government, this approach helps conceal its concessions from domestic radicals, while at the same time glorifying the meager concessions it receives from the US. For the Obama Administration, the approach helps minimize pressure from the Congress and stakeholders like Israel and Saudi Arabia, who demand tougher measures against Iran. In the face of these “opponents,” it would have been, and will be, hard if not impossible for the two sides to arrive at the desired “comprehensive deal” in a rush.

To maintain the “incremental momentum,” negotiations have resumed in Geneva after a short lull despite the fact that Iran and the P5+1 (the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) “missed” their second deadline on November 2014 to reach a comprehensive deal on the basis of the Geneva Joint Plan of Action (JPA) signed in November 2013. The first deadline had been set for last July, only 4 months apart from the second. A third deadline has now been set for July 1, 2015, seven months later from the second. Reportedly, Iran, pressed by economic woes, wanted a shorter interval, but France convinced others that a longer time interval was needed. With Iran “disarmed” of its “nuclear ambition,” the urgency has also rescinded.

The temporal dimension is certainly a crucial issue as the parties need more time to figure out what extra compromises they can make in the next stage towards the desired comprehensive deal. However, for that groundwork, Iran and the US in particular would also need to bring on board their apathetic opponents, who would only acquiesce if the concession increments are seen to their political advantage. These obstacles also existed when the parties negotiated the JPA but that agreement, which was reached in a rush, had an urgent and temporary character, and was billed as a “framework” rather than a “comprehensive” deal.


The JPA gave the first indication that a “melting strategy by default” was at work. Iran committed to “never” and under “no circumstances” develop or seek nuclear weapons. It also agreed to nullify most of its 20 percent enriched uranium, reduce operating centrifuges to half and remove all advanced IR2 centrifuges from operation, cap the amount of enriched uranium to less than 10,000 Kg, stop work on and accept modifications on the Arak Heavy Water Plant, halt enrichment at the Fardo underground facility, and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unrestricted inspection. In return for downsizing and halting its nuclear program, Iran was promised access to less than 5 percent of its frozen oil money and temporary relief from a few sanctions; significantly, the list did not include sanctions on banking, oil, and the UN resolutions.

As the IAEA has confirmed, Iran over-implemented its commitments in the subsequent months. Even if the issue of Iran’s possible intention to weaponize before 2003 was not explicitly included in the JPA, Iran has in vain tried to cooperate with the IAEA to settle this disputed matter. The agency is asking for inspection of certain military sites and access to scientists and unspecified documents. Iran has provided massive information, allowed inspection of the Parchin site, and has also offered access to the Marivan region, where Iran is suspected to have tested certain explosives. However, it has insisted that no secret documents exist and that interviewing scientists could lead to their identification and subsequent murder as in the past.

The P5+1, mainly the US, has also delivered on its commitments though with stiffness and delays. In one case, the US, using the “loophole” in the JPA, even imposed fresh sanctions on a number of Iranian entities who had allegedly violated the US sanction regulations. In spite of this cooperative spirit, the successive negotiations were increasingly inhibited by tougher demands by the US and stiffer resistance by Iran. The standard argument for why they failed to reach a comprehensive deal this last November is that they could not agree on the final scale and scope of Iran’s enrichment capacity, and on the extent and timing of sanctions relief for Iran. The dispute over Iran’s missile programs was certainly another obstacle.

For the US, concern regarding Iran’s enrichment capacity is directly related to the so-called breakout time – the time it would take Iran to develop a bomb clandestinely. For Iran, lifting of sanctions was more than just an economic concern; it would silence the so-called hardliners in Iran who continue to argue that the US cannot be trusted. Lacking trust in the Islamic regime, the P5+1 is seeking a “bullet proof” deal that eliminates Iran’s ability to ever develop clandestine bombs and missiles capable of delivering them. This requires that Iran is left with a symbolic enrichment capacity and smaller missile programs. To achieve this “normal” condition, the US insist that key sanctions will have to remain including the UN resolutions.

These “standard” arguments about why a comprehensive deal could not be reached have merits but they do not tell the full story. A deeper concern of the negotiators was how to “sell” the deal they would reach to their respective domestic and foreign opponents who would invariably view it as a “bad deal.” To them, there was only one sure solution: forego a comprehensive deal in favor of letting sustained negotiations gradually melt Iran’s nuclear, and hopefully its missile, programs in return for gradual trickle of sanctions relief. This “melting strategy by default” would also save the “huge investment of time and prestige” the parties had put into the nuclear negotiations while preventing a disastrous collapse.

Hence, despite the “vast differences,” the parties emphasized the “significant progress” being made and agreed to another extension of the negotiations. However, to move forward, another mini deal had to be struck. Thus, the JPA was extended and a new set of concessions was agreed upon. Accordingly, Iran committed to giving up certain other parts of its nuclear program in return for access to another small percentage of its frozen oil money. Specifically, Iran agreed to eliminate the remaining stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, stop research and development on advanced centrifuges, forgo laser enrichment technology, and permit the IAEA to double the frequency of its snap inspections.

Significantly, Iran has reportedly even considered the US proposal to ship part of its low enriched uranium to Russia for re-importation in the form of fuel rods. If true, this concession will be the sign that with the nuclear program melting away, the Islamic Revolution is fading away as well. The key aim of the 1979 revolution was national “independence,” a slogan directed at the colonial practices to which Iran had been subjected. One such practice, which has been said to have caused the country’s underdevelopment, is the so-called old international division of labor. Accordingly, Iran was forced to produce raw and semi-finished materials for conversion into final products by the imperial powers.

This last extension of negotiations also includes an interesting twist to the process: instead of setting one seven-month deadline, it actually sets two deadlines within that same time interval, one for arriving at a “political framework” and another one for arriving at a “comprehensive deal.” This innovation is intriguing because arriving at the political framework will be easier and its achievement will be heralded as a sign of a major success to come, which will in turn allow for subsequent concessions to be made easier. Significantly, this twist will reinforce the “melting strategy by default” and help negotiations to move to another future deadline.

Indeed, as the “comprehensive” approach has failed, the “melting strategy by default” has become the “melting strategy by design,” helping sustain the negotiations. Thus, the next round of negotiations may not also end in a “comprehensive deal,” but rather to yet another mini deal and extension, setting the next deadline with a longer time interval within which a few deadlines will be incorporated. In other words, negotiations will not simply collapse or produce a comprehensive deal but continue in a step-wise fashion producing mini deals. The only wild card in this scenario is the Supreme Leader; he could withdraw support for the melting approach as concessions reach his “red lines” for the Rouhani government.

One such red lines relates to Iran’s missile programs. As was reported in an important interview by Parliamentarian Mahmoud Nabavian with the Raja News, Iran has agreed to have its missiles discussed but demands for their downsizing will suggest a push for “disarming” Iran and will result in a breakdown of the negotiations. As Nabavian disclosed, Secretary John Kerry “crossed many of Iran’s red lines” during his meeting with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Oman, making Zarif leave the meeting thinking that the negotiations would have to stop. Iran subsequently returned to the Vienna negotiations and agreed to further nuclear concessions in return for more money. Most likely, the missile time bomb has been left for the current negotiations.

This article was published in Payvand News

Curious why normalization of relations with Iran will be fundamentally more challenging than with Cuba? Click here to read Dr. Amirahmadi’s article “Iran is no Cuba”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Crude Oil Dips Under $50 A Barrel, A Price Last Seen In 2009.
January 05, 2015

The price for a barrel of U.S. oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell below $50 Monday, matching levels seen in the spring of 2009. The drop is linked to both OPEC’s boosted production and a stronger dollar.

Oil’s latest fall came along with a dip on Wall Street, as the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 330 points to finish at 17,501 — a drop of 1.86 percent that’s also seen as a reaction to new instability in Europe.

Petroleum has been in a free fall: In the U.S., the average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline has fallen from above $3.60 to below $2.20 since June, according to AAA.

The sharp drop has come as OPEC member nations seek to protect their market share by raising production levels to undercut profits for U.S. oil companies.

Both Iraq and Russia are now producing crude at record levels, as Bloomberg News reports.


“People are thinking about promises from OPEC, mostly Saudi Arabia, that they’ll continue to produce at very high levels,” TD Securities commodity strategy chief Bart Melek tells Agence France-Presse. “On the demand side of the equation, what we’re getting is basically a lack of demand growth … as Europe is potentially in crisis.”

The cheaper oil and gas prices come along with a surging dollar, which reached a nine-year high against the euro earlier Monday.

As Krishnadev reported for the Two-Way, the reasons for that gain include renewed instability in Greece and the possibility that the European Central Bank “could introduce quantitative easing to stimulate the eurozone.”

For many in the American oil industry, a central question has been whether companies can keep developing oil fields, even as the financial incentive to do so keeps shrinking.

As the industry site Fuel Fix notes today, the number of working U.S. oil rigs has fallen more in the past two weeks than in any similar period since 2009.

“The number of rigs operating in the United States declined by 29 last week to 1,811,” the site reports, “marking the fourth consecutive weekly decrease for the U.S. count, published by oil field services company Baker Hughes.”

—————

The euro fell by 1.2% against the dollar to $1.1864, marking its weakest level since March 2006, before recovering slightly to $1.19370.

The drop follows ECB president Mario Draghi’s comments indicating the bank could soon start quantitative easing.

Greek political turmoil also weighed on the currency.

Although the ECB has already cut interest rates to a record low level, and also bought some bonds issued by private companies, a full-scale programme of quantitative easing QE has not yet been launched.

But on Friday, Mr Draghi hinted in a newspaper interview that the bank might soon start a policy of QE by buying government bonds, thus copying its counterparts in the UK and US.

The purpose would be to inject cash into the banking system, stimulate the economy and push prices higher.

Speaking in an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Mr Draghi said: “We are making technical preparations to alter the size, pace and composition of our measures in early 2015.”
Greek turmoil

Political turmoil in Greece also weighed on the euro, with fears that the general election on 25 January, could see the anti-austerity, left-wing Syriza party take control of the country.

The possibility has sparked fears about whether Greece will stick to the terms of its international bailout and stay in the eurozone.

On Saturday, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine said the German government believes the eurozone would be able to cope with a Greek “exit” from the euro, if the Syriza party wins the Greek election.

Reacting to Der Spiegel’s report, a spokesman for German Chancellor Merkel said there was no change in German policy and the government expects Greece to fulfil its obligations under the EU, ECB and IMF bailout.

French president Francois Hollande also commented, saying it was now “up to the Greeks” to decide whether to remain a part of the single currency.

“Europe cannot continue to be identified by austerity,” he added, suggesting that the eurozone needs to focus more on growth than reducing its deficit.

Analysts said the euro was likely to remain volatile for the next few weeks.

“The market is readying itself for action from the ECB. The first meeting of the year takes place on 22nd January, so the euro is likely to remain in focus and see heightened volatility as we approach that date, which is also a few days before the Greek General Election,” said FxPro senior analyst Angus Campbell.

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We go back to our base – the question what all this means to the answer of Clean Energy from Renewable Sources and Energy Independence in all parts of the World?

Our answer is that we are still optimists – now as the “Internet of Things” and our “Super-Connectivity” a la Rifkin – that we just posted – will help us get away from the reliance on fossil fuels. It seems thus that Russia may work in its best long term interest by squandering now its oil resources. I would not say that they do this because they have that foresight.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Jeremy Rifkin, Author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society, Joined BK Yoon, President of Samsung Electronics, on stage during Mr. Yoon’s Opening Keynote Address on the Future of the Internet of Things at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas

Mr. Rifkin Described how the Internet of Things Digital Revolution transforms Consumer Electronics into “Prosumer Electronics,” Allowing Billions of People to Actively Produce, Consume, and Share Economic and Social Activity with one another via their Connected Devices

LAS VEGAS – January 5, 2015 – Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society, joined BK Yoon, President of Samsung Electronics, on stage during Mr. Yoon’s opening keynote address on the future of the Internet of Things at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Mr. Rifkin described how the Internet of Things digital revolution transforms consumer electronics into “prosumer electronics,” allowing billions of people to actively produce, consume, and share economic and social activity with one another via their connected devices.

Mr. Rifkin observed that “every great economic paradigm shift in history brings together three new technologies in a seamless new infrastructure that changes the way we organize our economic life: new communication technologies to more efficiently manage economic activity; new sources of energy to more efficiently power economic activity; and new modes of transportation to more efficiently move economic activity.”

“Today,” said Mr. Rifkin, “we are embarking on a Third Industrial Revolution. The communication Internet is converging with a nascent renewable Energy Internet, and a fledgling Transportation and Logistics Internet, to create a super-Internet of Things.”


In the Internet of Things era, sensors will be embedded into every device and appliance, allowing them to communicate with each other and Internet users, creating an intelligent technology infrastructure for a smart world.


Mr. Rifkin pointed out that “homeowners and businesses will be able to produce and consume their own solar and wind green electricity and store and sell any surplus electricity back to the electricity grid.”

Mr. Rifkin went on to explain how “the automated Transportation and Logistics Internet will ease mobility by allowing people to use their mobile devices to share electric and fuel cell vehicles, monitor traffic flows, and, in the near future, enjoy driverless transportation on smart roads.”

This new era of super-connectivity will allow us to effortlessly manage our devices and appliances with solutions that will increase efficiencies and dramatically reduce the fixed and marginal costs of operating our homes, businesses, and vehicles.

According to Mr. Rifkin, “the Internet of Things platform will enhance virtually every aspect of our lives, from monitoring our health to improving our athletic skills, marking a vast improvement in our quality of life.”

“Most importantly,” said Mr. Rifkin, “the Internet of Things will also enable each of us to minimize our use of the Earth’s energy and material resources and usher in a more ecologically sustainable society.”

Mr. Rifkin added that “the Internet of Things brings with it new challenges, including the need to maintain an open network, ensure universal access, protect personal privacy, and guarantee data security.”


Finally, Mr. Rifkin concluded with the observation that “the Internet of Things will bring the human race together as a single extended human family for the first time in history… allowing us to share our commercial and social lives in ways never before imaginable.”

“We are,” says Rifkin, “on the cusp of a great economic transformation. The rise of the Internet of Things is going to improve the lives of billions of people and create a more efficient, democratic, and sustainable future.”

CONTACT:
Shawn Moorhead
The Office of Jeremy Rifkin
+1-301-656-6272
 shawn at foet.org

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

16 January 2015 – from 1:15pm till 2:45pm

The President of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Sam Kahamba Kutesa
Invites civil society representatives to a special interactive dialogue at United Nations Headquarters in New York
Venue: Trusteeship Council Chamber

This interactive dialogue will take place in advance of the five high-level thematic debates and events that the General Assembly President will host in 2015 as a contribution to delivering on and implementing a transformative post-2015 development agenda, namely:

1. High-Level Thematic Debate on Means of Implementation for a Transformative Post-2015 development agenda (9-10 February 2015)

2. High-Level Thematic Debate on Advancing Gender equality and empowerment of Women in the Post-2015 development agenda (6 March 2015)

3. High-Level Thematic Debate on Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation (6 April 2015 TBC)

4. High-Level Thematic Debate on Strengthening Cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations (15 May 2015)

5. High-Level Event on Climate Change (29 June 2015).

The primary objective of the briefing will be to inform and encourage the contributions of civil society and other relevant stakeholders in the events.

The session will include a general briefing on the five events, followed by an open and interactive Q&A with representatives of civil society organizations, major groups and other relevant stakeholders who will have the opportunity to focus their interventions on key issues that they would like to see reflected in the framework of the President of the General Assembly’s events. The interventions have the potential to contribute to the substantive background papers that will be prepared for the five events.

Further information on the five events is available at:
 www.un.org/pga/interactive-briefi…

How to access the event:

If you have a valid UN Grounds Pass, you may attend the event without an additional ticket. If you do not possess a UN Grounds Pass, please apply for a Special Event Ticket by completing this online form by 13 January 2015: bit.ly/PGA-SETs

Yours Sincerely,

NGO Relations and Advocacy
Department of Public Information
United Nations Headquarters in New York
 outreach.un.org/ngorelations

NOREPLY-DPINGO <noreply-dpingo@un.org>

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Michael Brown Grand Juror Sues St. Louis County Prosecutor, Asking to Speak Out on Case

By Joel Currier, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

05 January 2015

taken from - readersupportednews.org/news-sect…

A member of the grand jury that declined to file criminal charges against former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown sued St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch Monday for the right to speak publicly about the proceedings.

The suit says that the former juror, identified in court documents only as “Grand Juror Doe,” wishes to speak out to challenge public misconceptions about the case and that speaking publicly could “contribute to the current public dialogue concerning race relations” that was sparked by the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Brown. It hints that jurors were not unanimous in their decision not to charge Wilson. Doe also wants “to advocate for legislative change to the way grand juries are conducted in Missouri,” the suit says.

The suit, filed in federal court in St. Louis, asks a judge to rule unconstitutional the Missouri law that would criminalize any of Doe’s comments “about Doe’s experiences as a state grand juror” and bar McCulloch from prosecuting Doe.

The investigation of Wilson “had a stronger focus on the victim than in other grand jury cases,” the suit claims. The presentation of evidence and “the State’s counsel to the grand jury” “differed markedly and in significant ways. . . from the hundreds of matters presented to the grand jury earlier in its term.” The suit also claims the legal guidelines presented to jurors in applying facts of the case were “muddled and untimely” compared to other cases.

The plaintiff claims McCulloch’s characterization of the grand jury’s view of the evidence was at odds with Doe’s opinions of the case, that the public’s understanding of the grand jurors’ views is “not entirely accurate.”

The suits says Doe wants to challenge the accuracy of public statements and opinions about the grand jury, “especially the implication that all grand jurors believed that there was no support for any charges.” It says that the heavily-redacted grand jury documents that have been released, and the lack of context, “do not fully portray the proceedings before the grand jury.”

State law says it is a misdemeanor for grand jurors to discuss their service. The plaintiff is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Town and Country law firm of Sowers & Wolf.

“The rules of secrecy must yield because this is a highly unusual circumstance,” Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a prepared statement. “The First Amendment prevents the state from imposing a lifetime gag order in cases where the prosecuting attorney has purported to be transparent.”

Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU, said that as both the public and legislatures are currently debating police misconduct, racial profiling and other issues sparked by the Brown shooting, “We believe that the public and the legislature need to have this information and we’re working to convince a judge. . . . ”

Mittman said that the information about the grand jury investigation had been entirely “one-sided” and “government-directed” to date.

“How this process worked. . . is solely being driven by the government,” he told the Post-Dispatch, adding, “as you know, the First Amendment doesn’t allow that.”

The public is entitled to “complete information not controlled by the government.”

Asked Doe’s gender, how Doe approached lawyers, whether Doe’s opinions represent the opinion of other grand jurors and whether Doe’s suit might prompt other jurors to come forward, Mittman offered essentially similar versions of the same statement: “This grand juror is being very respectful of the legal process and does not want to share information that it is not legally permissible to share.”

One reason the grand jury process is secret is to protect the target if an indictment is not returned, Mittman said. The court, he said, will look at reasons to break that secrecy: the interests of public policy and the ongoing debate about “are grand juries the best way to deal with police misconduct?”


Mittman did not want to speculate about how long the case will take to be resolved. “We certainly hope to work cooperatively with the attorneys for the county. It would be wonderful if there could be an expedited process.”

A McCulloch spokesman declined to comment, saying that McCulloch had not yet been served with the suit.

The grand jury Nov. 24, 2014 announced it would not indict Wilson for killing Brown.

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Comments posted by RSN:

+103 # indian weaver 2015-01-05 11:43
I hope more complainants from the Grand Jury will enjoin the case, if accepted. We need to keep this racist prosecutor in the cross hairs of public opinion as long as possible, as long as necessary to find him unfit for office and / or malfeasance of office. The least is to humiliate him and show his dishonesty and racism.

+55 # Floe 2015-01-05 12:32
Secrecy is the canopy of the wicked and corrupt. If the whole entire world has to be surveilled by the dominators why is it that the dominators themselves are exempt from the public eye? “Have they something to hide” the question they ask of us, they don’t apply to themselves. Privacy has a whole new meaning now that we have technology. If the dominators are going to see what we do, we should be able to see it too. And see what they do also. We have to learn to live in the open. Information is power. Why do we give the dominators our power? All courts should be open. All declassified material should be unclassified. All patents released and made open source. The world will fly when this happens. Secrecy only feeds the violent.

+8 # WestWinds 2015-01-05 14:14
Quoting Floe:

Secrecy is the canopy of the wicked and corrupt. If the whole entire world has to be surveilled by the dominators why is it that the dominators themselves are exempt from the public eye? “Have they something to hide” the question they ask of us, they don’t apply to themselves. Privacy has a whole new meaning now that we have technology. If the dominators are going to see what we do, we should be able to see it too. And see what they do also. We have to learn to live in the open. Information is power. Why do we give the dominators our power? All courts should be open. All declassified material should be unclassified. All patents released and made open source. The world will fly when this happens. Secrecy only feeds the violent.

— In general and in theory I agree with you but we part company re all courts should be open (what about child abuse cases? Shouldn’t the children be shielded?), all classified material should be unclassified (like how to make WMD or biological war weapons?), and all patents released (then no one would feel like developing anything new.) Let’s not rush to a conclusion; let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

+7 # tref 2015-01-05 16:26
@WestWinds

Floe did NOT say, “all classified material should be unclassified.”

Floe said, “All DEclassified material should be unclassified.”

In other words, declassified material should be public information, not left in secret because it might be embarrassing.

+52 # Vardoz 2015-01-05 12:46
It has never been against the law in the past as far as I know- But the bottom line here is that innocent, unarmed blacks are being murdered on a daily basis all across the nation with total immunity for the killer and that is an outrage, unconstitutional, and must stop!!!! No matter what color or social status, our citizens cannot be shot down and killed like rats in the street. When Crawford was murdered in the Dayton Walmart while playing with a toy gun, I called the police and asked why they didn’t warn him or fire a warning shot or shoot him in the arm or hand or read him his rights? He was a beautiful young man with his whole life ahead of him and it hurt me so much to think that his life was snuffed out just like that!!! Haven’t our black citizens suffered enough? The officer said that they were not trained for that. So I would like to know who changed the law and when was this order passed down and by whom? Many murders are also not even reported. It seems if we are to be a nation of laws and justice we must now fight for our rights and justice. I am proud of all those who protested and wish with all my heart that it does not stop until these murders stop.

+17 # WestWinds 2015-01-05 14:22
Quoting Vardoz:

…unarmed blacks are being murdered on a daily basis all across the nation with total immunity for the killer and that is an outrage,unconstitutional and must stop!!!! No matter what color or social status, our citizens cannot be shot down and killed like rats in the street. When Crawford was murdered in the Dayton Walmart while playing with a toy gun, I called the police and asked why they didn’t warn him … The officer said that they were not trained for that. So I would like to know who changed the law and when was this order passed down and by whom? Many murders are also not even reported. …

– I’m surprised you don’t realize that we are no longer a democracy but a military police state. When did this happen? It’s been coming in pieces but I believe the Patriot Act and the Militarization Authorization Act firmly put things in place.

The police as a para-military force are no longer tasked with “to protect and to serve”; they even announced this on the radio several years ago. The police are now tasked with civil containment and they are being trained that We the People are the enemy (of the corporate overlords and the corrupt political system we have going.) Gosh, we really do have an information gap going; I thought everybody knew this.

+6 # John S. Browne 2015-01-05 16:31

“Militarization Authorization Act”? There’s no such thing, is there? Do you mean, the Military Commissions Act, and/or the National Defense Authorization Act? Or how ’bout, the Homeland Security Act?

You’re right, though, the police no longer work for the public; which of course means that this country is no longer “of, by and for the People”, but ‘of, by and for the oligarchy’, and that all those who don’t bow down to the police state that the nation has become, will have vicious and brutal repression carried out against them. In short, the U.S. is no longer a free country, and it is getting more and more dangerous to exercise our inalienable rights and duties to stand up for our inalienable rights and duties. But we’ve got to do so anyway, because we cannot and must not allow this turning of the U.S. into a slave state with no True Liberty(ies) and Freedom(s) to continue. We’ve got to preserve our True Freedom(s) and Liberty(ies), and stop the U.S. from being turned into a totalitarian militarized police state, or we’re all fracked.

So, people, no matter what, “Get up! Stand up! Stand up for your rights!” (Bob Marley.) And save our nation and world from repressive, brutal and vicious global corporate-fascism!

+6 # jwb110 2015-01-05 13:24
The Ox is in the ditch now.

+18 # tm7devils39 2015-01-05 13:49
Finally…someo ne who has the guts to challenge a secret – and therefore(very possibly) corrupt – system.

+5 # WestWinds 2015-01-05 14:26
Quoting tm7devils39:

Finally…someone who has the guts to challenge a secret – and therefore(very possibly) corrupt – system.

— Yes, but only in Missouri. Even if this does go the correct way, it is still only one grain of sand on a very large beach.

+13 # Corvette-Bob 2015-01-05 15:28
This conflict of interest engaged by prosecutors has been going on for as long as I can recall. I have been an attorney for 40 years

+4 # kasta626 2015-01-05 13:58
If the prosecutor was in control of the lies being represented to grand jury,then he was in control of the outcome or the decision. Secrecy only leads one to believe that prosecutor was hiding something! This is proof of the widespread corruption across the united states courtrooms. Listen to wake and shake radio and words of wisdom blog radio of death of justice system hour on Fridays with Lidya Radin and Franklin Lewis.

+2 # kasta626 2015-01-05 13:58
If the prosecutor was in control of the lies being represented to grand jury,then he was in control of the outcome or the decision. Secrecy only leads one to believe that prosecutor was hiding something! This is proof of the widespread corruption across the united states courtrooms. Listen to wake and shake radio and words of wisdom blog radio of death of justice system hour on Fridays with Lidya Radin and Franklin Lewis.

-2 # kasta626 2015-01-05 13:58
If the prosecutor was in control of the lies being represented to grand jury,then he was in control of the outcome or the decision. Secrecy only leads one to believe that prosecutor was hiding something! This is proof of the widespread corruption across the united states courtrooms. Listen to wake and shake radio and words of wisdom blog radio of death of justice system hour on Fridays with Lidya Radin and Franklin Lewis.

+8 # WestWinds 2015-01-05 14:32
Quoting kasta626:

If the prosecutor was in control of the lies being represented to grand jury,then he was in control of the outcome or the decision. Secrecy only leads one to believe that prosecutor was hiding something! This is proof of the widespread corruption across the united states courtrooms. Listen to wake and shake radio and words of wisdom blog radio of death of justice system hour on Fridays with Lidya Radin and Franklin Lewis.

— Once upon a time you could tune into Air America and get all the liberal news. Then the powers that be bought everything up and out and scattered all of these shows all over the place so we have to hunt and peck to try and cobble any decent information together. I wish we had Air America back or one central place (that was easy to find and cpu friendly). I don’t own a TV or a good enough radio to pull in much of anything that isn’t Right-wing robot rubbish. I can’t even watch Rachel Maddow unless there is some special with a vid-clip on YouTube. It’s such a drag.

+2 # kasta626 2015-01-05 14:55
You can listen to shows on your phone by dialing on Friday (386) 643-4064 evening and words of wisdom (646)595-3338.C orporate media will spoonfeed you rubbish talking points ;blog radio will present the truth behind the hijacking if the court system! !!

+5 # curmudgeon 2015-01-05 15:00
Homeland, Homeland Über alles…..

Sieg Heil
Sieg Heil
Seig Heil

-14 # jdd 2015-01-05 15:10
It might be beneficial if all the evidence were to come out and illustrate why the grand jury did not indict the police officer in this case. Maybe then those not satisfied with the decision of the grand jury can stop their vilification of policemen and derogatory accusations, and cease substituting their opinions for those who deliberated after actually hearing the evidence.

+13 # Corvette-Bob 2015-01-05 15:25
Virtually all prosecutors are beholden to the police departments. No prosecutor could ever be elected without the support of the police. Once elected the success of his prosecuting anybody for a crime is almost always dependent upon the help of the police. While a prosecutor tries a case the person who sits next to him is a police officer. When a prosecutor normally submits a case to a grand jury a prosecutor acts as a prosecutor. When he is prosecuting a police officer is role is changed into a defense attorney. It is obvious in this case the grand jurors were stunned by the difference in the method of presenting the case. What needs to be done in cases involving a police officer is to have a special prosecutor appointed who presents it as a normal case. Currently a prosecutor is in a conflict of interest due to his relationship to the police department.

+5 # Rockster 2015-01-05 16:12
Talk about conflict of interest! So now did this evolve over time to we’d the DA to the police? If the US Justice Dept wants respect for law and safety in our country they have got to fix this system. No wonder the prisons are loaded with those who cannot afford the best legal help and all those guilty who are wealthy avoid harsh treatment. It’s now corrupt in its very nature.

0 # fredboy 2015-01-05 16:21
See if you can find one journalist with balls who can reveal why they silenced that grand jury.

Just one. With balls. If there are any.

+4 # dyannne 2015-01-05 17:02
There are quite a few journalists with balls. Glen Greenwald, Amy Goodman, Matt Taibbi, just to name a few.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Turkey is no American Ally
Originally published under the BESA title, “America’s Unacknowledged Problem.”

by Efraim Inbar
BESA Center Perspectives
January 4, 2015

for article please see - www.meforum.org/4955/turkey-is-no…


Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a Shillman/Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

“World Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation”, Manchester, UK, 2-4 September 2015: deadline for abstracts extended.

Preparations for the “World Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation” (WSCCA), to be held Manchester, UK, on
2-4 September 2015, are in full swing. Over 200 abstracts from across the world have been received, and further abstracts are
now being accepted until the 30th January 2015.

Organised by Manchester Metropolitan University (UK) and the Research and Transfer Centre “Applications of Life Sciences” of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany), WSCCA entails cooperation with world´s leading climate organisations, such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), World Health Organisation (WHO) the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the International Council of Local Environment Initiatives (ICLE), the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Developmentof (ICIMOD), the International Climate Change Information Programme (ICCIP), the United Nations University initiative “Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development” (RCE), and other agencies. The Symposium will be a truly interdisciplinary event, covering some of the key areas in the field of climate change adaptation.

A set of presentations, divided into six main themes will be organised, distributed over parallel sessions dealing with some of the key issues of strategic value in the field of climate change adaptation. These are:

Session 1: Technological approaches to Climate Change Adaptation
Session 2: Implementing Climate Change Adaptation in Communities, Cities, Countries and via Outreach Programmes
Session 3: Funding mechanisms and financing of Climate Change Adaptation
Session 4: Climate Change Adaptation, Resilience and Hazards (including floods)
Session 5: Information, Communication, Education and Training on Climate Change
Session 6: Climate Change and Health

The organisers also welcome suggestions of special sessions, and so far special sessions on “Climate Change in the Artic” and “Climate Change Governance” and others, have been received.

To secure the highest possible quality, all papers are subject to peer-review. Accepted papers will be published in a special issue of the International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management
 www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/pr…

(fully indexed) or at the book “Innovative Approaches to Implement Climate Change Adaptation”.

This will be a further volume of the award-winning book series “Climate Change Management”
published by Springer, which since its creation in 2008 has become the world´s leading book series
on climate change management.

The Symposium will be of special interest to researchers, government agencies, NGOs and companies engaged in the field of climate change adaptation, as well as development and aid agencies funding climate change adaptation process in developing countries. The deadline for abstracts is 30th January 2015. Full papers are due by 30th March 2015.

Further details can be seen at: www.haw-hamburg.de/en/wscca-2015….

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In New York City – a Window of the US at the Start of 2015


The Mayor and the Police – By David Remnick, The New Yorker,

re-posted from readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

04 January 2014

In 1960, James Baldwin, the American Orwell, wrote “Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem,” an essay that portrayed the ugly dynamic between white police officers and young black men in the neighborhood where he grew up:

Rare, indeed, is the Harlem citizen, from the most circumspect church member to the most shiftless adolescent, who does not have a long tale to tell of police incompetence, injustice, or brutality. I myself have witnessed and endured it more than once. . . . It is hard, on the other hand, to blame the policeman, blank, good-natured, thoughtless, and insuperably innocent, for being such a perfect representative of the people he serves. He, too, believes in good intentions and is astounded and offended when they are not taken for the deed. He has never, himself, done anything for which to be hated––which of us has?––and yet he is facing, daily and nightly, people who would gladly see him dead, and he knows it. There is no way for him not to know it: there are few things under heaven more unnerving than the silent, accumulating contempt and hatred of a people.

To contemporary readers, such a passage may seem a relic of a harsh past. Baldwin’s essay predates so many advances, including the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. The New York Police Department’s rank and file is no longer majority white. Crime rates are lower than they have been in decades. An African-American was elected President in 2008 and appointed an African-American to be the chief law-enforcement official in the land. American audiences go to see “Selma,” get teary-eyed, and think how far we’ve come. The temptation is to suppose that Baldwin has long since lost all relevance. Why, then, does the President gently remind us that if he had a son he’d look like Trayvon Martin? And why does the Attorney General say we are a “nation of cowards” when it comes to the discussion of race?

On January 3rd, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, an N.Y.P.D. officer, on any charge related to the homicide-by-asphyxiation, in July, of an African-American man named Eric Garner. New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, commented on the grand jury’s decision. He spoke with unapologetic honesty about the failure of the judicial system. He anticipated, and tacitly endorsed, peaceful protest, “the only thing that has ever worked” to advance social justice in America. And he spoke personally, saying that he and his wife, Chirlane, have had “the talk” with their son, Dante, about “the dangers he may face” on the street as a young man of color:

I’ve had to worry over the years, Chirlane’s had to worry. Is Dante safe each night? There are so many families in this city who feel that each and every night. Is my child safe? And not just from some of the painful realities—crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods—but are they safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors?

De Blasio then echoed one of the most resonant lines heard since the protests began last summer in Ferguson, Missouri. “It’s a phrase that should never have to be said,” he insisted. “It should be self-evident. But our history, sadly, requires us to say that black lives matter.”

The demonstrations that followed were almost entirely peaceful. There were instances of protesters shouting despicable slogans, but those instances were isolated and rare. Most police officers showed no more disrespect to de Blasio and the protesters than de Blasio and the protesters had shown to them. The truth is that both protest and argument, conducted peacefully and with decency, can have the effect of easing the long-running tension between the police and the policed and bringing about the kind of change that is needed. The “techniques” that killed Eric Garner demand reform, and so does a system in which it is nearly impossible to bring a police officer to trial.

And yet some police groups, including the leadership of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, charged that the Mayor was fanning anti-police sentiment. Then came the assassination, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, of two N.Y.P.D. officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, by a young man who had just shot his ex-girlfriend. That horrendous event devastated New Yorkers, particularly police officers, who daily put their lives at risk in the name of public safety. It also brought the simmering resentment among some police leaders to a boil of accusatory rhetoric. Patrick Lynch, the head of the P.B.A., who has waged battles over contracts and other issues with previous mayors, used the killings as a political cudgel. The Mayor, he said, had blood on his hands. Michael Goodwin, a columnist for the Post, was among those who had amplified the case for blaming de Blasio; the Mayor, he wrote, had thrown “gasoline on the fire by painting the entire force as a bunch of white racist brutes.”

As a way to cool tensions, de Blasio asked that there be a halt to protests, at least until after the officers’ funerals. The most flagrant refusal to do so came at the funeral of Rafael Ramos, when hundreds of police officers in attendance, following Lynch’s lead, turned their backs as the Mayor delivered a eulogy. An occasion of mourning had been hijacked. The police commissioner, William Bratton, was diplomatic, calling the gesture “inappropriate.” It was worse than that. It was an act of profound disrespect not only to de Blasio but also to the Ramos family members, who were there to grieve, not to witness a petulant display of resentment.

At his press conference, de Blasio had referred to a history that preceded the death of Eric Garner and charged it with meaning. The story of civil rights is not an event that ends with a triumphal arrival at a Southern statehouse. Two generations after Selma, the Supreme Court has started to roll back voting rights. Two generations after Selma, one out of three black males born in America today will, if present trends continue, see the inside of a prison cell.

“One day, to everyone’s astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up,” Baldwin wrote. “Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches, and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men.” Some of the language is of its time, but the demand is just and everlasting.

Comments posted by RSN:

+54 # DaveM 2015-01-04 12:51
This begs a larger question which, alas, cannot be answered by homilies about racism or classism or any “ism” that I know of. That question is: who is in charge here? The people of the United States and their elected representatives , or the police?

+18 # Walter J Smith 2015-01-04 14:20
Nobody if not you. And me.

Remember that question being asked in the movie, Apocalypse Now?

The answer hasn’t changed.

As one CEO long ago said about the Pentagon, on their resume’s every general and admiral at the Pentagon runs the whole bureaucratic empire. Until you ask them a simple question. Then you immediately discover no one there knows anything about anything.

The same is true in the US Deartment of Veterans Affairs. I am now, as I have been since August, attempting to get the VA to give me the eye surgery their own doctors agree I need. Yet, the VA just keeps sending me for more appointments to have my eyes examined to determine if I need cataract surgery. And no one knows why. No one knows who makes the appointments. No one knows what can be done about it. No one knows who can schedule my cataract surgery. No one is responsible for anything. Except on their resumes. Where everyone of them is responsible for everything.

That is exactly as our bipartisan neo-American Congress & our Administrations & our Judiciary wishes things to be.
Throughout the entire empire.

+19 # Art947 2015-01-04 15:31
An America’s corporate CEOs say that they deserve high compensation for creating the companies that they lead while telling us that they know nothing when something goes terribly wrong!

Tell me which banker, hedge fund manager, corporate raider, etc. deserves the big bucks that they are paid when each has a hand in destroying the lives of average Americans? Are you listening, Mr. Romney? Mr. Dimon?

+9 # brux 2015-01-04 12:58
>> And why does the Attorney General say we are a “nation of cowards” when it comes to the discussion of race?

That’s a good quote, and true, but the meaning and point is very fuzzy.

Both sides here have valid arguments, and the conversations that arise around race simple cannot go anywhere.

If I simple express my opinions on it, not in a mean or racists way, I get branded a racists for not agreeing with the mobs of folks for example that tore up Ferguson, MO.’

If I do not exactly agree with sentiments such as put the cops on trial or shoot them I just get vitriolic hatred for it, despite the fact that I feel very bad for the negative experiences black people I have known have experienced and do empathize with them.

Having been sort of hippie-like in my youth I am familiar with being targeted or confronted with an attitude from the way I look. Driving through the South one time with my California license plate and needing a haircut I was almost involved in a fight was the redneck barbers kicked me out of their shop hair half cut.

I know the bad side of human nature, and the problem with discussing it is that people cannot get past their own experiences and need to vent about them instead of trying to come to a reasonable compromise about what is fair and just and how to enforce it.

0 # economagic 2015-01-04 21:23
Brux,

What have you done, beyond “feel very bad for them,” to change the institutional racism that Mr. Remnick, Mr. Baldwin, Frederick Douglass, and myriad others have written about for more than a century and a half? Are you even aware that institutional racism exists in this country?

How long? How many times? Yet the Supreme Court scales back the protections of the Voting Rights Act even as the Republican Party rams laws through state legislatures to restrict voting that in ways affect blacks disproportionately, on the basis of fraudulent “research” claiming voter fraud.

I was more than “sort of hippie-like” in my youth, and was also an activist who witnessed that racism up close. It was a lot different from what I experienced as a white hippie.

I have a friend who is smart and well intentioned, a really decent and generous guy. Yet he sends me emails with the most blatant, ugly racism this side of the Ku Klux Klan. It has not been that long since the Klan owned a little town near here that hosted some of the CIA “torture taxis.” As best I can tell my friend supports that too, but only for “terrorists.” He refuses to define that term, but clearly he means “them,” “the others,” “people not like us.”

He would be most indignant if I confronted him with his racism. He is a closet racist, in the closet only to himself and others who cannot take an honest look at their own hearts, or honestly say, “There but for the Grace of God (for being born white) go I.”


+27 # Shorey13 2015-01-04 13:26
I still think the problem is inadequate vetting of applicants for the job of policeman. One coward with a badge and a gun is all it takes to create social chaos, and to confirm the worst fears of the black community.
Please remember that after the police riots in Chicago in 1968 during the Democratic Convention, psychologists who were hired by the city to evaluate the department found that 85% (!!!) were psychologically unsuited for the job.
While it may no longer be 85%, as noted above, even one bad apple ruins the barrel.
Lastly, like firemen, doctors and many other professionals, police often close ranks and defend their indefensible colleagues.

+17 # Art947 2015-01-04 15:36
The “The Blue Line” subscribes to a code of silence when it comes to the actions of its members. As a consequence, when one of them does wrong, then as they are aiding and abetting the action, they have all done wrong. Until members of every police force decide that the code of silence will no longer prevail, then they will all be painted, and tainted, by the sins of their colleagues. BTW, one only needs to remember Frank Serpico and the evils that he suffered for trying to tell the truth about the NYPD.

+23 # wrknight 2015-01-04 13:56
“And why does the Attorney General say we are a “nation of cowards” when it comes to the discussion of race?”

And speaking of a nation of cowards, what about those attorney generals who are afraid of Wall Street bankers?

+20 # progressiveguy 2015-01-04 14:10
Someone should tell the good cops that they are not under attack by protesters or liberals or the mayor. The institutional racism of police forces in general and NYC in particular is and should be under attack. When the good cops condone the abuse of the bad cops then they are part of the problem. Cops that use unnecessary force must be separated from police forces.

+27 # angelfish 2015-01-04 14:36
When you have Police like the ones in New York who act like children by turning their backs on the Mayor rather than sitting down to TALK about the bad apples in their barrel, the REAL problems will never be solved. I know that MOST cops are good, decent people, however, they shield and protect the psychopaths that have NO business wearing the uniform! ALL professions have bad apples, the Police are not alone in this, but until they actively work at policing THEMSELVES, we will remain at an impasse. Police work is inherently dangerous but NO ONE deserves to die because they LOOK suspicious. Blacks, Latinos and other ethnic people are no more likely than their white peers to be guilty, yet it is THEY who suffer the indignities of being stopped, harassed and, in many cases shot dead! WHEN does it ever stop?


+5 # Art947 2015-01-04 15:41
There was interesting commentary by Linda Stasi in today’s (1/4/15) Daily News concerning the battles between the NYPD and NY’s mayors. Even mayor, including that paragon of despicability, Rudolf Giuilani, Bloomberg, Lindsay, Dinkens, etc., has been treated to shows of disrespect by the leaders and membership of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. It is only because the strident voices of the corporate news media have amplified this conflict that it has become such a national travesty.

+4 # lfeuille 2015-01-04 19:40
Quoting Art947:

There was interesting commentary by Linda Stasi in today’s (1/4/15) Daily News concerning the battles between the NYPD and NY’s mayors. Even mayor, including that paragon of despicability, Rudolf Giuilani, Bloomberg, Lindsay, Dinkens, etc., has been treated to shows of disrespect bu the leaders and membership of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. It is only because the strident voices of the corporate news media have amplified this conflict that it has become such a national travesty.

It is only because the national media, for whatever reason, has finally decided to pay attention to the problem that many people are even aware of it. You can’t fix what you don’t know about. It was happening even when the press wasn’t looking.

+12 # fredboy 2015-01-04 16:52
NY cops best wise up to recognize that their actions and attitudes support the unlawful police gang murder of an unarmed man who was breaking no law, not police excellence.

If I were the mayor I would clean house, starting at the top.

Their actions and attitudes are prompting citizens across the land to police the police–that’s how bad things are out there.

0 # leftcoast 2015-01-04 17:23
Walterj – what actually is your beef? Or is it that you just
don’t get the cartoons?

0 # corals33 2015-01-04 18:20
CORRECTION: No African-American was (s)elected as president in 2008.This man’s mother is and always was WHITE. Lest we forget.
The polioe and the prison guards should be investigated “Mcarthy style” for their membership of “secret organizations” before anything else. Start at the beginning folks instead of always looking (deliberately) at every other angle.

+3 # greenbacker 2015-01-04 22:02
[quote name="corals33" ]“CORRECTION: No African-America n was (s)elected as president in 2008.This man’s mother is and always was WHITE. Lest we forget.”

So let me get this straight. President Obama’s father was African, his mother was American. But he is not “African-American?” Am I missing something? “WHITE” is not (or should not be) synonymous with “American,” but for too many people it is, even if subconsciously. This is a huge part of the problem when it comes to discussing race in America. The fact of the matter is that a large portion, if not a majority, of Blacks born in America have some European as well as African ancestry. Henry Louis Gates (remember the “beer summit” after Gates’ encounter with police in his own house?) has a whole series on PBS dealing with this subject. In fact, in one episode it was revealed through DNA testing that the rapper Nas has Scandinavian/Viking ancestry. So, yes, an African-American was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. No correction necessary. And if Obama was not President of the US, and his story so well known, and you saw him walking down the street, you would not identify him as a half-white guy, you would see him as a Black man.

0 # Rockster 2015-01-04 18:34
I totally agree with corals:33 re the prison guards and police as to their “secret fraternal orgs” but why say it with. @McCarthyism thrown in. And I’m curious what is the standard amount of blackness to qualify?

-3 # perkinsej 2015-01-04 19:00
The solution to all these problems is linked not just to gun control but to total gun abandonment. Last of the “liberal” program that requires attention and eventually enactment.

+1 # jstick 2015-01-04 20:27
Shorey13 says the issue is “adequate vetting of applicants for the job of policeman.” Correct. How many of these officers who commit homicide on the job are veterans back from Iraq and Afghanistan? Remember, over there they were trained to suspect and kill civilians. Same as in Vietnam. Prior to that the enemy wore uniforms.
They are merely doing what they were trained to do.

+1 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-01-04 21:10
Wake up America.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


A Godless Jewish Humanist.
who forced into migration from Nazi Germany – developed several lives and had achievements in many different areas – we would prefer mention by citing the title of one of his many books – “THE SANE SOCIETY” (1965) by the man who helped suggest to us Nuclear Disarmament, Amnesty International, and a pure humanistic art of loving.

Sunday, January 4, 2015 The review by Dinah M. Mendes of Tikkun – of a book about Erich Fromm – by Lawrence J. Friedman, assisted by Anke M. Schreiber, Columbia University Press, 2014

Even before opening Lawrence J. Friedman’s biography, “The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet,” readers are alerted by its title to the enormousness of the task of conveying the range and reach of this once celebrated intellectual. Erich Fromm was a Heidelberg University-trained sociologist, a psychoanalyst who helped found and direct psychoanalytic institutes in the United States and Mexico, author of more than a dozen books—many of them best sellers—a social commentator, and a political activist who promoted worldwide socialist humanism and nuclear disarmament. For college students and the educated reading public from the mid 1940s through the late ’60s, Escape from Freedom (1941), The Sane Society (1955), and The Art of Loving (1956) were often their first introduction to psychoanalytic, Marxist, and sociological constructs that Fromm incorporated and popularized in his reader-friendly prose.

The Lives of Erich Fromm is a virtual encyclopedia of Fromm data, with an impressively broad sweep that illuminates a cultural atmosphere and zeitgeist very different from our own more specialized and compartmentalized era. Perhaps the book’s greatest appeal is Friedman’s evocation of the historical, cultural, and political milieus that are the context of this scholarly biography, ranging from the Free Jewish Teaching Institute (Lehrhaus) in Frankfurt, to the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research; from the therapeuticum (the experimental sanatorium founded in 1923 in Heidelberg by Fromm and his first wife, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann that melded psychoanalytic treatment with Orthodox Jewish communal living); to the culture and personality movement in New York that joined prominent neo-Freudians—Fromm, Harry Stack Sullivan, Clara Thompson, and Karen Horney—with eminent anthropologists, such as Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and Edward Sapir; to the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy and Amnesty International that Fromm helped to launch and fund.

The Public Versus the Private Lives of Erich Fromm

At the same time, Friedman traces the various, often parallel trajectories of Fromm’s life: his educational course, vocational development, emigration, institutional affiliations, significant relationships, and his steady output of books—for each of which he offers a detailed summary and statistics about sales and translations.

Friedman unfolds the public lives of Erich Fromm the social critic, political activist, and global educator with great vividness, but he is less successful at bringing to life the private Erich Fromm, whose inner life remains largely obscured beneath the evidence of his amazing productivity and range. While this might be regarded as a deficit in any comprehensive biography (and Friedman’s stated intention is to supplement previous Fromm biographies by elucidating the influence of his personal life on his intellectual contributions), it is especially striking in the biography of a man who defined himself as a psychoanalyst. Although the book is sprinkled with tart observations about Fromm—and even criticisms about the unabashed self-referential basis of his later writings or his “unethical trysts” with female patients—under Friedman’s hand they never quite coalesce into a satisfactory psycho-biographical portrait. In one notable example, he observes:

For much of his life, Fromm responded to disappointments and adversities … [by] jumping from one location to another, quitting one professional association and joining or creating another, altering his conceptual and clinical approaches, and switching from one intimate friendship or bed partner to another.

This is heavy-duty stuff, seemingly ripe for analysis and interpretation, but in the very next sentence, Friedman reverses direction, foreclosing deeper exploration and turning weakness into asset: “There was a pertinacity here. Fromm would rarely allow a difficult situation to immobilize him,” he concludes summarily.

Friedman’s myopia, his tendency to justify and smooth over rough edges, is mirrored on a larger scale by his authorial stance in relation to his subject, regarding whom his undisguised admiration and identification seem to preclude more objective assessment and critique. At one point, he compares Fromm’s “narcissism” to Freud’s, noting, “both regarded themselves as founders of unique psychoanalytic ideas, institutions, and traditions.” The unqualified idealization expressed in the elevation of Fromm to Freud’s status highlights Friedman’s difficulty in consolidating a profile of a man with outsized talents and passions, as well as egregious shortcomings, and in producing a critical evaluation of Fromm’s intellectual contributions—his psychoanalytic and ethical humanism theories in particular.

Fromm was an avid student of great teachers and systems, beginning with the vast tradition of Jewish learning, and followed by Marxism and psychoanalysis. But it seems that his enthusiasm and valuation were matched by an equally strong need to reject essential components of every system, assimilate seemingly divergent concepts, and refashion them—often on a grand scale—into a new product of his own making.

Unanswered Questions

Fromm was a master of syncretism, and while Marxism and Freudianism remained the orienting poles of his professional identity, he combined them with the ethical foundation derived from the Hebrew Bible, with elements of Christianity and Buddhism added to the mix. Friedman lays out a detailed map of the stages of Fromm’s intellectual journey, but he does not provide the psychological scaffolding or insight that might illuminate the course that Fromm charted.

Why, for example, did he find it necessary to reject Freud’s instinctual basis of psychic development and substitute in its stead the construct of social character (drawn from a fusion of Freudian and Marxian tenets)? What made him throw out the baby with the bath water instead of extending Freud’s idea into the social realm? Much later in life, Fromm apparently softened his anti-instinctual bias, and his constructs “biophilia” and “necrophilia,” first cousins of the life and death instincts enshrined in Freud’s Eros and Thanatos, appear without explanation or commentary (The Heart of Man, 1964).

With even greater cogency, the reader might wonder about what impelled Fromm, raised as an Orthodox Jew and enamored of its culture of learning and spirituality, to strip his ethical humanism of the influence and authority of a deity and to insist that everything of value is inherent in man (Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics, 1947)? Although Friedman frequently refers to the deficiency of Fromm’s parents as role models, Fromm’s childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood were filled with powerful and sustaining relationships with mentors.

Powerful Mentors

The precocious young Fromm began studying Talmud with his great-uncle Ludwig Krause, a Talmudic scholar, and as a teenager, came under the influence of Nehemia Nobel, rabbi of a prominent Frankfurt synagogue and student of the noted Kant scholar, Hermann Cohen, who had incorporated the universalism of Kant’s moral philosophy into Jewish religious tradition. The Nobel circle, which included Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem and Leo Baeck, was instrumental in setting up the Free Jewish Teaching Institute (Lehrhaus) dedicated to introducing enlightened but assimilated German Jews to the richness of their Jewish heritage.

At the University of Heidelberg, under the tutelage of the sociologist Alfred Weber, brother of Max, Fromm wrote his dissertation on the function of Jewish law in maintaining social cohesion and continuity in three Diaspora communities: the Karaites, Reform Jews, and Hasidim. During the same period, he also studied with Salman Rabinkow, a Russian socialist and Talmudist, whom Fromm later acknowledged as his most influential mentor. Rabinkow introduced Fromm, variously, to the Lithuanian approach to Talmud, the writings of Maimonides, and the Tanya (the central text of Chabad Hasidism)—as well as to Hasidic melodies that Fromm reportedly sang for the rest of his life.

Friedman skillfully records the gradual transformation of Erich Fromm, the Orthodox Jew, the Frankfurt Institute academic, and psychoanalytic clinician—all private roles—into Erich Fromm, the public intellectual, educator, and activist. Both the cloistered cubicles of academia, and the individual focus of psychoanalysis, respectively, must have felt too restrictive to Fromm, especially when compared to the far-reaching impact of a political or religious system or the delivery of a message with universal reverberations. With his arrival in New York in the mid-’30s, Fromm began writing in English and grew adept at rendering psychological-sociological-political concepts accessible to a broad readership. His two best-known works, Escape from Freedom, an exploration of the seduction of and submission to authority and the fear of freedom, and The Art of Loving (which in Germany is still outsold only by the Bible) sold in the millions.

An Iconoclastic Proponent of Secular Religiosity

Fromm’s passion for refashioning ideas into a mold bearing his individual stamp seems nowhere more evident than in his application of Jewish ethical precepts and learning: Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics (1947); You Shall Be as Gods: A Radical Interpretation of the Old Testament and Its Tradition (1966); and To Have or To Be? (1976). His erudition is often on full display: in You Shall Be as Gods, he frequently offers his own translation of the Hebrew when the original interpretation does not measure up to his standards, and his love for the richness of the ancient texts is palpable. This does not deter him, however, from taking a free hand—the “radical interpretation”— in reaching the light at the end of the tunnel: a Frommian nontheistic humanist ethics.

Fromm could be alternately creative, iconoclastic, and single-mindedly reinterpretive in reaching his goal; one of the opening stories in Genesis, the eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden (the Fall, in Christian theology) is recast by Fromm as a salutary and emblematic act of disobedience that reveals the innate human potential for independence of mind and freedom.

In Fromm’s explication, Hebrew Bible idolatry was actually a demonstration of the triumph of the “having” mode over the “being” mode, a harbinger of Marx’s later emphasis on the corruption of capitalism and consumerism. The greed and acquisitiveness of the newly liberated Hebrews in the desert, unable to resist stockpiling manna that God had warned them would rot, is another illustration of both the having mode and the intolerance of freedom, as is the Jews’ insistence to the prophet Samuel, many generations later, that he appoint a flesh and blood king over them.

Fromm’s odyssey through the Hebrew Bible leads him to the prophets of messianic vision, who foretell a time of universal peace and co-existence when—in Fromm’s version—divisions between people and states will be eliminated, and a universal ethics, motivated by brotherly love and the joy of human productivity (a melding of Marx and Freud), will prevail. Ultimately, Fromm espouses a secular religiosity—a fervent devotion to ideals that emerge from self-cultivation that is not obstructed by recourse to God’s authority or external directives.

A New Ethical Humanism

Fromm’s attitude to authority was nothing if not vexed, and he had a visceral reaction to authority in any doctrinal form. In his critique of Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics, the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr ventured that Fromm confused duty with authority, and, it might be suggested, authority with authoritarianism. Fromm’s antipathy to authority sparked his acclaimed formulations on authoritarianism, but also colored his controversial negation of key tenets of Freudian theory and the concept of a real God who is accepted as an external authority. Fromm took issue with the concept of the Freudian superego as an internally regulating authority that derived originally from parental authority, just as he did with the linkage of ethical principles to the authority of an existing God. He rejected Freud’s concept of the death instinct and the aggressive drive, just as he did the darker image of human nature captured in the idea of yetzer hara—the innate human propensity for evil and destructiveness. Fromm’s humanism is adamantly anti-theistic, anti-authority, and optimistic, if not actually utopian.

Fromm’s attitude to Freud (whom he never met) was admiring but critical, as the title of his posthumously published work, Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought (1980) indicates. Freud referred to himself as a “godless Jew,” but his vehement opposition to religion stemmed from his conviction that it was based on infantile helplessness and dependency, and the false succor of illusions that it extended to its adherents. Fromm too might be described as a godless Jew, but one with an entirely different provenance and orientation. His quest was to free the cultivation of spirituality and ethics from their theistic, authoritative moorings in the Hebrew Bible and forge them—with elements of Hasidic mystical relatedness and themes from Marxism, Christianity, and Buddhism—into a new ethical humanism. A messianic mission, a desire to be a “light unto the nations” is discernible in the proselytizing, prophetic inflections of his late writings on ethical humanism. Freud, in his turn, might have identified in Fromm a tangled knot of Oedipal conflicts—the Freudian complex that signifies the generational struggle for power and authority, manifest in strife over the transmission or rejection of the old versus the new.

Fromm’s Legacy

Friedman is lavish with information about Fromm but leaves the final assessment of his contributions up to the reader. Fromm’s legacy resides neither in the innovation nor the profundity of his psychoanalytic and ethical concepts. Rather, his place in intellectual history is assured by his adaptation and popularization of ideas—mixing and matching across systems—which he introduced into the public domain via his accessible and best-selling books. Without him, many of Freud and Marx’s ideas—and he courageously upheld the value of Marx’s contributions at the height of the Cold War—might have remained sequestered in academic isolation.

Perhaps Fromm’s greatest gifts were as a social psychologist and critic; he had his finger on the social and cultural pulse, auguring trends that were still incubating or in the process of fomenting. In Escape from Freedom he wrote about the global threat and psychological appeal of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, even as they were advancing. In The Art of Loving, he differentiated between healthy self-love and selfishness, daring to suggest that self-love was not only healthy and desirable but a prerequisite for loving others—anticipating by many years the work of the psychoanalyst, Heinz Kohut. Assessing the threat of an engulfing consumerism, and the “having versus being modes,” he coined such enduring terms as “automaton conformity,” and the “marketing personality.”

Ultimately, it is impossible to pigeonhole Erich Fromm. He was a man of letters, and simultaneously a man of action, who used money earned from his books to support peace-promoting organizations. He was a psychoanalyst committed to the painstaking task of changing lives one by one, who sought at the same time to influence thousands and even millions of people with his ideas and prophetic exhortations. Prefiguring our contemporary immersion in global communication and veneration of celebrities, Fromm—­­­­­­a man of outsized passions and ambitions—was a public, celebrity intellectual and educator.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Washington Post Politics: Huckabee to depart Fox News To Consider 2016 Presidential Run.
By Robert Costa and Katie Zezima January 3, 2015

Mike Huckabee, Former Arkansas governor, is leaving Fox News to decide whether he wants to run for president.

The Republican former governor of Arkansas said that Saturday night’s episode of “Huckabee” is the last.


“There has been a great deal of speculation as to whether I would run for President. And if I were willing to absolutely rule that out, I could keep doing this show. But I can’t make such a declaration,” Huckabee said at the end of the show.

He said the swirling speculation about whether he will run or not is not fair to Fox.

“As much as I have loved doing the show, I cannot bring myself to rule out another Presidential run,” he said. “I say goodbye, but as we say in television, stay tuned. There’s more to come.”

(Past WP coverage: Mike Huckabee rebuilds political team with eye on another presidential run)

Huckabee has hosted the show for more than six years. Ending his show is a requirement for laying the groundwork for a presidential run. As a policy, Fox ends relationships with commentators who form exploratory committees or seriously intend to run for office.

“I have to be very careful about this,” Huckabee told The Post in November.

The network said it has “amicably parted ways” with Huckabee. It was “in the best of both of their interests,” a network spokeswoman said.

“I agree with Fox, that this is the right thing and now is the right time,” Huckabee said, noting that he won’t make a decision about running until late spring.

Huckabee’s decision instantly shakes up the emerging race for the Republican presidential nomination. Particularly in Iowa, where Huckabee surged from the bottom of the polls in 2008 to win the presidential caucuses, his move will have consequences for other conservative contenders as they plot their own possible paths.


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Gov. Rick Perry (R-Tex.) have been courting Iowa’s evangelical voters for months, believing the support of that bloc is up for grabs. Huckabee’s entry would make the battle for those conservative votes a messy and crowded contest, with the Arkansan bringing a deep base of support from his 2008 campaign with him. Huckabee drew more favorable responses than any other potential candidate during an exit poll this year in Iowa, with 19 percent of Republican voters there saying they wanted him to be the next presidential nominee.

Huckabee’s decision comes after months of private discussions with his family, his advisers, and his top donors about his political future and whether he should leave the Fox program, which has provided him with a hefty salary and enabled him to purchase a beachfront mansion in Florida.

Huckabee’s political circle from his 2008 campaign largely remains intact, with Chip Saltsman, the longtime political strategist who had managed his 2008 campaign, on board, along with Bob Wickers, another confidant. Alice Stewart, a veteran of Huckabee’s 2008 campaign, has been handling communications. Sarah Huckabee, the former governor’s daughter, is also advising him. Chad Gallagher, a trusted aide, is currently managing Huck PAC, a political-action committee.

A Huckabee aide, who asked not to be named because the aide is not authorized to speak publicly, said Saturday that Huckabee would not form a presidential exploratory committee before April. Instead, the aide said, Huckabee will work with his non-profit group and his PAC on various projects, and will only formally create a new political entity if he decides to launch a campaign.

An early test for Huckabee’s 2016 ambitions will begin later this month when he goes on a national tour to tout his new book, “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” a 272-page manifesto on politics and culture. A Huckabee aide not authorized to speak publicly said his promotional road trip will coincide with meetings and planning for his possible presidential campaign, and give Huckabee an opportunity to brush up on his retail political skills.


Huckabee will have competition on the bookstore shelves. Rivals Cruz, Paul, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) all have their own books in the works. Maryland neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a tea party favorite, has a book offering life lessons for teenagers scheduled to be released in February.

Huckabee’s team has been scouting office locations in Little Rock, Ark., since November, and an aide said Saturday that the campaign, if made official, would be based there. But aides said no final decisions on a location for a headquarters have been made.

Huckabee’s shift from semi- retirement to being on the cusp of another presidential run began in July 2013, based on interviews with his allies in November and on Saturday. As Huckabee sat on the beach one day with his family, he was joined by Saltsman.

According to the interviews, Saltsman asked Huckabee whether he was interested in running again. Huckabee shrugged and said he was not sure. Saltsman replied that if he had any inclination to do it, he needed to start mapping out a run as soon as possible in order to keep up with his potential rivals. Saltsman’s parting message: Call me when you’re ready. A couple of days later, Huckabee rang Saltsman and said, “Let’s go.”

Huckabee’s standing among religious conservatives has grown since he last was on the presidential campaign trail. Earlier this year he led more than 100 pastors and GOP insiders from early primary states on a 10-day overseas trip with stops in Poland and England.

Bob Vander Plaats, a power broker among Iowa evangelicals, said in November, “Huckabee is positioned very well. People love him. He left but never left. He’s on Fox News in people’s living room on Saturday or Sunday.”

Added Russell Moore, the head of the policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, also in November, “When I ask pastors about who they like most, they usually mention him.”

There are questions in Huckabee’s orbit about his fundraising prowess, in spite of the signs that he is doing more this time around to woo the party’s biggest donors. Huckabee spent part of November holding meetings with powerful GOP financiers in Las Vegas, New York, and California, gauging their interest in being bundlers and asking for pledges of five-to-six figure donations to his aligned organizations. In December, he held meetings in Little Rock and Destin, Fla., near his Gulf Coast home, to discuss his potential campaign.

“He’s one of the best retail politicians ever,” said Ed Rollins, a former Huckabee adviser, in a November interview. “The question is: is that enough? Can he convince Republicans that he is the strongest candidate to go up against Hillary Clinton? Can he raise the money to build a national infrastructure?”

Huckabee could also face challenges engaging anew in the fractious, modern-day GOP. Huckabee said in 2013, for instance, that the Common Core State Standards, which have infuriated many tea party conservatives, were “near and dear to my heart.” He has since walked back those comments and called the program “toxic.”

Huckabee, a 59-year-old former Baptist preacher, served as Arkansas governor from 1996 to 2007, and is known as one of the Republican Party’s fiercest defenders of social conservatism. Anti-abortion and a critic of same-sex marriage, he has carved out a powerful space in the party as a blunt spokesman for conservatives frustrated with elements of the culture and often with the GOP establishment’s approach to moral issues.


As an Arkansan, Huckabee has also known the Clinton family for years and seen their political operation in action—a history his advisers believe gives him a singular perspective on Hillary Clinton.

“Nobody knows the Clintons better than Mike and Clinton tried to beat him every time. He matches up well against Hillary Clinton. He has the common touch and he can speak to income inequality,” said Huckabee adviser Bob Wickers in November.

When Huckabee ran in 2008, he found it difficult to sustain his initial momentum. Three months after the Iowa victory, Huckabee ended his campaign and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would go on to win the Republican presidential nomination.

Huckabee’s decision to leave Fox comes as former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) has been putting aside his business interests and his board work to seriously consider a 2016 presidential run. Unlike Huckabee, however, Bush will not attend Rep. Steve King’s Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines later this month. Bush differs with King, a conservative hard-liner, on immigration policy.

Huckabee called his show “the ride of a lifetime” and said he has never had so much fun.

“I also realize that God hasn’t put me on earth just to have a good time or to make a good living, but rather God’s put me on earth to try to make a good life,” he said.

On its last episode the former governor played guitar with country music duo the Swon Brothers, discussed his frustration with President Obama, his decision-making while the chief executive of Arkansas, law enforcement and his belief that that there isn’t much governing coming out of Washington.

Huckabee said he hopes to see a return of “the fine art of governing” in 2015.

“And if we don’t, I’ll say what parents often say to their kids, ‘don’t make me come up there,’” he said.
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Robert Costa is a national political reporter at The Washington Post.
Katie Zezima covers the White House for Post Politics and The Fix.

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