Compiled and edited by Peter Marmorek
Year Six; Issue 42
Tikkunista! returns January 9th. Have a great time meanwhile catching up on all those back issues
0. Your Editor’s Thoughts on the Winter Solstice
2. Copenhagen: Retrospective
3. Obama, Year One
4. Palestinian Non-Violent Resistance
5. Playing the Anti-Semitism Card
6. US Health Plan Cartoons
7. Best of the Decade Summaries
8. Exciting Activities
10. Eyecandy: Snow
11. Quote of the Week
* Kairos Funding Cut. Kairos has been doing wonderful work for years on third World Development, and has had their funding cut by Harper’s axe. Read about the cut here: and Sign a petition here. More coverage in section 5
* Gaza Freedom March In conjunction with the Gaza Freedom March, community and activist organizations in Toronto will be holding a rally protest the siege of Gaza. Dec 27th, 1 pm, Israeli Consulate. Full details here.
2. Copenhagen: Retrospective
Context: Who do you blame? The Guardian has been getting lots of reprints for a remarkable story (from inside the negotiation room) blaming China; the BBC picks out eight causes for failure; Robert Newman blames capitalism itself; and Avaaz has a film on what was achieved, by the people.
* How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room Mark Lynas The Guardian
To those who would blame Obama and rich countries in general, know this: it was China’s representative who insisted that industrialised country targets, previously agreed as an 80% cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal. “Why can’t we even mention our own targets?” demanded a furious Angela Merkel. Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was annoyed enough to bang his microphone. Brazil’s representative too pointed out the illogicality of China’s position. Why should rich countries not announce even this unilateral cut? The Chinese delegate said no, and I watched, aghast, as Merkel threw up her hands in despair and conceded the point. Now we know why – because China bet, correctly, that Obama would get the blame for the Copenhagen accord’s lack of ambition.
*Why Did Copenhagen Fail to Deliver?
About 45,000 travelled to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen – the vast majority convinced of the need for a new global agreement on climate change. So why did the summit end without one, just an acknowledgement of a deal struck by five nations, led by the US? And why did delegates leave the Danish capital without agreement that something significantly stronger should emerge next year?
Our environment correspondent Richard Black looks at eight reasons that might have played a part.
* It’s Capitalism or a Habitable Planet: You Can’t Have Both Robert Newman The Guardian
There is no meaningful response to climate change without massive social change. A cap on this and a quota on the other won’t do it. Tinker at the edges as we may, we cannot sustain earth’s life-support systems within the present economic system.
Capitalism is not sustainable by its very nature. It is predicated on infinitely expanding markets, faster consumption and bigger production in a finite planet. And yet this ideological model remains the central organising principle of our lives, and as long as it continues to be so it will automatically undo (with its invisible hand) every single green initiative anybody cares to come up with.
* The World in Action Avaaz youtube
In Copenhagen, leaders didn’t make history—but the world’s people did. A year of unprecedented action on climate change reached unimagined heights in the last two weeks: thousands upon thousands of vigils, rallies, and protests; floods of phone calls and messages sent; millions of petition signatures—all calling for the fair, ambitious, and binding climate treaty we still need and still will win.
3. Obama: Year One
Context: A powerless puppet? A tool of the system? Failing to do enough in the Middle East? As successful as possible, under the circumstances? Yes, definitely… and we have proof of each of these incompossible theses.
* Obama Puppet Paul Roberts counterpunch
It didn’t take the Israel Lobby very long to bring President Obama to heel regarding his prohibition against further illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Obama discovered that a mere American president is powerless when confronted by the Israel Lobby and that the United States simply is not allowed a Middle East policy separate from Israel’s. Obama also found out that he cannot change anything else either, if he ever intended to do so.The military/security lobby has war and a domestic police state on its agenda, and a mere American president can’t do anything about it.
Essentially, Obama is irrelevant.
* Almost Year One Saul Landau Znet
“He gave billions to Wall Street, cracked down on illegal immigrants getting health care, and he’s sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan….He may go down in history as our greatest Republican president.”
– Jay Leno, summing up Obama’s first eleven months in office.
* Bordering On the Ridiculous Uri Avnery
The planet has become one entity – from the political, economic, military, environmental, communication and medical points of view. A leader who is also a philosopher should outline ways to create a binding world order, an order that will consign wars as a means of solving problems to the past, abolish tyrannical regimes in every country and pave the road to a world without hunger and epidemics. Not tomorrow, for sure, not in our generation, but as an aim to strive for, directing our endeavors..
Obama must surely be thinking about this. But he represents a country that obstructs so many important aspects of a binding world order. It is natural for a world empire to object to a world order that would limit its powers and transfer them to world institutions. That’s why the US opposes the world court and impedes the world-wide effort for saving the planet and the elimination of all nuclear arms. That’s why it objects to real world governance to replace the UN, which has almost become an instrument of US policy. That’s why he praises NATO, a military arm of the US, and obstructs the arising of a really effective international force.
* The Obameter
PolitiFact has compiled more than 500 promises that Barack Obama made during the campaign and is tracking their progress on our Obameter. We rate their status as No Action, In the Works or Stalled. Once we find action is completed, we rate them Promise Kept, Compromise or Promise Broken.
4. Palestinian Non-Violent Resistance
Context: One of the most common statement we hear on the Middle East conflict is that if the Palestinians used non-violent means of protest, then people world-wide would support them, and the Israelis wouldn’t be forced to use excessive violence. “Where is the Palestinian Mandala?” they say. Probably sitting in an Israeli jail. Read on….
* When Will it Be Our Time? Mustapha Barghouthi New York Times
A new generation of Palestinian leaders is attempting to speak to the world in the language of a nonviolent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, precisely as Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of African-Americans did with the Montgomery bus boycott in the mid-1950s.
We are equally right to use the tactic to advance our rights. The same world that rejects all use of Palestinian violence, even clear self-defense, surely ought not begrudge us the nonviolence employed by men such as King and Gandhi.
* A Palestinian Plan the Israelis Can Live With Bradley Burston Haaretz
Ray Hanania is a compassionate and, in fact, delightful person, with rare insight into the aspirations and failings of Palestinians and Israelis. In the eyes of many, that alone ought to disqualify him from consideration as a leader in the Holy Land. Add to that, the fact that the acclaimed journalist also happens to be a first-generation Palestinian-American married to a Jewish woman, as well as a stand-up comedian who has appeared alongside Jewish comics, and the self-destructively polarized electorate of the Holy Land will need to expend not a whiff of thought in dismissing him out of hand.
Which all makes his candidacy for the president of Palestine, and the Mideast peace proposal that is his platform, all the more compelling. He is realistic about his chances (“No, I don’t expect to win”). But the Hanania plan embodies the radicalism of the truly moderate, and deserves much more than cursory consideration.
* Bil’in Leader Charged with Arms Possession mondoweiss
Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a leader of the weekly nonviolent protests in Bil’n, has finally been charged after being arrested nearly two weeks ago by the Israeli military. Abu Rahmah’s arrest has been part on an ongoing Israeli campaign against Palestinian nonviolent resistence leaders. The charges against him could not be more creative. …. Abu Rahmah was slapped with an arms possession charge for collecting used tear gas canisters shot at demonstrators in Bil’in by the army and showcasing them in his home.
5. Playing the Anti-Semitism Card
Context: There is real anti-semitism in the world, and all reasonable people oppose it as they do all forms of racism. But increasingly opponents of Israeli government actions are being targeted as “anti-semites”. A look at how this happened in Venezuela, and how the Harper government in Canada is using this libel.
* Against Venezuela venezuelanalysis.com
In the early morning hours of January 31, vandals broke into Tiferet Israel, a Sephardic synagogue in Caracas. They strewed sacred scrolls on the floor and scribbled “Death to the Jews” and other anti-Semitic epithets on the walls, before making off with computer equipment and historical artifacts. Understandably, the incident frightened and upset many in the Venezuelan Jewish community. Right away, U.S. news outlets, including The New York Times and The Miami Herald, linked the incident to Venezuela’s increasingly strained relations with Israel, after the two countries suspended diplomatic relations two weeks earlier over Israel’s bombing of Gaza, then still under way.
A Herald editorial went so far as to describe an “official policy of anti-Semitism” in Venezuela and implied that Chávez’s foreign policy had unleashed a wave of anti-Semitic violence in the country, culminating in the assault on the synagogue….Just hours after the break-in, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was already implicitly comparing the Chávez government to the Nazis, calling the synagogue attack “a modern-day Kristallnacht.”
But the Caracas police investigation bore out a different story. Authorities quickly realized that the synagogue’s security fence had been cut from the inside, prompting detectives to investigate the break-in as an inside job. Within the week it became clear that the attack had in fact been a robbery disguised as anti-Semitic vandalism, carried out by the synagogue’s privately contracted security team. Eleven men were arrested for their role in the plot, and their statements to the police indicated that the graffiti and desecration were intended to throw off investigators.
* Is the Harper government playing the anti-Semitic card? The Globe and Mail
There are a couple of problems with Kenney’s statement. First, it’s completely false. Not only does KAIROS not lead a BDS campaign against Israel, it does not endorse one. … Second, how is it tolerable for a government minister to baldly accuse an organization of being anti-Semitic without a single shred of evidence, which is of course non-existent… Real enemies of anti-Semitism do not throw the term around recklessly…. Are Canadian Jews now going to be seduced by a government that uses anti-Semitism for political reasons? That maliciously accuses decent men and women of being anti-Semitic? That identifies legitimate, democratic criticism of Israeli governments with anti-Semitism?
* Tory zealotry unhelpful to Israel and Canada Haroon Siddiqui Toronto Star
Those with an authoritarian and/or vindictive streak don’t know when to stop. That’s what makes them dangerous. That’s what also proves their ultimate undoing in a democracy. Ottawa’s decision to axe funding to a group apparently because it criticized Israel has enraged many Canadians and fully exposed the zealotry of Stephen Harper’s government in supporting Israel and attacking those who don’t.
KAIROS, an ecumenical group, promotes social and economic justice in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Its $7 million contract to set up a rape clinic in the Congo, among other projects, was killed by Harper because the group was said to have backed a boycott of Israel for oppressing Palestinians. As Jason Kenney admitted: “We’ve de-funded organizations, most recently like KAIROS, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott.” Criticizing Israel is a crime in Tory books. The authoritarian designation is also a Tory flag of honour to be waved in Jerusalem, as Kenney just did.
6. US Health Plan
Context: How charmingly quixotic. The US has now passed a health plan, as of late last night, and will spend the next two months negotiating what it is. A trio of cartoons shed light and amusement on the situation.
7. Best of the Best (or Worst) of the Decade Summaries
Context: The noughties (as the UK calls them) are ending. So we have a serious Juan Cole piece on the worst political developments, a comprehensive (30 entries!) overview of arts and culture (“The 25 best moments on live TV”) from Paste magazine, and Big Pictures with the most iconic news images of the last decade.
* The Rise of the New Oligarchs Juan Cole Informed Comment
Just as the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union allowed the emergence of a class of lawless ‘Oligarchs’ in Russia, so Neoliberal tax policies and deregulation produced American equivalents. …We have always had robber barons in American politics, but the Neoliberal moment created a new social class. At about 1.3 million adults, it is not too large to have some cohesive interests, and its corporations, lobbyists, and other institutions allow it to intervene systematically in politics. It owns 45 percent of the privately held wealth and is heading toward 50, i.e. toward a Banana Republic. Thus, we have a gutted fairness doctrine and the end of anti-trust concerns in ownership of mass media, allowing a multi-billionaire like Rupert Murdoch to buy up major media properties and to establish a cable television channel which is nothing but oligarch propaganda. They established ‘think tanks’ like the American Enterprise Institute, which hires only staff that are useful agents of the interests of the very wealthy, and which produce studies denying global climate change or lying about the situation in Iraq. Bush-Cheney were not simply purveyors of wrong-headed ideas. They were the agents of the one percent, and their policies make perfect sense if seen as attempts to advance the interests of this narrow class of persons.
* The Best Albums, Movies, TV & More From the 2000s Paste
Looking at each of these lists confirms my belief that—despite the seismic economic shifts that the entertainment industry has faced—the democratization of once-expensive-to-create art forms like movies and albums has resulted in unprecedented innovation, variety and accomplishment. With an ever-increasing roster of television channels, networks like AMC and Sci-Fi are taking chances on thoughtful, complex series that would have never even aired in the 20th century. Technological jumps in the video game world have wrought gorgeous graphics, but it’s really been the attention to story that has transformed the gaming experience from a fun way to kill time into an immersive artistic experience. And just when we thought the book form had been stretched to its limits, authors like Dave Eggers and the late David Foster Wallace give us something entirely new.
* The Decade in News Photographs Big Picture
8. Exciting Activities
Context: Two weeks without Tikkunista… you’ll need something to do to keep you out of trouble. Fortunately, we won’t leave you in the lurch. A programmable orrery (model of the solar system) so you can check exactly when Mercury is going retrograde! The largest image online (a stunning 18 gigabytes) gives a 360º view of Prague with unbelievable zoom features! Design your own magazine cover! Type in text and have it sung back at you! Relax and enjoy.
Context: Lots of stuff happens below the surface. It turns out that octopi use tools, as you’ll see in the first video. Then an amazing youtube of a diver confronted by a deadly predator, and a few extra tasty pieces of eyecandy for you, just because it’s Christmas.
* Tool Using Invertebrates boingboing
Warning: This video contains footage of an octopus hiding under a coconut shell that it has carried around just in case it needed to hide from something. Watching this footage may contradict your previous assumptions about animal tool use, and may be too adorable for some viewers.
EXTRA: The coconut is there so that different octopi – or should it be iOctopuses – can communicate underwater by attaching a string from one coconut to another. Talk time is brief underwater, but is just about feasible….And then they will event a social networking piece of software called Octotwitter or something so they can exchange trivial messages with each other in milliseconds.
* Faceoff with a Deadly Predator
* Yum…Multi–flavoured Jellyfish
* Hidden Flourescent Colours of the Oceans
10. Eyecandy: Snow!
* Snowy Scenes Big Picture
* Snowmen Calvin and Hobbes
* Castles in the Snow
11. Quote of the Week
“If the environment were a bank, they would have saved it by now.” Hugo Chavez
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”