Dec.23rd, 2011 :: Year 8, Issue 39

Dec-23-2011 | Comments Off


No Tikkunista published next week, but we’ll be back in 2012!


1. Joy to the World, (or at Least to You)

Bird’s Eye: As a gift to all readers, we’ll start with fun this week: a marvellous neo-Victorian card from the erstwhile Python, a gloriously performed neo-acapella song (accompanied by margarine containers), a wonderfully powerful story about looking for art in post-Taliban Afghanistan, and a music maker for you, because creativity has to be participatory. Enjoy!

*  The Christmas Card  Terry Gilliam YouTube

* Call Your Girlfriend  Erato YouTube

* A Time of Hope Andrew Solomon15 minute audio

A writer travels to Afghanistan in search of art.

* Play: Hours Of Music Making

Click, then click again. etc.

2. Followups: Durban, Ron Paul, Canada’s Kyoto Cut

Dec-23-2011 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: A trio of followups to last week: Monbiot contrasts governments swift action to save banks as opposed to their reluctance to save the planet. Curious, that. Ron Paul, currently leading Iowa polls, was omitted last week from our GOP smackdown. While the good doctor is rational, he is no less insane than his partners in grime, and Monbiot explores where his policies lead us. And while we covered Canada’s flight from Kyoto, we didn’t fully dissect Harpo’s claim that this would save Canada money. Well, it won’t.

* Why Is It So Easy to Save the Banks – but So Hard to Save the Biosphere? George Monbiot Common Dreams

They bailed out the banks in days. But even deciding to bail out the planet is taking decades.

Nicholas Stern estimated that capping climate change would cost around 1% of global GDP, while sitting back and letting it hit us would cost between 5 and 20%. One per cent of GDP is, at the moment, $630bn. By March 2009, Bloomberg has revealed, the US Federal Reserve had committed $7.77 trillion to the banks. That is just one government’s contribution: yet it amounts to 12 times the annual global climate change bill. Add the bailouts in other countries, and it rises several more times.

This support was issued on demand: as soon as the banks said they wanted help, they got it. On just one day the Federal Reserve made $1.2tr available – more than the world has committed to tackling climate change in 20 years.

* This Bastardised Libertarianism Makes ‘Freedom’ An Instrument Of Oppression  George Monbiot The Guardian

Freedom: who could object? Yet this word is now used to justify a thousand forms of exploitation. Throughout the rightwing press and blogosphere, among thinktanks and governments, the word excuses every assault on the lives of the poor, every form of inequality and intrusion to which the 1% subject us. How did libertarianism, once a noble impulse, become synonymous with injustice?

In the name of freedom – freedom from regulation – the banks were permitted to wreck the economy. In the name of freedom, taxes for the super-rich are cut. In the name of freedom, companies lobby to drop the minimum wage and raise working hours. In the same cause, US insurers lobby Congress to thwart effective public healthcare; the government rips up our planning laws; big business trashes the biosphere. This is the freedom of the powerful to exploit the weak, the rich to exploit the poor.

* Canada’s Kyoto Math Doesn’t Add Up Pembina Institute (Thanks, Dave!)

It wasn’t particularly surprising to hear that Canada is withdrawing. Minister Kent’s painful efforts to neither confirm nor deny rumours of Canada’s intentions made it perfectly clear what those intentions were. Nor was it news that Canada will miss its Kyoto commitments to reduce emissions by a wide margin: a complete lack of effort on the part of Liberal and Conservative governments alike gave our country no chance of meeting them.

What was surprising was the Minister’s attempt to spin this withdrawal as a positive step for Canada’s economy. While taking action on climate change does come with costs, they are entirely manageable. The costs of inaction — in Canada, let alone on a global scale — are not….“Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment avoided before 2020, an additional $4.3 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.” 

3. US Fault Lines

Dec-23-2011 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Wikipedia defines Fault Lines as “In geology, a fault is a planar fracture or discontinuity in a volume of rock, across which there has been significant displacement along the fractures as a result of earth movement. Energy release associated with rapid movement on active faults is the cause of most earthquakes.” In politics that means when there huge separations in a country, you’ve got a problem. We start with a plaintive cry from Spiderfarmer, a Netherlands’ poster on Reddit, which leads into Olivia Ward’s fine personal and political piece about going to  the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC , whose agenda …is to create  “the best agenda for taxpayers at large” …The price includes doing away with the “ever-increasing federal environmental and energy regulations”, obtrusive unions, workers’ rights, and public pensions and retiree benefits that are threatening states with “generational theft.” The word “terrorist” gets further refined, to people who take pictures of factory farms, and Tom the Dancing Bug has a mordant cartoon about the new security laws and how they apply to everyone, American or not.

* The Whole World Is Watching While the USA Collapses Politics Reddit

People in The Netherlands have always looked up to the USA. It won’t be long before that stops, I guess. These are stories I read, watched and heard in the mainstream media over here:

your political system is one of the most corrupt systems in the world

• your politicians represent companies instead of people
• your government will probably censor the internet
• your government detains without trial
• your government tortures people
• your government hires mercenaries
• your government does nothing to improve education
• your president doesn’t have any real influence over what happens
• your presidential candidates are stupid beyond belief
• your presidential candidates promote stupidity
• your presidential candidates are not taking seriously over here
• your elections are a joke
• your media outlets cannot be trusted
• your media outlets focus on distractions instead of main issues
…Now you’ll probably read this, take one small point out of my story and comment on that. That’s okay, but please notice the trend of what’s going on in your country. Do something about it. We need our big brother to act like role model. Right now he’s high as a kite.

* A Visit With ALEC, the Power Behind the US Olivia Ward Toronto Star

I’m talking to a fellow hotel guest, Beau Hodai, a journalist from the left-wing magazine In These Times who has written probing articles on ALEC. Unlike me, he hasn’t enjoyed its co-operation and credentials. His calls have gone unanswered, and he has been turned back by the police and guards who firewall the meeting.

The noise level in the bar rises and so do I. As I say goodnight, Beau is summoned by hotel security and herded away toward the elevator by uniformed police. Why? In Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia, I was evicted from my hotel by machine-gun-toting militias as the Kosovo war began. But in America. . . ?

As I stand staring, two cops flank me: Do I know this man? Who is he?

Beau has disappeared now. Will anything I say be used against him? I square my shoulders and think of my British mother: “How dare you ask me such a question? Is this a morality charge? Are hotel guests of the opposite sex forbidden to speak in a bar? Is this Iran or the land of the free?”

We face off, not blinking. The questions continue. At last the inquisitors give in. “Ma’am, you’re free to go.”

* FBI Says Activists Who Investigate Factory Farms Can Be Prosecuted as Terrorists

The 2003 FBI file details the work of several animal rights activists who used undercover investigation to document repeated animal welfare violations…. The animal activists caused “economic loss” to businesses, the FBI says. And they also openly rescued several animals from the abusive conditions. This was not done covertly in the style of underground groups like the Animal Liberation Front — it was an act of non-violent civil disobedience and, as the FBI agent notes, the activists distributed press releases and conducted media interviews taking responsibility for their actions. Based on these acts — trespassing in order to photograph and videotape abuses on factory farms — the agent concludes there “is a reasonable indication” that the activists “have violated the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act”

* So… You’ve Been Indefinitely Detained! Helpful Information From Your U.S. Government! tom the dancing bug- boingboing 

4. Israel Fault Lines

Dec-23-2011 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: In geology, a fault line is…. Oops, already done that. When we read about conflict regarding Israel, it’s usually Jewish Israelis versus Muslims, or Palestinians, or Druze, or Iran, or Israeli non-Jews. Well, now conflict is rising between Israeli Jews and Israeli Jews, whether over new and outrageous restrictions on women’s rights, settlers’ rights, or whatever. As always, the most savage critiques come from Israeli papers, as Bradley Burston (Haaretz) finds a story that sums it all up.

* In Israel, Women’s Rights Come Under Siege   PostPartisan – The Washington Post

Women are forced to board public buses from the back and stay there. Billboards with images of women are defaced. Public streets are cordoned off during religious holidays so that women cannot enter.

Saudi Arabia in the misogynistic grip of sharia law? Sadly, astonishingly, infuriatingly, it is Israel under the growing influence and increasingly assertive demands of the ultra-Orthodox.

* Israeli Military Base Attacked By Jewish Extremists In West Bank The Guardian

A gang of 50 Jewish settlers and rightwing activists have broken into an army base near the Israeli settlement of Kedumim in the West bank, setting fire to tyres and hurling rocks at both Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. One settler forced open the door of a jeep carrying the Efraim Regional Brigade’s commander, who was hit in the head with a rock and suffered minor injuries. Soldiers managed to force the group back outside the base after several minutes but by the time Israeli police arrived at the scene, most of the attackers had fled. Only two were arrested.

Yaakov Peri, formerly head of the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet, says that moral judgments aside, unless dramatic actions is taken by the the government, army and intelligence to address this trend, extreme settler groups may drive Israel towards religious conflict. For this reason, he claims Jewish extremists now pose a greater threat to Israeli security than terrorism.

* Teaching the Horse to Starve Bradley Burston Haaretz

A balagula, a wagon driver, shuffles into the town inn, crestfallen. “What’s the matter?” the innkeeper asks, pouring him a drink.

“I was so close. So close,” the balagula replies. “My plan … I could feel it was going to work. Every single day, I gave my horse a little less to eat. Training him. Everything was going great. But wouldn’t you know it – just when he’d learned to eat nothing – just then, he falls down and dies.”

It’s all you need to know, this one shopworn Yiddish joke. The one that explains the whole of this inexplicable Israel at this New Year.

We all know who the balagulas are. The foreign minister who doesn’t believe in diplomacy, the finance minister who doesn’t believe in economic opportunity, the health minister who doesn’t believe in doctors, the minister for fostering aliyah who extols an Israeli ad campaign for America which directly offends U.S. Jews.

Day by day at home, this Israel teaches the horse to starve when it demands more and more of the non-Haredi young and provides less and less: in return for less education, more fees, in return for more inequitable army duty and taxation, less affordable housing.

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