3. Global Warming Comes Home to Roost

Nov-09-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Hurricane Sandy (see photo spread below) put climate change back on the table. And if no politicians are willing to start nibbling, well, then with grandmotherly kindness*, Nature will keep reminding us. Meanwhile, insurance companies are always focussed on the current reality, so they’ll raise their rates, and Naomi Klein looks at how the 1% are trying to use the shock of Sandy, as they use all shocks, to gain more power.

* Bloomberg Businessweek Gets It Right

Those crazy, radical hippies at Bloomberg Businessweek have gone and done it. With the blunt, no-nonsense cover that likely already appeared on your Facebook feed or Twitter stream or Tumblr dashboard, Businessweek dared state with certainty what so many media outlets have nervously danced around in their coverage of Superstorm Sandy: It’s Global Warming, Stupid.

* Making a Buck off Climate Change Common Dreams

Change the language and you’ve begun to change the reality or at least to open the status quo to question. Here is Confucius on the rectification of names:

“If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”

So let’s start calling manifestations of greed by their true name. By greed, I mean the attempt of those who have plenty to get more, not the attempts of the rest of us to survive or lead a decent life.  …You can look at the chief executive officers of the oil corporations — Chevron’s John Watson, for example, who received almost $25 million ($1.57 million in salary and the rest in “compensation”) in 2011 — or their major shareholders. They can want for nothing. They’re so rich they could quit the game at any moment. When it comes to climate change, some of the wealthiest people in the world have weighed the fate of the Earth and every living thing on it for untold generations to come, the seasons and the harvests, this whole exquisite planet we evolved on, and they have come down on the side of more profit for themselves, the least needy people the world has ever seen.

* Insurance Is Set to Go Up Forbes

“Insurance is the first line of defines against extreme weather losses, but climate change is a game-changer for the models that insurers have long relied on,” Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler told an industry blog on risk and insurance. “Companies will need to adapt if insurance is to remain available and affordable.”

“With 40 percent of industrial insurance claims that Allianz now pays out being due to natural catastrophes, climate change represents a threat to our business,” Allianz told the Insurance Journal.

“We are already vulnerable to the impacts of weather related natural catastrophes. We expect climate change to compound the problems,” Swiss Re Natural Hazards Expert Megan Linkin says on the reinsurer’s web site.

* Super Storm Sandy—A People’s Shock? Naomi Klein The Nation (Thanks, Amy)

Less than three days after Sandy made landfall on the East Coast of the United States, Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute blamed New Yorkers’ resistance to big-box stores for the misery they were about to endure. Writing on Forbes.com he explained that the city’s refusal to embrace Walmart will likely make the recovery much harder: “Mom-and-pop stores simply can’t do what big stores can in these circumstances,” he wrote.

And the preemptive scapegoating didn’t stop there. He also warned that if the pace of reconstruction turned out to be sluggish (as it so often is) then “pro-union rules such as the Davis-Bacon Act” would be to blame, a reference to the statute that requires workers on public-works projects to be paid not the minimum wage, but the prevailing wage in the region.

The same day, Frank Rapoport, a lawyer representing several billion-dollar construction and real estate contractors, jumped in to suggest that many of those public works projects shouldn’t be public at all. Instead, cash-strapped governments should turn to “public private partnerships,” known as “P3s.” That means roads, bridges and tunnels being rebuilt by private companies, which, for instance, could install tolls and keep the profits.



4. Perspectives on the Middle East

Oct-12-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Three Middle East pieces, all on conflict. Rabbi Rosen, familiar to Tikkunistas, has a book out on his struggle to reconcile Judaism and Zionism. In Afghanistan, the government is falling even before NATO withdraws. And War Tard puts on his unique persona to give a fascinating answer to the question of would happen if Turkey and Syria do go to war.

* My “Wrestling” Interview with Truthout Rabbi Brant Rosen

Mark Karlin: …When you talk of your Palestinian solidarity, some critics accuse you of abandoning Jewish solidarity and not sufficiently condemning those Arab extremists who are in the “destroy Israel” industry as much as Netanyahu is in the suppression-of-Palestinian-rights industry. How do you respond?

Brant Rosen: At the end of my book (“Wrestling in the Daylight”) I addressed this issue directly

As a Jew, I will also say without hesitation that I reject the view that I must choose between standing with Jews or standing with Palestinians. This is a zero-sum outlook that only serves to promote division, enmity and fear.

For me, the bottom line is this: the cornerstone value of my religious tradition commands me to stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed. It would thus be a profound betrayal of my own Jewish heritage if I consciously choose not to stand with the Palestinian people.

In other words, I believe my Jewish liberation to be intrinsically bound up with Palestinian liberation. It’s really that simple.

…Does my solidarity mean that I agree with everything that is done by Palestinians in furtherance of their liberation? Of course not. When you stand in solidarity with a people, it is inevitable that you will find yourself standing next to some people whose actions and beliefs you will find odious. That comes with the territory when you choose to take a stand. And I might add that this is the case for liberal Zionists who stand in solidarity with Israel as well.

* Afghanistan ‘Sliding Towards Collapse’  The Guardian

Afghanistan is increasingly violent, its police and army will struggle to secure the country when foreign forces leave, and it faces a corrupt presidential election in 2014, the Red Cross and a think tank have warned, .

At stake is the limited and fragile stability that has insulated Kabul and most other urban areas from over a decade of escalating aggression since the US invasion. There are growing fears the country could face a full-blown civil war after Nato troops hand over security to the Afghan police and army, and leave.

“Time is running out,” warned Candace Rondeaux, of the International Crisis Group think tank. “Steps toward a stable transition must begin now to prevent a precipitous slide toward state collapse.”

“Plagued by factionalism and corruption, Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when US and Nato forces withdraw in 2014,” she said in a blunt report about the handover from coalition to Afghan troops.

* Syria: Fantasy war in the desert! War Tard

The First Casualty of War is Photoshop

This Western portrayal of the rebels as oppressed freedom fighters fits with the whole Arab Spring narrative the West likes to push whenever there’s energy in the vicinity. Democracy and all that other funny talk. These days, democracy is just a feel good word the suits on TV say when they want you to know who the good guys are….

For the Turks, losing an F-4 Phantom wasn’t exactly a major loss militarily. Sure, it’s a bummer the pilot didn’t bail out but Phantom’s are basically Vietnam era flying double decker buses with the maneuverability of a cement truck in rush hour traffic. That Turk pilot never saw it coming and was probably sucker punched by one of Syria’s Russian supplied S-300 SAMs (one reason NATO doesn’t fancy a rerun of Libya over Syria). One thing F-4s always had going for them even in Vietnam, despite their lack of cannon was a pair of serious get-me-the-fuck-out-of-here engines that allowed the Phantom to run from any engagement it didn’t fancy the odds in. To my mind, the Turkish F-4 incursion into Syrian airspace was a move designed to get the Syrians to turn their air defines radars on so they could be pinpointed for NATO airstrikes later on in the event Assad doesn’t fall in a timely manner.

…But this war is fun to think about.

   The tank on tank action would pit Turkey’s modern arsenal of German supplied Leapord 1s and 2A4s  against Syria’s aging but more numerous Soviet era T-72s, T-62Ms and believe it or not, T-55s (the most produced tank in history) but completely out of date. That’d make for a fun turkey shoot in the desert. Add in total Turk air superiority by way of US supplied F-16s and naval dominance off the coast and this war that’ll never happen becomes even less fantastic….



June 22nd, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 23

Jun-22-2012 | Comments Off

1. The Rio Conference: “Epic Failure”

Bird’s Eye: We start our Focus on the Environment issue by looking at an excellent Al Jazeera infographic (i.e. a poster) that shows where we are heading into the Conference in Rio. Unfortunately, it also shows where we are coming out of the conference, as The Powers That Be have decided to set goals without targets, numbers or responsibilities. (Roughly as useful to you and me agreeing we’ll make $10 million each in the next six months, but not going into any discussions about how.) George Monbiot calls it as it is, a farcical failure, Reuters gives the gory details, and Canada Free Press gives reactions from environmentalists. In 100 years these conferences will have replaced Munich as symbol of moral weakness.

Rio 2012

* The Emissions Position   Infographic- Al Jazeera

A useful and comprehensive graphic showing where the world is going into the conference

* Rio 2012: It’s A Make-Or-Break Summit. Just Like They Told Us At Rio 1992   George Monbiot  The Guardian

Worn down by hope. That’s the predicament of those who have sought to defend the earth’s living systems. Every time governments meet to discuss the environmental crisis, we are told that this is the “make or break summit”, on which the future of the world depends. The talks might have failed before, but this time the light of reason will descend upon the world.

We know it’s rubbish, but we allow our hopes to be raised, only to witness 190 nations arguing through the night over the use of the subjunctive in paragraph 286. We know that at the end of this process the UN secretary general, whose job obliges him to talk nonsense in an impressive number of languages, will explain that the unresolved issues (namely all of them) will be settled at next year’s summit. Yet still we hope for something better.

This week’s earth summit in Rio de Janeiro is a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago. By now, the leaders who gathered in the same city in 1992 told us, the world’s environmental problems were to have been solved. But all they have generated is more meetings, which will continue until the delegates, surrounded by rising waters, have eaten the last rare dove, exquisitely presented with an olive leaf roulade. The biosphere that world leaders promised to protect is in a far worse state than it was 20 years ago. Is it not time to recognise that they have failed?

…Without mass movements, without the kind of confrontation required to revitalise democracy, everything of value is deleted from the political text. But we do not mobilise, perhaps because we are endlessly seduced by hope. Hope is the rope from which we all hang.

* Diplomats Agree On ‘Weak’ Text For Rio+20 Green Summit   Reuters

Diplomats from over 190 countries agreed on a draft text on green global development on Tuesday to be approved this week at a summit in Rio de Janeiro, but environmentalists said the agreement was too weak.

The summit, known as Rio+20 because it comes 20 years after the first Rio environmental summit, is aimed at providing clarity on proposed “sustainable development goals,” a loose tripod of economic, environmental and social objectives that proponents believe could help guide global development. But the text agreed to by diplomats early on Tuesday failed to define those goals, promising only more rounds of talks to clarify them in the near future. They did specify exactly when.

It is “telling that nobody in that room adopting the text was happy. That’s how weak it is,” the European Union’s climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said on social network Twitter. The text “has too much ‘take note’ and ‘reaffirm’ and too little ‘decide’ and ‘commit’. (The) big task now for U.N. nations to follow up” on this, she added.

* Green Fury As Britain Welcomes Rio Summit’s ‘Epic Failure’ Canada Free Press

Green NGOs and charities claim that the text produced by the Rio+20 negotiators from 193 countries is so weak as to be almost worthless. Jim Leape, international director general of WWF, hoped that today’s document would be renegotiated: “It’s pathetic. It’s appalling. If this becomes the final text the last year has been a colossal waste of time.” Friends of the Earth are even stronger in their disapproval, calling the plans “an epic failure”. But in a briefing to UK journalists Ms Spelman argued that the text was as good as any outcome agreed by 193 countries could be – and she expects it to now be rubber-stamped by the world leaders.—Tom Whipple, The Times, 20 June 2012 

The head of Greenpeace International said the NGO is moving to a “war footing” after negotiators at the Rio+20 sustainable development conference watered down proposals to protect the world’s oceans. Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International’s executive director, said there were so many fudges in the draft agreement that Greenpeace now had no other option but to change its strategy and start planning waves of civil disobedience. When asked if he was prepared to die for the cause, he responded: “Yes. I feel a very deep sense of that.”—Jo Confino, The Guardian



6. Followups

Jun-22-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: The usual mixed bag, with flashbacks to the concentration of power in the 1%, a further look at women in video games, the UN condemning Bill 78 in Quebec (the one that criminalized freedom of assembly). Fortunately there is the ultimate balloon stealing cat to cheer you up.

* We’ve Been Brainwashed, Intentionally, By The 1 Percent Stiglitz  Salon 

How, in a democracy supposedly based on one person one vote, could the 1 percent could have been so victorious in shaping policies in its interests? It is part of a process of disempowerment, disillusionment, and disenfranchisement that produces low voter turnout, a system in which electoral success requires heavy investments, and in which those with money have made political investments that have reaped large rewards — often greater than the returns they have reaped on their other investments. There is another way for moneyed interests to get what they want out of government: convince the 99 percent that they have shared interests. This strategy requires an impressive sleight of hand; in many respects the interests of the 1 percent and the 99 percent differ markedly.

The fact that the 1 percent has so successfully shaped public perception testifies to the malleability of beliefs. When others engage in it, we call it “brainwashing” and “propaganda.” We look askance at these attempts to shape public views, because they are often seen as unbalanced and manipulative, without realizing that there is something akin going on in democracies, too. What is different today is that we have far greater understanding of how to shape perceptions and beliefs — thanks to the advances in research in the social sciences. It is clear that many, if not most, Americans possess a limited understanding of the nature of the inequality in our society: They believe that there is less inequality than there is, they underestimate its adverse economic effects, they underestimate the ability of government to do anything about it, and they overestimate the costs of taking action.

* Sometimes It’s Hard To Be A Woman. Especially When You’re Made Out Of Pixels  Charlie Brooker  The Guardian

Last month the creators of the game Hitman drew widespread criticism for a grisly promotional trailer that showed the main (male) character slaughtering a group of S&M killer nuns. Since this was merely the logical conclusion of a deeply boring trend for rubberised female assassins that’s been going on since the 1990s, some gamers were surprised by the outcry, and became indignant and defensive, as though someone had just walked in and caught them masturbating to the same goat porn they’d been innocently enjoying for decades, and judging them and making them feel bad.

When they’re not 7ft-tall high-heeled dominatrix killers, women in gamestend to be saucy background-dressing or yelping damsels in distress. A rare exception is Lara Croft, the female star of Tomb Raider, who – in Pac-Man terms – is Ms. Indiana Jones. But whoops. Last week the forthcoming big-budget Tomb Raider reboot made headlines after its executive producer apparently told the gaming site Kotaku that players would feel an urge to “protect” Lara after she faces a series of ghastly trials including an encounter in which she kills a would-be rapist. The subsequent outcry necessitated a speedy clarification from the developers about precisely what kind of game they’re making.

* U.N. Puts Canada On Human Rights Watchlist Over Quebec Demo Law  

Canada will be put in the company of some of the world’s worst abusers of human rights tomorrow when the UN’s highest human rights official expresses “alarm” over Quebec’s new law on demonstrations during her opening address to a meeting of the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, revealed the Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch, which obtained an advance copy of her speech. Other states on the UN watchlist include Syria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

“Moves to restrict freedom of assembly continue to alarm me, as is the case in the province of Quebec in Canada in the context of students’ protests,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will say tomorrow, according to her draft speech. The rights czar reserves her sharpest language for Canada. While Pillay cites only two other countries in the world for restrictions on freedom of assembly—expressing “concern” about Russia, and “deep concern” for Eritrea—only Canada provokes her far stronger “alarm.”

* Cat After Balloons gif

Is there some sort of cult/religion based on this cat? Because I would like to join it.



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