November 26, 2014

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A conundrum (and its not amusing): Dangerous levels of global warming are unavoidable, says the World Bank & North Dakota: Where oil and politics mix

Dangerous levels of global warming are unavoidable, says the World Bank
Laura Dattaro Vice News USA November 24, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded and related links.

Global temperatures will rise nearly 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels by the middle of the century regardless of actions taken to curb emissions, according to a report from the World Bank released Sunday. The rising temperatures are already disproportionately affecting developing countries and the world’s poorest citizens.

Current energy demands mean the world is committed to emitting more greenhouse gases, which will stay in the atmosphere for decades. That means that even with “very ambitious mitigation action,” the report states, temperatures will continue to rise past the 0.8 degrees Celsius increase already seen today.

“That’s a big message,” Samantha Smith, head of climate for the WWF, told VICE News. “Globally, what all countries have agreed to is that they’re going to keep warming under two degrees Celsius. This report is telling us that 1.5 degrees is too much for a lot of people.”

In the three areas examined in the new report — Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and the Western Balkans and Central Asia — climate change will lead to reduced crop yields and worsened drought, bringing threats to water supplies. In Brazil, soybean crop yields could decrease by as much as 70 percent, and wheat by as much as 50 percent, if temperatures increase two degrees by 2050. Jordan, Egypt, and Libya could see crop yields decrease by 30 percent.

In Russia, melting permafrost and tree death in boreal forests are releasing stored methane and carbon, adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. A similar pattern is being seen in the Amazon rainforest, which absorbs 20 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted from the burning of fossil fuels, according to the environmental organization Amazon Watch. A two degree increase could wipe out 90 percent of coral reefs, devastating coastal ecosystems and the economies and fisheries that depend on them.

“When we talk to policy makers, they seem to be able to pivot and think extreme weather events are not affecting us right now,” Sasanka Thilakasiri, policy advisor for Oxfam International, told VICE News. “To me, the report is important in just sort of saying these impacts are happening now, and we’re on a path to having them even more exacerbated if we don’t do anything.”

The report, which was authored by researchers at The Potsdam Institute, a German climate research center, linked recent extreme heat in the observed regions to climate change with 80 percent certainty.

The report comes at a busy moment for climate change negotiations — just one week before a United Nations climate conference in Peru and two weeks after the United States and China, the two largest emitters, announced a joint agreement on emissions reductions. President Obama committed the United States to cutting emissions 26-28 percent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels, while China’s president Xi Jinping said his country’s emissions would peak “around 2030.”

Related: Done under the table, with a lot of back-room deals. After an unusual land deal, a giant spill and a tanker-train explosion, anxiety began to ripple across the North Dakota prairie. Land has long been sliced and diced in North Dakota from generation to generation, with surface ownership severed from the ownership of underlying minerals like coal and oil. Given that mineral rights trump surface rights, this made many residents of western North Dakota feel trampled once the boom began..

Where oil and politics mix
Deborah Sontag New York Times USA November 23, 2014


Gov. Jack Dalrymple with Janelle Steinberg, Mrs. North Dakota, at a celebration in Tioga in June for reaching a milestone: one million daily barrels of oil. Photo: Paul Flessland

In late June, as black and gold balloons bobbed above black and gold tables with oil-rig centerpieces, the theme song from “Dallas” warmed up the crowd for the “One Million Barrels, One Million Thanks” celebration.

The mood was giddy. Halliburton served barbecued crawfish from Louisiana. A commemorative firearms dealer hawked a “one-million barrel” shotgun emblazoned with the slogan “Oil Can!” Mrs. North Dakota, in banner and crown, posed for pictures. The Texas Flying Legends performed an airshow backlit by a leaping flare of burning gas. And Gov. Jack Dalrymple was the featured guest.

Traveling through the “economically struggling” nation, Mr. Dalrymple told the crowd, he encountered many people who asked, “Jack, what the heck are you doing out there in North Dakota?” to create the fastest-growing economy, lowest unemployment rate and (according to one survey) happiest population.

“And I enjoy explaining to them, ‘Yes, the oil boom is a big, big help,’ ” he said.

Outsiders, he explained, simply need to be educated out of their fear of fracking: “There is a way to explain it that really relaxes people, that makes them understand this is not a dangerous thing that we’re doing out here, that it’s really very well managed and very safe and really the key to the future of not only North Dakota but really our entire nation.”

Tioga, population 3,000, welcomed North Dakota’s first well in 1951, more than a half-century before hydraulic fracturing liberated the “tight oil” trapped in the Bakken shale formation. So it was fitting that Tioga ring in the daily production milestone that had ushered the Bakken into the rarefied company of historic oil fields worldwide.

But Tioga also claims another record: what is considered the largest on-land oil spill in recent American history. And only Brenda Jorgenson, 61, who attended “to hear what does not get said,” mentioned that one, sotto voce.

The million-barrel bash was devoid of protesters save for Ms. Jorgenson, a tall, slender grandmother who has two wells at her driveway’s end and three jars in her refrigerator containing blackened water that she said came from her faucet during the fracking process. She did not, however, utter a contrary word.

“I’m not that brave (or stupid) to protest among that,” she said in an email afterward. “I’ve said it before: we’re outgunned, outnumbered and out-suited.”

North Dakotans do not like to make a fuss. Until recently, those few who dared to challenge the brisk pace of oil development, the perceived laxity of government oversight or the despoliation of farmland were treated as killjoys. They were ignored, ridiculed, threatened, and paid settlements in exchange for silence.

But over the past year and some, the dynamic seemed to be shifting.

Satellite photos of western North Dakota at night, aglitter like a metropolis with lighted rigs and burning flares, crystallized its rapid transformation from tight-knit agricultural society to semi-industrialized oil powerhouse. Proposals to drill near historic places generated heated opposition. The giant oil spill in Tioga in September 2013 frightened people, as did the explosion months later of a derailed oil train, which sent black smoke mushrooming over a snowy plain.

Then, this year, North Dakotans learned of discovery after discovery of illegally dumped oil filter socks, the “used condoms” of the oil industry, which contain radiation dislodged from deep underground.

Suddenly a percolating anxiety came uncorked. “The worm is turning,” Timothy Q. Purdon, the United States attorney, said in April.

It was against this backdrop that on a brisk spring day David Schwalbe, a retired rancher, and his wife, Ellen Chaffee, a former university president, walked headlong into the wind on their way to an F.B.I. office in Fargo.

A mile-long oil train was rumbling through downtown. Wordlessly, Mr. Schwalbe tightened his grip on the black binders bearing what he considered evidence, based on an unusual deal involving his family’s land, that Governor Dalrymple had a corrupt relationship with the oil industry.

‘This has David kind of nervous,” Dr. Chaffee confided. “He comes from a very below-the-radar culture.”

As a boy in the 1950s, Mr. Schwalbe scampered up and down the steep banks of Corral Creek, which flows from Killdeer Mountain into the Little Missouri River. His family homestead lay in the remote region where Theodore Roosevelt sought solitude in what he called the “desolate, grim beauty” of the Badlands.

Like many in his generation, Mr. Schwalbe took for granted the craggy buttes and rippling grasslands, the cottonwoods and poplars, the mule deer and mountain lions. He never anticipated a day when this singular landscape would be ravaged, in his view, by rigs, pumping units, waste pits and pipelines and when he would become an archetypal North Dakotan of a certain age, disheartened by what others saw as progress.

As he helped his father run cattle 11,000 feet above the Bakken formation, Mr. Schwalbe came to understand that the family ranch would never sustain his parents and their six adult children. After college, he settled in eastern North Dakota, returning home mostly for “brandings, hunting and holidays.”

When their father died, five Schwalbe siblings — David, Dennis, Donnie, Donnette and Dale — sold their shares of the ranch to their brother Delry. All six kept their rights to what lay beneath the surface, however. Just in case.


Lynn D. Helms, the director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, has a dual mission as both an oil industry promoter and its chief regulator. Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

In April, when the Schwalbes laid out their concerns to two F.B.I. agents in a windowless room in the Fargo federal building, they felt encouraged. The agents seemed apprehensive “because of the individual involved,” Mr. Schwalbe said, but gradually “their interest was piqued.”

“They thanked us for coming forward,” he said afterward, surprised.

In the summer, though, a final meeting with the agents left them disheartened. The investigation remained open, they were told, but prosecutors saw no federal case to be made.

Mr. Schwalbe, who had wagered that “this year is going to be better because people are starting to get mad,” was disappointed by the November elections, too.

His wife’s former running mate, Mr. Taylor, ran again, this time for agriculture commissioner, proposing that oil well setbacks from homes be increased to a quarter-mile from 500 feet and that pipelines be fitted with antispill devices. But he lost, as did a ballot initiative to set aside tax revenues for conservation. With considerable oil industry backing, the agriculture commissioner was re-elected, as was the attorney general, extending the mandate of the current Industrial Commission.

Mr. Schwalbe does not like to visit Corral Creek anymore. The landscape is, in his eyes, scarred, the tranquillity spoiled. His new outspokenness led him into an uncharacteristic public role as spokesman for a new group, North Dakota Rural Voters.

“I never thought I’d be involved in anything like this,” he said. “At my age, I thought we’d just slide through the rest of our lives. But at a certain point, it became a point of pride for me personally and me as a North Dakotan. I don’t like people taking things that don’t belong to them, not my money, not my property, not my state.”

Posted at: November 26, 2014 - 3:15 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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The Colder War: Washington plays Russian roulette

Today our task is not only to sort out the past (although that must be done), but most importantly, to think about the future. … The idea of creating a single economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok can now be heard here and there and is gaining traction. - Sergey Lavrov, November 22, 2014

Intro: The Russia, China long-term alliance: A crucial statement by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on what is perhaps the single most important strategic development in this 21st century
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada November 25, 2014

One link, Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the XXII Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, November 22, 2014. There is an introduction by ‘The Saker’ preceding the English language transcript of the speech.

Item: Washington loaded the gun long before Vladimir Putin accused the United States of provoking him to pick it up – and long before most watching the game of Russian roulette could identify the weapon as caliber Cold War 2.0. With the bullet marked once for “Eurasian integration” and twice to target “regime change”, Barack Obama is holding tensions high. When Hillary Clinton seizes the day, all bets will be off.

Washington plays Russian roulette
Pepe Escobar Asia Times Online Hong Kong November 21, 2014

Visit this page for its appended links.

These are bleak times. I’ve been in serious conversation with some deep sources and interlocutors – those who know but don’t need to show off, privileging discretion. They are all deeply worried. This is what one of them, a New York strategic planner, sent me:

The propaganda attack against Putin equating him with Hitler is so extreme that you have to think that the Russians cannot believe their ears and cannot trust the United States anymore under any circumstances.

I cannot believe how we could have gotten ourselves into this situation to protect the looters in the Ukraine that Putin would have rid the Ukraine of, and even had the gall to place in a leadership role one of the worst of the thieves. But that is history. What is certain is that MAD [mutually assured destruction] is not a deterrent today when both sides believe the other will use nuclear weapons once they have the advantage and that the side that gains a decisive advantage will use them. MAD is now over.

That may sound somewhat extreme – but it’s a perfectly logical extension, further on down the road, of what the Russian president intimated in his already legendary interview with Germany’s ARD in Vladivostok last week: the West is provoking Russia into a new Cold War. [1]

Mikhail Gorbachev just stressed a few days ago the new Cold War is already on. Princeton’s Stephen Cohen says the Cold War in fact never left. The Roving Eye reported about Cold War 2.0 months ago. Brits – still stranded in the 19th century new Great Game – prefer to spin the “strident toxic personality” of “diminutive Putin”; [2] he is the “ruthless, charming and ultimately reckless” man who “put the cold war back in vogue”. The Council on Foreign Relations, predictably, mourns the end of the post-Cold War world, blasts the current “disorder”, and dreams of the good ol’ unchallenged exceptionalist days. [3]

For arguably the best detailed background on how we came to this perilous state of affairs, it’s hard to beat Vladimir Kozin of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies. [4] Read him carefully. And yes, it’s Cold War 2.0, the double trouble remix; between the US and Russia, and between NATO and Russia.

The “logic” behind Cold War 2.0 – now in full swing – couldn’t give a damn about European stability. The Obama administration launched it – with NATO as the spearhead – to in fact prevent Eurasian integration, building a New Berlin Wall in Kiev. The immediate target is to undermine Russia’s economy; in the long run, regime change would be the ultimate bonus.

So the logic of escalation is on. The economically devastated EU is a joke; the only thing that counts for the US is NATO – and the overwhelming majority of its members are in the bag, sharing the prevailing mood in Washington of treating Putin as if he were Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi. There are no signs whatsoever Team Obama is willing to de-escalate. And when the Hillarator President-in-Waiting ascends to the throne, all bets are off.

Related: The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp
Wiley Canada Canada October 2014

The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp

Marin Katusa

ISBN: 978-1-118-79994-9
272 pages

October 2014

Publisher’s description

How the massive power shift in Russia threatens the political dominance of the United States

There is a new cold war underway, driven by a massive geopolitical power shift to Russia that went almost unnoticed across the globe. In The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp, energy expert Marin Katusa takes a look at the ways the western world is losing control of the energy market, and what can be done about it.

Russia is in the midst of a rapid economic and geopolitical renaissance under the rule of Vladimir Putin, a tenacious KGB officer turned modern-day tsar. Understanding his rise to power provides the keys to understanding the shift in the energy trade from Saudi Arabia to Russia. This powerful new position threatens to unravel the political dominance of the United States once and for all.

  • Discover how political coups, hostile takeovers, and assassinations have brought Russia to the center of the world’s energy market
  • Follow Putin’s rise to power and how it has led to an upsetting of the global balance of trade
  • Learn how Russia toppled a generation of robber barons and positioned itself as the most powerful force in the energy market
  • Study Putin’s long-range plans and their potential impact on the United States and the U.S. dollar

If Putin’s plans are successful, not only will Russia be able to starve other countries of power, but the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) will replace the G7 in wealth and clout. The Colder War takes a hard look at what is to come in a new global energy market that is certain to cause unprecedented impact on the U.S. dollar and the American way of life.

Posted at: November 26, 2014 - 8:42 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

November 25, 2014

The Russia, China long-term alliance: A crucial statement by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on what is perhaps the single most important strategic development in this 21st century

Today our task is not only to sort out the past (although that must be done), but most importantly, to think about the future. … The idea of creating a single economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok can now be heard here and there and is gaining traction. - Sergey Lavrov, November 22, 2014

Absolutely crucial statement by Foreign Minister Lavrov (*MUST READ*!)
‘The Saker’ Vineyard of the Saker USA November 25, 2014

Note: Finally the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs found the time, energy and personnel to translate this most important statement. They even posted it (thanks to Jonathan Jarvis for the pointer!). And if you detect irritation on my part you are correct – I am frustrated with how incompetent Russians are in anything relating to public information. Anyway,

I have bolded out what I consider to be the most important statements made by Lavrov that day. I would just like to add the following:

1) Lavrov is considered very much a “moderate” and his language has always been strictly diplomatic. So when you read Lavrov, just imagine what folks in other Russian ministries are thinking.

2) Lavrov makes no secret of his view of the USA and of his plans for the future of our planet. When you read his words, try to imagine what a US Neocon feels and thinks and you will immediately see why the US elites both hate and fear Russia.

3) Finally, Lavrov openly admits that Russia and China have forged a long-term strategic alliance (proving all the nay-sayers who predicted that China would backtstab Russian wrong). This is, I would argue, the single most important strategic development in the past decade.

4) Finally, notice the clear contempt which Lavrov has for a pseudo-Christian “West” which dares not speak in defense of persecuted Christians, denies its own roots, and does not even respect its own traditions.

Friends, what we are witnessing before our eyes is not some petty statement about the Ukraine or sanctions, it is the admission by Lavrov of a fundamental “clash of civilizations”, but not between some wholly imaginary “Christian West” and Islam, but between Christian Russia and the post-Christian West.

Russia did not want this conflict. Russia did everything in her power to prevent it. But the West left Russia no choice and Russia now openly declares her willingness to fight and prevail.

The Saker
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the XXII Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, 22 November 2014

I’m happy to be at this annual Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy (Russian abbreviation SVOP). It is always a great pleasure for me to meet people and feel the intellectual potential, which enables the Council, its leaders and representatives to respond to global developments and analyse them. Their analysis is always free from any hysteria, and its members offer well-grounded and solid arguments, taking a step back, since those caught in the midst of events can hardly adopt an unbiased perspective. We are inevitably influenced by the developments, which makes your observations, analysis, discourse and suggestions even more valuable to us.

As far as I know, this year’s Assembly will focus on prospects for accelerating domestic growth in Russia. There is no doubt that concerted efforts by our society as a whole to bring about comprehensive economic, social and spiritual development are a prerequisite for making Russia’s future sustainable. That said, by virtue of my professional duties, I have to focus on foreign policy issues, which are still relevant for the Assembly’s agenda, since in this interconnected, globalised world, isolating internal development from the outside world is impossible. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin provided a detailed analysis of the international developments at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi, as well as in his interviews during his trip to Asia. For this reason, I won’t offer any conceptual observations, as everything has already been said. Nevertheless, I would like to share with you some considerations based on our day-to-day foreign policy efforts. It is not my intention to deliver a comprehensive or clear outlook, since at this stage all forecasts are provisional, no matter who makes them. Moreover, diplomats seek to influence developments as they unfold, not contemplate them.

Naturally, I will start with Ukraine. Long before the country was plunged into the crisis, there was a feeling in the air that Russia’s relations with the EU and with the West were about to reach their moment of truth. It was clear that we could no longer continue to put issues in our relations on the back burner and that a choice had to be made between a genuine partnership or, as the saying goes, “breaking pots.” It goes without saying that Russia opted for the former alternative, while unfortunately our Western partners settled for the latter, whether consciously or not. In fact, they went all out in Ukraine and supported extremists, thereby giving up their own principles of democratic regime change. What came out of it was an attempt to play chicken with Russia, to see who blinks first. As bullies say, they wanted to Russia to “chicken out” (I can’t find a better word for it), to force us to swallow the humiliation of Russians and native speakers of Russian in Ukraine.

Honourable Leslie Gelb, whom you know all too well, wrote that Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU had nothing to do with inviting Ukraine to join the EU and was aimed in the short term at preventing it from joining the Customs Union. This is what an impartial and unbiased person said. When they deliberately decided to go down the path of escalation in Ukraine, they forgot many things, and had a clear understanding of how such moves would be viewed in Russia. They forgot the advice of, say, Otto von Bismarck, who had said that disparaging the millions-strong great Russian people would be the biggest political mistake.

President Vladimir Putin said the other day that no one in history has yet managed to subjugate Russia to its influence. This is not an assessment, but a statement of fact. Yet such an attempt has been made to quench the thirst for expanding the geopolitical space under Western control, out of a mercantile fear to lose the spoils of what they across the Atlantic had persuaded themselves was the victory in the Cold War.

The plus of today’s situation is that everything has clicked into its place and the calculus behind the West’s actions has been revealed despite its professed readiness to build a security community, a common European home. To quote (singer/song-writer) Bulat Okudzhava, “The past is getting clearer and clearer.” The clarity is becoming more tangible. Today our task is not only to sort out the past (although that must be done), but most importantly, to think about the future.

Talks about Russia’s isolation do not merit serious discussion. I need hardly dwell on this before this audience. Of course, one can damage our economy, and damage is being done, but only by doing harm to those who are taking corresponding measures and, equally important, destroying the system of international economic relations, the principles on which it is based. Formerly, when sanctions were applied (I worked at the Russian mission to the UN at the time) our Western partners, when discussing the DPRK, Iran or other states, said that it was necessary to formulate the restrictions in such a way as to keep within humanitarian limits and not to cause damage to the social sphere and the economy, and to selectively target only the elite. Today everything is the other way around: Western leaders are publicly declaring that the sanctions should destroy the economy and trigger popular protests. So, as regards the conceptual approach to the use of coercive measures the West unequivocally demonstrates that it does not merely seek to change Russian policy (which in itself is illusory), but it seeks to change the regime — and practically nobody denies this.

President Vladimir Putin, speaking with journalists recently, said that today’s Western leaders have a limited planning horizon. Indeed, it is dangerous when decisions on key problems of the development of the world and humankind as a whole are taken on the basis of short electoral cycles: in the United States the cycle is two years and each time one has to think of or do something to win votes. This is the negative side of the democratic process, but we cannot afford to ignore it. We cannot accept the logic when we are told to resign, relax and take it as a given that everyone has to suffer because there are elections in the United States every two years. This is just not right. We will not resign ourselves to this because the stakes are too high in the fight against terror, the threats of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and many bloody conflicts whose negative impact goes far beyond the framework of the corresponding states and regions. The wish to do something to gain unilateral advantages or to endear oneself to the electorate ahead of another election leads to chaos and confusion in international relations.

We hear the daily repeated mantra that Washington is aware of its own exclusiveness and its duty to bear this burden, to lead the rest of the world. Rudyard Kipling spoke about “the white man’s burden.” I hope that this is not what drives Americans. The world today is not white or black, but multi-coloured and heterogeneous. Leadership in this world can be assured not by persuading oneself of one’ exclusiveness and God-given duty to be responsible for everyone, but only by the ability and craft in forming a consensus. If the US partners committed their power to this goal, this would be priceless, and Russia would be actively helping them.

I can’t fail to mention Russia’s comprehensive partnership with China. Important bilateral decisions have been taken, paving the way to an energy alliance between Russia and China. But there’s more to it. We can now even talk about the emerging technology alliance between the two countries. Russia’s tandem with Beijing is a crucial factor for ensuring international stability and at least some balance in international affairs, as well as ensuring the rule of international law. We will make full use of our relations with India and Vietnam, Russia’s strategic partners, as well as the ASEAN countries. We are also open to expanding cooperation with Japan, if our Japanese neighbours can look at their national interests and stop looking back at some overseas powers.

There is no doubt that the European Union is our largest collective partner. No one intends to “shoot himself in the foot” by renouncing cooperation with Europe, although it is now clear that business as usual is no longer an option. This is what our European partners are telling us, but neither do we want to operate the old way. They believed that Russia owed them something, while we want to be on an equal footing. For this reason, things will never be the same again. That said, I’m confident that we will be able to overcome this period, lessons will be learned and a new foundation for our relations will emerge.

Posted at: November 25, 2014 - 2:00 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

The struggle against dystopia: Beyond Orwellian nightmares and Neoliberal authoritarianism

Those who fight against neoliberalism must not settle for reforming a system that is as broken as it is dangerous. Any viable, transformative struggle will need a boldly democratic vision; durable, longstanding organizations and strategies that make politics meaningful. - Henry Giroux. Henry Giroux is an American and Canadian scholar and cultural critic. In 2004 Giroux became the Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. In July 2014, he was named to the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest. He is currently the Director of the McMaster Centre for Research in the Public Interest. He currently is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada with his wife, Dr. Susan Searls Giroux. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.

Beyond Orwellian nightmares and Neoliberal authoritarianism
Henry A. Giroux Truthout USA October 15, 2014

Image: Jared Rodriguez/Truthout. Visit this page for its appended links.

To be corrupted by totalitarianism, one does not have to live in a totalitarian country.
– George Orwell

Central to George Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a totalitarian society was a government so powerful that it not only dominated all of the major institutions in a society, but it also was quite adept at making invisible its inner workings of power. This is what some have called a shadow government, deep state, dual state or corporate state. (1) In the deep state, politics becomes the domain of the ultra-wealthy, the powerful few who run powerful financial services, big corporations and the imperious elite of the defense industries and other components of the military-industrial complex. Corporate interests such as ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies, megabanks such as Bank of America, and defense industries such as Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are powerful lobbying groups and as such have control of the major seats of political power and the commanding institutions necessary to insure that the deeply anti-democratic state rules in the interests of the few while exploiting and repressing the many.

A recent Princeton University study analyzed policy initiatives passed under the influence of the deep state from 1981 to 2002 and concluded that rather than being a democracy, however weak, the United States had become an oligarchy where power is effectively wielded by “the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.” (2) Bill Blunden adds to this description with a useful map of the interpenetrating elements and overlapping layers of interest that make up the deep state. He writes:

The American Deep State, or what Colonel Fletcher Prouty called the Secret Team, is a structural layer of political intermediaries: non-governmental organizations (e.g. National Endowment for Democracy, Ford Foundation), lobbyists (e.g. Chamber of Commerce, AIPAC), media outlets (e.g. Time Warner, News Corp), dark money pits (e.g. Freedom Partners, NRA), and private sector contractors (e.g. Booz Allen, SAIC) that interface with official government organs (CIA, Department of Defense). This layer establishes a series of informal, often secret, backchannels and revolving doors through which profound sources of wealth and power outside of government can purchase influence. . . . the American Deep State is a fundamentally anti-democratic apparatus that caters to the agenda of heavily entrenched elites. (3)

This is a state in which people participate willingly in their own oppression, often out of deep insecurity about their freedom and the future. This is a mode of governance in which individual and social agency are in crisis and begin to disappear in a society in which 99 percent of the public, especially young people, low-income groups and minorities of class and color are considered disposable. The rulers of the deep state no longer care about the social contract and make no concessions in their ruthless pursuits of power and profits. One consequence is the creation of a state and society that no longer believes in social investments and is more than willing to condemn young people, often paralyzed by the precariousness and instability that haunts their lives and future, to a savage form of casino capitalism.

There is one caveat here that cannot be forgotten. The fight against neoliberalism and the related anti-democratic tendencies that inform it must not settle for reforming a system that is as broken as it is dangerous, if not pathological in the violence and misery it produces. Any viable struggle must acknowledge that if the current modes of domination are to change, a newly developed emphasis must be placed on creating the formative culture that inspires and energizes a faith in the culture and systems of power relations and popular participation that would characterize a radical democracy. Such a struggle will not emerge out of demonstrations but out of a vision that is boldly democratic, organizations that are durable and long standing, and strategies that take seriously what it means to make politics meaningful in order to make it both critical and transformative. The new US authoritarianism has emptied democracy of any substantive meaning. The time has come to do more than reclaim and recover democracy’s legacy of liberal traditions. While such a task is not unimportant, it does not go far enough. There is a real need for progressives and others to radicalize these traditions, offer new vocabularies and visions for change, and think beyond a future that is nothing more than a cheap imitation of the present. Radical democracy inspires fear in the ruling elite just as it must inspire and energize diverse groups to reclaim their moral and political agency in order to step into a future in which the current nightmare of US authoritarianism has faded into memory.

Neoliberal violence in the age of Orwellian nightmares
Henry Giroux CounterPunch USA November 23, 2014

Visit this page for its appended links.

The shadow of Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a totalitarian society with its all-embracing reach of surveillance and repression now works its way through American politics like a lethal virus. Orwell’s dystopian apparition of a totalitarian society with its all-embracing reach of surveillance and repression has come to fruition, reshaping the American body politic in the guise of a poorly orchestrated Reality TV show. As Orwell rightly predicted, one of the more significant characteristics of an authoritarian society is its willingness to distort the truth while simultaneously suppressing dissent. But Orwell was only partly right. Today, rather than just agressively instill a sense of fear, dread and isolation, contemporary totalitarian commitment also wins over large number of individuals through appeals to our most debased instincts projected on to hapless others. Our lurid fascination with others’ humiliation and pain is often disguised even to ourselves as entertainment and humor, if perhaps admittedly a little perverse. Under the new authoritarianism fear mixes with the endless production of neoliberal commonsense and a deadening coma-inducing form of celebrity culture. Huxley’s Soma now joins hands with Orwell’s surveillance state.

State terrorism works best when it masks the effects of its power while aggressively producing neoliberal commonsense through diverse cultural apparatuses in order to normalize the values and conditions that legitimate its reign of terror. For instance, Umberto Eco argues that one element of authoritarianism is the rise of an Orwellian version of newspeak, or what he labels as the language of “eternal fascism,” whose purpose is to produce “an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax [whose consequence is] to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.” Dwight Macdonald, writing in the aftermath of World War II and the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, argues that as more and more people are excluded from the experience of political agency and exhibit “less and less control over the policies” of their governments, ethics is reduced to the status of mere platitudes and politics becomes banal. What has become clear to many Americans is that the electoral system is bankrupt. As the political process becomes more privatized, outsourced, and overrun with money from corporations and billionaires, a wounded republic is on its death bed, gasping for life. In addition, as the state becomes more tightly controlled, organized, and rationalized by the financial elite, politics and morality are deprived of any substance and relevance, thus making it difficult for people to either care about the obligations of critical citizenship or to participate in the broader landscape of politics and power. Far easier to wax ironic or cynical.

For Orwell, the state was organized through traditional forms of authoritarian political power. What Orwell could not have imagined was the reconfiguration of the state under a form of corporate sovereignty in which corporations, the financial elite, and the ultra-rich completely controlled the state and its modes of governance. Hyper-capitalism was no longer merely protected by the state, it has become the state. As is well known, the fossil fuel companies, megabanks, and defense industries such as Boeing, General dynamics Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin now control the major seats of political power and the commanding institutions necessary to insure that the deeply anti-democratic state rule in the interests of the few while exploiting and repressing the many. This was recently made clear by a Princeton University scientific study that analyzed policies passed by the U.S. government from 1981 to 2002 and discovered that vast majority of such policies had nothing to do with the needs and voiced interests of the American people. As the authors pointed out, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”[1] Put bluntly, the study made clear that the opinions of the public per se simply do not count. The study concluded that rather than being a democracy the United States had become an oligarchy where power is effectively wielded by “the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.”[2]

As a result of this mode of governance, individual and social agency are in crisis and are disappearing in a society in which 99 percent of the public, especially young people and minorities of class and color are considered disposable. At a time when politics is nation-based and power is global, the rulers of the Orwellian state no longer care about the social contract and make no compromises in their ruthless pursuits of power and profits. The social contract, especially in the United States, is on life support as social provisions are cut, pensions are decimated, and the certainty of a once secure job disappears. The new free-floating global elite are unrestrained by the old rules of politics and not only refuse to make any political concessions, they also no longer believe in long-term social investments and are more than willing to condemn those populations now considered disposable to a savage form of casino capitalism.

For Orwell, the state was organized through traditional forms of authoritarian political power. What Orwell could not have imagined was the reconfiguration of the state under a form of corporate sovereignty in which corporations, the financial elite, and the ultra-rich completely controlled the state and its modes of governance. Hyper-capitalism was no longer merely protected by the state, it has become the state. As is well known, the fossil fuel companies, megabanks, and defense industries such as Boeing, General dynamics Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin now control the major seats of political power and the commanding institutions necessary to insure that the deeply anti-democratic state rule in the interests of the few while exploiting and repressing the many. This was recently made clear by a Princeton University scientific study that analyzed policies passed by the U.S. government from 1981 to 2002 and discovered that vast majority of such policies had nothing to do with the needs and voiced interests of the American people. As the authors pointed out, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”[1] Put bluntly, the study made clear that the opinions of the public per se simply do not count. The study concluded that rather than being a democracy the United States had become an oligarchy where power is effectively wielded by “the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.”[2]

As a result of this mode of governance, individual and social agency are in crisis and are disappearing in a society in which 99 percent of the public, especially young people and minorities of class and color are considered disposable. At a time when politics is nation-based and power is global, the rulers of the Orwellian state no longer care about the social contract and make no compromises in their ruthless pursuits of power and profits. The social contract, especially in the United States, is on life support as social provisions are cut, pensions are decimated, and the certainty of a once secure job disappears. The new free-floating global elite are unrestrained by the old rules of politics and not only refuse to make any political concessions, they also no longer believe in long-term social investments and are more than willing to condemn those populations now considered disposable to a savage form of casino capitalism.

Posted at: November 25, 2014 - 1:57 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Not all despair is dampened: Watching Ferguson and Burnaby Mountain

Jim comment: I followed closely the events in St. Louis County last night beginning with the prosecutor’s self-serving 30-minute stage play through the events on the streets of Ferguson long into the night. From a Theater of the Absurd play (cynically/deliberately staged at a time so as to make violent reaction easier to enact and later to condemn) to the playing out of a Theater of Despair street perfomance. Just as in the pipeline/tanker events unfolding in British Columbia (the pipeline expansion reviews are public deceptions), the systemic failures of our society are apparent as is the crumbling of people’s trust in the prevailing institutions.

Ferguson: At the onset of Ferguson’s protests, Amnesty International USA deployed observers to monitor police interactions with the demonstrators. On October 24, the human rights organization released “On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson,” detailing the human rights concerns raised by the actions of law enforcement and public officials during the initial protests.

Why it’s impossible to indict a cop
Chase Madar The Nation USA November 24, 2014


Riot police in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo:Jeff Roberson/AP. Visit this page for its embedded links.

How to police the police is a question as old as civilization, now given special urgency by a St. Louis County grand jury’s return of a “no bill” of indictment for Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in his fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown. The result is shocking to many, depressingly predictable to more than a few.

Can the cops be controlled? It’s never been easy: according to one old sociological chestnut, the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is what defines modern government, and this monopoly is jealously protected against the second-guessing of puny civilians. All over the country, the issue of restraining police power is framed around the retribution against individual cops, from Staten Island to Milwaukee to Los Angeles. But is this the best way to impose discipline on law enforcement and roll back what even Republican appellate court appointees are calling rampant criminalization?

First, the big picture. Last year, the FBI tallied 461 “justifiable homicides” committed by law enforcement—justifiable because the Bureau assumes so, and the nation’s courts have not found otherwise. This is the highest number in two decades, even as the nation’s overall homicide rate continues to drop. Homicides committed by on-duty law enforcement make up 3 percent of the 14,196 homicides committed in the United States in 2013. A USA Today analysis of the FBI database found an average of about ninety-six police homicides a year in which a white officer kills a black person.

The FBI’s police homicide stats are fuzzy, and they are surely an undercount, given that they come from voluntary reports to the FBI from police departments all over the country. That the federal government does not keep a strict national tally shows just how seriously it takes this problem. A crowdsourced database has sprung up to fill the gap, as has a wiki-tabulation.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about these police killings, many of them of unarmed victims, is that our courts find them perfectly legal.

No indictment for Darren Wilson, no justice for Black lives
Mychal Denzel Smith The Nation blogs USA November 24, 2014

But what is justice in a nation built on white supremacy and the destruction of black bodies? That’s the question we have yet to answer. It’s the question that shakes us up and makes our insides uncomfortable. It’s the question that causes great unrest.

There is fear in that word, “unrest.” It’s become synonymous with violence. But it is unrest that put Michael Brown’s name into our consciousness, and it is unrest that his kept his memory alive. Unrest is the key to justice.

Protesters in Ferguson should not be calm, as they have been admonished by everyone from the president on down. Michael Brown doesn’t need calm. Black boys and girls who grow up in America need their lives to be respected. They need justice.

Burnaby Mountain: The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see. - Edward Abbey

The unwillingness of Trans Mountain to address most of my questions and the board’s almost complete endorsement of Trans Mountain’s decision has exposed this process as deceptive and misleading. Proper and professional public interest due diligence has been frustrated, leading me to the conclusion that this board has a predetermined course of action to recommend approval of the project and a strong bias in favour of the proponent. In effect, this so-called public hearing process has become a farce, and this board a truly industry captured regulator. - Energy executive and former senior civil servant, Marc Eliesen, cited by Emma Gilchrist. A regulator is considered ‘captured’ when it turns into more of a industry facilitator, rather than a regulatory watchdog.


RCMP enforcing Kinder Morgan’s court-ordered injunction on Friday on Burnaby Mountain. Photo: Mark Klotz/Vancouver Observer

Yesterday, we surveyed the weekend events and arrests on Burnaby Mountain over the last weekend. That survey included a legal insight into why Kinder Morgan relies on civil injunctions rather than criminal sanctions to punish protesters. The article pointed out that during these types of protests Canadian police do not enforce the Criminal Code “except where there are ‘significant acts of violence or property damage’“. Moreover, “police will not arrest contemnors, except where a subsequent enforcement order of the Court directs them to do so.” Thus, where an injunction has been granted by a judge, when protestors are returned before that judge anyone who violated the civil court order is subject to extremely harsh penalties, including lengthy imprisonment and large fines. “Taken together, the Attorney General and RCMP policies create a regime in which public authorities foreclose the use of the Criminal Code offences relevant to civil disobedience and blockading—such as mischief, intimidation, breach of the peace, contempt, and so on—leaving only remedies in private law. To put it politely, this is a perverse way to administer justice, since the definitive feature of civil disobedience is that it is protest coupled with the wilful violation of law.”

Energy executive quits Trans Mountain Pipeline Review, calls NEB process a ‘public deception’
Emma Gilchrist DeSmog Canada Canada November 3, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

An energy executive is weighing in on the federal review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion with a scathing letter that calls the National Energy Board’s review process “fraudulent” and a “public deception” — and calls for the province of British Columbia to undertake its own environmental assessment.

Marc Eliesen — who has 40 years of executive experience in the energy sector, including as a board member at Suncor — writes in his letter to the National Energy Board that the process is jury-rigged with a “pre-determined outcome.”

Eliesen is the former CEO of BC Hydro, former chair of Manitoba Hydro and has served as a deputy minister in seven different federal and provincial governments.

In his letter, Eliesen tells the National Energy Board (NEB) that he offered his expertise as an intervenor in good faith that his time would be well spent in evaluation Trans Mountain’s proposal.

“Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that the board, through its decisions, is engaged in a public deception,” Eliesen writes. “Continued involvement with this process is a waste of time and effort, and represents a disservice to the public interest because it endorses a fraudulent process.”

We received the following press release last evening.

STATEMENT FROM HEILTSUK NATION ON BURNABY MOUNTAIN PROTESTS

(Bella Bella, November 25th, 2014) The Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, BC declares their unwavering support for the keepers of the sacred fire on Burnaby Mountain.

“Our relatives from the Salish Sea are demonstrating the courage and conviction of our ancestors,” says Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett. “We applaud them and we applaud those allies standing with them, and send an unequivocal message that Heiltsuk stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who are fulfilling their duty to the land.”

Heiltsuk is one of several nations challenging the federal approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway in the courts. Musqueam, Tsleil-waututh, and Squamish members have stood with Heiltsuk during demonstrations in their homelands, and on unceded Indigenous territory in Vancouver.

“Our peoples have always been keepers of the lands and waters,” adds Heiltsuk hereditary chief Harvey Humchitt. “Now we are called to be defenders as well as keepers. The land defenders on Burnaby Mountain are upholding ancestral law first and foremost, and we support them wholeheartedly.”

Heiltsuk hereditary and elected leadership encourage off-reserve Heiltsuk members in the Vancouver area to continue supporting efforts on Burnaby Mountain with supplies, presence, and prayers.

“The time may come when we are called to similar action to stop Enbridge Northern Gateway,” says Chief Slett, “and we have an obligation now to stand with our relatives who are bringing their fight against Kinder Morgan out on to the land. These threats are connected, and we believe that together, we have the strength to hold the line.”

How can we support:

You can support legal fees against the civil suit launched by Kinder Morgan against Burnaby Residents
Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion visit: http://www.burnabypipelinewatch/
Or Contact your Member of Parliament (MP) at: www.parl.gc.ca
And contact your Member of the BC Legislature (MLA) at: www.leg.bc.ca

Let your government know that you believe the risks associated with the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline are too great to accept.

There were sympathetic demonstrations demanding Ferguson justice in cities across the USA last night.

Posted at: November 25, 2014 - 1:54 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

November 24, 2014

Marching as to a larger war: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pushed aside. For what and for whom? & Making the best of our bad options in Syria


Chuck Hagel. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned today under pressure amid criticism of the president’s national security team on a series of global issues, including the threat posed by the militant group known as IS/ISIS. A decorated Vietnam vet, the only enlisted man to hold the SECDEF position, Hagel lasted less than two years in the top military post. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images/Foreign Policy

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. - Revelation 19:11 (NIV)

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

- First verse of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe, Nov. 1861

If you have somebody there [at Defense] who’s already made it clear that he does not want to engage in a confrontation with Iran, what kind of negotiating leverage do we have? … You want to have as secretary of defense somebody who’s the heavy. Somebody who’s the guy who looks as if he’s perfectly capable of waging war against you and happy to do it. That’s just kind of elementary negotiating tactics. Eliot Cohen, December 24, 2012, responding to the nomination of Chuck Hagel as U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Putin is indeed a brutal Great Russian nationalist who understands that Russia without a belt of subservient client states is not merely a very weak power but also vulnerable…. - Eliot Cohen, Putin’s power play in Ukraine, March 2, 2014.

Chuck Hagel’s legacy: From Vietnam war hero to Pentagon chief
Connor Adams Sheets International Business Times USA November 24, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded and related links.

President Barack Obama announced Monday morning that Chuck Hagel is resigning as defense secretary less than two years after he assumed the post. The 68-year-old statesman has long been a major figure in American politics, but the White House has signaled that it wants to take a different direction at the Pentagon as it battles rising tensions across the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

That antiwar stand, combined with Hagel’s character and the bond he had with Obama, helped Hagel earn the respect of the president. In 2008, he retired from the Senate, making good on a vow he made in 1996 to step down after two terms. Long touted as a candidate for the Cabinet or even the vice presidency, he went on to serve as a professor at Georgetown University, advise the Obama administration on intelligence, chair the Atlantic Council, and serve in various capacities for the next several years.

Then, in 2013, he was tapped to become Obama’s third defense secretary, following Robert Gates and Leon Panetta. He occupied the role through a period that saw the rise of the Islamic State terror group, rising tensions with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the continuing fallout of the Arab Spring in the Middle East and the first months of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He presided over a tumultuous period marked by the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, the deployment of troops to fight Ebola in Liberia and airstrikes against the Islamic State.

After discussing Hagel’s options with him in recent weeks, Obama reportedly decided that he needed to find a new defense chief as the country finds itself increasingly embroiled in the effort to dismantle Islamic State militants, among other pressing foreign policy challenges.

How did Chuck Hagel end up as the White House’s scapegoat?
Peter D. Feaver Foreign Policy, Shadow Government blog USA November 24, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

The news that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down has been foreshadowed for weeks, so it does not qualify as a shock. But neither does it qualify as an obvious and logical next move for an administration so clearly struggling to manage myriad foreign policy challenges.

Hagel had a troubled tenure from the outset — given his rocky confirmation hearings, it hardly could have been otherwise. Since his earliest days in the job, there has been a steady drumbeat of criticism of him in the press and, tellingly, he was often the target of unattributed criticisms from fellow Obama administration officials. In an administration rife with internal conflict and finger pointing, he sometimes pointed the finger at others, but more often the fingers — especially White House fingers — were pointed at him.

In fact, if you were to poll knowledgeable observers to compile a list of the “Top 10 Problems with President Obama’s Foreign and National Security Policies,” the performance of Secretary Hagel would barely make 10th place, if it made the list at all. Even in the area of closest relevance to Hagel’s responsibilities, civil-military relations, I would list several factors ahead of Hagel’s performance as crucial.

The decision to replace Hagel has a definite echo of President Bush’s decision to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at roughly the same point in Bush’s tenure, but it is an ironic one. Whereas the Bush decision came in the context of a candid self-assessment of what the midterm rebuke might mean, the Obama decision has come in the context of a president who has refused to acknowledge that the midterm results are a rebuke of his policies and performance. Indeed, his response has been to double down on the very autocratic behaviors that contributed to his party’s decisive defeat.

That, of course, points to the heart of the matter. The United States is struggling in geopolitics right now because President Obama’s administration is struggling, and the administration is struggling primarily for reasons traced directly back to the president’s own choices. Pick your issue: the failure in Syria, the rise of the Islamic State, the inability to check Russian President Vladimir Putin, the yawning ends-means gap in the defense budget, the fractious civil-military relations, the failure to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and so on. Regardless the issue, the chief weakness is not the performance of the staff but the decisions that could only have been made by the president. Of course, these are tough foreign policy problems and much of the difficulty can also be attributed to factors well beyond the control of the U.S. government. But to the extent that U.S. action or inaction is exacerbating the problem, those sins of omission and commission are primarily the president’s, not his staff’s.

It is unrealistic to expect the president to fire himself, so others have to play that sacrificial role. It should not be unrealistic, however, to expect the president to do a bit more soul-searching than has been evident to date, and also to realize who among his staff are the biggest problems. Settling on Hagel as his scapegoat raises questions about how thoroughgoing the president’s own assessment has been.

Chuck Hagel failed his impossible job
David French National Review Online, The Corner blog USA November 24, 2014

I would say that I pity Chuck Hagel. After all, here was his mandate: Maintain America’s strategic position while shrinking American military power and amplifying the Obama administration’s desires for global disengagement.

It turns out that the SECDEF could accomplish only two of those missions. The problem with Hagel, of course, is that he seemed to tackle his mission with relish, believing in the same magic that the president believes — that military disengagement and retreat can come without cost (or, indeed, that such disengagement will actually help America’s national security posture.) Under his leadership, the military shed good men and women and — willingly or not — elevated the role of social engineering to a level that sometimes seemed more important than operational proficiency. Oh, and he presided over the collapse of Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State while helping supervise a military response dominated by civilian-administration micro-management that would make Lyndon Johnson blush.

The only people who should be surprised by the chaos in the Middle East and Putin’s rampage through parts of Ukraine are the folks who learned “history” at the feet of Noam Chomsky and “culture” in various Ivy League humanities departments. In Chuck Hagel they found a willing accomplice, a man with a borrowed ideology and boundless military incompetence.

But, hey, the Obama administration checked another “first” box — the first enlisted SECDEF. While “firsts” are nice, competence is better.

Chuck Hagel served his country honorably in uniform, laying his life on the line in Vietnam. And for that, he will always deserve our thanks and respect. But he was the wrong SECDEF at the wrong time for the wrong president.

But here’s the question for his successor: Can any man or woman succeed at the task this president gives him or her?

Related: Below: The American Interest is devoted to the broad theme of “America in the world.”. Its founding executive committee was composed of Francis Fukuyama, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Eliot Cohen & Josef Joffe. (If you are not familier with those four, do some research. They all believe that American leadership is good both for America and for the world and all have long played a prominent role in formulating American foreign policy.) The author of the following article, Henri J. Barkey, is professor of international relations at Lehigh University.

Making the best of our bad options in Syria
Henri J. Barkey The American Interest USA November 21, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

Press reports suggest that President Obama has ordered a review of Syria strategy (though the White House is denying this). He has already made it clear that he does not favor direct U.S. intervention in Syria. While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost large swathes of territory to a rebellion that has so far cost the lives of 200,000 Syrians, he shows no signs of giving up. What is worse, the chaos in Syria and neighboring Iraq has given rise to a virulent jihadist movement in the form of the Islamic State (IS), which has conquered vast territory throughout the region.

The options such a review would produce are unlikely to change policy anytime soon. This is not only because there are no good ones out there that can transform the situation, but also because the Syrian crisis has become part of a larger global struggle with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s potential countermoves, especially in Ukraine, serve as a deterrent to American action in Syria.

Here are some of the options Obama’s advisers would likely present him.

There is no easy solution in Syria. Direct military action is fraught with dangers. Patience and a smarter diplomatic strategy will serve the U.S. best.

Posted at: November 24, 2014 - 1:57 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

On the contrary: Coming to terms with IS’s ‘new world order’

Long live negativity! We must learn again to think negatively. Negations may be emancipations. Negations may operate in the service of affirmations. But happy talk, the uplift of pure positivity, is the rhetoric of the status quo. - – Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, in his essay, Reason and the Republic of Opinion, November 11, 2014

Below: Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s. He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

Coming to terms with IS’s ‘new world order’
Eric Walberg ericwalberg.com Canada November 24, 2014

Summary: Just as communism arose out of the contradictions of imperialism a century ago, Islamic revolution is the inevitable result of today’s version of imperialism. IS may be harsh and uncompromising, but it should be treated with respect, not vilified. The caliphate project, implementing sharia, the determination to overthrow the Saudi monarchy, the rejection of fiat money–these are legitimate goals and deserve serious analysis.

IS continues to confound. Not only negatively for its restrictions on women and its grim revolutionary justice, but because on many fronts, it is spot on.

*It has put the caliphate project back on track after almost a century of Muslim humiliation

*It has made sharia (at least its version) the basis of its social order

*It has (correctly) targeted Saudi Arabia as the font of corruption and decadence, the Muslim world’s ‘enemy at home’

*It is set to become the only ‘state’ to back its currency with gold coinage. ISIS says the new currency will take the group out of “the oppressors’ money system”, and return control over the money supply from bankers to the state.

Perspective

IS is ghoulishly depicted in western media as blood-thirsty murderers reveling in violence, mad nihilists intent on destruction. To put things in perspective, the US is killing dozens if not hundreds of Muslims (quite a number of them babies) every day, all of them innocent of anything beyond defending their lands and homes. Remember the fairytale of Saddam Hussein killing babies on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War? All revolutions spill blood of those who profess to be hostile to the new order, and IS is no exception. In Cuba, between 500 and 2,000 enemies of the state were executed following the 1959 revolution.

The Middle East is in revolutionary upheaval, and has been for a century now. Just as the Russian revolution of 1917 was the logical conclusion of upheavals against imperialism in yesteryear, so Islamic revolutions are the logical consequence of imperialism today. The Iranian revolution of 1979 set the stage, and actions of the US in the past two decades (since the first invasion of Iraq in 1991) have ensured that this upheaval will continue and have an Islamic nature.

The end of communism came by the imperialists wearing down the secular communists through war and subversion until the system was sufficiently weakened, allowing internal dissent to overthrow it. Is this really the plan today? Unending torment and slaughter inflicted by the West on the Middle East? Keep in mind, Islamic resistance is grounded in a much more convincing way than was communism, and will not be defeated so easily.

IS strategy

The major stumbling block in coming to terms with IS is its insistence that while its ultimate goal is to dismantle Israel, the first step in this process is for Muslims to rid the Muslim world of its fifth column. That flies in the face of 70 years of official resistance by Arab governments (put in place by Britain-US) and the Palestinian support movement (dominated by soft Zionists, urging acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state). The Arab governments are corrupt and venal, and benefit unjustifiably by hiding behind the Palestinians. The Palestinian support movement is timid and ineffectual. Genuine supporters of the Palestinians realize this and realize that Saudi-led ‘resistance’ to Israel will never lead to a liberated Middle East.

So IS has a point, and we can’t just dismiss its strategy out of hand. CIA agent Mortem Storm revealed that Saudi officials proposed a deal to Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi in 2011: “They would pardon Wuhayshi and donate weapons and money if they stopped fighting the Saudis and the Americans and focused instead on fighting Shia rebels in northern Yemen.” Simply put, the Saudis are Islam’s fifth column, and IS is the only group willing to say this openly. IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi renewed his call for attacks against the rulers of Saudi Arabia in November. “We announce to you the expansion of the Islamic State to new countries, to the countries of the Haramayn [Saudi Arabia], Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Algeria. O soldiers of the Islamic State … erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere. Light the earth with fire against all dictators.”

Human rights

As for IS’s reported atrocities, given IS’s commitment to sharia and the Quran, those Christians and Shia caught in the (Sunni) IS order–if they value their lives and want to remain in their homes–must organize and present themselves to IS leaders as loyal citizens, opposed to IS’s enemies–the West, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Sharia makes allowance for the protection of non-Muslims, who must pay a protection tax (jizya). That will end the sectarianism.

At present, these dissidents are sitting ducks, and the crocodile tears of western leaders and the media are making things worse for them. This cynical use of dissidents has long been ammunition in the western arsenal to confront imperialism’s enemies, as the Soviet Union experienced. They are custom-made martyrs for western media–and quickly discarded when the West’s armies and carpetbaggers are welcomed as liberators.

Given the nightmare that US invasions have resulted in during the past quarter century, and that Israeli invasions have resulted in during the past 70 years, the rough edges of the revolutionaries will have to be tolerated by fretful liberals as the lesser of two evils–women and minorities are suffering horrendously under US ‘protection’ now. Over time, the hard edges of the revolution will be worn down and women and minorities will be better accommodated, as even Saudi Arabia crudely shows.

Can we believe western media reports about atrocities? First, for all its revolutionary justice, there is no evidence that IS indulges in torture–unlike the US, which was quick to set up a worldwide system of rendering suspects after 9/11, and has actively promoted torture ever since. What guilty US officials have been prosecuted or even chastised in the pursuit of justice?

The worst country for public executions–beheadings–is Saudi Arabia (79 in 2013). IS is supposed to have beheaded 75+ Syrian and Lebanese troops this year. The real problem is westerners, approximately five of whom were beheaded, including US-Israeli Jerusalem Post journalist Steven Sotloff. But should IS be expected to simply free its captives? And why is the beheading of an enemy soldier or an enemy reporter intent on defaming IS more reprehensible that, say, the beheading of a Saudi witch?

The Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, as a hostage in the Sahara in 2009, for example, was surprised at how well he was treated, and saw no evidence of torture. He was awed by the al-Qaeda kidnappers’ selflessness and courage. In his ‘season in hell’ the hostages were treated the same as the captors treated each other. Fowler understood why they became terrorists and why simple Muslims support them: their personal asceticism, disdain for western consumerism, personal commitment to Quranic principles, desire to emulate the great leaders/ followers of the past, and their bravery, vs the venality of the Muslim establishment. His conclusion: al-Qaeda will continue to attract young recruits not concerned with long life (their options in the Muslim world are bleak), but rather authenticity and martyrdom.

IS confirms Fowler’s account. His ‘season of hell’ was in fact paradisiacal compared to the hell that many, many Muslims are living–and dying–through every day. It is time westerners recognize the simple truth of a century of imperial intrigue and end this living hell, not by killing the ‘enemy’, but simply by getting out and staying out.

The US, by supporting Nusra and training the anti-Assad rebels in Jordan (including IS), by turning a blind eye to Saudi machinations, by flooding the region with arms, above all by kowtowing to Israel, has driven the region to the current impasse. IS promises a way out which at least makes sense, and has the advantage of ridding the region (nay, the world) of the worst violators of human rights–Saudi Arabia and eventually Israel. The loss of Saudi oil is a small price to pay.

Time to give IS a chance to evolve into a world actor. This is what the US should have allowed with the Taliban in Afghanistan and didn’t. That day of reckoning now looms. Time to respect and recognize as legitimate those Muslims who are willing to sacrifice their lives to help bring down the Saudi tyranny and rebuild the caliphate, rather than continuing to slaughter them.

Posted at: November 24, 2014 - 1:51 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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Media framing of the Jerusalem synagogue attack: Rampantly abusing religion to weaponize increasingly brutal wars in the Middle East & The Israeli government is dropping the pretense of balancing the state’s Jewish and democratic nature. So then, just what is a Jewish nation state?

Intro:

… Mention Israel and internal conflict, and most people immediately think of the seemingly insoluble Palestinian problem. However, as Rachel Shabi explains in this acclaimed book, there is another crucial division within Israeli society: between Ashkenazi Jews, whose families come from Europe, and Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews, who come from the Arab countries of the Middle East. Herself from an Iraqi Jewish family, Shabi explores the history of this relationship, tracing it back to the first days of the new state of Israel. In a society desperate to identify itself with Europe, immigrants who spoke Arabic and followed Middle Eastern customs were seen as inferior. Sixty years later, such prejudices are still in force. As Shabi demonstrates, Mizrahis are strikingly less successful than Ashkenazis, condemned, often, to substandard education, low-quality housing and mockery for their accents, tastes and lifestyles. Not only does this damage Mizrahi lives and hopes; it also reflects a wider Israeli rejection of the Middle East and its culture that makes it impossible for Israel ever to become integrated within its own region. …

Could it be that the current rulers of Israel have made a calculated, conscious choice to weaken their emphasis on democracy? Although, in order to gain admission into the international community, it is still necessary to present one’s state as democratic, the time of this requirement’s non-negotiability might be coming to an end. - Michael Marder

Item: Below: Ignoring Israeli occupation and blaming religious hate for deadly attacks makes it sound like violence is inevitable. Rachel Shabi was born in Israel to Iraqi Jews and grew up in Britain. She is a journalist and author of Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands (Yale University Press, 2010). Shabi conclues: “But now more than ever, with religion so rampantly abused to weaponise increasingly brutal wars in the Middle East, the worst thing we could do is to frame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as religious. Now more than ever, only a just, political solution to this land- and rights-based conflict can save the holy capital from even more bloodshed and grief.”

Jerusalem: Don’t call it a religious conflict
Rachel Shabi Al Jazeera Qatar November 20, 2014

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They are horrifying images of a house of prayer drenched in blood. That an ultra-orthodox synagogue in West Jerusalem was chosen for this latest, gruesome attack, in which four Jewish-Israeli men were killed by two knife-wielding Palestinians, has detonated appalling historic associations and has been widely condemned. This attack has also, inevitably, sparked descriptions of a “religious war” in the region – depicted in media headlines as being in various stages of development: either a current reality or an unavoidably impending one. Those who insist on stressing the religious dimension are bolstered by the reaction from Hamas to this attack, as the Islamist group has, with bleak predictability, praised and celebrated it.

And once again the media framing designates the starting point – and therefore, implicitly, the causes – of the current bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians. Most importantly, in this context, is the question of who or what set off the religious incitement in Jerusalem.

The Israeli government has repeatedly blamed the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

But its own security services quickly quashed such accusations: Shin Bet chief, Yoram Cohen, told a Knesset committee that Abbas (who has no control over Jerusalem) was not involved in igniting violence among East Jerusalem Palestinians.

Indeed, Cohen added, if anyone could be accused of exacerbating tensions, Israeli government officials and legislators are the first in line.

For some months now, this hard right coalition government has not just tolerated but actively supported a movement agitating for “Jewish prayer rights” at Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif – a sacred site to both Muslims and Jews. Members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own Likud Party are a visible, vocal part of this campaign. There has been a tendency in some quarters to see the prayer issue as a kind of harmless coexistence campaign focused on equal rights. It is not. This movement goes against a long-established status quo agreement, whereby non-Muslims can visit, but not worship at this holy site housing both the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

But more than that, it runs contrary to what Jewish religious leaders have been saying for centuries, which is to rule against Jewish prayer at Temple Mount. Today, there is only one, growingly influential rabbinical strain that says otherwise and that’s the one guiding the religious-settler movement, which should make it abundantly clear that the issue is political, not religious.

To play down the provocative nature of these attempts is either misinformed or disingenuous in the extreme. This is, after all, the same movement that talks openly about destroying the Dome of the Rock and replacing it with a third Jewish Temple.

Indeed, Israel’s housing minister, Uri Ariel – yes, an active minister in the current cabinet – has said that he supports such a project.

The issue is pushed by the same extremist settler strain that, aided, abetted and funded by the Israeli government, has been colonising swaths of East Jerusalem – the area that is internationally recognised as occupied, the area intended as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

It isn’t just Jewish neighbourhoods in the occupied east that are continually expanding; settlers have also taken properties in Palestinian neighbourhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah and non-Jewish parts of the Old City – throwing Palestinian families quite literally out onto the streets. And it is the same movement that – fully supported by the government and the mayor of Jerusalem – has commandeered crucial sites to push a narrow, national-religious agenda. One of these is the politically charged archaeological park at Silwan, in the heart of the Holy Basin, where dozens of Palestinians have already been evicted.

So it doesn’t matter how often Netanyahu says he isn’t going to change the status quo at the holy sites; the actions of his own coalition create an entirely different impression. Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer specialising in Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem, explains that the accelerating, rightist-driven changes in the city have meant that Palestinians “feel vulnerable and threatened – and they are not being paranoid. The anger is understandable and derives from serious sources”.

But pushing this conflict into the religious realm, defining it as a “religious war”, serves a clear political purpose. It means the Israeli government can bind its cause with the “war on terror”, claiming that Palestinians are just like ISIL in their motivation – a hyper-violent, hyper-fundamentalist jihadi mission rather than a quest for self-determination. It deprives Palestinians of cause or motivation, save for just one factor: religious hatred.

Related: Below: Michael Marder is Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz.

What is a Jewish nation state?
Michael Marder Al Jazeera Qatar November 24, 2014

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The “Jewish nation-state” law, already approved by the Israeli cabinet on Sunday and yet to be presented for a vote in the Knesset this Wednesday, will enshrine in statute a situation that has been palpable on the ground for decades. Its discriminatory character, turning a large Arab Israeli minority into second-class citizens and delisting Arabic as an official language, will only confirm the ongoing discrimination that members of this group have been subjected to well before the drafting of the new law.

The fallout from this piece of legislation is likely to be purely symbolic, marking a shift in the Israeli ideology hailed by some right-wing elements of the Netanyahu government as a return to the basics of Zionism.

The schizophrenic self-presentation of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic is coming to an end in a clear choice of the polity’s Jewish and non-democratic fibre. But exactly what does a “Jewish nation-state” mean?

The ideologues of the regime are quick to point out that there is no inherent tension between France being a French and democratic state, or Germany being a German and democratic country. But neither Frenchness nor Germanness is equivalent to Jewishness. Even if the majority of citizens in France and Germany are Christian, these states are not declared to be “Christian nation-states”.

So what if Jewishness were not identical to Judaism, that is to say, to the Jewish religion? In fact, the official discourse in Israel has been, for a long time and purposefully, blurring the distinctions between religion, nationality, and ethnicity.

Widespread passive acceptance of technocracy and the dictates of the “Troika” in the European Union are the telltale signs of a gradual departure from democratic rhetoric and political practice. It would not be surprising that the Israeli right-wing politicians are ahead of the curve in an avowed abandonment of democratic discourse, and that the draft bill is but a symptom of this lamentable development.

Below: Benjamin Runkle is the Director of Programs for the Jewish Institute on National Security Affairs. He previously served in the George W. Bush administration at the Department of Defense and on the National Security Council Staff.

White House diplomacy with Israel isn’t just short-sighted—its self-defeating
Benjamin Runkle Foreign Policy, Shadow Government blog USA November 24, 2014

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Three weeks have passed since Jeffrey Goldberg reported that unnamed “senior Administration officials” had called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chicken$@#” and “a coward.” Now that the shock has worn off, it is possible to assess the remark’s significance for U.S. foreign policy.

Although this episode certainly does not represent a high point in U.S.-Israeli relations, it is not quite the nadir Goldberg and others paint it as. A 2013 Gallup poll showed that 64 percent of Americans sympathize with Israel as opposed to 12 percent supporting Palestinians. Similarly, in a July 2014 Pew Research Center poll, Americans blamed Hamas for this summer’s violence by a greater than two-to-one margin. This public support for Israel is reflected in Congress, where both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed resolutions supporting Israel’s right to self-defense, condemning Hamas’s rocket attacks, and denouncing the United Nations “biased” report, and the House passed the bill providing $225 million in emergency aid to Israel for its Iron Dome defense system 395-8. As Martin Indyk noted in his recent Foreign Policy interview, the fundamentals of the U.S.-Israel relationship are strong, and “in the security relationship and the intelligence relationship, those ties have developed over the years to the point that they are now deep and wide.”

Instead, these remarks are noteworthy because they epitomize the Obama administration’s propensity for undermining its strategic objectives in the pursuit of short-term tactical gains, a tendency that seems to recur time and time again in its diplomacy with Israel.

Broadly speaking, the Obama administration has articulated three primary strategic objectives in the Middle East: 1) Preventing the emergence of significant terrorist threats, 2) brokering a negotiated two-state settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and 3) preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. Except for a few disagreements over the means to achieve them, these objectives enjoy broad, bipartisan support. (Our former-National Security Council colleague Michael Doran makes a strong case that President Obama actually seeks a broader reorientation of U.S. policy towards a regional détente with Iran. While not discounting this possibility, I think that given increased financial sanctions against Hezbollah and robust arms sales to the Gulf Cooperation Council nations it is equally plausible that what appears to be a one-sided détente is part of the means to achieve the president’s desired end of a legacy-cementing nuclear deal rather than an end in and of itself.)

The administration, however, has repeatedly made achieving these objectives more difficult due to its inability to see beyond a very short time horizon or to consider the second-order effects of its actions. Nowhere is this self-defeating tendency more pronounced than in the Administration’s conduct during this summer’s 51-day war between Israel and Hamas.

One hopes that the Obama administration will consider the effects of its actions beyond its remaining two years — or at least beyond the next news cycle — as it responds to the current violence in Jerusalem, the upcoming deadline for the Iranian nuclear negotiations, and the host of other foreign policy crises to emerge in the past year. Unfortunately, given its propensity to undercut its ability to achieve vital U.S. strategic objectives in order to gain the short-term satisfaction of poking an occasionally frustrating ally in the eye, there may be little reason for optimism.

Posted at: November 24, 2014 - 1:47 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Polls gauge the effectiveness of political talking points and media spin. Most Canadians support our troops being in Iraq; majority of Canadians worry about domestic terrorism

A democracy imposes an extraordinary intellectual responsibility upon ordinary people. Our system is finally determined by what our citizenry thinks. This is thrilling and this is terrifying. A thoughtless member of a democracy is a delinquent member of a democracy. Anti-intellectualism has been one of the regular features of populism, but in this respect populism is an offense against the people, because it denies their mental capability and scants their mental agency. Anti-intellectualism is always pseudo-democratic. In enshrining prejudices and dogmas, it robs the citizen of his exacting and proper role. … Dictators employ intellectuals, but finally they fear intellectuals. They live in dread that their liars will one day decide to tell the truth. Sooner or later, therefore, they destroy them. - Reason and the Republic of Opinion, Leon Wieseltier, November 11, 2014

Most Canadians support our troops being in Iraq, poll finds
Diana Hall and Sidney Cohen Toronto Star Ontario Canada November 23, 2014

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About two-thirds of Canadians support the mission in Iraq and consider the Islamic State a threat to Canada that must be confronted overseas, a new poll says.

Days after Canada’s third bombing mission destroyed a warehouse and training ground in northern Iraq Tuesday, a Forum Research poll found 66 per cent of voters agree with the Canadian effort to combat the Islamic State, also known as ISIL. Our contribution to this war effort includes bombing missions by six CF-18 fighter jets.

The survey found that 30 per cent do not agree with the mission — a position mirrored by 40 per cent of voters aged 18-34, and 37 per cent of those polled in Quebec.

The poll also discovered more Canadians agree that ISIL poses a direct threat to Canada today (67 per cent) than did in a September poll (56 per cent).

About two thirds of voters support the claim that the Islamic State must be combatted in Iraq to stop the group from spreading into Canada.

A strong majority of Canadians — 70 per cent — believe the country needs tougher anti-terrorism laws.

Forum put Ben Franklin’s famous adage to voters: “Those who give up their freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security.” Less than half — 45 per cent — agree with Franklin, a quarter do not and just under one-third have no opinion on the statement.

Majority of Canadians worry about domestic terrorism, according to new survey
Douglas Quan Postmedia News/Canada.com November 24, 2014

Almost two-thirds of Canadians believe homegrown terrorism is a serious issue, but most do not perceive a threat from radicalized individuals in their communities, according to a new survey.

The national poll, conducted in the wake of deadly attacks on Canadian soldiers, found that just over half of respondents supported new anti-terror legislation that would boost the powers of Canada’s spies. Another 22 per cent said the government should go even further, suggesting they have not been swayed by civil liberties concerns.

At the same time, those surveyed recognized that there are many factors behind radicalization — religion, mental illness and marginalization — and seemed open to a range of preventative measures, not just punitive ones.

“People are sensitive to the fact this is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive approach,” said Christian Leuprecht, a security expert at the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University.

The survey took place Nov. 10 to Nov. 12, not long after the country witnessed deadly back-to-back assaults on uniformed Canadian soldiers in Ontario and Quebec.

“That particular attack (on a soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa), even though it was carried out by one person … it did certainly, for many Canadians, shake our sense of security,” said Shachi Kurl, senior vice-president at the Angus Reid Institute. “This is the first time in a long time where we’ve had a sense of danger on our soil.”

When asked whether the homegrown terrorism threat was serious or overblown, 62 per cent of respondents said it was serious. This perception was particularly acute among those 55 and older.

Residents of Saskatchewan and Quebec were more likely to perceive the threat as serious compared to residents in B.C. and the Atlantic provinces.

Respondents were less certain when asked whether they believed radicalized Canadians driven by violent ideology were living in their communities right now. Thirty-five per cent answered “yes,” 28 per cent said “no” and 37 per cent said “not sure.” Alberta and Ontario residents were most likely to say “yes.”

Similarly, about one-third of Canadians said it was “likely” that people were becoming radicalized in their communities, though this number surged to 47 per cent in Quebec, conceivably part of the fallout from Quebec’s recent debate over a “Charter of Values” and a reflection on Quebec’s distinct ethno-demographic composition and immigration trends, Leuprecht said.

On public policy, 51 per cent said they support Bill C-44, proposed legislation that would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more powers to watch Canadians. An additional 22 per cent said the bill doesn’t go far enough.

Twenty-seven per cent, however, said the bill tramples on civil liberties. Those living in B.C. and people 18 to 34 were the most likely to subscribe to this view.

Posted at: November 24, 2014 - 1:42 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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Not buying into the political talking points and media spin: On Burnaby Mountain, confronting the gorilla. Kinder Morgan pipeline protests continue after weekend of arrests & Why Kinder Morgan relies on a civil injunction rather than criminal sanctions to punish protesters


In a move that galvanized community opposition, Kinder Morgan cut trees in the Burnaby Mountain conservation area without permission from the city in September. Citizens have held vigil on the mountain ever since to prevent the company from further work. Photo: flickr/Mark Klotz

The oil giants are using the jurisdictional argument to pursue the pillage and plunder of the environment. Our provincial and federal politicians have betrayed us on this front. This issue was front and centre in the municipal elections. Derek Corrigan (and the UBCM) are contesting the fact that higher levels of government are able to make decisions that have huge effects on municipalities while local governments have no jurisdictional power. Among other things, it’s a perfect argument for proportional representation. It’s also the reason civil disobedience is the only alternative people have to make their voices heard in a dysfunctional system. - Terry Robinson in response to commentary appended to John Vallant’s personal testament immediately below.

On Burnaby Mountain, confronting the gorilla
John Vaillant TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada November 22, 2014

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Kinder Morgan has been on my mind a lot lately and, when I woke up at four o’clock Friday morning, it was there, waiting: an 800-pound gorilla with greasy hair that lumbered across the border from Texas and is squatting now on Burnaby Mountain — close enough to crowd me out of bed. Gorillas are lousy sleeping companions at the best of times, and this one doesn’t sleep. Who has time when one’s stated goal is to ”continually leverage our large footprint of assets and actively pursue expansions, joint ventures and acquisitions so that we can further increase . . . distributions and . . . dividends.”

Kinder Morgan, whose lightning bolt logo appears to have been borrowed from the forehead of Harry Potter, is so good at leveraging its gorilla-sized ”footprint of assets” (and exploiting loopholes) that, in just 20 years, it has risen from the ashes of Enron to become not only the largest natural gas pipeline and storage operator in North America, but the largest independent transporter of refined petroleum products, and, according to its website, the largest transporter and marketer of CO2.

Today, the Houston-based multinational claims more than 11,000 employees and a ”combined enterprise value” of 125 billion dollars. In other words, Alberta’s oilsands, the Trans Mountain pipeline (publically held by BC Gas until 2005), and Canada in general, are little more than rounding errors in Kinder Morgan’s gargantuan scheme of things. This is the gorilla sitting on Vancouver’s doorstep, wanting to bore a hole through Burnaby Mountain.

No wonder I couldn’t sleep.

Finally, at 4:30 a.m., I got up, feeling like a small and impotent handwringer in dire need of some coffee. But I wasn’t the only one who was having trouble sleeping. Emails and Facebook posts, not half an hour old, were exhorting me to go to Burnaby Mountain where 26 protesters had been arrested, their camp dismantled, and drilling equipment trucked in during the night. Reinforcements were needed. There was talk of critical mass, invocations of Clayoquot Sound.

They say activism is born of discomfort and mine has been building for years — ever since Prime Minister Stephen Harper gutted the NEB’s regulatory process in that infamous omnibus bill; ever since hearing about Kinder Morgan’s plan to triple the Trans Mountain pipeline’s carrying capacity of diluted bitumen, every drop of which will pass through the most densely populated region in western Canada.

And for what? Currently, the Trans Mountain system generates profits of about 170 million dollars a year for Kinder Morgan, only about $1.5 million of which stays in Canada as tax revenue. All that toxic dilbit; all that risk to our water, land and air, and the benefit to B.C. won’t even pay for a house in Point Grey. Sexy, nine-figure promises have been made about post-expansion pipeline revenues, but why on Earth would anyone believe them after the bill of goods we’ve been sold by a prime minister who refuses to face the facts of climate change, and who indulges foreign oil companies like a colonial governor handing out fur concessions?

I am angry at the gorilla but I am angrier at the government that invited it into our home. On Friday morning, as I layered up and donned my raingear, I really believed that those 26 arrests, and the tireless, truth-to-power integrity of Burnaby’s mayor, Derek Corrigan in the face of the NEB’s sham and shambles of a consultation — not to mention the brazen temerity of a foreign company taking Canadians to court with SLAPP suits — would motivate a groundswell. I thought there would be hundreds of frustrated insomniacs up there, rain or no rain.

In the end, there were only about 50 of us, but what we lacked in quantity, was made up for in quality: the words spoken at the rain-sodden press conference that morning by a multi-generational group of tribal and community leaders were lucid, impassioned and damning of a deeply flawed process, and the eight subsequent arrests were models of choreographed restraint. Even when trucks were blockaded and police hauled people off, there was virtually none of the pushing, shoving and hurled abuse that marred the previous day of protests.

As I write, there is a drilling rig just down the road from the Horizon Restaurant, preparing to dig test holes six inches wide and 250 meters deep. But there is also the city of Burnaby’s pending legal challenge against Kinder Morgan’s work. And between them, peaceful and steadfast, are the citizens who remain on Burnaby Mountain, staring the gorilla in the eye.

David Suzuki’s grandson’s speech after his arrest for protesting Kinder Morgan (VIDEO)
Mychaylo Prystupa Vancouver Observer British Columbia Canada November 22, 2014


Tamo Campos at a rainy outdoor press conference at the base of Burnaby Mountain conservation park on Friday. Photo: Mychaylo Prystupa

Visit this page for its video and related links.

“I hadn’t had a speech planned, so I am just going to wing it. My name is Tamo, and I am David Suzuki’s grandson.”

Such were the opening remarks of 24-year-old Tamo Campos, during a rainy outdoor press conference at the foot of Burnaby Mountain conservation park on Friday, one day after he was arrested.

“What is radical? Is it radical to expand fossil fuel infrastructure in the midst of climate change?”

“Is it radical to use police force to quell public opinion, and public opposition?”

“It is not radical at all, and stand up and be arrested to unjust laws,” said Campos.

The young man was taken into custody for breaking an injunction granted to Texas-based Kinder Morgan, to protect its survey crews attempting to do geo-technical pipeline tests for a hoped-for Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

As of Saturday, Kinder Morgan crews are on Burnaby Mountain. Drilling equipment arrived at the work site Friday afternoon. The work requires drilling two six-inch test-holes, approximately 250 metres in depth. The work will be conducted 24 hours per day for 10 to 12 days.

The company said in a statement that it supports “the right to peacefully protest and believes individuals can express their views in the lawful assembly area, which is near one of the work sites, while allowing our workers to continue working safely.”

Collecting his thoughts, Campos centered on his core message for the array of TV cameras, and reporters:

“This is insane, why are we putting our economic system – the market – above the very ecology that we all depend upon? We’re more dependent on clean water, fresh air and clean soil, than the market! It’s the thing that keeps us alive!”

Pointing to the forest, he added:

“We have to stand up to unjust laws – to make those the laws, because those are the laws that have always governed our lives. And indigenous people have had natural laws that pre-date colonial laws by thousands of years, and we need to respect that.”

His famous 78-year-old grandfather wrote Camos a letter of support. David Suzuki is reportedly in Malaysia, though that is not confirmed.

“[My grandson} is doing what I would have done myself were it not a risk to my position as host of ‘The Nature of Things’ on CBC,” he wrote.

“The world is on a collision course with the things that keep us alive and healthy – the air, water, soil and variety of life. Corporations, especially those with head offices in some other part of the country or the world care little for the interests of local ecosystems or communities, except in so far as they interfere with the drive to maximize profit for shareholders.”

David Suzuki gives fiery speech on Burnaby Mountain to Kinder Morgan protesters (VIDEO)
Linda Solomon Wood and Mychaylo Prystupa Vancouver Observer British Columbia Canada November 23, 2014


David Suzuki at Kinder Morgan protest on Burnaby Mountain on Sunday. His grandson Tamo Campos is behind him to the left. Photo: Mychaylo Prystupa. Visit this page for its embedded and related links, photos and videos.

Legendary environmental leader David Suzuki walked up to a police line on Sunday that was defending Kinder Morgan drill crews on Burnaby Mountain at a protest gaining world-wide attention.

“I have nothing but great thoughts of the RCMP,” he yelled. Suzuki spoke about his own experience growing up in Japanese Canadian internment camps during the Second World War, and how police treated him at that time.

Moments earlier, Suzuki’s granddaughter Midori Campos and women from the Klabona Keepers, a group from the Tahltan Nation in northern B.C. — the same First Nation that pushed out Shell from its territories a few years ago — announced to the crowd that they were going to cross the police line. They crossed a wall of about 20 RCMP officers and were detained. Suzuki’s daughter, Tamiko, was present as well.

After the women were arrested, tension in the crowd rose. People screamed angrily, and shoved and pushed officers. Someone in the front of the crowd held up a large stand-up mirror sideways so that the RCMP officers could look at themselves.

Comments from the RCMP regarding Suzuki’s speech are pending.

According to an eyewitness, around a ‘dozen’ protesters were said to be taken in by police today, among them an 11-year-old girl and her mother. Yesterday, acclaimed author J.B. MacKinnon was arrested, while a retired schoolteacher was among those taken by police today.

“It’s mainstream thing. But it’s a clash between two world views. But unfortunately the one world view represented by Kinder Morgan is all-powerful economically and politically. People are desperate and need to put their bodies on line,” Suzuki said.

Below: Kei Baritugo is an accomplished communications professional with over 10 years of local, national and international experience in the arts & entertainment, and non-profit sectors. She is the founder and principal of BoldLove Communications.

Kinder Morgan pipeline protests continue after weekend of arrests
Kei Baritugo rabble.ca Canada November 24, 2014

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Over the weekend, the number of arrests on Burnaby Mountain has increased to over 50, as residents, concerned citizens and First Nations groups continue to protest against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Among those arrested and charged with civil contempt are J. B. MacKinnon, bestselling author of The 100-Mile Diet; Tamo Campos, grandson of David Suzuki; and Professor Lynne Quarmby, chair of the molecular biology and biochemistry department at Simon Fraser University.

“Anyone who is educated on environmental issues understands why we’re out here,” says Quarmby, one of several Canadians facing a $5.6 million dollar lawsuit filed by Texas-based energy corporation Kinder Morgan after she publicly spoke against their proposed pipeline.

Unfortunately, there are many who do not understand why some are engaging in civil disobedience on Burnaby Mountain, which is unceded Coast Salish Territory. Those in favour of the pipeline expansion are calling protestors hypocrites for using vehicles and materials made possible by fossil fuels.

“It’s true that we live in a fossil fuel dependent society. We cannot function independent of fossil fuels because the options are not available to us but this doesn’t mean we cannot criticize the current system, which is causing irreparable harm to the environment. Calling concerned citizens ‘hypocrites’ is a cowardly way of silencing those who care about the future and the kind of environment our children are going to inherit,” said Quarmby.

“Everyone who is opposed to this pipeline believes there is a better way. We just landed a robot on a comet. We have incredible ingenuity, which tells me that we can come up with alternate ways of running our society,” she added.

Kinder Morgan illegally cut down 13 trees on the mountain prior to moving drilling equipment to the designated bore holes late Thursday night. Throughout the weekend, helicopters have been dropping supplies and more equipment onto the site, which has been cordoned off with yellow tape. Core samples from the drilling have now been shipped off, according to a Trans Mountain spokesperson.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has publicly opposed the pipeline expansion. In a letter to residents this past October, Mayor Corrigan stated, “The damage done as a result of Kinder Morgan’s initial survey work has had far-reaching damaging effects on the Mountain. Further drilling and tunneling work would cause much greater irreparable damage to the conservation area.”

Over 70 per cent of Burnaby residents are opposed to the expansion project, which will transport more diluted bitumen between Strathcona County (near Edmonton) and Burnaby, subsequently bringing 34 additional tankers monthly through Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet and increasing the risk of catastrophic oil spills.

Burnaby residents are no strangers to oil spills. In 2007, the city suffered when 1,572 barrels of crude oil spilled in the area.

“Emergency evacuation of 250 Burnaby residents was required and 50 residential properties were affected. The spill entered the Burrard Inlet through a storm sewer and affected 1,200 metres of shoreline, impacting ecosystems and wildlife. The Transportation Safety Board ruled that the spill was the fault of Kinder Morgan and two contracting companies,” according to Mayor Corrigan.

Despite the grim health, ecological and financial impact of such an oil spill, Kinder Morgan continues to highlight the purported economic benefits of the pipeline. In their National Energy Board application last year, the company claimed that a positive effect of oil spills is job creation, stating “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”

Kinder Morgan has yet to provide a comprehensive Emergency Response Plan that outlines protocols and responsibilities in the event of a spill, leak, fire or a natural disaster such as an earthquake wherein the pipeline ruptures.

According to a City of Burnaby fact sheet, the oil giant has not prepared a marine response plan that provides assistance, financial or otherwise, as “Kinder Morgan has no legal obligation to cleanup or pay for the cost of cleanup for spill incidents that occur within the Burrard Inlet once the oil tanker leaves the Westridge Marine Terminal.”

In a statement released on Thursday following the first arrests, Mayor Corrigan writes, “We are currently involved in provincial and federal court proceedings and will continue to seize every legal opportunity available to us in order to ensure that Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline, tank farm and loading docks are never built.”

Related: Canada’s petro-politics playing out on B.C.’s Burnaby Mountain
Carol Linnitt DeSmog Canada Canada November 22, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

The way tensions between pipeline opponents and Kinder Morgan contractors have escalated during the last week should come as a surprise to no one.

The mishandling of the National Energy Board review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline and tanker proposal has created the conditions for the situation now unfolding on the mountainside.

And with the continuing loss of faith in these federal reviews — which even before being refigured to “expedite” energy proposals were already ill-equipped to grapple with the larger societal issues, such as climate change, related to energy proposals — we can expect to see more controversy across B.C. and likely along the route of TransCanada’s Energy East.

How did it come to this?

The act of proposing a pipeline is a legitimate thing to do in our society. Businesses should have the opportunity to pursue economic opportunities just as communities should have the opportunity to say no if a proposal doesn’t fit in with their long-term plans.

But with a government working in the interests of industry, citizens have been left out of the decision-making process, where the only way to register their voice is from behind the blockade line where they are marginalized, or worse, criminalized as radicals.

Our federal government is failing to lead on one of the biggest issues of our time. What Canada really needs is a grownup national conversation about an energy strategy that meets Canada’s international climate commitments. Until that happens, these debates will continue to play out dysfunctionally during technical review processes that were never designed to answer such large societal questions.

So as the saga of Burnaby Mountain continues to unfold, we should all be asking: who really is acting in the public interest?

Why Kinder Morgan relies on a civil injunction rather than criminal sanctions to punish protesters
Charlie Smith Georgia Straight British Columbia Canada November 24, 2014


Photo: Derrick O’Keefe. Visit this page for its embedded links.

As dozens of protesters see their lives upended as a result of being arrested for civil contempt, it’s worth turning attention to how these orders are issued.

In 1999, Amir Attaran, now an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa, wrote a paper in the UBC Law Review offering an alternative to these “John Doe, Jane Doe and persons unknown” injunctions. [Click downloads above to read the article.]

These court orders often inflict greater penalties on protesters than Criminal Code charges for mischief, trespassing, or other offences connected to public protests.

Attaran wrote that an attorney general’s ministry document dating back to 1990 explained the Crown’s policy: “On occasion those involved in public demonstrations come into conflict with the law and obstruct or interfere with the rights of others. The use of criminal sanctions in these situations is generally not appropriate.”

Instead, the policy’s guidelines stated that where “a select group of individuals” are affected, “those individuals should generally be encouraged to apply for a civil injunction to stop the disobedience”.

“In the event the civil disobedience continues after an injunction is granted the party obtaining the injunction should be encouraged to proceed with civil contempt proceedings in the court in which the injunction was obtained,” the document stated.

This is precisely the road map that Kinder Morgan’s subsidiary, Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC, has taken. It applied for an injunction against five people as well as “John Doe, Jane Doe and persons unknown” to prevent them entering an area on Burnaby Mountain.

In the meantime, a company contracted by Kinder Morgan is conducting surveying work along a “preferred corridor” for a pipeline. This will involve cutting down trees, conducting soil surveys, and drilling to examine groundwater conditions.

Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen granted the company’s application on November 14, concluding that cutting down trees “does not cause irreparable harm” to the defendants.

This means that anyone who violates the civil court order is subject to extremely harsh penalties, including lengthy imprisonment and large fines.

Attaran noted that police would not enforce the Criminal Code during these types of protests “except where there are ‘significant acts of violence or property damage’ “.

Moreover, “police will not arrest contemnors, except where a subsequent enforcement order of the Court directs them to do so.”

“Taken together, the Attorney General and RCMP policies create a regime in which public authorities foreclose the use of the Criminal Code offences relevant to civil disobedience and blockading—such as mischief, intimidation, breach of the peace, contempt, and so on—leaving only remedies in private law,” Attaran wrote. “To put it politely, this is a perverse way to administer justice, since the definitive feature of civil disobedience is that it is protest coupled with the wilful violation of law.”

As Attaran highlighted, protesters are willing to be “criminally stigmatized” to make their point, but the attorney general and the RCMP won’t allow this to happen.

“The problem is really that the Crown has abdicated its law enforcement duties with these policies,” Attaran wrote. “And that is exactly where an intelligent legal attack should be directed.”

Premier Clark missing in action as calls grow for independent pipeline review
Media release Dogwood Initiative British Columbia Canada November 24, 2014

BURNABY – Fresh polling in a BC Liberal-held riding adjacent to Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and tanker terminal reinforces a growing problem across the province: British Columbians have lost confidence in Ottawa’s crude oil pipeline approval process.

71 per cent of residents surveyed last week in Burnaby North support an independent review of the Kinder Morgan proposal, led by the provincial government. Today Dogwood Initiative is joining the call for B.C. to set up a pipeline assessment the public can trust.

“We’re facing a breakdown in public confidence,” said Kai Nagata, Energy & Democracy Director, “and it’s only getting worse.”

“You’ve got citizens being arrested every day for the last week on Burnaby Mountain. First Nations and municipalities are battling the National Energy Board in court. Intervenors in the Kinder Morgan review are quitting in frustration. This would not be happening if we had a fair, independent process – and right now only the B.C. government can provide that.”

The government of B.C. signed an equivalency agreement with Ottawa in 2010, agreeing to accept the National Energy Board’s decisions as its own. The drawbacks became clear in 2013, when Ottawa overruled the province’s formal rejection of Enbridge Northern Gateway and approved the project. In the case of Kinder Morgan, B.C. may exit the equivalency agreement at any time – but so far has chosen not to.

Last week the Quebec government announced its intention to hold an independent provincial review of TransCanada’s Energy East proposal. Ontario, too, wants an evaluation of that project’s economic and climate impacts – subjects the National Energy Board refuses to consider.

“No matter which side you’re cheering for, it’s impossible to enjoy a hockey game if you don’t trust the referee,” Nagata said.“It’s the same with these pipeline approvals. Ottawa has turned the Kinder Morgan review into a game, and most people watching agree the whole thing is rigged.”

Dogwood has launched a petition in support of a provincial review, available online at http://BCreview.ca. The move is already supported by the Union of BC Municipalities, both opposition parties in Victoria and the former head of BC Hydro, Marc Eliesen – who withdrew from the Kinder Morgan review earlier this month, calling the process a “farce”.

“It’s time for Premier Clark to step in,” Nagata said, “and it’s time for the MLA for Burnaby North, Richard Lee, to step up and represent his constituents. 71 per cent of them are calling for a provincial pipeline review and he’s completely silent on the issue. That’s just weak leadership.”

Dogwood Initiative is British Columbia’s largest nonpartisan citizen group, headquartered in Victoria. Polling was conducted for Dogwood by McAllister Opinion Research, a professional public opinion firm. Results are based on telephone survey of 300 residents of Burnaby North and are considered accurate to within 5.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Posted at: November 24, 2014 - 1:39 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post