Sunday, February 15, 2015

On predetermined parameters of debate

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

—Noam Chomsky. The Common Good. Interview by David Barsamian. Tucson, AZ: Odonian Press, 1998.

Friday, February 06, 2015

No such thing as a bad jew! It’s just impossible!

It seems that being jewish means never being wrong, let alone incompetent or even evil. And only someone who hates jews would note that someone who happens to be jewish does in fact appear to be wrong, incompetent, or evil.

That seems to be the premise behind a recent Agence France Presse (AFP) story misleadingly titled “Ukraine run by ‘miserable’ Jews: rebel chief”.

One has to scroll down to the second paragraph, however, for the complete quote, which shows how nefariously the title presents it: “Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, claimed that Kiev's pro-Western leaders were ‘miserable representatives of the great Jewish people’.”

Now he may be deluded about the “jewishness” of the Kiev government and/or their facilitators and cheerleaders, but his statement clearly suggests a respect for “the great jewish people”, the greatness of which is betrayed, not exemplified, by those running Kiev.

But AFP reported it otherwise with not only the headline, but also the first paragraph: “Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebel chief on Monday branded the country’s leaders ‘miserable’ Jews in an apparent anti-Semitic jibe.”

That paragraph already displays its bias/propaganda in how it describes Alexander Zakharchenko. Yes he is a rebel against Kiev, but the government in Kiev is the result of a coup against a democratically elected government (whose crime was not so much signing a trade deal with Russia before one with the EU was finalized (and obviously intended to be exclusive somehow), but rather its willingness to renew Russia’s lease on the Sevastopol naval base – it has been a goal of Turkey and Europe for 200 years to get Russia out of the Black Sea; Putin knew what the coup was really about and acted swiftly to secure not only the base but all of Crimea, much to the embarrassment of Nato and the US).

And Zakharchenko is not “pro-Russian” but simply a Ukrainian speaker of Russian, like most of the people of the Donbass region of the east. One of the first decrees of the Kiev coup was to outlaw the Russian language. It was shortly revoked, but the spirit of the coup was made clear (in case the crucial involvement of neo-Nazi groups hadn’t been enough).

Finally, Zakharchenko is called “chief”, evoking something less civilized than western society. In fact, he is the elected prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Our thanks to Moon of Alabama for first writing about this.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Don’t Blame Third-Party Voters

To the Editor [Valley News, Feb. 4]:

If the choice between the two major parties is as clear as a letter of Jan. 8 claims (“Vote for Nader Caused Much Harm”), then why is every presidential election so close? Like Coke and Pepsi, they are both fighting for the same market, and the only difference becomes one of ever-shifting style.

As for substance, however, Gore’s run followed Bill Clinton, whose consistent betrayals of liberal principles included welfare “reform,” NAFTA, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, promotion of 401(k) accounts over pensions, the Defense of Marriage Act and the antidemocratic Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, as well as neocon pursuits overseas such as sanctions against and continuous bombing of Iraq (where the death of half a million children was “worth it,” according to his Secretary of State Madeline Albright), the deadly fiascos of Kosovo and Rwanda, bombing a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, etc. And to clinch the “new” direction of the Democratic Party, Gore picked the sanctimonious and reactionary Joe Lieberman as running mate. There was no doubt that Gore was to the right of Clinton — pretty much right where George W. Bush was. Just as Gore would have, Bush extended Clinton’s legacy, as Clinton extended Reagan’s and the first Bush’s. And as Obama has extended and expanded Bush’s, putting Wall Street and war first. And who is assumed to be up next, but another Clinton versus another Bush? This is not a choice, but a mockery of democracy and the opposite of progress.

Regarding the Supreme Court, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg and Breyer were almost unanimously confirmed by both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. Thomas and Alito squeaked in with the help of Democrats, who also strongly supported Roberts. And it should be noted that under Obama, access to abortion in much of the country has all but disappeared. The facts belie the rhetoric.

In the 2000 election, in almost every state where Nader did well, so did Gore. It should not be forgotten that organized mobs disrupted vote counting in Florida, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to have your vote counted, and Al Gore couldn’t be bothered to worry about it.

It is simply offensive to blame third-party voters as if they have betrayed the duopoly candidates and not the other way around.

Eric Rosenbloom
Joanna Lake

Sunday, February 01, 2015

The left and the right, the past and the future

The tidal flux of human history (Vico’s Providence) tends towards forcing those who defend privilege to share more of the common wealth with more people. Those who support this movement are characterized as the left, progressive, those who resist it as the right, conservative. Psychologically, therefore, the right looks to the past, the left to the future. (Liberals try to have it both ways: to help the less fortunate while protecting their own advantage; thus they are ultimately conservative.)

Totalitarianism arises when either left or right attempts to purge their vision of the other – an idealized past that denies the future, an idealized future that denies the past – while also denying the present, because it must always be in between, in flux. It is the establishment of a dream-world that defies the real.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Meet climate targets by halving beef and lamb consumption

Rather than filling the world’s open spaces with giant wind turbines, paving them with solar panels (and access roads and substations and powerlines), and building 1000's of nuclear reactors, this article from The Telegraph notes that cutting beef and lamb consumption by half would more effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Cutting global beef consumption and eating chicken instead would do more to tackle climate change than building two million onshore wind turbines and 2,000 nuclear reactors, according to Government analysis.

Cows and sheep are so bad for the environment that switching just half the beef and lamb in an average diet to pork and poultry could enable the world to hit its global warming targets without using any nuclear plants or wind farms at all.

The figures are drawn from a new “global calculator” online tool, launched on Wednesday by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). ...

Most expert analyses show a vast expansion of low-carbon technologies including wind farms and nuclear plants to replace fossil fuels is likely to be needed to hit the targets.

However DECC’s calculator shows that other routes could technically be feasible – if people were prepared to change their behaviour. “Making changes in our lifestyle (for example our dietary and travel choices) can significantly reduce emissions and the effort needed across other sectors,” DECC said.

According to some estimates, beef production results in five times as many harmful emissions as equivalent chicken or pork production, while using 28 times as much land for grazing that might otherwise be used for forestry to help absorb carbon.

DECC works on the more conservative assumption that beef needs four times as much space as poultry, with an area the size of a football pitch used to produce 250 kg of beef or 1,000 kg of poultry.

It assumes that if the world carries on on current trends then by 2050 the global average diet – which is likely to mask huge variations between richer and poorer nations – would include 250g of red meat a week.

Replacing 100g of that with white meat could save 29 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, it calculates.

The calculation assumes the world population will have grown to 10 billion by 2050, meaning the 100g-a-week switch saves one million tonnes of beef a week. As well as avoiding emissions from those cows, it would free up 1,400 million hectares of land for forests, which help absorb emissions. ...

By contrast, if every country in the world were to build wind farms at the fastest rate possible – increasing capacity to 6,470 gigawatts, or more than two million onshore wind turbines at current spec – that would save about 12 gigatonnes of emissions a year through replacing coal, gas and oil-burning power plants.

Building nuclear reactors at the fastest rate possible, increasing from 460 plants today to 2,340 plants in 2050, could save about 8 gigatonnes a year by 2050, the calculator suggests.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mediæval crusaders, modern jihadis

To all those hurling the epithet “mediæval” at Western-trained and -provoked “jihadis”:

If only. During the middle age of Europe, after the collapse of the western Roman empire, muslim societies (and monasteries before Roman control was reasserted) were the refuge of learning, art, and relative tolerance.

The later middle ages were characterized by repeated attempts to unite christian Europe with the battle cry of expelling muslims and capturing Jerusalem (the Crusades).

Today’s Europe/US would seem to be the “mediæval” actor still, overthrowing stable secular governments in north Africa and west Asia that aren’t deferential enough to replace them with any brutality that properly genuflects. Or rather, create the vacuum in which violence and thievery thrive (along with weapons suppliers and their bankers). Learning, art, and tolerance are the victims at home as well.

Cloaking one’s solipsistic aggression in secularism is no different than cloaking it in religion.

And to all who raise the spectre of self-censorship: Grow up. From the age of 2, a child learns self-control in the process of socialization. It’s called civilization. A feral free-for-all benefits only the strongest and loudest, the worst of humanity, religious or secular. Even more effectively than any authoritarian state, the absence of self-censorship silences the voices of those less powerful.

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