February 19, 2011

Clinton the Great and Enlightened Despots

Dallas Darling writes:

When security forces assaulted and beat 71-year-old Ray McGovern while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just stood by and watched, it evoked a faraway age of enlightened despots. As Clinton began her speech at George Washington University and condemned human rights violations, government arrests of protesters, and internet censorship, McGovern remained standing peacefully and silently turning his back. He was then attacked by security officers and brutally hauled out of the meeting. McGovern received bruises, lacerations, and contusions during the assault. Meanwhile, Clinton continued to observe and watch and did absolutely nothing. McGovern, a veteran, was later jailed.

Enlightened despots were kings and queens who were rich and well educated and recommended religious toleration while talking about abolishing torture and capital punishment. Some of them supported the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness up to a certain point, or when their own power base was threatened. More often than not, the changes they made were motivated by making their kingdoms stronger and their own rule more effective and forceful. Catherine the Great was one such enlightened despot who instituted some reforms and modernized Russia while still remaining an absolute ruler. Even though she believed education was better than punishment, she once scribbled to an aristocrat: "Be so good as to call your peasants cattle."

Catherine also exchanged letters with Voltaire, Diderot and John Locke. She wrote that liberty was the dearest thing to her soul and more important than even life itself. Catherine spoke against serfdom and praised enlightened thinkers for fighting the united enemies of humankind: "superstition, fanaticism, ignorance, and trickery." But when thousands of serfs and mine and factory workers revolted along the Volga River in 1773 for equality, liberty, land, fair taxation, and their own courts, she sent troops and crushed the rebellion. Tens of thousands of serfs and workers perished. The ring leaders of the rebellion were executed. Other ethnic peasants, who fought for toleration and freedom from persecution, were slaughtered too.

Catherine responded with severe repression to over fifty peasant revolts. After the Great Plague of Moscow killed 100,000 persons, cannon were used to suppress rioting. Priests were silenced and jailed for challenging her policies. She gradually started to see the aristocracy as her allies in maintaining state control. In 1785, Catherine granted Russian nobility a privileged status. They were exempt from personal taxation and afforded numerous rights. In return, they supported Catherine's rule. Russian serfs lost their last trace of freedom. Behind "Potemkin's Villages," a sarcastic phrase used in referring to overblown and unreal achievements, Catherine arrested writers, banished dissidents, and censored the press. Her contribution to Russia was not reform but an expanded empire.

In a tightly scripted speech, Clinton told about the promises and perils of the internet. She accused WikiLeaks of "stealing" government documents and posting them, and that such actions raised serious questions about balancing freedom with security concerns. Clinton declared that without security, liberty was fragile and without liberty security was oppressive. For Clinton, it seems security is beating and silencing a 71-year old peaceful protester. For Clinton, it appears security is a government that wiretaps, steals records, and infiltrates peace groups, even arresting members on frivolous charges. Not only is self-expression banished and the press censored, specifically by aristocratic corporations and their propagandistic armament industries that can afford it, but despotic wars are forced on the masses.

Despotic presidents too, who once promised a transparent and open government and railed against fear mongering tactics, gradually ally themselves with the military industrial complex and aristocracy. The excuse is always the same: national security is at risk and a free press and access to information is a clear and present danger. Other despotic rulers in Congress try to control public space and the acquisition of knowledge and therefore, they submit new bills that will make publishing classified information punishable, even unto death. In the end, public discourse is either repressed or sacrificed, as are debates over misguided military interventions and lengthy military occupations. Meanwhile, thousands of military serfs continue serve the empire and die.

Behind President Barack Obama's empty words and "Clinton's Villages," expanding the empire and feeding a corporate aristocracy are more important than reform and liberty. Welcome to another age of enlightened despots!

February 13, 2011

The nimbyism debate

Maria McCaffery, Chief executive of Renewableuk, wrote in The Guardian:
Last week, Alexander Chancellor declared himself in favour of nimbyism. In the debate on windfarms, this acronym, derived from "not in my back yard", signifies a state of mind of those who protest against windfarms in their residential area, almost entirely on aesthetic grounds.

Which is the crux of the problem. An aesthetic objector will start with a sense that a windfarm will in some way devalue the landscape and his property. Sensing that this is not a sufficient reason to object against renewable energy, he will then drag into the debate all sorts of cod-scientific evidence on why wind turbines don't work, often with a tilt at Brussels eurocrats and perceived environmental "political correctness".
In these two opening paragraphs, McCaffery exhibits a barrage of logical fallacies that are typical of wind proponents:
  1. She narrowly defines nimbyism as subjectively based ("aesthetics").
  2. She denigrates that aesthetic judgement as materially fearful and selfish.
  3. She broadens the questioning of large-scale wind to an attack on all renewable energy.
  4. She mocks arguments of fact as "cod-scientific" window dressing and questionable politics.
In fact, that is precisely the nature of pro-wind rhetoric:
  1. Wind energy is presented as a saviour of industrial society.
  2. It is highly profitable to it investors, who benefit from public subsidy.
  3. Sensing that this is not a sufficient reason to defend large-scale wind power development, it is linked to the ideals of renewable energy in general.
  4. Projections and sales hype are presented as scientific fact, without any follow-up with actual data about wind's impacts on other fuel sources.
In short, the argument against nimbyism, i.e., the reasoned defense of one's home, is a bullying "greater good" that has yet to be shown and seems only to benefit a few developers.

Updates, Feb. 14: What is environmentalism if not a matter of aesthetics? What is environmental degradation if not a matter of aesthetics? What is the very life we seek for ourselves if not a matter of aesthetics? Of course, life is a dance of compromise, but that does not negate what we know to be aesthetically good. It does not mean that we should not fight against the further senseless degradation of that good. Aesthetics is the distillation of what we believe and value, of who each of us is. You need a lot more than mere monied arrogance to convince me to look the other way.

And in Ontario, Sierra Club Canada has mounted a campaign to convince the Wainfleet Town Council to ignore the concerns of their citizens and listen to the reassurances of industrial wind developers only: "Health and other impacts of wind turbines have been studied in conditions similar to Ontario and have been shown NOT to be significant. Please look beyond the rumours and unsubstantiated claims being circulated. Those behind the rumours and misinformation have a vested interest in killing wind energy – don’t be fooled by them." Dare such a person who could write that to actually meet a victim of wind turbine noise. See the poster presentation, "Consequences: Truth is treason in an empire of lies" (click here to view on line).

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights

February 8, 2011

Wind is not replacing other fuels in Europe

As reported in the European Wind Energy Association's "2010 European Statistics", Europe installed (net) 5 times more coal and 8.6 times more natural gas capacity than wind (at a 20% capacity factor) from 2000 to 2010.

In 2010 alone, Europe installed (net) 17.3 times more fossil fuel–fired capacity than wind. Most of that was natural gas: 15.3 times more new capacity than wind.

wind power, wind energy

February 7, 2011

Meanwhile in Europe: 70-mpg Fiat 500

James Martin reviews the Fiat 500 in the Daily Mail (U.K.):

It’s rare for something that makes you grin to be cheap to run as well. Normally it’s a trade-off. But that’s going to change this year, starting with this little 70mpg marvel.

There’s now a Corsa that manages nearly 80mpg. Then in March there’ll be the smart new Ford Focus, the eco version of which does 75mpg, and in the autumn VW is launching a little car called the Up!, which I hear might eventually do 100mpg (using a two-cylinder engine like the Fiat).

Then we’ll see the hybrids, such as the plug-in Vauxhall Ampera due next winter, which will do 175mpg – although with those you’re paying a premium for the new technology.

Also, Eric Peters writes in the U.S.:

The new Mini Cooper Countryman can get 63 MPGs on the highway – just not on our highways.

Like so many other high-mileage, diesel-powered vehicles, it’s not available in the United States. Instead we get gas-electric turkeys like the Toyota Prius hybrid – which maxes out at 48 MPGs on the highway.

[The current Mini Cooper diesel gets 74 mpg.]

February 6, 2011

The Yankee Bloc

Lew Rockwell describes (click the title of this post) the uprisings in north Africa and the Middle East as parallel to the 1989 unraveling of the Soviet bloc.

February 5, 2011

Mubarak and Bush and Hobbes and Locke

Dallas Darling writes at World News:

But Mubarak and Bush are worse than Hobbes, for it was them, not their citizenry, that were "brutish, selfish, nasty, solitary, and poor." In projecting and injecting their own natures into the bloodstream of their nations, Egypt and America, they are the one's that inevitably caused mass chaos and bloodshed. While hundreds of Egyptian protesters have been killed and wounded, merely for wanting food, shelter, jobs, better pay, and a greater sense of liberty and equality, tens of thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, and American soldiers have too been killed. But it appears Egyptian protesters are much more politically acute than Americans. They understand that Mubarak and his regime are selfish and corrupt, something Americans have not yet understood about their own government. They cannot wait any longer. Mubarak must go now! But for the majority of Americans, it appears a politically and historical illiterate and inactive citizenry will continue to offer up their rights and their human spirits to an overbearing and unjust regime.

Locke believed governments were formed to protect rights and freedoms, not to indoctrinate people with fear and mistrust and the need to fight perpetual wars. He thought the best government had limited powers, one that was accepted by all citizens and allowed full participation. He also established a new radical and revolutionary idea, in that, if the government is not serving the people and is not accountable to them, the people have a right to either change the government or overthrow it. For Americans, this "right to revolution" was echoed in the Declaration of Independence. For now, the demonstrators in Egypt are reminding Americans of this eternal truth. It is a truth that some Americans have sadly forgotten. This was observed again in 2000, when, and instead of one person one vote, five justices and a governor usurped one-hundred and sixty-million voters and anointed King George the Decider.