Sunday, 27 February 2011
Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.
No really good things came my way this week. Oh well; so it goes eh?
There were a few modest things, not quite 'good' but close maybe (sorry to prevaricate) ...
Steed Lord & wha'cha gonna do when the sky turns red and again here here here and here, and of course, a line of fashion & accessories to go along with it ... (thanks to Miss Jodie).
your time has come
a storm is coming
I walk up in the club
I'm searchin' for my drugs
these days are way too long
I need to get some kind'a love
my eyes are locked on you
can you tell me the truth
I need to feel you touchin' me
its travelin' inside my mind
wha'cha gonna do when the sky turns red
wha'cha gonna do when the sky turns red
waiting for the sun that never sets
will you come'a closer take my hand
the day is drawing near
the moon is almost clear
why can't I face my fears
I want the wild lady to appear
I gotta go, let's go, wha'cha gonna do
wha'cha gonna do when the sky turns red
take my hand
A-and this from the CBC's Fifth Estate (on their exceedingly lame website): You Should Have Stayed At Home; including the Toronto G20 laid out time-wise and with an interview by Gillian Findlay with the Chief of Po-leece, Bill Blair (if you can bear the ads at double volume) ... or better, download it and bypass the over-loud advertisements and the lame CBC infrastructure entirely.
And this: Economic Hitmen (thanks to Greenspiration for 'You Should Have Stayed At Home' & 'Economic Hitmen').
Considering our Bill Blair there, between Svala Björgvinsdóttir & Gillian Findlay ... instead of 'a thorn between two roses' you could say a damp (mealy mouthed) squib between two blondes, but I'm not sure that any of them is a true blonde.
The Globe, citing a survey cooked up by realtors, says "House prices see annual gains of 6.8% over past 10 years," while in the Star it's "Housing prices to drop 25%, forecaster predicts." That's good-ish news I guess. The BBC reports "UK GDP figure revised down further," and "... the economy is still flattish at minus 0.1%." These are a few hopeful signs, but the people writing this bumph don't really have any idea.
... as for me ...
I got nothin’ to say, 'specially about, whatever it was ...
I have been following events in the middle east of course, but this Doonesbury ... well, after I looked at the Sunday funnies I decided to select the best of what I have seen and post it. I don't use TV but I think Garry Trudeau's representation is about right. And not only for TV either, the Internet is about the same, everyone screaming, "LOOK AT ME!"
I am an elitist snob, so mob rule doesn't much appeal to me; nor the notion of government by polls or unending referendums. But the elites, like God during the Holocaust, have turned their backs on us and are pursuing only their own (and their immediate families') well being. They have turned wealth into illth & filth.
The first reports seemed to be all about portraying 'social media' as some kind of ... what? But the social media don't appeal to me either. So as I fossicked about the Internet dung heap I was looking for other reasons.
Gwynne Dyer has a cool head and his two pieces (presented out of time-sequence but in the order I found them) laid it out pretty clearly I thought:
Why now?, February 20, and,
Good sense of the Arabs, February 14.
I don't know a thing about Fouad Ajami beyond what is in this article: How the Arabs Turned Shame Into Liberty; and they have yet to turn anything into any 'liberty' I would recognize; but he sketches the history, and reveals himself maybe more than he intended, so I include him too.
I am especially leery of mobs which include religion and religious rites. I will spare you pictures of people holding up their shoes. Throwing one at W was a beautiful thing to behold, but I wonder how self-conscious a crowd is when they all hold their shoes up together for what looks like a photo op, sorry.
My friend Crowbird used to go around cleaning things up, sometimes just to pass the time.
There are never as many to clean up as there were to make the mess. It is not entirely clear what is going on, but it looks like some people at least got right to work. That's the stuff.
1. Why now?, Gwynne Dyer, February 20 2011.
2. Good sense of the Arabs, Gwynne Dyer, February 14 2011.
3. How the Arabs Turned Shame Into Liberty, Fouad Ajami, February 26 2011.
Why now?, Gwynne Dyer, February 20 2011.
Why now? Why revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt this year, rather than last year, or 10 years ago, or never? The protestors now taking to the street daily in Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Algeria are obviously inspired by the success of those revolutions, but what got the process started? What changed in the Middle East?
Yes, of course the Arab world is largely ruled by autocratic regimes that suppress all opposition and dissent, sometimes with great cruelty. Yes, of course many of those regimes are corrupt, and some of them are effectively in the service of foreigners. Of course most Arabs are poor and getting poorer. But that has all been true for decades. It never led to upheavals before.
Maybe the frustration and resentment that have been building up for so long just needed a spark. Maybe the self-immolation of a single young man set Tunisia alight, and from there the flames spread quickly to half a dozen other Arab countries. But you can`t find anybody who really believes that this could just as easily have happened five years ago, or 10, or 20.
Yet there is no reason to suppose that the level of popular anger has gone up substantially in the past two or five or 10 years. It`s high all the time, but in normal times most people are very cautious about expressing it openly. You can get hurt that way.
Now they are expressing their anger very loudly indeed, and long-established Arab regimes are starting to panic. The fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, by far the largest Arab country, makes it possible that many other autocratic regimes in the Arab world could fall like dominoes. The rapid collapse of the communist regimes in Europe in 1989 is a frightening precedent for them. But, once again, why is this happening now?
`Social media` is one widely touted explanation, and the al-Jazeera network`s wall-to-wall coverage of the events in Tunisia and Egypt is another. Both are plausible parts of the explanation, for the availability of means of communication that are beyond the reach of state censorship clearly makes mass mobilisation much easier. If people are ready to come out on the street and protest, the media makes it easier for them to organise. But this really does not explain why they are ready to come out at last.
The one thing that is really different in the Middle East, just in the last year or two, is the self-evident fact that the United States is starting to withdraw from the region. From Lebanon in 1958 to Iraq in 2003, the US was willing to intervene militarily to defend Arab regimes it liked and overthrow those that it did not like. That`s over now.
This great change is partly driven by the thinly-disguised American defeat in Iraq. The last US troops are leaving that country this year, and after that grim experience US public opinion will not countenance another major American military intervention in the region. The safety net for Arab regimes allied to the United States is being removed, and their people know it.
There is also a major strategic reassessment going on in Washington, and it will almost certainly end by downgrading the importance of the Middle East in US policy. The Arab masses do not know that, but the regimes certainly do, and it undermines their confidence.
The traditional motives for American strategic involvement in the Middle East were oil and Israel. American oil supplies had to be protected, and the Cold War was a zero-sum game in which any regime that the US did not control was seen to be at risk of falling into the hands of the Soviet Union. And quite apart from sentimental considerations, Israel had to be protected because it was an important military asset.
But the Cold War is long over, and so is the zero-sum game in the Middle East.
Good sense of the Arabs, Gwynne Dyer, February 14 2011.
They wouldn't do it for al-Qaida, but they finally did it for themselves. The young Egyptian protesters who overthrew the Mubarak regime on Saturday have accomplished what two generations of violent Islamist revolutionaries could not. And they did not just do it nonviolently; they succeeded because they were nonviolent.
They also succeeded because they had reasonable goals that could attract mass support: democracy, economic growth, social justice. This was in marked contrast to the goals of the Islamist radicals, which were so unrealistic that they never managed to get the support of the Arab masses.
Even to talk about "the masses" sounds anachronistic these days, but when we are talking about revolution it is still a relevant category. Revolutions, whether Islamist or democratic, win if they can gain mass support, and fail if they cannot. The Islamists have got a great deal of attention in the past two decades, and especially since 9/11, but as revolutionaries they are spectacular failures.
The problem was their analysis of what was wrong in the Arab world. Like most extremist versions of religion, Islamism is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Its diagnosis essentially says that the poverty, oppression and humiliation that Arabs experience are due to the fact that they are not obeying God's rules, especially about dress and behavior, and so God has turned His face from them.
The cure for all these ills, therefore, is precise and universal observance of all God's rules and injunctions, as interpreted in their peculiarly narrow and intolerant version of Islam. Men must grow their beards, for example, but they must not trim them. If only they get these and a thousand other details right, the Arabs will be rich, respected and victorious, for then God will be willing to help them.
The Islamists never talked about the Arabs, of course. They spoke only of "the Muslims," for their ideology rejected all distinctions of history, language and nationality: the ultimate objective was a unified "Caliphate" that erased all borders between Muslim countries. In practice, however, most of them were Arabs, although Arabs are only a quarter of the world's Muslims.
Osama bin Laden is a Saudi Arabian. His deputy, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, is an Egyptian. The great majority of the founders of al-Qaida were Arabs. That makes sense, for it is the Arab world that has seen the greatest fall from former prosperity, lives under the worst dictatorships, and has suffered the greatest humiliations at the hands of the West and Israel.
From Turkey to Indonesia, most non-Arab Muslim countries enjoy reasonable economic growth, and some are full-blooded democracies. Their governments work on behalf of their own countries, not for Western interests, and they do not have to contend with an Israeli problem. If there was ever going to be mass support for the Islamist revolution, it was going to be in the Arab world.
Revolutionary movements often resort to terrorism: it's a cheap way of drawing attention to your ideas, and it may even lead to an uprising if the target regime responds by becoming even more oppressive. The first generation of Islamists thought they would trigger an uprising in Saudi Arabia when they seized control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979, and in Egypt when they assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
There were no mass uprisings in support of the Islamists either then or later, however, and the reason is that Arabs aren't fools. Many of them intensely disliked the regimes they lived under, but it took only one look at the Islamist fanatics, with their straggly beards and counter-rotating eyeballs, to know that they would not be an improvement.
A second generation of Islamists, spearheaded by al-Qaida, pushed the strategy of making things worse to its logical conclusion. If driving Arab regimes into greater repression could not trigger pro-Islamist revolutions, maybe the masses could be radicalized by tricking the Americans into invading Muslim countries. That was the strategy behind the 9/11 attacks ― but still the masses would not come out in the streets.
When they finally did come out in the past couple of months, first in Tunisia, then in Egypt, and already in other Arab countries as well, it was not in support of the Islamist project at all. What the protesters were demanding was democracy and an end to corruption. Some of them may want a bigger presence for Islam in public life, and others may not, but very few of them want revolutionary Islamism.
It is a testimony to the good sense of the Arabs, and a rebuke to the ignorant rabble of Western pundits and "analysts" who insisted that Arabs could not do democracy at all, or could only be given it at the point of Western guns.
It is equally a rebuke to bin Laden and his Islamist companions, hidden in their various caves. They were never going to sweep to power across the Arab world, let alone the broader Muslim world, and only the most impressionable and excitable observers ever thought they would.
How the Arabs Turned Shame Into Liberty, Fouad Ajami, February 26 2011.
Perhaps this Arab Revolution of 2011 had a scent for the geography of grief and cruelty. It erupted in Tunisia, made its way eastward to Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain, then doubled back to Libya. In Tunisia and Egypt political freedom seems to have prevailed, with relative ease, amid popular joy. Back in Libya, the counterrevolution made its stand, and a despot bereft of mercy declared war against his own people.
In the calendar of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s republic of fear and terror, Sept. 1 marks the coming to power, in 1969, of the officers and conspirators who upended a feeble but tolerant monarchy. Another date, Feb. 17, will proclaim the birth of a new Libyan republic, a date when a hitherto frightened society shed its quiescence and sought to topple the tyranny of four decades. There is no middle ground here, no splitting of the difference. It is a fight to the finish in a tormented country. It is a reckoning as well, the purest yet, with the pathologies of the culture of tyranny that has nearly destroyed the world of the Arabs.
The crowd hadn’t been blameless, it has to be conceded. Over the decades, Arabs took the dictators’ bait, chanted their names and believed their promises. They averted their gazes from the great crimes. Out of malice or bigotry, that old “Arab street” — farewell to it, once and for all — had nothing to say about the terror inflicted on Shiites and Kurds in Iraq, for Saddam Hussein was beloved by the crowds, a pan-Arab hero, an enforcer of Sunni interests.
Nor did many Arabs take notice in 1978 when Imam Musa al-Sadr, the leader of the Shiites of Lebanon, disappeared while on a visit to Libya. In the lore of the Arabs, hospitality due a guest is a cardinal virtue of the culture, but the crime has gone unpunished. Colonel Qaddafi had money to throw around, and the scribes sang his praise.
Colonel Qaddafi had presented himself as the inheritor of the legendary Egyptian strongman Gamal Abdel Nasser. He had written, it was claimed, the three-volume Green Book, which by his lights held a solution for all the problems of governance, and servile Arab intellectuals indulged him, pretending that the collection of nonsensical dictums could be given serious reading.
To understand the present, we consider the past. The tumult in Arab politics began in the 1950s and the 1960s, when rulers rose and fell with regularity. They were struck down by assassins or defied by political forces that had their own sources of strength and belief. Monarchs were overthrown with relative ease as new men, from more humble social classes, rose to power through the military and through radical political parties.
By the 1980s, give or take a few years, in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria and Yemen, a new political creature had taken hold: repressive “national security states” with awesome means of control and terror. The new men were pitiless, they re-ordered the political world, they killed with abandon; a world of cruelty had settled upon the Arabs.
Average men and women made their accommodation with things, retreating into the privacy of their homes. In the public space, there was now the cult of the rulers, the unbounded power of Saddam Hussein and Muammar el-Qaddafi and Hafez al-Assad in Syria and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. The traditional restraints on power had been swept away, and no new social contract between ruler and ruled had emerged.
Fear was now the glue of politics, and in the more prosperous states (the ones with oil income) the ruler’s purse did its share in the consolidation of state terror. A huge Arab prison had been constructed, and a once-proud people had been reduced to submission. The prisoners hated their wardens and feared the guards, and on the surface of things, the autocracies were there to stay.
Yet, as they aged, the coup-makers and political plotters of yesteryear sprouted rapacious dynasties; they became “country owners,” as a distinguished liberal Egyptian scholar and diplomat once put it to me. These were Oriental courts without protocol and charm, the wives and the children of the rulers devouring all that could be had by way of riches and vanity.
Shame — a great, disciplining force in Arab life of old — quit Arab lands. In Tunisia, a hairdresser-turned-despot’s wife, Leila Ben Ali, now pronounced on all public matters; in Egypt the despot’s son, Gamal Mubarak, brazenly staked a claim to power over 80 million people; in Syria, Hafez al-Assad had pulled off a stunning feat, turning a once-rebellious republic into a monarchy in all but name and bequeathing it to one of his sons.
These rulers hadn’t descended from the sky. They had emerged out of the Arab world’s sins of omission and commission. Today’s rebellions are animated, above all, by a desire to be cleansed of the stain and the guilt of having given in to the despots for so long. Elias Canetti gave this phenomenon its timeless treatment in his 1960 book “Crowds and Power.” A crowd comes together, he reminded us, to expiate its guilt, to be done, in the presence of others, with old sins and failures.
There is no marker, no dividing line, that establishes with a precision when and why the Arab people grew weary of the dictators. To the extent that such tremendous ruptures can be pinned down, this rebellion was an inevitable response to the stagnation of the Arab economies. The so-called youth bulge made for a combustible background; a new generation with knowledge of the world beyond came into its own.
Then, too, the legends of Arab nationalism that had sustained two generations had expired. Younger men and women had wearied of the old obsession with Palestine. The revolution was waiting to happen, and one deed of despair in Tunisia, a street vendor who out of frustration set himself on fire, pushed the old order over the brink.
And so, in those big, public spaces in Tunis, Cairo and Manama, Bahrain, in the Libyan cities of Benghazi and Tobruk, millions of Arabs came together to bid farewell to an age of quiescence. They were done with the politics of fear and silence.
Every day and every gathering, broadcast to the world, offered its own memorable image. In Cairo, a girl of 6 or 7 rode her skateboard waving the flag of her country. In Tobruk, a young boy, atop the shoulders of a man most likely his father, held a placard and a message for Colonel Qaddafi: “Irhall, irhall, ya saffah.” (“Be gone, be gone, O butcher.”)
In this tumult, I was struck by the chasm between the incoherence of the rulers and the poise of the many who wanted the outside world to bear witness. A Libyan of early middle age, a professional and a diabetic, was proud to speak on camera, to show his face, in a discussion with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. He was a new man, he said, free of fear for the first time, and he beheld the future with confidence. The precision in his diction was a stark contrast to Colonel Qadaffi’s rambling TV address on Tuesday that blamed the “Arab media” for his ills and called on Libyans to “prepare to defend petrol.”
In the tyrant’s shadow, unknown to him and to the killers and cronies around him, a moral clarity had come to ordinary men and women. They were not worried that a secular tyranny would be replaced by a theocracy; the specter of an “Islamic emirate” invoked by the dictator did not paralyze or terrify them.
There is no overstating the importance of the fact that these Arab revolutions are the works of the Arabs themselves. No foreign gunboats were coming to the rescue, the cause of their emancipation would stand or fall on its own. Intuitively, these protesters understood that the rulers had been sly, that they had convinced the Western democracies that it was either the tyrants’ writ or the prospect of mayhem and chaos.
So now, emancipated from the prison, they will make their own world and commit their own errors. The closest historical analogy is the revolutions of 1848, the Springtime of the People in Europe. That revolution erupted in France, then hit the Italian states and German principalities, and eventually reached the remote outposts of the Austrian empire. Some 50 local and national uprisings, all in the name of liberty.
Massimo d’Azeglio, a Piedmontese aristocrat who was energized by the spirit of those times, wrote what for me are the most arresting words about liberty’s promise and its perils: “The gift of liberty is like that of a horse, handsome, strong and high-spirited. In some it arouses a wish to ride; in many others, on the contrary, it increases the urge to walk.” For decades, Arabs walked and cowered in fear. Now they seem eager to take freedom’s ride. Wisely, they are paying no heed to those who wish to speak to them of liberty’s risks.
Fouad Ajami, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the author of “The Foreigner’s Gift: The Americans, the Arabs and the Iraqis in Iraq.”
Sunday, 20 February 2011
Greenpeace presents Polluter Harmony: Tar Crossed Lovers, Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment (not).
If any single one of these wankers would simply stand up and tell the truth, I think the tide would turn so quickly it would make their heads spin. But they won't: Dalton McGuinty won't; Brad Duguid, the Ontario energy minister won't; Jack Layton won't; Elizabeth May won't ... I actually thought (for several hours at least) that Peter Kent might - but he won't ... so ... we're toast.
Do they have heads to spin I wonder?
Oh well. Doesn't matter what I think anyway - estou só um velho gordo gringo, um coroa, corno fedorento - just another fricken' nutbar.
Sure, the knuckleheads like John Laforet will get sorted out - eventually. The 'owners' will figgure out that a blow-job in the hand (pardon) is not worth eternity in the bush - eventually. But it will be too late.
I read this in the NYT today. The operative phrase is the first one: "Last weekend I joined 19 other Kentuckians in a sit-in ..." He was with 19 others. 19, dig it!
A-and then consider this: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Don't for one instant imagine that quoting scripture makes me out to be some kind of dimwit Christian! I am a nutbar alright, but not that kind.
The thing about Miss Jodie is that she is emphatically not an air-head; she is, as anyone can see from a look at her blog, so well spoken. She is beautiful and smart and more. So where does the headless photo showing her (delightful) tits come from then? Here, have a look at the whole spread for yourself.
I thought I remembered a vague clue from John Fowles' The Collector. I thought there was a sequence where the guy drugs her and takes 'shocking' photographs cut off at the neck - but the movie doesn't seem to have it and I don't have a copy of the book anymore. It is coming from the library - I'll try to remember to report on this later.
A speech by Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella to the The Empire Club of Toronto; entitled 'The world is not unfolding as it should: International justice in crisis'.
I think she is doing her best to tell the truth; and I think that from where she is sitting that is a difficult thing to even try to do. She says, "Nations debate; people die. Nations dissemble; people die. Nations defy; people die." She sure got that right.
This is not a very tall woman; maybe that's why her speech winds up 'close but no cigar'. Or maybe she is another of those bourgeois liberal intellectuals Noam Chomsky was talking about, who takes us to the door but doesn't go through it herself. I am sorry to be saying this because who could trump her? She is literally and exactly the epitome of Canadian womanhood, personhood ... and sadly, she doesn't quite get there.
Here's Sarah Vaughan with Stormy Weather and Fly Me To The Moon, to sing us all on outa here ... and Billie Holiday.
Well, Bev Oda smokes - so she can't be all bad then, eh? She at least has a conscience, even if it is a bad one.
She is several steps up from Stephen Harper in that regard; as he plays his game of red herrings. Poor Bev is just a distraction; and a petty one at that.
Who cares about Kairos? That's the second time in one post that I am sorry to say something. Yes, Kairos went to the Tar Sands and put together a report that vanishingly few heard about and fewer read; and they did not even carry the message very effectively to their own constituency (if that's what it is).
K-k-Canadians are soooo polite.
1. Text of speech by Justice Abella, Rosalie Silberman Abella, February 9 2011.
2. My Polluted Kentucky Home, Silas House, February 19 2011.
Text of speech by Justice Abella, Rosalie Silberman Abella, February 9 2011.
The following is the full text of the speech delivered by Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella to the The Empire Club of Toronto. The speech was entitled “THE WORLD IS NOT UNFOLDING AS IT SHOULD: INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE IN CRISIS.”
I picked this topic weeks ago, before Tunisia and Egypt magnetized our attention. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours devouring TV and newspaper coverage, and I find that I’m transfixed, I’m inspired, and I’m slightly terrified.
I am a lawyer. That means I believe in law and justice. And, like most Canadians, I also care deeply about human rights. The events of the past few weeks have been like a Polaroid picture of international law, justice and human rights: with time, the picture comes into clearer focus. And with clarity, my deepest fears are increasingly confirmed. What do I mean? I mean that increasingly I have come to see international human rights law as having a dysfunctional relationship with justice. The rhetoric is beautiful, but it’s all dressed up with no place to go. . .
It was not always so. After 1945, the global community demonstrated an enormous capacity for constructing legal systems and institutions to enhance and advance international human rights law.
Through the UN Charter, the “peoples of the United Nations” determined to “reaffirm” faith in “fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” It was created for the purpose of achieving international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all. But the human rights revolution that started after — and because of — WWII, seems to have too few disciples in the countries that need it most.
Compare this state of affairs with the revolution in international trade law. Like international law generally, international economic law has witnessed an institutional proliferation of organs, like the OECD, the ILO, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”), and, of course, the IMF, the World Bank and GATT.
Then in 1994, the Marrakesh Agreement established the WTO, which came into being on January 1, 1995, dramatically extending the reach of trade regulation and creating a comprehensive international legal and institutional framework for international trade.
After only 15 years in operation, the WTO is, in essence, international law’s child prodigy. Like the UN, the WTO struggles with reconciling the interests of the most powerful states and the least, as is obvious from the tumultuous (and ongoing) multi-year saga of the Doha Development Round of negotiations. Yet despite occasional criticism, the WTO, and its dispute settlement mechanism in particular, are regarded as legitimate, effective and influential in international relations.
So you can see that international trade law has, like international human rights law, constructed a complex network of institutions and norms to regulate state conduct. But unlike international human rights law, states comply with international trade law and, in the event of non- compliance, an effective dispute settlement mechanism is available to resolve disputes. In other words, what states have been unable to achieve in sixty-five years of international human rights law, is up and running after only fifteen years of international trade regulation.
I find this dissonance stark and unsettling.
If we examine international trade and international human rights law in parallel, we can make a number of discouraging observations: First, unlike the UN, the WTO is extremely difficult to join. That means that the global community feels that obtaining membership in a trade organization should be more onerous than obtaining membership in an organization responsible for saving humanity from inhumanity. Second, the global community agrees that the products of one state should be treated the same as products from every other state, but cannot agree that individuals have rights as individuals, not as citizens of particular states. And third, the global community agrees on the principles underlying international trade law: non-discrimination and most favoured nation. In contrast, the global community cannot agree on the principles underlying international law generally, so sovereignty and human rights continue to conflict.
There was so much cheering when we thought the global community had finally resolved the rancorous, longstanding debate about humanitarian intervention through the General Assembly’s unanimous endorsement of the Canadian - sponsored doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (“R2P”) in 2005. It seemed at last, that we had seen a triumph of human rights over sovereignty.
But just a year and a half ago, at the end of July 2009, the United Nations General Assembly debated Responsibility to Protect for the first time since unanimously endorsing the doctrine in 2005, and the whole thing seemed to unravel before our eyes.
What’s wrong with this picture, and what does it tell us about our global priorities?
Our generation has had the most sophisticated development of international laws, treaties, and conventions the international community has ever known, all stating that human rights abuses will not be tolerated. We’ve had the European Convention for Human Rights, (1953), The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), The Convention Against Torture, The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1966), The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1955), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), among many others.
But we’ve also had the genocide in Rwanda; the massacres in Bosnia and the Congo; the violent expropriations, judicial constructive dismissals and brazen immorality in Zimbabwe; the assassination of law enforcers in Colombia and Indonesia; the repression in Chechnya; the slavery and child soldiers in Sudan; the cultural annihilation of women, Hindus and ancient Buddhist temples by the Taliban; the attempted genocide of the Kurds in Iraq; the rampant racism tolerated at the U.N. World Congress Against Racism and Intolerance in Durban; China; Myanmar; Pakistan; the world’s shocking lassitude in confronting AIDS in Africa; the disgraceful chapter in global insensitivity as the world formulated a strategy of astonishingly glacial and anemic proportions in Darfur; the nuclear roguery of North Korea; and the sheer roguery — and stoning — in Iran.
What’s going on, and what do we need to think about to fix it? And fix it we must, because unless we pay attention to intolerance, the world’s fastest growth industry, we risk losing the civilizing sinews that flexed the world’s muscles after World War II. We changed the world’s institutions and laws then because they had lost their legitimacy and integrity. We may be there again, not so much because our human rights laws need changing, but because a good argument can be made that our existing global institutions, and especially the UN’s deliberative role, are playing fast and loose with their legitimacy and our integrity.
I make these observations not because I have any particular solutions to propose, because I don’t, but because I want to hear a serious conversation among people more expert than me, people who care deeply about the moral choices we make as a global community, about how to fix a status quo in which some of the worst criticisms are directed at western democracies — what I would call low -hanging fruit — while the worst abusers barely glance over their shoulders, too busy doing now whatever they want to their own citizens, to care about history’s judgment later. So we have many laws to protect humanity from injustice, but not enough enforcement to turn those laws into justice.
Let’s start with the term “Rule of Law”, the Holy Grail of “rights discourse” today. I confess that I’ve always been somewhat confused by why we use this phrase as an organizing principle. I think most people don’t really know what it means. Universal principles to which we are expected to be loyal, shouldn’t be shackled with semantic ambiguity. Moreover, this generation has seen the Rule of Law impose apartheid, segregation and genocidal discrimination. And in the last few weeks we heard the term endorsed, and without irony, by the Presidents of Russia and Egypt. It frankly makes me wonder why we cling so tenaciously to the moniker.
So what are we really talking about? We’re talking, I think, about some universal goals — accountable government, protection against rule by whim, and about our belief in law as an instrument of procedural and substantive justice. If I’m right that that’s what we’re really talking about when we talk about a just Rule of Law, doesn’t that mean that what we’re talking about is what we’ve come to see as the indispensable instruments of democracy: due process; an independent bar and judiciary; protection for women and minorities; a free press; and rights of association, religion, dissent and expression? Those are core democratic values, and when we trumpet those values, we trumpet the instruments of justice. And justice is what laws are supposed to promote.
Who can seriously argue that a society that has those values, and protects its citizens accordingly, isn’t a healthier society than a repressive one whose greatest tolerance is for intolerance?
And I think we need to emphasize that when we talk about democracy, we’re not just talking about elections. To say democracy is only about elections is like saying you don’t need the whole building if you have the door. Elections tell democracy it’s welcome to come in, but elections are only the entrance. Without a home, democracy can’t settle down. It needs an edifice of rules and rights and respect to grow up healthy and secure.
So why aren’t we out there promoting those democratic values and instruments, instead of promoting a euphemism noone really understands like the “Rule of Law”. Shouldn’t we say what we mean? And I think what we mean is the Rule of Justice, not just the Rule of Law.
Democratic values, while no guarantee, are still the best aspirational goals in my view, because without democracy there are no rights, without rights there is no tolerance, without tolerance there is no justice, and without justice, there is no hope.
What kind of rights are we talking about? Two kinds — human rights and civil liberties, both crucial mainstays of our democratic catechism.
The human rights story in North America, like many of our legal stories, started in England, with the madness of King George and the philosophies of Hobbes, Locke, and eventually John Stuart Mill, philosophies protecting individuals from having their freedoms interfered with by governments. These were the theories which journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean and found themselves firmly planted in American soil and in the Declaration of Independence. Thus was born the essence of social justice for Americans — the belief that every American had the same right as every other American to be free from government interference. To be equal was to have this same right. No differences.
Unlike the United States, we in Canada were never concerned only with the rights of individuals. Our historical roots involved as well a constitutional appreciation that the two linguistic groups at the constitutional bargaining table, the French and the English, could remain distinct and unassimilated, and yet theoretically of equal worth and entitlement. That is, unlike the United States, whose individualism promoted assimilation, we in Canada always conceded that the right to integrate, based on differences, has as much legal and political integrity as the right to assimilate. Assimilation if necessary, but not necessarily assimilation. . .
In any event, the individualism at the core of the civil libertarian political philosophy of rights articulated in the American constitution, became America’s most significant international export and the exclusive rights barometer for countries in the Western world.
Until 1945. That was when we came to the realization that having chained ourselves to the pedestal of the individual, we had been ignoring rights abuses of a fundamentally different kind, namely, the rights of individuals in different groups to retain their different identities. . . without fear of the loss of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.
It was the horrifying spectacle of group destruction in the Second World War which jolted us, a spectacle so far removed from what we thought were the limits of rights violations in civilized societies, that we found our entire vocabulary and remedial arsenal inadequate. We were left with no moral alternative but to acknowledge that individuals could be denied rights not in spite of, but because of their differences, and started to formulate ways to protect the rights of the group in addition to those of the individual.
We had, in short, come to see the brutal role of discrimination, and invented the term “human rights” to confront it.
Civil liberties had given us the universal right to be equally free from an intrusive state, regardless of group identity; human rights had given us the universal right to be equally free from discrimination based on group identity. We needed both.
Then, in North America, we seemed to stall as the last century was winding down. What we appeared to do, having watched the dazzling success of so many individuals in so many of the groups we had previously excluded, is conclude that the battle with discrimination had been won and that we could, as victors, remove our human rights weapons from the social battlefield. Having seen women elected, appointed, promoted and educated in droves; having seen the winds of progress blow away segregation and apartheid; having permitted parades to demonstrate gay and lesbian pride; and having constructed hundreds of ramps for persons with disabilities, many were no longer persuaded that the diversity theory of rights was any longer relevant, and sought to return to the simpler rights theory in which everyone was treated the same, and we started to dismissively call a differences-based approach reverse discrimination, or political correctness, or an insult to the goodwill of the majority and to the talents of minorities, or a violation of the merit principle.
We heard many of those who had enough, say “enough is enough”, trying to set the agenda while they accused everyone else of having an “agenda”, and leaving millions wondering where the human rights they were promised were, and why the evolutionary knowledge we came to call human rights appeared to be suffering such swift Orwellian obliteration.
I would argue that we were in a kind of rights distress by the last decade of the last century, the Nineties, the decade of deficit reduction, Beavis and Butthead, globalization, and Microsoft; the decade when Americans didn’t ask and didn’t tell; and the decade they stood by their man the President but spent over $60,000,000 trying to find out if he’d had an extra-marital affair (something a good matrimonial lawyer could have done for half the money . . .). Everyone appeared to be taking at face value Yogi Berri’s suggestion that when you come to a fork in the road, take it.
The crash of four planes changed everything.
We realized to our horror that while we were riveted on hanging chads and butterfly ballots, terrorists were next door learning how to fly commercial airplanes into buildings. In less than two hours on the morning of September 11, 2001, we went from being a Western world luxuriating in conceptual moral conflicts, to being a Western world terrorized into grappling with fatal ones.
I think that what irrevocably shocked us about the horror of September 11 was how massively it violated our assumptions that our expectations about justice were universally shared, at least to the extent that they would be respected in North America. Whether these expectations were reasonable isn’t the issue. They were genuine. We felt safe. We no longer do.
And we’re right not to.
The human rights abuses occurring in some parts of the world are putting the rest of the world in danger because intolerance, in its hegemonic insularity, seeks to impose its intolerant truth on others. Yet for some reason we’re incredibly reluctant to call to account the intolerant countries who abuse their citizens, and instead hide behind silencing concepts like cultural relativism, domestic sovereignty, or root causes.
These are concepts that excuse intolerance. Silence in the face of intolerance means that intolerance wins.
What has happened to the miraculous regeneration and luminous moral vision that brought us the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Genocide Convention and the Nuremberg Trials, those phoenixes that rose from the ashes of Auschwitz and roared their outrage.
The world was supposed to have learned three indelible lessons from the concentration camps of Europe:
1.Indifference is injustice’s incubator;
2.It’s not just what you stand for, it’s what you stand up for; and
3.We must never forget how the world looks to those who are vulnerable.
All this because, as Robert Jackson said in his opening address at the Nuremberg trials,
“The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated. To me, this is not just theory.”
I am the child of survivors. My parents spent four years in concentration camps. Their 2-1/2 year old son, my brother, and my father’s parents and three younger brothers, were all killed at Treblinka.
My father was the only person in his family to survive the war. He was 35 when the war ended; my mother was 28. As I reached each of those ages, I tried to imagine how they felt when they faced an unknown future as survivors of an unimaginable past. And as each of our two sons reached the age my brother had been when he was killed, I tried to imagine my parents’ pain in losing a two and a half year old child. I couldn’t.
After the war my parents went to Germany where my father, a lawyer, taught himself English. The Americans hired him as a defence counsel for Displaced Persons in the Allied Zone in Southwest Germany. In an act that seems to me to be almost incomprehensible in its breathtaking optimism, my parents transcended the inhumanity they had experienced and decided to have more children. I was born in Stuttgart in 1946 a few months after the Nuremberg Trials started, and came to Canada with my family in 1950, a few months after the trials ended.
I never asked my parents if they took any comfort from the Nuremberg trials which were going on for four of the five years we were in Germany until we got permission to come to Canada in 1950. I have no idea if they got any consolation from the conviction of dozens of the worst offenders. But of this I’m sure — they would have preferred by far, that the sense of outrage that inspired the Allies to establish the Military Tribunal of Nuremberg had been aroused many years earlier, before the events that led to the Nuremberg Tribunal ever took place. They would have preferred, I’m sure, that world reaction to the 1933 Reichstag Fire Decree suspending whole portions of the Weimar Constitution; to the expulsion of Jewish lawyers and judges from their professions that same year; to the 1935 Nuremberg laws prohibiting social contact with Jews; or to the brutal rampage of Kristallnacht in 1938 — they would have preferred that world reaction to any one of these events, let alone all of them, would have been, at the very least, public censure.
But there was no such world reaction. By the time World War II started on September 3, 1939, the day my parents got married, it was too late.
And so, the vitriolic language and venal rights abuses, unrestrained by anyone, turned into the ultimate rights abuse: genocide. And millions died.
Lawyers like me, I think, have a tendency to take some comfort, properly so, in the possibility of subsequent judicial reckoning such as occurred at Nuremberg. But is subsequent justice really an adequate substitute for justice?
I don’t for one moment want to suggest that the Nuremberg trials weren’t important. Of course they were. They were a crucial and heroic attempt to hold the unimaginably guilty to judicial account and they showed the world the banality of evil and the evil of indifference.
But 65 years later, we still haven’t learned the most important justice lesson of all — to try to prevent the abuses in the first place. All over the world, in the name of religion, national interest, economic exigency, or sheer arrogance, men, women and children are being murdered, abused, imprisoned, tortured, and exploited. With impunity.
So, Lesson #1 not yet learned, Indifference is Injustice’s Incubator.
The gap between the values the international community articulates and the values it enforces is so wide, that almost any country that wants to, can push its abuses through it. No national abuser seems to worry whether there will be a “Nuremberg” trial later, because usually there isn’t, and in any event, by the time there is, all the damage that was sought to be done, has already been done.
What has kept the global community from liberating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention from the inhibiting politics and parochialism to which they are tethered, so that they can be free to help create, once again, a civilized world confident and willing to provide a future of tolerance and justice.
Does this raise questions about the effectiveness of the UN as a deliberative body? Frankly, it should.
We have to first acknowledge that many of the United Nations’ agencies have achieved great success in a number of areas: peacekeeping, shelter and relief to refugees, UNICEF’s extraordinary efforts on behalf of children, and the WHO’s fights against polio, malaria and small pox, among others. The agencies have raised awareness about violence against women, the environment, and the plight of children, and the fact that much of international law works at all is often due to UN-based agencies.
But the UN was the institution the world set up to implement “Never Again”. Its historical tutor was the Holocaust, yet it seems hardly to be an eager pupil. What was never supposed to happen again, has. Again and again.
Over ninety years ago, we created the League of Nations to prevent another world war. It failed and we replaced it with the United Nations. The UN had 4 objectives: to protect future generations from war, to protect human rights, to foster universal justice, and to promote social progress. Its assigned responsibility was to establish norms of international behavior. Since then, 40 million people have died as a result of conflicts in the world. Shouldn’t that make us wonder whether we’ve come to the point where we need to discuss whether the UN is where the League of Nations was when the UN took over? I waited in vain to hear what the UN had to say about the protests in Iran, Tunisia and Egypt. Isn’t that magisterial silence a thunderous answer to those who say things would be a lot worse without the UN. Worse how? I know it’s all we have, but does that mean it’s the best we can do?
In a world so often seeming to be on the verge of spinning out of control, can we afford to be complacent about the absence of multi-lateral leadership making sure the compass stays pointed in the most rights-oriented direction?
Nations debate; people die. Nations dissemble; people die. Nations defy; people die.
Lesson #2, not yet learned: It’s not just what you stand for, it’s what you stand up for.
A concluding story.
I’ve already told you that after the war my parents went to Germany and that my father was hired as a lawyer by the Americans. A few years ago my mother gave me some of his papers from Europe when I was preparing a speech for the opening of Pier 21, where we had landed in 1950.
The letters were from American lawyers, prosecutors and judges he worked with in the U.S. Zone in Stuttgart. They were warm, compassionate, and encouraging letters either recommending, appointing, or qualifying my father for various legal roles in the system the Americans had set up in Germany after the war. These people not only restored him, they gave him back his belief that justice was possible.
One of the most powerful documents I found was written by my father when he was head of the Displaced Persons Camp in Stuttgart where we lived. It was his introduction of Eleanor Roosevelt when she came to visit our D.P. Camp in 1948. He said:
“We welcome you, Mrs. Roosevelt, as the representative of a great nation, whose victorious army liberated the remnants of European Jewry from death and so highly contributed to their moral and physical rehabilitation. We shall never forget that aid rendered by both the American people and army. We are not in a position of showing you many assets. The best we are able to produce are these few children. They alone are our fortune and our sole hope for the future.”
As one of those children, I am here to tell you that the gift of justice is the gift that just keeps on giving.
Lesson #3. We must never forget how the world looks to those who are vulnerable.
My life started in a country where there had been no democracy, no rights, no justice. It created an unquenchable thirst in me for all three. My father died a month before I finished law school, but not before he had taught me that democracies and their laws represent the best possibility of justice. And that those of us lucky enough to be alive and free have a particular duty to our children to do everything possible to make the world safer for them than it was for their grandparents, so that all children, regardless of race, religion or gender, can wear their identities with pride, in dignity and in peace.
My Polluted Kentucky Home, Silas House, February 19 2011.
Berea, Kentucky - LAST weekend I joined 19 other Kentuckians in a sit-in at the office of Gov. Steve Beshear. We were there to protest his support of mountaintop removal, a technique used by coal-mining companies that, as its name implies, involves blasting away the tops of mountains and hills to get at the coal seams beneath them.
Since it was first used in 1970, mountaintop removal has destroyed some 500 mountains and poisoned at least 1,200 miles of rivers and streams across the Appalachian coal-mining region. Yet Governor Beshear is so committed to the practice that he recently allied with the Kentucky Coal Association in a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency to block more stringent regulations of it. In court his administration’s lawyers referred to public opposition as simply “an unwarranted burden.”
The news media and the rest of the country typically think of mountaintop removal as an environmental problem. But it’s a human crisis as well, scraping away not just coal but also the freedoms of Appalachian residents, people who have always been told they are of less value than the resources they live above.
Over the past six years I’ve visited dozens of people who live at the edge of mountaintop removal sites. They bathe their children in water that has arsenic levels as high as 130 times what the E.P.A. deems safe to drink.
Their roads are routinely destroyed by overloaded trucks; their air is clouded with pollutants. Their schools sit below ponds holding billions of gallons of sludge. Their children lose sleep worrying that the sludge dams will break, releasing the sludge down upon them. It happened 40 years ago at Buffalo Creek, W.Va., killing 125 people, and it could happen again today.
It’s a horrible way to live. And yet, as it does in many other impoverished quarters of America, the news too often avoids covering Appalachia as if it were a no man’s land.
When a 3-year-old Virginia boy was crushed to death in his crib after a half-ton boulder was accidentally (and illegally) dislodged by a mining company, it barely made the national news. Many people around here believe the omission reflected that the child lived in a trailer home in the heart of coal country.
In 2000, 306 million gallons of sludge — 30 times more than the volume of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez — buried parts of Martin County, Ky., as deep as 5 feet. Yet hardly anyone outside the region remembers the disaster, if they ever heard about it.
More recently, my friend Judy’s grandson was playing in a creek when he was suddenly surrounded by dozens of dead fish. Tests later proved that a coal company was releasing polyacrylamide — a cancer-causing agent used to prepare coal for burning — into the creek. When Judy complained to the state, no one replied. She recently died of brain cancer.
I’ve heard dozens of stories like these, but they rarely make it beyond the mountains. Is it any wonder then that Appalachian residents feel invisible?
In fact, invisible is how we’ve been taught to think of ourselves since coal was first discovered here. When I was little, teachers would stand over my desk and tell me that I had to change my accent if I wanted to get ahead in the world. Never mind that I had nearly perfect grammar and spelling.
We were also told the success of the mines mattered above all else, that if we complained about the dust, noise and disrespect pumped out by the mine in our community, people would lose jobs.
The coal companies, the news media and even our own government have all been complicit in valuing Appalachian lives less than those of other Americans. Otherwise, it might be harder for them to get that coal out as quickly and inexpensively as they do.
Those of us who protest mountaintop removal do it for the environment, but we’re also fighting to prove we are not unwarranted burdens. Our water and air are being poisoned, but the most dangerous toxin is the message that people don’t matter.
As a child I once stood on a cedar-pocked ridge with my father, looking down on a strip mine near the place that had been our family cemetery. My great-aunt’s grave had been “accidentally” buried under about 50 feet of unwanted topsoil and low-grade coal; “overburden,” the industry calls it. My father took a long, deep breath. I feel that I’ve been holding it ever since.
Silas House is the author of the novel “Eli the Good” and a co-author of “Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal.”
Sunday, 13 February 2011
(I'm standin' at the crossroad and I believe I'm sinkin' down.)
Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.
Read it and weep.
Ontario Halts Approval of Offshore Wind Energy Projects Pending Review, February 11 2011, and Ontario scraps offshore wind power plans on the 12th.
In the picture you can see the cash drawer from the Martin Inn, the Ocean Falls Hotel, screwed to the wall and with a few keepsakes, and the very last bottle of Isle of Jura single malt.
Sometime in the 90's the distillery was sold to someone, or some 'thing' more likely, some corporation, and when I went to buy another bottle I noticed that the label had changed - and the whisky had changed too - to shite. Only useful as a rule-of-thumb now; good to sort out know-nothing pretentious twits without their catching on.
My son and I played hundreds of games of crib to see who was going to buy that last bottle; and when it was empty I kept it. You can see a tiny bit of something left in there if you look carefully - but it's not Jura. I broke a bottle of some other scotch later on one day, in a bag, and all I could do was pour what I could into the only empty bottle I could find - which was that one. But there's no more Jura. MacAllan's is ok, barely - I'm having one now - but it doesn't hold a candle to Jura - before the greed-heads trashed it.
That's another good thing that came to me because of the gout. Even a small amount of blended whisky brings it on; single malt doesn't, even in (modest) quantity. Who could afford to be a single malt alcoholic? No, that's not it. I could have afforded it - single malt just doesn't take me that way at all.
There's a chip of Tyndall Stone from Doug Cardinal's 'Museum of Man' on the shelf there; a Peterborough Ontario cab driver's licence, a Fire Chief's badge, the end of a sperm whale's tooth; Quetzalcoatl on a belt buckle I had from a guy who came from Tuskaloosa Alabama via Vietnam and Mexico; my grandfather's meerschaum cigar-pipe with prancing horses carved on the back of it (in it's case) ... an abalone shell with still a bit of pink in it.
I was musing on perspective a few weeks ago. And then thinking about physical networks last week. This week I have been trying to get those networks into perspective. Wondering why they don't work? Rotten nodes get in there somehow I guess, the Bill McKibbens and Amy Goldmans with their egos and their brand names foremost; people get old, Noam Chomsky & David Suzuki; people get lost and fall away. Is that it?
I read Tsitsi Dangarembga's two novels recently: Nervous conditions from 1989, and The book of not from 2006. She seems to get lost. Seems to give up, get older; seems to disappear off the radar. Can't say really; maybe it's having a beautiful homeland like Zimbabwe; watching it get raped and ruined before your eyes.
Take two giant-steps back from the network of agape and it just vanishes altogether. Oh sure, the metaphor's still there; 1'armée des étoiles jetées dans le ciel. The stars are still in the sky, they certainly are and they are so beautiful, but they are no more than stars.
Omar Figueroa Turcios ... he's got blogs up the yin-yang: here, here, here, here, and here; wins prizes ... seems to have migrated to Facebook (?) I can't quite tell, won't go there.
I found an image of his last week. Born in 1968, in his 40's already, imagine!
The word this week is pé de cana. Hearkening back to 'feet of clay' a few weeks ago.
When I was clearing brush up in Ocean Falls we would head out in the morning by boat. The boat had a hi-fi tapedeck and for several weeks it was wazizname ... Eric Clapton, the guitar player, with some album that didn't wear very well. I don't want to try hard enough to remember any specific tune - but it is coming back anyway ... Layla, but not the Derek and the Dominoes kind ... some acoustic shit, day after day; I got to hate Eric Clapton.
Back in the day there was another tune that fits in here somehow - Cream's cover of Crossroads ... 'save me if you please'.
No more than stars, and ... no more than pink?
Everyone knows what the eight-ball is; and everyone knows what pink is ... eh? I'm not gonna say it - because there is so much little-boys-in-short-pants sniggering that goes on (among both men and women) and it irks me.
Pink's the stuff that makes humanity.
A-and a perfect example of what a physical network looks like too eh?
... I'm sorry, I can't even try anymore to get to the point of all this. "We asked for signs, the signs were sent, the birth betrayed the marriage spent," laments our own Leonard Cohen. ... I'm sorry. I'm about done here.
Read it and weep dear reader, be well.
Hena Akhter was whipped to death - she didn't die right away, that came some days after the whipping. I only found the story because I was looking for pink ... as I was idly musing about the subtleties of fuschia, vermillion, magenta ... and then I went to see what could be in Aklima's gaze?
And I had decided at first not to post pictures of John Laforet, one of the severely retarded knuckleheads behind Ontario's abandonment of wind power. But the colossal complacency evidenced in the first photograph I saw of him (right), and wondering about the decision of someone at The Star to publish it, and his quoted remarks (?) ... so I thought, well, if I am curious then maybe other people are curious too - what does a 'mover & shaker' in this realm look like?
The guy makes Dumb & Dumber look like rocket scientist Mensa candidates. Just consider this: "John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, called the move 'excellent' but said the Liberals don’t care about the environment. 'If they cared for it they wouldn’t be allowing on land projects either,' Laforet said, adding he’s watched wind projects go up after forests have been blasted down."
Paul Krugman is wringing his hands this morning in the NYT, he says, "How can voters be so ill informed? In their defense, bear in mind that they have jobs, children to raise, parents to take care of. They don’t have the time or the incentive to study the federal budget, let alone state budgets (which are by and large incomprehensible). So they rely on what they hear from seemingly authoritative figures."
I think he lets them off easy.
The OED tells us that a fugue is "A polyphonic composition constructed on one or more short subjects or themes, which are harmonized according to the laws of counterpoint, and introduced from time to time with various contrapuntal devices."
Then, a little farther down, it gives up "A fugue is a combination of amnesia and physical fright. The individual flees from his customary surroundings; what he is really trying to escape is his own fear."
That's more like it.
1. Ontario Halts Approval of Offshore Wind Energy Projects Pending Review, Ehren Goossens, February 11 2011.
2. Ontario scraps offshore wind power plans, Tanya Talaga, February 12 2011.
3. Another case filed, bdnews24, February 11 2011.
4. Eat The Future, Paul Krugman, February 13 2011.
Ontario Halts Approval of Offshore Wind Energy Projects Pending Review, Ehren Goossens, February 11 2011.
Ontario’s government said it suspended approval of offshore wind-power projects, citing concern that more research is needed on their effect on the environment.
The Canadian province has also stopped accepting applications for its renewable energy subsidy program, its government said today in a statement.
Ontario said there is only one offshore wind project in a freshwater lake in operation in the world, in Sweden, and that it would not approve any projects in Canadian lakes until more research is conducted.
By 2018, Ontario plans to add 10.7 gigawatts of renewable energy under its Long Term Energy Plan while eliminating coal- fired power generation by 2014.
Ontario scraps offshore wind power plans, Tanya Talaga, February 12 2011.
The provincial government has suddenly abandoned any plans to construct offshore wind projects.
Citing environmental concerns, the Liberals made the surprising announcement Friday that they have placed a moratorium on building wind power projects in freshwater lakes.
While there are currently no offshore wind projects anywhere in Ontario, the issue has been a political problem for the Liberals as the October election inches closer and seats in rural areas are up for grabs. Anti-wind activists living along the Scarborough Bluffs also vigorously oppose any plans to construct offshore wind farms in Lake Ontario.
Activist voices have dogged Premier Dalton McGuinty when he travels to rural communities where wind turbine projects have been installed or are planned.
They say the low-frequency noise from the turbines causes health problems such as nose bleeds and headaches.
The premier has argued the push for wind is needed as Ontario phases out coal-fired plants and the push is made toward a green energy economy.
A Liberal insider confided that officials scrambled to announce the climbdown shortly after noon Friday when they realized it would be buried by the news from Egypt.
On Saturday, a senior adviser to McGuinty, said the timing of the announcement was determined earlier and had nothing to do with events overseas.
“You can take a shot at us for announcing it on a Friday, but the Egypt stuff is ... just false,” said the high-ranking official.
But Energy Minister Brad Duguid denied the move was politically motivated. He said it was done for environmental reasons.
“There isn’t a lot of science on freshwater offshore wind while there is tons of science on land wind farms,” Duguid told the Star.
Building offshore wind turbine projects in freshwater lakes is early in development and there are no projects in North America, he added.
There is one pilot project in Sweden at Lake Vanern and another has been proposed in Ohio.
“We need some time to review the science and we don’t have it today,” he said.
The Liberals will not back down on their land-based wind turbine projects, he added. “We have shown a lot of leadership on the energy file and we haven’t backed away one bit from tough decisions,” he said. “Our generation has to think of our responsibility here … to get out of coal, get cleaner air and provide a healthier future for our kids.”
Anti-wind activists called the reversal a victory.
John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, called the move “excellent” but said the Liberals don’t care about the environment.
“If they cared for it they wouldn’t be allowing on land projects either,” Laforet said, adding he’s watched wind projects go up after forests have been blasted down.
“I think what they have realized is they have unleashed hell on themselves before an election and we aren’t going away,” he said. “One side of me feels vindicated in being a volunteer in this role … but at the same time I don’t believe for a second these guys care for the environment.”
Opposition critics called the announcement a spectacular policy backtrack.
The entire green energy act was founded on political science, not actual science, said Progressive Conservative energy critic John Yakabuski.
“This is a complete admission that these guys have a failed energy policy and never went through the proper planning in the first place,” said Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke).
“Everything these people do is based on whether or not it will get them votes.”
Pausing wind turbine projects proves the government is making a laughingstock of itself, said NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth).
“It’s entirely possible this is a decision based entirely on saving a few seats,” Tabuns said.
“They flip-flopped on the Oakville gas plant and now there’s another big reversal from Brad Duguid,” Tabuns added of the energy minister, who cancelled plans to build the natural gas-powered electricity plant last October saying it was no longer needed. “They’re turning their backs on everything they’ve said.”
Offshore projects are merely a fraction of the government’s renewable energy plan, Duguid added.
So far, 1,530 feed-in-tariff applications for mostly wind and solar projects have been received by the government to date but less than five were for offshore wind projects, he said.
And only one offshore contract in Kingston with Windstream has been accepted out of the almost 1,300 approved contracts, Duguid said.
“That one project contract won’t be cancelled, it’ll be extended until the science is done,” Duguid said.
Jeff Garrah, CEO of the Kingston Economic Development Corporation, said he was “shocked and horrified” to find out that the offshore project in his area was suddenly on hold.
“We’ve worked with various offshore supporters for about a year,” he said, adding the overall loss is about 1,900 jobs in five years.
“This sends a distorted message to outside investors in Ontario when a company is offered a contract, Windstream, and the province reneges on it.”
Gideon Forman, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said the move is a bit of a setback but not a fatal blow for wind power.
“We don’t think it’ll fundamentally change anything,” he said. “We knew there was a five-kilometre setback with offshore projects but we didn’t think they’d scrap the whole thing. This seemed to come out of nowhere.”
What is important is the continued Liberal commitment to onshore wind projects and the phaseout of coal-fired plants, he added.
“The key thing for protecting human health for us is phasing out coal,” he said.
Another case filed, bdnews24, February 11 2011.
Shariatpur, Feb 11 (bdnews24.com)—Another case has been filed with the Naria Police Station here in connection with the Jan 31 death of fatwa (edict) victim Hena Akhter.
Eighteen people were made accused in the case filed on Friday evening by Aklima Akhter, the mother of the 14-year-old girl who died seven days after being administered 100 lashes on her 'endorsed' at a makeshift arbitration at Chamta village in Naria Upazila.
The victim was charged with having an illicit relationship with her married cousin Mahbub Hossain.
Naria police sub-inspector A K Azad told bdnews24.com that the case was filed in line with Thursday's High Court order. The accused in both the cases are the same people, he added. Hena's father, Darbesh Khan, filed the first case on Feb 1.
Police have so far arrested six people, including prime accused Mahbub Hossain and one of the arbitrators and local union council member Idris Ali Sheikh. Mahbub was arrested at Hemayetpur in Savar, Dhaka on Wednesday and taken on a 5-day police remand the following day. Idris was attested from the High Court (HC) premises on Thursday after he had appeared before a HC bench following a court order. The same bench asked the police to file another case in connection with the killing.
Police presented Idris before a local court and appealed for his seven-day remand, but the court fixed Saturday for hearing. He was sent to jail. The four others were arrested on Feb 2.
Eat The Future, Paul Krugman, February 13 2011.
On Friday, House Republicans unveiled their proposal for immediate cuts in federal spending. Uncharacteristically, they failed to accompany the release with a catchy slogan. So I’d like to propose one: Eat the Future.
I’ll explain in a minute. First, let’s talk about the dilemma the G.O.P. faces.
Republican leaders like to claim that the midterms gave them a mandate for sharp cuts in government spending. Some of us believe that the elections were less about spending than they were about persistent high unemployment, but whatever. The key point to understand is that while many voters say that they want lower spending, press the issue a bit further and it turns out that they only want to cut spending on other people.
That’s the lesson from a new survey by the Pew Research Center, in which Americans were asked whether they favored higher or lower spending in a variety of areas. It turns out that they want more, not less, spending on most things, including education and Medicare. They’re evenly divided about spending on aid to the unemployed and — surprise — defense.
The only thing they clearly want to cut is foreign aid, which most Americans believe, wrongly, accounts for a large share of the federal budget.
Pew also asked people how they would like to see states close their budget deficits. Do they favor cuts in either education or health care, the main expenses states face? No. Do they favor tax increases? No. The only deficit-reduction measure with significant support was cuts in public-employee pensions — and even there the public was evenly divided.
The moral is clear. Republicans don’t have a mandate to cut spending; they have a mandate to repeal the laws of arithmetic.
How can voters be so ill informed? In their defense, bear in mind that they have jobs, children to raise, parents to take care of. They don’t have the time or the incentive to study the federal budget, let alone state budgets (which are by and large incomprehensible). So they rely on what they hear from seemingly authoritative figures.
And what they’ve been hearing ever since Ronald Reagan is that their hard-earned dollars are going to waste, paying for vast armies of useless bureaucrats (payroll is only 5 percent of federal spending) and welfare queens driving Cadillacs. How can we expect voters to appreciate fiscal reality when politicians consistently misrepresent that reality?
Which brings me back to the Republican dilemma. The new House majority promised to deliver $100 billion in spending cuts — and its members face the prospect of Tea Party primary challenges if they fail to deliver big cuts. Yet the public opposes cuts in programs it likes — and it likes almost everything. What’s a politician to do?
The answer, once you think about it, is obvious: sacrifice the future. Focus the cuts on programs whose benefits aren’t immediate; basically, eat America’s seed corn. There will be a huge price to pay, eventually — but for now, you can keep the base happy.
If you didn’t understand that logic, you might be puzzled by many items in the House G.O.P. proposal. Why cut a billion dollars from a highly successful program that provides supplemental nutrition to pregnant mothers, infants, and young children? Why cut $648 million from nuclear nonproliferation activities? (One terrorist nuke, assembled from stray ex-Soviet fissile material, can ruin your whole day.) Why cut $578 million from the I.R.S. enforcement budget? (Letting tax cheats run wild doesn’t exactly serve the cause of deficit reduction.)
Once you understand the imperatives Republicans face, however, it all makes sense. By slashing future-oriented programs, they can deliver the instant spending cuts Tea Partiers demand, without imposing too much immediate pain on voters. And as for the future costs — a population damaged by childhood malnutrition, an increased chance of terrorist attacks, a revenue system undermined by widespread tax evasion — well, tomorrow is another day.
In a better world, politicians would talk to voters as if they were adults. They would explain that discretionary spending has little to do with the long-run imbalance between spending and revenues. They would then explain that solving that long-run problem requires two main things: reining in health-care costs and, realistically, increasing taxes to pay for the programs that Americans really want.
But Republican leaders can’t do that, of course: they refuse to admit that taxes ever need to rise, and they spent much of the last two years screaming “death panels!” in response to even the most modest, sensible efforts to ensure that Medicare dollars are well spent.
And so they had to produce something like Friday’s proposal, a plan that would save remarkably little money but would do a remarkably large amount of harm.