Monday, 28 November 2011

It's COP(out)17 in Durban y'unnerstan.

Now playing on a continent near you.
Up, Down, Appendix, Oh, what the hell.

Here, a link to the main UNFCCC (UNFUCT) site and directly to webcasts, and to CAN International.

"You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!"

(Hypocrite reader,—my likeness/double/doppelgänger,—my brother!)
COP17 logo.COP17 logo.
This poem of Eliot's, The Waste Land, is all over the place on the Internet and you can find it easily - you might think that someone would have gotten it right by now, but they haven't. This one here is not too bad, if you can ignore the ads.

Best is really to get a copy of the book itself. There are some cheap ones at Abe's. I have a little Faber & Faber hardcover from the 60's which is good because in those days they used black ink and legible type.

And then, some are put off by his ostentatious erudition. I was (but he was an American remember). So I carried it around with me for weeks - and then one day, sitting in the MUN coffee-shop, I just read it. One gulp; and nothing has ever been the same since.

Girl in La Chureca dump, Managua, Nicaragua.A girl in La Chureca dump, Managua, Nicaragua, photographed by Gunnar Salvarsson (from Iceland).

Occupy Toronto livestream, Shangar from Iceland.Anonymous bureaucrat momentarily alone in  St. James' park.An anonymous bureaucrat caught without his surrounding committee in St. James' park on the 15th.

Shangar (also from Iceland he told me) operating the Occupy Toronto livestream camera on the 21st.

(Is that it? Iceland?)

I took the little book of Eliot's poetry to bed last night to see if the spell could be invoked for a second time.


The coup de grâce came as I read the 'notes' and realized: 1) that (to himself at least) some of it is no more than pretentious second- and third-hand clap-trap around 'vegetation ceremonies'; and, 2) that I never did understand it at all at all at all, beyond maybe appreciating a certain sonority and a few easy epigrams.

And yet ... here we are.

No mistake that Ash Wednesday follows on immediately in my edition; running as it does from "Because I do not hope," to "... let my cry come unto Thee."   
(With a capital 'T' on 'thee'.)


During Copenhagen in 2009 someone organized a candle light vigil in front of Queen's Park. I was able to help; and felt, briefly, like a part of something so I have remembered it.

I kept a candle burning on my desk during Cancún last year.

I guess that will be it this year as well. OK.

"These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
       Shantih shantih shantih

As they all sang, 'Nearer my God to Thee.'A-and maybe a round of Good Night Irene,   
(sometimes I lives in the country sometimes I lives in town, sometimes I take a great notion jump in the river and drown).

Be well.      (Iceland -?- Hmmm ...)

Oh, what the hell ...

Rodrigo Chaves - Midia.
(From Contratempos Modernos.)

I didn't know what was happening in the world.

So I went to the big media and found the indisputable truth.


Then the Internet showed me the alternative media, with a ton of missing information, contradictory and unverifiable.


Now I carry on without the least idea of what is going on in the world.

Comics for the 10's   
(From Malvados.)
André Dahmer.André Dahmer.Step into the system son. It'll fill your ass with money.
I feel something in my ass but it's not money ...
Another one who works for fun.

(From humor do Seri.)

To me it says, "Determinação! Resolução!"

The spirit of the age.

Aislin.And a few standard pit-run ...

I am not sure that Terry Mosher is on about the Keystone pipeline, but he could be.

I was in a room with a few dozen so-called environmental activists, and I said to one of them, "Do you think anyone in this room doubts that the Keystone pipeline will be built?" And she said, "No, of course it's going to be built." So I said, "Well waddabout Graham Saul over there then? I had his latest newsletter touting McKibben's idiot 'WE WON! WE WON!'"

Doh!     So this cartoon seems like an answer to that quandary.

Dan Wasserman.Glenn McCoy.And then there's the Supercommittee jim-jamboree: Barnum & Bailey, Cirque du Soleil, the whole three-ring menagerie! The whole shebang!

The whole fuckin' shitteree.

This is how it goes these days: some tiny thing grinds momentarily in the mental wheels (or just squeaks on one of the stripped gears) and I am stopped; try to scribble down enough to establish coordinates for some future 'real' analysis ... and watch it slip over & off the horizon ... Oh well.

Found this in the Sunday New York Times: But Nobody Pays That: A Family’s Billions, Artfully Sheltered; and got stuck on an ambiguity in a sentence in the 9th paragraph, "... to create a tax shelter to avoid as much as $10 million in federal income tax for years." Couldn't be sure if it was the same as the "... has qualified for deductions worth tens of millions of dollars in federal income taxes over the years," in paragraph 3. So, is it 10 million a year? Is it 10 million over some unspecified period?

And I had just been reading one of the parts of Chris Hedges' Death of the Liberal Class in which he excoriates the New York Times ... so the antennae were up.

Silly eh?

Estée Lauder.Ronald S. Lauder.Ronald S. Lauder & Angela Merkel.Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907.Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912.Adele Bloch-Bauer.Maria Altmann, Adele's neice.Maria Altmann, Adele's neice.Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posy (so to speak).

So then, is the New York Times really biting the hand that feeds it? And on the Front Page and all? Or is this some subtle kind of misinformation? Is the Jewish/Israel card played a little too obviously? What?

I can't quite make it out ... But I find myself musing around Gustav Klimpt and his women; and a line from Leonard Cohen: "The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor." It could just as well be the old with channels in the bedrooms of the young; Abishag the Shunammite and all - would things have turned out differently if the king had used Viagra I wonder; whatever.

O cara vive falando bobagem. Ele é um boca azeda PELAMORDEDEUS!


A Family’s Billions, Artfully Sheltered, David Kocieniewski, 26-11-11.

As he stood in the opulent marble foyer of a Fifth Avenue mansion late last month, greeting the coterie of prominent guests arriving at his private art gallery, Ronald S. Lauder was doing more than just being a gracious host.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Neue Galerie, Mr. Lauder’s museum of Austrian and German art, he exhibited many of the treasures of a personal collection valued at more than $1 billion, including works by Van Gogh, Cézanne and Matisse, and a Klimt portrait he bought five years ago for $135 million.

Yet for Mr. Lauder, an heir to the Estée Lauder fortune whose net worth is estimated at more than $3.1 billion, the evening went beyond social and cultural significance. As is often the case with his activities, just beneath the surface was a shrewd use of the United States tax code. By donating his art to his private foundation, Mr. Lauder has qualified for deductions worth tens of millions of dollars in federal income taxes over the years, savings that help defray the hundreds of millions he has spent creating one of New York City’s cultural gems.

The charitable deductions generated by Mr. Lauder — whose donations have aided causes as varied as hospitals and efforts to rebuild Jewish identity in Eastern Europe — are just one facet of a sophisticated tax strategy used to preserve a fortune that Forbes magazine says makes him the world’s 362nd wealthiest person. From offshore havens to a tax-sheltering stock deal so audacious that Congress later enacted a law forbidding the tactic, Mr. Lauder has for decades aggressively taken advantage of tax breaks that are useful only for the most affluent.

The debate over whether to reduce tax shelters and preferences for the rich is one of the most volatile in Washington and will move to the presidential campaign, now that repeated attempts in Congress to strike a grand bargain over spending cuts and an overhaul of the tax code have failed.

A handful of billionaires like Warren E. Buffett and Bill Gates have joined Democrats in calling for an elimination of the breaks, saying that the current system adds to the budget deficit, contributes to the widening income gap between the richest and the rest of society, and shifts the tax burden onto small businesses and the middle class. Republicans have resisted, saying the tax increases on the wealthy would harm the economy and cost jobs.

An examination of public documents involving Mr. Lauder’s companies, investments and charities offers a glimpse of the wide array of legal options for the world’s wealthiest citizens to avoid taxes both at home and abroad.

His vast holdings — which include hundreds of millions in stock, one of the world’s largest private collections of medieval armor, homes in Washington, D.C., and on Park Avenue as well as oceanfront mansions in Palm Beach and the Hamptons — are organized in a labyrinth of trusts, limited liability corporations and holding companies, some of which his lawyers acknowledge are intended for tax purposes. The cable television network he built in Central Europe, CME Enterprises, maintains an official headquarters in the tax haven of Bermuda, where it does not operate any stations.

And earlier this year, Mr. Lauder used his stake in the family business, Estée Lauder Companies, to create a tax shelter to avoid as much as $10 million in federal income tax for years. In June, regulatory filings show, Mr. Lauder entered into a sophisticated contract to sell $72 million of stock to an investment bank in 2014 at a price of about 75 percent of its current value in exchange for cash now. The transaction, known as a variable prepaid forward, minimizes potential losses for shareholders and gives them access to cash. But because the I.R.S. does not classify this as a sale, it allows investors like Mr. Lauder to defer paying taxes for years.

It was a common tax reduction strategy for chief executives and wealthy shareholders a decade ago, but in 2006 the I.R.S. said it appeared to be an abusive tax shelter and issued tighter restrictions to regulate the practice. That ruling was enough to persuade most wealthy taxpayers to abandon the technique, according to tax lawyers and records at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Advisers to Mr. Lauder maintain that his deal “was made in compliance with published I.R.S. guidance on these types of transactions and was fully reported as required by S.E.C. rules,” said his spokesman, Gary Lewi.

In theory, Mr. Lauder is scheduled to pay taxes on the $72 million when the shares are actually delivered in 2014. But tax experts say wealthy taxpayers can use other accounting techniques to further defer their payment.

The tax burden on the nation’s superelite has steadily declined in recent decades, according to a sliver of data released annually by the I.R.S. The effective federal income tax rate for the 400 wealthiest taxpayers, representing the top 0.000258 percent, fell from about 30 percent in 1995 to 18 percent in 2008, the most recent data available.

When Mr. Lauder ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for mayor of New York and released his tax return to the public, he reported paying 30 percent in total federal, state and city taxes on about $30 million in income in 1988. At the time, his net worth was estimated at nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.

Mr. Lauder’s more recent tax returns remain private, and he declined to make them available for this article.

The Family Fortune

Mr. Lauder, now 67, was born into a storied American fortune. His mother, Estée Lauder, the daughter of Eastern European immigrants, began selling homemade beauty creams at a few New York City hair salons in the 1940s and built her product line into a multibillion-dollar global empire.

As the son of a fabulously wealthy fashion icon, Mr. Lauder developed aristocratic tastes — and grand aspirations — at an early age. He summered in Vienna as a boy, developing a passion for Austrian art and medieval armor. At age 13, he bought his first Schiele with money from his bar mitzvah. Mr. Lauder grew so enthralled by politics as a young man that he told friends he dreamed of becoming the first Jewish president of the United States.

After studying in Brussels and Paris and at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he joined the family business in 1964 and served in a variety of limited roles. While his older brother Leonard rose to become Estée Lauder’s chief executive, Ronald engaged in a variety of pursuits: becoming a major Republican fund-raiser; serving a rocky tenure as ambassador to Austria; running for mayor, an unsuccessful bid in which he spent $363 for each vote he received; and starting an assortment of business ventures in Eastern Europe, one of which went bankrupt during the technology bubble.

While the family’s wealth was created by hard work and ingenuity, it was bolstered by aggressive tax planning, a skill that has become Ronald Lauder’s specialty. When Mr. Lauder’s father, Joseph, died in 1983, family members fought the I.R.S. for more than a decade to reduce their estate tax. The dispute involved a block of shares bequeathed to the family — the estate valued it at $29 million, while the I.R.S. placed it at $89.5 million. A panel of judges ultimately decided on $50 million, a decision that saved the estate more than $20 million in taxes.

Estée Lauder Companies went public in 1995, and Ronald Lauder and his mother cashed in hundreds of millions of dollars in stock but managed to sidestep paying tens of millions in federal capital gains taxes by using a hedging technique known as shorting against the box.

Together, Mr. Lauder and his mother borrowed 13.8 million shares of company stock from relatives and sold them to the public during the offering at $26 a share. Selling borrowed shares in this way is referred to as a short position. Since the Lauders retained their own shares, the maneuver allowed them to have a neutral position in the stock, not subject to price swings. Under I.R.S. rules at the time, they avoided paying as much as $95 million in capital gains taxes that might otherwise have been due had they sold their own shares.

Such transactions allowed investors to cash in their shareholdings without paying taxes. But the Lauders’ use of the technique was so aggressive that Congress enacted a law afterward that limited the length of the tax deferral. And the Lauders eventually paid tens of millions in stock from the transaction.

Still, the family’s tax planning was effective enough that after Estée Lauder died in 2004, she passed down nearly $4 billion to her heirs, according to tax experts who studied the case and estimated that the estate was taxed at an effective rate of 16 percent — about a third of the top estate tax rate at the time.

Ronald Lauder has not been a director of the company since 2009, but he still serves as the president of its Clinique Laboratories subdivision. He also sublets a full floor of office space from Estée Lauder, on the 42nd story of the General Motors Building in Manhattan, which serves as the hub for the matrix of foundations, investment funds, partnerships and trusts used to control his businesses and personal finances.

His stake in Estée Lauder Companies, according to regulatory filings, is valued at more than $600 million. Nearly $400 million of that stock is pledged to secure various lines of credit. Many financial planners consider it imprudent for principal shareholders in a company to borrow against their stock. But it remains a popular way for wealthy taxpayers to get cash out of their holdings without selling and paying taxes.

There is a certain irony that Mr. Lauder has used $72 million worth of his Estée Lauder shares to carry out his latest state-of-the-art tax reduction tactic. These contracts emerged as a popular tool about a decade ago and were developed by accountants and tax planners after Congress closed down the loophole on the Estée Lauder public offering. The I.R.S. began cracking down on these contracts in 2008, and has pursued a prominent case against the billionaire Philip Anschutz, who used one to avoid more than $140 million in federal taxes.

Whether or not the I.R.S. agrees with Mr. Lauder’s contention that his contract is legitimate, some tax policy experts say the deal illustrates how the wealthy take advantage of the system.

“There’s real truth to the idea that the tax code for the 1 percent is different from the tax code for the 99 percent,” said Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of Colorado. “Any taxpayer lucky enough to have appreciated property is usually put to a choice: cash out and pay some tax, or hold the property and risk the vagaries of the market. Only the truly rich can use derivatives to get the best of both worlds — lots of cash and very little risk.”

While Mr. Lauder’s stock holdings in publicly traded companies show some of his tactics, much of his wealth is harder to examine because it is controlled by a maze of privately held trusts and companies. Court documents, S.E.C. filings and property tax records spotlight a few of the more ordinary tax breaks used by affluent people.

Significant portions of his inherited stock are held in family trusts, which reduce the ultimate estate tax. Mr. Lauder and his wife have also established their own family trusts, allowing them to bequeath their wealth to their heirs with minimal taxes.

Other trusts and partnerships control his real estate properties in Palm Beach and the Hamptons and at 740 Park Avenue, a building that was once home to John D. Rockefeller, and is known as one of the world’s wealthiest apartment buildings.

United States tax law allows taxpayers to deduct mortgage interest on one’s homes up to $1.1 million in debt. Households with more than $1 million in income claimed more than $27 billion in such deductions from 2006 to ’09, according to a report this month by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who said some wealthy taxpayers even deducted mortgage interest on their yachts.

And there is no limit on the amount of property taxes that can be deducted from federal income. So Mr. Lauder is entitled to deduct the $400,000 he pays annually on his Palm Beach mansion as well as what he pays on his home on Park Avenue and his holdings in the Hamptons.

“This welfare for the well-off — costing billions of dollars a year — is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate, many who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and i.o.u.’s to be paid off by future generations,” said Senator Coburn, a Republican, who has called for limits on tax breaks for high earners.

Mr. Lauder deducts property taxes on all of his holdings, his spokesman said. Mr. Lauder declined to say how much that reduced his federal taxes, but said he did not receive tax benefits in some years because of the alternative minimum tax and other limits.

Charity and Tax Breaks

A week before the opening at the Neue Galerie last month, Mr. Lauder appeared at another gala, 40 blocks south, at the New York Public Library, to receive the Carnegie Foundation’s Medal of Philanthropy.

The program honored people who have given profusely to charities, including Mr. Lauder’s brother Leonard and his wife, Evelyn (who died Nov. 12), whose causes include the Whitney Museum and the pink ribbon campaign for breast cancer awareness.

Ronald Lauder and his wife, Jo Carole, were honored for a variety of contributions: the work of their joint foundation supporting hospitals, rebuilding monuments and refurbishing American embassies around the world — more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the last five years, according to his spokesman.

The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation has donated tens of millions of dollars to rebuild Jewish communities devastated by the Holocaust and communist rule. Mr. Lauder has also given to a variety of Jewish and Israeli organizations, including the World Jewish Congress, where he has served as president since 2007. Richard Parsons, the former Time Warner chairman, presented the award, calling Mr. Lauder and his wife two of “the nation’s pre-eminent supporters of the arts and civic causes.”

Mr. Lauder said his life was changed 25 years ago when he visited a kindergarten in Austria and met a classroom full of Jewish children who were refugees from Russia. Still, he said he found it odd to be referred to as a philanthropist.

“I did what I wanted to do,” he said. “What I thought was right.”

A Passion for Art

In the United States, Mr. Lauder has focused on what he calls his greatest passion — art.

In 1976, at age 32, his generous donations helped him become the youngest trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He later served as chairman of the Museum of Modern Art and remains an honorary chairman. He has donated and lent artwork to an assortment of museums. Part of his collection of lavishly decorated ceremonial armor is on display at the Met, in a gallery named for him.

As all art collectors may, Mr. Lauder is entitled to deduct the full market value of artworks donated to museums. (For years, Mr. Lauder availed himself of a quirk in the tax code that allowed donors to take a deduction for donating a portion of an artwork, without actually turning over the art. That break, known as fractional donation, was eliminated in 2006.) The tax code also allows artwork in offices to be deducted as a business expense.

Unlike some wealthy collectors who are criticized for using tax breaks to underwrite private collections that offer little access to the public, Mr. Lauder is widely praised for making his artwork a community asset.

The Neue Galerie, created by Mr. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky, who died in 1996, in a mansion once owned by Cornelia Vanderbilt, offers public viewing of an exquisite collection, worth more than $200 million even before Mr. Lauder added dozens of pieces for its 10th anniversary.

Sheldon Cohen, a former I.R.S. commissioner, said that when used as intended, the tax code’s breaks for art collectors balance private interests with the public good.

“If an art collector makes significant contributions, and the public actually gets access to the works they are donating, then the major thing the collector gets is prestige and social status,” said Mr. Cohen, now a lawyer in Washington.

At times, Mr. Lauder’s efforts to enhance his art collection have coincided with tax avoidance techniques.

In 2006, three months after he agreed to pay $135 million, a record at the time, for the Klimt painting “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” Mr. Lauder sold a $190 million stake in his broadcast network CME.

When asked about the sale, Mr. Lauder’s spokesman said the proceeds were taxable in the United States at the full capital gains rate. Even then, though, CME’s complex corporate structure — it operates in Central Europe, is organized as a Netherlands holding company, keeps its headquarters in Bermuda and routed the $190 million sale through two Cayman Island companies — allowed Mr. Lauder to minimize taxes in countries outside the United States where it does business.

Some tax reform advocates say that it is unfair that the wealthiest can subsidize their lifestyles using myriad offshore maneuvers and complex accounting strategies.

“It’s admirable when people back their charitable impulses up with donations,” said Scott Klinger, tax policy director of the group Business for Shared Prosperity. “But the tax code shouldn’t allow the wealthy the kind of loopholes that let them, essentially, force other taxpayers to underwrite donations to their pet causes.”


Friday, 25 November 2011

"We should all have spent the month in St. James Park."

(Post title thanks to Chris Hume in the Star, who gets most of it right.)
Up, Down, Appendices, But seriously folks.

Occupy Toronto logo, earlier & later: Consider the line work: the varying animé quality in the earlier one, and the consistency, uniformity in the later one. And the morphing of the CN Tower from a symmetrical phallic spike to a sort of star-wars legionnaire looking (blankly) out.

Occupy Toronto logo, later.Occupy Toronto logo, earlier."At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is 'not done' to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was 'not done' to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals."
(From The Freedom of the Press, George Orwell/Eric Blair, 1945.)

It was not a month as Hume says; it was about forty days and forty nights. And forty is a number with strong liminal resonance to biblical events: Noah's flood; Israel wandering in the desert; Moses on mount Sinai; Jesus' temptation; and so on. So the graphic segue from fist to prayer could take us off in a quasi-sacred direction - which would be a mistake I think.

Visionary maybe, but not sacred. I have a (silly) vision of the turnabout in police attitudes from the G20 to St. James' Park being the result of a grass-roots change in consciousness among the troops. And I have another around just what the later, prayerful, Occupy Toronto logo might imply in the way of, say, the seriousness of it all.

I know this is not clear. I do not mean it to be clear.

The Orwell excerpt above also happens to serve as a preface to Chris Hedges' 2010 book Death of the Liberal Class. Is he maybe giving himself airs? The book provides so few sources for so many statements which are, to me, misleading, exaggerated, suspect, or at least wanting corroboration ... and it is so badly proof-read, at one point he says 'leech' when I think he means 'leach' ("It would have to leech off the news pages into every aspect of the nation's cultural life ..." p69).

Or listen to this sermon (a very annoying site, and no way to link directly to the audio - scroll down a bit and you will see 'WEB EXCLUSIVES' and be able to listen to his May 2nd speech in Berkeley and a Q&A session).

Worrying in a man of such calibre ... I am sifting and will have more to say later perhaps.

Justice David Brown washes his hands:

Justice David Brown.Justice David Brown.On November 21st with a 54-page decision (?) ... How many words does it take to say so very little?

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."   
(Hamlet, III, ii).

It bears having a close look at. Scribd is annoying too, there is a feature there to download, a very annoying interface, but it can be done ...

Rats? At that address on King Street? Go and have a walk around that zone - if there were rats there I can't see how they had any connection to the occupiers, the kitchen being on the extreme other side of the site.

And where were the half-dozen old-folks I chatted with? Who told me they found it better than television, and who were certainly not feeling threatened or put-out in any degree.

The problem with anecdotal evidence is not in the anecdotes, it is in the selection - and David Brown's collection of 'facts' was definitely selective. Read it and judge for yourself if his decision was any more than a predetermined outcome dictated by his masters.

Dean Douglas Stoute washes his hands:

Douglas Stoute.On November 15th and again at more length on the 16th. Urbane, unflappable, reasonable, supportive ... equivocal.

"A man, young lady! Lady, such a man as all the world — why, he's a man o' wax!"   
(Romeo & Juliet, I, iii).

Douglas Stoute.And five days later, out the other side of his mouth, comes, "You are hereby given notice that you are prohibited from engaging in the following activities on St. James Cathedral property: 1: Installing erecting or maintaining a tent, shelter or other structure; 2: Using, entering or gathering on Cathedral property between the hours of 12:01 am and 5:30 am."

Pope Benedict.

"I said, 'You know they refused Jesus too.'
He said, 'You're not him.'"
(Bob's 115th dream).

But seriously folks:

Occupy Toronto."We should all have spent the month in St. James Park," ... but we didn't.

Occupy Toronto.He ends with, "Give it long enough; we’ll all end up in the same place." We can only hope that some of what was learned in those forty days will not have been entirely forgotten. Of course, it will all likely be no more than 'palliative' by then (my guess).

Occupy Toronto.What a tremendous opportunity missed.

Oh, I know, "Occupy Toronto is not over, it is just beginning."

Whatever ...

I was out to the Upper Library of Massey College at UofT (which is on the ground floor) to listen to Kriton Arsenis (member of the European Parliament), Nusa Urbancic (from a european NGO, 'Transport and Environment'), Keith Stewart (of Greenpeace), and Doug MacDonald (a UofT prof); talk about Canada's role in the EEC Fuel Quality Directive.

Polite, diplomatic, dignified, self-congratulatory ... jet-lagged. Not very much was said; and not very many turned out to listen, two dozen maybe. The usual suspects. There was a reception after the lecture in a sort of common room adjoining. Fire burning in the fireplace; excellent coffee and delightful sweets; obsequious Spanish-speaking sevants lurking here and there. Much of the conversation I overheard was about career prospects (good in Alberta apparently), trips to southern destinations: Machu Picchu, Australia, Durban for the upcoming ... another world, a separate realm.

Surprised to learn that the lovely nubiles at CAN (who organized it) are paid.

Be well.

1. The Freedom of the Press, George Orwell/Eric Blair, 1945.
2. Round One to Occupy Toronto, Christopher Hume, 23-11-11.

The Freedom of the Press, George Orwell/Eric Blair, 1945.


This book was first thought of, so far as the central idea goes, in 1937, but was not written down until about the end of 1943. By the time when it came to be written it was obvious that there would be great difficulty in getting it published (in spite of the present book shortage which ensures that anything describable as a book will 'sell'), and in the event it was refused by four publishers. Only one of these had any ideological motive. Two had been publishing anti-Russian books for years, and the other had no noticeable political colour. One publisher actually started by accepting the book, but after making the preliminary arrangements he decided to consult the Ministry of Information, who appear to have warned him, or at any rate strongly advised him, against publishing it. Here is an extract from his letter:
I mentioned the reaction I had had from an important official in the Ministry of Information with regard to Animal Farm. I must confess that this expression of opinion has given me seriously to think ... I can see now that it might be regarded as something which it was highly ill-advised to publish at the present time. If the fable were addressed generally to dictators and dictatorships at large then publication would be all right, but the fable does follow, as I see now, so completely the progress of the Russian Soviets and their two dictators, that it can apply only to Russia, to the exclusion of the other dictatorships. Another thing: it would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs. [It is not quite clear whether this suggested modification is Mr ... 's own idea, or originated with the Ministry of Information; but it seems to have the official ring about it - Orwell's Note] I think the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offence to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.
This kind of thing is not a good symptom. Obviously it is not desirable that a government department should have any power of censorship (except security censorship, which no one objects to in war time) over books which are not officially sponsored. But the chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of the MOI or any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.

Any fairminded person with journalistic experience will admit that during this war official censorship has not been particularly irksome. We have not been subjected to the kind of totalitarian 'co-ordination' that it might have been reasonable to expect. The press has some justified grievances, but on the whole the Government has behaved well and has been surprisingly tolerant of minority opinions. The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news - things which on their own merits would get the big headlines - being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that 'it wouldn't do' to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralized, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is 'not done' to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was 'not done' to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

At this moment what is demanded by the prevailing orthodoxy is an uncritical admiration of Soviet Russia. Every-one knows this, nearly everyone acts on it. Any serious criticism of the Soviet régime, any disclosure of facts which the Soviet government would prefer to keep hidden, is next door to unprintable. And this nation-wide conspiracy to flatter our ally takes place, curiously enough, against a background of genuine intellectual tolerance. For though you are not allowed to criticize the Soviet government, at least you are reasonably free to criticize our own. Hardly anyone will print an attack on Stalin, but it is quite safe to attack Churchill, at any rate in books and periodicals. And throughout five years of war, during two or three of which we were fighting for national survival, countless books, pamphlets and articles advocating a compromise peace have been published without interference. More, they have been published without exciting much disapproval. So long as the prestige of the USSR is not involved, the principle of free speech has been reasonably well upheld. There are other forbidden topics, and I shall mention some of them presently, but the prevailing attitude towards the USSR is much the most serious symptom. It is, as it were, spontaneous, and is not due to the action of any pressure group.

The servility with which the greater part of the English intelligentsia have swallowed and repeated Russian propaganda from 1941 onwards would be quite astounding if it were not that they have behaved similarly on several earlier occasions. On one controversial issue after another the Russian viewpoint has been accepted without examination and then publicized with complete disregard to historical truth or intellectual decency. To name only one instance, the BBC celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Red Army without mentioning Trotsky. This was about as accurate as commemorating the battle of Trafalgar without mentioning Nelson, but it evoked no protest from the English intelligentsia. In the internal struggles in the various occupied countries, the British press has in almost all cases sided with the faction favoured by the Russians and libelled the opposing faction, sometimes suppressing material evidence in order to do so. A particularly glaring case was that of Colonel Mihailovich, the Jugoslav Chetnik leader. The Russians, who had their own Jugoslav protégé in Marshal Tito, accused Mihailovich of collaborating with the Germans. This accusation was promptly taken up by the British press: Mihailovich's supporters were given no chance of answering it, and facts contradicting it were simply kept out of print. In July of 1943 the Germans offered a reward of 100,000 gold crowns for the capture of Tito, and a similar reward for the capture of Mihailovich. The British press 'splashed' the reward for Tito, but only one paper mentioned (in small print) the reward for Mihailovich: and the charges of collaborating with the Germans continued. Very similar things happened during the Spanish civil war. Then, too, the factions on the Republican side which the Russians were determined to crush were recklessly libelled in the English leftwing press, and any statement in their defence even in letter form, was refused publication. At present, not only is serious criticism of the USSR considered reprehensible, but even the fact of the existence of such criticism is kept secret in some cases. For example, shortly before his death Trotsky had written a biography of Stalin. One may assume that it was not an altogether unbiased book, but obviously it was saleable. An American publisher had arranged to issue it and the book was in print - I believe the review copies had been sent out - when the USSR entered the war. The book was immediately withdrawn. Not a word about this has ever appeared in the British press, though clearly the existence of such a book, and its suppression, was a news item worth a few paragraphs.

It is important to distinguish between the kind of censorship that the English literary intelligentsia voluntarily impose upon themselves, and the censorship that can sometimes be enforced by pressure groups. Notoriously, certain topics cannot be discussed because of 'vested interests'. The best-known case is the patent medicine racket. Again, the Catholic Church has considerable influence in the press and can silence criticism of itself to some extent. A scandal involving a Catholic priest is almost never given publicity, whereas an Anglican priest who gets into trouble (e.g. the Rector of Stiffkey) is headline news. It is very rare for anything of an anti-Catholic tendency to appear on the stage or in a film. Any actor can tell you that a play or film which attacks or makes fun of the Catholic Church is liable to be boycotted in the press and will probably be a failure. But this kind of thing is harmless, or at least it is understandable. Any large organization will look after its own interests as best it can, and overt propaganda is not a thing to object to. One would no more expect the Daily Worker to publicize unfavourable facts about the USSR than one would expect the Catholic Herald to denounce the Pope. But then every thinking person knows the Daily Worker and the Catholic Herald for what they are. What is disquieting is that where the USSR and its policies are concerned one cannot expect intelligent criticism or even, in many cases, plain honesty from Liberal writers and journalists who are under no direct pressure to falsify their opinions. Stalin is sacrosanct and certain aspects of his policy must not be seriously discussed. This rule has been almost universally observed since 1941, but it had operated, to a greater extent than is sometimes realized, for ten years earlier than that. Throughout that time, criticism of the Soviet régime from the left could only obtain a hearing with difficulty. There was a huge output of anti-Russian literature, but nearly all of it was from the Conservative angle and manifestly dishonest, out of date and actuated by sordid motives. On the other side there was an equally huge and almost equally dishonest stream of pro-Russian propaganda, and what amounted to a boycott on anyone who tried to discuss all-important questions in a grown-up manner. You could, indeed, publish anti-Russian books, but to do so was to make sure of being ignored or misrepresented by nearly the whole of the highbrow press. Both publicly and privately you were warned that it was 'not done'. What you said might possibly be true, but it was 'inopportune' and 'played into the hands of' this or that reactionary interest. This attitude was usually defended on the ground that the international situation, and the urgent need for an Anglo-Russian alliance, demanded it; but it was clear that this was a rationalization. The English intelligentsia, or a great part of it, had developed a nationalistic loyalty towards the USSR, and in their hearts they felt that to cast any doubt on the wisdom of Stalin was a kind of blasphemy. Events in Russia and events elsewhere were to be judged by different standards. The endless executions in the purges of 1936-8 were applauded by life-long opponents of capital punishment, and it was considered equally proper to publicize famines when they happened in India and to conceal them when they happened in the Ukraine. And if this was true before the war, the intellectual atmosphere is certainly no better now.

But now to come back to this book of mine. The reaction towards it of most English intellectuals will be quite simple: 'It oughtn't to have been published'. Naturally, those reviewers who understand the art of denigration will not attack it on political grounds but on literary ones. They will say that it is a dull, silly book and a disgraceful waste of paper. This may well be true, but it is obviously not the whole of the story. One does not say that a book 'ought not to have been published' merely because it is a bad book. After all, acres of rubbish are printed daily and no one bothers. The English intelligentsia, or most of them, will object to this book because it traduces their Leader and (as they see it) does harm to the cause of progress. If it did the opposite they would have nothing to say against it, even if its literary faults were ten times as glaring as they are. The success of, for instance, the Left Book Club over a period of four or five years shows how willing they are to tolerate both scurrility and slipshod writing, provided that it tells them what they want to hear.

The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular - however foolish, even - entitled to a hearing? Put it in that form and nearly any English intellectual will feel that he ought to say 'Yes'. But give it a concrete shape, and ask, 'How about an attack on Stalin? Is that entitled to a hearing?', and the answer more often than not will be 'No'. In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses. Now, when one demands liberty of speech and of the press, one is not demanding absolute liberty. There always must be, or at any rate there always will be, some degree of censorship, so long as organized societies endure. But freedom, as Rosa Luxembourg said, is 'freedom for the other fellow'. The same principle is contained in the famous words of Voltaire: 'I detest what you say; I will defend to the death your right to say it'. If the intellectual liberty which without a doubt has been one of the distinguishing marks of western civilization means anything at all, it means that everyone shall have the right to say and to print what he believes to be the truth, provided only that it does not harm the rest of the community in some quite unmistakable way. Both capitalist democracy and the western versions of Socialism have till recently taken that principle for granted. Our Government, as I have already pointed out, still makes some show of respecting it. The ordinary people in the street - partly, perhaps, because they are not sufficiently interested in ideas to be intolerant about them - still vaguely hold that 'I suppose everyone's got a right to their own opinion'. It is only, or at any rate it is chiefly, the literary and scientific intelligentsia, the very people who ought to be the guardians of liberty, who are beginning to despise it, in theory as well as in practice.

One of the peculiar phenomena of our time is the renegade Liberal. Over and above the familiar Marxist claim that 'bourgeois liberty' is an illusion, there is now a widespread tendency to argue that one can only defend democracy by totalitarian methods. If one loves democracy, the argument runs, one must crush its enemies by no matter what means. And who are its enemies? It always appears that they are not only those who attack it openly and consciously, but those who 'objectively' endanger it by spreading mistaken doctrines. In other words, defending democracy involves destroying all independence of thought. This argument was used, for instance, to justify the Russian purges. The most ardent Russophile hardly believed that all of the victims were guilty of all the things they were accused of. but by holding heretical opinions they 'objectively' harmed the régime, and therefore it was quite right not only to massacre them but to discredit them by false accusations. The same argument was used to justify the quite conscious lying that went on in the leftwing press about the Trotskyists and other Republican minorities in the Spanish civil war. And it was used again as a reason for yelping against habeas corpus when Mosley was released in 1943.

These people don't see that if you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you. Make a habit of imprisoning Fascists without trial, and perhaps the process won't stop at Fascists. Soon after the suppressed Daily Worker had been reinstated, I was lecturing to a workingmen's college in South London. The audience were working-class and lower-middle class intellectuals - the same sort of audience that one used to meet at Left Book Club branches. The lecture had touched on the freedom of the press, and at the end, to my astonishment, several questioners stood up and asked me: Did I not think that the lifting of the ban on the Daily Worker was a great mistake? When asked why, they said that it was a paper of doubtful loyalty and ought not to be tolerated in war time. I found myself defending the Daily Worker, which has gone out of its way to libel me more than once. But where had these people learned this essentially totalitarian outlook? Pretty certainly they had learned it from the Communists themselves! Tolerance and decency are deeply rooted in England, but they are not indestructible, and they have to be kept alive partly by conscious effort. The result of preaching totalitarian doctrines is to weaken the instinct by means of which free peoples know what is or is not dangerous. The case of Mosley illustrates this. In 1940 it was perfectly right to intern Mosley, whether or not he had committed any technical crime. We were fighting for our lives and could not allow a possible quisling to go free. To keep him shut up, without trial, in 1943 was an outrage. The general failure to see this was a bad symptom, though it is true that the agitation against Mosley's release was partly factitious and partly a rationalization of other discontents. But how much of the present slide towards Fascist ways of thought is traceable to the 'anti-Fascism' of the past ten years and the unscrupulousness it has entailed?

It is important to realize that the current Russomania is only a symptom of the general weakening of the western liberal tradition. Had the MOI chipped in and definitely vetoed the publication of this book, the bulk of the English intelligentsia would have seen nothing disquieting in this. Uncritical loyalty to the USSR happens to be the current orthodoxy, and where the supposed interests of the USSR are involved they are willing to tolerate not only censorship but the deliberate falsification of history. To name one instance. At the death of John Reed, the author of Ten Days that Shook the World - a first-hand account of the early days of the Russian Revolution - the copyright of the book passed into the hands of the British Communist Party, to whom I believe Reed had bequeathed it. Some years later the British Communists, having destroyed the original edition of the book as completely as they could, issued a garbled version from which they had eliminated mentions of Trotsky and also omitted the introduction written by Lenin. If a radical intelligentsia had still existed in Britain, this act of forgery would have been exposed and denounced in every literary paper in the country. As it was there was little or no protest. To many English intellectuals it seemed quite a natural thing to, do. And this tolerance or [of?] plain dishonesty means much more than that admiration for Russia happens to be fashionable at this moment. Quite possibly that particular fashion will not last. For all I know, by the time this book is published my view of the Soviet régime may be the generally-accepted one. But what use would that be in itself? To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.

I am well acquainted with all the arguments against freedom of thought and speech - the arguments which claim that it cannot exist, and the arguments which claim that it ought not to. I answer simply that they don't convince me and that our civilization over a period of four hundred years has been founded on the opposite notice. For quite a decade past I have believed that the existing Russian régime is a mainly evil thing, and I claim the right to say so, in spite of the fact that we are allies with the USSR in a war which I want to see won. If I had to choose a text to justify myself, I should choose the line from Milton:
By the known rules of ancient liberty.
The word ancient emphasizes the fact that intellectual freedom is a deep-rooted tradition without which our characteristic western culture could only doubtfully exist. From that tradition many of our intellectuals are visibly turning away. They have accepted the principle that a book should be published or suppressed, praised or damned, not on its merits but according to political expediency. And others who do not actually hold this view assent to it from sheer cowardice. An example of this is the failure of the numerous and vocal English pacifists to raise their voices against the prevalent worship of Russian militarism. According to those pacifists, all violence is evil and they have urged us at every stage of the war to give in or at least to make a compromise peace. But how many of them have ever suggested that war is also evil when it is waged by the Red Army? Apparently the Russians have a right to defend themselves, whereas for us to do [so] is a deadly sin. One can only explain this contradiction in one way: that is, by a cowardly desire to keep in with the bulk of the intelligentsia, whose patriotism is directed towards the USSR rather than towards Britain. I know that the English intelligentsia have plenty of reason for their timidity and dishonesty, indeed I know by heart the arguments by which they justify themselves. But at least let us have no more nonsense about defending liberty against Fascism. If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. The common people still vaguely subscribe to that doctrine and act on it. In our country - it is not the same in all countries: it was not so in republican France, Top of Pageand it is not so in the USA today - it is the liberals who fear liberty and the intellectuals who want to do dirt on the intellect: it is to draw attention to that fact that I have written this preface.

Round One to Occupy Toronto, Christopher Hume, 23-11-11.

Perhaps it should have been called Preoccupy Toronto. Since the protest encampment first appeared in St. James Park six weeks ago, it has done little else.

Despite criticism that the movement’s goals were fuzzy and ill-defined, the story has dominated national and local media and provoked endless discussion. Given that, even at its height, there were never more than a few hundred participants, this is no mean feat.

And though in recent days all eyes have been focused on how the occupation would wind down, and whether the police would resort to G20-style tactics, it ended less with a bang than a whimper. The fact Toronto police managed such restraint illustrates the power of positive protest.

That’s good, of course; but the fact occupiers were removed against their will doesn’t mean they lost. We shouldn’t fool ourselves — this round goes to Occupy Toronto. The neighbours will disagree — and one understands why — but the issues that created the movement have never resonated more powerfully.

What happened in St. James Park represents the very early steps in a process that has a long way to go. And let’s not forget — the people who bear the brunt of the economic disparity that sparked the movement are (or were) largely middle-class types disinclined to sympathize with a phenomenon such as this.

To make matters worse, the “village” was muddy and messy, and so were the occupants. From the start, the encampment attracted the homeless and the marginalized, the sort most would rather avoid. Little wonder, then, that public attention shifted from content to form.

The debate went from the 1 percent versus the 99, to whether the city had the right to evict protesters from public property between the hours of 12:01 and 5 a.m. In fact, it hardly matters.

Naturally, many in the media used the occasion to spout the usual right-wing bile about “bullies” and “illegal squatters,” but this time around, it rang even more hollow than usual.

On the other hand, the movement’s failure to articulate a position, its insistence on gather-round-the-campfire democracy, drastically limited its effectiveness. Instinctively, most agreed with Occupiers, but remained dubious that such a rag-tag group could change the world.

By itself, it couldn’t. But again, that’s not the point. In Manhattan, where the Occupy movement began, Wall Street’s recklessness nearly brought down the global financial system. Still, those responsible paid themselves millions and moved on.

We should all have spent the month in St. James Park.

At the same time, the occupation gave Toronto police a chance to redeem themselves after the display of thuggery they mounted last year. If that was their low point, this marked something of a high note. Chief Bill Blair must be quietly giving thanks to the protesters for providing the force with such an opportunity.

Through it all, however, the fact is that the truth of Occupy’s arguments can be seen throughout Toronto and North America. As the rich grow richer and poor grow poorer, the Canadian middle class is under siege at every turn. As the wealthy take over downtown, the dispossessed are being pushed out to the post-war suburbs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough, far from the leafy confines of St. James Park.

That’s why Occupy Toronto is a movement whose time has just started, not ended. Whether or not protesters remain in a particular park is irrelevant. Inequality won’t disappear anytime soon; the 1 percent will continue to amass wealth and power at the same rate the 99 percent lose them.

Give it long enough; we’ll all end up in the same place.


Saturday, 19 November 2011

O, that way madness lies; let me shun that!

(or Enfants! Faites attention aux baobabs!)
Up, Down, Appendices, Ménage à 99.

COP17 logo.COP17 logo.COP17/CMP7 Logo:

The official line on the logo's symbolic meaning is this: "A big element of the logo is the resilient Baobab tree. A symbol of endurance, conservation, creativity, ingenuity and dialoque.

"Baobabs are very difficult to kill. They can be burnt, or stripped of their bark, and they will just form new bark and carry on growing.

"According to native legends along the Zambezi, the tribes believed that when the world was young the Baobabs were upright and proud. However for some unknown reason, they lorded over the lesser growths. The gods became angry and uprooted the Baobabs, thrusting them back into the ground, root upwards.

"The globe in the logo has an eroded look indicative to the urgent need for a positive outcome."

But I find it to be far more eloquent and evocative than that.

Responses to email queries put to South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) tell me that it was designed by some anonymous person in that organization ... I have been imagining his or her process.

Enfants! Faites attention aux baobabs!Some of us still remember The Little Prince in which baobab trees figure as dangerous and destructive; here, check out Chapter 5.

Opening to this additional layer of symbolism we could easily make them out as rapacious and uncontrolled corporations. Or (my preference) a cabal of transnationals, world governments, and the feckless UN diplomats/bureaucrats. It doesn't make much difference.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.I will just repeat Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's warning from the end of the chapter:

"Enfants! Faites attention aux baobabs!"

(A-and note that he was a smoker. As I sit with a cigarette on the bench in the neighbourhood park, in full view of passing children, one of the blessings I count is that this egregious behaviour is still approximately tolerated out of doors ... in some places ... for now.)

This logo shows a world already distorted and off balance, supporting a Baobab which is already dead or close to it. Whether it represents a beseeching regenerative hope or rapacious greed and official complacency doesn't matter much - these qualities will all end with the species.

I hope that the ministers and their minions know this, as they move in their air-liners and SUVs towards Durban and COP17/CMP7. And that this is possibly, or probably, or 'very likely' ... whatever ... their last kick at the can, and our last chance to limit warming to 2°C.

But really, I do not hope.

Except maybe in this: a quality in the linework that goes straight to my gut - the artist was confronting something in the darkness and struggling to tell the truth about it.


Ménage à 99:

Tar Girl.
Tar Girl.Tar Girl.Tar Girl.
Tar Girl.Tar Girl.Tar Girl.
Tar Girl.Tar Girl.Tar Girl.
Tar Girl.Tar Girl.Tar Girl.
King Lear Act III, Scene 4:

     Thou think'st 'tis much that this contentious storm
     Invades us to the skin. So 'tis to thee;
     But where the greater malady is fix'd,
     The lesser is scarce felt. Thou'dst shun a bear;
     But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea,
     Thou'dst meet the bear i' th' mouth. When the mind's free,
     The body's delicate. The tempest in my mind
     Doth from my senses take all feeling else
     Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!
     Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
     For lifting food to't? But I will punish home!
     No, I will weep no more. In such a night
     To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure.
     In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!
     Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all!
     O, that way madness lies; let me shun that!
     No more of that.

Earl of Kent:
     Good my lord, enter here.

     Prithee go in thyself; seek thine own ease.
     This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
     On things would hurt me more. But I'll go in.
     In, boy; go first. - You houseless poverty -
     Nay, get thee in. I'll pray, and then I'll sleep.
     Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
     That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
     How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
     Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
     From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en
     Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
     Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
     That thou mayst shake the superflux to them
     And show the heavens more just.

     Fathom and half, fathom and half! Poor Tom!

'Superflux' not being a word you run into every day ... and simply getting to the grammatical meaning of Lear's words being almost too much for me ... no one, myself included, will likely grasp the sense of this montage for more than an instant if at all.

The young woman has a session or two with someone indulging a body-paint phase, apparently. I am put off somehow at her being painted black when I first see one of the images (this one) on some Tumblr blog - there is nothing to hang onto. ... There still isn't; beyond a brief glimpse of what Lear's 'that way' might mean.

I continue uncertain about all of it.

False comfort:

Yevgeny Yevtushenko (previously here): "It would be far more terrible to mistake a friend than to mistake an enemy."

Paul Simon: "... a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue; I do declare; there were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there." And though he has to 'do declare' it, I know, having some experience of beijos na rua, that it was real comfort he got.

From Bill McKibben comes the 'big' news on the Keystone XL pipeline that "We won. You won". And if you look at the comments there you will see that several have been 'removed' - those are mine. Trying to say that silly superfical Pollyanna-positive spin like this does not serve the cause. Oversimplified to the vanishing perspective of nonsense. A-and pointing out, natürlich, that he never did write the first book on global warming, again again again ...

That's integrity for you. And two weeks later TransCanada changes the route and the political heavies in Nebraska drop like flies.

While the idiot proselytizers echo and reverberate McKibben's lies; the lovely nubiles at CAN call it: 'Obama listens to the people, not the polluters!'.

If you Google news for 'TIPNIS' (previously discussed here), the (very little bit of) English stuff you troll up (as of the 19th) will tell you that the march on La Paz was a huge success, big victory. Sure, and it was. They are heroes, yes they are. But Evo has not changed his mind and the next innings show that clearly: Evo agora 'sufoca' índios contrários à estrada na Bolívia.

A-and in the ongoing saga of Brasil's Código Florestal Marina diz que texto do Código Florestal aprovado na última semana está péssimo.

And Belo Monte and twenty other dams are underway. This video is good (with subtitles).

I was going to translate the articles but I can't be bothered. Something for a rainy day maybe.

Be well.


1. Evo agora 'sufoca' índios contrários à estrada na Bolívia, Fabio Murakawas, 14/11/2011.

2. Marina diz que texto do Código Florestal aprovado na última semana está péssimo, Luana Lourenço, 16/11/2011.

Evo agora 'sufoca' índios contrários à estrada na Bolívia, Fabio Murakawas, 14/11/2011.

Fonte: Valor Econômico (bloqueada).


O presidente da Bolívia, Evo Morales, começou a contra-atacar as centrais indígenas que o pressionaram a assinar uma lei que impede uma rodovia financiada pelo Brasil de atravessar uma reserva no centro do país. O governo determinou na sexta-feira a suspensão de licenças ambientais de empresas de turismo e madeireiras dentro do Território Indígena Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure (Tipnis).

A medida é vista como um artifício de Morales para sufocar economicamente as comunidades da região e fazer com que os indígenas passem a pedir a anulação da lei que inviabilizou a estrada. "Essa é uma maneira de pressionar a gente do Tipnis, que antes recebia as receitas advindas dessas atividades e agora vão deixar de receber", disse ao Valor Humberto Gomez, diretor da Fundação Amigos da Natureza, em Cochabamba.

Gomez explica que essas são atividades economicamente importantes para os indígenas, que têm direito constitucional sobre o território. "As madeireiras obtiveram licenças legais e mantêm convênios com as comunidades, repassando a elas parte das receitas".

O atrito entre governo e indígenas começou em junho, quando a construtora brasileira OAS começou a abrir caminho para a construção de uma rodovia projetada para ligar os Departamentos (Estados) de Beni e Cochabamba. A obra tem financiamento de US$ 332 milhões do BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social) e corta ao meio a reserva, de 1,2 milhão de hectares.

Sem terem sido consultados sobre o projeto, e temendo o avanço do plantio de coca no parque, os índios organizaram uma marcha de mais de 500 km até La Paz. O movimento teve um forte apelo popular, e Morales se viu obrigado a assinar uma lei que proíbe essa e qualquer outra estrada de atravessar o Tipnis. Os indígenas também pressionaram o presidente a incluir na norma a "intangibilidade" do Tipnis, o que acabou se tornando uma armadilha para eles.

Após a assinatura da lei, começou um bate-boca na mídia local entre membros do governo e líderes indígenas sobre os alcances do termo "intangibilidade". Para o governo, isso significa que nenhuma atividade econômica pode existir dentro do parque.

Um dia antes da suspensão das licenças, Morales esteve em San Inácio de Moxos, em Beni, e pediu a indígenas e moradores que pressionassem seus líderes pela execução da obra. "Fiz cumprir minha responsabilidade garantindo financiamento para a construção da estrada. Portanto, não peçam a mim, peçam aos dirigentes e deputados da região".

A suspensão das licenças foi vista como uma provocação por Fernando Vargas, presidente da Subcentral Tipnis, que liderou a marcha a La Paz. "Essa é uma decisão política, porque há uma negociação em curso sobre a regulamentação da lei", disse ele ao Valor. "Se o presidente quer gerar brigas entre os indígenas, ele está fazendo um chamado à violência no país."

Marina diz que texto do Código Florestal aprovado na última semana está péssimo, Luana Lourenço, 16/11/2011.

Encontrada: aqui.

Belém (PA) – A ex-ministra do Meio Ambiente Marina Silva disse hoje (16) que o texto do novo Código Florestal, aprovado na última semana, nas comissões de Agricultura e de Ciência e Tecnologia do Senado, “está péssimo”. A votação dos destaques ao texto ainda está pendente, mas, segundo Marina, o relator do código nas duas comissões, Luiz Henrique (PMDB-SC), não incorporou ao texto medidas que garantam a manutenção de áreas de preservação permanente (APPs) e reserva legal nas propriedades rurais.

“Até agora, o relatório está péssimo. O governo vai ter que bancar o que eles prometeram para a sociedade, de que não haveria emendas na CCJ [Comissão de Constituição e Justiça, por onde o texto passou antes] porque o Luiz Henrique iria acatar as emendas dos senadores e da sociedade. Como ele não acatou, agora espero que o governo trabalhe para que essas emendas estejam no relatório do senador Jorge Viana [que relatará a matéria na Comissão de Meio Ambiente]”, disse Marina depois de participar de debate no encontro anual do Fórum Amazônia Sustentável.

Na Comissão de Meio Ambiente, o senador Jorge Viana (PT-AC), tenta buscar consenso sobre as questões mais polêmicas, como a redução das APPs e a possibilidade de anistia para quem desmatou ilegalmente. Depois de passar pela comissão, o novo código seguirá para votação no plenário do Senado e, em seguida, voltará à Câmara dos Deputados caso sofra alterações.

Na avaliação de Marina, “é mais prudente” tentar melhorar o texto ainda no Congresso do que depender do veto presidencial. “Se dermos sustentação política para a mudança agora, com certeza, podemos fazer a diferença”, disse a ex-ministra, que convocou a sociedade a se manifestar contra as mudanças na lei florestal.

Marina, que foi ministra do Meio Ambiente nos governos do ex-presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva por quase seis anos, disse que a tentativa de flexibilizar o Código Florestal é o estopim de uma série de retrocessos na área ambiental. “Já mudaram regras de unidades de conservação, já tiraram competência do Ibama [Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis] em fiscalizar desmatamento e, agora, se quer tirar o último bastião da defesa das florestas do Brasil, que é o código. É uma agenda de retrocessos”, avaliou.