Friday, September 30, 2005

Countering Terrorism: Power, Violence and Democracy Post 9/11 | Church of England: "The book of Revelation, far from being a justification of American expansionism, is in fact a fierce critique of the imperial enterprise. It is not about detailed predictions of how history will unfold, but a revealing of what has truly happened through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although Roman power appeared to remain rampant in fact, according to the visionary writer of Revelation, the Lamb of God has defeated all the forces of evil and death. All imperial systems have been in principle overthrown by God’s rule in Jesus.... “Revelation is in other words a powerfully anti-imperial tract. Its coded and symbolic language pointed the first Christian to the real truth of history, which is that all empires will ultimately fail and be supplanted by the direct rule of God through the communion of the saints.”

According to Wikipedia, as recently as May 2005, scholars looking at the Oxyrhynchus collection (a tremendous discovery of ancient papyri) have added confirmation to the thesis that 'the number of the beast' is none other than a numerical code for Nero Ceasar. If one is allowed to 'interpret' Revelations, then its meaning, far from being God's approval for George W Bush, the American Empire and American Exceptionalism, would rather be something like this:

'The Beast' is the United States empire itself; Dubya Bush is the 'beast from the land'; Cheney is the 'beast from the (oily?) sea', aka Cthulhu; Barbara 'beautiful mind' Bush is the 'whore of Babylon'; the 'mark of the beast' is the US dollar ("... no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or name of the beast, or the number of his name"); Rupert Murdoch is 'the false prophet' (liar for evil); Pat Robertson is 'the antichrist' (Christ's teachings of love and mercy twisted into their polar opposite, hate and killing); the Pale Rider and the Four Horseman are Death and War (of course), avian flu, global warming and nuclear irradiation (depleted uranium, fallout); etc etc. And this too shall pass.

However, bad as Bush and the US empire are, of course, nothing can quite compare with the corruption and depravity of the Julio-Claudian imperial family. Which just might be another way of saying that Jesus' message, although having made some progress, still has a ways to go.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Geo-Sequestration Revisited: "The PDF summary report (which is all that's currently available) starts out by describing in detail the currently available processes for carbon capture and storage; the document doesn't address biological sequestration options, as they are largely useful for reduction of existing concentrations, not reduction of new emissions. The three broad families of capture systems -- 'post-combustion,' 'pre-combustion,' and 'oxyfuel' -- are described, and discussions of costs, geographic requirements for storage, and risks (from the environmental to the legal) close out the document.

"The summary report runs a brief 25 pages, and it makes for sobering reading. Under best case scenarios, carbon capture and storage wouldn't make a significant difference in CO2 levels until the mid-point of this century; in addition, the current available sequestration options all pose significant challenges, including the possibility of actually exacerbating the global environmental situation rather than ameliorating it."

Industry demands will probably see interminable talk about geo-sequestration, but (like the nuclear lobby) it is simply a distraction and a diversion. Research, publicity, time and energy spent on these two is not being spent on the real answers - clean, renewable energy.

New Danger from Global Warming: Escape of deadly viruses: "Ice sheets are mostly frozen water, but during the freezing process they can also incorporate organisms such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. Some scientists believe that climate change could unleash ancient illnesses as ice sheets drip away and bacteria and viruses defrost. Illnesses we thought we had eradicated, like polio, could reappear, while common viruses like human influenza could have a devastating effect if melting glaciers release a bygone strain to which we have no resistance. What is more, new species unknown to science may re-emerge. And it is not just humans who are at risk: animals, plants and marine creatures could also suffer as ancient microbes thaw out."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

King of Zembla links to two interviews with Matt Taibbi and Chris Floyd, which manage to cover some interesting material and also express the deep anxiety people feel about the last 30 years of political and cultural development in the US.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Howard regime makes biofuels go backwards: "Ethanol use in Australia has fallen from 75 megalitres in 2002-03 to a projection of only 23 megalitres in 2005-06, a drop of 70 per cent in two years. It now accounts for only 0.1 per cent of the automotive fuel market.

"Ethanol sales have fallen since 2002 when it was revealed
discount petrol stations in Sydney were selling blends with 20 per
cent ethanol, and some manufacturers warned warranties for new cars were not valid if it was used."

Given the magnitude of the energy crisis, it is simply amazing to see that ethanol use has actually fallen by 70% in the last 2 years. Shouldnt biofuels and other renewables source be achieving steady if not dramatic growth? 'Where there is no vision, the people perish.'

The debate on petrol prices in the media and the politicians has been marked by breathtaking shallowness. No one is even attempting to explain to the public the real crisis and the urgent steps that need to be taken.

Policy brilliance: Jet fuel untaxed: "But how can [air] fares be so much cheaper by plane than rail? One reason is the fact train companies pay duty on the fuel used - although the low-grade diesel that powers locomotives has lower taxes than fuels used by motorists.

"Airline fuel, however, is untaxed - thanks to a series of treaties between countries. For airlines which have to buy 200,000 litres to fill a jumbo jet, this is quite a saving and in turn helps keep fares low."

"British Airways has launched a scheme that allows customers to off-set damaging carbon-dioxide emissions by paying a voluntary sum which is then invested in sustainable energy projects."

An observor could be forgiven for suspecting policy is determined by the interests of influential corporations and industries. A carbon tax by tonne, with no exemptions, would tackle the problem head on.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

New Orleans: Survivor Stories: A collection of fascinating first person accounts of the Hurricane disaster.

Digby on the US abortion debate: Digby predicts that US Supreme Court nominee John Roberts will vote to overturn Roe vs Wade, and argues that "the right of the fetus is not the real issue --- the reasons a woman wants an abortion are the issue."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Woolsey Hearing Begins Debate on Iraq Exit Strategy - A Report and Next Steps: Tom Hayden discusses a coherent strategy for exit from Iraq - worthy of publicity and support by the peace movement. No such coherence is coming from any government figure, whether Bush, Blair or Howard, or any of the official government oppositions. Hayden's ideas therefore are correctly targeted conjointly at the anti-war coalition, and at those elements of the ruling elite which will eventually be prepared to begin a shift in the light of political and military reality.

One key point in Hayden's approach - "Declaring No Interest in Permanent Bases or Control of Oil" - will of course be particularly difficult for the corporate-state-military establishment to accept, until forced to do so by a combination of military defeat and political activism. Without permanent bases or control of oil and the economy, the invasion is without purpose, and so therefore it can be anticipated that this will be resisted to the last drop of troops' blood and taxpayers' money.

Jailbreak in Basra: "British soldiers used 10 armored vehicles to break down the walls of the central jail in this southern city Monday and freed two Britons, allegedly undercover commandos arrested on charges of shooting two Iraqi policemen, witnesses said. But the British government said the two men were released as a result of negotiations.

"The different versions of events came on a chaotic day that raised questions about how much sovereignty Iraqi authorities really were granted when the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority handed over power to an interim Iraqi government in the summer of 2004."

Very droll.

"The arrests of the two Britons on Monday appeared to have been the first real and public test of how far that sovereignty extends. There have been no known incidents of Iraqi authorities arresting U.S. soldiers operating in the Iraqi heartland."

Not bloody likely.

"About 150 Iraqi prisoners fled as British commandos stormed inside and rescued their comrades.... defense officials insisted they had been talking to the Iraqi authorities to secure the release of the men, but acknowledged a wall was demolished as British forces tried to “collect” the two prisoners."

You couldnt make this stuff up.

UPDATE: John Pilger asks the questions that should be asked, including: what were those 'undercover' SAS guys doing? Setting bombs?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Uri Avnery on 1967 and the settlers: "[The religious-nationalist] approach [represented] a very minor and even despised faction of Zionism before 1967. It took the settlement project over, robbed the socialist-Zionist camp of its original vision, and turned it into the hallmark of the national religious Zionist camp. And this is a change, not just in quantity, but also in quality. It is this camp which has become stronger every year for the last thirty-eight years. It has been promoted by all Israeli governments, whether Labor or Likud. It has been assisted not only by the Israeli army, but also by every part of the Israeli government and every ministry, both openly and covertly. This camp has become a very important force in Israeli society."

"The old socialist part of the Zionist movement and the kibbutz movement has broken down. It is economically bankrupt, and, what's more important, it is ideologically bankrupt. A third generation has now come to the fore in the Labor Party, a generation without ideology, without any real motivation. They are as capitalist as other parts of Israeli society. They're out to make money. The Labor Party is nothing but a reeking cadaver today, and is typical of this process. "

The religious Zionist movement has grown in force, ideological motivation, and fanaticism. It is a new kind of Jewish religion -- a tribal religion, a very aggressive nationalist religion -- and has elements (as I've said before) that must be characterized as fascist. And this force is now the only force in Israel that has a clear-cut ideology, that has thousands of people believing in it. Its thinking is clearly aimed at evicting the Palestinian population, and [creating] a homogeneous Jewish religious state, subject to the Halachah, and governed by rabbis. This is not often clearly articulated, but you can find it in the writings and the sayings of the leaders of this movement."

"Why did the majority of Israelis allow that to happen?

"UA: That's a very good question, and it's not easy to answer. When a majority doesn't have a clear and dominant ideology, and is faced with a strongly motivated, ideologically fanatical minority, the majority is at a great disadvantage.

"A majority of Israelis believe in democracy, but don't feel the urge to go out into the streets. For years, my friends and I have been demonstrating for an end to the Occupation, for peace with the Palestinians, and for democracy in Israel. We have experienced many heartbreaking moments when we called on people to come out and demonstrate and found that there is no force that can bring Israelis out, except on the annual day of mourning for Yitzhak Rabin. The only thing that mobilized these people was his murder and his memory. But it is very difficult to get them out for any other aim.

"It is a basic weakness of democracy that the democratic majority only comes out when it is severely provoked. And what is happening now in Israel, perhaps, is that the provocation by the settlers may reach a point where it will succeed in provoking the majority of Israelis to come out and fight for what they believe is important."

Nearly everyone believes or say they believe in democracy and liberty but how many are prepared to fight for it? Democracy hangs by a thread.

"All this shows that there is no clear will of the government to fight against the settlers. They find themselves in a fight that they did not expect to have. Sharon is completely bewildered, because when he started this so called "disengagement plan" he did not dream of entering a battle with the settlers. Quite the contrary. Ariel Sharon has been the father of the settlers more than any other person in the country. He put the settlements where they are and has worked tirelessly for years for the settlers. Sharon did not think that his plan was aimed against them. What he told the settlers was something like "we should give up a few settlements in the Gaza Strip, which are quite small and unimportant, in order to consolidate and save the big settlements in the West Bank and annex all the territory on which these settlements are sitting.""

"This sounded logical to Sharon. It is the logic of an army officer used to giving up territory in order to gain other territory. But the settlers did not accept it, and Sharon found himself unexpectedly confronted by them. This is a difficult situation, not only for Sharon personally, but for the entire Israeli political system to operate with any sense of consistency and determination because it [represents] a kind of cognitive dissonance."

"The great majority of Israelis are not aware of the real and present danger to Israeli democracy. They still have the illusion that this is something that will pass. Only when people realize that real danger is there and that people must come out and face it will there be a chance that some leadership will emerge. One can only hope that it will not be too late. I'm very much reminded of the last days of the Weimar Republic. I think about it constantly. And I think that the dangers that people were facing at that time are here. It has been said that the Weimar Republic collapsed not because the fascists overthrew it, but because at the moment of truth no one was ready to step up and defend the Republic. This nightmare pursues me. I think about it all the time."

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sealing them in: Digby's post and the links he supplies discuss the amazing callousness, neglect, mismanagement, racism and incompetence of the authorities in dealing with the people trapped in New Orleans after the hurricane.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Outer Limits of Empire - Tom Engelhardt interviews Howard Zinn: "It's interesting that we've had short wars ever since [Vietnam], except for this one, and those wars were deliberately designed to be short so that there wouldn't be time for an antiwar movement to develop. In this case, they miscalculated. Now, I don't think it's a question of if, just when. When and how. I don't think there's any question that the United States is going to have to get out of Iraq. The only questions are: How long will it take? How many more people will die? And how will it be done?"

"It does seem like a hard concept – war crimes, war criminals – to catch on here. There's a willingness to say the leadership is wrong, but it's a great jump from there to saying that the leadership is vicious. Unfortunately, in American culture, there's still a kind of monarchical idea that the president, the people up there, are very special people and while they may make mistakes, they couldn't be criminals. Even after the public had turned against the Vietnam War, there was no widespread talk about Johnson, [Secretary of Defense Robert] McNamara, and the rest of them being war criminals. And I think it has to do with an American culture of deference to the president and his men – beyond which people refuse to think."

One might think the idea of 'deference to the monarch' is not exclusively American.

"I would guess that a very large number of Americans against the war in Vietnam still believed in the essential goodness of this country. They thought of Vietnam as an aberration. Only a minority in the antiwar movement saw it as part of a continuous policy of imperialism and expansion. I think that's true today as well. It's very hard for Americans to let go of the idea that we're an especially good nation. It's comforting to know that, even though we do wrong things from time to time, these are just individual aberrations. I think it takes a great deal of political consciousness to extend the criticism of a particular policy or a particular war to a general negative appraisal of the country and its history. It strikes too close to something Americans seem to need to hold onto."

"Of course, there's an element that's right in this as well – in that there are principles for which the United States presumably stands that are good. It's just that people confuse the principles with the policies – and so long as they can keep those principles in their heads (justice for all, equality, and so on), they are very reluctant to accept the fact that they have been crassly, consistently violated. This is the only way I can account for the stopping short when it comes to looking at the president and the people around him as war criminals."

Hence the singular importance of the anarchistic philosophy.

"I like to think that the American empire has reached its outer limits with the Middle East. I don't believe it has a future in Latin America. I think it's worn out whatever power it had there and we're seeing the rise of governments that will not play ball with the United States. This may be one of the reasons why the war in Iraq is so important to this administration. Beyond Iraq there's no place to go. So, let's put it this way, I see withdrawal from Iraq whenever it takes place – and think of this as partly wish and partly belief [he chuckles at himself] – as the first step in the retrenchment of the American empire. After all we aren't the first country in history to be forced to do this.

"I'd like to say that this will be because of American domestic opposition, but I suspect mostly it will be because the rest of the world won't accept further American forays into places where we don't belong. In the future, I believe 9/11 may be seen as representing the beginning of the dissolution of the American empire; that is, the very event that immediately crystallized popular support for war, in the long run – and I don't know how long that will be – may be seen as the beginning of the weakening and crumbling of the American empire."

"Although lots of things are unclear to me, one thing is very clear. [War] is not in our genes. Whenever I read accounts, even by people who have been in war, that suggest there's something in the masculine psyche that requires this kind of violence and militarism, I don't believe it. I say this on the basis of historical experience; that is, if you compare the instances in which people, mostly men, have committed violent acts and gone to war to those in which people have not gone to war, have rejected war, it seems people don't naturally want war.... To me the strongest argument against an inherent drive to war is the extent to which governments have to resort to get people to go to war, the huge amounts of propaganda and deception of which we had an example very recently. And don't forget coercion. So I discard that idea of a natural inclination to war."

Let's hope the old man has got the wisdom here. The rest of us could be forgiven for thinking it most certainly is in the genes. The veneer of civilisation, including the modern veneer of besuited savages, seems just that, a veneer.

"When you look at the ratio of civilian to military dead, it changes from 50-50 in World War II to 80-20 in Vietnam, maybe as high as 90-10 today.... When you face that fact, war is now always a war against civilians, and so against children. No political goal can justify it, and so the great challenge before the human race in our time is to solve the problems of tyranny and aggression, and do it without war. [He laughs quietly.] A very complex and difficult job, but something that has to be faced – and that's what accounts for my becoming involved in antiwar movements ever since the end of World War II."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

American evangelist Rev Fred Phelps praises the destruction of New Orleans: "Thank God for Katrina. New Orleans, symbol of America, seen for what it is: a putrid, toxic, stinking cesspool of fag fecal matter. America is irreversibly doomed. It is a sin to pray for the good of this evil fag nation. It is a sin NOT to rejoice when God executes His wrath and vengeance upon America. Pray for more dead bodies floating on the fag-semen-rancid waters of New Orleans."

"Man loots store" vs "Residents find food": What would that be about?

Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences: 2 Paramedics at a conference in New Orleans relate their survival experiences after the Hurricane struck.

Playing Poker With Dick Cheney