Friday, October 28, 2005

Professor Ian Lowe: Is nuclear power part of Australia’s global warming solutions? An address by Prof Lowe to the National Press Club reiterates the points around which a consensus is emerging:

* the problem of global warming is real and accelerating

* global warming can be tackled by slashing emission of carbon dioxide by 60% by the middle of the century

* coal fired power stations are the main offenders

* nuclear power is not the answer

* uranium itself is a non-renewable resource, with high-grade uranium expected to deplete in 40 or 50 years or sooner.

* renewable energy in the form of solar, wind and geothermal etc is the answer

To this I would add, that a pro-rata carbon tax (with no exemptions) ought be imposed immediately with the twin goals of raising revenue and making renewable energy more competitive by attributing some of the true costs of fossil fuel burning on the industry.

Even if people insist on promoting nuclear energy, one can reply that if corporate welfare for the industry is terminated (with available funds going instead into genuinely clean and renewable sources) it could then be let to sink or swim on its merits, at which point it would almost certainly sink.

Some excerpts from the speech:

"There is no serious doubt that climate change is real, it is happening now and its effects are accelerating.... The science is very clear. We need to reduce global greenhouse pollution by about 60 per cent, ideally by 2050. To achieve that global target, allowing for the legitimate material expectations of poorer countries, Australia's quota will need to be at least as strong as the UK goal of 60 per cent by 2050 and preferably stronger. Our eventual goal will probably be to reduce our greenhouse pollution by 80 or 90 per cent. How can we reach this ambitious target?"

"Coal-fired electricity is by far the worst offender, so the top priority should be to replace it with cleaner forms of electricity. Since there is increasing pressure to consider nuclear power as part of the mix, I want to spell out why I don't agree. The first point is that the economics of nuclear power just don't stack up. The real cost of nuclear electricity is certainly more than for wind power, energy from bio-wastes and some forms of solar energy. Geothermal energy from hot dry rocks - a resource of huge potential in Australia - also promises to be less costly than nuclear."

"We are 50 years into the best funded development of any energy technology, and yet nuclear energy is still beset with problems. Reactors go over budget by billions, decommissioning plants is so difficult and expensive that power stations are kept operating past their useful life, and there is still no solution for radioactive waste. So there is no economic case for nuclear power. As energy markets have liberalised around the world, investors have turned their backs on nuclear energy. The number of reactors in western Europe and the USA peaked about 15 years ago and has been declining since. By contrast, the amount of wind power and solar energy is increasing rapidly. The actual figures for the rate of increase in the level of different forms of electricity supply for the decade up to 2003 are striking: wind nearly 30 per cent, solar more than 20 per cent, gas 2 per cent, oil and coal 1 per cent, nuclear 0.6 per cent. Most of the world is rejecting nuclear in favour of alternatives that are cheaper, cleaner and more flexible. This is true even of countries that already have nuclear power. With billions already invested in this expensive technology, they have more reason to look favourably on it than we do."

"High grade uranium ores are comparatively scarce. The best estimate is that the known high grade ores could supply the present demand for 40 or 50 years. So if we expanded the nuclear contribution to global electricity supply from the present level, about 15 per cent, to replace all the coal-fired power stations, the resources would only last about a decade or so. There are large deposits of lower grade ores, but these require much more conventional energy for extraction and processing, producing much more greenhouse pollution. Let's not forget, uranium, like oil, gas and coal, is a finite resource. Renewables are our only in-finite energy options."

"Nuclear power also inevitably produces radioactive waste that will have to be stored safely for hundreds of thousands of years. After nearly fifty years of the nuclear power experiment, nobody has yet demonstrated a solution to this problem."

"China is planning to get about twice as much energy from wind and solar as it is from nuclear. China has become a world leader in solar cell production: Shangde Solar Energy Power Company, the country's largest producer, has recently expanded to boost China's total production capacity from 200 to 320 megawatts by the end of this year. China is also a world leader in solar thermal production and use."

"How can we reduce our carbon emissions by at least 60 per cent by the middle of this century, given our dependence on energy for our comfortable lifestyle? There are now seven fully costed studies showing that nations can reduce their greenhouse pollution by 30 to 60 per cent by 2050 without building nuclear power plants and without economic damage. By far the most cost-effective way to reduce our emissions is to improve the efficiency of turning energy into the services that we want.... Reducing waste is by far the cheapest way to reduce greenhouse pollution."

"We should set the sort of positive targets for renewable energy that progressive nations in the northern hemisphere are doing. We should aim at 10 per cent extra electricity from renewables by 2010, 20 per cent by 2015 and 30 per cent by 2020. These are realistic targets based on existing technology.... Be in no doubt: renewable energy works. Renewables now account for a quarter of the installed capacity of California, a third of Sweden's energy, half of Norway's and three-quarters of Iceland's. It is time we joined the clean energy revolution sweeping the progressive parts of the world.

"Renewables can meet Australia's energy demands. Just 15 wind farms could supply enough power for half the homes in NSW. And that would only use less than half a percent of the pasture land in the state - without disrupting grazing.... Fitting solar panels to half the houses in Australia could supply seven per cent of all our electricity needs, including industry's needs, enough for the whole of Tasmania and the Northern Territory."

"We should set a target of at least five per cent for biofuels in the transport sector as well as requiring cars to be more efficient and investing properly in public transport. Governments at all levels should be modelling best practice in buildings, operations and transport. Above all else, we should set a long term target to cut our greenhouse pollution by 2050 to well below half the present level and take it seriously. Our present approach of demanding the world's most generous target and making no serious effort to cut emissions is an embarrassment to all thinking Australians."

"I suspect the real motive of many who have called for a debate about nuclear power is to soften up the Australian people to accept a possible expansion of uranium mining. This is a modern version of an old debating trick. When we were debating the Ranger report nearly 30 years ago, then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser claimed that "an energy-starved world" needed our uranium, conjuring up the picture of small children freezing in the dark if we didn't sell it. This was a transparent attempt to portray a crass commercial operation as a moral virtue, based on the untrue claim that the world needed nuclear power.

"I wonder how much the current debate about nuclear power has to do with BHP Billiton's planned expansion of the Roxby Downs uranium mine in South Australia.... I can't help being suspicious of the motives of those who claim that they want to see uranium being exported to slow down global warming. If we were serious about helping the rest of the world to reduce their greenhouse pollution, we would start by scaling back our coal exports. That would have much more impact that exporting more uranium. Of course, those urging increased uranium exports generally support the continuing export of more than 100 million tonnes a year of coal, making clear that their real concern is the economic return from mineral exports rather than slowing down climate change.

"In similar terms, if we were serious about helping the developing nations to have the energy services we take for granted, we would be promoting Australian solar technology, which is both much more appropriate to their needs and much more likely to provide jobs and economic benefits than expanding uranium exports. Australia could play a leading role in helping China - and other countries - make the transition to a clean energy future. This is not only a chance to offer regional assistance. It's a huge economic opportunity."

"Since every gram of uranium becomes radioactive waste and increases the amount of fissile material that could be diverted to weapons or "dirty bombs", we should be phasing out the industry, not looking to expand it. Legislation to phase out nuclear power has been introduced in Sweden (1980), Italy (1987), Belgium (1999) and Germany (2000), and several other European countries are discussing it. Austria, the Netherlands and Spain have enacted laws not to build new nuclear power stations. The concern about bombs fuelled with radioactive waste is not something being whipped up by fringe-dwelling extremists."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Powell Aide Blasts Rice, Cheney- Rumsfeld 'Cabal': After discussing for most of the article how the cabal took over policy thus creating a dysfunctional and dangerous administration, he concludes with this:

"On Iraq, [Powell's former Chief of Staff, who is believed to speak for both Powell and Armitage] said he was ''guardedly optimistic'' because ''we may have reached the point where we are actually listening to the Iraqis.'' U.S. troops will likely have to remain in Iraq for between five to eight years, however, because ''it is strategic in the sense that Vietnam was not.''

ie, it has a lot of oil while Vietnam did not.

"He predicted that a precipitous withdrawal ''without leav(ing) something behind we can trust, we will mobilize the nation, with five million men and women under arms to go back and take the Middle East within a decade,'' due to the U.S. dependence on the region’s energy sources."

This represents the 'liberal hawk' or 'intelligent imperialist' approach to the problem. Note that it assumes without question that the US has right to the region's energy sources (what is our oil doing under their sand?) and that it is therefore unthinkable that the Middle East could ever be abandoned. If a combination of military, financial, economic, diplomatic and political circumstances force a US withdrawal from the Middle East it seems that the ruling elite is totally unprepared for the consequences. Its Gulf Oil or bust.

"He disclosed that the Department’s policy planning bureau had a discussion about ''actually mounting an operation to take the oil fields in the Middle East, internationalise them under some sort of UN trusteeship and administer the revenues and the oil accordingly.''"

Sounds like desperation and fantasy to me. As if, after the Iraq disaster, the UN and the rest of the world would be happy to go along with a US plot like this. And if such plans are admitted to exist, the Howard government must be challenged immediately by asking if it would directly rule out the multiple breaches of international peace and law that such a plot necessarily involves.

If the US does not embark, and soon, on a crash program of energy conservation and renewability, heaven help them. The same applies to a (only slightly) lesser extent in Australia.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Former Chief of Seattle Police Department argues for legalisation, not decriminalisation, of drugs: "Prohibition of alcohol fell flat on its face. The prohibition of other drugs rests on an equally wobbly foundation. Not until we choose to frame responsible drug use — not an oxymoron in my dictionary — as a civil liberty will we be able to recognize the abuse of drugs, including alcohol, for what it is: a medical, not a criminal, matter."

"It's not a stretch to conclude that our draconian approach to drug use is the most injurious domestic policy since slavery."

Nobel Prize winner for Literature Harold Pinter bashes the warmongers: Some choice quotes:

"Here they go again,
The Yanks in their armored parade
Chanting their ballads of joy
As they gallop across the big world
Praising America's God."

"There's no escape.
The big pricks are out.
They'll fuck everything in sight.
Watch your back."

"What the U.S. is doing is perfectly simple. It's asserting what it conceives to be its spiritual destiny: 'I am God: get out of my fucking way.' This stink is with us forever."

"I've been taken to task recently by the American ambassador to Britain for calling the U.S. administration a bloodthirsty wild animal. All I can say is: take a look at Donald Rumsfeld's face and the case is made. I believe that not only is this contemplated act criminal, malevolent and barbaric, it also contains within itself a palpable joy in destruction. Power, as has often been remarked, is the great aphrodisiac, and so, it would seem, is the death of others.

"The Americans have the ostensible support of the 'international community' through various sure-fire modes of intimidation: bullying, bribery, blackmail and bullshit. The 'international community' becomes a degraded entity bludgeoned into the service of a brutal military force out of control. The most despicable position is that of course of this country which pretends to stand shoulder to shoulder with its great ally while in fact being more of a whipped dog than anyone else. We are demeaned, undermined and dishonored by our government's contemptible subservience to the United States."

"Iraq is just a symbol of the attitude of Western democracies to the rest of the world."

"Hallelullah! It works.
We blew the shit out of them. We blew the shit right back up their own ass
And out their fucking ears.
It works. We blew the shit out of them. They suffocated in their own shit!
Hallelullah. Praise the Lord for all good things. We blew them into fucking shit.
They are eating it. Praise the Lord for all good things.
We blew their balls into shards of dust,
Into shards of fucking dust. We did it.
Now I want you to come over here and kiss me on the mouth."

Sing it brother. Pinter expresses the enormous disgust, anger and contempt felt by many people around the world for the proven liars and war criminals Bush, Blair and Howard, and their criminally stupid policies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Israel, Iran, and the US: Nuclear War, Here We Come: Jorge Hirsch mounts an argument that war with Iran is on a clear trajectory.

"The ongoing diplomatic effort by the EU is simply designed to provide cover for the planned military action, just as in the case of Iraq. How many times must Bush play the same game before the EU finally learns it is being used? And how many times will it take for the U.S. citizenry to learn? The U.S. public and its representatives in Congress, preoccupied with the deception and subsequent disaster of the Iraq invasion, are blind to the enormously bigger deception and disaster unfolding just before their eyes."

Dan Plesch considers the evidence and tries to evaluate whether we are going to war with Iran or not. He points out that "The conventional wisdom is that for both military and political reasons it would be impossible for Israel and the UK/US to attack and that, in any event, after the politically damaging Iraq war, neither Tony Blair nor George Bush would be able to gather political support for another attack"; however the prospect is still real because "A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe.... For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year's congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere."

In short it is a high stakes gamble, but for an extremist Administration that is increasingly embattled, a roll of the dice might just be the ticket.

The role played by Britain and Australia, and even by the EU and much of the world, can only be described as appeasement of US aggression. What does it take for countries to signal through all channels a clear, unambiguous NO!

'Staggering Mass Slaughter' - the Fortieth Anniversary: In an earlier post, I remembered this forgotten event. Two more articles linked here help the remembering.

John Pilger has another article on the Suharto massacre, which gives more details of the way in which Britain, Australia and the US were complicit. The story is little known in the West. It is remarkable, almost unbelievable. Pilger does not give any notes. He should. One of the great merits of Chomsky is that he gives sources and references for almost everything. This is the only way truth can fight back against the avalanche of lies.

Clinton Fernandes has a somewhat lengthier article, and this one with footnotes.

Another untold part of the story is the use of Islamic groups in Indonesia to help carry out the massacre, and thus the enduring relations between the military and the Islamic groups, up to the more recent terrorist actions.

Mark Levine on the farce of the Iraq 'constitution': "Specifically, there are no references [in the Iraqi constitution] to three issues that are of primary concern to most Arab, and especially Sunni Iraqis: a prohibition on the long-term presence of foreign - read American - troops in the country; a firm statement emphasizing Iraqi control of production and distribution of the country's oil resources; and a commitment to rebuilding the social infrastructure that was devastated by the invasion and subsequent wholesale privatization of the country's economy under US auspices.

"For most every Arab Iraqi the withdrawal of all American and other foreign troops is the sine qua non for ending the insurgency. That the constitutional negotiators couldn't include any prohibition of foreign troops, or deal straightforwardly with the other two core issues, demonstrates the continuing and largely deleterious power of the US in the country's internal affairs."

But of course, without bases and troops, and control of the resources and economy of the country, the invasion is without purpose. The Bush Administration seems incapable of strategic withdrawal, in spite of the fact that the situation is such a disaster that that may be well advised, and so therefore only military defeat seems likely to resolve the problem.

"And so it appears that the constitutional process being celebrated in Iraq and Washington is setting up Iraq to repeat the mistakes of the Oslo peace process, where negotiations over the hard issues were continually postponed on the assumption the process would move forward with enough momentum to force compromises at the end stage."

This assumes that the process in either Washington or Oslo was ever intended to resolve the real issues. The messed up outcome is just fine by the real powers, provided the danged 'terrorists' just sit back and accept without question the rape and occupation of their country.

As Pepe Escobar points out, the terms of the Iraq constitution which allow regional governments to form practically guarantees the break up of the country, and a likely civil war. But perhaps this is the US plan, the best they can come up with. In the civil war the US will abandon the Sunni centre (they have already basically lost it), back the Kurds and the Shiites (who have all the oil), and in the process try to establish them as dependent client states.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Chris Hedges on Dominionism and the danger of the religious right: "This movement will not stop until we are ruled by Biblical Law, an authoritarian church intrudes in every aspect of our life, women stay at home and rear children, gays agree to be cured, abortion is considered murder, the press and the schools promote 'positive' Christian values, the federal government is gutted, war becomes our primary form of communication with the rest of the world and recalcitrant non-believers see their flesh eviscerated at the sound of the Messiah's voice.

"The spark that could set it ablaze may be lying in the hands of an Islamic terrorist cell, in the hands of the ideological twins of the Christian Right. Another catastrophic terrorist attack could be our Reichstag fire, the excuse used to begin the accelerated dismantling of our open society. The ideology of the Christian Right is not one of love and compassion, the central theme of Christ's message, but of violence and hatred. It has a strong appeal to many in our society, but it is also aided by our complacency. Let us not stand at the open city gates waiting passively and meekly for the barbarians. They are coming. They are slouching rudely towards Bethlehem . Let us, if nothing else, begin to call them by their name."

""So let's be blunt about it [writes Gary North]: We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.""

Such talk is of course eerily reminiscent of Hitler's plan to acquire power 'legally', and then use it to demolish the hated parliamentarianism and democracy in order to establish the dictatorship.

Cindy Sheehan: Not Supporting Hillary Clinton: "62% of Americans now believe that this war is based on lies and betrayals and want our troops to start coming home. 53% of Americans want our troops to come home immediately.... Americans oppose this war in overwhelming numbers and it crosses party lines. Because America can see that the war in Iraq has fueled terrorism and has made the world and our country less secure. America can see that the murder of innocents is not a 'right and left' issue, it is a 'right and wrong' issue."

"I think [Hillary] is a political animal who believes she has to be a war hawk to keep up with the big boys. She is intelligent, there's no doubt about that. However, I believe that the intelligent thing for Democrats to do for 2006 and 2008 would be to come out strongly and correctly against the botched, bungled, illegal, and immoral occupation of Iraq."

Clinton and the Democrats do not represent the American people, they represent the corporate/state/military elite. For them, military bases and control of oil are paramount, and soldiers are cannon fodder. Clearly, figures of 62% or 53% of popular support are not enough. Cindy will have to campaign a lot harder with a lot more popular support in order to force change. It is possible however. A combination of military failure and mass popular discontent could force the policy change.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Lost island home of Odysseus found after 3,000 years: "FOR almost 3,000 years, [Ithaca's] location has been a mystery... Many thought that the island existed only in the imagination of the Greek poet Homer and in his epic, the Odyssey."

As SA wittily remarks, "For many years there were those who doubted that Ithaca actually existed. Not me. If the story had appeared in the NY Times, I would have questioned it. But Homer? Never!"

The story continues, “Some 3,200 years after the events that are described in the Odyssey, ancient Ithaca has at last been discovered — a discovery which will revolutionise our understanding of the ancient world and is of profound importance to our understanding of the origins of western civilisation.”

The Next Hurrah: Anatomy of a White House Smear, Redux: emptywheel reviews the Plame/CIA case. The article admittedly contains speculation but is juicy nonetheless.

Some of the more notable points: In September 2003, a "senior official [probably either Tenet or Powell] said the leaks [of the identity of covert CIA agent Plame] were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility.""

The leaks certainly were a huge miscalculation, if they lead to indictments of Whitehouse officials, or uncovering of the Niger forgeries and other aspects of the neocon plot to make war against Iraq. We'll see.

Also: "There is now a lot of circumstantial evidence that Iran-Contra operative Michael Ledeen and Harold Rhode planted the Niger forgeries with SISMI, Italian intelligence. I think the original plan was just to plant the forgeries so friendly members of SISMI could funnel the intelligence--but never the documents--to the US. But as people within the US Intelligence Community continued to question the Niger claims, the plotters finally had to produce actual documents."

A neocon operative in Washington forged and planted documents in Italy so that they could be funnelled back to Washington to make the case for war against Iraq? If this were true, it is a real beauty, up there with Goering, Himmler and Heydrich's plot to bring down top German army commanders, or Operation Himmler (see also here) , Heydrich's staged attacks by 'Poles' against the Reich, allowing the Nazis to publicly claim the Reich had been attacked by Poland and thus had to 'defend' itself. And all the while, the Ministry of Propaganda or the Corporate Media has the poor public 'supporting' the Fuehrer or the troops in making war.

Michael Klare discusses the concept of 'permanent US military supremacy', and how it leads to tension with China over energy: "This outlook was first expressed in 1992 in the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) for fiscal years 1994-99, a master blueprint for US dominance in the post-cold war era."

This is thousand-year-reich stuff, at the very time when the whole world can see US hegemonic ambitions being punctured in Iraq. Nevertheless, the attitudes continue and the dangers are real, simply because the Pentagon system exists. The Pentagon is a corrupting influence on US politics through the mere fact of its existence. If it exists, it becomes a tool of policy, or as the saying goes: "if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail"; or, as then Secretary of State Madelaine Albright remarked to Colin Powell, "What's the point in having this superb military you are always talking about if we can't use it?" Powell's response is equally illuminating, "I thought I would have an aneurysm. American GIs were not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board." But for imperialists, militarists and warmongers, toy soldiers on a gameboard (or 'cannon fodder' in the more brutal and prosaic term) is exactly what they are, as Bush & Cheney have demonstrated for the umpteenth time in history.

And let's not forget Kissinger's classic formulation "military men [are] "dumb, stupid animals to be used" as pawns for foreign policy."

Pepe Escobar discusses 'the conquest of Southwest Asia' (sorry, that should be the 'war on terror' or the 'fight for democracy') and the practically uniform negativity with which the aggression is regarded in the Middle East, a fact still not properly appreciated in the Anglo countries, no doubt due to the relentless barrage of propaganda from the corporate media.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Solar power industry growth potential - or prepare for war instead?: "The solar thermal power industry could be worth 16.4 billion Euros and create 54,000 jobs worldwide by 2025... Greenpeace and ESTIA are encouraging politicians and policymakers to support this new sustainable industry by taking the necessary steps laid out in the report, which provides a detailed action plan for Governments who want to invest in this new technology."

"In only two decades, the electricity generated from solar thermal power plants could be equivalent to the power generated by 72 coal-fired power stations, supplying enough electricity each year for Israel, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia combined or half the electricity demand of Australia."

Especially noteworthy in this report are the contentions that "Among the solar electric technologies, concentrating solar power (CSP) [also known as solar thermal power] is the cheapest and the largest bulk producer of solar electricity in the world" and that "costs are expected to drop closer to 7-8 US cents [kw/h] in the future."

Meanwhile, "A new report into the Australian Defence Force's budget says Australia's overseas commitments are unsustainable. The report by the partly Defence-funded think-tank, the Kokoda Foundation, calls for an extra $1 billion on top of the current $18 billion allocated by the Federal Government."

So terminate Australia's 'overseas commitments', ie Afghanistan and Iraq, immediately, and invest in solar energy instead. What on earth has Australia ever been doing in those disastrous colonial and imperial wars in the first place? But no, "Australia must prepare for a major conflict in Asia within the next 15 years", says the report. Why in God's name would Australia want to be involved in a major conflict in Asia or anywhere? Is it that, historically, if a major war breaks out anywhere, diggers gotta get into it? Bring the troops home and keep them home, except for a limited role in operations approved by UN and international law.

Sydney's working harbour under threat again: "Plans to remove car imports from Sydney's two remaining cargo wharves four years early have angered unions, lobby groups and the car industry, even though the Government has pledged to keep the wharves free of apartments."

"A community lobby group, the Working Harbour Coalition, said the Government's promise to keep the wharves for maritime functions could not be trusted. A spokesman for the group, Harold Kerr, said: "The closure of these two terminals, as well as the cessation of East Darling Harbour and its sale to private interests, will see the end of the working harbour as we know it. Why are we sending cars to Wollongong, only for them to be driven overland back to Sydney at huge social and environmental cost?""

Shipping is by far the most fuel efficient form of transport. In an atmosphere of energy crisis, it should be prioritised systematically. The government's moves demonstrate once again that it has no concept of the situation.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

US army in retreat, destroys Euphrates bridges to deny them to the enemy: "For the first time I believe we have lost. For the first time as a military professional I think we have no way of winning this. We are willing to destroy the basic structures of the country to deny the enemy their use."

The War to End All Wars That Started Them All: We are still fighting the First World War; still have not disarmed and stopped fighting. WW1 led directly to WW11 which led to the militarisation of the Soviet Union and the US. The Soviet Union collapsed but the US Pentagon system is as strong as ever. How can the Pentagon be dismantled without another war, without the militarisation of other societies?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Evans Jones comments on the New Zealand election: "Slagging off the Greens is partly a strategy favoured both by the National Party (and its Exclusive Brethren supporters) and by Dunne to try and push the Greens below 5 per cent in the polls. The aim is to stop their ideas from becoming respectable, because if this happened a Labour-Greens coalition would be in power permanently.... The possibility of a Green breakthrough into something more like the political mainstream is the fundamental ‘watch-this-space’ instability of New Zealand politics."

"The secret fear of Dunne, the Nationals and the ACT is that Green ideas will catch on and the Greens will go up to 10%. So they are painted into a corner in which wind, public transport and so on are slagged off at every possible opportunity. This is a potentially self-defeating streagy. But so far it has worked."

"If Labour had any clues they would start slowly putting greater distance between themselves and the National Party on environmental / wind / public transport, etc policies, and equally subtly let the Greens take the credit.... Labour would then have a clear majority with the Greens and other leftish parties, and so it will be even more dependent on them than it is now."

Peak Oil Debunked: COLIN CAMPBELL criticised over racist remarks in ASPO newsletter: I've previously noticed how the British Nationalists seem to have jumped early onto the peakoil thesis. Perhaps they were there from the beginning. Its already clear that fascism will be a major challenge in the 21stC, perhaps as big a challenge as the energy crisis itself.

This is an example: "Here is our warning to you now. Those criminals, traitors, fools and fantasists that delay our rise to power will be treated as criminals when we [fascist party] take power. This Peak Oil situation will destroy our entire Nation and Western Civilisation unless the BNP are allowed to take power. The left and the liberals, the socialists and the environmentalists and the capitalists are all guilty of the same crime - of opposing the one part that can solve tis crisis , the one party that has the Wil and Vision to fight for our future.... You now have a clear choice - either join us or get out of our way. Our path to power is now clear before us.... You have one cance and one chance only. If you join us now we can forgive yo. Fight us and you will pay the price in the future.... The era of laxity and apathy is over - the Eraof Eco-Nationalism has begun. Repent your past and join with us or suffer punishment when the time comes for yor crimes."

When reading rants like this, one can never be sure that someone is not having a lend of you, but its probably safest to assume it is real.

Tim Flannery on nuclear power: "As with coal, nuclear power stations are very large, about 1700 megawatts, and with a starting price of $US2 billion ($2.6 billion) apiece they are expensive to build. The power they generate, however, is at present competitive with that generated from wind."

No cheaper than wind power, and with the other negatives, such as accidents, waste disposal and weaponization, I dont understand the arguments in favour of nuclear power.

Uri Avnery's analysis of the unsuccessful Netanyahu challenge to Sharon within the Likud party: Avnery interprets it as ultimately a win for peace as for the first time the dismanlting of settlements has been accepted by this far-right body. And this at the same time as more Israelis than ever before are prepared to support the ethnic cleansing of both Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.

American Taliban seek to block first successful cancer vaccine: Commenters to this article argue that for the Taliban it is about fear and control. In Australian TV news reporting about this matter, the role played by Australian researchers was (proudly) emphasized, Taliban concerns gained no mention.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Disappearance Of The Social Democrats: Interesting analysis of German politics that interprets the left as having split into three parts under pressure from neoliberalism.

A Hobbit’s Choice: Saruman or Sam

Remembering one of the 20th century's worst massacres, the unpunished crimes of 1965: "Forty years ago this weekend, Indonesia was plunged into the darkest period in its history when Major-General Suharto unleashed a wave of mass killings regarded among the worst of the 20th century."

Dennis Byrne has some personal perspective on what has been described as a staggering mass slaughter. John Pilger has stated that there exist in Bali mass graves with the remains of 80,000 people. (By comparison, the infamous Babi Yar massacre in the Ukraine, one of the worst of WW11, ended the lives of an estimated 34,000 people). Can Pilger's statement possibly be true? Of the many thousands of Australians who have visited Bali, how many of them have had any suspicion of what lies beneath?

Bush's numbers on Iraq drop into the low 30s: See also, Bush helpless and on the slide :-)

Cardinal Schönborn clarifies view on evolution: "A senior Roman Catholic cardinal seen as a champion of intelligent design against Darwin’s explanation of life has described the theory of evolution as “one of the very great works of intellectual history.”"

It seems to me the Galileo fiasco ultimately taught the Catholic Church an important lesson which distinguishes it from the less sophisticated US evangelical protestant churches: it is neither necessary nor wise for religion to be steered into conflict with scientific inquiry. Let religion be religion and science be science.

Grieving war mom Cindy Sheehan in Washington: Cindy demonstrates once again she is no slouch when it comes to debate and rhetoric. No wonder Bush ('the moron') is apparently too frightened to meet with her. Also see an interview with Cindy: "The media couldn't believe someone like me could be so articulate and intelligent and have my own message. Number one, I'm a woman; number two, I'm a grieving mother; so they had the urge to marginalize me, to pretend like somebody's pulling my strings. Our President's not even articulate and intelligent." Ouch!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Corporate tactics: the Great Green Scare: "Back in Reagantime the rightwingers smeared environmentalists as watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside. In those halcyon days, economist John Baden, major domo of a rightwing think tank called FREE and the Svengali of the Sagebrush Rebels, made a small fortune hawking watermelon ties, woven of the finest petro-polyester, to his retinue of oil execs, federal judges and range lords. Now that cap-C Communism has faded into the oblivion of high school history text books, the corporate world's pr mavens have had to concoct a new spine-tingling metaphor to evoke the threat environmentalism poses to their bottom line: eco-terrorism.

"Apparently, it's just a short step from al Qaeda to PETA. That's right, the money you save from not buying fur may be going to finance terrorist raids to liberate condemned mink from their isolation cages on rodent death row in Corvallis, Oregon."

"Meanwhile, the Reverend Pat Robertson broadcasts assassination proclamations on national television. Praise the lord and pay the hit man. Operation Rescue's Randal Terry publicly threatened federal judges during the national trauma over Terri Schiavo. One of David Horowitz's featured writers on Frontpage, a certain Michael Calderon, called for "Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti, Michael Moore, Ward Churchill, and [Justin] Raimondos to be found shot full of holes." Another group of beer-gutted ultra-Patriots in Chicago openly pleads online for the execution of Stan Goff, Alexander Cockburn and your humble scribe.

"None of these would-be terrorists is currently deemed a public menace by the FBI. Rev. Robertson's notoriously corrupt Operation Blessing is even sanctioned to receive FEMA money.

"Over the past quarter of a century, only abortion providers and Muslim clerics have been on the receiving end of more death threats than environmental organizers. It comes with the territory. But these virulent acts of harassment--messages often driven home with dead spotted owls, bullet casings, and rocks through the front window--rarely rouse the interest of the FBI or even local cops. Apparently, the agency doesn't consider the violent suppression of political speech a terrorist act."

Now that the governments in UK/US/Aus have all passed their draconian 'anti-terror' legislation, one might predict that more innocents, environmentalists, dissidents, activists and antiwar campaigners will be harassed and repressed by this legislation than genuine terrorists.

Retired general William Odom: Iraq invasion was 'strategic disaster': "The invasion of Iraq was the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history,” a retired Army general said yesterday, strengthening an effort in Congress to force an American withdrawal beginning next year., Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, a Vietnam veteran, said the invasion of Iraq alienated America's Middle East allies, making it harder to prosecute a war against terrorists.

"The U.S. should withdraw from Iraq, he said, and reposition its military forces along the Afghan-Pakistani border to capture Osama bin Laden and crush al Qaeda cells."

If the US is ultimately expelled from Iraq (if not the whole of the Middle East), with the region falling under the domination of Iran, Russia, China and Europe, this could be seen as correct. But obviously the US will be (is already) desperate to avoid this outcome, prepared to commit their last reserves of finance and military, risking total disaster. On the other hand, if the decision is taken now, forces could be yanked out of the cauldron and power still projected over the region. It might be compared to Hitler's thrust on Stalingrad and the Caucasus. In spite of being badly exposed, strategic withdrawal is unthinkable for this kind of crazed and incompetent leadership.

Monday, October 03, 2005

'We Are in Real Trouble' - Bird flu pandemic risk: "I understand that the U.S. has ordered about 6 million doses. But the U.S. government has estimated it needs at least 20 million doses.

"At the current rate of production, by the end of 2006, there would be enough Tamiflu for 1.5 percent of the world’s population. If the company revved up production to the maximum, it would hit two percent. So it would take 10 years at maximum production to make enough for one out of five people."

"It’s not as if those at the highest levels of government are unaware of the threat. So why haven’t we done more to prepare?
My response to that depends on my mood in a given moment. There are times when asking that question will get steam pouring out of my ears and I’ll be a raving lunatic. And at times I become more cynical… When [former President Bill] Clinton ordered a multi-agency study on emerging threats, pandemic flu was number one. It is not new that the scientific community has been warning about it. What is new is that we are well past a warning. We have got [figurative] ambulances rolling through the streets with sirens wailing saying: Get out of the way, there’s trouble coming!"

The wild man in the wings: Biographical essay on Chomsky points out that he supported "cultural zionism", but "opposed “the deeply anti­democratic concept of a Jewish state”, which would inevitably discriminate against non-Jews"; that at the time "Israel “had remarkably slight effects on the inner life of American Jewry”, and only two prominent American Jewish intellectuals openly identified with it: Noam Chomsky and Hannah Arendt"; that he "“reacted with virtually uncritical support for Israel” during the June 1967 war." (although his view on that war is different now); that the post-67 "‘supporters of Israel’ should more properly be called “supporters of the moral degeneration and ultimate destruction of Israel”, which is now the most militarised society in the world, heavily dependent for its survival on the United States and therefore a reliable asset"; that Chomsky is a 'child of the enlightenment' in a time when those values are under attack by radical statists and militarists.

Religiosity and social dysfunction: "[Paul] found that the most religious democracies exhibited substantially higher degrees of social dysfunction than societies with larger percentages of atheists and agnostics. Of the nations studied, the U.S. — which has by far the largest percentage of people who take the Bible literally and express absolute belief in God (and the lowest percentage of atheists and agnostics) — also has by far the highest levels of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases."

"The Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote,

"Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

"Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout our entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness."

News: Chavez: Venezuela Moves Reserves to Europe: "'We've had to move the international reserves from U.S. banks because of the threats,' from the U.S., Chavez said during televised remarks from a South American summit in Brazil. 'The reserves we had (invested) in U.S. Treasury bonds, we've sold them and we moved them to Europe and other countries,' he said."

Heaven help the US and the dollar if more countries start doing this.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Evan Jones on the latest Bali bombing: "We grieve again and again for the death of innocents. And yet we continue to vote criminals into office."

More battles in America over Evolution vs Creationism: Meanwhile, Bishop Spong speaks on the matter

Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray on the death of Robin Cook: "I was one of a few enthusiasts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who welcomed the arrival of Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary and his declaration of an “Ethical foreign policy”. The majority were hostile and cynical, but not nearly so much as was Tony Blair.

"Within a very few weeks, Blair arranged Robin Cook’s defeat at Cabinet when Cook wanted to stop the export of British Aerospace Hawk jets to the Suharto regime of Indonesia, which has a strong history of vicious repression of its disparate peoples. I was told by a Cabinet Minister who sided with Cook, that Blair managed Cook’s cabinet defeat in as confrontational and humiliating a manner as possible.

"Plainly there would be no ethical foreign policy under Blair, and “New Labour” would be even snugger in bed with the arms industry than the old version. One of Blair’s lead men on Hawks to Indonesia was Jack Straw, who declared in the register of members’ interests that 50% of his election expenses had been paid by Lord Taylor, a Director of British Aerospace."

"Cook was the country’s most influential advocate of proportional representation, the surest safeguard against abuse of power by narrow and unrepresentative government. He also wanted to see executive authority checked by a powerful and fully elected House of Lords. This was the great work of his second ministerial post, as Leader of the House. It should not be forgotten that just as Blair deliberately blocked Cook over ethical foreign policy, so he blocked an elected House of Lords. And Blair blocked it for exactly the reason Cook wanted it, because it would be a brake on the Prime Minister’s authority.

"It amazes me that, when Blair made clear he wanted a largely appointed House of Lords, most people still didn’t tumble to just how power-mad the man is. Now we face proposals to hold people for three months without charge, and to deport people for entering the wrong bookshop or visiting the wrong website. We are to accept “assurances” from murderous regimes that they won’t torture or kill dissidents we hand over to them.

"Blair bangs on as if it wasn’t already illegal to be a terrorist, to kill people, to make or supply bombs or assist those who do. It is noteworthy that the alleged London bomber now charged is facing longstanding laws, like murder and conspiracy to murder, without any need for the raft of new legislation already in place, let alone Blair’s latest proposals."

"These are the most dangerous times for liberty in the UK since the government of Lord Liverpool. Those of us who believe freedom is important, face a huge battle over many years, and against great odds. We have lost our best leader."

Remarkable rape/murder case in India

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Cost and Surplus value of Saudi oil - Matthew Simmons: "You know one of the problems is coming up with a proper definition of what you are including as your costs. For years they [Saudi Arabia] were undoubtedly the world's lowest cost oil producer because they had already paid for the fields. And the only costs they were counting were the operating costs to pull the oil out and they weren't charging anything for electricity or water, which is most of the cost.

"It was a very artificial cost. Now, today they've announced that they are going to spend something like $50 billion between now and 2009 to try and create a million and half barrels a day of spare capacity. And so, if they properly for charging for their water handling and their electricity they would be not the highest cost, but right up there. There isn't any real cheap, low cost oil left. They will tell you their costs are $.40-.50 a barrel. Basically it's a fictitious number. If you take the costs of things that have been totally written off, they really aren't real costs and figure out how much you want to charge for the water and electricity it could easily be between $10-20 a barrel."

50c a barrel or $20 a barrel, it has always been cheap in Arabia. And with market prices of $50, $100, $500 - there is a staggering quantity of pure economic rent or surplus value to be had from control of this resource. It only gets more valuable as it runs out.

Alan Greenspan admits the froth: "In a series of stunning about-faces, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has just recast his perceptions of the critically important relationship between monetary policy and asset markets. Not only does he finally own up to the perils of America’s housing bubble, but he now concedes that speculative froth in asset markets may well have been a direct outgrowth of the Fed’s policy stance. These revisionist views are in stark contrast to the Chairman’s public stance over the last decade."

Its a heck of a bubble - described as the biggest in history. A collapse of the bubble, the dollar, the US economy and hegemony, combined with unsustainable Chinese growth and the energy crises could lead to a depression that the kapitalist system never recovers from.

1999 Chomsky interview on Iraq war and peakoil - same old same old: "The U.S. and Britain have simply announced, very clearly and loudly, that they are violent criminal states that are intent on destroying totally the fabric of international law, a fabric that has been built up laboriously over many years. They have announced that they will do as they please and will use violence as they please, independently of what anyone else thinks. In my view, that is the sole significance of the bombing and is probably the reason for it."

"This action is in fact a call for a lawless world in which the powerful will rule. The powerful happen to be the United States and Britain, which is by now a pathetic puppy dog that has abandoned any pretence of being an independent state."

"There are background issues here that are undoubtedly decisive. It is obvious to everyone that the main concern of external powers in West Asia is oil, or energy production. In the first place, there is now a consensus among geologists that the world may be heading for a serious oil crisis. In spite of new technology and deep-sea drilling, the rate of discovery of oil has been declining from about the 1960s. It is expected that within a decade or two, the magic halfway mark - or the destruction of half the world's known exploitable hydrocarbon energy resources - will be reached, and after that the way is downhill.

"Secondly, the rate of use of oil is accelerating. Close to half of the total use of oil in history has been in the last 20 years, that is, after the oil price rise.

"The third crucial point is that a very substantial part of the world's oil resources is in the Arabian peninsula-Persian Gulf region. The resources that exist elsewhere are nowhere near as abundant or as exploitable. The share of West Asian oil in total world production is getting back to what it was in about 1970, and that share will increase. That means that the importance of the region as a strategic centre and as a lever of control over world affairs is increasing. It is a very volatile region, very heavily armed, with many conflicts and with most of its population brutally suppressed in one way or another. For the last 50 years, the U.S. has been determined to run that region with the assistance of Britain. Nobody else, particularly the people of the region, is supposed to have any significant role there. All this makes for a highly inflammatory situation."

"Every time Tony Blair opens his mouth, he looks more disgusting and ridiculous, and his performance marked a painful and shameful day in the history of Britain."

Government conspiracy to subvert the Australian constituion: "Australia's heads of government joined in a shameless conspiracy to pervert the constitution by depriving us, the people, of our ancient legal protection from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial. Strong words, but that is what has happened. When these new anti-terrorism measures become law, police can arrest whoever they like, people as young as 16, and imprison them for 14 days if they have 'reasonable grounds' for believing they pose a terrorist threat. What those reasonable grounds might be is anyone's guess. The fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence is out the window."

"On top of that, "suspects" could be tagged with electronic tracking devices or held under house arrest for up to a year, again without charge. This would be subject to judicial review but - and here's the crunch - a review only to determine that the letter of the law had been obeyed. The judge would not be permitted to establish if there was factual evidence for branding any person a terrorist suspect.

"Nor is there any mechanism to guard against these periods of detention, either 14 days or a year, being rolled over indefinitely. Detainees could be released, then re-arrested within minutes."

Having lost the basic liberty of freedom from detention without charge or trial, how long will it be before it is regained, if ever? It took but moments to lose, and nearly forever to gain or regain.