One of my Facebook friends pointed me to this article, Adam Curtis’s SAVE YOUR KISSES FOR ME – HOW THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, HAMAS AND THE ISRAELI RIGHT BECAME CO-DEPENDENTS IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP.
It’s very much worth a read.
Also, from a strictly formal perspective, I was intrigued by Adam Curtis’s insertion of vintage film and video footage, which made his text come alive. (I do wish he’d nail down the difference between “it’s” and “its,” though…)
Things I learned/ hadn’t thought about before:
- that Tel Aviv was modeled in some ways on Herzl’s Alt Neuland as well as on Bauhaus-style notions of progressive housing and urbanism;
- that Hannah Arendt’s trenchant insights on “the banality of evil” contributed to destabilizing Israel’s attachment to progress and progressive politics (the belief that politicians could fix things, that we really can do better);
- that early in the state’s history, Israelis were not entirely dissimilar to post-WWII Germans who also preferred not to rake over the immediate Nazi past (and that the Eichmann trial very vividly thrust that past into 1960s Israel, much to the eventual detriment of progressive politics – this is Curtis’s thesis, and it’s fascinating);
- that Rabin’s game (to deal with Arafat and the PLO in a bid to …well, what?, marginalize and neutralize Hamas?) backfired in the worst way (Hamas won out over the PLO and Rabin lost to Bibi – who, I didn’t know till reading this article, had lost his older brother at Entebbe);
- and that as a result (again, Curtis’s thesis), the Israeli right wing and Hamas are locked in a deadly, escalating, embrace.
I could go on, but it’s such a loaded topic that I think I better not.
I’ll just say that Hamas’s position is a disaster, and that any religious leader who advocates treating one’s enemies the same way as they have treated you (that is, it’s ok to kill their women and children and defenseless citizens because at some point they killed yours – never mind that on occasion you deliberately put your defenseless ones in harm’s way) is not representative of any kind of worthy religion. And any “religion” that teaches little children, daily, to hate and hate, and hate again day in and day out, deserves to go to hell. Prospects of peace with people who follow a religion like this are very dim indeed.
Regarding western hangers-on of the above, think again. As one of the German Revolutionary Cells terrorists who’s sorting Jews from non-Jews at Entebbe puts it, “I’m no Nazi – I’m an idealist.” My ass you’re an idealist. You’re an idiot and a tool.
We have re-elected Obama (not, as the Wall Street Journal put it in an early-morning mobile front page version, let “Obama seize victory,” as if against the electorate’s will). I know there’s no magic wand in the President’s toolbox, so I’m not starry-eyed about instant improvements in the country’s economic — or possible triple-bottom-line — outlook. But I’m very glad Obama, and not Romney, won. And I’m very confused by the kind of hysterical and irrational hate and vitriol that the losers — and their media — are dishing up.
Sure, I’ve enjoyed the snappy comments from “my” side of the fence that came up on Twitter. “Breaking News: Vaginas Beat Assholes” by Elayne Boosler totally gets a gold star. But even here, with the word “asshole,” there’s no panic-mongering — which is what so many on the other side have done.
And it continues, post-election, whether in the liberal or right wing media. Esquire (presumably liberal) is running a blog entry, ‘How Can America Pick a Man Like That?’, which lets disillusioned (and seemingly crushed and panicked) Colorado voters in my age bracket (mid-50s) drone on about how now, with Obama re-elected, they WILL go bankrupt, they WILL face greater economic disparity, the WILL stay “stuck.” But nowhere in the article do we read WHY these voters believed that under Romney it would all change for the better — change for THEM, or why, if their business is already failing and clearly headed for bankruptcy, the Obama victory will make that inevitability more inevitable.
Either it’s inevitable or it ain’t, and if it looks 99% certain, no Big Daddy (red or blue) can fix it.
I have compassion for the economic plight and sheer grind that people are in (not doing so well myself), but I don’t understand why articles like this (much less the “worser” stuff on the right) get published. What do they add to the conversation?
Meanwhile, Donald Trump and other insanely rich people who have nothing in common with those disappointed and panicked Colorado voters, get away with pumping out speech that is downright seditious and shouldn’t be allowed to pass unchallenged.
We have hate speech laws, but somehow we seem to have decided that it’s ok to attack politics and elected leaders (POTUSes) and the US Government in any way, shape, or form, as long as it’s “only” speech and it’s done by ridiculously rich bastards (poor people, like nurses, will get nailed). How about we revive sedition laws and make an example of someone like Trump? How would he like that?
The media have a lot to answer for.
The media have created monsters like Trump (or Trump has used media to create himself, even if the hair is strictly analog), and the Colorado voters are consumers of said media. Connect the dots.
Canada’s government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is about to sign into law a new trade agreement with China. The agreement has had no public input by the Canadian people or their elected representatives. One can only suppose that it’s designed to enrich Canada’s corporate class. It certainly impoverishes Canada’s democracy.
As The Tyee, in an article entitled Chairman Harper put it:
By Nov. 1 three of China’s national oil companies will have more power to shape Canada’s energy markets as well as challenge the politics of this country than Canadians themselves. And you can thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for this economic treason. (source)
Read the article for more details, each of which is more stunning than the last. This agreement, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA), marks “Canada’s formal entry into the ranks of dysfunctional petro states,” as The Tyee puts it.
If you’re concerned about this and you’re Canadian, please sign LeadNow’s petition, Stop the Sell-Out – Canada is NOT for Sale.
Thank you for your interest in the Canada-China Investment Treaty. Although Stephen Harper prefers to keep Canadians in the dark about this Agreement’s grave implications for our sovereignty, security, and democracy, I am hopeful that we can force the issue into daylight. Your letter proves that you recognize the seriousness and urgency of what is about to take place behind our backs.
While the Canada-China Investment Treaty will likely be our most significant treaty since NAFTA, Stephen Harper plans to sign it into law as early as November 2nd, 2012, without any public consultation, any consultation with First Nations, any Parliamentary debate, or even a single vote in the House of Commons. I do not accept such blatant disrespect for either the will of Canadians or for our democratic institutions.
Sadly, in addition to the anti-democratic process to approve this Agreement, it is the actual content of this investment deal with which I am most concerned. For the first time in Canadian history, the Canada-China Investment Treaty will allow investors (including Chinese state-owned enterprises such as CNOOC or Sinopec), to claim damages against the Canadian government in secret, for decisions taken at the municipal, provincial, territorial or federal level that result in a reduction of their expectation of profits. Even decisions of Canadian courts can give rise to damages.
Realizing what the Conservatives were attempting to do, in secret and without debate, and realizing that we will be bound by this destructive Agreement for up to 31 years once it is ratified, on October 1st, 2012, I made a request in the House of Commons for an Emergency Debate to allow Canada’s democratically elected Members of Parliament to study the implications of the Canada-China Investment Treaty.
Although my request for an Emergency Debate was regrettably denied, we have not given up and are continuing to pursue all available options to stop the treaty’s approval. Given what is at stake, we hope that you will join us.
In addition to the tools found on our Canada-China Investment Treaty campaign site at http://www.greenparty.ca/stop-the-sellout, I urge you to push back against this sell-out of our sovereignty, security, and democracy, and help to educate Canadians by talking to your friends and neighbours, writing letters to the editor in local and national newspapers, calling in to talk radio shows, and filling up the comment boards of news website.
Crucially, this is not a partisan issue, and it is only by coming together to stand up for Canada that we will succeed in stopping this agreement.
Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Saanich–Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada
I am so glad that May and Canada’s Greens are paying attention, and that the NDP is now also on board with stopping this incredible sell-out of Canada and its resources. Canadians: hewers of wood and carriers of water forever, eh? In whose interest, exactly?
Last year, when I was still in Victoria BC but considering a move back to Boston’s North Shore, I read about the impending closure of the Salem Harbor Power Station and immediately thought,”Wow, what a fantastic redevelopment opportunity!” Suffice to say that my optimism may have been premature.
Bedeviled by a Dirtball
The Salem Harbor Power Station is one of the region’s dirtiest coal- and oil-burning power generators. For six decades, the plant has occupied sixty-two acres of prime waterfront real estate, cutting residents off from all other historically and economically significant maritime uses on shore. Its hulking facility, topped by two smokestacks that pierce the skyline, has visually dominated the coastline not only for its Salem neighbors, but also for folks in Beverly and Marblehead.
And it has spewed tons of pollutants into the air. As the Denver Post put it in an article about these many long-in-the-tooth dirty power plants, “Utilities dragged feet”:
These plants have been allowed to run for decades without modern pollution controls because it was thought that they were on the verge of being shuttered by the utilities that own them. But that didn’t happen.
Indeed. The Salem station was one of those zombie economy necessities that refused to die: a lot of people shrugged and accepted it as an unavoidable evil that had to be borne. After all, the region is famous for being bedeviled, right? The struggle to force either a clean-up or a closure of the Salem station was epic – but now it’s finally happening.
Or is it?
There’s a dearth of information about how the situation went from “the plant is closing” = “really new opportunities” to “the plant is dead” = “long live the plant,” but some weeks ago, the latter option grew in strength when the station’s current owner, Dominion, began negotiations to sell the property as-is to New Jersey-based startup Footprint Power. The latter wants to operate a natural gas-burning power plant at the site. Admittedly, natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil – but wait! There have been hints that the backup fuel could be …diesel oil. Because, you know, depending on the markets, natural gas might become too expensive and we’d have to go back to something a little dirtier.
It seems zombies are hard to kill dead.
Why has there been no recent public input on the plans?
On June 26, Andrea Fox of Green Drinks of Greater Salem moderated a discussion of current plans for the station. The three presenters – Healthlink‘s Jane Bright, State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, and attorney Jan Schlichtmann (whose work has often focused on environmental issues) – questioned the plans now on offer. Schlichtmann in particular pointed out that, while there was a surge of interest initially in what would happen to the site, the recent negotiations between Dominion, Footprint, and Massachusetts politicians have effectively put a kibosh on any further public input. The Green Drinks discussion was essentially meant to breathe some life into the conversation. It seems that as soon as the corporation(s) decided on a course of action, the people rolled over and went quiet.
The lone voice speaking in favor of Footprint Power’s plan was Shelley Alpern, a Salem resident and member of SAFE – the Salem Alliance for the Environment (but she made it clear that she wasn’t speaking on SAFE’s behalf). Alpern’s cred as an environmentalist goes way back, so it was surprising to hear her question the vision for a sustainable redeveloped waterfront site and instead pleading Footprint’s case.
The arguments at Green Drinks revolved around the following:
- how much will it really cost to clean up the brownfield site? Some put the price tag at $75m, others argue that this number is inflated and meant to scare people into accepting Footprint’s option, lest the alternative be “the padlock” (meaning the site just gets shuttered and turns into a decaying eyesore versus a toxic waste spewing eyesore). See also Speaking alternatives to power
- is the lifecycle of natural gas really that much better than coal or oil? Sure, it’s cleaner (somewhat) and currently cheaper (somewhat), but no one knows how the markets are going to shape prices in the future, near or far. And what about the externalities and costs consumer don’t directly see when the natural gas is extracted, such as the enormous environmental cost of fracking? What about the dangers of putting pipelines, which will inevitably break down and leak, through watershed areas? There are already pipelines running from Nova Scotia in Canada, through Beverly, and into Salem. What’s their “lifecycle”?
- will Footprint Power keep its promises? Some stakeholders have been told by Footprint that a natural gas-burning plant might need to use diesel fuel as a back-up; some were told that the existing plant might have to stay on for some time (vs being dismantled). Other stakeholders have heard no such thing when they sat down with Footprint – but we’re dealing with corporations, and with energy corporations, to boot …not exactly always the white-hat guys.
- what of the missed opportunities to develop something truly amazing?
That last point – missing opportunities because vision is lacking – strikes me as the most compelling. Rep. Ehrlich made the case in a Marblehead Reporter op-ed on May 14, 2012, Vision still lacking at Salem power-plant site (also available on her website, here). The column sparked a flaming letter-to-the-editor in response, Get over the aesthetics; think clean energy, whose author compared opposition to off-shore (and backyard) wind turbines to a kind of la-la-land NIMBYism that wants a “pretty” picture without facing the inescapable reality of our energy needs. His point was that Ehrlich and those who think like her are in la-la-land because we pussy-foot around the fact that we still need to get our energy from somewhere, while he is a realist who understands that Footprint’s proposal is the region’s best bet.
I think it’s a false choice.
Macro / Micro
Consider for a moment perspective. What the critics, especially Ehrlich and Schlichtmann, have is a fine-grained, close-view perspective. It reminds me of Jane Jacobs‘s analysis of neighborhoods at the street level. She looked at the details and decoded what she termed a street ballet, understanding that how people use a thing (a street) – and how they are able to use it – determines the whole, irrespective of how much planning-from-above tries to predict outcomes. This was pretty much in opposition (at the time) to the thinking of professional planners, who believed that streets must be rationally planned (preferably according to the needs of the automobile) and that buildings, placed according to mostly “ideal” reasons, would determine uses. If Jacobs had a micro view, the planners of the day had the macro view.
It strikes me as ironic that the micro-view is actually the Big Picture “vision” view, and that the macro approach, which tries to account for a larger perspective, has a blind spot about the “users” or people on the ground. The Realpolitik view defaults to the macro – and I count Alpern’s approach here. Expert knowledge about hydro-fracking regulations in Bulgaria and Pennsylvania is good to have, but it’s not enough to impel local people to act differently. Local inertia is a strong force, and if you build another power plant, you will have another power plant. For another sixty years. But if you give the people who actually want change the power to control their destinies, they can move the rest of us out of our inertia. That’s the claim mocked by the letter writer who thinks a power plant alternative is la-la-land thinking – but what is the alternative? Another planned-from-above mega-project that repeats many of the same patterns established by the old project?
Deep waters, old uses
Schlichtmann made the truly relevant point that Salem’s history was built on maritime industry. The current site of the Salem Harbor Power Station is Salem’s only deep-water port – what passes for the city’s tourist harbor is a shallow pond, incapable of harboring bigger vessels. The original coal-burning plant was built on that prime spot because of the deep harbor, which allowed ships to offload coal. It’s an incredibly shortsighted move willfully to dismiss an opportunity to reclaim that harbor for what it represents (Salem’s fantastic seafaring history). All around the industrialized world, cities are reclaiming waterfront that was savaged by mono-uses (waterfront freeways, power plants, factories, etc.), and reintegrating them into a more sustainable urban fabric. Why should Salem shut itself out from that renaissance?
Well, because we need energy. But consider this: ISO New England has said that there’s no longer any need for a power plant in Salem. As Ehrlich noted in her column, “The old plant is barely running, and ISO, the region’s reliability-cautious grid operator, said that power production on that site is no longer needed. Why such an enormous plant?”
For an informative PDF, see Repurposed Coal Plant Sites Empower and Revive Communities.
Sierra Club, Victory! Salem Coal Plant Announces Closing.
ArchBOSTON forum discussion (brief) here.
In lieu of changing code in my header template (not even sure I can do that with a multi-user [MU] WordPress blog like this one) which would black out this blog completely, I’m instead posting a small badge as a reminder to keep pushing Congress to do the right thing.
As the Oatmeal points out, do it for the jet skis and the kittens.
For a more detailed analysis, check out Doc Searls‘s commentary.
…performance art legend Marina Abramović created a stir when she was accused of exploiting other artists during L.A.’s MOCA gala. Guests at the posh event paid up to $10,000 dollars so they could be seated at one of her tables decorated with centerpieces that included rotating human heads and naked bodies pseudo-copulating with skeletons. Gala guests were allowed to touch the performers and feed them, because the live tabletop pieces signed a non-disclosure agreement and were paid off with a whopping $150 bucks that allowed them to be manhandled as desired. (source)
Who are these $10K-per-plate patrons of the arts who shock and amuse themselves by feeding or otherwise stimulating human centerpieces?
(See also this article about an artist who protested.)
On the erosion of the middle class, see also Rich Shopper, Poor Shopper (PBS Newshour, Making Sen$e) – high end and low end are “doing alright,” but the middle is absent.
The poor artists are renting themselves out for $150 at events where the rich pay $10,000 to support the arts. This is one f-upped world.
I’ve censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet–a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit: http://americancensorship.org/posts/5342/uncensor
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I’m neglecting my blog again, lately just posting my weekly Sunday Diigo Links posts, but on this Sunday, here are a couple of extra links that deserve a spotlight.
These articles focus in some way on the Occupy Wall Street groundswell, which is in danger of being squashed by the stirrup-holders of the financial system (to repurpose a phrase). But the OWS message needs to be heard (and sharpened, versus diluted), as it’s the best bet we have to effect much-needed change.
…Oh, change – that word. Wasn’t that what Obama promised? Whatever happened to that?
First up, two articles by Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi. On October 25 he posted Wall Street Isn’t Winning – It’s Cheating, which (aside from arguing a range of critical points, such as that it isn’t “envy of the rich” that’s driving the OWS movement) offered the following nugget of information. This, folks, totally threw me for a loop:
One thing we can still be proud of is that America hasn’t yet managed to achieve the highest incarceration rate in history — that honor still goes to the Soviets in the Stalin/Gulag era. But we do still have about 2.3 million people in jail in America.
Virtually all 2.3 million of those prisoners come from “the 99%.” Here is the number of bankers who have gone to jail for crimes related to the financial crisis: 0.
Millions of people have been foreclosed upon in the last three years. In most all of those foreclosures, a regional law enforcement office — typically a sheriff’s office — was awarded fees by the court as part of the foreclosure settlement, settlements which of course were often rubber-stamped by a judge despite mountains of perjurious robosigned evidence. [emphasis added]
That means that every single time a bank kicked someone out of his home, a local police department got a cut. Local sheriff’s offices also get cuts of almost all credit card judgments, and other bank settlements. [emphasis added] If you’re wondering how it is that so many regional police departments have the money for fancy new vehicles and SWAT teams and other accoutrements, this is one of your answers.
What this amounts to is the banks having, as allies, a massive armed police force who are always on call, ready to help them evict homeowners and safeguard the repossession of property. But just see what happens when you try to call the police to prevent an improper foreclosure. Then, suddenly, the police will not get involved. It will be a “civil matter” and they won’t intervene.
The point being: we have a massive police force in America that outside of lower Manhattan prosecutes crime and imprisons citizens with record-setting, factory-level efficiency, eclipsing the incarceration rates of most of history’s more notorious police states and communist countries.
But the bankers on Wall Street don’t live in that heavily-policed country. There are maybe 1000 SEC agents policing that sector of the economy, plus a handful of FBI agents. There are nearly that many police officers stationed around the polite crowd at Zucotti park. (more)
Please read the whole article. Breathtaking.
Call me naive, but I had no idea that local (US) police forces were benefiting from this crisis – and that this means, as per the ever-useful “follow the money” mantra, they are corrupted by the financial crisis. I had heard that private corporations “contract” police services in NYC (with the tax-paying public holding the bag for police insurance, no less), but I had no idea that police departments were effectively skimming off the top of the foreclosure/ eviction crisis. This is so wrong.
…If the cops wore logos on their uniforms that identify all the corporations overtly or covertly paying for their services, they too would look like race car drivers…
Well, that’s a real nail in the coffin of democracy. You have to wonder whether the financial industries realize how dangerous their game is. As Taibbi points out in his article, Americans have never resented the rich – we’ve adulated them. We love Horatio Alger stories, we believe in bootstrapping. And we believe in winning. But we hate cheaters – and by making cheating into their actual modus operandus, these guys are shaking down the whole country. What a dangerous and rotten game, and how unworthy of America.
Taibbi’s other article of note is his take-down of NYC’s Mayor: Mike Bloomberg’s Marie Antoinette Moment. This is another breathtaking read – Taibbi isn’t just a great writer, he’s absolutely fearless. I guess my take-away from this piece was that it isn’t the “anonymous” protesters who are wearing the masks – it’s people like Bloomberg. And Taibbi’s article reveals Bloomberg’s true face (one that’s beholden to the banking industry and its friends, not to the people he’s supposed to be serving). As Taibbi puts it:
Well, you know what, Mike Bloomberg? FUCK YOU. People are not protesting for their own entertainment, you asshole. They’re protesting because millions of people were robbed, by your best friends incidentally, and they want their money back. (source)
Seems it’s time to stop mincing words. President Obama, where are you in all this?
Speaking of Obama, we need a Teddy Roosevelt. See Simon Johnson: ‘We Are Looking Straight Into The Face Of A Great Depression’ – not for the faint of heart. Everywhere, it seems, people with brains and expertise are saying: hold on, this can’t continue. The “this” in question is the privatization of profit and the socialization of risk and losses. Why does it continue?
The “door” Dauncey refers to is the door on which Martin Luther nailed his Reformation theses on October 31, 1571. Luther had clear theses, not jello – much of what’s happening with the Occupy Wall Street protests articulates the demand for Reformation (reform) as jello (and that’s where writers like Taibbi et al. are doing such important work, because they’re pointing out that there are clear rallying points – theses – for reform).
Dauncey notes that the #1 demand for OWS should be “get the money out of politics”:
In America, there is clear justification for articulating the Number #1 demand as “Get the money out of politics!”. The corruption of American politics by money is legend. So let’s say it is successful, and Americans achieve what Canada has already done.
Most Americans have no idea that Canadian political parties are publicly funded based on their share of the vote at the last election, and that no-one, whether billionaire or broom-pusher, can donate more than $1,000 to a party.
It is due to controls like this that Canada’s banking regulators are not controlled by the banks, and that Canada did not experience the sub-prime mortgage scandal that is causing such chaos and tragedy in America.
Canada’s tragedy is that Harper’s Conservative government is planning to abolish this very constraint, so one of our demands here in Canada must be “Keep the money out of politics!” (source)
But, as Dauncey notes, Canada has similar problems as America: poverty, inequality, corporate influence. It’s still a follow the money question. Referencing an earlier infographic in New Scientist, Dauncey notes that:
A new analysis by complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a core of 1318 interlocking companies which control 80% of the world’s global operating revenues.
Within these, 147 tightly knit companies (1% of the core) control 40% of the wealth. Most are financial institutions such as Barclays Bank, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, but the top ten also includes companies that almost nobody has heard of such as FMR, AXA and Capital Group Companies.
Furthermore, most or all of these companies operate with off-shore tax havens where they hide their wealth and avoid paying taxes. They are like Jello – if you try to pin them down, they simply move their money somewhere else, managed by anonymous trusts that no-one has the power to investigate or control. Collectively, they are a three-foot wide lump of Jello, and our regulatory powers are a single thumb. [emphasis added]
So what could crack the core of the problem and nail the Jello to the door? We need to capture the flight capital and close down the world’s tax havens, aided by a Tax Evasion Complicity Law which would make it a criminal offense to knowingly serve as a fund manager, accountant, trustee, lawyer or corporate nominee for a known tax evader.
And that last suggestion – which would strike at the heart of a global ecosystem that now feeds off that lump of jello – is probably what makes reform so difficult. Clamped tightly to the jello teat, weaning will be a challenge.