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Welcome to the asylum!

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Michael Klare offers convincing proof that the world is mad!

Once again, serendipity has stepped in and provided me with today’s post.

What do I mean?

Well yesterday, I republished in full a recent essay from George Monbiot.  He demonstrated that when it comes to “fiddling while Rome burns” the United Nations takes some beating. This is in the context of 23 years of UN gatherings to control the levels of CO2 in our planet’s atmosphere without attempting, in the slightest, to control the production of coal, oil and gas.  Take this excerpt as an example of our madness.

You cannot solve a problem without naming it. The absence of official recognition of the role of fossil fuel production in causing climate change – blitheringly obvious as it is – permits governments to pursue directly contradictory policies. While almost all governments claim to support the aim of preventing more than 2°C of global warming, they also seek to “maximise economic recovery” of their fossil fuel reserves. (Then they cross their fingers, walk three times widdershins around the office and pray that no one burns it). But few governments go as far as the UK has gone.

In the Infrastructure Act that received royal assent last month, maximising the economic recovery of petroleum from the UK’s continental shelf became a statutory duty. Future governments are now legally bound to squeeze every possible drop out of the ground.

The idea came from a government review conducted by Sir Ian Wood, the billionaire owner of an inherited company – the Wood Group – that provides services to the oil and gas industry. While Sir Ian says his recommendations “received overwhelming industry support”, his team interviewed no one outside either the oil business or government. It contains no sign that I can detect of any feedback from environment groups or scientists.

Then serendipitously, yesterday morning up pops an essay from Michael Klare published on Tom Dispatch that continues to underline the absence, the global absence, of any form of smart thinking.  It is republished today with the kind permission of Tom Engelhardt.

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Tomgram: Michael Klare, Is Big Oil Finally Entering a Climate Change World?

Posted by Michael Klare at 8:00am, March 12, 2015.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

Welcome to the asylum! I’m talking, of course, about this country, or rather the world Big Oil spent big bucks creating.You know, the one in which the obvious — climate change — is doubted and denied, and in which the new Republican Congress is actively opposed to doing anything about it. Just the other day, for instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote a column in his home state paper, the Lexington Herald-Leader, adopting the old Nancy Reagan slogan “just say no” to climate change. The senator from Coalville, smarting over the Obama administration’s attempts to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, is urging state governors to simply ignore the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “landmark limits” on those plants — to hell with the law and to hell, above all, with climate change. But it’s probably no news to you that the inmates are now running the asylum.

Just weeks ago, an example of Big Energy’s largess when it comes to sowing doubt about climate change surfaced. A rare scientific researcher, Wei-Hock Soon, who has published work denying the reality of climate change — the warming of the planet, he claims, is a result of “variations in the sun’s energy” — turned out to have received $1.2 million from various fossil fuel outfits, according to recently released documents; nor did he bother to disclose such support to any of the publications using his work. “The documents,” reported the New York Times, “show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as ‘deliverables’ that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.”

There’s nothing new in this. Big Energy (like Big Tobacco before it) has for years been using a tiny cadre of scientists to sow uncertainty about the reality of climate change. Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway wrote a now-classic investigative book, Merchants of Doubt, about just how the fossil fuel companies pulled this off, creating a public sense of doubt where a scientific one didn’t exist. Now, the book has been made into a striking documentary film, which has just opened nationally. Someday, perhaps, all of this will enter a court of law where those who knowingly perpetrated fraud on the American and global publics and in the process threatened humanity with a disaster of potentially apocalyptic proportions will get their just desserts. On that distant day when those who ran the planet into the ground for corporate profits have to pay for their criminal acts, Merchants of Doubt will undoubtedly be exhibit one for the prosecution.

In the meantime, TomDispatch regular Michael Klare continues his invaluable chronicling at this site of the depredations of Big Oil on this fragile planet of ours. Tom

Big Oil’s Broken Business Model

The Real Story Behind the Oil Price Collapse
By Michael T. Klare

Many reasons have been provided for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil to about $60 per barrel (nearly half of what it was a year ago): slowing demand due to global economic stagnation; overproduction at shale fields in the United States; the decision of the Saudis and other Middle Eastern OPEC producers to maintain output at current levels (presumably to punish higher-cost producers in the U.S. and elsewhere); and the increased value of the dollar relative to other currencies. There is, however, one reason that’s not being discussed, and yet it could be the most important of all: the complete collapse of Big Oil’s production-maximizing business model.

Until last fall, when the price decline gathered momentum, the oil giants were operating at full throttle, pumping out more petroleum every day. They did so, of course, in part to profit from the high prices. For most of the previous six years, Brent crude, the international benchmark for crude oil, had been selling at $100 or higher. But Big Oil was also operating according to a business model that assumed an ever-increasing demand for its products, however costly they might be to produce and refine. This meant that no fossil fuel reserves, no potential source of supply — no matter how remote or hard to reach, how far offshore or deeply buried, how encased in rock — was deemed untouchable in the mad scramble to increase output and profits.

In recent years, this output-maximizing strategy had, in turn, generated historic wealth for the giant oil companies. Exxon, the largest U.S.-based oil firm, earned an eye-popping $32.6 billion in 2013 alone, more than any other American company except for Apple. Chevron, the second biggest oil firm, posted earnings of $21.4 billion that same year. State-owned companies like Saudi Aramco and Russia’s Rosneft also reaped mammoth profits.

How things have changed in a matter of mere months. With demand stagnant and excess production the story of the moment, the very strategy that had generated record-breaking profits has suddenly become hopelessly dysfunctional.

To fully appreciate the nature of the energy industry’s predicament, it’s necessary to go back a decade to 2005, when the production-maximizing strategy was first adopted. At that time, Big Oil faced a critical juncture. On the one hand, many existing oil fields were being depleted at a torrid pace, leading experts to predict an imminent “peak” in global oil production, followed by an irreversible decline; on the other, rapid economic growth in China, India, and other developing nations was pushing demand for fossil fuels into the stratosphere. In those same years, concern over climate change was also beginning to gather momentum, threatening the future of Big Oil and generating pressures to invest in alternative forms of energy.

A “Brave New World” of Tough Oil

No one better captured that moment than David O’Reilly, the chairman and CEO of Chevron. “Our industry is at a strategic inflection point, a unique place in our history,” he told a gathering of oil executives that February. “The most visible element of this new equation,” he explained in what some observers dubbed his “Brave New World” address, “is that relative to demand, oil is no longer in plentiful supply.” Even though China was sucking up oil, coal, and natural gas supplies at a staggering rate, he had a message for that country and the world: “The era of easy access to energy is over.”

To prosper in such an environment, O’Reilly explained, the oil industry would have to adopt a new strategy. It would have to look beyond the easy-to-reach sources that had powered it in the past and make massive investments in the extraction of what the industry calls “unconventional oil” and what I labeled at the time “tough oil”: resources located far offshore, in the threatening environments of the far north, in politically dangerous places like Iraq, or in unyielding rock formations like shale. “Increasingly,” O’Reilly insisted, “future supplies will have to be found in ultradeep water and other remote areas, development projects that will ultimately require new technology and trillions of dollars of investment in new infrastructure.”

klarepbk2012For top industry officials like O’Reilly, it seemed evident that Big Oil had no choice in the matter. It would have to invest those needed trillions in tough-oil projects or lose ground to other sources of energy, drying up its stream of profits. True, the cost of extracting unconventional oil would be much greater than from easier-to-reach conventional reserves (not to mention more environmentally hazardous), but that would be the world’s problem, not theirs. “Collectively, we are stepping up to this challenge,” O’Reilly declared. “The industry is making significant investments to build additional capacity for future production.”

On this basis, Chevron, Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, and other major firms indeed invested enormous amounts of money and resources in a growing unconventional oil and gas race, an extraordinary saga I described in my book The Race for What’s Left. Some, including Chevron and Shell, started drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico; others, including Exxon, commenced operations in the Arctic and eastern Siberia. Virtually every one of them began exploiting U.S. shale reserves via hydro-fracking.

Only one top executive questioned this drill-baby-drill approach: John Browne, then the chief executive of BP. Claiming that the science of climate change had become too convincing to deny, Browne argued that Big Energy would have to look “beyond petroleum” and put major resources into alternative sources of supply. “Climate change is an issue which raises fundamental questions about the relationship between companies and society as a whole, and between one generation and the next,” he had declared as early as 2002. For BP, he indicated, that meant developing wind power, solar power, and biofuels.

Browne, however, was eased out of BP in 2007 just as Big Oil’s output-maximizing business model was taking off, and his successor, Tony Hayward, quickly abandoned the “beyond petroleum” approach. “Some may question whether so much of the [world’s energy] growth needs to come from fossil fuels,” he said in 2009. “But here it is vital that we face up to the harsh reality [of energy availability].” Despite the growing emphasis on renewables, “we still foresee 80% of energy coming from fossil fuels in 2030.”

Under Hayward’s leadership, BP largely discontinued its research into alternative forms of energy and reaffirmed its commitment to the production of oil and gas, the tougher the better. Following in the footsteps of other giant firms, BP hustled into the Arctic, the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, and Canadian tar sands, a particularly carbon-dirty and messy-to-produce form of energy. In its drive to become the leading producer in the Gulf, BP rushed the exploration of a deep offshore field it called Macondo, triggering the Deepwater Horizon blow-out of April 2010 and the devastating oil spill of monumental proportions that followed.

Over the Cliff

By the end of the first decade of this century, Big Oil was united in its embrace of its new production-maximizing, drill-baby-drill approach. It made the necessary investments, perfected new technology for extracting tough oil, and did indeed triumph over the decline of existing, “easy oil” deposits. In those years, it managed to ramp up production in remarkable ways, bringing ever more hard-to-reach oil reservoirs online.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy, world oil production rose from 85.1 million barrels per day in 2005 to 92.9 million in 2014, despite the continuing decline of many legacy fields in North America and the Middle East. Claiming that industry investments in new drilling technologies had vanquished the specter of oil scarcity, BP’s latest CEO, Bob Dudley, assured the world only a year ago that Big Oil was going places and the only thing that had “peaked” was “the theory of peak oil.”

That, of course, was just before oil prices took their leap off the cliff, bringing instantly into question the wisdom of continuing to pump out record levels of petroleum. The production-maximizing strategy crafted by O’Reilly and his fellow CEOs rested on three fundamental assumptions: that, year after year, demand would keep climbing; that such rising demand would ensure prices high enough to justify costly investments in unconventional oil; and that concern over climate change would in no significant way alter the equation. Today, none of these assumptions holds true.

Demand will continue to rise — that’s undeniable, given expected growth in world income and population — but not at the pace to which Big Oil has become accustomed. Consider this: in 2005, when many of the major investments in unconventional oil were getting under way, the EIA projected that global oil demand would reach 103.2 million barrels per day in 2015; now, it’s lowered that figure for this year to only 93.1 million barrels. Those 10 million “lost” barrels per day in expected consumption may not seem like a lot, given the total figure, but keep in mind that Big Oil’s multibillion-dollar investments in tough energy were predicated on all that added demand materializing, thereby generating the kind of high prices needed to offset the increasing costs of extraction. With so much anticipated demand vanishing, however, prices were bound to collapse.

Current indications suggest that consumption will continue to fall short of expectations in the years to come. In an assessment of future trends released last month, the EIA reported that, thanks to deteriorating global economic conditions, many countries will experience either a slower rate of growth or an actual reduction in consumption. While still inching up, Chinese consumption, for instance, is expected to grow by only 0.3 million barrels per day this year and next — a far cry from the 0.5 million barrel increase it posted in 2011 and 2012 and its one million barrel increase in 2010. In Europe and Japan, meanwhile, consumption is actually expected to fall over the next two years.

And this slowdown in demand is likely to persist well beyond 2016, suggests the International Energy Agency (IEA), an arm of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (the club of rich industrialized nations). While lower gasoline prices may spur increased consumption in the United States and a few other nations, it predicted, most countries will experience no such lift and so “the recent price decline is expected to have only a marginal impact on global demand growth for the remainder of the decade.”

This being the case, the IEA believes that oil prices will only average about $55 per barrel in 2015 and not reach $73 again until 2020. Such figures fall far below what would be needed to justify continued investment in and exploitation of tough-oil options like Canadian tar sands, Arctic oil, and many shale projects. Indeed, the financial press is now full of reports on stalled or cancelled mega-energy projects. Shell, for example, announced in January that it had abandoned plans for a $6.5 billion petrochemical plant in Qatar, citing “the current economic climate prevailing in the energy industry.” At the same time, Chevron shelved its plan to drill in the Arctic waters of the Beaufort Sea, while Norway’s Statoil turned its back on drilling in Greenland.

There is, as well, another factor that threatens the wellbeing of Big Oil: climate change can no longer be discounted in any future energy business model. The pressures to deal with a phenomenon that could quite literally destroy human civilization are growing. Although Big Oil has spent massive amounts of money over the years in a campaign to raise doubts about the science of climate change, more and more people globally are starting to worry about its effects — extreme weather patterns, extreme storms, extreme drought, rising sea levels, and the like — and demanding that governments take action to reduce the magnitude of the threat.

Europe has already adopted plans to lower carbon emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020 and to achieve even greater reductions in the following decades. China, while still increasing its reliance on fossil fuels, has at least finally pledged to cap the growth of its carbon emissions by 2030 and to increase renewable energy sources to 20% of total energy use by then. In the United States, increasingly stringent automobile fuel-efficiency standards will require that cars sold in 2025 achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon, reducing U.S. oil demand by 2.2 million barrels per day. (Of course, the Republican-controlled Congress — heavily subsidized by Big Oil — will do everything it can to eradicate curbs on fossil fuel consumption.)

Still, however inadequate the response to the dangers of climate change thus far, the issue is on the energy map and its influence on policy globally can only increase. Whether Big Oil is ready to admit it or not, alternative energy is now on the planetary agenda and there’s no turning back from that. “It is a different world than it was the last time we saw an oil-price plunge,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven in February, referring to the 2008 economic meltdown. “Emerging economies, notably China, have entered less oil-intensive stages of development… On top of this, concerns about climate change are influencing energy policies [and so] renewables are increasingly pervasive.”

The oil industry is, of course, hoping that the current price plunge will soon reverse itself and that its now-crumbling maximizing-output model will make a comeback along with $100-per-barrel price levels. But these hopes for the return of “normality” are likely energy pipe dreams. As van der Hoeven suggests, the world has changed in significant ways, in the process obliterating the very foundations on which Big Oil’s production-maximizing strategy rested. The oil giants will either have to adapt to new circumstances, while scaling back their operations, or face takeover challenges from more nimble and aggressive firms.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Michael T. Klare

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Both yesterday’s essay from George Monbiot and Michael Klare’s essay above are not quick reads.  But reading them thoroughly is rewarding because it underlines the degree to which the lives of millions of hard-working citizens comes to naught when big money, power and politics are involved.

Seeking intelligent life!

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Continuing from yesterday with the essay from George Monbiot.

The title of today’s post comes from that very silly joke, oft repeated by yours truly, about why is it that Planet Earth has never been visited by aliens?

Answer: Because they have seen no signs of intelligent life!

(Yes, I know, it’s very corny!)

In yesterday’s post about Smart thinking (or the frequent lack of it) I referred to a recent essay from George Monbiot about the United Nations and climate change.  Mr. Monbiot’s essay offers both a startling and hard-to-believe account of the madness, in lieu of a more cruel word, of what could be one of the crucial assemblies for positive change, but isn’t!

I said that the essay would be published in full today and here it is, with the kind permission of Mr. Monbiot.

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Applauding Themselves to Death

10th March 2015

Why the UN climate talks have wasted 23 years, and how this can change.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th March 2015

If you visit the website of the UN body that oversees the world’s climate negotiations(1), you will find dozens of pictures, taken across 20 years, of people clapping. These photos should be of interest to anthropologists and psychologists. For they show hundreds of intelligent, educated, well-paid and elegantly-dressed people wasting their lives.

The celebratory nature of the images testifies to the world of make-believe these people inhabit. They are surrounded by objectives, principles, commitments, instruments and protocols, which create a reassuring phantasm of progress while the ship on which they travel slowly founders. Leafing through these photos, I imagine I can almost hear what the delegates are saying through their expensive dentistry. “Darling you’ve re-arranged the deckchairs beautifully. It’s a breakthrough! We’ll have to invent a mechanism for holding them in place, as the deck has developed a bit of a tilt, but we’ll do that at the next conference.”

This process is futile because they have addressed the problem only from one end, and it happens to be the wrong end. They have sought to prevent climate breakdown by limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that are released; in other words, by constraining the consumption of fossil fuels. But, throughout the 23 years since the world’s governments decided to begin this process, the delegates have uttered not one coherent word about constraining production.

Compare this to any other treaty-making process. Imagine, for example, that the Biological Weapons Convention made no attempt to restrain the production or possession of weaponised smallpox and anthrax, but only to prohibit their use. How effective do you reckon it would be? (You don’t have to guess: look at the US gun laws, which prohibit the lethal use of guns but not their sale and carriage. You can see the results in the news every week). Imagine trying to protect elephants and rhinos only by banning the purchase of their tusks and horns, without limiting killing, export or sale. Imagine trying to bring slavery to an end not by stopping the transatlantic trade, but by seeking only to discourage people from buying slaves once they had arrived in the Americas. If you want to discourage a harmful trade, you must address it at both ends: production and consumption. Of the two, production is the most important.

The extraction of fossil fuels is a hard fact. The rules governments have developed to prevent their use are weak, inconsistent and negotiable. In other words, when coal, oil and gas are produced, they will be used. Continued production will overwhelm attempts to restrict consumption. Even if efforts to restrict consumption temporarily succeed, they are likely to be self-defeating. A reduction in demand when supply is unconstrained lowers the price, favouring carbon-intensive industry.

You can search through the UN’s website for any recognition of this issue, but you would be wasting your time. In its gushing catalogue of self-congratulation(2), at Kyoto, Doha, Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, Lima and all stops en route, the phrase “fossil fuel” does not occur once. Nor do the words coal or oil. But gas: oh yes, there are plenty of mentions of gas. Not natural gas, of course, but of greenhouse gases, the sole topic of official interest.

The closest any of the 20 international conferences convened so far have come to acknowledging the problem is in the resolution adopted in Lima in December last year. It pledged “cooperation” in “the phasing down of high-carbon investments and fossil fuel subsidies”(3), but proposed no budget, timetable or any instrument or mechanism required to make it happen. It’s progress of a sort, I suppose, and perhaps, after just 23 years, we should be grateful.

There is nothing random about the pattern of silence that surrounds our lives. Silences occur where powerful interests are at risk of exposure. They protect these interests from democratic scrutiny. I’m not suggesting that the negotiators decided not to talk about fossil fuels, or signed a common accord to waste their lives. Far from it: they have gone to great lengths to invest their efforts with the appearance of meaning and purpose. Creating a silence requires only an instinct for avoiding conflict. It is a conditioned and unconscious reflex; part of the package of social skills that secures our survival. Don’t name the Devil for fear that you’ll summon him.

Breaking such silences requires a conscious and painful effort. I remember as if it were yesterday how I felt when I first raised this issue in the media(4). I had been working with a group of young activists in Wales, campaigning against opencast coal mines(5). Talking it over with them, it seemed so obvious, so overwhelming, that I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t on everyone’s lips. Before writing about it, I circled the topic like a dog investigating a suspicious carcass. Why, I wondered, is no one touching this? Is it toxic?

You cannot solve a problem without naming it. The absence of official recognition of the role of fossil fuel production in causing climate change – blitheringly obvious as it is – permits governments to pursue directly contradictory policies. While almost all governments claim to support the aim of preventing more than 2°C of global warming, they also seek to “maximise economic recovery” of their fossil fuel reserves. (Then they cross their fingers, walk three times widdershins around the office and pray that no one burns it). But few governments go as far as the UK has gone.

In the Infrastructure Act that received royal assent last month, maximising the economic recovery of petroleum from the UK’s continental shelf became a statutory duty(6). Future governments are now legally bound to squeeze every possible drop out of the ground.

The idea came from a government review conducted by Sir Ian Wood, the billionaire owner of an inherited company – the Wood Group – that provides services to the oil and gas industry. While Sir Ian says his recommendations “received overwhelming industry support”(7), his team interviewed no one outside either the oil business or government. It contains no sign that I can detect of any feedback from environment groups or scientists.

His review demanded government powers to enhance both the exploration of new reserves and the exploitation of existing ones. This, it insisted, “will help take us closer to the 24 billion [barrel] prize potentially still to come.” The government promised to implement his recommendations in full and without delay(8). In fact it went some way beyond them. It is prepared to be ruthlessly interventionist when promoting climate change, but not when restraining it.

During December’s climate talks in Lima, the UK’s energy secretary, Ed Davey, did something unwise. He broke the silence. He warned that if climate change policies meant that fossil fuel reserves could no longer be exploited, pension funds could be investing in “the sub-prime assets of the future”(9). Echoing the Bank of England and financial analysts such as the Carbon Tracker Initiative, Mr Davey suggested that if governments were serious about preventing climate breakdown, fossil fuel could become a stranded asset.

This provoked a furious response from the industry. The head of Oil and Gas UK wrote to express his confusion(10), pointing out that Mr Davey’s statements come “at a time when you, your Department and the Treasury are putting great effort into [making] the UK North Sea more attractive to investors in oil and gas, not less. I’m intrigued to understand how such opposing viewpoints can be reconciled.” He’s not the only one. Ed Davey quickly explained that his comments were not to be taken seriously, as “I did not offer any suggestions on what investors should choose to do.”(11)

Barack Obama has the same problem. During a television interview last year, he confessed that “We’re not going to be able to burn it all.”(12) So why, he was asked, has his government been encouraging ever more exploration and extraction of fossil fuels? His administration has opened up marine oil exploration from Florida to Delaware – in waters that were formally off-limits(13). It has increased the number of leases sold for drilling on federal lands and, most incongruously, rushed through the process that might, by the end of this month, enable Shell to prospect in the highly vulnerable Arctic waters of the Chukchi Sea(14).

Similar contradictions beset most governments with environmental pretentions. Norway, for example, intends to be “carbon neutral” by 2030. Perhaps it hopes to export its entire oil and gas output, while relying on wind farms at home(15). A motion put to the Norwegian parliament last year to halt new drilling because it is incompatible with Norway’s climate change policies was defeated by 95 votes to 3(16).

Obama explained that “I don’t always lead with the climate change issue because if you right now are worried about whether you’ve got a job or if you can pay the bills, the first thing you want to hear is how do I meet the immediate problem?”(17)

Money is certainly a problem, but not necessarily for the reasons Obama suggested. The bigger issue is the bankrolling of politics by big oil and big coal(18), and the tremendous lobbying power they purchase. These companies have, in the past, financed wars to protect their position(19); they will not surrender the bulk of their reserves without a monumental fight. This fight would test the very limits of state power; I wonder whether our nominal democracies would survive it. Fossil fuel companies have become glutted on silence: their power has grown as a result of numberless failures to challenge and expose them. It’s no wonder that the manicured negotiators at the UN conferences, so careful never to break a nail, have spent so long avoiding the issue.

I believe there are ways of resolving this problem, ways that might recruit other powerful interests against these corporations. For example, a global auction in pollution permits would mean that governments had to regulate just a few thousand oil refineries, coal washeries, gas pipelines and cement and fertiliser factories, rather than the activities of 7 billion people(20). It would create a fund from the sale of permits that’s likely to run into trillions: money that could be used for anything from renewable energy to healthcare. By reducing fluctations in the supply of energy, it would deliver more predictable prices, that many businesses would welcome. Most importantly, unlike the current framework for negotiations, it could work, producing a real possibility of averting climate breakdown.

Left to themselves, the negotiators will continue to avoid this issue until they have wasted everyone else’s lives as well as their own. They keep telling us that the conference in Paris in December is the make or break meeting (presumably they intend to unveil a radical new deckchair design). We should take them at their word, and demand that they start confronting the real problem.

With the help of George Marshall at the Climate Outreach and Information Network, I’ve drafted a paragraph of the kind that the Paris agreement should contain. It’s far from perfect, and I would love to see other people refining it. But, I hope, it’s a start:

“Scientific assessments of the carbon contained in existing fossil fuel reserves suggest that full exploitation of these reserves is incompatible with the agreed target of no more than 2°C of global warming. The unrestricted extraction of these reserves undermines attempts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. We will start negotiating a global budget for the extraction of fossil fuels from existing reserves, as well as a date for a moratorium on the exploration and development of new reserves. In line with the quantification of the fossil carbon that can be extracted without a high chance of exceeding 2°C of global warming, we will develop a timetable for annual reductions towards that budget. We will develop mechanisms for allocating production within this budget and for enforcement and monitoring.”

If something of that kind were to emerge from Paris, it will not have been a total waste of time, and the delegates would be able to congratulate themselves on a real achievement rather than yet another false one. Then, for once, they would deserve their own applause.

References:

1. http://unfccc.int/2860.php

2. See the section titled “Key Steps”.

3. http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2014/cop20/eng/10a01.pdf

4. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/dec/11/comment.greenpolitics

5. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/dec/05/beartoherethetruthyouvespoken

6. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/7/part/6/crossheading/recovery-of-uk-petroleum/enacted

7. http://www.woodreview.co.uk/documents/UKCS%20Maximising%20Recovery%20Review%20FINAL%2072pp%20locked.pdf

8. https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/wood-review-implementation-team

9. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/11277546/Fossil-fuel-investing-a-risk-to-pension-funds-says-Ed-Davey.html

10. https://www.scribd.com/doc/256034152/Malcom-Webb-to-Secretary-of-State

11. https://www.scribd.com/doc/256034194/Secretary-of-State-to-Malcolm-Webb

12. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/08/opinion/sunday/friedman-obama-on-obama-on-climate.html?_r=1

13. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/how-obama-became-oil-president-gas-fracking-drill

14. http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175963/tomgram%3A_subhankar_banerjee%2C_arctic_nightmares/

15. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24299-ipcc-digested-just-leave-the-fossil-fuels-underground.html

16. https://stortinget.no/no/Saker-og-publikasjoner/Saker/Sak/?p=59412

17. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/08/opinion/sunday/friedman-obama-on-obama-on-climate.html?_r=1

18. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2012/aug/02/climate-change-political-funding-us

19. http://en.mercopress.com/2008/06/15/formal-end-to-oil-companies-proxy-chaco-war-1932-35

20. http://www.kyoto2.org/

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What a funny lot we can be!

Smart thinking – something else to learn from our dogs?

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Because some of the things we humans do are insanely stupid!

Here’s a picture of Oliver taken yesterday afternoon.

Becoming a dear, smart dog. (And those eyes!)

Becoming a dear, smart dog. (And those eyes!)

A few days ago, I was sitting in our living room on one of our settees (more or less where Oliver was sitting when the photograph above was taken) with my knees up against a low coffee table; the table separates our two settees.

On the settee to my left lay Cleo and on the floor across my feet slept Hazel.

It was clear that Oliver wanted to join me on the settee but couldn’t work out if there was room.  I shifted about two feet to my left leaving an Oliver-sized gap to my right. However, Oliver couldn’t come past my knees, from left to right as it were, because of Hazel. He very quickly worked out to run around behind the settee and jump up into the space I had newly created to my right.

Don’t worry if I lost you!

The point I am making is that Oliver, who has grown into the most delightful young adult dog, with a gorgeous temperament, demonstrates daily a keen intelligence and a nose for working things out quickly.

All of which is a preamble for me wondering if among the list of qualities that we humans should learn from dogs we should add intelligence.

For there’s been a few items around the ‘blogosphere’ that have highlighted how silly we can be.

Take this item that recently was featured on Grist.

Walmart’s new green product label is the most misleading yet.

A giant, 150-foot roll of bubble wrap may not be your idea of an environmentally friendly product, but over at Walmart.com this one-pound ball of plastic now boasts a special “Sustainability Leaders” badge. It’s one of more than 3,000 products tagged with this new green label, which Walmart executives unveiled last week, together with a web portal where shoppers can find these items.

Dozens of news accounts hailed the giant retailer’s move as a significant step toward clearing up the confusion and misleading information that often greet consumers trying to make ecologically responsible choices. “The world’s largest retailer took a major and important step toward helping all of us shop more smartly,” declared corporate sustainability consultant Andrew Winston in Harvard Business Review. Triple Pundit concurred: “It’s about to get a lot easier for Walmart.com shoppers to make the responsible choice.”

Actually, a green-minded online shopper is likely to find Walmart’s new badge confusing, murky, and downright misleading. I searched the bubble wrap’s product page high and low for its secret sauce, the invisible feature that makes it a smarter choice amid the many seemingly less harmful packing options available, but found no explanation.

It turns out that the key to this mystery lies in a remarkable disclaimer tucked into the middle of the home page of Walmart’s sustainability shopping portal: “The Sustainability Leaders badge does not make representations about the environmental or social impact of an individual product.” (my emphasis)

You can read the full item here, and you should! It’s unbelievably stupid, apart from being highly misleading, to my mind because when the word gets around it will damage the trust that all retailers need from their customers. And don’t even bring up the notion of integrity!

Then over on George Monbiot’s blogsite, there is a recent essay about the UN and progress on climate change. Here’s how it starts (and I’m republishing it in full tomorrow):

Applauding Themselves to Death

If you visit the website of the UN body that oversees the world’s climate negotiations, you will find dozens of pictures, taken across 20 years, of people clapping. These photos should be of interest to anthropologists and psychologists. For they show hundreds of intelligent, educated, well-paid and elegantly-dressed people wasting their lives.

The celebratory nature of the images testifies to the world of make-believe these people inhabit. They are surrounded by objectives, principles, commitments, instruments and protocols, which create a reassuring phantasm of progress while the ship on which they travel slowly founders. Leafing through these photos, I imagine I can almost hear what the delegates are saying through their expensive dentistry. “Darling you’ve re-arranged the deckchairs beautifully. It’s a breakthrough! We’ll have to invent a mechanism for holding them in place, as the deck has developed a bit of a tilt, but we’ll do that at the next conference.”

Humans have the potential to be incredibly smart thinkers, and down the ages there have been many such thinkers.

But!

Over on the Patrice Ayme blogsite there have been a couple of recent essays that highlight examples of both stupid thinking and the rewards that flow from smart thinking. In one essay, Added Value in the XXI Century, Patrice writes:

SUPERIORITY OF THE WEST?

Why did the West become so superior? Or China, for that matter?

Technology. Superior technology. Coming from superior thinking. Both the Greeks and the Chinese had colossal contempt for barbarians. (In both cases it went so far that the Greeks lost everything, and the Chinese came very close to annihilation).

Around the year 1000 CE, the Vietnamese (it seems) invented new cultivars of rice, which could produce an entire crop, twice a year. The population of East Asia exploded accordingly.

A bit earlier, the Franks had invented new cultivars of beans. The Frankish Tenth Century was full of beans. Beans are nutritious, with high protein.

Homo is scientific and technological. Thus, two million years ago, pelt covered (tech!) Homo Ergaster lived in Georgia’s Little Caucasus, a pretty cold place in winter. And the population was highly varied genetically (showing tech and travel already dominated).

A GREATER OBSESSION WITH FREEDOM MADE THE WEST SUPERIOR:

Here is the very latest. Flour was found in England, in archeological layers as old as 10,000 years before present. It was pure flour: there were no husks associated. The milling had been done, far away. How far? Well the cultivation of wheat spread to Western Europe millennia later. The flour had been traded, and brought over thousands of miles. Most certainly by boat. Celtic civilization, which would rise 5,000 years later, was expert at oceanic travel.

What’s the broad picture? Not just that prehistoric Englishmen loved their flat bread, no doubt a delicacy. Advanced technology has permeated Europe for much longer than is still understood now by most historians. Remember that the iceman who died in a glacier, 5,000 years ago, was not just tattooed, and had fetched in the lowlands a bow made of special wood. More telling: he carried antibiotics.

Then in a subsequent essay, What Is It To Think Correctly?, Patrice opens, thus:

What Is It To Think Correctly?

Some say that correct thinking has to do with avoiding “logical fallacies”. That is, of course, silly. Imagine a pilot in a plane. Suppose she avoids all logical fallacies. Where does the plane go? Nowhere. Thinking correctly is more than avoiding logical “fallacies”.

One needs more than logic, to proceed: one needs e-motion, or motivation (both express the fact that they are whatever gets people to get into action; the semantics recognizes that logic without emotion goes nowhere).

There is another, related, fallacy in thinking that correct thinking is all about avoiding “logical fallacies”.

I don’t have the answers to the conundrum of stupid thinking a la Walmart and the United Nations (not an exclusive list; by far) but I do believe that the only way for humanity to overcome what looks like a very dangerous era ahead is through smarter thinking!

Oh, nearly forgot.

Oliver will be happy to run classes on smart thinking!

Written with a hopeful heart.

with 2 comments

Good people must never do nothing!

Last Friday, I published a post under the title: Written with a heavy heart! It was about the appalling atrocities being carried out by ISIS. I was humbled by the many replies.

Yesterday, Su sent me another email that contained a link to a short video of what happened in Holland in September, 2011 when a Muslim attempted to make his personal beliefs known to Queen Beatrix of Holland.

All will become clear when you watch the video.

Love is the answer!

Now at first sight this may seem a silly, naive comment from a Brit who is way past longing for the hippie days of the 60s.

But maybe not!

Here’s a comment left by Lois on a recent Sue Dreamwalker’s post:

Sue, I looked at Paul’s post and came away with tears rolling down my face. Why isn’t this shown on our news, why aren’t we doing more to save these people? We start wars for oil and political ideology but not to save children. Today i just heard that the last group of the Peace Corp just pulled out of Israel because it was no longer safe enough to be there. We can’t keep ignoring what is going on in other parts of the world yet what can we as individuals do? Your poem was perfect for the subject and brings out much of the same questions I have swirling in my head now.

Here’s another reminder of the power of love; a reminder of the role of dogs in allowing us humans to open our hearts and practice unconditional love.

It’s what Jean and I experienced when we were out shopping in Grants Pass yesterday morning.

We were in a largish store when I saw a grey-haired woman pushing her shopping cart. Nothing unusual about that! But this shopping cart had a small, black puppy riding in the section where handbags are placed; just beyond the push-bar.

Halfway down the same aisle that we were in, the lady paused, lifted the puppy into her arms, and was looking at some food items on a shelf.  It was more than Jean and I could resist and we both approached the woman.

It turned out that the lady was 71 and had recently lost a dog from old age. As we petted the little puppy we learnt that he was 10 weeks old and that his name was Shadow.

Then without any prompting she went on to say:

People said I’m too old to be taking on a puppy. But I was so heart-broken when my dog died; so lonely without having him in my life. Now I have Shadow and I can face my days again. Little Shadow means the world to me. And I’m not going to worry about the future – I’m sure someone will take Shadow when I die. I just know that there is nothing better than the love of a little dog.

The power of love.

The power of love.

Of all the many things we can learn from dogs love is the greatest.

How to finish today’s post?

To me, only one way. Over to you: Simply Red.

Lives and loves
Don’t tell me about it
To respond to something permanent
You’ve got to be strong

Lives and loves
Only you know in your heart
How the pain felt
How the love made you melt

Me and you love
We have a way that seems to brighten up the day
We have our problems
Is the whole world asking, “Is it worth it?”

All the lovers in the world
Should they go on?
After all, they say
“You only live once”

Lives and loves
Only you know in your heart
How the pain felt
How the love made you melt

Me and you love
We have a way, that seems to brighten up the day
We have our problems
Is the whole world asking, “Is it worth it?”

All the lovers in the world
Should they go on
On and on and on

Lives and loves
Don’t tell me about it
Someone always gets hurt in it
You’ve got to be strong

Yeah lives and loves
Only we know in our hearts
How the pain felt
Oh your love made me melt

Me and you love
We had a way that seemed to brighten up the day
We had our problems
Is the whole world asking, “Is it worth it?”

All the lovers in the world
Should they go on?
After all, they say
“You only live once”

Written with a heavy heart!

with 21 comments

Such a need to learn from our dogs!

A couple of items that recently landed in my ‘in-box’ had me in pain; emotional pain that is. I agonised over republishing them but then thought it felt like a duty to promulgate this particular terrible aspect of life. Trust me, today’s post is going to generate a deal of passion (see reference to TIME magazine at the end of the post). Also it is not something that should be read by a young person under the age of sixteen.

The first item was an email sent to me by dearest Suzann and is republished here with Suzann’s kind permission.

(For those that may not know or recall, Suzann, and her husband Don, invited me to spend the Christmas of 2007 with them at their home in San Carlos, Mexico. Suzann and Jean, who then lived in San Carlos, had been good friends for many years working together to rescue the many feral dogs found on the streets in San Carlos and surrounding areas. Indeed, Suzann continues to rescue those needy dogs and find loving homes for them. Out of the 9 dogs here at home in Oregon, 6 are ex-rescue dogs from Mexico.)

This is what Suzann sent:

I am so sorry to have to send this to you, but it needs to get out there for people to know.
What can we do?
1. Make others aware of this atrocious and vile assault on innocent people, so people will WAKE UP to the evil that is happening in this world!
2. PRAY!
3. If you are not a believer, send to others that you know who are, so they can send it on.
The whole world needs to see this!!
Thank you.
suzann

YOUR PRAYERS ARE THE NEED OF THE HOUR.

PLEASE SEND THIS TO AS MANY AS YOU CAN.

PLEASE LOOK AT THESE PICTURES. ISIS IS KILLING CHRISTIAN CHILDREN. ONE WAS CRUCIFIED. PLEASE PRAY.
Be sure to see the 4 photos below. The whole world needs to see what kind of people these ISIS terrorists are.

Su1

oooo

Su2

oooo

Su3

oooo

Su4

Here is an urgent prayer request for all of us!!
She asked that it be forwarded ASAP to as many people possible:

Dear Friend: Just a few minutes ago, I received the following text message on my phone, from Sean Malone who leads Crisis Relief International (CRI), We spoke briefly on the phone, and I assured him that we would share this urgent prayer need with all our contacts.
We lost the city of Queragosh. It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically. This is the city we have been smuggling food to. ISIS has pushed back Kurdish Forces, and is within 10 minutes of where our CRI team is working. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated its staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!!!.

Please pray sincerely for the deliverance of people of northern Iraq from the terrible advancement of ISIS and its extreme Islamic goals for mass conversion or death for Christians in this area.

May I plead with you not to ignore this email? Do not forward it before you have prayed through it. Then send it to as many people as possible.
Send it to friends and Christians you know. Send it to your prayer group. Send it to your pastors. Any one you can think of. We need to stand in the gap for our fellow Christians.

I was still struggling to ground, as it were, my emotional response to Suzann’s item when a second item came into my ‘in-box’. It was a new post over on Patrice Ayme’s blogsite. This, too, is republished in full with Patrice’s kind permission.

ooOOoo

Savage, The Franks? Islam Is Worse

Our friend the half-philosophers may start to huff and puff, as “Franks” were citizens of a federation (actually two of them, the one of the Sea, and the one of the River; the one of the Sea, or more exactly, Salt, is now known as Salian, or Salic).

Whereas “Islam” is a thought system, devised by some Arab warriors (PBUH), who got a good gig going for themselves.

To put in the same basket an ethnicity and a religion is what some half-philosophers would love to call a “category mistake”. The irony is that I know (the basics of) Category Theory, and they don’t.

In Category Theory, there is a concept called a functor, which allows to go from one category to another.

islamists

In other words, because I know of functors, I can mix and match different categories such as Franks and Islam, and be relaxed about it (instead of being all gripped and unimaginative, as is the average constipated half-philosopher. Notice in passing that the concept “functor” was invented by the philosopher Carnap in linguistics).

The historian Pirenne, long ago, suggested the thesis that the collapse of the economy in the High Middle Ages was caused by the Islamists (Islam confiscated most of the Roman empire, and imposed a total embargo, cutting not just the Paper route, but the Silk Road as well).

In other news, On Fascism, Russian & Islamist Edition, Feb 26, 2015, a plan surfaced for the invasion of Ukraine, written more than a year ago, by some major Russian plutocrats, who have influence on Putin and are best buddies with the leadership of the Russian “Orthodox” Church.

Don’t worry, anybody involved will soon die, and things will calm down; this is Putin’s way.

There is a clear self-censorship going on throughout the West right now, because people are scared of these fanatics, the Putinists, and the Islamists. This, in turn, is deleterious to any critical mood, thus discourse, thus adverse to fixing any problem.

One cannot have a sane public discourse if one cannot even draw a human being. Having public insanity in place of public discourse will affect the Republic, to the point it will die, and that is why it died in all and any nation that submitted to Submission (aka “Islam”).

TODAY’S ISLAMISTS: MORE BARBARIAN THAN THE FRANKS, SIXTEEN CENTURIES AGO:

As it rose, Christianism destroyed the Roman Republic (or what was left of it). In 363 CE, under fanatical emperor Jovian, an ex-general, a systematic policy of burning libraries got started (Jovian may have been behind the assassination of laic emperor Julian; I am speculating). In 381 CE under ex-general Theodosius, then emperor, laws were passed to enact a “War Against the Philosophers“. Heresy (“making a choice”) became punishable by death.

The Roman empire, which still had many characters of a Republic (which officially it was… Now a “Christian” Republic) exploded.

However, in the next century, in the West, the Franks took control and build a Catholicism so moderate that it made Paganism, Judaism, and Apostasy all legal (and conversions in all directions).

Interestingly, the Franks, who soon built what they called “Europe”, as an empire, have the reputation of uncouth savages. “Frank” means Ferocious, not just Free.

But the Franks had no problem with Catholics becoming Jews, entire villages converted, until the priest was the only Christian in town. Charlemagne himself, four centuries after the Franks acceded to power, had his friends call him “David”, because he wanted to be like Israel’s King David (not a friend of God, according to the Bible).

Compare with the savagery of Islam: Somebody who leaves Islam is to be killed, say the Hadiths.

So what of the supposed great intellectual tradition of “Islam”? That sounds strange, on the face of it. What about the great intellectual tradition of Christianism? Well, the answer is that there is no such a thing. As soon as he became a fanatical Christian, Pascal produced nothing. All great “Christian” intellectuals are intellectuals first, and, second spent the reminder of their mental capabilities avoiding the fire in which the church wanted to throw them.

In France alone, around the year 1530 CE, three major philosophers were burned alive for having contradicted Catholicism. This explains why Descartes, a century later, preferred to live in the Netherlands.

Contrarily to repute, the situation with Islam was even worse. At least, in the West, intellectuals could engage the Church in full combat, and they often won. This is a direct consequence of the Frankish leadership submitting the Christian leadership, starting in the Fifth Century. After that time, the Church was never again the government of the West (except inside the Papal states, a gift of Charlemagne, later de facto rescinded).

Famously, around 1300 CE, Philippe IV of France and his vassal the English king engaged in full submission of the Pope and his army. The Pope and the Templars both ended judged, dead, and, more importantly, taxed.

So what of these great Muslim thinkers? The answer is that most of them were, truly Jewish or Christians, or very recently “converted”, or then did not finish too well.

ISLAMIST SCHOLARS WANT TO KILL YOU:

The fact is, the greatest Muslim university, Al Azhar in Cairo, is definitively founded on what the Franks, 15 centuries ago, would have viewed as barbarian principles. It actually refused to condemn the “Islamist State” as not conforming to Islam.

Al Azhar has decided that those who renounce Islam and their children ought to be killed:

“In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful

Al-Azhar

Fatwa Committee

A question from Mr. Ahmed Darwish who presented the question through Mr. (Blanked out) of German nationality:

A Muslim man of Egyptian nationality married a Christian woman of German nationality. The two spouses agreed that the aforementioned Muslim man would enter the Christian religion and join the Christian creed.

What is the ruling of Islam regarding this person’s situation?
Are his children considered Muslims or Christians and what is their ruling?
The Answer:

All praises are due to Allah, lord of all the worlds. And peace and blessings be upon the greatest of all messengers, our master Muhammad and upon his family and companions all together. As for what follows:

We inform that he has apostatized after having been in a state of Islam, so he should be asked to repent. If he does not repent, he should be killed according to the sharia.

As for his children, so long as they are small they are Muslims. After they have attained maturity, if they remain in Islam then they are Muslims. If they leave it, then they should be asked to repent. If they do not repent, they should be killed. And Allah knows best.

President of the Fatwa Committee of Al-Azhar

Seal of the Committee

September 23, 1978”

http://www.councilofexmuslims.com/index.php?topic=24511.0

Our civilization was founded on rejecting this sort of savagery on the part of Christianism. When the Islamists appeared, the Franks considered them to be a Christian sect, the Sons of Sarah (Saracens). Let’s persist in rejecting the savagery.

Antique Greece was not just defined by what it built, but what it rejected: the Barbarians (those whose talk sounded animal-like: barr… baa). One cannot be positive all the times, otherwise positivity itself loses meaning.

Patrice Ayme’

PS: After publishing the preceding essay, it came to light that the Islamist State, applying literally the savage texts that guide them, destroyed Mesopotamian art more than twice older than the invention of Islam by the raiders (Muhammad and the father of his six-years-old child bride, etc.). 

There is no savagery but savagery, and Islam is its prophet?

ooOOoo

Not to have upsetting reactions to these items from Suzann and Patrice would be abnormal. Both Su’s item and the post from Patrice had me going round in emotional circles. Ranging from seeing our species as cruel, barbarous creatures to thinking that maybe there are times when the only proper course of action is to take up arms against savages. Along the lines of that quote about the only thing that evil needs to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

Finally, it was the editorial in the latest (March 9th.)  TIME magazine, written by the Editor, Nancy Gibbs, that had my head nodding.  Here’s a little of what Nancy Gibbs wrote:

Analyzing a threat as complex and diffuse as ISIS requires a global effort, and so our special report reflects the work of dozens of journalists on three continents with decades of experience reporting on the Middle East.

………

We invited Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations and Karl Vick, our former Jerusalem bureau chief, who is now based in New York City, to argue the case for and against the U.S.’s sending ground troops into the fight.

It was the next sentence that underlined for me why I had so many conflicting emotions (my emphasis).

The hardest thing about confronting a group like ISIS,” Karl observes, “is seeing past the fear they delight in projecting to discern the threat it actually presents. But they make dispassion really difficult.

Makes our dogs look like profoundly straightforward, loving animals! Why, oh why, can’t the human race essentially be as straightforward and loving!

Voting for hope.

with 14 comments

Considered reflections to yesterday’s post.

Yesterday, I published Bitter Lake ripples, a post that, in turn, was my response to the fabulous comments left by readers of my earlier post Oil, money, banks, guns and blood.  The overall feeling I read in those comments was one of terrible uncertainty about these present times. Or in the words of Sue Dreamwalker in response to a comment left by Patrice Ayme.

I have to say Patrice.. I agree with your comment here… And yes people are not understanding the whole of what is going on.. The Truth of it would seem unbelievable..

Patrice, in a post published on Monday entitled Arm Ukraine, Disarm Bankers sent shivers down my spine with the suggestion, the strong suggestion, that Ukraine, if not handled properly by ‘the West’ could be a tipping point into another major war between Europe (and the USA?) and Russia.  Here’s an extract from Patrice’s post:

The way it was said, in conjunction with Putin’s recent admission that Russian “volunteers” were fighting in Ukraine, is basically a declaration of war. On top of this, the head of the Eastern Ukraine rebels declared that he was raising a 100,000 men army. This means he expect tens of thousands of Russian troops (Putin’s “volunteers”) to cross the border.

This is not contained. Putin is billowing out of control, all by himself. One has to see what the combination of Putin’s dictatorial powers, media control, psychology and sinking economy leads to. Let me spell it out.

Once Putin has conquered Ukraine, he will push for more: he is already partly occupying Moldavia, WEST of Ukraine. Putin is also messing up with Hungary: there were street demonstrations about this, just yesterday, in Budapest. Putin uses the fact that Hungary is extremely dependent upon Russia’s fossil fuels. Merkel, who desperately wants to avoid war with Putin, flew to Budapest in emergency, to sort the situation out.

Patrice continues the warning of possible terrible times ahead in a subsequent post: Mental Inertia, Evil’s Friend, published yesterday.

Just as it takes a long time to erect, or change a vast building, so it is with the brain. The brain has inertia. Thus psychological inertia.

This mental inertia is why human beings tend to go on with a task, or with an attitude, once they got launched into it (a Jihadist laden with explosives just flew by).

Once a force is applied to an object, for example a propaganda to a brain, it tends to gather momentum, and develop ever more inertia.

Putin of course creates his own propaganda, and then can listen to it, reinforcing his deviance, in a self-reflective way. It’s all the more efficient if others repeat his ideas, and he listens to them. Actually that’s not just a problem with Putin, but with all Great Leaders. (And that’s one reason why Great Leadership has to be discontinued, and replaced by Direct Democracy.)

This amplifies the inertia.

By not fiercely opposing Putin, one collaborates with him. It is not just a question of sanctions. Putin is a liar, and an aggressive one, he should be publicly called for what he is.

Thus in terms of my own personal ideas, I freely admit to struggling to see things clearly.  Simply because I find it very difficult to get to the heart of these international issues through not having access to clear, impartial commentators who know what they are speaking about. As Patrice infers much of the media is corrupted by self-serving agendas.

However, on balance, despite Patrice Ayme being a ‘nom-de-plume’ and me having no idea who the person behind the label really is, I do trust his (?) writings and believe that Patrice writes from a position of having very good access to the inner workings of the US Government. (I am not privy to anything to support my proposition; just my guess.)

The other commentator whose opinions and judgements are trusted by me in equal fashion is George Monbiot. Mr. Monbiot has been gracious to grant permission to me for his essays to be republished here on Learning from Dogs.

On the 28th January, Mr. Monbiot published an essay that in words better than I could write encapsulates my response to the comments left on my Bitter Lake ripples post. Here is that post from George Mobiot.

ooOOoo

The Lamps Are Coming On All Over Europe

28th January 2015

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 28th January 2015

Here is the first rule of politics: if you never vote for what you want, you never get it. We are told at every election to hold our noses, forget the deficiencies and betrayals and vote Labour yet again, for fear of something worse(1). And there will, of course, always be something worse. So at what point should we vote for what we want, rather than keep choosing between two versions of market fundamentalism? Sometime this century? Or in the next? Follow the advice of the noseholders and we will be lost forever in Labour’s Bermuda triangulation.

Perhaps there was a time when this counsel of despair made sense. No longer. The lamps are coming on all over Europe. As in South America, political shifts that seemed impossible a few years earlier are now shaking the continent. We knew that another world was possible. Now, it seems, another world is here: the sudden death of the neoliberal consensus. Any party that claims to belong to the left but does not grasp this is finished.

Syriza, Podemos, Sinn Fein, the SNP; now a bright light is shining in England too, as the Green party stokes the radical flame that Labour left to gutter. On Tuesday morning, its membership in England and Wales passed 50,000(2); a year ago it was less than 15,000. A survey by the website voteforpolicies.org.uk reports that in blind tests (the 500,000 people it has polled were unaware of which positions belong to which parties), the Green Party’s policies are more popular than those of any other. If people voted for what they want, the Greens would be the party of government.

There are many reasons for this surge, but one of them must be a sense of popular ownership. Green party policies are determined democratically. Emerging from debates led mostly by younger members(3), they feel made for their time, while those of the major parties appear trapped in the 1980s.

Let me give you a flavour of the political transformation the Green Party seeks. There would be no prime minister of the kind we have today, no secretaries of state. Instead, Parliament would elect policy committees which in turn appoint convenors(4). It would also elect a First Minister, to chair the convenors’ committee. Parliament, in other words, would be sovereign rather than subject to the royal prerogative prime ministers abuse, leaders would be elected by the whole body and its various parties would be obliged to work together, rather than engage in perennial willy-waving.

Local authorities would set the taxes they chose. Local currencies, which have proved elsewhere to have transformative effects in depressed areas (see Bernard Lietaer’s book The Future of Money(5)) would become legal tender(6). Private banks would no longer be permitted to create money(7) (at the moment they issue 97% of our money supply, in the form of debt). Workers in limited companies would have the legal right, following a successful ballot, to buy them out and create cooperatives(8), with funding from a national investment bank.

The hideously unfair council tax system would be replaced by land value taxation(9), through which everyone would benefit from the speculative gains now monopolised by a few. All citizens would receive, unconditionally, a basic income(10), putting an end to insecurity and fear and to the punitive conditions attached to benefits, which have reduced recipients almost to the status of slaves.

Compare this vision of hope to Labour’s politics of fear. Compare it to a party so mesmerised by the City and the Daily Mail that it has promised to sustain the Tory cuts for “decades ahead”(11) and to “finish that task on which [the Chancellor] has failed”: eradicating the deficit.

Far too late, a former Labour minister, Peter Hain, now recognises that, inasmuch as the books need balancing, it can be done through measures like a financial transaction tax and a reform of national insurance(12), rather than through endless cuts. These opportunities have been dangling in front of Labour’s nose since 2008(13), but because appeasing the banks and the corporate press was deemed more important than preventing pain and suffering for millions, they have not been taken. Hain appears belatedly to have realised that austerity is a con, a deliberate rewriting of the social contract to divert our common wealth to the elite. There’s no evidence that the frontbench is listening.

Whether it wins or loses the general election, Labour is probably finished. It would take a generation to replace the sycophants who let Blair and Brown rip their party’s values to shreds. By then it will be history. If Labour wins in May, it is likely to destroy itself faster and more surely than if it loses, through the continued implementation of austerity. That is the lesson from Europe.

Fearful voting shifts the whole polity to the right. Tony Blair’s obeisance to corporate power enabled the vicious and destructive policies the Coalition now pursues(14). The same legacy silences Labour in opposition, as it pioneered most of the policies it should oppose. It is because we held our noses before that there is a greater stink today. So do we keep voting for a diluted version of Tory politics, for fear of the concentrate? Or do we start to vote for what we want? Had the people of this nation heeded the noseholders a century ago, we would still be waiting for the Liberal Party to deliver universal healthcare and the welfare state.

Society moves from the margins, not the centre. Those who wish for change must think of themselves as the sacrificial margin: the pioneering movement that might not succeed immediately, but that will eventually deliver sweeping change. We cannot create a successful alternative to the parties that have betrayed us until we start voting for it. Do we start walking, or just keep talking about the journey we might one day take?

Power at the moment is lethal. Whichever major party wins this election, it is likely to destroy itself through the pursuit of policies that almost no one wants. Yes, it might mean five more years of pain, though I suspect in these fissiparous times it won’t last so long. And then it all opens up. This is what we must strive for; this is the process that begins in May by voting, regardless of tactical considerations, for parties offering a genuine alternative. Change arises from conviction. Stop voting in fear. Start voting for hope.

http://www.monbiot.com

References:

1. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/09/labour-tories-vote-osborne

2. Green Party office, by email, 27th January 2015

3. http://bright-green.org/green-movement/how-the-green-party-changed-itself-to-make-the-greensurge-possible/

4. http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/pa.html

5. http://www.lietaer.com/writings/books/the-future-of-money/

6. http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ec.html#EC678

7. http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ec.html

8. http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/in.html

9. http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ec.html

10. http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ec.html

11. http://press.labour.org.uk/post/87284550049/long-termism-in-public-finance-speech-by-chris

12. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jan/22/labour-radical-counter-greens-peter-hain

13. I was not the first to propose these alternatives to austerity Peter Hain has just discovered, but even I had got there by 2011: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/06/march-26-protest-aims-first-draft

14. http://www.monbiot.com/books/captive-state/

ooOOoo

I said that Mr. Monbiot’s words were much finer than my own. No better illustrated than by his closing three sentences:

“Change arises from conviction. Stop voting in fear. Start voting for hope.”

Bitter Lake ripples.

with 12 comments

Reflections on last Thursday’s post.

Last Thursday, I published a post under the title of Oil, money, banks, guns and blood. It was such a departure from my normal style of blog post that I anticipated that it would slide by without any comment. Wrong! It had the highest readership of the week and attracted some powerful and insightful replies. So much so that I expressed the desire to reflect on those replies before responding. Thus, today’s post is my response to your comments and feelings.

First, Hariod Brawn of the blogsite Contentedness responded, in part:

Now, where are we? Val’s words are a good place to begin: “Nothing is what is seems, or will ever be the same again.” Nobody knows for sure, but piecing together fragments of world events, my instinct (fwiw) tells me that we are in the incipient stages of the collapse of the 20th.c. paradigm. Neoliberalism has failed; further than that, Capitalism has failed – we have no free markets where it counts; they’re all rigged. Politics has failed too, having been bought out by the corporates. [There are over 30,000 lobbyists in Washington alone] All that Western Governments have to offer is a doomed re-run of failed practices (same with Japan actually). Worse still, they have gone down on their knees and begged the financial sector to create a fix. The private banks have been given access to vast sums of QE cash at virtually zero interest in order to continue rigging markets (via their agents) all to their benefit whilst also creating huge market distortions in asset bubbles. Has the wealth they created trickled down? Has it hell. Whilst all this is going on, and as the film so clearly demonstrates, the Middle East looks like fulfilling its promise of the last century as being the flashpoint for warfare on a vast scale. And of course, if by some miracle we escape financial collapse, and world peace is not threatened by warfare, then the environment is going down the pan because – guess what? – our politicians have failed us once again. I have said enough on this.

Hariod then went on to recommend the films of Chris Hedges that will be featured on Learning from Dogs at a future date.

Then Val Boyco, her blogsite being Find Your Middle Ground, wrote a response before viewing the film:

Without being informed yet … my thinking is that the world we live in is so complex, stressful and fast that we can’t absorb everything that happens. We simplify and label, in order to make sense. We chop and segment in order to understand, but we miss the full story and many have lost the ability to grasp the bigger picture…. or are too fearful of going against the expectations of others and becoming one of “them” instead of one of “us”.

Then reinforced by her comment after watching the film:

I just watched the movie Paul. It is powerful and very disturbing. As you say, it undermines what we believe is real. It also reveals the complexity – misunderstanding – manipulation – corruption – opium, oil and the struggle for power – naivety – chaos.
In the dualistic fairy tale world of good vs evil it has created a nightmare of errors.
Nothing is what is seems.
Or will ever be the same again.

There was a comment from Patrice Ayme:

Giant American global corporations, the 200 largest ones, do 100 billion dollars of tax evasion through Luxembourg alone. Each year. Many are media companies. Wonder why stories make no sense?

Juncker directed that. Now he is head of the European Commission, and insist Greece shall pay every single penny.

As it happened, my dad was among a European group of geologists working for the Afghan government, who discovered Afghanistan’s riches… In the 1970s. All hell broke loose shortly thereafter.

I write about these sorts of things, day in, day out. But most people prefer the opium of feel-good…

Patrice then went further in offering a post over on his own blog that carried the specific title of Great Bitter Lake. Let me quote a little from that:

“Bitter Lake” is about the conspiracy between American plutocracy and Saudi plutocracy. Plutocrat Roosevelt was freshly flown from Yalta, to the Great Bitter Lake, on the Suez Canal. The idea was to steal the Maghreb, and the Middle East from the French and the British, by making a theocratic alliance.

At Yalta, Roosevelt had given half of Europe to his Comrade Stalin. (Plutocrats of the world naturally unite!)

Never mind that Poland had fought the Nazis courageously the Nazis, at a time when the USA was militarily and diplomatically collaborating… with the Nazis (or maybe, precisely, the Poles had to be punished!) Roosevelt had to be strict: the French had successfully escaped from the military occupation (AMGOT) he had set-up for them.

The movie “Bitter Lake” exposes (some) of the American plutocracy led conspiracies which led to the devastation, among other things, of Afghanistan, and other constituencies, thanks to the Wahhabist Islam it unleashed on the world.

Readers of this site will be familiar with the general ambiance.

One caveat: all what is in the documentary and makes American plutocrats (Roosevelt) and their servants (Reagan) look bad, is correct. However the real situation, the real badness is way worse. (For example the secret, official USA intervention in Afghanistan was under Carter, on July 3, 1979. However the real even more secret intervention, through the Pakistani ISI was even earlier and even more vicious.

So what is my response?

It is this:

In 1887, Oscar Wilde said, referring to the differences between the British and the Americans: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.

By way of example there is a saying back in my old country that when something is “… going to the dogs”, it means an irreversible decline in standards; the phrase usually aimed at an organisation or even a country.

Many, especially those of my age, might nod sagely and reflect that something ‘is going to the dogs‘ in terms of the wider Western world.

Let me be specific. There are destructive and dysfunctional issues in modern societies that I would list as: Selfishness; Power & Corruption; Short-termism; Materialism; Population growth; Greed, inequality and poverty. It’s not an exhaustive list!

Now many would argue the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ about what precisely is wrong with Western societies in this 21st century but far fewer would argue with the underlying premise; that something is fundamentally wrong with today’s world.

Indeed, one of the things that is impossible to miss is the body language, the look on a face, the shrug of a shoulder, when one casually remarks that these are interesting times! From strangers and friends alike.

There is no question that what mankind has ‘enjoyed’ these last fifty years or so cannot be continued for very much longer. That the era since the 1960s of growth, materialism and consumption is running one very basic and fundamental resource dry. You know the one I am referring to: Planet Earth.

My hope is that the widely-felt feelings that something is fundamentally wrong with today, are the feelings man has always experienced, since time immemorial, when mankind has passed through the threshold between two eras.

My hope is that the new era, one that we quite possibly may now just be entering, a new era of sustainable living on this planet, of social and political changes to replace extreme levels of inequality, of stronger communities of like-minded persons, will be obvious to all, but especially obvious to our next generation, within the next ten years; possibly fewer than ten years.

One thing is for sure. The sharing of ideas and feelings as is the style of modern blogging is critical to the forming of the opinions that precede the changes that so many now see as unstoppable.

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