Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


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Monday, May 31, 2010

Pepper Guns or Assault Carbines?

By Steve Hynd


The IDF would have it that the commandos who abseilled onto the Gaza Flotilla were at first armed only with paintball guns filled with capiscum rounds. It's a story that's got a lot of mileage with pro-Israel media, blogs and the IDF, but does it hold up?


The evidence seems to come from the IDF's own videos of the assault. Here's a still given to me by my friend Chris Albon as we discussed this on Twitter:


DjyX5


However, footage shot by the UK's Sky News (owned by Rupert Murdoch) clearly shows Israeli commandos abseilling to the decks with very different weapons.


Israeli weapon1


Israeli weapon2


Those look rather more like members of the Galil family: most likely the Galil MAR 5.56mm, an assault carbine developed for the IDF's special forces.


Galil MAR


And in any case the standard IDF paintball gun is apparently the same as the US Army's - the FN303. That looks like this:


FN303


So, what do you think? 



Sunday, May 30, 2010

Israel Attacks Humanitarian Flotilla, Many Dead & Injured (Updated)

By Steve Hynd


Reuters reports that between 14 and 16 are dead after Israeli commandos used live ammunition against a humanitarian flotilla which was trying to reach Gaza with supplies yesterday evening. Reuters reports at least 30 injured too, while KUNA puts the injured at 60.


One Israeli serviceman was "moderately injured" by a knife wound during the assault, which took place just after dark and after Israel had attacked vessels flagged in America, Europe and Turkey, while they were still in international waters. The passengers included a holocaust survivor, USS Liberty survivors, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, EU MEPs & hundreds of humanitarian workers.


I'll have more in the morning, especially on reactions from around the world, but this is a shocking crime against humanity showing no conscience whatsoever. President Obama has to realise at this point that supporting Israel is akin to Reagan's support for the Botha regime in South Africa in the 80's.


Update: Here's some Sky News footage of the assault, via The Guardian, which is constantly updating it's report here.


Update 2: AFP reports that condemnation from the region and from Europe has been well-nigh universal - as it should be.



The Islamist Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip urged fellow Muslims to "rise up" in protest in front of Israeli embassies the world over, as Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas declared three days of mourning over the "massacre."


Kuwait's parliament speaker condemned the raid on the flotilla, which was carrying 16 Kuwaitis including an MP, as a "heinous Israeli crime," as the cabinet prepared for an emergency meeting.


Arab League chief Amr Mussa slammed the raid as a "crime" against a humanitarian mission, saying the 22-country body was consulting to decide on its next step.


In Europe, condemnation was equally swift.


France said that "nothing can justify" the violence of Israel's Gaza ship raid, while German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was "deeply concerned" about the deaths.


The European Union demanded Israel mount a "full inquiry" into the killing of at least 10 people in a raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza.


EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton warned that Israel's "continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive," demanding "an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening" of crossings to Gaza.


Greece withdrew from joint military exercises with Israel in protest at the raid, as it summoned Israel's ambassador to demand an "immediate" report on the safety of about 30 Greeks on board the flotilla.


Britain's new coalition government is reportedly asking Israel for a fuller account of their version before it makes comment - but with UK citizen and Belfast-born Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan aboard one of the aid vessels Cameron will have to do some fancy stepping to placate his LibDem colleagues if he wants to give Israel an easy time of it.


Meanwhile, the usual wingnut suspects are backing Israel's assault on a "Jew Hating" aid convoy. None are even attempting to explain why the Israeli commandos weren't at least using baton rounds instead of live ammunition. None are attempting to square the one or two "moderately wounded" Israeli soldiers and the 16 dead and 30 to 60 injured aboard the aid ships with Israel's feeble alibi of being attacked when they boarded foreign flagged vessels on a humanitarian mission. Even Israel's Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israeli military, admits the assault was carried out in international waters.


Oh, and Netanyahu is reportedly considering cancelling his visit to the US.


Update 3: I wonder if Turkey, a NATO member, is considering the NATO Charter and deliberating on whether to put the US between a rock and a hard place:



Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Article 6 (1)


For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:


...on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over...the Mediterranean Sea


The threat of invoking Article Five would certainly pressure the US and UK, the two NATO members most likely to want to quibble and parse Israel's atrocity.


Update 4: My pal Alex Lobov has a damn good roundup over at Zeitgeist Politics of what's been said so far by Israel, the aid ships' passengers and internationally.


Update 5: The death toll among the flotilla's passengers is now 19.



The Gulf Of Mexico Was Already Dying

Commentary By Ron Beasley



I posted on this over at The Moderate Voice the other day but I think it's worth repeating.  Dave Cohen reminds us that the Gulf was already dying, albeit at a slower rate, before the Deepwater Horizon.

The oil leak on the Mississippi Canyon seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico
proceeds apace. It is now
clear that BP's recent plan did not succeed in plugging the leak. The
widely dispersed petroleum is a great disaster, but I get the distinct
impression that this oil is seen as despoiling a pristine
environment
. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have this
impression because, to my knowledge, the sorry state of the Gulf of
Mexico before the oil spill is not being discussed. Before the
oil spill, the Gulf of Mexico was being ravaged by�




  • coastal erosion

  • hypoxia(very low oxygen)

  • harmful algal blooms (red tides)




The levies that the federal government started building on the
Mississippi River in the 30�s are destroying the marshes and wetlands by
depriving them of new material. Nitrogen and phosphorus from extensive
agriculture in the Mississippi River basin have resulted in large areas
of low oxygen, �dead zones� and increased blooms of toxic algae.


As Cohen points out even before the toxic oil volcano in the Gulf it
was a toxic waste dump being slowly killed.







The Gulf Disaster is NOT Unprecedented

By John Ballard



This video from the Wonk Room speaks for itself.
They also have a brief commentary and over three hundred comments in the comments thread.





Miller's remarks in the above clip end at 57 minutes into the hearing.
It was followed by a three-minute litany of BP safety failures and poor
safety record. The following two minute summary by Rep. George Miller underscores a toxic mixture far worse than anything occurring in the aftermath of the Underwater Horizon failure, that being the incestuous manner in which a poisonous corporate culture at BP mixed with a similarly poisonous bureaucratic culture at Minerals Management Services, their presumed regulatory authority.






It is now clear that this tragedy was a preventable occurrence.



It's too late for the media to change the language but every time I see words like leak and spill I want to scream at the TV or radio.
This is not a "spill".
This is not a "leak".
What we are witnessing is a hemorrhage of crude oil from the earth which is the ecological equivalent of a volcanic eruption, a tsunami, a category 4 or 5 hurricane or a 100-year flood.
It may have been Candy Crowley, but this morning I heard someone on CNN ask "Don't we have a word beyond catastrophe"?

What about Nigeria's oil spills?

By Steve Hynd


The Guardian's John Vidal wonders why there's so little notice taken in the West of Nigeria's oil spill disasters, which dwarf the Gulf leak in magnitude.



"If this Gulf accident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor the company would have paid much attention," said the writer Ben Ikari, a member of the Ogoni people. "This kind of spill happens all the time in the delta."


"The oil companies just ignore it. The lawmakers do not care and people must live with pollution daily. The situation is now worse than it was 30 years ago. Nothing is changing. When I see the efforts that are being made in the US I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards. What they do in the US or in Europe is very different."


"We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the US," said Nnimo Bassey, Nigerian head of Friends of the Earth International. "But in Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people's livelihood and environments. The Gulf spill can be seen as a metaphor for what is happening daily in the oilfields of Nigeria and other parts of Africa.


"This has gone on for 50 years in Nigeria. People depend completely on the environment for their drinking water and farming and fishing. They are amazed that the president of the US can be making speeches daily, because in Nigeria people there would not hear a whimper," he said.


It is impossible to know how much oil is spilled in the Niger delta each year because the companies and the government keep that secret. However, two major independent investigations over the past four years suggest that as much is spilled at sea, in the swamps and on land every year as has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico so far.


One report, compiled by WWF UK, the World Conservation Union and representatives from the Nigerian federal government and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, calculated in 2006 that up to 1.5m tons of oil � 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska � has been spilled in the delta over the past half century. Last year Amnesty calculated that the equivalent of at least 9m barrels of oil was spilled and accused the oil companies of a human rights outrage.


According to Nigerian federal government figures, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are 2,000 official major spillages sites, many going back decades, with thousands of smaller ones still waiting to be cleared up. More than 1,000 spill cases have been filed against Shell alone.


Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell - they're all involved in Nigerian spills on a scale that boggles the imagination. Yet the Western media seems to have had a "not in our back yard" attitude. I confess I had no idea of the scale of the leaks in Nigeria until I read this report, even though my colleague Dave regularly blogs about the Nigerian oil industry. Is this just casual racism on the part of the media - what happens to brown people far away doesn't matter? I can't for a moment believe that if it had been happening in, say, Australia, that they'd have been so silent.


And what does this report mean for analysis of the Gulf leak? Can we really trust BP when it says it is doing its best, when in another nation it and other oil corporations have clearly not done anywhere close to their best, with malice aforethought?


Nnimo Bassey, Nigerian head of Friends of the Earth International, told the Guardian that the big oil companies act as if they are beyond the law:



"What we conclude from the Gulf of Mexico pollution incident is that the oil companies are out of control.


"It is clear that BP has been blocking progressive legislation, both in the US and here. In Nigeria, they have been living above the law. They are now clearly a danger to the planet. The dangers of this happening again and again are high. They must be taken to the international court of justice."


Seems like a good idea to me. And any government officials, of any nation, found to have abetted their lawlessness should be there as co-defendants. I'm looking at you, Dick Cheney.



The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Mutilated Our Economy

By Derrick Crowe


Click here to watch the video



$1,000,000,000,000.00



As of today, that's how much we've spent just in direct costs so far on the stupid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.



One trillion dollars, gone. And we're just getting warmed up...there are trillions more in future direct and indirect costs coming.



These two wars mutilated our economy. There's no other way to say it. We've taken a huge amount of wealth and done things with it that damaged the economy. People are out of work and hurting today because we chose to launch two wars that aren't worth the cost.



The most glaring example of this dynamic is the use of hundreds of billions of taxpayer money to invade and occupy Iraq, which led to higher oil prices, which hit taxpayers again in their pocketbooks.



Many other examples exist: We pay to train American kids to kill in Afghanistan. We pay to ship them overseas where they die or get injured. We pay for medical care for the survivors. Their families lose both the wounded's income and often lose additional income when loved ones reduce work hours to stay home and care for the wounded.



The list of these vicious cycles goes on and on. In all cases, our government actually charges us for the privilege of having an even harder time making it in this tough economy.



Actually, it's worse than that. The government charges us for the privilege of having a tough economy in the first place.



According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research's (CEPR) Dean Baker:



"In standard economic models, defense spending is a direct drain on the economy, reducing efficiency, slowing growth and costing jobs. ...[S]tandard economic models...project that the increase in defense spending since 2000 will cost the economy close to two million jobs in the long run."



Baker's point in his article was that groups that scream about potential "job loss" from government "interference" never put that "loss" in any context. Government spending does stimulate economic activity during a downturn. The question is, how stimulative is one type of spending versus another? So let's make sure we're playing fair and put this in some perspective in terms of job creation.



It turns out that, excluding tax cuts for consumption, war spending is the least stimulative type of government spending.



An October 2007 study by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) found that per $1 billion invested in the following fields, you create wildly different numbers of jobs:



  • Defense: 8,555 jobs

  • Construction for home weatherization/infrastructure: 12,804 jobs

  • Health care: 12,883 jobs

  • Education: 17,687 jobs

  • Mass transit: 19,795 jobs


So if you take $1 billion in taxpayer dollars and spend it on war versus on building energy efficient homes and other infrastructure, the opportunity cost for that spending is 4,249 potential jobs. Spending it on war versus mass transit costs you 11,240 potential jobs.



Now consider that $1 trillion is one thousand billion. Because we're spending so many billions--now trillions--of dollars on these two wars, we're losing hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of potential jobs.



PERI concludes that:



...[B]y addressing social needs in the areas of health care, education, education, mass transit, home weatherization and infrastructure repairs, we would also create more jobs and, depending on the specifics of how such a reallocation is pursued, both an overall higher level of compensation for working people in the U.S. and a better average quality of jobs.



These lost potential jobs aren't even the whole picture. We also lose the fruits of spending that money in more productive ways, which, according to the National Priorities Project, include:



  • 188,536,667 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5550 OR

  • 8,139,680 Affordable Housing Units OR

  • 461,193,337 Children with Health Care for One Year


But hey, at least these wars are working out well for BP, right?



Had enough? Help us get people talking about the cost of these wars by playing using our new Facebook app to show us your trillion dollar plan, and share it with your friends.



Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ruled By Sociopaths

Commentary By Ron Beasley



It would appear that Obama has a personalty flaw - he sees good where there is none.  He actually thought he could work with the Republicans and that turned out to be fantasy.  Bob Herbert sees this same flaw at work with the oil spill disaster.

�Where I was wrong,� said President Obama at his press conference on
Thursday, �was in my belief that the oil companies had their act
together when it came to worst-case scenarios.�




With all due respect to the president, who is a very smart man, how is
it possible for anyone with any reasonable awareness of the nonstop
carnage that has accompanied the entire history of giant corporations to
believe that the oil companies, which are among the most rapacious
players on the planet, somehow �had their act together� with regard to
worst-case scenarios.




These are not Little Lord Fauntleroys who can be trusted to abide by
some fanciful honor system. These are greedy merchant armies drilling
blindly at depths a mile and more beneath the seas while at the same
time doing all they can to stifle the government oversight that is
necessary to protect human lives and preserve the integrity of the
environment.





BP has a long history of cutting corners to save time and money.  The Wall Street Journal makes the case that it was just such  cutting corners that are responsible for the Deepwater Horizon blowout.



Cheaper Well Design:

The cement job was especially important on this well
because of a BP design choice that some petroleum engineers call
unusual. BP ran a single long pipe, made up of sections screwed
together, all the way from the sea floor to the oil reservoir.



Companies
often use two pipes, one inside another, sealed together, with the
smaller one sticking into the oil reservoir. With this system, if gas
tries to get up the outside of the pipe, it has to break through not
just cement but also the seal connecting the pipes. This more typical
design provides an extra level of protection, but also requires another
long, expensive piece of pipe.





Preparation Before Cementing:

Halliburton, the cementing contractor, advised BP to
install numerous devices to make sure the pipe was centered in the well
before pumping cement, according to Halliburton documents, provided to
congressional investigators and seen by the Journal. Otherwise, the
cement might develop small channels that gas could squeeze through.



In
an April 18 report to BP, Halliburton warned that if BP didn�t use more
centering devices, the well would likely have �a SEVERE gas flow
problem.� Still, BP decided to install fewer of the devices than
Halliburton recommended�six instead of 21.





Pre-cementing:

Before doing a cement job on a well, common industry
practice is to circulate the drilling mud through the well, bringing the
mud at the bottom all the way up to the drilling rig. This procedure,
known as �bottoms up,� lets workers check the mud to see if it is
absorbing gas. If so, they can clean the gas out of the mud before
putting it back down into the well to maintain the pressure. The
American Petroleum Institute says it is �common cementing best practice�
to circulate the mud at least once.



Circulating all the mud in a
well of 18,360 feet, as this one was, takes six to 12 hours, say people
who�ve run the procedure. But mud circulation on this well was done for
just 30 minutes on April 19, drilling logs say, not nearly long enough
to bring mud to the surface.





Post cementing test skipped:

BP also didn�t run tests to check on the last of the cement after it was
pumped into the well, despite the importance of cement to this well
design and despite Halliburton�s warning that the cement might not seal
properly.





The Journal also reports that when things did go wrong no one was prepared.

An examination by The Wall Street Journal of what happened aboard the
Deepwater Horizon just before and after the explosions suggests the rig
was unprepared for the kind of disaster that struck and was overwhelmed
when it occurred. The events on the bridge raise questions about
whether the rig's leaders were prepared for handling such a fast-moving
emergency and for evacuating the rig�and, more broadly, whether the U.S.
has sufficient safety rules for such complex drilling operations in
very deep water.



The chain of command broke down at times during
the crisis, according to many crew members. They report that there was
disarray on the bridge and pandemonium in the lifeboat area, where some
people jumped overboard and others called for boats to be launched only
partially filled.





The oil companies are run by sociopaths who's only concern is profit.  They can't be trusted and must constantly be monitored and regulated.  As for BP - it should receive the corporate death penalty.





There Is An Electric Car in Your Future

By John Ballard



Anyone who thinks this is not related to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has not been paying attention.



The Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010, introduced in Congress this week, has a simple goal to electrify half of all cars and trucks on U.S. roads by 2030, and a basic strategy: focus the might of the federal government on a small number of pilot communities around the country, subsidizing the buildout of charging infrastructure and purchase of electric vehicles.


But when it comes to implementing that strategy, the legislation (which is now up for debate in two slightly different versions proposed in the House and the Senate, H.R. 5442 and S. 3442, respectively) gets somewhat more complicated. Here are 10 things you should know about a pair of proposals that could play a big role in how the nascent electric vehicle market takes shape over the next 20 years...



Details at the link. Interested parties check it out. Everyone else keep moving.

Unless something changes, I plan to stop driving in the next ten or twelve years  (There are safer ways for people to travel when they are pushing eighty. My wife's Grandpa set a good example. )  but I expect to travel in an electric vehicle by then or soon after.



Friday, May 28, 2010

Weekend Reading -- Nine Jewish Writers and a Cascade of Opinions

By John Ballard



Two weeks ago an essay appeared in the New York Book Review by Peter Beinart, The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment. I printed it out at the time (it's about five thousand words) with the idea of putting together a post but abandoned the idea because it seemed like too much effort for readership here. This week Foreign Policy Magazine published That Special Relationship, comments about the essay by eight prominent Jewish commentators (yet another three thousand words) reflecting on Beinart's essay.



My observation has been that for matters Jewish most people, including Jews themselves, have preconceived opinions not easily modified. The zeitgeist runs from blind antisemitism at one end to equally blind Zionism at the other, including the curiosity of Christian Zionism with all its bizarre contradictions. Between these two extremes lies a glittering array of ideas and opinions that give life to the old saying that where there are two Jews there are three opinions. Readers who would like to pass time while the Gulf oil blowout resolves are invited to read Beinart's essay and the rejoinders in FP.



The thrust of Beinart's essay is that American Jews, particularly the younger generation, no longer sympathize with Israel as they once did. 





Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger, Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians scares even them, and a mass of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled. Saving liberal Zionism in the United States�so that American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israel�is the great American Jewish challenge of our age. And it starts where Luntz�s students wanted it to start: by talking frankly about Israel�s current government, by no longer averting our eyes.

The Luntz reference is to his opening paragraph.

In 2003, several prominent Jewish philanthropists hired Republican pollster Frank Luntz to explain why American Jewish college students were not more vigorously rebutting campus criticism of Israel. In response, he unwittingly produced the most damning indictment of the organized American Jewish community that I have ever seen.

Beinart's essay concludes with a reference to the Sheikh Jarrah protests I linked Thursday. His essay ends with these two powerful paragraphs.

For several months now, a group of Israeli students has been traveling every Friday to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where a Palestinian family named the Ghawis lives on the street outside their home of fifty-three years, from which they were evicted to make room for Jewish settlers. Although repeatedly arrested for protesting without a permit, and called traitors and self-haters by the Israeli right, the students keep coming, their numbers now swelling into the thousands. What if American Jewish organizations brought these young people to speak at Hillel? What if this was the face of Zionism shown to America�s Jewish young? What if the students in Luntz�s focus group had been told that their generation faces a challenge as momentous as any in Jewish history: to save liberal democracy in the only Jewish state on earth?


�Too many years I lived in the warm embrace of institutionalized elusiveness and was a part of it,� writes Avraham Burg. �I was very comfortable there.� I know; I was comfortable there too. But comfortable Zionism has become a moral abdication. Let�s hope that Luntz�s students, in solidarity with their counterparts at Sheikh Jarrah, can foster an uncomfortable Zionism, a Zionism angry at what Israel risks becoming, and in love with what it still could be. Let�s hope they care enough to try.


That said, here are snapshots of the eight reflections in FP.



  • American Jews will not "abandon" Israel per se, but their perceptions of Israel, the majority of which were forged after the watershed year of 1967, may very well impel them to a redefinition of relations.




  • If Israel is to retain the engagement of the coming (and present) generation of American Jews, organized American Jewry will need to provide a third alternative -- one that combines love of Israel with a rich and open discourse on its policies and politics...




  • My own impression is that the post-Iraq disaffection of some young Jews today is in fact less, rather than more, pronounced than the Vietnam distress that afflicted many when I first got involved. There's nothing new about a minority of Jews disliking Israel -- except all the attention they are getting.




  • ...in a diverse, historically fractious and uncommonly engaged community-one that has been, above all else, eternally fluid. That divergent voices exist -- with avenues accessible for their expression and methods available for action -- is a reality that must not be oversimplified. It muddies the debating waters, yes, but it has also always been our salvation.




  • Who's to blame? A generation of Israeli moderates who treated American Jews as a blunt weapon, feeding them on a diet of unmitigated fear so as to keep them primed and ready to pounce. Progressive young rabbis and intellectuals who spent the last generation pursuing their inner spirit, utterly neglecting public affairs and so abandoning the field to the right. Republican zealots who have waved Israel like a bloody flag and turned it into a political football. And, not least, the Palestinian leadership that launched an appalling war of terrorism in 2000, discrediting and crippling the Israeli peace camp that was its best hope for a decent future.




  • Historically, American Jews have followed the rule that it was Israeli voters who should determine the policy of the Israeli state. We might doubt the wisdom of some of those decisions -- as many American Jews doubted the wisdom of the syndicalist socialism that governed the state's first 20 years -- but we recognized that the right to decide belonged to those who paid the price of decision. That was a good rule then. It remains a good rule now.




  • The heart and soul of the Jewish community is at stake at this very moment. If the present leadership and institutions of our community will not rise to the challenge and speak out for the very best of what we stand for as a people -- then I urge all who hear the alarm to join in the creation of the alternative voices, institutions and leadership that are needed to challenge them.




  • Beinart's brilliant analysis highlights the multiplicity of regrettable factors both in Israel and in the United States. However, his title, The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment, suggests that one must look deeper into that failure. It is a systemic failure, going well beyond those named organizations. Every synagogue, Hebrew school, Jewish Community Center, and Jewish federation shares in the failure of understanding how the power of freedom, self confidence, and education would put brain ahead of heart in the American Jewish relationship with Israel.


Putting brain ahead of heart. That disagreeable call to duty is the best way forward because that, in so many words, is what is meant -- a call to duty -- by putting brains ahead of heart. It means doing what does not come naturally. It means facing one's human shortcomings and those of others, seeking a way to bridge those deficits without mutual destruction.



Reid and the three fold bet

By Dave Anderson:


Daily Kos is highlighting some potentially good poll numbers forSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  He is in the ballpark now instead of being blown out by three no-name Republican candidates. 



According to the poll, Chicken Sue Lowden leads Reid by three, 42%-39% -- a huge drop from February when she led by a 52%-39% margin. Danny Tarkanian now leads 42%-41%, also a huge drop from his 51%-40% lead in February. And most shocking of all: Reid actually leads Sharron "Tea" Angle, 42%-39%. In February, Reid trailed 44%-42%


The margin change is impressive, but it still shows Reid in an extremely weak position.  His topline number moved one point against Tarkanian, and stayed still against both Lowden and Angle.  This is after the Chicken implosion by Lowden and Angle's advocating privatizing Social Security in a state which has a large number of retirees in it.  Reid's only chance of holding onto his seat is to make his opponent dangerously unacceptable and risky.  He is embracing the Democrat's three-fold bet for 2010:




  • Discredited Republican Party will make swing voters hold their noses before voting GOP or voting at all.

  • Teabagger v. Establishment Republican civil war

  • Democrats would maintain the money edge



Reid will have the money edge.  He is seeing the Teabagger (Angle) and Establishment (Lowden) civil war, and both candidates are embracing some of the worse failures of Bushism (slashing the social safety net and exposing individuals to more systemic risk or the full embrace of know-nothingism and prideful ignorance).  And he has successfully seen people sour on his opponents without warming up to him.  This is the template and the absurdist extreme of many Democratic incumbent re-election strategies this year. 






Goodbye Mercury

Commentary By Ron Beasley





MercGirl Now I may not miss Mercury the car but I will miss Jill Wagner, the Mercury Girl.  My father's first new car was a Mercury but that was in the early 50s.  Mercury has been little but a Ford with a different grill for years and other than the lovely Jill there is probably no reason for Mercury to exist.  Just another sign that our automobile centered society is coming to a close.  It goes the way of Plymouth, another family favorite.  So say goodbye to Mercury - times they are a changing.



The Tea Party and the Republican Party

Commentary By Ron Beasley



I thought from the very beginning that the Tea Party  was going to blow up in the face of the Republican party.  Although there is an element of bigotry the Tea Party activists have some legitimate concerns and those are not the same as the astroturffing oligarchs like Dick Armey.



Well they may not have figured out that Armey is not on their side but are they already hurting the Republicans?  Marc Ambinder doesn't think so.

With the exception of Scott Brown's miraculous Senate race victory in
Massachusetts -- and even there, one can question the premise -- has the
Tea Party movement really done anything to help the Republican Party
this cycle?



[....]



Indeed, a case can be made
that, in the states and races where the Tea Party has been active, just
the opposite has happened: the Republican candidate has been weakened,
and the Democratic candidate has been strengthened.





He points out that Tea Party candidate Rand Paul has turned what should have been a slam dunk for the Republicans into a competitive race.  And then there is Marco Rubio:

In
Florida, there are two explanations for Marco Rubio's rise: 1) He was
his own guy, very popular already, was already capitalizing on
discontent with Charlie Crist, was quietly being aided by Jeb Bush's
fundraising network, and received an assist from the Tea Party movement
at county conventions. 2) The Tea Party made Marco Rubio.  In either
case, Charlie Crist bolted from the party, and Rubio has less of a
chance to win the general election now than he did -- meaning that a
Democrat or an independent who will caucus with the Democrats might be
able to pick up a Republican held seat.





Will the Tea Party deliver a pick up for the Dems in Florida?  And then there is Nevada.  Now the Nevada Republican party is a train wreck but so is Nevada's  Democratic Senator, Harry Reid.  But if the Tea Party Candidate, Sharron Angle, wins the nomination Reid is almost guaranteed a trip back to DC.



One Trillion Bucks For War

By Steve Hynd


This Sunday, May 30, at a little after 10 a.m., the National Priorities Project's Cost of War counter will hit the $1 trillion dollar mark for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What would you do with $1 trillion dollars, the amount that's been spent on America's invasions and long occupations to no good end?


Click here to watch the video


One thing you could do would be clean up the Gulf - possibly several hundred times over!



BP PLC has estimated the cost to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is $930 million so far


Costs are rising fast in the Gulf, they're up 20% since Monday, but a trillion dollars is a lot of money.


What's your One Trillion Dollar Plan? Play the game yourself on Facebook.



America Backs Nuke-Free Middle East: Report (Updated - Iran Agrees)

By Steve Hynd


Reuters reports that the U.S. has backed down and accepted a key clause in the draft statement from the current NPT conference that demands a nuclear-free Middle East.



The latest draft of a final declaration for the NPT review conference calls for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to organize a meeting of all Middle Eastern states in 2012 on how to make the region free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, as demanded by a 1995 NPT resolution.


It also urges Israel to sign the NPT and put its nuclear facilities under U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards -- a passage the Americans had wanted deleted. In the end, they backed down in the interest of salvaging the conference, delegates told Reuters.


The creation of a WMD-free zone would eventually force Israel to abandon any atomic bombs it might have. The Jewish state, which like nuclear-armed India and Pakistan never signed the NPT, is presumed to have a sizable nuclear arsenal but neither confirms nor denies that.


Israel is not participating in the NPT meeting.


The neo-whatevers - both -con and -lib varieties - who have been so gung-ho with Israel's hardliners in pushing for a new Mid East war to ensure Israel's nuclear weapons monopoly in the region, will not be happy.


One Western diplomat is quoted as saying "Now the question is will Iran do the right thing," suggesting that Iran might yet put a spanner in the works so as to pursue its own nuclear weapons program. But Iran has repeatedly said it too wishes a nuclear free region, most recently at a conference it hosted back in April. If it does nix the wording, that would be more significant than much of the rumormongering that the neo-whatevers have orchestrated over the years. But I don't see it doing so.


Update: As I expected, Iran has backed the draft accord.



In the final declaration, the NPT states call for convening a conference in 2012 "on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction."

This Arab idea of a WMD-free zone, meant to pressure Israel to give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal, was endorsed by the 1995 NPT conference but never acted on.

Israel has long said a full Arab-Israeli peace must precede such weapons bans. But at this conference the U.S., Israel's chief supporter, said it welcomed "practical measures" leading toward the goal of a nuke-free zone, and U.S. diplomats discussed possibilities with Israel.

A sticking point had been a passage naming Israel, reaffirming "the importance of Israel's accession to the NPT," a move that would require it to destroy its estimated 80 or so nuclear warheads.

Iran demanded that this NPT session insist Israel join the treaty before a 2012 conference. Egypt's U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz told reporters the Arab position was softer that Israel's accession to the treaty would come as ``part of the process'' begun in 2012.

Although the Israelis acquiesced to U.S. urging that they take part in such a 2012 discussion, they objected to participating under terms in which they were the only nation mentioned in this way, diplomats said. In the end, however, the ``Israel mention remained in the text.

Establishment of a verifiable Mideast nuclear weapons-free zone should help allay international concerns about whether Iran's ambitious nuclear program is aimed at building bombs, something Tehran denies. The Iranians have long expressed support for a nuke-free Mideast.

Whatever the result Friday, all-important details of a 2012 Mideast conference would remain to be worked out, such as whether the talks are meant as the start of formal negotiations on a treaty.


And, to celebrate, the US House approved sanctions on Iran...not Israel. Funny old world, eh?




Don't Google Drunk

Commentary By Ron Beasley




Good advice from Ann Curry:




I would add to that advice - don't blog drunk, and yes I am speaking from personal experience.



Energy Security and the Blowout

By John Ballard



Dr. Jeffery Frankel of the Harvard Kennedy Business School suggests we regard offshore oil deposits as part of our strategic oil reserves, saving it for future shortages resulting from national emergencies. This appeared at his blog Wednesday.


Ever since September 11, 2001, �energy security� has received increased emphasis. The energy security argument is viewed as able to tip the balance between the dueling environmental and business arguments. Usually it is taken as self-evident that the energy security goal argues in the direction of increased exploitation of domestic oil resources: �Drill, Baby, Drill.� But some of us have long thought that a more appropriate slogan for the policy of using domestic reserves as aggressively as possibly would be �Drain America First.� A true understanding of energy security could tip the balance the other way instead, in the direction of conserving American energy resources. Oil wells such as the Deepwater Horizon site, once it is capped, should be saved, their future use to be made conditional on a true national emergency, such as a long-term cut-off of Persian Gulf oil resulting in a global oil price of $200 a barrel or more.




Oil deposits in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve might also be considered part of a strategic reserve but Frankel points out that "[e]xperts say it would take more than a decade to start pumping from where we are now: in such remote locations drilling and pipeline-laying take time."



He makes a good case for keeping the wells we now have but capping and saving some of them to be used in the event of some national emergency interrupting oil supplies.




What, then, should be the goal of energy security policy? Imagine that at some point in the coming half-century, there is a sudden cut-off in oil exports from the Persian Gulf (or the Arabian Gulf, as our non-Iranian friends on the Arabian Peninsula prefer to call it). I don�t know what would be the geo-political crisis that would cause such a cut-off. Perhaps military conflict between the US and Iran, Islamist revolution in Saudi Arabia, or terrorist use of radiological weapons. Precedents, of course, are the oil shocks of 1973-74 (precipitated by the Arab oil embargo in connection with the Yom Kippur War), 1979 (the fall of the Shah of Iran) and 1990 (Iraq�s invasion of Kuwait).


What would be the impact of a big new shock on the economy of the US and other industrial countries? The quantity of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) could at best help tide us over only for a few months. If the global crisis threatened to go on for years, the economic effects could be severe. This fact currently constrains US foreign policy and military policy, which is part of what we mean by the phrase energy security. Also important for our national security are two more points. First, our oil imports transfer every year many billions of dollars to dictators and extremists who are potential enemies. Second, our military runs on oil. (As did Japan�s in 1941, which is largely why it went to war.)


The goal of policy now should be to take steps that would reduce the impact of such a shock in the future, creating non-military response options. The solution is to leave some domestic oil underground, or underwater, for use in such emergencies, and only in such emergencies. Reserves in the Gulf of Mexico are precisely the ones we should save. Think of it like the SPR, but without going to the trouble of bringing the oil above ground only to pump it back underground.


This can be a teachable moment for America.
At this writing the magnitude of this catastrophe has yet to be fully seen. Hopes are fading for the success of the "top kill" remedy and within the last twenty-four hours even the official statements say this is not only bigger than the Exxon Valdez disaster, it is the biggest oil disaster in our history.

As the days and weeks unfold the US Government needs no longer to be held hostage to the demands of the petroleum industry. The political will to do something affirmative is about to counterbalance the revenue streams that have been bribing the people of the oil-dependent Gulf Coast and their elected representatives. When James Carville snarls at a Democrat administration the matter is serious. To use a bad analogy, this time he is the canary in the mine. 

Any final damage settlement can include more than the monetary payoffs and claims that will keep the insurance industry and lawyers on all sides employed for years to come. A political and public relations settlement will be forthcoming which might well include the control and future of offshore oil wells along the American coast. That oil can be part of America's Strategic Petroleum Reserves. And there is no reason to stop with BP. I have watched the so-called "experts" on television for the last several days and listened to their various opinions. Maybe I'm wrong, but they all, including those from BP's competitors,  seem to be circling the wagons.

Untapped oil in the ground represents future revenue as well as petroleum security. All of them should share in whatever settlement comes of this disaster. There are nearly four thousand offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf. All future production from a designated number should contribute per-barrel royalties to the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida by way of damage compensation, to be applied by those states as they see fit to ameliorate the damages resulting from this blowout disaster.
It should not be a trivial amount.
In the words of an interview I heard, the amount should hurt the industry as much as it would hurt their heart if they had one.



Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mary Landrieu - Oil Slick, LA

Commentary By Ron Beasley




This is Mary Landrieu on May 5th:

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu suggested Wednesday that her fellow
Democratic colleague, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, is trying to put
oil companies �out of business� by increasing the amount of money they�d
be forced to pay for catastrophic leaks.

Mary Landrieu today:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Thursday that President Barack Obama
will pay a political price for his lack of visibility in the Gulf region
during the catastrophic BP oil spill.



�The president has not been as visible as he should have been on this,
and he�s going to pay a political price for it, unfortunately,� Landrieu
told POLITICO. �But he�s going down tomorrow, he�s made some good
announcements today, and if he personally steps up his activity, I think
that would be very helpful.� 

This woman is the lowest of the low.  A slave to her masters at big oil who doesn't give a damned about the people of Louisiana, the people of the United States or the Democratic party.  



Obama's Letter to Lula Exposes White House Forked Tongue On Iran

By Steve Hynd


Via Robert Naiman, it appears that President Lula of Brazil has decided to shine some light on the Obama administration's machinations on Iran. He has finally released the full text of Obama's 20th April letter to Brazil about the proposed TTR fuel swap deal and the entire thing appears today in Brazilian Foreign Policy.


The letter reads, in part:


Obama to Lula 1


The letter also specifically mentions the compromise of using Turkey as the location for Iran's fuel to be held "in escrow".



I would urges Brazil to impress upon Iran the opportunity presented by this offer to "escrow" its uranium in Turkey while the nuclear fuel is being produced.


This letter's authenticity is not disputed by the White House. It exposes the Obama administration's forked-tongue response to the Brazil and Turkey brokered swap. The White House is now in full spin mode, but the spin has already been undercut by the release of the letter's full text. Of late, Hilary Clinton has been the main vehicle for the White House's double-talk, which is now entirely aimed at closing down opportunities to find a negotiated settlement to the Iran nuclear issue no matter what the new National Security Strategy might say. But Obama must also bear the burden of blame, his is the desk where the buck stops.


Update: Flint and Hilary Mann Leverett see things exactly the same way I do. "It saddens us to write this--but is President Obama prepared to engage Iran, Brazil, Turkey, or anybody else in good faith on this issue?"


Ummm, apparently not.



Shifting Views - Except Republicans

Commentary By Ron Beasley




It's not too surprising the public views on energy VS the environment have shifted after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.


GallupEnvironment
But it has had no impact on the Republicans.


GallupEnvironment-2
This has to be something the Democrats can use in the months leading up to the November elections.  They need to introduce a strong energy bill and let the Republicans block it. Once again the Republicans are so out of touch.



September, 2009 -- Warnings of the Dangers of Deep Water Drilling

By John Ballard



This is too sickening for further comment.

A sixty-page memorandum addressed to Renee Orr, the chief of the leasing division of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), was sent in September 2009 by an environmental investigator, warning of potential disaster in offshore drilling operations and the particular dangers posed by gas hydrates.


It was written as a public comment to the federal government's proposed rule for oil and gas leasing between 2010 and 2015 on the outer continental shelf, and offers a wide-ranging compilation and analysis, based on meticulously documented scientific, industry and government sources, of many accidents little known to the general public.


It warns of the potential for catastrophic environmental disaster in an offshore accident, highlighting many of the potential dangers that the Deepwater Horizon explosion has now put on display. It also raises concern about the ongoing and unrecognized release of vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere, a gas 20 times more powerful as a warming agent than CO2.



The link is to a sixty-page Word document but the content is only 45 pages. The rest is footnotes. You know how these scientific types love documentation.
H/T Susie Madrak



Read excerpts at David Sassoon's blog or go to the original for photos and You Tube links.

     �   �   �



Later...



This is disturbing.

Independent Investigator


The 60-page report which opens the window on these revelations was authored by Dan Zimmerman, an independent environmental investigator of the Northcoast Ocean and River Protection Association (NORPA). He has worked with numerous groups since 1975, especially on pesticide, forestry and salmon habitat issues. The executive director of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, Patty Clary, told SolveClimate she has worked with Zimmerman for 14 years and called him "a brilliant researcher."


Zimmerman said that he sent his report last September to hundreds of environmental organizations and individuals, but got no response.


"It's become a popular topic now," he said, with attorneys and environmental groups now examining his report.


Yet Zimmerman was more interested in discussing the Gulf oil spill than his report, expressing concern about the condition of the blowout preventer on the sea floor and the pipe in the bore hole. If the pipe in the bore hole has been perforated, he said, a "top kill" being planned by BP may not stop the leak.


"My concern is that cratering has now occurred and a flow path has been established outside the well bore. If this has occurred we are in serious trouble, more than we currently think."


"If there are plumes of gas and oil rising from the sea floor around the pipeline," Zimmerman said, "that would be an indication. They have submersibles. They should be examining the area around the blowout."


His concerns seem well-founded. One of the most complete and factual chronologies of the events leading up to the BP Gulf of Mexico blowout recounts this situation five minutes before gas shot out of the drill column on the surface of the ocean.


Standpipe pressure increased and decreased twice between 21:30 and 21:42 (standpipe pressure generally reflects bottom hole pressure). This, along with a steady increase in mud pit volume, suggests that surges of gas were entering the drilling fluid from a gas column below the wellhead, and outside of the 7-inch production casing. Gas had probably channeled past the inadequate cement job near the bottom of the well and, by now, had reached the seals and pack-offs separating it from the riser at the sea floor.


Failure of a "top kill" � if it doesn't make matters worse � would leave well control experts with only one final known option for stopping the leak in the Gulf: drilling a relief well. The idea is to reach the oil reservoir with a well drilled on a tangent to the original, and seal it closed. But an industry publication published in 2009 indicates that drilling a relief well to 18,000 feet below the sea bed is beyond the edge of the technical capability of well control experts.


The detection tools used to locate the blowout wells have been successfully used for many years. However, there have been very few relief wells drilled deeper than 16,000 ft. A very deep intercept greater than 20,000 ft will be a challenge to any relief well team. If the deep intercept cannot be made, a shallower depth will need to be chosen. This complicates the kill operation as it will not be made close to the reservoir.


Yet even without a fail-safe option for well control in case of an accident, industry has proceeded to ever greater depths in search of oil. Deepwater boosters proudly speak of the deepest well ever drilled, which reaches more than 30,000 feet down into Earth's crust. It sits off the coast of Texas in US waters in the Gulf of Mexico.


Shorter BP -- "Oh, shit!"

September, 2009 -- Warnings of the Dangers of Deep Water Drilling

By John Ballard



This is too sickening for further comment.

A sixty-page memorandum addressed to Renee Orr, the chief of the leasing division of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), was sent in September 2009 by an environmental investigator, warning of potential disaster in offshore drilling operations and the particular dangers posed by gas hydrates.


It was written as a public comment to the federal government's proposed rule for oil and gas leasing between 2010 and 2015 on the outer continental shelf, and offers a wide-ranging compilation and analysis, based on meticulously documented scientific, industry and government sources, of many accidents little known to the general public.


It warns of the potential for catastrophic environmental disaster in an offshore accident, highlighting many of the potential dangers that the Deepwater Horizon explosion has now put on display. It also raises concern about the ongoing and unrecognized release of vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere, a gas 20 times more powerful as a warming agent than CO2.



The link is to a sixty-page Word document but the content is only 45 pages. The rest is footnotes. You know how these scientific types love documentation.
H/T Susie Madrak



Read excerpts at David Sassoon's blog or go to the original for photos and You Tube links.

     �   �   �



Later...



This is disturbing.

Independent Investigator


The 60-page report which opens the window on these revelations was authored by Dan Zimmerman, an independent environmental investigator of the Northcoast Ocean and River Protection Association (NORPA). He has worked with numerous groups since 1975, especially on pesticide, forestry and salmon habitat issues. The executive director of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, Patty Clary, told SolveClimate she has worked with Zimmerman for 14 years and called him "a brilliant researcher."


Zimmerman said that he sent his report last September to hundreds of environmental organizations and individuals, but got no response.


"It's become a popular topic now," he said, with attorneys and environmental groups now examining his report.


Yet Zimmerman was more interested in discussing the Gulf oil spill than his report, expressing concern about the condition of the blowout preventer on the sea floor and the pipe in the bore hole. If the pipe in the bore hole has been perforated, he said, a "top kill" being planned by BP may not stop the leak.


"My concern is that cratering has now occurred and a flow path has been established outside the well bore. If this has occurred we are in serious trouble, more than we currently think."


"If there are plumes of gas and oil rising from the sea floor around the pipeline," Zimmerman said, "that would be an indication. They have submersibles. They should be examining the area around the blowout."


His concerns seem well-founded. One of the most complete and factual chronologies of the events leading up to the BP Gulf of Mexico blowout recounts this situation five minutes before gas shot out of the drill column on the surface of the ocean.


Standpipe pressure increased and decreased twice between 21:30 and 21:42 (standpipe pressure generally reflects bottom hole pressure). This, along with a steady increase in mud pit volume, suggests that surges of gas were entering the drilling fluid from a gas column below the wellhead, and outside of the 7-inch production casing. Gas had probably channeled past the inadequate cement job near the bottom of the well and, by now, had reached the seals and pack-offs separating it from the riser at the sea floor.


Failure of a "top kill" � if it doesn't make matters worse � would leave well control experts with only one final known option for stopping the leak in the Gulf: drilling a relief well. The idea is to reach the oil reservoir with a well drilled on a tangent to the original, and seal it closed. But an industry publication published in 2009 indicates that drilling a relief well to 18,000 feet below the sea bed is beyond the edge of the technical capability of well control experts.


The detection tools used to locate the blowout wells have been successfully used for many years. However, there have been very few relief wells drilled deeper than 16,000 ft. A very deep intercept greater than 20,000 ft will be a challenge to any relief well team. If the deep intercept cannot be made, a shallower depth will need to be chosen. This complicates the kill operation as it will not be made close to the reservoir.


Yet even without a fail-safe option for well control in case of an accident, industry has proceeded to ever greater depths in search of oil. Deepwater boosters proudly speak of the deepest well ever drilled, which reaches more than 30,000 feet down into Earth's crust. It sits off the coast of Texas in US waters in the Gulf of Mexico.


Shorter BP -- "Oh, shit!"

Jews Behaving Badly

By John Ballard



From this distance it is not possible to know all the details, but this much is plain: whatever official justifications are being cited for removing Palestinians from their homes is not receiving the full support of the Israeli community. A growing number of Israeli citizens are not only opposed to the official policy but are willing to put their energy and support into direct action protests. This link is from Bernard Avishai's blog. 





Academic reinforcement � Dozens of professors from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Wednesday joined some 800 students in a protest march from the university to the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The crowd protested against the entrance of Jewish settlers into the neighborhood, and the eviction of Arab families from their homes.



During the rally, students and professors called out slogans such as "We won�t sit in class while rights are being trampled" and "We won't learn civil rights with racism in Sheikh Jarrah." The protestors waived signs that read "No sanctity in an occupied city" and "Charity begins at home."


Dr. David Sarfati, who lectures on genetics, told Ynet that he came to support the struggle of the Arab residents: "I don't agree with evicting families from their homes. They say these houses belong to Jews, and even if it's true � it's still doesn't make it just.


"Sometimes I pass in the area and see an Arab family's tent adjacent to their previous home, and think to myself: 'Do people have no heart?' People lost their ability to view Arabs as humans," he said.


Ruth Butler, a professor in the department of education, said she has been active in the struggle for quite some time. "The attempt to expel these families from their homes is wrong on the human and moral level. It's clear that this is also done as a political move, in an attempt to sabotage any opportunity to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians � as it includes the division of Jerusalem," she said.



Close connection to academia
Professor Tamar Rapoport noted that at least 10 education professors attended the protest. "The announcement about the protest was passed along through the social networks and emails. At the end of the day, teachers are also human, and in this country it's impossible not to take a political stance."



Rapoport clarified that the professors were not there on behalf of the university, but on behalf of themselves. "However," she added, "I believe there is a close connection between the struggle in Sheikh Jarrah and the academia."



Dr. Yuval Harari, Who teaches history at the university, came "in the name of neighborliness," he said. According to Harari, "It's the minimum one can do when the neighbor's house is on fire. As far as the university is concerned, to keep ignoring the situation is like cutting off the branch on which it sits.

There are snapshots of the event at the link, but this video from last week (May 16) illustrates Avishai reference.

The movement is not petering out; on the contrary, the weekly Friday protests are starting to feel like a congregation without which the Sabbath Bride cannot be fully welcomed.



I have been watching weekly videos of various non-violent direct actions on the Joseph Dana blog. Like all such events they tend to be repetitious and only mildly dramatic. The Sheikh Jarrah protest is but one of several that take place regularly.

Lisa Goldman, an Israeli journalist, wrote this colorful description of another protest that takes place weekly at Nabi Salih.

The momentum seems to be increasing in recent weeks. De. Avishai's link indicates yesterday's event described in the YNet article may be more notable than most so I expect more video from the Dana blog.



The oil industry's rape of the Gulf of Mexico still dominates the news, but other events continue to play out simultaneously



President Barack Obama has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House for separate meetings, White House officials said Wednesday.


The meetings with Obama will be the first for the Middle Eastern leaders since the start of indirect peace talks which began last month, with Obama's special envoy George Mitchell mediating between the parties.


But Israeli commentators portrayed the surprise invitation to Netanyahu as an attempt by Obama to counter U.S. criticism of what was widely seen as his cold shoulder toward the Israeli leader after a public dispute over Jewish settlements.


Obama has put both Israel and the Palestinians on notice they will be held accountable if either side takes actions to undermine the so-called "proximity talks" Mitchell is mediating.


Obama will use his meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas to give a boost to the proximity talks. "Both meetings are designed to help move that process forward," said a White House spokesman in Washington, Tommy Vietor.


White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel delivered the invitation in person to Netanyahu in Jerusalem Wednesday, while on a family visit to Israel.


I would love to have been a fly on the wall listening to Rham Emanuel's conversation with Netanyahu.

The Brits, COIN and coins

By Dave Anderson:



Ian recently noted that Great Britain will soon be undertaking austerity measures despite the fact that its economy is still performing significantly below trend.  This action is being taken to hold onto the hot money and to please the potential bond market vigilantes who have not made an actual appearance yet on British debt.  That means higher taxes, fewer public services, and generally a nastier times for the bottom 97% of the population.  Oh yeah, it also significantly increases the chances of a nasty double-dip recession.



The Independent reports that austerity may actually impact British military operations as the Afghanistan deployment is expensive and does not do much to directly add to British security.  At this point it is a matter of tagging along in the special relationship in the hope that the US pays attention to Great Britain.  



With the Ministry of Defence facing a �36bn budget black hole over the next decade and savage cuts likely under the defence review, politicians are warning that the war has become financially untenable. 
"It is unsustainable for this number of troops to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan for an indefinite period. The forces just aren't large enough, and I know the Secretary of State for Defence is more than aware of this," said the Conservative MP Patrick Mercer.

A shift in UK government policy was outlined by Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, on Friday, when he said that Britain was not a "global policeman", that he would like to see troops return "as soon as possible", and that Britain needs to "reset expectations and timelines". He added: "We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy of a broken, 13th-century country. We are there to see our global interests are not threatened." 

The comments are a clear statement of intent, according to General Sir Hugh Beach, former deputy commander of British land forces. "Words like 'timelines' and 'expectations' � if that isn't a clear message that we're planning to get out early then I don't know what would be."



COIN is expensive and time consuming. Steve has estimated that a fully funded COIN campaign would last a decade and cost $1.2 trillion dollars.  Others estimate a fully funded COIN campaign cost north of $2 trillion dollars and last a decade  or more.  This is an illustration of the grand Clauswitzian failure of Western COIN doctrine as it neglects the political level in pursuit of operational aims.  

The political is the supreme level of importance. Tactical and operational successes can feed into political successes as long as they operate within a context that is aligned with a coherent overall grand strategic goal set. If tactical and operational successes do not align or are counter-productive to the overall grand strategic goal sets, then those apparent successes are not successes. At best they are side-shows of no import; at worse they are enablers of grand strategic failure as the political OODA loop is seduced by the appearance of excellence in the lower realms...
Using Algeria and Vietnam, the political costs of the COIN strategy were very high; promises of ten to twenty year wars, consumption of the society's productive surplus... and domestic political instability... 
COIN today promises the same type of inputs --- ten to twenty year wars, operational costs of one to two points of annual GDP at a time of structural deficits and domestic fiscal crisis --- with the same type of outcomes --- weak, client states in need of continual support in secondary or tertiary areas of interest. 
And shockingly the public of democracies don't like COIN nor do they want to spend those resources for minimal real gains in security...





It is politically extraordinarily difficult to tell the voting public that they will have to "suck on it" while fully funding an unpopular war where the optimistic estimate is that there will be another five to ten years of fighting and funding at the current level before anything that could approach 'victory' could be declared.  

Austerity should mean cutting out the luxury expenditures first.  And in the minds of most voting publics, Afghanistan as it is currently funded is a luxury expenditure.  Great Britain is not the first country to think about leaving Afghanistan (or Iraq) due to budget constraints, nor will it be the last.  



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

$4,000 a barrel!!!!

Commentary By Ron Beasley




Now we know why BP has attempted to minimize the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf Of Mexico.



BP faces extra $60bn in legal costs as US loses patience with Gulf clean-up

The oil disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico could present BP with much higher costs than previously thought as a result of US government penalties of up to $60bn (�40bn), according to City analysts.

The penalties are in addition to BP's already huge bill for the clean-up mission, which stood at $760m yesterday, and potentially unlimited damages payable by the company to fishermen and other affected local communities. BP also faces billions of dollars of lost earnings as a result of its damaged reputation in the US, which could result in it being barred from bidding for future contracts.

The Guardian has obtained a confidential briefing, from a top-level US environmental lawyer who specialises in oil industry litigation, to stockbroker Canaccord, assessing the financial impact of impending legal action on BP.

He warned that, under US law, BP is liable for $1,100 in civil penalties for each spilt barrel of oil and gas, to be paid to the US federal and affected state governments. If BP is found to have acted with gross negligence � and there is no evidence so far that it has � this fine would rise to $4,300 for each barrel.

The issue of legal liability for the accident is complex, involving US federal and state laws. City analysts' calculations of the bill faced by BP have ignored the potentially ruinous cost of civil penalties.

As Johnny Carson used to say "I did not know that."  The good news is they should have plenty of motivation to get the gusher stopped.  Of course it remains to be seen if the Obama administration would have the guts to actual administer what could be the death penalty.  I'm not too optimistic.  Meanwhile BP seems pretty confident:

BP's chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, accepted that the accident had
damaged the company's reputation but said that critics should remember
that BP was "big and important" for the US.

"The US is a big and
important market for BP, and BP is also a big and important company for
the US," he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Thom Hartmann asked an excellent question this morning - where are the Teabaggers?  Their corporate handlers have them going after Obama but they have been silent when it comes to BP.