4.17.2016

New UN Report Echos the Themes of Wanting and Consuming Less, Living Simply and Another Way of Being

When the tumbleweeds roll un-impeded trough the mall's parking lots the environment will have a chance of recovering

An excellent article that i highly recommend everyone reading arrived in my Inbox this morning titled: 'New UN report finds almost no industry profitable if environmental costs were included'. It's not overly long and contains a few very clear graphics showing the reasoning behind the UN researcher's conclusions.

It's an excellent article except that the solutions offered are all top down when, in reality, every exchange is driven by bottom up demand. Capitalism is an externalizing machine as Joel Bakan's movie and book - 'The Corporation' - teaches us.

The externalizing structure destroying the environment can not and will not change on its own because all of the incentives for people who see more short term money as wealth, instead of long term environmental quality, lie in avoiding costs.

The article asks: "Why should we expect companies to change if neither consumers or governments are forcing them?" Governments can't change the system because they are totally captured by it as is the mainstream media and advertisers.

Of course there could be a revolutionary political change that would dump capitalism or a collapse of either this economic travesty or the environment itself. All of these solutions would create devastating effects on not only the over-consumers but everyone else. BUT there is another way, a bottom up way, that's a revolutionary change of mindset among the consumer class - living simply.

IMO the only viable path forward is for humans to change from wants based consumers to needs based, empathetic, beings. Only by wanting less needless crap can the environment be saved and the quality of life be increased for all of us and our cousins - every living thing we share the planet with - now and in the future.

------------------------------------------------------------------

This topic echos the basic themes of wanting less, living simply, consuming less needless crap and the paths we all can follow to another way of being and living in the world that allows a viable eco-sphere for our kids, grandkids and the flora, fauna, microbes, minerals forces and faeries we share fair our lives with into the future. Below are a few examples from past Mud Reports, there are many more...please type a keywords into the Search Box to find more on any topic.
 ---------------------------------------------------------

Starve the Vampires, Save the Earth - STOP CONSUMING NEEDLESS CRAP - Refuse to Comply

2015: The Year Consumers Finally Figure Out They've Already Got Enough Needless Crap

Demand Drives Every Market, the Solution to Pollution is to Stop Consuming Needless Crap

If Degrowth = Trees Cracking Through Blacktop and Tumbleweeds Rolling in Parking Lots, Bring It On

Didn't Dante Warn Us a Long Time Ago About Where This Materialism Deal Would End Up?

Non-Compliance With the Empire of Debt's Parasitic Agenda Is the Road to Freedom

We - the Flora, Fauna, Microbes, Minerals, Forces and Faeries - Are All in This Together

3.23.2016

Woodfibre LNG Update: Trudeau's Climate Commitments are Typical Political Bullshit

Squamish Chief and Howe Sound across from the Woodfibre LNG site

Like most other folks that have lived many decades beside beautiful Howe Sound i was appalled by the hypocrisy of the new Trudeau governments' announcement that they had decided to approve the Woodfibre LNG project, saying that the proposal is "not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects." This despite the fact that the science for the project was entirely provided by the proponent, and the public had no opportunity to cross-examine it.

As My Sea to Sky, a citizens' group opposed to the new development, says, "This decision by the federal department, Environment and Climate Change Canada amounted its approval to a broken election promise given the Liberal government's commitment to a low-carbon future many times including at COPE 21 in Paris. Trudeau, or Prime Minister selfie as he's widely known, seems very adept at dodging some promises and outright ignoring others that he made so 'liberally' during last year's election campaign.

Another promise related to this terrible decision is the promise to consult local residents and aboriginal leaders almost all of whom oppose this boondoggle by the sea. The facts are clear, BC's LNG dream is a nightmare of lies and political pandering to the fossil fuel industry. The real facts behind Christy Clark's rosy claims that the Woodfibre Proposal are based on are well documented  The article 'Four More Whoppers about LNG in British Columbia', by Andrew Nikiforuk, being the best of the recent ones.

Another promise PM selfie and his Environment Minister made was that upstream emissions would be included in the review process. Yet the governments were warned about LNG greenhouse gas emissions in internal briefing notes that single out methane as well as emissions from fracking process. On top of emissions from combustion and flaring of natural gas, which amounted to 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 [equal to 2/3 of all the autos in the province] is the methane escaping from multiple parts of the fracking process. The amount of lost 'fugitive emissions' by BC govt. estimates, which the federal govt. accepts, are between 0.3 and three per cent whereas other North American jurisdictions and scientific literature estimate that rate is between seven and eight per cent.

Entirely lacking in B.C.’s approach, however, are so-called top-down measurement approaches that the Environmental Defense Fund [EDF] researchers have used in the United States. These techniques measure the methane concentrations in the atmosphere around gas industry operations, using sensors mounted on towers as well as on ground and airborne vehicles. BC uses voluntary industry reporting and financial accounting to generate its fanciful figures.

According to a DeSmog report: "Methane emissions from British Columbia's natural gas industry are likely at least 7 times greater than official numbers blowing BC's Climate Action Plan out of the water. Natural gas is nearly all methane and since methane is such a powerful climate warming gas these unreported emissions mean the total CO2 equivalent emissions for the entire province are nearly 25% higher than is being reported.

This is the Trudeau government's first big decision regarding its climate commitments and it's clear he has chosen to throw the environment under the bus in favor of creating a new fossil fuel exporting industry. It will create a few short term construction jobs and a very few permanent jobs but it will make the already rich corporate owners and their shareholders a bit richer - apparently the goal of all our captured governments these days. Richer that is if they ever figure out where to sell their LNG which will cost 2-3 times the Asian market price IF everything goes perfectly for the corporate criminals and their government ass-kissers.

What emissions and financial accounting never attempt to touch are the long term externalized costs of fracking outside the realm of standard accounting. Upstream wise, we know now that fracking despoils the groundwater as well as destroying massive amounts of irreplaceable fresh water. Fracking not only generates fugitive emissions around the drill sites but creates fissures that allow methane and CO2 to escape from other, often abandoned well sites. Fracking creates earthquakes, consumes and poisons water, pollutes the air and in so doing is a huge contributor to the greenhouse gas problem. The pipelines needed to carry the gas to Squamish destroy carbon sequestering forests and water resources including the habitat of fish and millions of other forms of life. The building of the compressing and shipping facility has a huge carbon footprint. The ships carrying the LNG must be built and fuel must be burned moving the stuff.

If that's not enough, just imagine what happens to every living thing for many kilometers around if one of the ships or the facility explodes.

How can anybody like Catherine McKenna and PM selfie say with a straight face that the Woodfibre LNG proposal is "not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects." They can't, they know better, they have advisers, they themselves can read, the only logical answer is that their previous promises of doing things differently are bullshit.

3.15.2016

How and Why Free Trade, Economic Populism and the Class War Has Transcended US Party Politics

Economic Populism set to transform the 2016 election

Today's Super Tuesday #3 primary vote is poised to be the most important to date. The gulf between the two major parties is galactic in size on most issues, but one - free trade - stands out as something both sides agree on. As yesterday's excellent article 'What’s The Problem With Free Trade' explains "There are those who say any increase in trade is good. But if you close a factory here and lay off the workers, open the factory “there” to make the same things the factory here used to make, bring those things into the country to sell in the same outlets, you have just 'increased trade' because now those goods cross a border. Supporters of free trade are having a harder and harder time convincing American workers this is good for them."

As i see it the free trade scam is the lid on the pot that's creating the steam we're seeing explode in America. Both the Sanders and Trump arguments in this area are nearly identical yet the pressure created isn't creating the working class unity that it should because the elites have the levers of power [media, debt, monetary policy, police state control and religion etc]] and use those levers to pander to fear as well as mis-inform the citizens. Meanwhile the pressure builds and the victims - all of us non-elites - swirl and bubble...it's a classic case of divide and conquer and it's working. The people wanting to lash out at the Trump rallies [and everywhere else] are all victims lashing out at other victims who are in reality just like them [with perhaps slightly different pigmentation, biology or religious belief etc].

Bernie Sanders continues to gain momentum with his economic populism arguments. Last week just before Sanders' Michigan upset Dan Cantor, national director of the Working Families Party, said when announcing they endorsed Sanders: “The Beltway elite may never have really understood why job-killing trade deals are such a big deal. “But the people of Michigan surely do, and Bernie Sanders does too.”

Yesterday, on the eve of the all important Ohio vote, Amalgamated Transit Union International President Larry Hanley said in making the announcement that the ATU officially endorsed Sanders for president and putting this year's presidential election in historic context, "This is no ordinary time in U.S. history and our nation is crying out for a leader who owes nothing to the corporate interests responsible for undermining the American middle class. Our executive board recognizes what’s at stake in this election and have made the bold decision of endorsing Bernie Sanders for President. Bernie is right for working people and right for America."

Hopefully the Sanders' message of economic populism that transcended demographics in Michigan will carry the day in Ohio, illinois and Missouri as well. Hillary Clinton has built up a 200-ish lead in elected delegates over the last two weeks but she mostly is only winning and getting her delegates from the southern states, which the Democrats won’t win in a general election. i think that is really troubling because in Nov. it's the swing states, where Sanders shines, that will decide who wins the White House.

The fact that the message - Free Trade is a globalized corporate weapon, whereas, Fair Trade is the people's and planet's defense against the elites - is the common rallying cry of both the Republican and Democratic hopefuls proves to me that it transcends politics and is part of the greater class war, a real war that transcends the artificial divisions, be they, race, gender, religious beliefs, geography etc. that are used by the elites to make people blind to that reality.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Reading List:

Free Trade - the Rich's Global Corporate Weapon, Fair Trade - the People's and Gaia's Defense

In 2016, let's hope for better trade agreements - and the death of TPP by Joseph Stiglitz

How investors use trade agreements to undermine climate action

And Just Like That, "Free Trade" Pact Trounces US Law

'US trade deals have cost America 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000'

3.13.2016

Carbon Taxation's Effects on GHGs Negligable but Economic Downturn Works Consistantly


Baseline emissions from the EIA carbon tax/consumption model (in blue) are expected to decline by a fairly impressive 25 percent between 2015 and 2040, presumably because of some combination of less driving and more efficient vehicles (driven in part by tough new fuel economy standards). But the extra impact from adding in a carbon tax (in purple) is essentially zero.

If there’s one thing that economists agree on about carbon taxes it’s that there’s not much effect on consumption of transportation fuels. The explanation is that demand is very inelastic - driving is something that people 'have to do'. So price changes don’t have much impact on how much driving people do. For example, the NEMS model used by the Energy Information Administration predicts the impact on gasoline consumption of a carbon tax that starts at $25 per ton CO2 in 2015 and rises at 5 percent per year through 2040 should reduce consumption by something like 0.034 percent, a negligible amount.

At first glance this negligible effect seems to contradict the fact that greenhouse gas emissions [GHGs] from British Columbia had fallen 4.5% between 2007 and 2010 following imposition of its carbon tax. However, it is estimated by experts and the BC govt. that most of this decrease is, in fact, attributable to the economic recession. Rob Fleming, the B.C. NDP environment critic, said Mr. Lake’s confession was a bit odd. “The minister was candid, but basically admitting global, economic recessionary forces had more to do with B.C’s slight emissions drop than the sum total of the B.C. Liberal climate policy.”

Considering that transportation accounts for about 1/4 of national greenhouse gas emissions and about 1/8 of global greenhouse gas emissions. The global climate challenge is mostly about coal and electricity generation, not about petroleum or transportation fuels. Yet BC's carbon tax [CT] is regressive in both sectors because a carbon tax applied to industrial producers is simply added to the cost side of the ledger and passed on in the price, so the tax ends up being paid by the end of the line consumer in all cases. And though it may be paid equally [relative to consumption] the pain isn't equal, the rich wouldn't even notice, but the poor would have to adjust their other spending to accommodate the increase.


As The Mud Report detailed a few days ago, the regressive nature of a carbon tax can be reversed depending on how the revenues from it are recycled back into the economy. BC brags that revenues from it's CT are 'neutral' but as the image above shows most of  $5 billion in extra carbon tax revenues go to reducing corporate taxes and doesn't fund public transit at all, nor does it provide financial incentives to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, make your home more energy efficient or fund other environmental projects. BC's CT, though loudly praised, simply takes money from the poor people who cause the least carbon pollution due to the lowest consumption and transfers it to the corporations and shareholders who not only need it the least but also create the largest per capita portion of the GHG problem.

To add insult to injury, Christy Clark's Liberals have declared natural gas to be clean energy source [despite the fugitive methane it refuses to acknowledge, let alone measure] and if Clark’s ambitions of five LNG export terminals come on stream in that province, the oil and gas sector will rise to 52 per cent of Canada’s emissions by 2030 meaning the rest of the Canada's economy will have to reduce emissions by 54 per cent.


To summarize, carbon taxes create negligible GHG savings, they are paid mostly by the poor, the revenue from the tax goes mostly to the rich and, as the graph above shows they are meaningless. But as all the graphs, economists and even the BC govt agrees an economic downturn does have a positive effect on GHG emissions.

Though our leaders and media constantly drum GROWTH, GROWTH, GROWTH, the fact is that when human consumption slows, planet Earth can heal. Only when our obsession with consumption wanes, only when our economy - based on endless growth - is seen as the destroyer of life and real wealth that it is, will our planet be able to heal. Two interesting points in the graph below: 1.) The reduction in 2015's emissions may be partly due to better efficiency, renewable energy, and the like. But, mainly, it is the result of the global economic slowdown. 2.) Every time global emissions drop it's a result of an economic slowdown.

To conclude, CTs are designed to make politicians look good not cut GHG emissions by any meaningful amount. CTs can be progressive, but can also be regressive, as is BC's version. But there is an effective mechanism for reducing GHG emissions - degrowth.


3.07.2016

Bernie's Class War, Environmental Importance and Bloated Defense Budget Messages Still Not Enough

Let's hope the youth show up tomorrow in Michigan

Bernie had a big weekend with convincing victories in Kansas and Nebraska [lets's hear it for the prairie populists] and Maine. Yet at the end of it he had fallen further behind in elected delegates. Then last night Bernie again stole the show at the debate in Flint Michigan where both his unwavering class consciousness arguments and environmental stances, especially on fracking, drew huge cheers from the audience. Both these issues should put Bernie in a great position in tomorrow's Michigan vote, but apparently unless there's a miracle Hilary will win there by a wide margin. i just can't understand why.

No state has lost more well paid jobs to free trade and no state has been plundered worse than Michigan by America's corporate vampire friendly free trade policies of the last few decades. Policies that Hillary supported [until flip-flopping recently] and Bernie always denounced. No state has more first hand experience with the causes and effects of the 99% vs. 1% than Michigan, it's hard to believe that Sanders pledge to reverse a status-quo of wealth distribution from the bottom to the top, responsible for entrenching gross inequality and social and economic injustice hasn't propelled him to the top.

"Sanders is educating the American people on the importance of class rather than race, religion, gender or sexual orientation when it comes to understanding the state of the nation. The only divide that matters in society, he has spares no opportunity in pronouncing, is the one that exists between the super-rich and everybody else." - RT

According to the pundits and the polls Bernie is losing the African-American vote very badly, and again, i can't understand why. It seems to me that Bernie's decades long equality message and his record as a civil rights campaigner both in and out of government should be a beacon to African-American voters, but it isn't.

Just over a week ago US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard who was the DNC Vice-Chair resigned and threw her support behind Bernie saying: "There is a clear contrast between our two candidates with regard to my strong belief that we must end the interventionist, regime change policies that have cost us so much," she wrote. "This is not just another 'issue.' This is THE issue, and it’s deeply personal to me. This is why I’ve decided to resign as Vice Chair of the DNC so that I can support Bernie Sanders in his efforts to earn the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race."

i'd have thought that an announcement like this and the Vermont senator's past support for drastic military cuts plus the fact that in 1995 Bernie introduced a bill to terminate America’s nuclear weapons program and as late as 2002, he supported a 50 percent cut for the Pentagon saying "corrupt defense contractors are to blame for massive fraud and a “bloated military budget", would sway Bernie's progressive foreign policy critics...but no, they haven't [read why here, here, here and here].

Bernie's right on so many issues and poll after poll concludes that Bernie beats Trump or Cruz whereas Hillary fares much worse.

It's all a mystery to me, but the fact remains that for Bernie to have any chance of turning his heartfelt words into reality he'd need to have very long 'coattails' to change the numbers in congress considering that the House is now dominated by the neanderthal Republicans and the Senate, though perhaps able to achieve a Democratic majority in Nov., is presently Republican controlled too.. Consequently, without a Democratic landslide neither Hillary's modest changes or Bernie's revolutionary ones can go anywhere.

Unfortunately, despite huge turnouts for his rallies, especially by young voters, those huge landslide type numbers just aren't showing up at the polls. The primary numbers show that overwhelmingly the Republican carnival is drawing the huge numbers not Bernie's class war arguments. i guess John Steinbeck put it best when he said, "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

We'll see, as another great philosopher - Yogi Berra - said, "it ain't over 'til it's over" so i'll cling to my hopes for that miracle to appear. But if it doesn't, i'm more and more thinking, especially as the deluded evangelical Ted Cruz is Trump's only real opposition, that i'd rather see the loose cannon, the buffoon, that is the Donald as president than Hillary because he just might be the bowling ball the Empire needs whereas Hillary is just more of the same.

3.06.2016

Trudeau's Regressive Carbon Tax Designed to Make Politicians Look Good While Pandering to the Rich


The Trudeau government here in Canada is doing it's best to call what is a regressive Carbon Tax 'carbon pricing' and is clearly convinced that it is the only politically acceptable solution to meeting Canada's carbon budget promises. The fact is that carbon pollution, like all forms of pollution, is a byproduct of industrial production. These ugly byproducts remain unaccounted for in capitalist accounting of the costs of production. Instead, they are externalized onto future generations who'll be on the hook for the inevitable cleanup costs and onto the entire biosphere.

Next fact, the poor live with the various regressive taxation schemes [sales or VAT taxes, MSP fees here in BC and carbon taxes] because they don't have the extra funds it takes to adequately bribe enough politicians to get progressive taxes mandated. The rich are well educated in the cost-benefit analysis of paying off the every political party in every 'democracy' to keep their position secure.The poor spend their time in prayer and at the lottery ticket window.

Trudeau and his government are far from unique. Like all politicians they understand that no one ever won an election by telling voters that: 'due to the laws of physics, they'll have to consume less'. As i'm told all the time: "less doesn't sell". So the flimflam of carbon taxes have become the answer de jour. Carbon taxes make the politicians look good, by taking from the poor and giving to the rich. How?

For instance, when we Canadian drivers fill up our gas tanks, 35% of the price we now pay is tax. If the average tank holds 64 litres, every time we gas up at $1 a litre, we’re handing over $22 not to the producers and distributors of this product, but to the government. Since poor people have less money overall, taking $22 from them at the pump is a big deal. Via gasoline taxes, the poor are forced to pay a higher share of their income just to do ordinary things such as get to work, drop their kids at daycare, fetch groceries, and visit ailing relatives. This is called regressive taxation. When the $22 in tax we pay every time we gas up becomes $25 or $30, more affluent families will absorb the increase. They won’t be happy, but it won’t diminish their horizons. - Donna Laframboise

It’s poor people, the ones already pinching their pennies, whose lives will be made more miserable. Since driving to work isn’t negotiable, there will be less money in these households for food, clothes, eyeglasses, dentists, and skating lessons for the kids. There will be fewer family vacations, and narrower prospects. As the end of the month approaches and the bills loom large, stress and conflict will be amplified. The promise of a tax credit does nothing to alleviate a poor family's immediate and necessary needs. Try heating your house with a tax credit. Try telling your kids they can't go on a school trip next week but next year the family will get a tax credit.

Carbon taxes cause real misery here and now and they don't work to boot. Politicians see carbon taxes as a way to look good without biting the rich hands that feed them. Due to the global nature of our economies and the fact that much of Canada's non-necessity consumption is imported without a global agreement on an effective and equal carbon tax [as in James Hanson's plan, see video below] all the misery that the poor would suffer is meaningless and unless the revenues generated by a large enough carbon tax to make a real difference is redistributed progressively [exactly the opposite of what BC does] the results would be even worse for the poor because much of the revenue generated by carbon taxes goes to cutting taxes that are progressive - like income and corporate taxes.

In addition corporate taxes are costs that get passed onto the consumers eventually so the poor pay again. The point of carbon  taxation is to cut greenhouse gas consumption, exactly what BC's carbon tax has failed miserably at. The BC government brags that the carbon tax has resulted in lower consumption since it's introduction in 2008, but consumption of everything plummeted in 2008 just after the crooked banking collapse that year and as the rich are far less inconvenienced by downturns it would have been the poor who bought less heating and transportation fuel as well as everything else that contributed to the improved numbers. So the rich consume the most GHG causing stuff and get the most benefit from the carbon taxes.

Because BC is the only jurisdiction that currently has a carbon tax it's being lauded as a great example. But is it? If the BC government, and the Canadian govt. eventually, used the revenues generated by carbon taxation from those who use carbon-producing products and plunked it into initiatives that promote using less (transit, alternative energy, water conservation, marshland and grassland restoration, environmental education, organic agriculture, etc.) it could have been. If it had used the revenues to mitigate the misery it causes to the poor instead of a way to replace revenue from progressive taxation, it could have been...but it does neither.

Carbon taxes could be a valuable tool in the battle against carbon and other pollution caused by industrial development IF it was globally implemented as Hansen explains. Carbon taxes can be a useful tool, IF they are part of a concrete action to phase out fossil fuels rapidly and provide alternatives while being socially just. Unfortunately, pro-business governments, including all governments in Canada, aren’t going to do that.

The fact is, there's plenty of everything for everybody to live IF resources were distributed justly and used wisely. But that's not what our economic or political paradigm creates. Instead we have a few humans with far to much and many with far to little. Though our leaders and media constantly drum GROWTH, GROWTH, GROWTH, the fact is that when human consumption slows, planet Earth can heal. Only when our obsession with materialism wanes, only when our economy - based on endless growth - is seen as the destroyer of life and real wealth that it is, will our planet be able to heal.

Here's a short reading list for those who want to learn more:

Bottom Line on Carbon Taxes - World Resources Institute

BC's Carbon Tax is Just Another Regressive Sales Tax

Liberal Think Tank Admits A Carbon Tax Is ‘Regressive’

Dr. James Hansen - A Low-Loss Electrical Grid and Carbon Tax

3.04.2016

The Vancouver Declaration - An Admission That 'Green' and 'Growth Make Strange Bedfellows


The amount and speed of change necessary globally to bend the curve downward enough to be meaningful means that massive, immediate change is required. Canada's PM Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister McKenna both stood up at COP 21 in Paris a few months ago and acknowledged that they understood the numbers.

To meet Canada's short-term target of lowering emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 would require shutting down the equivalent of 58% of Canada’s oil and gas sector in five years. Meeting Canada's 2030 target of 30% below 2005 levels, would require shuting down the equivalent of all of Canada’s oil and gas sector in 15 years and still come up short.

Instead, after two days of meetings, Trudeau presents 'The Vancouver Declaration', a "plan to make a plan" 8 months from now.  Trudeau had threatened to impose a small national carbon tax, but, a bit sheepishly. agreed to let each jurisdiction figure out their own approach. Quebec and Ontario are already committed Cap and Trade - basically a lisence to pollute. B.C. has a carbon tax but all proceeds go to cutting other taxes - taxes like income and profit, that are progressive. The carbon tax in Alberta is at least trying to redistribute the revenue progressively except they are exempting the worst offenders - the fossil fuel industry.

The problem is that every politician knows that 'less' doesn't sell, so Trudeau is searching for a way to meet Canada's climate commitments while saying he can grow the economy...BUT...first Trudeau says Canada needs to build more pipelines to transport  tar sands crud are necessary to fund Canada's transition to a green future...{puke]...But, as Barry Saxifrage explained recently, Canada's fossil fuel industry's current slowdown, let alone the whole future of dirty fuels, means no more mega-pipelines need to be built. Barry says: "Canada's pipeline wars may be ending sooner -- and with less national division and trauma -- than expected."

There are strategies that might actually work to reduce climate change and the wider pollution threats but they can't currently be implemented because they are politically radioactive. A good sized shrinking of the economy would almost certainly help not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also our consumption of resources, leaving more for future generations. But what politician would advocate such policies? Only one who was determined not to be re-elected.

So Canada's best and brightest elected to 'kick the can down the road' rather than even approach the subject of wanting and consuming less. Democracy and Necessity of Action are at a crossroads, as Kevin Anderson says, "In true Orwellian style, the political and economic dogma that has come to pervade all facets of society must not be questioned. For many years, green-growth oratory has quashed any voice with the audacity to suggest that the carbon budgets associated with 2 °C cannot be reconciled with the mantra of economic growth."

The unavoidable truth is our governments are captured by the corporate polluters and the citizenry is addicted to the trinkets the corporations sell. The addicted will agree with any bullshit story that feeds their habit.  'The Vancouver Declaration' is an admission that economic growth and carbon reductions make strange bedfellows

2.21.2016

Looking Back at Islam's History and the Middle East's 'Long War' Key to Finding the Solution

Aleppo’s historic citadel in the oldest city in the world

As of today events along the Turkish/Syrian border region continue to slowly cool down. Turkey continues to shell the Kurdish positions near Azaz but with less intensity. The Saudis, like the Turks, aren't talking about imminent invasion, at least for now. The Americans and Russians too appear to have recognized the fear of being on the 'eve of destruction' as a great motivator.

As the complex events continue to unfold today the best thing we can do is to look back the long history that the current conflict is a part of. What better place to start than Aleppo, where nearly 5,000 years ago a shrine was built on a hill to to a storm god, Hadda. The hill that would over 2,000 years later be fortified by the governor Alexander the Great left to rule the area after he conquered the region. The hill that today is the central prize that the Al-Nusra Front [Al-Qaeda in Syria] is holding [barely] against the combined armed forces of Syria, the Iranian militias, Hezbollah, the Syrian Kurds and the Russian Air Force.

Thousands of pages have been written by historians, religionists and a wide range of scholars trying to fully explain the history of this beautiful land and peoples of the Middle East. What follows is a reading list of sorts. In it the writer of these lines will try to touch on a couple of the major events but also to suggest articles and books that look at the historic issues and events from a range of perspectives.

At the time of Muhammad's birth around 570 CE the Middle East was politically and militarily divided between the The Byzantine and Persian Empires who were constantly at war and the small but fierce nomadic Arab tribes who's never ending feuds and harsh terrain had forced some of them to head north into the area between the two major Empires of the region. Later this would prove to be the region where the Arabs would first expand into and conquer both empires from because there already were Arabs there and because the two large warring empires had spent all their wealth and energy fighting each other.

Muhammad was a simple man who's prophetic visions served as a catalyst to unite some of the powerful Arab's family clans around Medina and Mecca in a greater cause - Islam. The study of Early Islam is as interesting as it is confounded by those early Muslims who were contemporaries of Muhammad and who succeeded him. Almost immediately after Muhammad's death in 632 his successors launched the Arab Islamic armies in the creation of one of the world's great empires stretching from the Great Wall of China to Timbuktu, France and India.

As with every empire, the internecine battles erupted not long after the conquests began. Our modern understanding of major events of that era is clouded by the different versions of those events as passed on by the various divided factions, divisions that still exist, divisions that are still playing out in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and beyond. For instance, Wikipedia's History of Islam and Desmond Stewart's Early Islam agree on the major events but differ on some of the most important details of the split between the Sunni and Shia. The Wiki version being that Husayn ibn Ali, by then Muhammad's only living grandson, died in battle in the ensuing war that transpired after he refused to swear allegiance to the Umayyads' Caliphate. Stewart's version, the one most scholars accept, says he was murdered by the Damascus centered governor Muawiyah I's followers.

This is the origin Sunni/Shia division and of course both sides believe different versions. On top of that, and maybe even more important to today's events, after li ibn Abu Talib, the existing Caliph, agreed to arbitration instead of endless war with Muawiyah I for overall leadership, another group - the Khawaij later to become the Whabbists and Salafists - refused to accept any agreement because they were convinced only 'God' could choose and that the only way 'God' could be allowed to choose was to let all out war.determine who was the winner. [So these guys were fanatics from day 1].

The Kharijites developed extreme doctrines that set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shia Muslims. This branch of Islam founded by the Kharijites, known today as Wahhabism and/or Salafism, became the misguided expression of one man’s political ambition - Mohammed Abdel-Wahhab, a bigot who was recruited by the British Empire to erode the fabric of Islam and crack the armor of the then-Ottoman Empire by breeding sectarianism and dissent. It is Abdel-Wahhab's alliance to the House of Saud that ultimately unleashed this now seemingly unstoppable evil we know today under the tag of Islamic radicalism.

Of course much has happened during the 1,400 odd years between the Sunni/Shia/Kharijite division and now that brought today's major Empires nose to nose [nuke to nuke] in the area around Aleppo. Most of those events are well researched and much less subject to conflicts of interpretation caused the existing oral tradition of communication that existed among the Arab peoples at the time.

-------------------------------------------------

Reading List:

Early Islam - by Desmond Stewart - A beautiful and scholarly look at the history, religion, art and architecture of Islam that has become as controversial for it's outspoken clarity on many issues as it is praised for the beauty of its images.

NPR 1000 year history of Western meddling in the Middle East - A six part educational series i highly recommend

European Imperialism in the Middle East - a two part podcast - part 1 is about how the European powers got entangled in the Middle East - part 2 is about how WW1 and the fallout from it influenced both Europe and the Middle East.

How the British divided up the Arab World - Focuses on the Sykes-Picot Agreement and post WW1 era that set the stage for our modern Middle East conundrum.

Debacle of a “Great Game”: The Islamic State (IS) and America’s War on Iraq and Syria - Global Research at its best.

'Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam' - by Robert Dreyfuss

Saudi Arabia and Israel: An Axis of Convenience - by Dan Sanchez - Brings the history up to the present.

American Raj America and the Muslim World - by Eric Margolis - This book is a recent and essential overview of the last 100 years of the west's interaction with the wider Muslim world - a must read IMO.

2.19.2016

Obama Tells Erdogen to Calm Down, Putin's Warning is Real, WW111 May Be Averted For Now


Yesterday's article by Robert Parry at Consortium News titled 'Risking Nuclear War for Al Qaeda?' brought out into the public sphere what was only a rumor until then. The Russians have warned Turkey that if Turkey (with hundreds of thousands of troops massed near the Syrian border) and Saudi Arabia (with its sophisticated air force) that if they follow through on threats and intervene militarily to save their rebel clients, who include Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, from a powerful Russian-backed Syrian government offensive, then Russia is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their 20,000 or so military personnel inside Syria in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught.

The fear swirling among many is driven by the fact that since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation. Today Obama called Erdogen in Ankara, they talked for 1 hr. 20min. and besides offering his condolences on the recent bombings in Turkey it now appears Obama explained clearly to Erdogen that he should calm down and it made clear that the U.S. military would not join an invasion. In addition he apparently told Erdogen that Putin wasn't bluffing and that if Turkey and Saudi Arabia go ahead they will be on their own and that neither the US or NATO would back an invasion.

Yesterday Parry wrote: "the only person who probably can stop a Turkish-Saudi invasion is President Obama." Adding, "The dilemma for Obama is that many traditional U.S. allies, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been the principal backers and funders of Sunni terror groups inside Syria, including Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and to a lesser degree, the Islamic State," Parry explains. "Now, the 'allies' [Turkey and the Saudis] want the United States to risk a nuclear confrontation with Russia to, in effect, protect Al Qaeda.

Obama has answered "No", But that hasn't stopped dangerous events from continuing. Syrian rebels have brought at least 2,000 reinforcements through Turkey in the past week to bolster the fight against Kurdish-led militias north of Aleppo. The re-suppply and re-enforcement route via Turkey has become the sole supply line for Azaz, one of the last areas even nominally under the control of Syrian rebels and their Al-Nusra Front allies.

The Turkish military continues it's shelling Syrian Kurds despite UN Security Council (UNSC) warning on Tuesday which urged Ankara to comply with international law. Also, Russia asked the United Nations Security Council on Friday [this morning] to call for Syria's sovereignty to be respected, for cross-border shellings and incursions to be halted and for "attempts or plans for foreign ground intervention" to be abandoned.

Also today Turkish military vehicles have crossed into a Kurdistani area in Syria, Afrin, just over the border, a Kurdish news agency reported adding that the troops started digging a trench between the towns of Sorka and Meydan Ekbis. According to the agency the construction of a concrete wall on the Syrian border in the area is ongoing as well.

IMO. we are is closer to nuclear war than at any point since the Cuban missile crisis. Russia is steadfast and has international law on its side. Turkey is run by an insane group who is out of control, the Saudis and their fanatical ilk, the Wahhabis and Salafis embrace the doctrine of Takfir; they consider Shia and other non-Sunnis to be apostates (non-Muslims), and therefore frequently worthy of divinely sanctioned slaughter.

Indeed Obama and thankfully Putin are being adults. After today's 'talk' with Erdogen by Obama and yesterday's warning from Putin i suspect and hope that over the next few days the Turks will slowly climb back from the cliff and the adults will be able to use this near miss as a stepping stone at least, or better yet, a revelation that they are both caught up in a drama of immense proportions that is fueled by religious fanaticism.


2.18.2016

Serial False Flag Offender Turkey's Phoney Ultimatum to US and NATO - Back Us or the Kurds

Turkish tanks at the ready to invade Syria. Will They Go?

The blast last night that hit a military bus in Turkish capital Ankara and the nearly immediate blame the Turkish govt. hurled at the Kurds, long before they could have carried out any type of investigation into who was responsible, has raised the suspicions of a long time Turkey watchers and skeptical media coverage. The ZeroHedge article titled 'Are the Latest Turkish Attacks False Flags? provides an interesting list of Turkey's history of false flag operations and includes corroboration by Turkish govt. sources.

Turkey is at war with the Kurds not ISIS not Al-Nusra. Turkey immediately vows response in Syria and Iraq. Then, within hours, Turkish warplanes bombed bases in northern Iraq of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state and which Davutoglu accused of collaborating in the car bombing. Of course nobody knows yet, or maybe ever, just like the hospitals bombed in Syria a few days ago, who did the bombings but the Russians and Syrians strongly deny they had anything to do with the hospital bombings and all the Kurdish groups inside and outside of Turkey deny they had anything to do with the blast in Ankara and have no idea of who did it [though the Kurds all suspect ISIS as the most probable culprit].

Whoever did the Ankara bombing it's timing sure was convenient for Turkey who has been condemned by the US, France and the EU for shelling the Syrian Kurds this week and who has threatened to invade northern Syria to protect its last good overland routes, routes it uses to re-supply and re-enforce it's ISIS and Al-Nusra allies there as well as the the routes that run between the Syrian oil fields and Turkey's refineries.

The Kurds at the same time also warned Turkey of a ‘big war’ with Russia if Turkey invades Syria. Saying "Russia has promised to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria in case of a ground offensive by Turkey, a move that would lead to a "big war." Adding "We take this threat [of an invasion of N. Syria] very seriously because the ruling party in Turkey is a party of war," Rodi Osman, head of the Syrian Kurds' newly-opened representative office said in Kurdish via a Russian interpreter. "Russia will respond if there is an invasion. This isn't only about the Kurds, they will defend the territorial sovereignty of Syria." Russia itself said it is helping the Syrian Kurds militarily and Nikolai Kovalyov, a former head of the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the Soviet KGB, said that Russian jets would bomb Turkish troops if they enter Syria.

Everyday the situation looks more dire. Turkey and Saudi Arabia look set to invade but only with Washington's approval and participation. Without the US it's an empty threat because the combined Russian, Syrian, Iranian militias and Hezbollah would demolish them. In fact Turkey won't even fly across the border to bomb the Azaz area because the Russian anti-aircraft misslies would blow them out of the sky. So for now, it's artillery fire, bombastic rhetoric, and the attempt to get the US to back their play.

Turkey wants a ‘secure line’ created 10km inside Syria, including Azaz and has issued an ultimatum to the US saying the US has to choose whether it wants to back Turkey or the Syrian Kurds. Turkey will use the bombing in Ankara as their justification and the Saudis will too. Both of them will try to get NATO and the US to follow by saying they, Turkey - a NATO member, and the Saudis - an American ally, are under attack.

The next move seems up to the US who've repeatedly said they won't send in ground troops and that the Kurds in Syria and Iraq are the only truly effective anti-ISIS and Al-Nusra forces. What Turkey and the Saudis are forgetting is that by doing nothing the US can allow Russia to be their firewall. Turkey and the Saudis are surrounded by enemies - Russia, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, the Shia Iraqis and the Kurds [who are by and large secular and neutral in the Sunni/Shia confrontation though they detest Whabbism]. Will Turkey and the Saudis go into Syria without the US...no way...it's all a bluff designed to get the US and NATO to support them.