Sunday, April 23, 2017

Another Perspective on the Rise in Anxiety

Anxiety is...
"not a coherent fear of a particular thing, and it tends not to focus on the problems you already have. Anxiety is the ambient apprehension that terrible things might happen. . . A mainstay of 20th-century age-of-​anxiety complaints was that our world was becoming too complex for anyone to keep track of or feel like a relevant participant in, full of strange and byzantine distances between individuals and the grand global forces affecting us. . . . You can argue with a store owner; you can’t argue with the call-center representative of the company contracted to maintain the point-of-sale machine owned by the other company contracted by the multinational conglomerate that owns the store. . . . Feelings of anxiety are closely connected to an inability to handle uncertainty. What might make human beings less anxious, it seems, is having a firmer sense of what in the world is happening and what’s likely to happen next. We seem temporarily short on both."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Living in Glass Houses

Über environmentalist Bill McKibben tells us, in The Guardian today, to "stop swooning over Justin Trudeau":
Look all you want, in fact – he sure is cute, the planet’s only sovereign leader who appears to have recently quit a boy band. And he’s mastered so beautifully the politics of inclusion: compassionate to immigrants, insistent on including women at every level of government. Give him great credit where it’s deserved: in lots of ways he’s the anti-Trump, and it’s no wonder Canadians swooned when he took over. But when it comes to the defining issue of our day, climate change, he’s a brother to the old orange guy in DC.
It was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister Catharine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn. . . . he got a standing ovation from the oilmen for saying “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.". . . Environment minister McKenna, confronted by Canada’s veteran environmentalist David Suzuki, said tartly “we have an incredible climate change plan that includes putting a price on carbon pollution, also investing in clean innovation. But we also know we need to get our natural resources to market and we’re doing both.” Right. But doing the second negates the first – in fact, it completely overwhelms it.
Things are worse to the south but at least we all know it.
Trump, of course, is working just as eagerly to please the fossil fuel industry – he’s instructed the Bureau of Land Management to make permitting even easier for new oil and gas projects, for instance. And frackers won’t even have to keep track of how much methane they’re spewing under his new guidelines. And why should they? If you believe, as Trump apparently does, that global warming is a delusion, a hoax, a mirage, you might as well get out of the way. Trump’s insulting the planet, in other words. But at least he’s not pretending otherwise.
It's easy to find fault with out neighbours, but, even with Harper gone, we still have a mess on our hands.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Just Another Oil War

An article Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote more than a year ago shows how oil interests created ISIS.

"The reverberations from decades of CIA shenanigans continue to echo across the Mid-East today in national capitals and from mosques to madras schools over the wrecked landscape of democracy and moderate Islam that the CIA helped obliterate....This is the bloody history that modern interventionists like George W. Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio miss when they recite their narcissistic trope that Mid-East nationalists 'hate us for our freedoms.'
As we focus on the rise of ISIS and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology and focus on the more complex rationales of history and oil, which mostly point the finger of blame for terrorism back at the champions of militarism, imperialism and petroleum here on our own shores."

1949 - Syria "declared war on the Nazis, expelled their Vichy French colonial rulers and crafted a fragile secularist democracy based on the American model. But in March of 1949, Syria's democratically elected president hesitated to approve the Trans Arabian Pipeline" so the CIA engineered a coup and put in their own dictator who approved the pipeline. This move effectively destabilized the country.

1953 - Roosevelt and Stone orchestrated a coup in Iran because their democratically elected president, Mosaddegh, who "idealized the U.S. as a role model, . . . tried to renegotiate the terms of Iran's lopsided contracts with the old giant, BP." He uncovered the coup attempt and expelled all British diplomats but didn't expel the CIA, who were complicit. Eisenhower ousted Mosaddegh and installed Shah Reza Pahlavi, who favored U.S. oil companies, but whose two decades of CIA sponsored savagery toward his own people from the Peacock throne would finally ignite the 1979 Islamic revolution that has bedeviled our foreign policy for 35 years."

1956 - JFK infuriated many with a speech "endorsing the right of self-governance in the Arab world and an end to Americans's imperialists meddling in Arab countries."

1957 - Stone went to Damascus with money to arm Islamic militants, the Muslim Brotherhood, to overthrow al-Kuwaiti's democracy and "engineer national conspiracies and various strong arm provocations in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan that could be blamed on the Syrian Ba'athists. . . . In response, the Syrian army invaded the American Embassy...ejected Stone...purged all politicians sympathetic to the U.S." The CIA continued to try to topple Syria's government by arming the Muslim Brotherhood "to assassinate three Syrian government officials" which pushed Syria away from U.S. and into alliance with Russia and Egypt. Eisenhower mounted a war against Arab Nationalism "when Arab self-rule threatened oil concessions." He advised, "We should do everything possible to stress the 'holy war' aspect."

1958 - Anti-American Army officers led a coup to overthrow Iraq's pro-American monarch, Nuri al-Said...exposing [him] as a highly paid CIA puppet. . . . In response to American treachery, the new Iraqi governement invited Soviet diplomats and economic advisers to Iraq and turned its back on the West."

1963 - The CIA succeeded in installing Ba'ath Party to power in Iraq led, in part, by Saddam Hussein (see Klein's Shock Doctrine for a lot more on that). "The CIA supplied Saddam and his cronies a 'murder list' of people who 'had to be eliminated immediately in order to ensure success.'" Reagan supplied him with billions in training, knowing he was using poisonous gas and biological weapons in his war against Iran. He was seen "as a potential friend to the U.S. oil industry."

1983 - Donald Rumsfeld, in Iraq, presented Hussein with "a pair of pearl-handled revolvers and a menu of chemical/biological and conventional weapons" while the CIA supplied Iran "with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to fight Iraq."

1997 - The U.S. Department of Defense found "a strong correlation between US. involvement abroad and an increase in terrorist attacks against the U.S."

2000 - Then Qatar, who shares the world's richest natural gas repository with Iran, proposed constructing a pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, linking the pipeline directly to European energy markets. The U.S. and EU were on board, but Bashar al-Assad didn't support the pipeline. It would have given Saudi Arabia's Sunni Monarchy a foothold in Shia dominated Syria. And Russia, who sell gas to Europe, saw the pipeline as a threat. Assad endorsed a "Russian approved 'Islamic pipeline' running from Iran's side of the gas field through Syria and to the ports of Lebanon." to make Iran the principal supplier. Israel was "determined to derail the Islamic pipeline" because it would strengthen Iran and Syria.

2001 - After 9/11, Assad "gave thousands of invaluable files to the CIA on Jihadist radicals, who he considered a mutual enemy. Assad's regime was deliberately secular and Syria was impressively diverse."

2009 - "Soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria."

2011 - U.S., France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and England formed the "Friends of Syria Coalition" to remove Assad.

The idea of fomenting a Sunni-Shia civil war to weaken the Syrian and Iranian regimes so as to maintain control of the region's petro-chemical supplies was not a novel notion in the Pentagon's lexicon....“U.S. leaders could also choose to capitalize on the sustained Shia-Sunni conflict trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world ... possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran." and "sell Americans the idea that the pipeline struggle was a humanitarian war."

2012 - A study by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agancy warned that the U.S. support of radical Sunny Jihadists was making ISIS the major force driving the insurgency in Syria. "Not coincidentally, the regions of Syria occupied by ISIS exactly encompass the proposed route of the Qatari pipeline."

2014 - But then ISIS horrified people. "Strategies based upon the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend can be kind of blinding.... We made the same mistake when we trained the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. The moment the Russians left, our supposed friends started smashing antiquities, enslaving women, severing body parts and shooting at us." The U.S. blamed Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and Obama claimed ISIS was an outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq. To many Arabs, however, "the evidence of U.S. involvement is so abundant that they conclude that our role in fostering ISIS must have been deliberate."

Prior to the American invasion, there was no Al-Qaeda in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Bush destroyed Saddam's secularist government and his viceroy, Paul Bremer, in a monumental act of mismanagement, effectively created the Sunni Army, now named ISIS. Bremer elevated the Shiites to power and banned Saddam's ruling Ba'ath Party laying off some 700,000, mostly Sunni, government and party officials from ministers to school teachers. He then disbanded the 380,000 man army, which was 80 percent Sunni. Bremer's actions stripped a million of Iraq's Sunnis of rank, property, wealth and power; leaving a desperate underclass of angry, educated, capable, trained and heavily armed Sunnis with little left to lose. General Petraeus' decision to import dirty war tactics, including torture and death squads, from the CIA's El Salvador conflict in order to shock and awe the Sunni resistance, instead ignited a shockingly bloody spiral of sectarian violence that devolved quickly into escalating atrocities topped finally by the Sunni Army signature head cutting. The Sunni insurgency named itself Al-Qaeda Iraq [AQI - later ISIS].

Military-aged men are fleeing the area because it's not their war: "The super powers have left no options for an idealistic future that moderate Syrians might consider fighting for. And no one wants to die for a pipeline."

Kennedy's Proposed Solutions:
"If we are to have an effective foreign policy, we must recognize the Syrian conflict is a war over control of resources indistinguishable from the myriad clandestine and undeclared oil wars we have been fighting in the Mid-East for 65 years. And only when we see this conflict as a proxy war over a pipeline do events become comprehensible. . .  
Once we strip this conflict of its humanitarian patina and recognize the Syrian conflict as an oil war, our foreign policy strategy becomes clear. Instead, our first priority should be the one no one ever mentions—we need to kick our Mid-East oil jones, an increasingly feasible objective, as the U.S. becomes more energy independent. Next, we need to dramatically reduce our military profile in the Middle East and let the Arabs run Arabia. Other than humanitarian assistance and guaranteeing the security of Israel's borders, the U.S. has no legitimate role in this conflict. While the facts prove that we played a role in creating the crisis, history shows that we have little power to resolve it. . . . 
We need to begin this process, not by invading Syria, but by ending our ruinous addiction to oil."

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Bigger Problem with Air Travel

It was almost four years ago that Nature, a highly reputable peer-reviewed science journal, published a paper that suggests that climate change is going to affect us sooner rather than later. We will stop our more destructive habits like air travel, mass consumerism, factory farming..., but by choice or necessity is yet to be seen.

According to the research paper, globally, if we do nothing, we'll be in "a state continuously outside the bounds of historical variability" by 2047. "These results are sobering indicators of the pace of climate change if one considers that the timing of climate departure will occur sooner if 'pristine' climate conditions are used to set historical climate bounds," indicating change in the year 2033 or 2051 depending on the models used. It will hit the tropics first, and over a billion people currently live in areas that climate change could render inhabitable in 35 years at the latest.  "This suggests that any progress to decrease the rate of ongoing climate change will require a bigger commitment from developed countries to decrease their emissions but will also require more extensive funding of social and conservation programmes in developing countries to minimize the impacts of climate change."

Then there's this bit from Climate Central:
It's possible that warming already in the pipeline has ensured parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet face unstoppable melt. That would raise sea levels up to 13 feet and threaten coastal communities around the world.

More recent news suggest that "Australia now faces a closing window to save the reef by taking decisive action on climate change." Bleaching events are happening too rapidly to allow for recovery time. And then this line,

"Some reef scientists are now becoming despondent. . . . We've given up. . . . we've failed."

The reef is in a "terminal stage" and measures to improve the situation were failing. But some are more forcefully optimistic: "Every moment we waste, and every dollar we waste, isn't helping the issue. We've been denying it for so long, and now we're starting to accept it. But we're spending insufficient amounts addressing the problem."