The latest Oxfam report on poverty and inequality in our dysfunctional world makes a depressing read. It shows that the chasm between the richest 1% and the rest of humanity has considerably widened in the last few years. One statistic that is truly shocking is the number of people whose wealth is equal to that of the poorest half of the world’s population (3.6 billion people); this number has gone down from 388 in 2010 to 62 in 2015.
These 62 people have a combined wealth of a staggering $1,760 billion, averaging $28.387 billion per individual. What is the point of owning so much wealth? If these individuals were to use 95% of their wealth to lift billions of people from grinding, oppressive poverty they would still be billionaires.
Their material life style need hardly change, but will be enhanced by having the inner contentment and happiness that comes from knowing that you have made such a positive difference to the lives of so many. I would like to think this is what I would do if I were in their position. But, wait; is there something in our psyche that makes us behave differently once we start accumulating wealth? Does our love of wealth dull our compassion and empathy with our fellow human beings? The answer to these questions is likely to be yes, and in that case do we need psychiatric help once we acquire such wealth?
These people have become members of the super-rich club, competing with one another on who has gone up and who has gone down in the table of the ultra-wealthy. This causes many of them anxiety and neuroses. This self-obsession renders them blind to the needs and suffering of fellow human beings in their own countries and beyond.
Imagine the contentment and happiness you feel when greeted by the smiles of adults and children as you visit places, knowing that your money has brought them such happiness and joy: children going to school instead of working to support a family simply to have enough to eat, health clinics to treat simple conditions to relieve pain and suffering, clean water to drink thus preventing disease and death that result from drinking contaminated water , shelter to protect families from heat, flooding and cold. The need is great, and the remedies are in our grasp if only the resources are made available.
Another issue highlighted by Oxfam is the use of tax havens. It states:
As a priority, it is calling [Oxfam] for an end to the era of tax havens which has seen increasing use of offshore centres by rich individuals and companies to avoid paying their fair share to society. This has denied governments valuable resources needed to tackle poverty and inequality. It is three years since David Cameron told Davos that he would lead a global effort against aggressive avoidance in the UK and in poor countries, yet promised measures to increase transparency in British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, such as the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, have not yet been implemented.
I really find it difficult to understand how democratic governments can tolerate the existence of tax havens. They serve no purpose other than to help the powerful, be it individuals or corporations, to hide their wealth, thus avoiding making contributions to their societies whose resources they used to create their wealth. Tax havens also help assorted despots, royals and the corrupted elite in the developing world to hide the wealth they pillage from their own countries. Oxfam reports that: “30 percent of all African financial wealth is estimated to be held offshore, costing an estimated $14billion in lost tax revenues every year.” Let us shut down these relics from a bygone age that steal wealth from the impoverished to the benefit of the already bloated few.
We are having a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union; here is a suggestion for another one: Should Britain continue to allow the existence of tax havens in its overseas territories and crown dependencies? Let the people decide.
What sort of system have we created that relentlessly siphons wealth from the poor to the richest 1%, and in the process deprives humanity of the resources that could bring happiness, contentment and joy to billions of people? When, oh when, will world leaders take concrete steps to remedy this injustice and unfairness?
Adnan Al-Daini (PhD, Birmingham University, UK) is a retired University Engineering lecturer. He is a British citizen born in Iraq. He writes regularly on issues of social justice and the Middle East.
They consist of 16,000 individuals, about the size of a crowd at a professional basketball game. The inequality horror they’ve fomented is reaching far beyond the half of America that is in or near poverty, for it now impacts those of us well above the median, those of us in the second highest of four wealth quartiles.
1. The .01% Have as Much Wealth as 80% of America
The combined net worth of the 16,000 richest Americans is approximately the same as the total wealth of 256,000,000 people. Details for this statistic and other facts to follow are at You Deserve Facts.
2. Americans with up to a Quarter-Million Dollars are Part of the Nearly 80% of Americans with Less Wealth Than the .01%
The 80% includes all Americans with a net worth up to about $277,000.
3. The .01% Own about as Much as 75% of the Entire World
The world’s poorest 75% own roughly 4 percent of total global wealth, approximately the same percentage of wealth owned by the .01% in the United States. Again, calculations are shown here.
4. The .01% – Who Are They?
It starts with the billionaires, the Forbes 400 and 136 more, for a total of 536 individuals with a total net worth of $2.6 trillion at the end of 2015.
It continues with more Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWIs). These loftily-named people, over 15,000 of them, are worth hundreds of millions of dollars apiece, bringing the total .01% wealth to about $6.2 trillion, based on 2013-14 data. But U.S. wealth has grown by about 30 percent in three years, and the Forbes 400 has grown by 38 percent, and thus the total wealth of the .01% has grown to over $9 trillion.
In contrast, a recent Institute for Policy Studies report calculated that the bottom half of America has about $732 billion in total wealth, and further calculations on the same data show that the bottom 75% of America owned about $6.2 trillion in 2013.
5. The Unique Brand of .01% Terror: Making a Game of Tax Avoidance While 2,500,000 Children Experience Homelessness
Wealth ownership is not contemptible if the owners of that wealth accept their responsibility to the society that makes their great fortunes possible. But instead of paying taxes, the wealthiest Americans have formed an “income defense industry” to shelter their riches, with, according to the New York Times, “a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means.”
On the corporate end, over half of U.S. corporate foreign profits are now being held in tax havens, double the share of just twenty years ago. Yet for some of our largest corporations, according to the Wall Street Journal, over 75 percent of the cash owned by their foreign subsidiaries remains in U.S. banks, “held in U.S. dollars or parked in U.S. government and corporate securities.” Thus they get the benefit of our national security while they eagerly avoid taxes.
The .01% go about their self-serving tax avoidance while 2.5 million children experience homelessness every year. The corporations of the .01% hoard hundreds of billions overseas while nearly two-thirds of American families don’t have enough money to replace a broken furnace.
This is real terror, facing life without shelter and warmth and sustenance, without a semblance of security for even one day in the future. It is terror caused in good part by the 16,000 people who don’t feel it’s necessary to pay for the benefits heaped upon them by a perversely unequal society.
Everyone is talking about how to end mass incarceration: the right, the left, presidential candidates, Black Lives Matter activists. But what comes after a prison-centric society? Some, including business interests that would profit from such a shift, think GPS bracelets are a sound alternative to locking people in physical cages. But is electronic monitoring really so different from prison?
Not according to the Center for Media Justice and James Kilgore, respectively publisher and author of a 2015 report: “Electronic Monitoring is Not the Answer: Critical Reflections on a Flawed Alternative.”
Kilgore told the Daily Beast that while wearing an ankle bracelet is better than being in prison, we shouldn’t look to GPS monitoring to solve the problems in our criminal punishment system. “You can be sent back to prison for getting back to your house five minutes late when the bus breaks down,” Kilgore said, naming just one of many strict release conditions that can make ankle bracelets seem like electronic recidivism devices.
Putting people on electronic leashes instead of in jails or prisons is problematic for many reasons. Electronic monitoring shifts the burden of paying for incarceration onto the individual and the family, away from the state. The conditions imposed on people wearing bracelets are often so strict that people soon go back to prison for violations that have nothing to do with whether someone is a danger to the community—or they never leave their homes because they are terrified of committing such a violation, even accidentally. Bracelets act as a sort of scarlet letter, signifying to people in the community that the wearer may not be a trustworthy employee or neighbor.
And because the terms and conditions of electronic monitoring punishments can be so severe, sentencing people to wear ankle bracelets in place of serving prison sentences may actually increase the number of people in prison. That’s because, for example, a judge may sentence someone to electronic monitoring that later, because of impossibly strict conditions, leads to incarceration, when community service would have been a viable alternative sentence in the first place.
Electronic monitoring also produces huge quantities of sensitive information about people required to wear the devices everywhere they go, and the market that governs the technology companies is nearly entirely unregulated. As the Intercept reported in late 2015, companies that profit off of the prison industrial complex are historically not the best at securing sensitive information about the incarcerated people who are required to use their services. We should not trust that the huge quantities of sensitive information generated about people subjected to state control will remain secure or won’t be abused.
Thinking of ankle bracelets or other electronic monitoring as “alternatives” to prison is dangerous because these methods are cheaper than caging people, meaning the government could very easily place many more people under these systems of control without feeling the fiscal pinch.
So what should we do?
Instead of creating virtual prisons, we must rethink our entire justice system—including what constitutes a crime, and whether we want to enact vengeance or seek rehabilitation for people who commit crimes. Ending the drug war is a great start. We can and must also end mandatory minimums, radically restructure our sentencing guidelines, and take a hard look at our criminal statutes.
Ultimately, we must decrease the number of people under carceral control in the United States. If that’s the goal, electronic surveillance schemes aren’t only false alternatives—they may very well create an entirely new problem that will grind on for decades until the country finally wakes up to realize its mistake. By that point, because GPS bracelets are so much cheaper for the state than prisons, we may all be wearing them.
What follows is a partial list of American politicians who have parroted the line about the US and Israel sharing the same “values”:
Obama (“The bond between Israel and the United States is rooted in more than our shared national interests; it’s rooted in the shared values and shared stories of our people.”)
Joe Biden [speaking of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak] (“There is a standup guy. Standing up for his country, putting his life on the line for his country and continuing to defend the values that we all share.”)
Lindsey Graham (“I’m honored to be in your country yet again. And what brings me here so many times, is common and shared values and common and shared enemies.”)
Marco Rubio (“The security of our ally, the strongest and most enduring democracy in the region, Israel, with whom we are bound by the strongest ties of mutual interest and shared values and affection would improve as well.”)
Hilary Clinton (Our countries and our peoples are bound together by our shared values…”)
Jeb Bush (“US-Israel alliance is founded not merely on shared interests, but shared values. I’ll rebuild this vital friendship. “)
Nita Lowey (“The U.S.-Israel relationship is based on shared values and an unbreakable bond, not on personalities.”)
Paul Ryan (“Our shared democratic values and national interests are supported by maintaining a close friendship with Israel.”)
Ted Cruz (“I look forward to working to strengthen the already incredibly strong alliance between the United States and Israel. In my view the United States should stand unshakably alongside the Nation of Israel. I thank you personally, I thank your nation for its leadership for democratic values in a very dangerous region of the world, also for your leadership protecting the security of the nation and ultimately of the United States as well.”
Rand Paul (“With our shared history and common values, the American and Israeli people have formed a bond that unites us across the many thousands of miles between our countries and calls us to work together towards peace and prosperity for our countries.”)
Chuck Grassley (“The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by rogue regimes, state-sponsored terrorism, and the spread of Islamic radicalism place the entire Middle East – and the values of Israel and the United States – at risk.”)
Dan Coats (“Israel and the United States enjoy a long and prosperous friendship that transcends politics and is cemented by our shared history, values, strategic interests, culture and religious heritage.”)
Steny Hoyer (“This bill reflects the immutable and enduring bond between our two nations. It is a bond that reflects the shared values of our people and our shared interests in preserving stability in the Middle East.”)
Elizabeth Warren (“For generations, the United States and Israel have shared a commitment to a stable, secure, and peaceful Middle East. But our alliance runs far deeper: it is a natural partnership resting on our mutual commitment to democracy and freedom and on our shared values. Both our countries have been sustained by our commitment to liberty, pluralism, and the rule of law. These values transcend time, and they are the basis of our unbreakable bond.”)
Chris Coons (“While too often the debate about this agreement in Washington has struck a sharply partisan political tone, the conversation here in Delaware while passionate remained thoughtful, and anchored in our shared values.”)
Barbara Boxer (“Since 1948, United States Presidents and both houses of Congress, on a bipartisan basis and supported by the American people, have repeatedly reaffirmed the special bond between the United States and Israel, based on shared values and shared interests.”) [as stated in S. Res. 2165 introduced by Boxer in 2012]
Tom Cotton (“At root, regardless of one’s religion, Israel is a liberal constitutional democracy that respects individual freedom, and that has a market-based economy. Those are deeply shared values that the United States has encoded in our national DNA .”) [Whoa! Not only shared values, but shared DNA!!!]
Nancy Pelosi (“The unbreakable bonds between the United States and Israel are rooted in our shared values, our common ideals and mutual interests.”)
Richard Blumenthal (“Israel is not only an ally of strategic necessity, but a partner with deeply-held commitments to America’s own foundational values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, religious freedom, and the pursuit of international peace.”)
Joe Kennedy (“There has been no greater champion for our shared values and defender of our shared interests.”) [speaking of former Israeli President Shimon Peres]
Trent Franks (“President Shimon Peres has embodied a commitment to the mutual values shared by the United States and Israel — values that include the preservation of life, faith, family, and freedom.”)
Robert Menendez (“And I look forward to doing even more to strengthen our commitment to Israel, to shared democratic values — no matter what may bloom from the shifting sands of the Arab Spring.”)
79 House Members (“This is why we urge you to persevere in reaffirming that the two-state solution is still achievable and that it, and the joint U.S.-Israel commitment to shared democratic values and to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, remains fundamental to U.S. policy.”) [from letter sent to President Obama in March, 2015, and signed by the following 79 House members: Nadler, Aguilar, Bass, Bera, Beyer, Blumenauer, Bonamici, Bordallo, Brady, Capps, Capuano, Cartwright, Cicilline, Katherine Clark, Yvette Clarke, Clyburn, Cohen, Connolly, Conyers, Courtney, DeFazio, DelBene, DeSaulnier, Doggett, Doyle, Edwards, Ellison, Eshoo, Farr, Fattah, Al Green, Grijalva, Gutierrez, Honda, Huffman, Jeffries, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Hank Johnson, Kaptur, Kind, Kuster, Larson, Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Lewis, Loebsack, Lowenthal, Sean Patrick Maloney, Matsui, McDermott, McGovern, McNerney, Moore, Norton, Payne, Scott Peters, Pingree, Plaskett, Pocan, Polis, Price, Rangel, Rush, Tim Ryan, Serrano, Schakowsky, Robert Scott, Slaughter, Adam Smith, Speier, Takano, Tonko, Tsongas, Van Hollen, Velazquez, Watson Coleman, Welch and Yarmuth ]
I couldn’t help starting this post off with the above list. Obama’s quote about the “shared values and shared stories of our people” is probably particularly ironic.
Recently it was reported that the Israeli Ministry of Education has taken a dim view of a novel telling the story of a romance between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man. The book has been banned from being taught in public schools in the Jewish state, this despite the fact that it had been recommended by education professionals for course curriculum study.
“Marrying a non-Jew is not what the education system is educating about,” said Dalia Fenig, an official with the Israeli Education Ministry, explaining her department’s decision to exclude the book.
The work in question is entitled Borderlife, and tells the story of Liat, a young Israeli woman from Tel Aviv, and Hilmi, a Palestinian from Ramallah. The two meet not in Occupied Palestine, but in New York–where they fall in love.
“The two heroes spend a winter overseas and manage to get to know each other in great detail, something that could not happen on the disputed land,” the author, Dorit Rabinyan, is quoted in an article by The Guardian. “Perhaps their ability to surmount the obstacles of the Middle East conflict is what threatens the education ministry.”
The author may have a point about the “threatening” nature of the book.
“In this potential Middle Eastern ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ the Juliet figure, Liat, doesn’t tell her family about her relationship: She knows it would be pointless,” says Haaretz, in a description of the book published in 2014.
Fenig expressed concern that the book might “cause controversy” and could potentially exacerbate the violence currently sweeping the country, and clearly she does seem to feel that the nation is threatened at the moment–by “assimilation,” as she puts it, among other things.
“The story is based on a romantic motif of a forbidden/secret and impossible love,” Fenig said. “Adolescent youth tend to romanticize and don’t have, in many cases, the systematic point of view that includes considerations about preserving the identity of the nation and the significance of assimilation.”
Apparently the novel does indeed threaten Israeli sensibilities on the issue of assimilation–something that is in fact discussed by the author in her 2014 interview with Haaretz :
Liat is a true ‘soldier’ of Israeli education. She is obedient, practical and in full control of herself. And because of what she is, because of her fear of abandoning herself to this relationship, this is less a love story than a long journey of resistance to love. At one point she relates that at certain moments she and Hilmi are so close and intimate that she can almost know what it is to be him, to feel what it is to be him. Liat’s conflict lies in the dissolution of the boundaries between ‘I’ and ‘not I,’ on the seam between merging with the other and being assimilated into him. It’s precisely there that the alarms of anxiety go off within her, just when things become sweetest.
In other words the fear of assimilation plagues the young Israeli woman in the story–even though she finds herself falling in love. It is a powerful statement on the extent to which Jewish tribalism and separateness are ingrained into Israeli society. Rabinyan adds:
Fear of mixing and intermingling is part of our mind-set. Fear of assimilation, with its danger of loss of selfhood, of Jewish identity, has accompanied us throughout our history and in all our exiles: Here is where the ghetto ends, and outside is the world. I would have expected that, as a political entity, that ancient obsession would also be expressed in a need to demarcate a clear border between us and our neighbors – but no, the symbiosis is only intensifying.
The head of the Israeli Education Ministry is Naftali Bennett, of the Jewish Home Party. According to the New York Times, Bennett was not involved in the decision to ax the book from study by Israeli students, but has gone on record as saying he supports it. Bennett also reportedly complained in an interview on Israeli TV that the novel portrays Israeli soldiers as “sadistic.”
“Should I force Israeli children to read this? Is this a top priority?” Bennett asked.
He also said his office “is not the culture ministry and people can read outside whatever they like, but we need to prioritize.”
What exactly Bennett’s top priorities are is something left out of the article, but apparently tempering racism in Israeli society is not one of them.
Contact your senators and congressional representatives and tell them that apartheid is not an American value.
End racist Jewish supremacism!
Many supporters of Hillary Clinton say that since she committed no criminal offense, the whole thing about her private email server containing classified material is just partisan sniping.
So as a public service, let’s see if we can sort that out.
18 USC 1924, which is a law, is titled “Unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material.”
The text of the law says, inter alia, “Whoever, being an officer… of the United States, and, by virtue of his office, employment, position, or contract, becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.”
The law does not require the possessing person to “know” the information is classified.
This is the statute under which David Petraeus was prosecuted for keeping classified information at home.
Two Inspectors General stated Clinton’s email server, located part of the time at her home in New York, and part of the time at a commercial server farm in Colorado, held classified data. Neither site was an authorized location. We’ve long-since established that classified is classified whether it is marked or not. It does not matter who sent the emails; they were on Hillary’s server and thumb drives, making her the “possessor.”
Clinton’s possession of classified information on a personal server appears to be a violation of 18 USC 1924. So is transferring that information to the thumb drives held by her lawyer (himself unauthorized to possess high-level classified information.)
There it is. No partisan remarks. No right-wing attacks. Just facts. As a non-lawyer, what am I missing?
Global outrage was sparked when the Zimbabwean lion, Cecil was killed as a trophy; but to this day, Britain and America continue to display in museums human remains that are human trophies of their massacres and subjugation of indigenous populations.
Britain has recently revealed that it is currently negotiating with Zimbabwe over the repatriation of human remains, belonging to fighters from Zimbabwe’s struggle against British colonisers, currently displayed in the Natural History Museum of London.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, said in a speech that the Zimbabwean liberation war fighters, “whose heads were decapitated by the colonial occupying force, were then dispatched to England, to signify British victory over, and subjugation of, the local population.”
That Thursday night, the British Foreign Office confirmed that “remains of Zimbabwean origin” were on display in a museum in London.
President Mugabe also remarked that, “surely, keeping decapitated heads as war trophies, in this day and age, in a national history museum, must rank among the highest forms of racist moral decadence, sadism and human insensitivity.”
Prior to European and American colonialism, the first museums were founded in Africa and played an essential role in many African civilisations. In fact, museums have been a part of human history for more than 2,000 years.
The tradition of collecting and displaying intriguing items began in Black Ancient Egypt. Most rising Western cultures from the Roman Empire onwards then displayed exotic animals and flora in their museums. The word “museum” comes from the Greek mouseion, meaning “temple built for the muses and museums”, which were originally designed to promote art, science and ingenuity. After the European Dark Ages, the next step in the evolution of museums occurred as a result of the ingenuity of the Black African Moors who conquered and civilized parts of Europe. The study of the natural world was once again encouraged by the Black Moors establishing “curiosity cabinets” across Europe after a millennium of Western ignorance.
Prior to the 19th century, museums tended to be small and private, open only to the aristocracy of a given nation. During the 19th century, the modern museum as we know it began to take shape. With plunder streaming in from all corners of the British Empire, the modern museum was born.
The British Museum, London.
The British Museum was created largely as a repository for artifacts looted from Africa between the 17th and 19th centuries. Such plunder includes many artifacts from Ancient Egypt which prove that the Ancient Egyptians, who established the first museum, were themselves dark-skinned Afroancestrals.
Across the world, one of the consequences of British colonialism was the violent appropriation of cultural artifacts, sacred and precious objects; and one of the legacies is their ongoing display in British museums. For centuries, the museums of Great Britain have served to bolster national white pride and glorify British imperial culture, by displaying a wide array of artifacts looted and plundered during European slavery and colonialism.
One example of the rather grim history of colonial racial terrorism is the long European history of human zoos, which featured Africans and conquered indigenous peoples, displayed in the same way as animals. Men, women and children would be kidnapped, locked up in cages and exhibited in front of European large audiences. Many people died after short stints in captivity and they lived in tortuous conditions. Visitors to the human zoos would often poke the African children with sticks, throw food at them and audiences were permitted to subject the captives to various degrading acts for a fee.
The primitive practice of putting indigenous people on display began during the modern period when explorers like Columbus and Vespucci lured natives back to Europe to be flaunted and paraded like trophies.
In the late 1800’s, Europe had been filled with human zoos in cities like Paris, Hamburg, Antwerp, Barcelona, Warsaw, Milan, and London. Thirty-four million people visited the 1931 World Fair for human zoos in Paris. New York was not morally exempt from such racist and degrading practices. New York City saw these popular exhibits continue into the twentieth century, even after the ends of both World Wars. Millions of Americans attended these spectacles.
Prior to the Second World War, human Zoos in America were at their height and the New York Times reported at the time, “few expressed audible objection to the sight of a human being in a cage. The crowd loved it… It is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation that they suffer.” At a time when America and Britain accepted human zoos as perfectly normal, Adolf Hitler was the one to ban them.
By creating the first mass contact between Whites and Blacks, and by promoting the spectacularization of “The Other”, human zoos were a key factor in the progressive shift in the West from scientific to popular racism.
The primitive European and American practice of exhibiting Africans in zoos continued well into the 1950s. During the 1960s, the baton of state-sanctioned racism towards Africans was passed from Europe’s human zoos into its museums. In fact, historically, museums in Britain have held some of the most reprehensible images of Blacks as barbarians and savages, and the most degrading images of Black women.
A 20 year-old South African woman known as Sarah Baartman would be emblematic of the dark era that gave rise to the popularity of human zoos. She was taken by an exotic animal-dealer to London in 1810. Sarah had a genetic characteristic known as steatopygia; large buttocks and elongated labia. Thousands of British men, women and children would come to human zoos to gawk at her naked body. Sarah’s days were punctuated by rape and scientific examinations. In 1815, Sarah died in abject poverty and her skeleton, sexual organs and brain were put on display at the Museum of Mankind in Paris where they remained for almost a century until 1974. In 2002, President Nelson Mandela formally requested the repatriation of her remains.
If you add up the attendance for every English Premier league football, rugby, basketball and cricket game in Britain this year, the combined total will come to about 30 million people. That’s a big number, but 49 million people will visit British museums this year. Museums are important sites for contestation over grand narratives of history, especially nationalist and imperial history. For more people to see the British state openly flaunting stolen loot in a museum this year than those who will watch sport, shows that cultural imperialism and true primitive racial attitudes are deeply entrenched in British statehood.
During the “Great Scramble” for control over the continent in the late 19th century, art counted among the highest prizes of imperialist plunder. Britain still unashamedly displays thousands of stolen African artifacts worth hundreds of billions of pounds in the British Museum, Liverpool Museum and elsewhere. Many other invaluable stolen artifacts from Africa, Asia and South America are in private British hands. Notably the Benin bronzes, ivories and other ancient works looted by British colonialists, especially during the reprisal attacks launched by the Queen’s soldiers against natives trying to resist imperialism in 1897.
The British Museum has long presented an array of African objects throughout its rooms, and its new African Galleries are second to none. Its ancient Egyptian collection is stunning. And they should be: while African collections in Germany, France and Belgium hold several important pieces, no other nation could match the British when it came to plundering so many art objects of a conquered people over so long a time period.
The British Museum, controls a quarter of a million artifacts from Africa alone, and maintains that looting those artifacts “was legal at the time.” As ever when the West perpetrates a crime against other people, they have a perversely fantastic way of asserting that their actions are completely bona fide, entitled and legal. Arthur Torrington OBE of the British Museums and Libraries Archives Council candidly admits that museums do not “want to accept the objects were stolen because if they do it for one, they’ll have to do it for all.”
The modern British museum may literally have been built on the backs of oppressed indigenous populations and its rooms filled with plundered goods from Europe’s colonial conquests; but in this day and age, the ongoing display of stolen loot and human trophies is unjustifiable in a modern, civilized society.
Garikai Chengu is a scholar at Harvard University. Contact him on email@example.com.
A recurrent buzz phrase of the Washington mandarinate in the last two decades has been “soft power.” The term was coined by Joseph Nye, a Harvard academic, in his 1990 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. What he meant by the term is that “when one country gets other countries to want what it wants [it] might be called co-optive or soft power in contrast with the hard or command power of ordering others to do what it wants.”
Soft power he defined as the putatively attractive political, social and cultural traits of a country that induce admiration in a target people, and, presumably, a desire both to emulate those traits and to willingly comply with the wishes of the country projecting the soft power.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before Congress about the fatal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. (Photo from C-SPAN coverage)
The term has gotten a workout by American politicians and national security bureaucrats, particularly since the manifest failure of military power to make Iraqis love us. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has used the term, saying he would like to augment U.S. soft power by “a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security – diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development.”
As might be expected, the idea is most loved by State Department officials, principally because they believe it could give them a leg up in the Washington budget battles with their colossal rival, DOD, the repository of “hard” power. A Google search of “Hillary Clinton smart power” gets about 3.7 million hits. Smart power is the former Secretary of State’s pet term for a fusion of hard and soft power. John Kerry is also fond of the concept.
It is easy to see why the national security establishment, casting about for some alternative to the usual bluster leading to military action, would be drawn to the magical notion that our presumed cultural attractiveness, combined with a really cool Twitter feed, could advance American interests (as the Beltway elite defines them) throughout the world.
Democrats, in particular, looking for some substitute to the brain-dead neoconservative policies that some of them were briefly enamored of when President George W. Bush was Stockholm Syndroming them, are magnetically pulled to a concept that sounds like the first cousin to the dorm room philosophizing that so many of their kind indulged in during their formative years in the Ivy League.
“If we just explain our policies to them in the right way in a Facebook post, and maybe open an Apple Store in downtown Chișinău, ordinary Moldovans will be clamoring to join NATO!”
It is surely preferable to think in this manner than to act like a warmongering troglodyte, even if some soft power ploys, like John Kerry bringing James “You’ve Got a Friend” Taylor to Paris to console them after a terrorist attack, seem frivolous if not embarrassing – one can hardly picture Charles Francis Adams or George Kennan doing likewise.
Yet soft power, while less pernicious, still springs from the same roots as neoconservative militarism. It arises from the near-universal belief among the Beltway illuminati in American Exceptionalism, the fairy tale that the United States dwells outside the normal processes of history and has a duty as a global redeemer. It is what H.L. Mencken would have classified as “the bilge of American idealism,” and it ranks right up there with intelligent design and a conviction that real estate will always go up among the foolish things Americans have believed in.
Was the invasion of Iraq and the whole Bush-era nightmare really the polar opposite of what the soft power advocates wanted? With the fall of Baghdad, a military campaign that took only a month, the whole soft power apparatus swung into action: passing out soccer balls to children, rebuilding the municipal sewer system, and opening a Baghdad stock market on the assumption that the benighted Iraqi masses were pining for the fruits of American-style capitalism.
In 2015, vastly more Iraqis speak English than in 2003. The Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development spent $50 billion in the country. Yet has all that money and all the cultural export of Americana accomplished anything? And could we not draw the identical conclusion about Afghanistan?
The whole soft power hallucination was born of the end of the Cold War in a particularly hubristic moment of American triumphalism. It was at that time that Francis Fukuyama wrote his extraordinarily silly discourse prophesying the end of history and the ushering in of a capitalist-consumerist utopia – a kind of upside-down Marxist dialectic.
That is the fallacy at the heart of soft power: the belief that consumer goods, or some latent yearning for a Disney-fied lifestyle, or some technological gimmick like Snapchat, will liberate the foreign masses yearning to breathe free.
In the 1990s, one could see the apotheosis of this mentality in the pontifications of The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, who claimed that no two countries that had McDonald’s franchises would go to war with each other – a thesis that has proven false several times. But one can see why Corporate America might love the idea of soft power as a way of selling Philadelphia cheese steaks in Burundi. They might even get an Export-Import Bank loan to facilitate peddling their wares because of the alleged diplomatic value.
We have seen the fruits of this delusion in the Middle East. Saddam’s Iraq, a secular if tyrannical government, at least allowed unveiled women to attend university and beer to be served in outdoor cafes. Tariq Aziz, Saddam’s longtime foreign minister, was a Chaldean Catholic. Iraq is now a far more dogmatically Muslim country than it was 15 years ago.
The same could apply to most of the Middle East: blue jeans, smartphones, and contact with Westerners did not make most Middle Eastern peoples more Western psychologically, it did just the opposite. The botched Washington reaction to the so-called Arab spring was a case in point: mesmerized by the fact that the Tahrir Square demonstrators used social media, Foggy Bottom could not quite grasp that the popular democracy demanded by the Cairo throng may have had little in common with the vision of democracy of Kennedy School of Government professors.
The fact that Saudi princes drive Bugatti Veyrons, own flats in Mayfair, and get their cholesterol checked at the Cleveland Clinic, does not stay them from lopping off the heads of those they deem miscreants or sorcerers at a record rate.
It is precisely the money grubbing, pop-culture aspect of American soft power that has made it such a hard sell in the Middle East. Sayyid Qutb, a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood in early post-World War II Egypt, attended university in Colorado, where he was repelled by what he saw as the rampant materialism and superficiality of American life. He went back to Egypt determined to reverse the growing Westernization of his country. So much for the Kumbaya effect of cultural exchange.
It is common for educated, progressive Americans to be appalled by the increasing intolerance of Muslim societies and their treatment of women, and to declare that these are broken, dysfunctional societies. There may be some validity in that judgment. But they ought to reflect that the antics of the Kardashians, Duck Dynasty, and the World Wrestling Federation, not even to mention the candidacy of Donald Trump, do not exactly broadcast to the world the image of America as the Last, Best Hope of Mankind.
We should have known that dressing up the outer man in Gap clothing does not change the inner man. One of the most profoundly exotic societies in the Nineteenth Century, from a Western point of view, was Japan.
Yet in an amazingly short time, the Japanese adopted the outward, physical trappings of a Western society. Their naval personnel donned U.S. Navy-style uniforms and their officers grew addicted to playing bridge as if they were barnacle-encrusted old English seadogs at the Admiralty. Their diplomats strutted around in wing collars, frock coats, and top hats like any respectable gentleman at the Court of Saint James. They adopted the superficial accoutrements of parliamentary rule. The Japanese industrialized rapidly. Babe Ruth turned them into baseball fans.
Yet Japan simultaneously became a violently aggressive country whose militarism astonished the world. Parallel with its outward “Westernization,” Japan’s elites confected a jingoistic Shinto emperor worship that was at once reactionary and yet new: an arresting analogue to the increasingly violent brands of Islam that have arisen in recent decades along with rising contact with the West. And these same Islamic fanatics, namely in ISIS, are now experts in social media, a talent that is giving the FBI director fits.
Soft power, the hula hoop craze of a segment of the national security establishment, is one more peculiar aspect of American parochialism and ethnocentrism, such as hewing to the English system of weights and measures, or the archaic use of a.m. and p.m. on airline schedules rather than the more rational 24-hour clock.
It is no substitute for traditional diplomacy that emphasizes horse-trading, reciprocity, and the fact that other countries just might, after all, have legitimate interests. A bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken is no suitable door prize for peoples whose sense of cultural pride could very well be as strong as our own.
Mike Lofgren is a former congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees. His book about Congress, The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted, appeared in paperback on August 27, 2013. His new book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, will be published in January 2016.
In Britain, the welfare system is under sustained attack and rights are being stripped away. At the same time in ‘austerity Britain’, however, there’s always enough taxpayers’ money to pour into the black hole of imperialist wars and the pockets of the profiteers that live off them, courtesy of David Cameron’s government of millionaire ministers. Capitalism is moribund. It has reached its inevitable increasingly totalitarian dead end. In the 1980s, Britain outsourced much of its manufacturing to cheap labour economies in order to boost profits. To provide a further edge, trade unions and welfare were attacked. As wages stagnated or decreased in absolute terms and unemployment increased, the market for goods was under threat. The answer lay in lending people money and creating a debt ridden consumer society.
Of course, this resulted in new opportunities for investors in finance and all kinds of dubious financial products were created, sold to the public and packaged and shifted around the banking system. Toxic debt bubbles were created then burst and public money bailouts for billionaire bankers and austerity for the masses followed. It’s been the same story across much of the western world, managing capitalism’s crises for the last few decades in the manner of ever-decreasing circles.
The top 1,000 wealthiest people in Britain had an aggregate wealth of £333 billion ($500 billion) in 2009. The national debt was half that. In 2009, they increased their wealth by a third. It doesn’t take a genius to see how the debt could be addressed. But the government says there is no point in pretending that there is some magic wand that could be waved to make the whole country feel richer than it actually is.
And so massive cuts to welfare will continue and the wholly corrupt system instituted by the rich will continue under the lie of ‘democracy’. Rising food poverty will continue, while the five richest families in Britain are worth more than the poorest 20% and one third of the population lives in poverty. Almost 18 million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions, 12 million are too poor to engage in common social activities, one in three cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in winter and four million children and adults are not properly fed (see this). Welfare cuts have pushed hundreds of thousands below the poverty line since 2012, including more than 300,000 children.
If there ever was a time for revolution, surely it is now. While a heavily weakened labour and trade union movement is seeking to resist the austerity agenda and with many other groups in Britain protesting, the distinct impression is that an effective widespread revolt against capitalism itself remains a distant hope.
For a large section of the population, the ‘Wills and Kate’ royal reality show, retail therapy, bogus terror threats and blood-drenched imperialism under the lie of ‘our soldier heroes’ killing to ‘save life’ in far-away lands continue to distract and divert attention from the failing system itself.
Thanks to this, the revolution is on hold. Take a Sunday morning stroll through England’s green and pleasant land to appreciate this. Stale pools of last night’s beer-vomit clog the gutters. Sunday morning booze-soaked hangovers fuzz memories of the previous night’s deeds done and actions best forgotten. Every Saturday night is a full-fledged grim reality show on the streets of downtown Britain.
A million wannabe young women wishing they were not themselves, wishing they were Jenny Lopez or Victoria Beckham. From minimum wage beautician to footballer’s wife in an X-Factor instant. Vodka fuelled dreams in this, England’s not so green and pleasant land.
Save me from my life of low pay and even lower aspiration, Vicky. I wanna be like you, I wanna be you. Sex sells, but who’s buying? Some coked-up drug dealer might do but preferably David Beckham. I could be the next ‘Posh’, if I give you what you want, what you really, really want.
Glammed up, spiced up and sexed up, believing they have ‘x’ factor or whatever it takes to be free, free from the mundane, free from being ordinary in a fake fantasy culture of ‘girl power’, fame and celebrity.
But this is aspirant Britain. While tens of thousands recently took to the streets of London to participate in an ‘anti-austrity’ rally, at the same time comatose Britain sleeps to the sounds and visions of media-produced plastic role models and celebrity product endorsement and believes the media spoon-fed lie that austerity is necessary. For these people, it’s not about overthrowing the system, it’s about being made blind to it. It’s not about rejecting it, it’s about accepting it as normal. Who reads Karl Marx when Cosmo says empowerment lies in lipstick? Who needs Lenin when you can watch English Premier League multi-millionaire footballers whose only revolting duty is to endorse the very products that bind the fan to the lies and logos of a narcissistic, self-incarcerating consumerism?
Who wants revolution when you can turn on and tune in to self-styled messiah Simon Cowell, as he rules over his empire of franchised TV shows, celebrities and wannabes. Acquire immediate salvation from the mundane with Cowell – the giver, the creator, the destroyer – the ultimate godhead for those seeking to enter the promised land of fame and riches and acquire their unique place in the pantheon of celebritydom. For those not already doped out on spymaster-sanctioned heroin on Britain’s housing estates, this form of opiate will do just as fine.
It is a damning indictment of society, where people accept the faith that this is how life should be lived, as they pray before the never ending conveyor belt of disposable commodities and heroes to be fetishised, consumed then spat out when they pass their very short sell by dates. It’s the secular theology of the age, built on flotsam and jetsam products, celebrities and fads that ebb and flow with the vagaries of mass titillation and the machinations of corporate greed.
And do not expect Britain’s Labour Party to galvanise or organise the masses any time soon. As with the current Conservative regime, the Labour Party by and large promotes the corporate-backed lie that all of this is liberating. Yes, people are actually free! Free to be monitored and surveyed by the state like no other country in Western Europe, free to be cynically targeted by the market, free to pick up the tab for the failings of financial capital and free to build up the greatest amount of personal debt and misery in Europe.
‘Freedom’ within the confines of what increasingly resembles an open prison isn’t much to celebrate. The actual reality in Britain is economic meltdown and social crisis.
Harold Macmillan, the Tory Prime Minister in the 1950s, once told the Brits that they’d never had it so good due to rising post-war affluence. Maybe now it’s a case of they have never had it so bad as people drown in their Saturday night vomit with eyes wide shut.
Sometimes when I’m reading about renewable technologies, I just break out laughing at the madness that the war on carbon has wrought. Consider the Ivanpah solar tower electric power plant. It covers five square miles in Southern California with mirrors which are all focusing the sun on a central tower. The concentrated sunlight boils water that is used to run a steam turbine to generate electricity.
Sounds like at a minimum it would be ecologically neutral … but unfortunately, the Law of Unintended Consequences never sleeps, and the Ivanpah tower has turned out to be a death trap for birds, killing hundreds and hundreds every year:
“After several studies, the conclusion for why birds are drawn to the searing beams of the solar field goes like this: Insects are attracted to the bright light of the reflecting mirrors, much as moths are lured to a porch light. Small birds — insect eaters such as finches, swallows and warblers — go after the bugs. In turn, predators such as hawks and falcons pursue the smaller birds.
But once the birds enter the focal field of the mirrors, called the “solar flux,” injury or death can occur in a few seconds. The reflected light from the mirrors is 800 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Either the birds are incinerated in flight; their feathers are singed, causing them to fall to their deaths; or they are too injured to fly and are killed on the ground by predators, according to a report by the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory.”
– David Danelski, Solar: Ivanpah Solar Described as Deadly Trap for Wildlife,” Riverside-Press Enterprise, April 8, 2014.
But of course, that’s not what made me laugh. That’s a tragedy which unfortunately will be mostly ignored by those good-hearted environmentally conscious folks suffering from chronic carbophobia.
The next oddity about Ivanpah is that despite being powered by light, it is light-years away from being economically viable. Like the old sailors say, “The wind is free … but everything else costs money”.
But being totally uneconomical doesn’t matter, because despite costing $2.2 billion to build, Google is a major shareholder, so at least they could afford to foot the bills for their high-priced bird-burner …
… get real. Google would much rather use taxpayer dollars to burn birds alive than foot the costs themselves. Being good businessmen and women they sought and got a $1.6 billion dollar taxpayer funded loan, presumably because no bank on the planet would touch the project. And if the banks wouldn’t touch it, why should you and I?
But that’s not enough for these greedy green pluted bloatocrats. Now, they are applying for a $539 million dollar GIFT of your and my taxpayer money in order to repay the money that you and I already lent them … we should give them the money to repay ourselves? Give an unimaginably wealthy company money to repay us what we have loaned them? Have I wandered into a parallel universe? This is GOOGLE, folks, and they’re trying to poor-mouth us?
And of course, that’s not what made me laugh either. That is another tragedy which unfortunately will be ignored by those who wish to see electricity prices rise … you know, folks like President Obama, who famously said:
Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket …
Of course, such an electricity price rise would mean nothing to him, like every recent President he’ll leave office a multi-millionaire. And such an energy price rise means nothing to the Google execs who are burning birds alive … but for those of us here on the ground, causing the electricity rates to skyrocket is not the moral high ground, it is a crime against the poor.
So that is no laughing matter at all.
No, the part that I didn’t know about Ivanpah (and other solar steam plants), the part that got me smiling, was that there is a problem with a solar tower that is generating steam. This is that steam turbines don’t do well at all with half a head of steam. For full efficiency a turbine needs full pressure steam in order to operate. And it has to have full pressure, not when the valves are closed to let the pressure build up, but when the turbine is actually using the steam.
And since you can’t store steam, that in turn means that Google can’t start up their you-beaut solar tower until fairly late in the morning.
Well, the solution that the good engineers hired by Google came up with was simple.
Start the sucker up using natural gas. That way, first you can heat the cool boiler water before the sun comes up. Then, as more and more solar energy comes online during the morning, you can taper off on the natural gas.
But having a solar plant that runs on natural gas, although funny, wasn’t the best part … it gets better:
One big miscalculation was that the power plant requires far more steam to run smoothly and efficiently than originally thought, according to a document filed with the California Energy Commission. Instead of ramping up the plant each day before sunrise by burning one hour’s worth of natural gas to generate steam, Ivanpah needs more than four times that much help from fossil fuels to get plant humming every morning. MARKETWATCH
These good folks have underestimated the amount of fossil fuels that the plant would need by a factor of four, and they want us to follow their lead in reorganizing the world’s energy supply? And of course, in the familiar refrain, the taxpayer is expected to foot the bill for their ignorance and their inept calculations.
So now, I find out that the Ivanpah plant runs on natural gas four hours a day, and I gotta say, I did find that funny. But in the most ironic twist of all, the above link goes on to say:
Another unexpected problem: not enough sun. Weather predictions for the area underestimated the amount of cloud cover that has blanketed Ivanpah since it went into service in 2013.
And that brought the joke all the way around. I found that hilariously ironic. Because of alarmism based on computer model predictions of rising temperatures in 100 years, we’ve built a fossil-fuel fired solar plant which is already in trouble because of failed computer model predictions of the clouds over the next few years … don’t know about you, but that cracked me up.
Now, even the best solar energy conversion devices don’t operate 24 hours a day, or even 12 hours a day. Generally, eight hours a day or even less is the norm. And that has been cut down by clouds … so at present, dreaded fossil fuels are likely providing a third of the energy to fuel the plant.
Gotta say, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about things like the natural-gas powered Ivanpah solar power plant fiasco. On the whole I have to favor laughter … but dear heavens, the damage that environmentalists are doing in the name of the environment is appalling. Burning birds alive in the name of making energy prices skyrocket? Have we sunk this low? Really?
In any case, my best guess is that this is a self-limiting problem, or it would be without subsidies. The “levelized cost” of solar thermal is horrendous. It is the only technology which is more expensive than offshore wind, and it is the most expensive of the commonly analyzed grid-scale renewable choices. It won’t work without the kind of multi-million dollar taxpayer subsidies that the Google folks think that they deserve … me, I would never have given them the loan of taxpayer money in the first place, that’s the bank’s job, not the government’s job. More to the point, I think they deserve to pay the damn loan back themselves.
Let me close on a more optimistic note. The referenced article says:
Bird carnage combined with opposition by Native American tribes to industrial projects on undeveloped land has made California regulators wary of approving more. Last September, Abengoa and BrightSource abandoned their quest to build a solar-thermal project near Joshua Tree National Park when the state regulator told them the plant’s footprint would have to be cut in half.
In March the Board of Supervisors of Inyo County, a sparsely populated part of California that is home to Death Valley National Park, voted to ban solar-thermal power plants altogether. “Ivanpah had a significant effect on the decision making,” said Joshua Hart, the county’s planning director.
If the final end of Ivanpah is the end of any further Ivanpahs ever, I suppose that I’d say that Ivanpah was worth whatever it cost … although I’m sure the birds would have preferred a different path to that outcome. As long as Ivanpah is in operation birds will continue to be burned alive in the name of driving up electricity prices … and these monomoniacal carbophobes still think that they have the high moral ground regarding fossil fuels?
Because I rather suspect that neither the birds nor the poor would agree …
Bankers, politicians and leaders of huge global businesses are set to meet in the annual Bilderberg conference in Austria this week, during which the rich and the powerful discuss global issues in secretive talks that influence global politics.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is set to rub shoulders with ex-CIA Director David H. Petraeus, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, former French Prime Minister Alan Juppé and Thomas Ahrenkiel, Director of the Danish Intelligence Service (DDIS) at the 63 Bilderberg conference, set to take place from 11-14 June in Telfs-Buchen, Austria.
The conference — surrounded by tight security — is notoriously secretive in its discussions and regularly attracts demonstrations against what critics describe as a global meeting of western capitalists, politicians and academics who wield great power behind the scenes. It is billed as “an annual meeting designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America.”
Bilderberg conferences are described as “private” and no minutes are taken, no report is written, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are made, and no policy statements are issued.
Daniel Estulin, author of ‘The True Story of the Bilderberg Group’ describes the meetings as “a shadow world government…threaten(ing) to take away our right to direct our own destinies (by creating) a disturbing reality.
“Imagine a private club where presidents, prime ministers, international bankers and generals rub shoulders, where gracious royal chaperones ensure everyone gets along, and where the people running the wars, markets, and Europe (and America) say what they never dare say in public.”
Guests this year also include Google chairman Eric Schmidt; Paul M. Achleitner, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Bank; the Tyrolean property investor Rene Benko; Shell CEO Ben van Beurden; Thomas Enders, CEO, Airbus Group; Henri de Castries, the Chairman of the Euro Group; Austrian President Heinz Fischer; Siemens Austria CEO Wolfgang Hesoun; the CEO of Austrian oil and gas giant OMV, Gerhard Roiss; and Ryanair chairman Michael O’Leary.
Under discussion in Austria will be artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, chemical weapons threats, Greece, NATO and terrorism. Nobody representing Russia is on the guest list.
An elite anti-terrorism squad will be deployed under the command of Austria’s Interior Ministry and around 2,100 police officers will be on duty throughout the conference. The main road from Telfs to the Interalpen Hotel will be closed and the area around the hotel will be a no-fly zone.
A large protest march is expected on the afternoon of June 13, starting in Telfs square and making its way through the town.
This is no doubt great news. The 21st century’s greatest war criminal is called to lead the campaign against ‘extremism’ which he himself instigated. Truth be told, it only makes sense to appoint a mass murderer to such a delicate job because only a genocidal character could be intimately familiar with the nitty gritty of institutional hatred and intolerance.
The British former prime minister who launched an immoral interventionist war has been appointed as chairman of the European Council on Tolerance following his spectacular success as a Peace Envoy to the Middle East introducing reconciliation and new harmony to the entire region.
In a joint article (paywall) with Moshe Kantor, the president of the council of the European Jewish Congress, Blair recently expressed his devotion to the Jews and the primacy of their suffering. “Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem, but one infecting the whole of society and needs to be tackled for the sake of us all.”
The penny dropped. Blair, seemingly understands his contribution to Jew hatred. Next time when he launches a global criminal war with no end he must make sure that rather than using Lord Cash Point Levy as his chief fund raiser he should consider using someone else, preferably a ‘gentile’ (If he finds one). Even Blair must have grasped by now that the clear association between his Ziocon war and a Jewish financier is ‘not just a Jewish problem.’ With 5 million people dead in the region it infects the whole universe.
It is encouraging to learn that the council chaired by Blair doesn’t really believe in elementary freedom, quite the opposite, it believes it should promote legislation to confront ‘holocaust denial’, and this makes a lot of sense to me. As a person who perpetrated a holocaust himself, Blair is interested in laws that would stop any attempt to narrating and revising the past. I totally agree. I believe that all history except the Jewish one, must be abolished all together and immediately. We are moving forward, we progress, we should invest in the future rather than attempt to find out what really happened let alone why.
Calls for massive reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions ignore the impacts on the poor
People who believe in the theory of catastrophic human-induced global warming claim that they want to “save the planet” and that this is the moral thing to do. They insist, however, that saving the planet requires stringent reductions in people’s use of fossil fuel energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They never talk about what that means to the poor. I think that, before people decide on the ethics of the debate, they need to consider what the impact would be of sharply reducing energy consumption on the wellbeing of world’s population, and especially on the poor.
In 2014, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a Special Report entitled “Modern Energy for All”. In it, the IEA stated that modern energy services are:
…crucial to human wellbeing” and to a country’s economic development.
Access to modern energy is essential for the provision of clean water, sanitation and healthcare and for the provision of reliable and efficient lighting heating, cooking, mechanical power, transport and telecommunications services.”
Today billions of people lack access to the most basic energy services. Nearly 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.7 billion people rely on traditional use of biomass (wood, charcoal and animal dung) for cooking, which causes harmful indoor air pollution.
Pause to think about that for a few minutes. Hundreds of millions of people are without the modern energy services that were available to our ancestors who lived in the nineteenth century. They get up with the dawn and go to bed close to nightfall because they have no electrical lighting. They have to go a river or well (if they are lucky) for water to drink or wash in. They have no way to power an appliance, including a refrigerator, so all food has to be eaten quickly or it may go bad. They have to walk long distances everyday to search for firewood or dried animal dung. There is no light to extend the day to provide time for reading or entertainment. They have no telephones. They have no way to pump water for irrigating crops. They have no motorized transportation, so they cannot go very far. Almost all their time is spent simply doing the simple tasks that in Canada and other advanced countries are done by machines. Worse, every day they breathe in the fumes from the dirty cooking fires, developing lung disorders. In fact, according to the IEA, every year 4.3 million premature deaths can be attributed to household air pollution resulting from the use of traditional biomass fuels for cooking.
The international community has long been aware of the close correlation between income levels and access to modern energy; not surprisingly, countries with a large proportion of the population living on an income of $2 per day tend to have low electrification rates and few motorized vehicles. The problem is spread throughout the developing world, but it is particularly severe in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, which together account for 95% of people in abject energy poverty.
The latent demand for electricity is immense. An estimated 400 million people in India still lack access to electricity. A recent study looked at the expansion of electricity that would be needed on an economy-wide basis in sub-Saharan Africa to comprehensively address energy access. To reach moderate access, where electricity generation capacity is around 200-400 megawatts (MW) per million people, the region would need a total of 374 MW of installed capacity. That’s about twelve times the level of capacity in the region today. All energy sources would be needed to help provide that much capacity.
This is where aspiration runs into reality. In desperately poor countries, they do not have the luxury to spend millions of dollars on energy. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy can sometimes be useful where there is no electricity transmission system to take centrally-generated power to rural areas, but it is expensive and often requires technology to install and operate. Further, wind and solar are “intermittent” sources, meaning that they only produce energy when the wind blows or the sun shines respectively. Electrical energy is expensive to store and this can only be done in small amounts.
For reliable electrical energy supply for any possibility of industrial development and for transportation, developing countries need large scale power generation based on low cost, generally available fuels. In India, and in many parts of Africa, this means coal.
Coal reserves are available in almost every country worldwide, with recoverable reserves in around 70 countries. In fact, coal is the backbone of modern electricity in most parts of the world. It now provides about 30% of the primary energy and 41% of global electricity generation. It is plentiful and relatively cheap. Over the decade from 2000 to 2010, China showed the world how massive expansion of coal-fired electricity generation could modernize its economy and bring electrification to almost all parts of the country. As a result, hundreds of millions of Chinese have lifted themselves out of energy and economic poverty and dramatically improved both their income and quality of life.
Yet, coal is the most carbon-intensive of fossil fuels. It is the fuel source most despised by those who want to drastically reduce emissions. The Obama Administration in the United States has, as part of its climate change agenda, pressured the World Bank to stop lending to coal-fired electricity projects and the World Bank has complied. The U.S. Administration has also withdrawn funding from the Export-Import Bank for such projects. Fortunately for the developing countries, a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has been established with major funding from China, which will include funding of new coal projects.
Those pursuing the climate change political agenda are prepared to condemn the world’s poor living without modern energy to remain in their backward situation. For them, billions of blighted lives are preferable to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Even in the developed countries, the policies advanced for climate reasons fall heavily on the poor.
Electricity prices continue to surge in Europe where costs are often triple those in the U.S. EU governments have various schemes, taxes, subsidies, and mandates, such as Cap and Trade, feed-in tariffs, and surcharges that make Europeans pay more for power. Perhaps the best (worst?) example is Germany, where nearly 20% of families now live in “fuel poverty,” spending more than 10% of household income on energy. Germany’s energy transition (“Energiewende”) is expected to cost an astounding $735 billion, and many are demanding changes. Overall in Europe, 1.4 million more households are expected to be in fuel poverty by 2020.
In the name of climate change, governments are forcing utilities to sign long-term contracts paying as much as four times the going wholesale electricity rate for renewables. Power markets have become so distorted that wind farms in the UK and in Ontario, for instance, have been paid millions to NOT produce electricity.
Supporters of “green” energy policies keep saying that poverty will be reduced if only efficiency would improve, but that position doesn’t hold up. Energy efficiency in the EU has improved around 20% since 2005. In the UK, for instance, energy efficiency has increased nearly 30% since 2003, yet electricity prices have almost doubled and homes in fuel poverty have nearly quadrupled. Europe’s main fuel poverty problem isn’t a lack of efficiency, it’s soaring prices.
Apart from the higher prices, another meaningful measure of energy poverty in Germany is the number of supply stoppages (“power cuts”) ordered by utility companies. Basic suppliers are entitled to interrupt their electricity or gas deliveries in the event of arrears in payment of more than 100 euros after a warning notice followed by a repeated threat to terminate service. According to a survey of the German Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), in 2013 warnings of electricity supply termination were issued to 5.7 million private households in Germany. The supply of electricity was actually interrupted to roughly 320,000 households.
There are many different moral standards to which one might refer in defining what is the most “ethical” way for people to act when considering their use of energy and other goods to improve their lives. Those environmentalists who claim that “nature” is more important than humans and that any measure, regardless of how costly, should be taken to reduce the effects of humans on the planet will never be satisfied. In my view, human wellbeing, and especially the plight of the world’s poor, deserves a prominent place in judgments about what is ethical behavior. Sharply reducing fossil fuel use means reducing economic development, condemning poor societies to remain poor, and requiring the poor people of today to sacrifice for the sake of addressing an unproven problem in a distant future — this is truly immoral.
or go to
A week of occupation in photos
CPT | February 9, 2016
Do not move!
Pictured here: Very zealous IDF soldier, threatening a Palestinian man with his gun who refused to pull his pants down in the middle of the street. (05 Feb 2016) … continue
Aletho News Exclusive Content
This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
Also by Aletho News:
September 19, 2011
March 8, 2011
January 2, 2011
October 10, 2010
July 5, 2010
February 25, 2010
February 7, 2010
January 5, 2010
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 4, 2009
May 9, 2009
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