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Canadian Natural Res
10 сентября 2013, 18:25

Naomi Klein: 'Big green groups are more damaging than climate deniers'

Environment movement is in 'deep denial' over the right ways to tackle climate change, says Canadian authorCanadian author Naomi Klein is so well known for her blade-sharp commentary that it's easy to forget that she is, above all, a first-rate reporter. I got a glimpse into her priorities as I was working on this interview. Klein told me she was worried that some of the things she had said would make it hard for her to land an interview with a president of the one of the Big Green groups (read below and you'll see why). She was more interested in nabbing the story than being the story; her reporting trumped any opinion-making.Such focus is a hallmark of Klein's career. She doesn't do much of the chattering class's news cycle blathering. She works steadily, carefully, quietly. It can be surprising to remember that Klein's immense global influence rests on a relatively small body of work; she has published three books, one of which is an anthology of magazine pieces. Klein's first book, No Logo, investigated how brand names manipulate public desires while exploiting the people who make their products. The book came out just weeks after the WTO protests in Seattle and became an international bestseller. Her next major book, The Shock Doctrine, argued that free-marketeers often use crises – natural or manufactured – to ram through deregulatory policies. With her newest, yet-to-be named book, Klein turns her attention to climate change. Scheduled for release in 2014, the book will also be made into a film by her husband and creative partner, Avi Lewis.Klein's books and articles have sought to articulate a counternarrative to the march of corporate globalization and government austerity. She believes climate change provides a new chance for creating such a counternarrative. "The book I am writing is arguing that our responses to climate change can rebuild the public sphere, can strengthen our communities, can have work with dignity." First, though, she has to finish the reporting. As she told me, speaking about the grassroots response to climate chaos: "Right now it's under the radar, but I'm following it quite closely."During your career you've written about the power of brand names, populist movements around the world, and free market fundamentalism. Why now a book and film on climate change? You know, The Shock Doctrine, my last book, ends with climate change. It ends with a vision of a dystopic future where you have weak infrastructure colliding with heavy weather, as we saw with Hurricane Katrina. And rather than working to prevent future disasters by having lower emissions, you have all these attempts to take advantage of that crisis. At the time, it seemed to me that climate change was potentially going to be the biggest disaster-capitalism free-for-all that we've seen yet. So it was quite a logical progression for me to go from writing about disaster-capitalism in The Shock Doctrine to writing about climate change. As I was writing The Shock Doctrine, I was covering the Iraq War and profiteering from the war, and I started to see these patterns repeat in the aftermath of natural disasters, like the Asian tsunami and then Hurricane Katrina. There are chapters in that book on both of those events. Then I came to the idea that climate change could be a kind of a "people's shock," an answer to the shock doctrine – not just another opportunity by the disaster capitalists to feed off of misery, but an opportunity for progressive forces to deepen democracy and really improve livelihoods around the world. Then I came across the idea of "climate debt" when I was doing a piece on reparations for Harper's magazine. I had a meeting with Bolivia's climate negotiator in Geneva – her name is Angélica Navarro – and she put the case to me that climate change could be an opportunity for a global Green Marshall Plan with the North paying climate debts in the form of huge green development project. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy you wrote about the potential of a "people's shock." Do you see that it's happening, a global grassroots response to some of the extreme weather we're experiencing?I see a people's shock happening broadly, where on lots of different fronts you have constituencies coming forward who have been fighting, for instance, for sustainable agriculture for many, many years, and now realize that it's also a climate solution. You have a lot of reframing of issues – and not in an opportunistic way, just another layer of understanding. Here in Canada, the people who oppose the tar sands most forcefully are Indigenous people living downstream from the tar sands. They are not opposing it because of climate change – they are opposing it because it poisons their bodies. But the fact that it's also ruining the planet adds another layer of urgency. And it's that layering of climate change on top of other issues that holds a huge amount of potential. In terms of Hurricane Sandy, I really do see some hopeful, grassroots responses, particularly in the Rockaways, where people were very organized right from the beginning, where Occupy Sandy was very strong, where new networks emerged. The first phase is just recovery, and now as you have a corporate-driven reconstruction process descending, those organized communities are in a position to respond, to go to the meetings, to take on the real estate developers, to talk about another vision of public housing that is way better than what's there right now. So yeah, it's definitely happening. Right now it's under the radar, but I'm following it quite closely.In a piece you wrote for The Nation in November 2011 you suggested that when it comes to climate change, there's a dual denialism at work – conservatives deny the science while some liberals deny the political implications of the science. Why do you think that some environmentalists are resistant to grappling with climate change's implications for the market and for economics?Well, I think there is a very a deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups. And to be very honest with you, I think it's been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we've lost. Because it has steered us in directions that have yielded very poor results. I think if we look at the track record of Kyoto, of the UN Clean Development Mechanism, the European Union's emissions trading scheme – we now have close to a decade that we can measure these schemes against, and it's disastrous. Not only are emissions up, but you have no end of scams to point to, which gives fodder to the right. The right took on cap-and-trade by saying it's going to bankrupt us, it's handouts to corporations, and, by the way, it's not going to work. And they were right on all counts. Not in the bankrupting part, but they were right that this was a massive corporate giveaway, and they were right that it wasn't going to bring us anywhere near what scientists were saying we needed to do lower emissions. So I think it's a really important question why the green groups have been so unwilling to follow science to its logical conclusions. I think the scientists Kevin Anderson and his colleague Alice Bows at the Tyndall Centre have been the most courageous on this because they don't just take on the green groups, they take on their fellow scientists for the way in which neoliberal economic orthodoxy has infiltrated the scientific establishment. It's really scary reading. Because they have been saying, for at least for a decade, that getting to the emissions reduction levels that we need to get to in the developed world is not compatible with economic growth. What we know is that the environmental movement had a series of dazzling victories in the late 60s and in the 70s where the whole legal framework for responding to pollution and to protecting wildlife came into law. It was just victory after victory after victory. And these were what came to be called "command-and-control" pieces of legislation. It was "don't do that." That substance is banned or tightly regulated. It was a top-down regulatory approach. And then it came to screeching halt when Regan was elected. And he essentially waged war on the environmental movement very openly. We started to see some of the language that is common among those deniers – to equate environmentalism with Communism and so on. As the Cold War dwindled, environmentalism became the next target, the next Communism. Now, the movement at that stage could have responded in one of the two ways. It could have fought back and defended the values it stood for at that point, and tried to resist the steamroller that was neoliberalism in its early days. Or it could have adapted itself to this new reality, and changed itself to fit the rise of corporatist government. And it did the latter. Very consciously if you read what [Environmental Defense Fund president] Fred Krupp was saying at the time.It was go along or get along.Exactly. We now understand it's about corporate partnerships. It's not, "sue the bastards;" it's, "work through corporate partnerships with the bastards." There is no enemy anymore.More than that, it's casting corporations as the solution, as the willing participants and part of this solution. That's the model that has lasted to this day. I go back to something even like the fight over NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Big Green groups, with very few exceptions, lined up in favor of NAFTA, despite the fact that their memberships were revolting, and sold the deal very aggressively to the public. That's the model that has been globalized through the World Trade Organization, and that is responsible in many ways for the levels of soaring emissions. We've globalized an utterly untenable economic model of hyperconsumerism. It's now successfully spreading across the world, and it's killing us. It's not that the green groups were spectators to this – they were partners in this. They were willing participants in this. It's not every green group. It's not Greenpeace, it's not Friends of the Earth, it's not, for the most part, the Sierra Club. It's not 350.org, because it didn't even exist yet. But I think it goes back to the elite roots of the movement, and the fact that when a lot of these conservation groups began there was kind of a noblesse oblige approach to conservation. It was about elites getting together and hiking and deciding to save nature. And then the elites changed. So if the environmental movement was going to decide to fight, they would have had to give up their elite status. And weren't willing to give up their elite status. I think that's a huge part of the reason why emissions are where they are.At least in American culture, there is always this desire for the win-win scenario. But if we really want to get to, say, an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, some people are going to lose. And I guess what you are saying is that it's hard for the environmental leadership to look some of their partners in the eye and say, "You're going to lose."Exactly. To pick on power. Their so-called win-win strategy has lost. That was the idea behind cap-and-trade. And it was a disastrously losing strategy. The green groups are not nearly as clever as they believe themselves to be. They got played on a spectacular scale. Many of their partners had one foot in US CAP [Climate Action Partnership] and the other in the US Chamber of Commerce. They were hedging their bets. And when it looked like they could get away with no legislation, they dumped US CAP completely. The phrase win-win is interesting, because there are a lot of losers in the win-win strategy. A lot of people are sacrificed in the name of win-win. And in the US, we just keep it to the cap-and-trade fight and I know everyone is tired of fighting that fight. I do think there is a lot of evidence that we have not learned the key lessons of that failure.And what do you think the key lessons are?Well one of them is willingness to sacrifice – in the name of getting a win-win with big polluters who are part of that coalition – the communities that were living on the fenceline. Communities, in Richmond, California for instance, who would have been like, "We fight climate change and our kids won't get as much asthma." That win-win was broken because you get a deal that says, "OK you guys can keep polluting but you're going to have to buy some offsets on the other side of the planet." And the local win is gone, is sacrificed. I'm in favor of win-win, you know. The book I am writing is arguing that our responses to climate change can rebuild the public sphere, can strengthen our communities, can have work with dignity. We can address the financial crisis and the ecological crisis at the same. I believe that. But I think it's by building coalitions with people, not with corporations, that you are going to get those wins. And what I see is really a willingness to sacrifice the basic principles of solidarity, whether it is to that fenceline community in Richmond, California or whether it's with that Indigenous community in Brazil that, you know, is forced off their territory because their forest has just become a carbon sink or an offset and they no longer have access to the forest that allowed them to live sustainably because it's policed. Because a conservation group has decided to trade it. So these sacrifices are made – there are a lot of losers in this model and there aren't any wins I can see. You were talking about the Clean Development Mechanism as a sort of disaster capitalism. Isn't geoengineering the ultimate disaster capitalism? I certainly think it's the ultimate expression of a desire to avoid doing the hard work of reducing emissions, and I think that's the appeal of it. I think we will see this trajectory the more and more climate change becomes impossible to deny. A lot of people will skip right to geoengineering. The appeal of geoengineering is that it doesn't threaten our worldview. It leaves us in a dominant position. It says that there is an escape hatch. So all the stories that got us to this point, that flatter ourselves for our power, will just be scaled up. [There is a]willingness to sacrifice large numbers of people in the way we respond to climate change – we are already showing a brutality in the face of climate change that I find really chilling. I don't think we have the language to even describe [geoengineering], because we are with full knowledge deciding to allow cultures to die, to allow peoples to disappear. We have the ability to stop and we're choosing not to. So I think the profound immorality and violence of that decision is not reflected in the language that we have. You see that we have these climate conventions where the African delegates are using words like "genocide," and the European and North American delegates get very upset and defensive about this. The truth is that the UN definition of genocide is that it is the deliberate act to disappear and displace people. What the delegates representing the North are saying is that we are not doing this because we want you to disappear; we are doing this because we don't care essentially. We don't care if you disappear if we continue business-as-usual. That's a side effect of collateral damage. Well, to the people that are actually facing the disappearance it doesn't make a difference whether there is malice to it because it still could be prevented. And we're choosing not to prevent it. I feel one of the crises that we're facing is a crisis of language. We are not speaking about this with the language of urgency or mortality that the issue deserves. You've said that progressives' narratives are insufficient. What would be an alternative narrative to turn this situation around?Well, I think the narrative that got us into this – that's part of the reason why you have climate change denialism being such as powerful force in North America and in Australia – is really tied to the frontier mentality. It's really tied to the idea of there always being more. We live on lands that were supposedly innocent, "discovered" lands where nature was so abundant. You could not imagine depletion ever. These are foundational myths.And so I've taken a huge amount of hope from the emergence of the Idle No More movement, because of what I see as a tremendous generosity of spirit from Indigenous leadership right now to educate us in another narrative. I just did a panel with Idle No More and I was the only non-Native speaker at this event, and the other Native speakers were all saying we want to play this leadership role. It's actually taken a long time to get to that point. There's been so much abuse heaped upon these communities, and so much rightful anger at the people who stole their lands. This is the first time that I've seen this openness, open willingness that we have something to bring, we want to lead, we want to model another way which relates to the land. So that's where I am getting a lot of hope right now. The impacts of Idle No More are really not understood. My husband is making a documentary that goes with this book, and he's directing it right now in Montana, and we've been doing a lot of filming on the northern Cheyenne reservation because there's a huge, huge coal deposit that they've been debating for a lot of years – whether or not to dig out this coal. And it was really looking like they were going to dig it up. It goes against their prophecies, and it's just very painful. Now there's just this new generation of young people on that reserve who are determined to leave that coal in the ground, and are training themselves to do solar and wind, and they all talk about Idle No More. I think there's something very powerful going on. In Canada it's a very big deal. It's very big deal in all of North America, because of the huge amount of untapped energy, fossil fuel energy, that is on Indigenous land. That goes for Arctic oil. It certainly goes for the tar sands. It goes for where they want to lay those pipelines. It goes for where the natural gas is. It goes for where the major coal deposits are in the US. I think in Canada we take Indigenous rights more seriously than in the US. I hope that will change.It's interesting because even as some of the Big Green groups have gotten enamored of the ideas of ecosystem services and natural capital, there's this counter-narrative coming from the Global South and Indigenous communities. It's almost like a dialectic.That's the counternarrative, and those are the alternative worldviews that are emerging at this moment. The other thing that is happening … I don't know what to call it. It's maybe a reformation movement, a grassroots rebellion. There's something going on in the [environmental] movement in the US and Canada, and I think certainly in the UK. What I call the "astronaut's eye worldview" – which has governed the Big Green environmental movement for so long – and by that I mean just looking down at Earth from above. I think it's sort of time to let go of the icon of the globe, because it places us above it and I think it has allowed us to see nature in this really abstracted way and sort of move pieces, like pieces on a chessboard, and really loose touch with the Earth. You know, it's like the planet instead of the Earth. And I think where that really came to a head was over fracking. The head offices of the Sierra Club and the NRDC and the EDF all decided this was a "bridge fuel." We've done the math and we're going to come out in favor of this thing. And then they faced big pushbacks from their membership, most of all at the Sierra Club. And they all had to modify their position somewhat. It was the grassroots going, "Wait a minute, what kind of environmentalism is it that isn't concerned about water, that isn't concerned about industrialization of rural landscapes – what has environmentalism become?" And so we see this grassroots, place-based resistance in the movements against the Keystone XL pipeline and the Northern Gateway pipeline, the huge anti-fracking movement. And they are the ones winning victories, right? I think the Big Green groups are becoming deeply irrelevant. Some get a lot of money from corporations and rich donors and foundations, but their whole model is in crisis.I hate to end a downer like that.I'm not sure that is a downer.It might not be.I should say I'm representing my own views. I see some big changes as well. I think the Sierra Club has gone through its own reformation. They are on the frontline of these struggles now. I think a lot of these groups are having to listen to their members. And some of them will just refuse to change because they're just too entrenched in the partnership model, they've got too many conflicts of interest at this stage. Those are the groups that are really going to suffer. And I think it's OK. I think at this point, there's a big push in Europe where 100 civil society groups are calling on the EU not to try to fix their failed carbon-trading system, but to actually drop it and start really talking about cutting emissions at home instead of doing this shell game. I think that's the moment we're in right now. We don't have any more time to waste with these very clever, not working shell games.• Jason Mark is editor of Earth Island JournalActivismClimate change scepticism theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds 

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28 марта 2013, 03:24

Keystone XL's Sacrifice Zone: 'This Is Obviously Environmental Racism'

Plumes of smoke, billowing in various shades from white to black, frequently fill the skies over the Manchester neighborhood of Houston. It's no wonder, said Yudith Nieto, that local children grow up thinking oil refinery stacks are "cloud makers." As they get older, added the 24-year-old Manchester native, the children discover that they don't like those clouds. "They'll say the clouds 'smell nasty' or are 'not good for me,'" said Nieto. "It's kinda sad. But these kids get it. We don't give them enough credit." Yudith Nieto worries Keystone XL would put the health of her low-income neighbors at greater risk. The density of oil refineries and petrochemical plants has made this low-income, minority Texas community home to some of the country's most toxic air. Should President Barack Obama approve the Keystone XL pipeline -- a fiercely debated proposal to transport heavy crude from Alberta's oil sands deposits 1,700 miles to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast, including in Manchester -- Nieto and other activists worry that the air will become even dirtier, and the community even sicker. Compared to refining conventional crude oil, processing heavy molasses-like tar sands oil into useable fuel has been found to release more sulfur, heavy metals and other toxic pollutants. "This is obviously environmental racism," said Nieto. "My family and friends here suffer the consequences of this whole greedy business." Blas Espinosa shares Nieto's concern. When he's not in class at a nearby college, Espinosa spends his hours teaching kids how to garden and selling organic produce at a farmers market. Growing food locally and organically, he said, reduces the use of petrochemicals: Less gasoline is needed to truck the food to consumers, and fewer fossil fuel-derived pesticides are required to grow it. Similar insight has led him to join other activists in vocal opposition to the continued reliance on fossil fuels and toxic pollution he believes would come with Keystone XL. "I've never been one to speak out. I've always been quiet and stuff," said Espinosa, 22, who has lived all his life near Manchester and the Houston Ship Canal. Blas Espinosa stands in front of a youth baseball field on which he used to play. The field is in plain sight of a refinery. Espinosa said that his biggest concern is the "health of my family and everybody, born and unborn, in the area." His mom suffers from asthma, heart abnormalities and tumors. He has friends with cancer. In a December 2010 report, the Sierra Club linked tar sands refinery emissions to prenatal brain damage, asthma and emphysema. A recent Houston-area study found a 56 percent increased risk of acute lymphocytic leukemia among children living within two miles of the Houston Ship Canal, compared with children living more than 10 miles from the canal. Manchester's local schools are ranked among the top one percent of the most polluted in the country. "If there's any place where we should not be adding more pollution, it would be these overburdened communities," said Danielle Droitsch of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Keystone XL will make their problems worse." TransCanada, the Canadian company leading the pipeline project, argues that its pipeline would not add to refinery emissions. Rather, it would simply displace heavy crude oil now coming to the refineries from Venezuela and other countries, Grady Semmens, a TransCanada spokesperson, told The Huffington Post via email. "Since the sources of oil that will be pushed out of the Houston refining area are typically shipped by large water borne supertankers," Semmens added, "greenhouse gas emissions will decrease as a result of oil coming through these pipelines." The U.S. State Department's Keystone XL draft analysis report, which sparked rampant criticism from environmentalists when it was released earlier this month, also concluded that the project would not significantly affect refinery activity on the Gulf Coast. "That makes no sense whatsoever," said Droitsch. "There will be an increase in air pollution. It's not a matter of if, but how much." Oil Change International has calculated that the 14 refineries in line to receive oil from Keystone XL processed less than one-third of Venezuelan crude oil imports in 2012. Nearly the same quantity of crude was handled by just two Venezuelan-owned Gulf Coast refineries. The pair may well pick up the slack for any oil being backed out of other refineries, predicted Lorne Stockman of the advocacy group. Stockman told HuffPost that the State Department's conclusion is "disingenuous" and "misses the point." "In the last five years, a lot of those companies have invested billions to equip refineries to process heavy oil in anticipation of XL," said Stockman. "With the project's delay, they're pulling in from everywhere they can get it because they haven't been able to get it from Canada." Nieto and Espinosa would like to see the project delayed indefinitely. Both have been working to educate and empower their neighbors to help in the fight against the pipeline. "These are poor people of color. Many don't speak a word of English. That doesn't help them in reading public information, participating in community meetings or talking to representatives," said Nieto. "What people really want to do is get out of here," she noted, adding that she enjoyed a reprieve from her own health problems while attending college away from Manchester. "But it's not easy to get out of here. When you try to sell a home, there are no buyers." Espinosa said he'd like to get out himself, "buy land somewhere in the hills of Austin, build a house and have a garden." "But I also don't want to leave everyone here," he said. "With the tar sands and Keystone, now is not the time to stop and be comfortable. I'm pretty set on being, as they say, the solution to pollution." This is the first in a series on people living along the proposed path of Keystone XL.

27 марта 2013, 15:34

Frontrunning: March 27

What bread... What circuses... JPMorgan Chase Faces Full-Court Press of Federal Investigations (NYT) European Regulators to Charge Banks Over Derivatives (WSJ) ... but forgive us if we don't hold our breath Cyprus readies capital controls to avert bank run (Reuters) Cyprus Capital Controls First in EU Could Last Years (BBG) Damage ripples through Cypriot economy (FT) G4S readies guards as Cypriot banks prepare to open (Reuters) Global pool of triple A status shrinks 60% (FT) Customers Flee Wal-Mart Empty Shelves for Target, Costco (BBG) BOE Says U.K. Banks Have Capital Shortfall of $38 Billion (BBG) U.K. Banks Facing Capital Shortfall (WSJ) Berkshire to Pay Nothing to Be Among Top Goldman Sachs Holders (BBG) Cyprus Details Bank Revamp (WSJ) Kazumasa Iwata Joins Kuroda Naysayers as BOJ to Meet (BBG) BRICS Nations Need More Time for New Bank, Russia Says (BBG) Foxconn Plant in Peanut Field Shows Labor Eroding China Edge (BBG)   Overnight Media Digest WSJ * Leave it to Warren Buffett to find a way to get hold of 10 million Goldman Sachs Group Inc shares without handing over a penny. The billionaire chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc accepted the stake in exchange for giving up his company's right to purchase a larger number of Goldman shares at a below-market price, according to terms of the deal announced on Tuesday. * Barrick Gold Corp co-chairman Peter Munk signaled he is looking to pass the scepter at the gold-mining giant he founded about 30 years ago. His call comes amid a shake-up in the top ranks of the mining industry, where a raft of high-profile leaders have stepped down, or been replaced, amid shareholder revolts over overpriced acquisitions and generally poor share-price performance. * CBS Corp acquired half of TV Guide Network and will enter a 50-50 partnership with Lions Gate Entertainment Corp for the entertainment channel and website. * DuPont Co agreed to pay Monsanto Co $1.75 billion as part of a series of licensing agreements for genetically modified seed technology that spell a truce in the rivals' bitter patent disputes. * Large global banks' legal tab is poised to soar beyond $100 billion as investors, insurers and municipalities pursue damages for actions tied to the mortgage meltdown, the financial crisis and the rate-rigging scandal. * Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is in the process of co-organizing a political advocacy group made up of top technology leaders that would push federal legislative reform on issues ranging from immigration to education, said people familiar with the development. * Honda Motor Co Ltd expects its U.S. new-car sales to increase by 8 percent in March over a year ago, led by a surge in demand for its redesigned Accord sedan, a senior executive said on Tuesday. * Health-care companies are circling around the $7 billion market for injectable drugs that are widely used by hospitals to treat conditions from cancer to pain - but which have often been in short supply. * A highly productive informant has led U.S. federal prosecutors to another group of alleged insider traders, one that includes a hedge-fund analyst and the investment chief for Wyoming's retirement system. * Mediaset SpA, Italy's largest private broadcaster, posted its first net loss since going public in 1996, as the company's slow response to new competition and a plummeting ad market in Italy takes its toll.   FT Start-up banks in Britain will not need as much capital as their established rivals starting from April, Britain's Financial Services Authority (FSA) said. The Federal Reserve has ordered Citigroup Inc to better police for the risk of money laundering. Warren Buffett agreed to become Goldman Sachs Group Inc's biggest shareholders by converting his warrants into shares. Deutsche Bank has provisioned for 500 million euros to cover possible fines for the alleged manipulation of Libor interest rates. Britain's Kingfisher Plc reported sharply lower profits as cash-strapped consumers cut back on home improvements in the economic downturn. T-Mobile USA will eliminate device subsidies and two-year service contracts that are favoured in the mobile industry to sell expensive handsets.   NYT * In a previously undisclosed case, prosecutors are examining whether JPMorgan Chase & Co failed to fully alert authorities to suspicions about Bernard Madoff, according to several people with direct knowledge of the matter. * With time running out until Cyprus's devastated banks must reopen their doors to the public, Cypriot and European officials are scrambling to put in place a set of measures that would allow jittery depositors access to their savings while preventing many billions of euros from fleeing the country. * CBS Corp announced on Tuesday that it had completed a deal to buy a half-interest in TVGN, formerly the TV Guide Network, fulfilling a longstanding goal of adding a general entertainment basic cable network to the company's media portfolio. * American mobile carrier T-Mobile, which has struggled against rivals like AT&T and Verizon, will offer the iPhone 5 cheaper than the competition, and most important, customers would not have to sign a contract. * DuPont Co will pay Monsanto Co at least $1.75 billion over 10 years for the rights to technology for genetically engineered soybeans that are resistant to herbicides. * Gains in housing and manufacturing propelled the U.S. economy over the winter, according to reports released on Tuesday. Home prices rose 8.1 percent in January, the fastest annual rate since the peak of the housing boom in summer 2006. * A squabble between a group fighting spam and a Dutch company that hosts Web sites said to be sending spam has escalated into one of the largest computer attacks on the Internet, causing widespread congestion and jamming crucial infrastructure around the world.   Canada THE GLOBE AND MAIL * More than a day after industrial waste water leaked from a Suncor Energy Inc site into the Athabasca River, the oil-sands giant and the province were still trying to determine which, if any, toxic materials were carried into the major Alberta waterway. Reports in the business section: * Suzuki Canada Inc will end its 30-year run of selling vehicles in Canada next year, the final withdrawal of Suzuki Motor Corp from markets it once thought so important that it manufactured vehicles here. * Canadian and South Korean officials are playing down Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's assertion that a free-trade deal between the countries is imminent. Flaherty, who is on a four-day trip to drum up business in Asia, said Monday after a speech in Hong Kong that Canada is "very close" to wrapping up an agreement with South Korea. NATIONAL POST * Canadians continue to pay more to fund a "gold plated" parliamentary pension plan that spending watchdogs say has taxpayers ultimately contributing more than C$25 for every dollar from MPs. The federal government announced last fall it is overhauling the parliamentary pension plan - including tripling MP contributions and increasing retirement age - after the next election. FINANCIAL POST * Target Canada president Tony Fisher addressed Tuesday the sticker shock gripping some consumers who expected the retailer's prices would be on par with its U.S. stores when it opened outlets across the country this month.   China CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL -- Net profits at 793 Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed companies hit 1.05 trillion yuan ($169.05 billion) in 2012, according to data from Chinese firm Wind Information. -- Poly Real Estate will keep its annual growth at 20 percent over the next seven years, said chairman Song Guangju. Property tightening policies should not change the firm's plans for growth and expansion, he added. SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS -- New loans from China's big four banks in March are estimated to have increased against previous months, and new loans from all financial institutions could reach 850 billion yuan ($136.85 billion), according to the official Chinese daily. CHINA DAILY -- A week-long drought in northwest China has hit 4.35 million people in Gansu province. The dry spell, expected to last until the end of April, has left 650,000 people facing water shortage and affected 398,667 hectares of farmland, according to the provincial civil affairs department. PEOPLE'S DAILY -- China will subsidise a total of 170 billion yuan to support grain farmers in 2013, the finance ministry told the official Chinese paper. SHANGHAI DAILY -- Global tech giant Apple is heading to court this afternoon for a pre-hearing related to a patent dispute over the U.S.-based firm's Siri voice-activated software. The pre-hearing will be held at Shanghai's No.1 Intermediate People's Court. -- U.S. retailer Wal-Mart will close three stores in China in May to streamline its sales network. In a statement the firm said it would still continue to invest and open new stores in Shanghai, where it has over 20 currently.   Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot ANALYST RESEARCH Upgrades AOL (AOL) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at BarclaysCapital Product (CPLP) upgraded to Neutral from Underperform at BofA/MerrillCliffs Natural (CLF) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at GoldmanDSW (DSW) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at CitigroupGenomic Health (GHDX) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at LeerinkGol Linhas (GOL) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond JamesMattress Firm (MFRM) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond JamesSykes Enterprises (SYKE) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Wells FargoTrulia (TRLA) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche BankVMware (VMW) upgraded to Strong Buy from Buy at ISI GroupViroPharma (VPHM) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan Downgrades Charles River Labs (CRL) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells FargoCliffs Natural (CLF) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Morgan StanleyEnphase Energy (ENPH) downgraded to Underperform at Raymond JamesObagi Medical (OMPI) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Roth CapitalSun Bancorp (SNBC) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Sterne AgeeWestern Alliance (WAL) downgraded to Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette Initiations Crimson Exploration (CXPO) initiated with a Hold at CanaccordFifth Street Finance (FSC) initiated with an Overweight at JPMorganMasTec (MTZ) initiated with a Buy at Lazard CapitalVascular Solutions (VASC) initiated with an Overweight at Piper JaffrayWeingarten Realty (WRI) initiated with an Equal Weight at EvercoreWestern Digital (WDC) initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital HOT STOCKS The BOE says U.K. banks have around GBP25B capital shortfallCBS Corporation (CBS) and Lionsgate (LGF) entered into a 50/50 partnership for TVGN and the website TVGuide.com. The venture will combine CBS's programming, production and marketing assets with Lionsgate's resources in motion pictures, television and digitally delivered contentVenaxis (APPY) announced plans to accelerate European market development for its APPY1 appendicitis testLogMeIn (LOGM) announced that a federal jury in Eastern District of Virginia found that LogMeIn products do not infringe on U.S.Patent No. 6,928,479, as asserted by 01 CommuniqueShah Capital offered to acquire UTStarcom (UTSI) for $3.20 per share EARNINGS/GUIDANCE Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:Anthera Pharmaceuticals (ANTH), SAIC (SAI), Landec (LNDC), Envivio (ENVI) Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:Mattress Firm (MFRM), Metabolix (MBLX) NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES European authorities may soon bring a case against some of the region's big banks alleging collusion in the $27T market for credit derivatives, the Wall Street Journal reports.Ericsson (ERIC) is in talks to buy Microsoft's (MSFT) IPTV business, Reuters reports. Wells Fargo (WFC) said its online banking website was experiencing an unusually high volume of traffic that it believes stems from a denial-of-service cyber attack, reports Reuters. J.C. Penney (JCP) CEO Ron Johnson has reportedly started to raise prices across the company's stores, the New York Post reports. According to sources, the hikes are "significant," with prices returning to previous levels before the "fair and square" initiative. SYNDICATE Access Midstream (ACMP) 9M share Spot Secondary being re-offered at $39.86BioMed Realty (BMR) files to sell 15M shares of common stockFrancesca's (FRAN) files to sell 7.4M shares of common stock for holdersGarrison Capital (GARS) 5.333M share IPO priced at $15.00NV5 Holdings (NVEE) 1.4M share IPO priced at $6.00Towerstream (TWER) files to sell 433,673 shares of common stock for holdersTumi (TUMI) files to sell 10.14M shares of common stock

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19 марта 2013, 00:52

State Plans To Spend $1 Million On Eradicating Feral Pigs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Using the cover of darkness, feral pigs have learned to outsmart even the most seasoned hunters as they set about on their nightly terrors, rooting up crops and suburban gardens, harassing native wildlife and turning watering holes into pigsties. The invasive porkers have made themselves at home across more than three quarters of the U.S. and are responsible for an estimated $1.5 billion in damages each year. Most worrisome is their ability to learn from each encounter with a frustrated human. Ask anyone who has had a run-in with feral pigs. The conversation always circles back to intelligence. "They're much brighter than I am," said Ray Powell, a veterinarian and New Mexico's land commissioner. "If they had the dexterity, they'd be driving vehicles around. I mean these guys are really smart." Feral pigs have already taken over Texas and are expanding their numbers in other states, but federal and state land managers think they have a chance to tip the balance in New Mexico. They're willing to bet $1 million in federal funds on a yearlong pilot project aimed at eradicating the pigs and using what they learn here to keep them from gaining a foothold elsewhere. It marks the first time the U.S. Department of Agriculture has teamed up with a state to develop a comprehensive plan for getting rid of the pigs. A small army of state and federal employees has been trained to stalk, trap and kill New Mexico's feral pigs. Various techniques have been used by wildlife managers and landowners for decades in the fight against feral swine, but the New Mexico team is focusing on determining what combination works best in which circumstances and how effectively helicopters can be to track the pigs across vast landscapes. "We're trying to get ahead of the curve with this so we can prevent a lot of the damage that we know will be coming if we don't do anything about it," said USDA Wildlife Services state director Alan May. "Sport hunting pressure alone won't be enough to stop a population from spreading." Timing is a big part of the project, said UDSA undersecretary Edward Avalos. Hitting the pigs quickly will prevent them from becoming more educated, he said. Pigs have been known to scope out traps for days before sending in the group's lowest ranking members to test for danger. And if a trap isn't built just right, the pigs will find a way out, either by climbing over each other or squeezing under the fencing. The plan calls for building special traps in strategic locations along with stalking the pigs at night. The team will also be looking to the "Judas pig" for help. After trapping a family of pigs, all but one – usually an adult female – are shot and killed. The Judas pig is then fitted with a radio collar or microchip so it can be tracked as it looks for another group of pigs to hang out with. This is important since feral pigs are quite elusive. Rarely seen during the day, they have learned to avoid being taken down by rifles or suckered into traps. Their intelligence, in combination with their ability to mate year-round, is what has enabled wild pigs to evade capture and take over prairies, mountain valleys and rugged deserts from Canada to Mexico. The wild pig population in the U.S. has ballooned to more than 5 million. In one year alone, federal managers trapped and killed more than 32,000 pigs from 28 states and collected thousands of samples to check for the nearly three dozen diseases feral pigs are capable of carrying and passing on to humans, livestock and other wildlife. Introduced by Spanish explorers centuries ago, pigs began to expand their range. Hunters complicated matters by importing Eurasian boars to the U.S. for sport. Generations in the wild, the pigs have evolved into "survivors," willing to eat just about anything and capable of traversing some of the most rugged territory. Ranchers and farmers have complained for years about the damage feral pigs can cause, but federal and state officials said the loss of crops, the spread of noxious weeds as the pigs carry seeds to new spots and the stress they put on endangered species and other wildlife is now worse due to a persistent drought that has hammered two-thirds of the country. New Mexico is embarking on its third straight year of drought, water supplies have dipped to record lows, farmers and ranchers are struggling, and there are now signs of feral swine in 22 of the state's 33 counties. "Here, it's a new problem," said Quay County farmer Donnie Bidegain, who has seen pig numbers in his area grow from zero to nearly 300 over the last two years. "You research, read stuff on the Internet and watch videos of how other guys are trying to do it. It's almost like you have to stalk them for two months before you figure out how they operate." Bidegain has to watch for big potholes left behind by the pigs to keep from damaging his tractor. Nearby, Quay County rancher Bill Humphries said the pigs were responsible for leaving "bomb craters everywhere" along a quarter-mile stretch of road on his family ranch. On other ranches, pigs have learned to break the floats in stock tanks to keep water flowing for their mud baths. In Mississippi, peanut farmers often wake to find uprooted plants. In Texas, where there are an estimated 2.6 million pigs, the animals have moved from destroying pastures and crops to tearing up suburban gardens. Texans spend about $7 million a year on trying to control pigs and repair some of the damage, said Billy Higginbotham, a professor and wildlife specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center. "We're not like New Mexico, Nebraska or Kansas, for example, where we're just beginning to get a few and can probably think in terms of eradication," he said. "What we're simply trying to do here is not even use the "e" word – eradication – but to think in terms of managing the damage." Wildlife managers had complained for years about a lack of manpower and money to fight the growing pig problem. Now, they say the pilot program will enable them to systematically take out populations that are centered along the Canadian and Pecos rivers in eastern New Mexico, in the Bootheel and along the Middle Rio Grande, home to thousands of acres of irrigated farmland. Feral pigs are also moving into southeastern New Mexico, where the federal government has been trying to boost the number of sand dune lizards and lesser prairie chickens. Both are on the menu for pigs. Pig experts say patience is key, and federal wildlife specialist Ron Jones knows this well. He has been stalking pigs in eastern New Mexico since the first group was spotted in Quay County in 2006. He has spent the last few weeks trying to outsmart an older black and white spotted male that's missing half an ear. "I've watched him on the trail cameras," Jones said. "He's got some age on him and he's very educated. He has probably had everything in the book thrown at him." USDA officials couldn't say how long it might take to push the pigs out of New Mexico, but Avalos said he is confident it's possible. If not, Powell warned New Mexico's agriculture and natural resources will be in trouble. "It could have enormous costs," he said. ___ Follow Susan Montoya Bryan: http://www.twitter.com/susanmbryanNM

09 марта 2013, 09:04

Dancing the World into Being

Published by Yes! Magazine on March 05, 2013 Naomi Klein speaks with writer, spoken-word artist, and indigenous academic Leanne Betasamosake Simpson about “extractivism,” why it’s important to talk about memories of the land, and what’s next for Idle No More. In December 2012, the Indigenous protests known as Idle No More exploded onto the Canadian political scene, with huge round dances taking place in shopping malls, busy intersections, and public spaces across North America, as well as solidarity actions as far away as New Zealand and Gaza. Though sparked by a series of legislative attacks on indigenous sovereignty and environmental protections by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the movement quickly became about much more: Canada’s ongoing colonial policies, a transformative vision of decolonization, and the possibilities for a genuine alliance between natives and non-natives, one capable of re-imagining nationhood. Throughout all this, Idle No More had no official leaders or spokespeople. But it did lift up the voices of a few artists and academics whose words and images spoke to the movement’s deep aspirations. One of those voices belonged to Leanne Simpson, a multi-talented Mississauga Nishnaabeg writer of poetry, essays, spoken-word pieces, short stories, academic papers, and anthologies. Simpson’s books, including Lighting the Eighth Fire: The Liberation, Protection and Resurgence of Indigenous Nations and Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence and a New Emergence, have influenced a new generation of native activists. At the height of the protests, her essay, Aambe! Maajaadaa! (What #IdleNoMore Means to Me) spread like wildfire on social media and became one of the movement’s central texts. In it she writes: “I support #idlenomore because I believe that we have to stand up anytime our nation’s land base is threatened—whether it is legislation, deforestation, mining prospecting, condo development, pipelines, tar sands or golf courses. I stand up anytime our nation’s land base in threatened because everything we have of meaning comes from the land—our political systems, our intellectual systems, our health care, food security, language and our spiritual sustenance and our moral fortitude.” On February 15, 2013, I sat down with Leanne Simpson in Toronto to talk about decolonization, ecocide, climate change, and how to turn an uprising into a “punctuated transformation.” On extractivism Naomi Klein: Let’s start with what has brought so much indigenous resistance to a head in recent months. With the tar sands expansion, and all the pipelines, and the Harper government’s race to dig up huge tracts of the north, does it feel like we’re in some kind of final colonial pillage? Or is this more of a continuation of what Canada has always been about? Leanne Simpson: Over the past 400 years, there has never been a time when indigenous peoples were not resisting colonialism. Idle No More is the latest—visible to the mainstream—resistance and it is part of an ongoing historical and contemporary push to protect our lands, our cultures, our nationhoods, and our languages. To me, it feels like there has been an intensification of colonial pillage, or that’s what the Harper government is preparing for—the hyper-extraction of natural resources on indigenous lands. But really, every single Canadian government has placed that kind of thinking at its core when it comes to indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples have lived through environmental collapse on local and regional levels since the beginning of colonialism—the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the extermination of the buffalo in Cree and Blackfoot territories and the extinction of salmon in Lake Ontario—these were unnecessary and devastating. At the same time, I know there are a lot of people within the indigenous community that are giving the economy, this system, 10 more years, 20 more years, that are saying “Yeah, we’re going to see the collapse of this in our lifetimes.” Our elders have been warning us about this for generations now—they saw the unsustainability of settler society immediately. Societies based on conquest cannot be sustained, so yes, I do think we’re getting closer to that breaking point for sure. We’re running out of time. We’re losing the opportunity to turn this thing around. We don’t have time for this massive slow transformation into something that’s sustainable and alternative. I do feel like I’m getting pushed up against the wall. Maybe my ancestors felt that 200 years ago or 400 years ago. But I don’t think it matters. I think that the impetus to act and to change and to transform, for me, exists whether or not this is the end of the world. If a river is threatened, it’s the end of the world for those fish. It’s been the end of the world for somebody all along. And I think the sadness and the trauma of that is reason enough for me to act. Naomi: Let’s talk about extraction because it strikes me that if there is one word that encapsulates the dominant economic vision, that is it. The Harper government sees its role as facilitating the extraction of natural wealth from the ground and into the market. They are not interested in added value. They’ve decimated the manufacturing sector because of the high dollar. They don’t care, because they look north and they see lots more pristine territory that they can rip up. And of course that’s why they’re so frantic about both the environmental movement and First Nations rights because those are the barriers to their economic vision. But extraction isn’t just about mining and drilling, it’s a mindset—it’s an approach to nature, to ideas, to people. What does it mean to you? Leanne: Extraction and assimilation go together. Colonialism and capitalism are based on extracting and assimilating. My land is seen as a resource. My relatives in the plant and animal worlds are seen as resources. My culture and knowledge is a resource. My body is a resource and my children are a resource because they are the potential to grow, maintain, and uphold the extraction-assimilation system. The act of extraction removes all of the relationships that give whatever is being extracted meaning. Extracting is taking. Actually, extracting is stealing—it is taking without consent, without thought, care or even knowledge of the impacts that extraction has on the other living things in that environment. That’s always been a part of colonialism and conquest. Colonialism has always extracted the indigenous—extraction of indigenous knowledge, indigenous women, indigenous peoples. Naomi: Children from parents. Leanne: Children from parents. Children from families. Children from the land. Children from our political system and our system of governance. Children—our most precious gift. In this kind of thinking, every part of our culture that is seemingly useful to the extractivist mindset gets extracted. The canoe, the kayak, any technology that we had that was useful was extracted and assimilated into the culture of the settlers without regard for the people and the knowledge that created it. When there was a push to bring traditional knowledge into environmental thinking after Our Common Future, [a report issued by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development] in the late 1980s, it was a very extractivist approach: “Let’s take whatever teachings you might have that would help us right out of your context, right away from your knowledge holders, right out of your language, and integrate them into this assimilatory mindset.” It’s the idea that traditional knowledge and indigenous peoples have some sort of secret of how to live on the land in an non-exploitive way that broader society needs to appropriate. But the extractivist mindset isn’t about having a conversation and having a dialogue and bringing in indigenous knowledge on the terms of indigenous peoples. It is very much about extracting whatever ideas scientists or environmentalists thought were good and assimilating it. Naomi: Like I’ll just take the idea of “the seventh generation” and… Leanne: …put it onto toilet paper and sell it to people. There’s an intellectual extraction, a cognitive extraction, as well as a physical one. The machine around promoting extractivism is huge in terms of TV, movies, and popular culture. Naomi: If extractivism is a mindset, a way of looking at the world, what is the alternative? Leanne: Responsibility. Because I think when people extract things, they’re taking and they’re running and they’re using it for just their own good. What’s missing is the responsibility. If you’re not developing relationships with the people, you’re not giving back, you’re not sticking around to see the impact of the extraction. You’re moving to someplace else. The alternative is deep reciprocity. It’s respect, it’s relationship, it’s responsibility, and it’s local. If you’re forced to stay in your 50-mile radius, then you very much are going to experience the impacts of extractivist behavior. The only way you can shield yourself from that is when you get your food from around the world or from someplace else. So the more distance and the more globalization then the more shielded I am from the negative impacts of extractivist behavior. On Idle No More Naomi: With Idle No More, there was this moment in December and January where there was the beginning of an attempt to articulate an alternative agenda for the country that was  rooted in a different relationship with nature. And I think of lot of people were drawn to it because it did seem to provide that possibility of a vision for the land that is not just digging holes and polluting rivers and laying pipelines. But I think that may have been lost a little when we starting hearing some chiefs casting it all as a fight over resources sharing: “OK, Harper wants to extract $650 billion worth of resources, and how are we going to have a fair share of that?” That’s a fair question given the enormous poverty and the fact that these resources are on indigenous lands. But it’s not questioning the underlying imperative of tearing up the land for wealth. Leanne: No, it’s not, and that is exactly what our traditional leaders, elders, and many grassroots people are saying as well. Part of the issue is about leadership. Indian Act chiefs and councils—while there are some very good people involved doing some good work—they are ultimately accountable to the Canadian government and not to our people. The Indian Act system is an imposed system—it is not our political system based on our values or ways of governing. Indigenous communities, particularly in places where there is significant pressure to develop natural resources, face tremendous imposed economic poverty. Billions of dollars of natural resources have been extracted from their territories, without their permission and without compensation. That’s the reality. We have not had the right to say no to development, because ultimately those communities are not seen as people, they are seen as resources. Rather than interacting with indigenous peoples through our treaties, successive federal governments chose to control us through the Indian Act, precisely so they can continue to build the Canadian economy on the exploitation of natural resources without regard for indigenous peoples or the environment. This is deliberate. This is also where the real fight will be, because these are the most pristine indigenous homelands. There are communities standing up and saying no to the idea of tearing up the land for wealth. What I think these communities want is our solidarity and a large network of mobilized people willing to stand with them when they say no. These same communities are also continually shamed in the mainstream media and by state governments and by Canadian society for being poor. Shaming the victim is part of that extractivist thinking. We need to understand why these communities are economically poor in the first place—and they are poor so that Canadians can enjoy the standard of living they do. I say “economically poor” because while these communities have less material wealth, they are rich in other ways—they have their homelands, their languages, their cultures, and relationships with each other that make their communities strong and resilient. I always get asked, “Why do your communities partner with these multinationals to exploit their land?” It is because it is presented as the only way out of crushing economic poverty. Industry and government are very invested in the “jobs versus the environment” discussion. These communities are under tremendous pressure from provincial governments, federal governments, and industry to partner in the destruction of natural resources. Industry and government have no problem with presenting large-scale environmental destruction by corporations as the only way out of poverty because it is in their best interest to do so. There is a huge need to clearly articulate alternative visions of how to build healthy, sustainable, local indigenous economies that benefit indigenous communities and respect our fundamental philosophies and values. The hyper-exploitation of natural resources is not the only approach. The first step to that is to stop seeing indigenous peoples and our homelands as free resources to be used at will however colonial society sees fit. If Canada is not interested in dismantling the system that forces poverty onto indigenous peoples, then I’m not sure Canadians, who directly benefit from indigenous poverty, get to judge the decisions indigenous peoples make, particularly when very few alternatives are present. Indigenous peoples do not have control over our homelands. We do not have the ability to say no to development on our homelands. At the same time, I think that partnering with large resource extraction industries for the destruction of our homelands does not bring about the kinds of changes and solutions our people are looking for, and putting people in the position of having to chose between feeding their kids and destroying their land is simply wrong. Ultimately we’re not talking about a getting a bigger piece of the pie—as Winona LaDuke says—we’re talking about a different pie. People within the Idle No More movement who are talking about indigenous nationhood are talking about a massive transformation, a massive decolonization. A resurgence of indigenous political thought that is very, very much land-based and very, very much tied to that intimate and close relationship to the land, which to me means a revitalization of sustainable local indigenous economies that benefit local people. So I think there’s a pretty broad agreement around that, but there are a lot of different views around strategy because we have tremendous poverty in our communities. On promoting life Naomi: One of the reasons I wanted to speak with you is that in your writing and speaking, I feel like you are articulating a clear alternative. In a speech you gave recently at the University of Victoria, you said: “Our systems are designed to promote more life” and you talked about achieving this through “resisting, renewing, and regeneration”—all themes in Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back. I want to explore the idea of life-promoting systems with you because it seems to me that they are the antithesis of the extractivist mindset, which is ultimately about exhausting and extinguishing life without renewing or replenishing. Leanne: I first started to think about that probably 20 years ago, and it was through some of Winona LaDuke’s work and through working with elders out on the land that I started to really think about this. Winona took a concept that’s very fundamental to Anishinaabeg society, called mino bimaadiziwin. It often gets translated as “the good life,” but the deeper kind of cultural, conceptual meaning is something that she really brought into my mind, and she translated it as “continuous rebirth.” So, the purpose of life then is this continuous rebirth, it’s to promote more life. In Anishinaabeg society, our economic systems, our education systems, our systems of governance, and our political systems were designed with that basic tenet at their core. I think that sort of fundamental teaching gives direction to individuals on how to interact with each other and family, how to interact with your children, how to interact with the land. And then as communities of people form, it gives direction on how those communities and how those nations should also interact. In terms of the economy, it meant a very, very localized economy where there was a tremendous amount of accountability and reciprocity. And so those kinds of things start with individuals and families and communities and then they sort of spiral outwards into how communities and how nations interact with each other. I also think it’s about the fertility of ideas and it’s the fertility of alternatives. One of the things birds do in our creation stories is they plant seeds and they bring forth new ideas and they grow those ideas. Seeds are the encapsulation of wisdom and potential and the birds carry those seeds around the earth and grew this earth. And I think we all have that responsibility to find those seeds, to plant those seeds, to give birth to these new ideas. Because people think up an idea but then don’t articulate it, or don’t tell anybody about it, and don’t build a community around it, and don’t do it. So in Anishinaabeg philosophy, if you have a dream, if you have a vision, you share that with your community, and then you have a responsibility for bringing that dream forth, or that vision forth into a reality. That’s the process of regeneration. That’s the process of bringing forth more life—getting the seed and planting and nurturing it. It can be a physical seed, it can be a child, or it can be an idea. But if you’re not continually engaged in that process then it doesn’t happen. Naomi: What has the principle of regeneration meant in your own life? Leanne: In my own life, I try to foster that with my own children and in my own family, because I have a lot of control over what happens in my own family and I don’t have a lot of control over what happens in the broader nation and broader society. But, enabling them, giving them opportunities to develop a meaningful relationship with our land, with the water, with the plants and animals. Giving them opportunities to develop meaningful relationships with elders and with people in our community so that they’re growing up in a very, very strong community with a number of different adults that they can go to when they have problems. One of the stories I tell in my book is of working with an elder who’s passed on now, Robin Greene from Shoal Lake in Winnipeg, in an environmental education program with First Nations youth. And we were talking about sustainable development, and I was explaining that term from the Western perspective to the students. And I asked him if there was a similar concept in Anishinaabeg philosophy that would be the same as sustainable development. And he thought for a very long time. And he said no. And I was sort of shocked at the “no” because I was expecting there to be something similar. And he said the concept is backwards. You don’t develop as much as Mother Earth can handle. For us it’s the opposite. You think about how much you can give up to promote more life. Every decision that you make is based on: Do you really need to be doing that? If I look at how my ancestors even 200 years ago, they didn’t spend a lot of time banking capital, they didn’t rely on material wealth for their well-being and economic stability. They put energy into meaningful and authentic relationships. So their food security and economic security was based on how good and how resilient their relationships were—their relationships with clans that lived nearby, with communities that lived nearby, so that in hard times they would rely on people, not the money they saved in the bank. I think that extended to how they found meaning in life. It was the quality of those relationships—not how much they had, not how much they consumed—that was the basis of their happiness. So I think that that’s very oppositional to colonial society and settler society and how we’re taught to live in that. Naomi: One system takes things out of their relationships; the other continuously builds relationships. Leanne: Right. Again, going back to my ancestors, they weren’t consumers. They were producers and they made everything. Everybody had to know how to make everything. Even if I look at my mom’s generation, which is not 200 years ago, she knew how to make and create the basic necessities that we needed. So even that generation, my grandmother’s generation, they knew how to make clothes, they knew how to make shelter, they knew how to make the same food that they would grow in their own gardens or harvest from the land in the summer through the winter to a much greater degree than my generation does. When you have really localized food systems and localized political systems, people have to be engaged in a higher level—not just consuming it, but producing it and making it. Then that self-sufficiency builds itself into the system. My ancestors tended to look very far into the future in terms of planning, look at that seven generations forward. So I think they foresaw that there were going to be some big problems. I think through those original treaties and our diplomatic traditions, that’s really what they were trying to reconcile. They were trying to protect large tracts of land where indigenous peoples could continue their way of life and continue our own economies and continue our own political systems, I think with the hope that the settler society would sort of modify their way into something that was more parallel or more congruent to indigenous societies. On loving the wounded Naomi: You often start your public presentations by describing what your territory used to look like. And it strikes me that what you are saying is very different from traditional green environmental discourse, which usually focuses on imminent ecological collapse, the collapse that will happen if we don’t do X and Y. But you are basically saying that the collapse has already happened. Leanne: I’m not sure focusing on imminent ecological collapse is motivating Canadians to change if you look at the spectrum of climate change denial across society. It is spawning a lot of apocalypse movies, but I think it is so overwhelming and traumatic to think about, that perhaps people shut down to cope. That’s why clearly articulated visions of alternatives are so important. In my own work, I started to talk about what the land used to look like because very few people remember. Very early on, where I’m from, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, you saw the collapse of the salmon population in Lake Ontario by 1840. They used to migrate all the way up to Stony Lake—it was a huge deal for our nation. And then the eel population crashing with the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Trent-Severn Waterway. So I think again, in a really local way, indigenous peoples have seen and lived through this environmental disaster where entire parts of their world collapsed really early on. But it cycles, and the collapses are getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s getting to the point where I describe what my land used to look like because no one knows. No one remembers what southern Ontario looked like 200 years ago, which to me is really scary. How do we envision our way out of this when we don’t even remember what this natural environment is supposed to look like? Naomi: I’ve spent the past two years living in British Columbia, where my family is, and I’ve been pretty involved in the fights against the tar sands pipelines. And of course the situation is so different there. There is still so much pristine wilderness, and people feel connected and protective of it. And I think for everyone, the fights against the pipelines have really been about falling more deeply in love with the land. It’s not an “anti” movement—it’s not about “I hate you.” It’s about “We love this place too much to let you desecrate it.” So it has a different feeling than any movement I’ve been a part of before. And of course the anti-pipeline movement on the West Coast is indigenous-led, and it’s also forged amazing coalitions of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. I wonder how much those fights have contributed to the emergence of Idle No More—the fact of having these incredible coalitions and First Nations saying no to Harper, working together… Leanne: But also because the Yinka Dene Alliance based their resistance on indigenous law. I remember feeling really proud when Yinka Dene Alliance did the train ride to the east. I was actually in Alberta at the time but we need to build on that because if you look in the financial sections of the papers for the last few years, there are these little indications that the pipelines are coming here too. And it’s becoming more so, with this refinery in Fredericton. So there needs to be a similar movement around pipelines as we’ve seen in British Columbia. But central Canada is behind. Naomi: I think a lot of it has to do with the state the land is in. Because in B.C., that was the outrage over the Northern Gateway routing—“You want to build a pipeline through that part of B.C.? Are you nuts?” It was almost a gift to movement-building because they weren’t talking about building it through urban areas, they were talking about building it through some of the most pristine wilderness in the province. But we have such a harder job here, because there needs to be a process not just of protecting the land, but as you were saying, of finding the land in order to protect it. Whereas in B.C., it’s just so damn pretty. Leanne: I think for me, it’s always been a struggle because I’ve always wanted to live in B.C. or the north, because the land is pristine. It’s easier emotionally for me. But I’ve chosen to live in my territory and I’ve chosen to be a witness of this. And I think that’s where, in the politics of indigenous women, and traditional indigenous politics, it is a politics based on love. That was the difference with Idle No More because there were so many women that were standing up. Because of colonialism, we were excluded for a long time from that Indian Act chief and council governing system. Women initially were not allowed to run for office, and it’s still a bastion of patriarchy. But that in some ways is a gift because all of our organizing around governance and politics and this continuous rebirth has been outside of that system and been based on that politics of love. So when I think of the land as my mother or if I think of it as a familial relationship, I don’t hate my mother because she’s sick, or because she’s been abused. I don’t stop visiting her because she’s been in an abusive relationship and she has scars and bruises. If anything, you need to intensify that relationship because it’s a relationship of nurturing and caring. And so I think in my own territory I try to have that intimate relationship, that relationship of love—even though I can see the damage—to try to see that there is still beauty there. There’s still a lot of beauty in Lake Ontario. It’s one of those threatened lakes and it’s dying and no one wants to eat the fish. But there is a lot of beauty still in that lake. There is a lot of love still in that lake. And I think that Mother Earth as my first mother. Mothers have a tremendous amount of resilience. They have a tremendous amount of healing power. But I think this idea that you abandon it when something has been damaged is something we can’t afford to do in Southern Ontario. Naomi: Exactly. But it’s such a different political project, right? Because the first stage is establishing that there’s something left to love. My husband talks about how growing up beside a lake you can’t swim in shapes your relationship with nature. You think nature is somewhere else. I think a lot of people don’t believe this part of the world is worth saving because they think it’s already destroyed, so you may as well abuse it some more. There aren’t enough people who are articulating what it means to build an authentic relationship with non-pristine nature. And it’s a different kind of environmental voice that can speak to the wounded, as opposed to just the perfect and pretty. Leanne: If you can’t swim in it, canoe across it. Find a way to connect to it. When the lake is too ruined to swim or to eat from it, then that’s where the healing ceremonies come in, because you can still do ceremonies with it. In Peterborough, I wrote a spoken word piece around salmon in which I imagined myself as being the first salmon back into Lake Ontario and coming back to our territory. The lift-locks were gone. And I learned the route that the salmon would have gone in our language. And so that was one of the ways I was trying to connect my community back to that story and back to that river system, through this performance. People did get more interested in the salmon. The kids did get more interested because they were part of the dance work. On climate change and transformation Naomi: In the book I’m currently writing I’m trying to understand why we are failing so spectacularly to deal with the climate crisis. And there are lots of reasons—ideological, material, and so on. But there are also powerful psychological and cultural reasons where we—and I’m talking in the “settler” we, I suppose—have been colonized by the logic of capitalism, and that has left us uniquely ill-equipped to deal with this particular crisis. Leanne: In order to make these changes, in order to make this punctuated transformation, it means lower standards of living, for that 1 percent and for the middle class. At the end of the day, that’s what it means. And I think in the absence of having a meaningful life outside of capital and outside of material wealth, that’s really scary. Naomi: Essentially, it’s saying: your life is going to end because consumerism is how we construct our identities in this culture. The role of consumption has changed in our lives just in the past 30 years. It’s so much more entwined in the creation of self. So when someone says, “To fight climate change you have to shop less,” it is heard as, “You have to be less.” The reaction is often one of pure panic. On the other hand, if you have a rich community life, if your relationships feed you, if you have a meaningful relationship with the natural world, then I think contraction isn’t as terrifying. But if your life is almost exclusively consumption, which I think is what it is for a great many people in this culture, then we need to understand the depth of the threat this crisis represents. That’s why the transformation that we have to make is so profound—we have to relearn how to derive happiness and satisfaction from other things than shopping, or we’re all screwed. Leanne: I see the transformation as: Your life isn’t going to be worse, it’s not going to be over. Your life is going to be better. The transition is going to be hard, but from my perspective, from our perspective, having a rich community life and deriving happiness out of authentic relationships with the land and people around you is wonderful. I think where Idle No More did pick up on it is with the round dances and with the expression of the joy. “Let’s make this fun.” It was women that brought that joy. Naomi: Another barrier to really facing up to the climate crisis has to do with another one of your strong themes, which is the importance of having a relationship to the land. Because climate change is playing out on the land, and in order to see those early signs, you have to be in some kind of communication with it. Because the changes are subtle—until they’re not. Leanne: I always take my kids to the sugar bush in March and we make maple syrup with them. And what’s happened over the last 20 years is every year our season is shorter. Last year was a near disaster because we had that week of summer weather in the middle of March. You need a very specific temperature range for making maple sugar. So it sort of dawned on me last year: I’m spending all of this time with my kids in the sugar bush and in 20 years, when it’s their term to run it, they’re going to have to move. Who knows? It’s not going to be in my territory anymore. That’s something that my generation, my family, is going to witness the death of. And that is tremendously sad and painful for us. It’s things like the sugar bush that are the stories, the teachings, that’s really our system of governance, where children learn about that. It’s another piece of the puzzle that we’re trying to put back together that’s about to go missing. It’s happening at an incredibly fast rate, it’s changing. Indigenous peoples have always been able to adapt, and we’ve had a resilience. But the speed of this—our stories and our culture and our oral tradition doesn’t keep up, can’t keep up. Naomi: One of the things that’s so difficult, when one immerses oneself in the climate science and comes to grips with just how little time we have left to turn things around, is that we know that real hard political work takes time. You can’t rush it. And a sense of urgency can even be dangerous, it can be used to say, “We don’t have time to deal with those complicated issues like colonialism and racism and inequality.” There is a history in the environmental movement of doing that, of using urgency to belittle all issues besides human survival. But on the other hand, we really are in this moment where small steps won’t do. We need a leap. Leanne: This is one of the ways the environmental movement has to change. Colonial thought brought us climate change. We need a new approach because the environmental movement has been fighting climate change for more than two decades and we’re not seeing the change we need. I think groups like Defenders of the Land and the Indigenous Environmental Network hold a lot of answers for the mainstream environmental movement because they are talking about large-scale transformation. If we are not, as peoples of the earth, willing to counter colonialism, we have no hope of surviving climate change. Individual choices aren’t going to get us out of this mess. We need a systemic change. Manulani Aluli Meyer was just in Peterborough—she’s a Hawaiian scholar and activist—and she was talking about punctuated transformation. A punctuated transformation [means] we don’t have time to do the whole steps and time shift, it’s got to be much quicker than that. That’s the hopefulness and inspiration for me that’s coming out of Idle No More. It was small groups of women around a kitchen table that got together and said, “We’re not going to sit here and plan this and analyze this, we’re going to do something.” And then three more women, and then two more women, and a whole bunch of people and then men got together and did it, and it wasn’t like there was a whole lot of planning and strategy and analyzing. It was people standing up and saying “Enough is enough, and I’m going to use my voice and I’m going to speak out and I’m going to see what happens.” And I think because it was still emergent and there were no single leaders and there was no institution or organization it became this very powerful thing. On next steps Naomi: What do you think the next phase will be? Leanne: I think within the movement, we’re in the next phase. There’s a lot of teaching that’s happening right now in our community and with public teach-ins, there’s a lot of that internal work, a lot of educating and planning happening right now. There is a lot of internal nation-building work. It’s difficult to say where the movement will go because it is so beautifully diverse. I see perhaps a second phase that is going to be on the land. It’s going to be local and it’s going to be people standing up and opposing these large-scale industrial development projects that threaten our existence as indigenous peoples—in the Ring of Fire [region in Northern Ontario], tar sands, fracking, mining, deforestation… But where they might have done that through policy or through the Environmental Assessment Act or through legal means in the past, now it may be through direct action. Time will tell. Naomi: I want to come back to what you said earlier about knowledge extraction. How do we balance the dangers of cultural appropriation with the fact that the dominant culture really does need to learn these lessons about reciprocity and interdependence? Some people say it’s a question of everybody finding their own inner indigenousness. Is that it, or is there a way of recognizing indigenous knowledge and leadership that avoids the hit-and-run approach? Leanne: I think Idle No More is an example because I think there is an opportunity for the environmental movement, for social-justice groups, and for mainstream Canadians to stand with us. There was a segment of Canadian society, once they had the information, that was willing to stand with us. And that was helpful and inspiring to me as well. So I think it’s a shift in mindset from seeing indigenous people as a resource to extract to seeing us as intelligent, articulate, relevant, living, breathing peoples and nations. I think that requires individuals and communities and people to develop fair and meaningful and authentic relationships with us. We have a lot of ideas about how to live gently within our territory in a way where we have separate jurisdictions and separate nations but over a shared territory. I think there’s a responsibility on the part of mainstream community and society to figure out a way of living more sustainably and extracting themselves from extractivist thinking. And taking on their own work and own responsibility to figure out how to live responsibly and be accountable to the next seven generations of people. To me, that’s a shift that Canadian society needs to take on, that’s their responsibility. Our responsibility is to continue to recover that knowledge, recover those practices, recover the stories and philosophies, and rebuild our nations from the inside out. If each group was doing their work in a responsible way then I think we wouldn’t be stuck in these boxes. There are lots of opportunities for Canadians, especially in urban areas, to develop relationships with indigenous people. Now more than ever, there are opportunities for Canadians to learn. Just in the last 10 years, there’s been an explosion of indigenous writing. That’s why me coming into the city today is important, because these are the kinds of conversations where you see ways out of the box, where you get those little glimmers, those threads that you follow and you nurture, and the more you nurture them, the bigger they grow. Naomi: Can you tell me a little bit about the name of your book, Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back, and what it means in this moment? Leanne: I’ve heard Elder Edna Manitowabi tell one of our creation stories about a muskrat and a turtle for years now. In this story, there’s been some sort of environmental crisis. Because within Anishinaabeg cosmology, this isn’t the First World, maybe this is the Fourth World that we’re on. And whenever there’s an imbalance and the imbalance isn’t addressed, then over time there’s a crisis. This time, there was a big flood that covered the entire world. Nanabush, one of our sacred beings, ends up trapped on a log with many of the other animals. They are floating in this vast sea of water with no land in sight. To me, that feels like where we are right now. I’m on a very crowded log, the world my ancestors knew and lived in is gone, and me and my community need to come up with a solution even though we are all feeling overwhelmed and irritated. It’s an intense situation and no one knows what to do, no one knows how to make a new world. So the animals end up taking turns diving down and searching for a pawful of dirt or earth to use to start to make a new world. The strong animals go first, and when they come up with nothing, the smaller animals take a turn. Finally, muskrat is successful and brings her pawfull of dirt up to the surface. Turtle volunteers to have the earth placed on her back. Nanibush prays and breaths life into that earth. All of the animals sing and dance on the turtle’s back in a circle, and as they do this, the turtle’s back grows. It grows and grows until it becomes the world we know. This is why Anishinaabeg call North America Mikinakong—the place of the turtle. When Edna tells this story, she says that we’re all that muskrat, and that we all have that responsibility to get off the log and dive down no matter how hard it is and search around for that dirt. And that to me was profound and transformative, because we can’t wait for somebody else to come up with the idea. The whole point, the way we’re going to make this better, is by everybody engaging in their own being, in their own gifts, and embody this movement, embody this transformation. And so that was a transformative story for me in my life and seemed to me very relevant in terms of climate change, in terms of indigenous resurgence, in terms of rebuilding the Anishinaabeg Nation. And so when people started round dancing all over the turtle’s back in December and January, it made me insanely happy. Watching the transformative nature of those acts, made me realize that it’s the embodiment, we have to embody the transformation. Naomi: What did it feel like to you when it was happening? Leanne: Love. On an emotional, a physical level, on a spiritual level. Yeah, it was love. It was an intimate, deep love. Like the love that I have for my children or the love that I have for the land. It was that kind of authentic, not romantic kind of fleeting love. It was a grounded love. Naomi: And it can even be felt in a shopping mall. Leanne: Even in a shopping mall. And how shocking is that? Published at: http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/dancing-the-world-into-being-a-conversation-with-idle-no-more-leanne-simpson

04 марта 2013, 19:32

Tom Engelhardt: Where Is Everybody?

Why It’s So Tough to Get Your Head Around Climate Change Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com Two Sundays ago, I traveled to the nation’s capital to attend what was billed as “the largest climate rally in history” and I haven’t been able to get the experience -- or a question that haunted me -- out of my mind.  Where was everybody? First, though, the obvious weather irony: climate change didn’t exactly come out in support of that rally. In the midst of the warmest years and some of the warmest winters on record, the demonstration, which focused on stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline -- it will bring tar-sands oil, some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-richest energy available from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast -- was the coldest I’ve ever attended. I thought I’d lose a few fingers and toes while listening to the hour-plus of speakers, including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, who were theoretically warming the crowd up for its march around the (other) White House. And I also experienced a moment of deep disappointment. When I arrived early at the spot in front of the Washington Monument on the National Mall where we were to assemble, my heart sank.  It looked like only a few thousand protestors were gathering for what had been billed as a monster event.  I had taken it for granted that I would be adding one small, aging body (and voice) to a vast crowd at a propitious moment to pressure Barack Obama to become the climate-change president he hasn’t been.  After all, he has a decision to make that’s his alone: whether or not to allow that pipeline to be built.  Nixing it would help keep a potentially significant contributor to climate change, those Albertan tar sands, in the ground.  In other words, I hoped to play my tiny part in preserving a half-decent future for this planet, my children, and my new grandson. Sixty environmental and other organizations were backing the demonstration, including the Sierra Club with its hundreds of thousands of members.  Given what was potentially at stake, it never crossed my mind that the turnout wouldn’t be substantial.  In fact, on that frigid day, lots of demonstrators did turn up.  Evidently, they knew the dirty little secret of such events: that much talk would precede a modest amount of walking and inventive slogan shouting.  So they arrived -- poured in actually -- late, and in real numbers. In the end, the organizers estimated attendance at somewhere in the 35,000-50,000 range.  Media reports varied between the usual “thousands,” generically used to describe (or, if you’re in a conspiratorial frame of mind, minimize) any demonstration, and tens of thousands.  I have no way of estimating myself, but certainly the crowd was, in the end, sizeable, as well as young, enthusiastic, and loud.  It made itself heard passing the White House. Not that President Obama was there to hear anything.  He was then on a golf course in the Florida warmth teeing up with “a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas, and pipeline players.” That seemed to catch another kind of climate-change reality of our moment and strongly hinted at the strength of the forces any such movement is up against.  In the meantime, Keystone builder TransCanada was ominously completing the already green-lighted first half of the Texas-Oklahoma leg of its prospective future pipeline. In the end, I felt genuine satisfaction at having been there, but given what was at stake, given Frankenstorm Sandy, the devastating Midwestern drought and record southwestern fires of 2012, the Snowmageddon winter storm that had recently dropped 40 inches of the white stuff on Hamden, Connecticut, the blistering spring and summer of 2012, the fast-melting Arctic sea ice, and the fact that last year broke all heat records for the continental United States, given the build-up of billion-dollar weather disasters in recent years, and the growing emphasis on “extreme weather” events on the national TV news, shouldn’t hundreds of thousands have been there?  After all, I’ve been in antiwar demonstrations in which at least that many marched and in 1982, I found myself in my hometown in a crowd of a million demonstrating against the possibility of a world-ending nuclear war.  Is climate change a less important issue? “There Is No Planet B” While protesting that Sunday, I noted one slogan on a number of hand-made signs that struck me as the most pointed (and poignant) of the march: “There is no planet B.”  It seemed to sum up what was potentially at stake: a planet to live reasonably comfortably on.  You really can’t get much more basic than that, which is why hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, should have been out in the streets demanding that our leaders begin to attend to climate change before it’s quite literally too late. After all, to my mind, climate change, global warming, extreme weather -- call it what you will -- is the obvious deal-breaker in human, if not planetary, history.  Everything but nuclear catastrophe pales by comparison, no matter the disaster: 9/11, 70,000 dead in Syria, failed wars, the grimmest of dictatorships, movements of hope that don’t deliver -- all of that’s familiar history.  Those are the sorts of situations where you can try again, differently, or future generations can and maybe do far better.  All of it involves human beings who need to be dealt with or human structures that need to be changed.  While any of them may be the definition of “the worst of times,” they are also the definition of hope. Nature and the weather are another matter (even if it’s humanity that, by burning of fossil fuels at increasingly staggering rates, has created its own Frankenstein's monster out of the natural world).  Climate change is clearly something new in our experience.  Even in its relatively early but visibly intensifying stages, it threatens to be the singular event in human history, because unlike every other disaster we can imagine (except a full-scale nuclear war or, as has happened in the planet’s past, a large meteorite or asteroid impact), it alone will alter the basis for life on this planet. Raise the planet’s temperature by three to six degrees Celsius, as various well-respected scientific types and groups are now suggesting might happen by century’s end (and possibly throw in some more heat thanks to the melting of the permafrost in the north), and if you live in a city on a coastline, you'd better watch out.  And that only begins to suggest the problems humanity will face. The world, at best, will be a distinctly poorer, less comfortable place for us (and from there the scenarios only get uglier). Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m no scientist.  I doubt I’d even be considered scientifically literate (though I try).  But the scientific consensus on the subject of climate change seems striking enough to me, and what’s happening around us is no less striking as a confirmation that our world is changing -- and remarkably quickly at that.   Whether you read about melting glaciers, the melting Greenland ice shield, melting Arctic waters, melting permafrost, acidifying oceans, intensifying storms, greater desertification, wilder wild fires, or so many other allied subjects, doesn’t it always seem that the rates of bad news are on the rise and the word “record” is usually lurking somewhere in the vicinity? So I continue to wonder, given our situation on this planet, given our future and that of our children and grandchildren, where is everybody? Can You Organize Against the Apocalypse? Don’t for a second think that I have some magic answer to that question. Still, as it’s been on my mind, here’s an attempt to lay out at least some of the possible factors, micro to macro, that might have limited the size of that crowd two Sundays ago and perhaps might tend to limit the size of any climate-change crowd, as well as the mobilizing possibilities that lie in the disaster awaiting us. Outreach: Yes, there were at least 60 groups involved, but how much outreach was there really?  Many people I know hadn’t heard a thing about the event.  And while climate change has been on the human agenda for a while now, a real movement to deal with what’s happening to us is in its absolute infancy.  There is so much outreach and so much education that still needs to be done. The slowness of movements: It’s easy to forget how long it can take for movements of change to grow, for their messages to cohere, penetrate, and begin to make sense or seem meaningful to large numbers of people in terms of their everyday lives.  Despite its obvious long-term destructive power, for many reasons (see below) climate change might prove a particularly difficult issue to link to our everyday lives in ways that mobilize rather than demobilize us.  On a similarly difficult issue, the nuclear movement, it took literally decades to grow to that million-person march, and even early anti-Vietnam War protests were smaller than the recent Keystone demo. Politics: Attitudes toward climate change have largely polarized along left-right lines, so that the issue seems politically ghettoized at the moment (though there was a time when Republicans of some stature were concerned about the subject).  To my mind, it’s part of the insanity of our moment that the preservation of our planet as we have known it, which should be the great conservative issue of our era, is now pure poison on the right.  Even American paleo-conservatives, who are willing to make common cause on American war policy with left anti-imperial types, won’t touch it with a 10-foot poll.  When this begins to change, you’ll know something of significance is happening. Enemies: Here’s a factor it’s easy to ignore, but no one should.  Giant energy companies and energy-connected right-wing billionaires have for years now been funneling staggering amounts of money into a network of right-wing think tanks and websites dedicated to creating doubts about climate change and promoting climate denial.  In the latest revelation about the well-financed climate-denial movement, the British Guardian reports that between 2002 and 2010, $120 million dollars was shuttled, “using a secretive funding route,” into “more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change.” It all came from conservative billionaires (and not just the Koch brothers) who were guaranteed total anonymity. And it “helped build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing ‘wedge issue’ for hardcore conservatives.”  The funders of this “movement” and their minions should, of course, be disqualified on the spot.  They are almost all identified with and profit from the very fossil fuels that climate-change scientists say are heating up the planet.  But they -- and a few outlier scientific types they’ve scrounged up -- provide the “balance,” the “two sides,” that the mainstream media adores.  And they play upon the arcane nature of Science itself to intimidate the rest of us. Science: When you have a bad boss, or your country is ruled by a dictator, or your bank cheats you, it’s within your everyday experience.  You have some body of personal knowledge to draw on to understand the situation.  You are personally offended.  But Science?  For most of us, the very word is intimidating.  It means what we didn’t understand in school and gave up understanding long ago.  To grasp climate change means teaching yourself Science with no professors in sight.  Filling the knowledge bank you don’t have on your own.  It’s daunting.  Oh yes, the Ice-Albedo feedback loop.  Sure thing.  If the boss, the bank, the dictator takes your home, you get it.  If Superstorm Sandy turns your home into rubble, what you get is an argument.  What you need is an education to know just what role “climate change” might have played in making that storm worse, or whether it played any role at all.  Similarly, you need an education to grasp the dangers of those tar sands from Canada.  It can be overwhelming.  Doubts are continually raised (see “enemies”), the natural variability of the weather makes climate change easier to dismiss, and sometimes, when Science takes the lead, it’s easier just to duck. Nature: Science is bad enough; now, throw in Nature.  How many of us still live on farms?  How many of us still live in “the wilderness”?  Isn’t Nature what we catch on the Discovery Channel?  Isn’t it what we pay a lot of money to drop in on briefly and ogle while on vacation?  In our everyday lives, most of us are, in some way, no longer a part of this natural world of “ours” -- not at least until drought strikes your region, or that “record wildfire” approaches your community, or that bear/coyote/skunk/puma stumbles into your (urban or suburban) neck of the woods.  Connecting with Nature, no less imagining the changing natural state of a planet going haywire (along with the likelihood of mass, climate-changed induced extinctions) is again not exactly an easy thing to do; it’s not what comes “naturally” to us. Blame: Any movement needs a target.  But this isn’t the Arab Spring.  Climate change is not Hosni Mubarak.  This isn’t the Occupy moment.  Climate change is not simply “Wall Street” or the 1%.  It’s not simply the Obama administration, a polarized Congress filled with energy-company-supported climate ignorers and deniers, or the Chinese leadership that’s exploiting coal for all its worth, or the Canadian government that abandoned the Kyoto treaty and supports that tar-sands pipeline, or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has put its money where its mouth is in American electoral politics when it comes to climate change.  Yes, the giant energy companies, which are making historic profits off our burning planet, couldn’t be worse news or more culpable.  The oil billionaires are a disaster, and so on.  Still, targets are almost too plentiful and confusing.  There are indeed villains, but so many of them!  And what, after all, about the rest of us who lend a hand in burning fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow?  What about our consumer way of life to which all of us are, to one degree or another, addicted, and which has been a model for the rest of the world.  Who then is the enemy?  What exactly is to be done?  In other words, there is an amorphousness to who’s aiding and abetting climate change that can make the targeting on which any movement thrives difficult. The future:  In the environmental movement, there is some serious discussion about why it’s so hard for climate change to gain traction among the public (and in the media).  It’s sometimes said that the culprit is our brains, which weren’t set up, in an evolutionary sense, to deal with a problem that won’t deliver its full whammy for perhaps close to a century or more.  Actually, I wonder about this.  I would argue, based on the historical record, that our brains are well enough equipped to face distant futures and their problems.  In fact, I think it’s a reasonable proposition that if you can’t imagine the future, if you can’t imagine building something not just for yourself but for your children or the children of others and of future generations, then you probably can’t build a movement at all.  All movements, even those intent on preserving the past, are in some sense future-oriented. The apocalypse: Here’s the thing, though.  It’s difficult to organize for or even against a future that you can’t imagine yourself and those children and future generations in.  The thought of world-ending events may simply close down our operative imaginations.  The end of the world may be popular in fiction, but in everyday life, I suspect, the apocalypse is the version of the future that it’s hardest to mobilize around.  If the prospect is that it’s already hopeless, that the suffering is going to be largely down the line, that we’re all going down anyway, and the planet will simply be destroyed, well, why bother?  Why not focus on what matters to you now and forget the rest?  This is where denial, the almost involuntary turning away from unpalatable futures that seem beyond our power or ability to alter, comes into play.  If the future is essentially over before it begins, then better to ignore it and go about your still palatable enough daily life. Putting Your Money on Climate Change Add all these factors (and others I’ve probably ignored) together and perhaps it’s a miracle that so many people turned out in Washington two weekends ago.  As we’ve already learned in this nuclear age of ours, it’s quite possible for a grid of exterminationism, a sense of hopelessness about the distant future, to descend upon us almost unnoticed.  That grid in no way stops you from thinking about your own life in the present, or even about the immediate future, about, say, getting married, having a child, making a living, but it’s crippling when it comes to mobilizing for a different future. I’ve always believed that some of the vaunted organizing power and energy of the famed Sixties came from the fact that, in 1963, the superpowers achieved an agreement on the testing of nuclear weapons that sent them underground and more or less out of consciousness.  The last end-of-the-world films of that era appeared in 1964, just as bomb-shelter and civil defense programs were heading for the graveyard. By 1969, the National Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy had even eliminated "nuclear" from its own name.  Without necessarily being aware of it, many (especially among the young), I suspect, felt their energies liberated from a paralyzing sense of doom.  You no longer had to think about scenarios in which the two Cold War superpowers would destroy the planet.  It made almost anything seem possible. For a brief period before the Reagan presidency raised such fears again, you could look to the future with a sense of hope, which was exhilarating. Can there be any doubt that, to steal a phrase from that era, the personal is indeed political?  On the other hand, the apocalypse, particularly an apocalypse that features Science and Nature in its starring roles, seems anything but personal or stoppable -- unless you’re a farmer and a pipeline filled with a particularly nasty version of oil runs right through your nearest aquifer.  The real issue here is how to make climate change personal in a way that doesn’t simply cause us to shut down. One of the cleverer approaches to climate change has been that of Bill McKibben, the man who organized 350.org.  In a determined fashion, he’s been breaking the overwhelming nature of climate change down into some of its component parts that can be grasped, focused on, and organized around.  Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline and encouraging students to lobby to make their schools divest from big fossil fuel companies are examples of his approach. More generally, climate change is, in fact, becoming more personal by the year.  In the “extreme weather,” which so regularly leads the TV news, its effects are coming closer to us all.  Increasing numbers of us know, in our hearts, that it’s the real deal.  And no, it doesn’t have to be the apocalypse either.  The planet itself, of course, will survive and, given a few hundred thousand or even a few million years, will recover and once again be a thriving place of some unknown sort.  As for humanity, we’re a clever enough species.  Sooner or later, we will undoubtedly figure out how to survive as well, but the questions are: How many of us?  On what terms?  In what kind of degraded state?  And what can we do soon to mitigate climate change’s worst future effects? Perhaps a modern, post-religious version of seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous bet is what’s needed.  He argued that it was in the interest of those who remained in doubt about God to place a wager on His existence.  As he pointed out, with such a bet, if you win, you win everything; if you lose, you lose nothing.  Something somewhat analogous might be said of climate change.  Perhaps it’s time to put your wager on the reality of climate change, on its paramount importance to us and our children and our children’s children, and to bet as well that your efforts (and those of others) will in the end make enough of a difference.  Then, if you win, humanity wins everything; if you lose, well, there will be hell to pay. Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

28 февраля 2013, 23:10

Hollywood-Style History

Stephen LendmanActivist Post Hollywood's complicity with Washington is longstanding. Movie moguls are duplicitous. The only thing they like like better than good films are good deals. Washington's requests are prioritized. Scripts feature pro-Western propaganda. "Operation Hollywood" explains. Daily Variety/Hollywood Reporter David Robb's book discussed Hollywood's longstanding relationship with the Pentagon. It began post-WWI. The 1927 silent film "Wings" starred Clara Bow. It launched Gary Cooper's career. It was about two WWI fighter pilot friends. It won Hollywood's first best picture award. "Hollywood Goes to War: How Politics, Profits and Propaganda Shaped World War II Movies" tells more. Clayton Koppes and Gregory Black explained. It discusses Franklin Roosevelt's Office of War Information. It had enormous influence on Hollywood. It impacted wartime filmmaking. Anyone growing up at the time remembers. WWII films proliferated. They're still shown on late night TV. Cable channels feature them. Government censors had final say. They controlled everything from casting to production.Studio bosses were well compensated to collude. Long before Pearl Harbor, film content promoted war. In 1939, Warner Bros. premiered "Confessions of a Nazi Spy." It claimed Germany sought world conquest. It was before anyone knew Hitler's full intentions. In 1940, Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" burlesqued Hitler, Mussolini, and Nazism. Other films featured war propaganda. Once America was attacked, they proliferated. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; No plot too far-fetched was omitted. Even Tarzan was exploited. He waged war on Nazism in "Tarzan Triumphs." Hitler was no match for the king of the jungle. He defeated German invaders singlehanded. An elephant blitzkrieg helped. Movie moguls supported the war effort. Most of all they prioritized profits. They claim they give people what they want. They reinvent history doing so. Pentagon generals supported and approved "Top Gun." A special Film Liason Office oversees propaganda filmmaking. It focuses on ones related to war. It chooses ones it wants. It has final say on content and characters. It makes no secret of its purpose. It wants pro-Western propaganda featured. Few war films go other ways.Zero Dark Thirty chronicled the hunt for Osama bin Laden. It's grotesque, dishonest, and fabricated. It opened days before Christmas last year. It reinvented history. Bin Laden was dead and buried. In December 2001, he died naturally.Hollywood and Obama claimed otherwise. History is reinvented. Doing so is shameless and duplicitous. It says more about America's imperial agenda than truth. It exploits 9/11 events. It ignored clear evidence. David Ray Griffin wrote 10 convincing books. America's false flag struck the Pentagon, downed the twin towers, and Building 7. Doing so launched overt and covert war on terror. It rages lawlessly at home and abroad. Hollywood marches in lockstep. Movie moguls misinform, manipulate public sentiment, and manufacture consent. They convince people to support what demands condemnation. They persuade them to hate alleged enemies. They glorify war in the name of peace. They proliferate Big Lies. They stoke fear. They aid and abet state crimes. They convince people that Washington's wars are justified because they say so. They call waging war on humanity liberating struggles. They believe might justifies right. Destroying nations to free them is OK. Zero Dark Thirty reinvents history. It chronicles a hunt for a dead man. It turns rogue CIA agents into heroes. It's long, boring, and dishonest. Much of what the film portrays has no connection to bin Laden. It argues that torture works. Brutalizing detainees helped discover his whereabouts, it claims. Extrajudicial killing is glorified. Misfits become heroes. Crimes of war and against humanity are waged for our own good. Hollywood and media scoundrels produce this stuff. They do so for profit. They're unapologetic. Anything for a buck is OK. Propagandizing is the American way. On February 24, Argo won top honors. Hollywood's 85th Academy Awards chose it the year's top film. It should have been denounced instead of honored.It relates a little-known 1979/1980 Iranian hostage crisis episode. Demonstrators stormed Washington's Tehran embassy. Fifty-three Americans were held captive for 444 days. A generation of repressive Reza Shah Pahlavi rule went unexplained. He was Washington's man in Tehran. Six Americans escaped. Former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor sheltered them in his home. He's highly critical. He said script writer Chris Terrio misportrayed events. The film recounts their rescue. It downplays Canada's involvement. Terrio took creative liberties. Scenes were fabricated. People were mischaracterized. Iran's "more hospitable side" was omitted. Argo is malicious, unjust, and one-sided. It's Hollywood propaganda at its worst. It foments anti-Iranian hatred. It stereotypically portrays Iran according to pro-Western misinformation.Press TV called Argo "Iranophobic." It's Hollywood-style "Machiavellian maneuvering." Film critic Kim Nicolini was quoted. She expected Argo to win. She said there's nothing remotely "best" about it. It's "a piece of conservative (pro-Western) propaganda created by Hollywood to support the Obama administration's" positioning ahead of last November's presidential election. "It also primes the war wheels for an American-supported Israeli attack on Iran, so that (Iran bashers) can feel okay about the war when they cast their vote for Obama in November (2012)." Film director Ben Affleck reinvented history. Students who stormed Washington's embassy believed it was a den of espionage. Overthrowing the new Islamic Republic was prioritized. Affleck's ignored the larger story. His film is one-sided. It's "a sanitized version of events," said Nicolini. "(T)here's nothing authentic about (its) manipulation of historical events." It's "pure political propaganda." "Given the vast number of people who have died in the Middle East (Americans, Iranians, Iraqis, Afghanis, etc.), why should we give so much attention to 6 white American diplomats who were saved by Hollywood and the CIA?" "What about all the other people from so many cultural demographics who have and are continuing to be massacred, murdered and tortured daily?" In 1979, Masoumeh Ebtekar was students' spokeswoman. She hoped Argo would portray events accurately. She's sorely disappointed. google_ad_client = "ca-pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 7/28/12 */ google_ad_slot = "9833874419"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; "The group who took over the American Embassy were a group of young, very orderly and quite calm men and women," she said. Argo's portrayal is wholly inaccurate. It's fiction, not fact. It bears no relation to truth. It's Hollywood-style rubbish. It's politically motivated. It leaves the 1981 Algiers Accords unmentioned. Iran and Washington signed it. Most Iranian assets were unblocked. A day later, 53 US hostages were released. It was moments before Reagan was inaugurated. Washington wants US/Iranian conciliation concealed. Argo ignored what it should have featured. It reinvented history. It did so Hollywood-style. It sacrificed truth. It bashed Iran in the process. It's part of Washington's propaganda machine. It shouldn't surprise. Doing so is longstanding. Hollywood does it for profit. It's the American way.Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected] His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. 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25 февраля 2013, 19:18

William Bradley: Oscarmania! (Or Not): A Political Stew on Light Simmer

Even before Jack Nicholson introduced the first lady of the United States to present the award for best picture, this year's Oscars had developed an unusual political cast to it, both in personalities and in substance. Secretary of State John Kerry weighed in on the Academy Award for Best Picture, pushing Argo. Former President Bill Clinton had already pushed hard for Lincoln, actually making an appearance for it, and director Steven Spielberg, at the Golden Globes. (Which may have helped feed an anti-Spielberg backlash against Lincoln, the one-time frontrunner.) And of course there was the matter of the political cast to the top contenders: The tale of America's 16th president and his drive to end slavery (Lincoln), a true life if more reel than real story of the rescue of American diplomats in Iran (Argo), the quest to get Osama bin Laden (Zero Dark Thirty), even Quentin Tarantino's latest rewrite of history (Django Unchained) and the movie musical version of Victor Hugo's timeless novel of injustice and social protest (Les Miserables). It all ended up in a great big political stew; unfortunately, one cooked upon the stage of the annual Oscarcast. I think I've inadvertently hit upon the best way to watch the Oscars -- have knees just sore enough from too much sprinting to make it hard to enjoy anything really enjoyable but not so painful, at least with ice, as to distract from the chronic irritations on screen. My old LA Weekly colleague Nikki Finke goes semi-ballistic over the Oscars. Hey, it's just an awards show. People have been complaining about it for as long as I've been paying attention. Was it good? Not really. What else is new? Of course, I panned something that is supposed to be important: The State of the Union. (Not as an Obama performance, as an institution.) So a Hollywood awards show is just, you know, a Hollywood awards show. The oddly inappropriate musical cues, the crashingly unfunny jokes -- with some good things interspersed, of course -- par for the course, if a bit more obvious this year. Before delving into the meat of the show (with apologies to vegetarians for the figure of speech), first to its end. Nicholson, star of my all-time favorite film, Chinatown, was introduced to present the Best Picture award. Of course, a natural. But then he segued into his surprise co-presenter, Michelle Obama, live from the White House. A good idea? Nicholson's sardonic remark: "They're not going to mess around with that, are they?" The "they" in question being the far right and elements of the media, of course. But of course they are. The real question is, well, why bother? Does it add anything to the presidency to present an Oscar? No. It's not like Obama needs the name ID. Does it add anything to Obama's presidency to present an Oscar to George Clooney, one of the producers of Argo, and host of one of his biggest campaign fundraisers? No. Clooney seems too cool a character to feel he needed the perk, and Obama doesn't need the aggravation. Let's hope the White House isn't suffering from a bad case of starstruck sickness at a time of national crisis. While the first lady's role was an intriguing oddity, the movies were the point of the exercise. While none is exactly Lawrence of Arabia -- either in cinematic impact or in political sophistication -- they were good. Of the five top political contenders for best picture, I suppose I would pick Zero Dark Thirty, though not with great enthusiasm as I have a number of problems with it. It was clear as soon as I saw its opening sequences that it was too politically incorrect to win. (15 minutes in and the torture was still going on.) Les Miserables is good but ultimately too over-wrought. Django Unchained, terrifically entertaining but irritating, I'll get to in a minute. Argo or Lincoln? Lincoln feels more like a "best picture," but Argo is more enjoyable. They both have glaring factual errors that could have been avoided: Pro-slavery congressmen from Connecticut?! The cowardly Brits in Iran?! (Who got over it enough to give it the British Academy Award for best picture.) Argo's a very nice, entertaining movie -- love the B-movie touch of the plane being chased down the runway, pure fiction but a time-honored trope -- but best picture? Then you look at some previous best pictures, like The King's Speech, which I saw again on cable last year, and that was just a nice Brit movie. Ben Affleck, underrated as an actor because of his looks, becoming better known as an increasingly accomplished director, is certainly very likable and handled his Oscar best director snub perfectly. And I love Jennifer Garner from Alias, a show without which we would not have had J.J. Abrams's Lost, Mission Impossible reboot, Star Trek reboot, and now upcoming Star Wars reboot. Not too shabby in the muse department there. It seems Lincoln (or I should say, Spielberg) overplayed his hand, and the movie is a little too documentary-like though Daniel Day-Lewis is perfect once you accept his historically accurate but contrary to expectations voice as I did the second time through. Zero Dark Thirty, which I expected to love, was a bit clinical and for others, far too anti-PC. I appreciate the desire to get away from a lot of obvious rah-rah, but I think getting bin Laden has a lot more import than the heroine's sense of emptiness at the end. The torture was more in your face than I expected, and is why the picture dropped from front-running status and probably why Jessica Chastain lost out to Jennifer Lawrence for best actress. The problem is I think torture does work, but it's very erratic, not to mention barbarous (which is why it's a time-honored theme in history). Which isn't what either side wants to hear. Having followed the reports and talked to various people, discerning what role torture played or did not play in helping develop the intelligence needed to get bin Laden is a Rashomon-like experience. Though her reps say otherwise, in my opinion director Kathryn Bigelow clearly endorses the efficacy of torture, which means there's no way Hollywood would go along. Of course the Hollywood insiderdom helped Argo, in which Hollywood producers aid the CIA in creating the legend of a scifi flick to cover the rescue of American diplomats who escaped the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran, finding refuge in the Canadian embassy. I particularly enjoyed the Argo references to Warren Beatty, Nicholson's old pal, whose name is brandished at key points in the picture as a sign of legitimacy by "Argo's" cagey producer. But it's so inside that none of the reviews that I saw mentioned that there is no way that the notoriously finicky Beatty -- also then in the midst of making Reds -- would have considered making a picture like 'Zulu Empire,' a key plot point in the movie. It's subtle humor that seems to have gone over a lot of heads. There's not a lot that's especially subtle about Quentin Tarantino's movies. I think he's a genius at manipulating the shards of genre material into art. Hence his masterpiece, the aptly titled Pulp Fiction. I liked Kill Bill quite a lot, too, having spent more than a year trying to convince Beatty to play the title role as Tarantino wanted (the character ended up with several hallmarks of Beatty dialogue) and having given selected friends "I Will Kill Bill" t-shirts. But I have a problem with Tarantino moving into the realm of re-writing history. His version of The Dirty Dozen, which sounded great at first, ended up as the strange alternate history of Inglourious Basterds. And while the idea of Jewish suicide bombers killing Hitler and a whole lot of other people in a French movie theater is real ironic and, you know, post-modern and all, it's also crap. In Django Unchained he explores slavery by exploiting it for violent kicks. The movie's kind of a blaxploitation antebellum western. Which, in its recycled way, provides a new twist on the old ultra-violence. At least it doesn't have Django assassinating Robert E. Lee and turning his family into slaves. I've made a habit of encouraging Austrian actors, so I can't really complain about Christopher Waltz (brilliant in Inglourious Basterds), winning his second best supporting actor Oscar for Django Unchained. Except for him taking the prize from the great Tommy Lee Jones, who really did deserve it for his depiction of a real-life hero, the abolitionist Congressman Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln. When all is said and done, I'm not sure how much we'll remember these movies. I think the real golden age of drama is not in theatrical film, it's on television. Movies are best for spectacle. Of course, I would think that, as I write a great deal here about Mad Men. Which is not so say Argo's not a very good movie, though it's not as sharp about the intelligence game as Skyfall, which should have been nominated for best picture. But that snub is minor for a film quietly closing in on the all-time Top 5 in worldwide box office, especially since it picked up two Oscars in the bargain. More irritating was the lameness of the the alleged tribute to 50 years of Bond, which consisted of a promising introduction by the fab Halle Berry, a string of clips that must have taken a good 10 or 15 minutes to think of, a towering rendition of Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey, and, well, that was it. Weird. Still, the Oscars did celebrate one truly magisterial achievement, that of Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. He's fabulous in showing how Lincoln the practical politician is what made Lincoln the statesman possible. The United States would not have stayed united, much less been reinvented, in ways that are still playing out, had Lincoln not been both those things. You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com. William Bradley Huffington Post Archive

24 февраля 2013, 22:24

Sean Corrigan On The Central Bankers' "Mine's-Bigger-Than-Yours Contest" And Other Musings

From Sean Corrigan of Diapason Securities Money, Macro and Markets For several long months now, the market has been treated to an unadulterated diet of such gross monetary irresponsibility, both concrete and conceptual, from what seems like the four corners of the globe and it has reacted accordingly by putting Other People's Money where the relevant central banker's mouth is. Sadly, it seems we are not only past the point where what was formerly viewed as a slightly risqué "unorthodoxy" has become almost trite in its application, but that like the nerdy kid who happens to have done something cool for once in his life, your average central banker has begun to revel in what he supposes to be his new-found daring – a behaviour in whose prosecution he is largely free from any vestige outside control or accountability. Indeed, this attitude has become so widespread that he and his speck-eyed peers now appear to be engaged in some kind of juvenile, mine's -bigger-than-yours contest to push the boundaries of what both historical record and theoretical understanding tell us to be advisable. After all, it was sixty years ago now that Mises was telling people, in an article decrying the malign influence of Keynes, that: “The economists did not contest the fact that a credit expansion in its initial stage makes business boom. But they pointed out how such a contrived boom must inevitably collapse after a while and produce a general depression. This demonstration could appeal to statesmen intent on promoting the enduring well-being of their nation. It could not influence demagogues who care for nothing but success in the impending election campaign and are not in the least troubled about what will happen the day after tomorrow. But it is precisely such people who have become supreme in the political life of this age of wars and revolutions. In defiance of all the teachings of the economists, inflation and credit expansion have been elevated to the dignity of the first principle of economic policy. Nearly all governments are now committed to reckless spending, and finance their deficits by issuing additional quantities of unredeemable paper money and by boundless credit expansion.” In this vein and though we should by now have become numbed to displays of such insistent folly, we cannot but find it a touch ludicrous that the Fed’s Jeremy Stein could give a speech warning about the utterly undeniable dangers of ‘overheating in credit markets’ – presumably with a straight face – only to be pooh-poohed a week or so later by his boss when similar concerns were raised at that latter's regular meeting with the pampered, corporate welfare insiders at the Treasury Advisor Borrowing Committee. The wise will take cold comfort from this, being all too cognisant of the fact that our esteemed Fed Chairman – much like his once-revered predecessor in office – has clearly demonstrated, both in the record of his public pronouncements and the belatedly-published transcripts of what he said in camera as the late crisis unfolded, that he is dispositionally unable to recognise the signs of a bubble in a beer glass, much less in a bond price or a balance sheet, since such a phenomenon plays no role in either his dogmatic and mechanistic model of the real world while the possibility that he may be personally in error finds no place in his monumental intellectual conceit. Adding to the sense that nothing will dissuade these quacks from bleeding and cupping their poor patient until he expires under their assault, in a speech (delivered before a union audience, no less!) that Madame Defarge of the rentier class, Janet Yellen, also vouchsafed the hint that the Fed’s newly-adopted ‘Evans Rule’ – of continued, massive intervention until such time as unemployment subsides below 6 1/2%, assuming that CPI ‘projections’ (Oh, I d-o-o-o love a hard, independently-verifiable, objective target) likewise remain below 2 ½% - was not to be seen so much a ‘threshold’ for restriction as a gentle reminder that a rethink might soon be in order. Not that the Fed Vice Chair was alone in her infamy. The week’s earlier publication of the Bank of England minutes revealed that there are other central bankers itching to help Wall St. and the City make their bogey for the year. Indeed, it seems that the outgoing Governor had wanted to pre-empt his hubristic successor-elect by easing now and not waiting for said Canadian newcomer to make good his less than modestly declared mission to ‘refound’ the three hundred year-old institution over which he will be suzerain, as part of his personal goal to show the whole of Europe how to ‘get those economies going and fix those financial systems’. Not content with this, up stepped Kings’ fellow dove, David Miles, to set out a ‘model’ (roll of the eye-balls) which, by dint of equating the propensity to ‘inflation’ (i.e., to ongoing price rises) not to the supply of money in the system (thereby denying three centuries of theorising) nor with any  consideration for the demand for said money (so ignoring the whole 140-odd year history of subjective marginal economics), but solely to the  estimated degree of physical and human ‘slack’ in the economy, gave us a QED in favour of more QE. Having set up the metrics of his toy universe, Mr. Miles told us proudly that he then gave it over to the silicon gods to perform 20,000 iterations with it and arrived – Hey Presto! – at the precise conclusion that the Bank needed to be 16% (sic) more accommodative, in other words, to buy another £60 billion gilts, even though, as our Great Engineer himself admitted: “The model does not say that asset purchases are the only way this should be achieved. If there are monetary policy tools that are more reliably effective in boosting demand, they should be used. But it is not clear what these are, which is why I have calibrated the model to reflect my own assessment of the evidence of the impact of asset purchases”! As every right thinking person should know (and hence climateers excepted), the principle problem of mathematical computation is encapsulated in the phrase GIGO – Garbage in, Garbage Out. One of the parameters Miles adopts in his latter-day difference engine is that UK GDP ‘should’ run at a  steady 3% rate of increase. Since this was roughly the experience of the laughingly-dubbed ‘Great Moderation’ which stretched from the economic travails of the early 90s to the eve of the Crash, this superficially seems to be a reasonable assumption. What he has overlooked, however, is that while real GDP currently lies some 20% below where an extrapolation of that trend would otherwise  suggest, the reckoning of total hours worked in the economy has fully recouped its intervening losses, while, for the past five years of slump and sub-par growth, the RPIX measure of price changes has risen by an average 3.9% p.a. which is the worst performance in 17 years (a ‘remit’-busting failure of policy which, if the yields on gilts maturing in 2055 are any guide, is expected to persist for the entirety of the next four decades!) Putting these gross aggregates charily together, we can see that, whereas GDP per hour worked rose, with only minor variations, at a trend of 2.5% per annum for the first 37-years of the floating rate era, in the succeeding five years of the crisis, it has declined by 0.8% a year – a fall of a duration and severity unprecedented in the modern record despite the Bank’s fivefold, £325 billion intervention (equivalent to 25% of average GDP over the period and to more than half the state’s cumulative deficit). So, here’s a question: is it just possible that the long misrule of NeuenArbeiterPartei under the leadership of RobespiBlaire and Culpability Brown (as we always used to refer to them) led to a progressive stultification of the system to the point that the country effectively now lies broken? Sapping entrepreneurial endeavour, burdening the economy with costs and with a mare’s nest of legal and regulatory hindrances, swelling the tax-sucking ranks of patronage amid both the Apparat and the welfare proletariat, this was reign during which people desperately tried to maintain the illusion of a progressive rise in living standards by incurring crushing levels of debt and relying for nourishment on the bitter fruits of property speculation. Couple this with the uncomprehending inability of the successor ConDem(n)s to tackle the problems they inherited – as well as with the political elite’s right-on, Davos-man fetish for needlessly driving up energy prices in the service of that jealous pagan deity, Mother Gaia – and you have a nation about whose prospects it is all too easy to despair. Never mind though, Mr Miles: just run the printing presses a little more – nay! 16% more - prolifically and we have no doubt that all will soon be well again! How far we are from the pellucid wisdom of Ludwig von Mises can be gathered from what he told a lay audience, just as the groundwork was being laid for the Great Inflation which would ravage the 1970s and early 80s, viz.: “The nineteenth century the slogan of those excellent British economists who were titans at criticizing socialistic enthusiasts was: ‘There is but one method of relieving the conditions of the future generations of the masses, and that is to accelerate the formation of capital as against the increase of population.’ Since then, there has taken place a tremendous increase in population, for which the silly term ‘population explosion’ was invented. However, we are not having a ‘capital explosion’, only an ‘explosion’ of wishes and an ‘explosion’ of futile attempts to substitute something else—fiat money or credit money—for money.” Meanwhile, Perfidious Albion is left with the sorry combination of activist central bankers, weak growth, a soaring visible trade gap, a record current account deficit, and a scramble to exit positions from those who had previously seen the country as something of a safe haven. With technical   indicators already flashing red (if also a touch oversold, at present), is there any floor beneath a currency which its own supposed guardians would dearly love to depreciate further? Such problems are not confined to the oceanic side of the Channel, of course, as has been highlighted in the deliciously barbed correspondence between the CEO of US tyre company Titan, Morry Taylor, and French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg over that country’s industrial outlook and business climate. Without getting too deeply into the spat, it should be noted that Eurostat data suggest that the French government typically spends (not including "investment") two-thirds more on its almost 63 million citoyens than does the Italian on its 61 million, yet it is the latter who bear the brunt of the criticism. (In the interests of fair disclosure, the same source shows that we virtuous 62 million Brits enjoy the dubious benefits of 45% more state largesse than do our Italian cousins, if 15% less than our French neighbours and even the ostensibly hard-core Dutch splurge as much on their 17 million as do the afflicted Spanish on their 47 million). In Spain itself, we have had another failed property lender and the rather cheerless message from embattled Premier Rajoy that ‘there are no greenshoots, there is no spring’. On the Western littoral of the peninsula, Portugal has also had to downgrade its forecasts to encompass a deeper shrinkage than was first pencilled in - as a result, by some unforeseeable mischance, of the deeper than anticipated slump which has ravaged the rest of the continent, to which it dispatches 70% of its exports and from which it receives the bulk of its tourists. In Italy, the chorus of disquiet at the prospect that Il Cavaliere might just attract more votes than anyone else in the weekend elections is swelling to a Verdi-like crescendo (remember that democratic choice is all well and good as long as you vote for the candidate preferred by the global hegemons). More broadly, the signs are not good here either. Retail sales last year were at their lowest level in a decade, while industrial orders fell to their fewest (and at their fastest pace) since the slump, taking them down almost a quarter from their 2007 peak and landing them back where they stood at the  very launch of the single currency. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the project! Thankfully, Germany is potentially providing an offset. We use the qualifier because even if the IfO survey is beginning to show its typical lagged  response to a surge in local liquidity, this has yet to translate into business revenues and hence, one has to fear, into earnings. Nonetheless, let’s take cheer where we can: Eurozone biflation is bringing a much-needed cheer to the bosses of the Mittelstand. Abroad in Asia more attention is suddenly being paid to the fact that Shinzo Abe – after being mugged in the corridors of the recent G20 summit (and possibly warned there that he might need to cultivate some wider good will if he wishes to enlist third-party support in his ongoing dispute with China) - is having to back-pedal a touch in Japan as rumours circulate that he might not even get to appoint the most unredeemed, the wildest-eyed inflationist to the top spot at the BoJ next month. J is for Japan, but J is also for J-curve – that unfortunate constellation whereby the effects of a lowered currency exert more of an upward influence on the import bill than on contemporaneous export revenues. Hence why the country suffered a record trade deficit last month. The fact that LNG prices in the Pacific basin surged to more than $19/mmbtu this month, even as the yen was shedding 10% of its value vis-à-vis the dollar is but one adverse side-effect of Abe’s quackery. In the near-term, it may be that the accounts of a number of Japanese corporates are unduly flattered by the translation effect, but we doubt they themselves will be fooled by such transitory gains into a radical alteration of their business plans. What should be made clear here is that in volume terms Japanese exports are 10% lower than they were at the post-Fukushima rebound, one sixth lower than the last, pre-Crash spike, and no greater than they were in early 2006 (on a priceadjusted basis, the trajectory of imports is not wholly dissimilar). Nor has the return from the Lunar New Year break seen China add any further fuel to the flames, either. To the contrary, yet another ‘decisive’ edict has been issued in the (so far vain) attempt to crack down on the nation’s re-inflating property bubble. Adding to a growing presentiment that the central bank may act to head off what looks like an outpouring of new credit from the banks these past 8 weeks, it has this week withdrawn a record CNY910 billion from the market. The smart money now has it that current PBOC chief Zhou Xiaochuan will be promoted to a level of party seniority sufficient to obviate the need to retire now that he has celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday, implying that there will be no radical loosening of policy on that account, either. He might need to act soon: the new vogue measure of ‘total social financing’ recorded a 160% yoy jump in January while the pace of boring old bank lending so far this year has been similarly robust and could come in as much as 40%-50% above the combined Jan-Feb total for 2011. At this rate, there will be no notable diminution to the already incredible CNY110 trillion in reported urban fixed-asset investment undertaken these past four years - an amount equal to 145% of the US private economy and a number which has risen more than tenfold in a decade and which accounts for three-fifths of ‘national-scale’ industrial profits. Whether this will be complicated by the problematical local government debt pile remains to be seen, but one sign that this is becoming a hot button  issue is that the China Banking Regulatory Commission has just issued a directive insisting that any new loans extended to LGFVs must be covered by existing cash flows and that the projects for which the funds are intended must generate returns, while what it termed "irregular" lending to these vehicles was henceforth prohibited. That will be fun, given that the recently published provincial budget outlooks suggests the fact that more thanhalf of their loans are due to mature this year. In response to worries that the regime might act to rein in such developments, the Shanghai Comp underwent its biggest single-day plunge in 15 months, steel futures slipped to complete a 6% drop on the week, copper gapped lower to its weakest close of 2013, and rubber suffered further,making a 10% peak-trough decline from its pe-holiday highs. The FTSE A600 Bank index has, meanwhile, dropped 14%. With Komatsu telling us sales of diggers halved in the last ninemonths of 2012 and rivals Caterpillar reporting its worst 3-month regional sales performance (-12% YOY) outside of either the GFC or the Asian Contagion of 1997-8, and with Foxconn announcing a hiring freeze, what little anecdotal evidence we can muster in this period of news blackout is not overwhelmingly positive. On a broader front, ahead of the all-important National People’s Congress next month, the local press is positively buzzing with assorted calls for ongoing reform – even to the point of positing the formation of a new super-bureaucracy to supersede the NDRC in this task. President Xi and his allies have presumably had something to do with this campaign and the man himself has naturally been very active in trying to secure his power base in the run up to his full inauguration, but much will remain up in the air until the proceedings have been completed and we get a first look at his first full exercise of power. Never mind, ever alert to the people’s needs, the planners have just announced that they are taking forceful steps to counter the awful quality of the air in China’s choking megalopolises – they have issued a fatwah banning urban barbeques!

23 февраля 2013, 21:13

Glen Browder: America's Future: What If 'Obama Nation' Turns Into 'Obamanation'?

In the previous post, I speculated about the coming of "Obama Nation" -- if President Barack Obama's transformational, liberal dream comes true during his years in the White House. Now, I want to look at the alternative. What if the next few years reflect the expectations and predictions -- "Obamanation" -- of his conservative critics? There's no shortage of naysayers; and not all of them are hard-line ideologues. Certainly conservative politicos and analysts still cringe at Obama's liberalism; a surprising number of critics caution that he's promising more than he, his party, and even government can deliver; and others worry that he is making a tough road tougher -- both domestically and internationally -- for an already bedraggled America. Now, let's get into public expressions of concern about Barack Obama and the future of American democracy. Lingering Opposition to Obama's Vision. Let's begin with the dour views of partisan warriors prior to Obama's reelection. Jerome Corsi, a Harvard educated author and persistent critic, predicted during Obama's 2008 campaign that he will leave America weak and divided because of his allegiance to failed liberal policies of the past half-century (The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality): Obama's radical leftist politics, driven by the cult of personality that he has manufactured, would be an abomination, in that the result of those policies would be to lead the United States in a costly and self-destructive direction. Similar warnings were expressed by a Newt Gingrich Super PAC during the 2012 campaign: Take a glimpse into the darkness of Obama's America in 2016. High unemployment. Record high gas prices. The Middle East in chaos. Religion on the run. Record debt levels. America downsized. America downgraded. It's Obama's plan. No American can afford to sit this election out. Dinesh D'Souza, one of the most prominent and harshest critics, couched his analysis within a dismal historical framework (Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream): A future historian, contemplating the American era, might express surprise that a nation so young and robust, a nation whose power and prosperity was without rival in the history of the world, lost its preeminence so quickly ... Ultimately, history may show, this fall was achieved purposively, single-handedly. It was all achieved by one man, a man who in two presidential terms undid a dream that took more than two centuries to realize ... Obama is not merely the presiding instrument of American decline, he is the architect of American decline. Warnings From Abroad. Particularly surprising and biting were negative previews from outside critics. Nile Gardiner, a conservative British commentator and former Margaret Thatcher aide, argues that Obama's aim is to transform the United States into a European-style social democracy. Instead of hope, he says, Obama offers "only the heavy fist of government intervention, rising taxes, increasing poverty and welfare dependency, and an increasingly bitter, angry and insular White House. Canadian Conrad Black, a controversial publisher and author, likewise pulled no punches in his critique of a second-term Obama administration: For the first time a combination of non-white minorities and whites who are invested personally, either emotionally or more often for tangible reasons, in the redistributive side of the political civil war between advocates of growth and of direct transfers of resources from those who have earned them (or inherited from those who did) to those who haven't (regardless of mitigating circumstances), has eked out a clear victory. If American politics continues along these lines, the social strains, piled onto the funeral pyre of the national accounts, will put the fate of what has long been the world's greatest nation in acute doubt. A Nation Divided by Hopes and Fears. The anti-Obama sentiments and analyses presented here and the pro-Obama declarations in my previous discussion demonstrate very clearly that America is divided in its hopes and fears regarding our re-elected president and his political agenda. Obviously, Barack Obama's practical politicking has critical ramifications for the future of our Great Experiment. "Obama Nation" (or "Obamanation") will impact the functioning elements of American democracy, i.e., the people, politics, and government. But, even more importantly, the president's combined partisan politics/transformational ambitions likely will alter the broader systemic environment and operations whereby these functional elements historically have conducted American democracy. So his legacy second term could determine the nature, and quite possibly the survival of our national experiment in democratic ideals. In my next post, I will try to summarize Barack Obama's mixed legacy so far. (For previous posts in this series, click here.) Author's Note: This post is part of a series of discussions about "Election 2012, Barack Obama, and the future of American democracy." This series includes edited, updated material from my book, The Future of American Democracy: A Former Congressman's Unconventional Analysis (2002). I'm grateful to University Press of America for allowing me to borrow from that publication for my discussions on Huffington Post.

21 февраля 2013, 20:42

Frances Beinecke: The Expansion of the Dirtiest Fuel on the Planet Hinges on the Keystone XL Pipeline

More than 35,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. on Sunday to urge President Obama to confront climate change. Farmers, religious leaders, scientists, union workers, students, and more came together because we can't afford to wait any longer. Climate change is already threatening our communities with extreme weather and costly damages. The time to act is now. Fortunately President Obama has the power to stop a major source of global warming pollution from spreading: tar sands oil. The production of tar sands oil generates three times as many greenhouse gases as the production of conventional crude. And yet big oil corporations want to expand tar sands production and generate more pollution. The president can shield us from this pollution by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline. Big oil companies would like us to believe tar sands expansion in a foregone conclusion, but economic and political realities reveal the future of the industry hinges on that pipeline. They need to haul their land-locked product through America's breadbasket to the Gulf of Mexico for export in order to compete with cheaper fuels. Climate march to the White House, February 17, 2013. Photo Credit: Melanie Blanding Numerous financial analysts and oil executives agree that the current opposition to Keystone XL is already slowing expansion. In a report released in January 2013, Standard & Poor's forecast that delays in approving new pipelines are putting future tar sands production growth at risk. TD Economics, part of a major Canadian bank, came to a similar conclusion about the tar sands industry, calling pipeline capacity constraints "a serious challenge to its long-term growth." "Unless we get increased [market] access, like with Keystone XL, we're going to be stuck," explained Ralph Glass, an economist and vice president at AJM Petroleum Consultants. "We're going to hit a wall at some point in time and our... production is going to be the one backed out of the system." Tar sands companies can't simply choose another route if Keystone XL gets blocked; no other viable alternatives exist right now. CIBC, a major Canadian financial services firm, recently concluded the pipelines proposals for hauling tar sands oil to Canada's West Coast have a less than 50 percent chance of being built. The Northern Gateway pipeline to the British Columbia Coast, for instance, is highly unpopular in that province, where 60 percent of residents oppose the project and aboriginal communities have refused to grant necessary easements. "I personally don't think Northern Gateway will go through anytime soon or if it ever will," said Roger McKnight, a senior petroleum adviser at En-Pro International Inc. "There's just too much politics in the soup and there are too many environmental concerns in the soup and there's aboriginal rights in the soup and that makes for a pretty unsavory soup." Meanwhile, efforts to ship tar sands to Eastern Canada or the Northeast United States are equally uncertain. Several layers of approvals stand in the way of access to coastal ports. In light of pipeline problems -- and the changing economics of the North American oil supply -- many oil companies are starting to shift investments out of tar sands. Suncor, the oldest operator in the region, has signaled three of its most important new projects are unlikely to proceed. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd cut capital spending by $680 million from its Horizon tar sands project last year. "There has been a loss of faith in the economics that are being presented by the producers here," Vice-President of Investor Relations at MEG Energy Corp John Rogers told the Globe and Mail. Keystone XL is the chokepoint for the tar sands industry, and it's time we closed it off for good. We don't need this dangerous pipeline and its dirty oil to power our economy; we have safer, cleaner solutions. President Obama raised fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, for instance. These standards alone will save drivers more than $80 billion a year at the pump while cutting our oil use by one-third and carbon pollution from new cars in half. I applaud President Obama's commitment to fighting climate change. Approving Keystone XL would contradict that commitment. At the rally on Sunday, thousands of concerned citizens called on President Obama to lead our nation forward, not backward into darker, more polluted days. He can do that by promoting clean energy and reducing carbon pollution from power plants. But he must also reject the Keystone XL pipeline so that tar sands oil can be left where it belongs: in the ground.

16 февраля 2013, 01:23

CEO Calls Analyst 'F***ing Asshole'

(Please note this story contains language that may offend some readers) CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Encana Corp, Canada's largest natural gas producer, apologized on Thursday because one of its executives cursed after an analyst asked about whether new Canadian investment rules would prohibit its takeover by foreign state-owned entities. When asked the question by Canaccord Genuity analyst Phil Skolnick, interim CEO Clayton Woitas said: "The answer would be no." Then, in a whispered comment that was clearly audible on a replay of the call, someone can be heard saying, "fucking asshole." "Something like that should never have been said and we're sorry about it," Jay Averill, a spokesman for the company, said. Averill said about 20 Encana executives had been gathered in a room with microphones to discuss the company's fourth-quarter profit report with analysts and the media. The spokesman said he was unable to say which one of them uttered the expletive or whether it was directed at Skolnick. Skolnick, a Canaccord Genuity managing director and head of Canadian energy equity research for the investment bank, could not be immediately reached for comment. Woitas took over as interim chief executive just over a month ago after then-CEO Randy Eresman suddenly retired. Eresman, who led the Calgary, Alberta-based company for seven years, faced criticism from investors because of poor share price performance and a U.S. Department of Justice probe into whether the company illegally colluded with Chesapeake Energy Corp to lower the price of Michigan exploration lands. Encana's shares dropped 6.6 percent on Thursday as investors were disappointed by the company's oil production forecast. They closed on the Toronto Stock Exchange at C$18.20, a 10-month low. Skolnick has a "hold" rating on the stock with a target price of $21.50 a share. The new foreign investment rules specifically cover Canadian oil sands producers rather than all energy producers. It is not the first time that open microphones have proved problematic for corporate executives. In 2007, the CEO of U.S. student lender SLM Corp, Albert Lord, was caught saying at the end of a testy conference call: "There's no questions - let's get the fuck out of here." Lord subsequently apologized, saying he recognized his "comments were offensive." And in taped comments in 2001, then-Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling mockingly thanked an analyst for a question on a conference call, ending with the clearly audible word: "Asshole." The abusive comment was subsequently seen by short sellers as a sign of how much pressure Skilling was under at the time as Enron's accounts, which were later discovered to be fraudulent, began to unravel. "If I could go back and redo things, I would not have used the term that I used," Skilling, who is currently serving a prison sentence for his role in the Enron scandal, later told a Congressional hearing. (Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Martin Howell and Leslie Gevirtz)

11 февраля 2013, 19:03

Larry Summers: 'We Are Now In The Worst Of All Worlds'

By Lawrence Summers Feb 10 (Reuters) - After the U.S. economy grew at a rate of 1.5 percent over the four quarters of 2012, the Congressional Budget Office projected last week that it will under current law grow at only 1.4 percent during the calendar 2013 and that unemployment will rise during the year. Its estimates imply that the gap between what the U.S. economy is producing and its potential, which is currently in excess of $750 billion or $10,000 per family, will actually increase by more than $100 billion during the next year. While the CBO looks for growth to accelerate in 2014 and beyond, its projections do not call for a return to normal economic performance until 2017. While there is much that economists and policymakers of different persuasions disagree on, there should be consensus that growth performance at these projected levels is our most serious national problem. It makes growth in middle class incomes impossible, puts pressure on budgets by holding back the economy and tax collections, and threatens future economic performance by pressuring forward looking expenditures on everything from corporate R&D to training young workers. Perhaps most importantly, it weakens the power of the American example at a very dangerous time in several parts of the world. With financial strains receding and the economy catching some tailwinds from low interest rates and stock markets, huge opportunites for investment associated with producing low cost domestic oil and natural gas, a housing sector that is now turning around, and re-shoring in manufacturing, this may be the best moment of opportunity the American economy has had in nearly a decade. Confidence is the cheapest form of stimulus and there is now the possibility of the economy achieving escape velocity with a virtuous circle of confidence, growth and deficit reduction propelling the economy forward as it did in the 1990s. But as important as they are, it will take an economic policy focus that extends well beyond deficit control issues. Reducing prospective deficits is necessary to avoid risking financial accident, but unlike in the 1990s when reduced deficits stimulated investment by bringing down capital costs, deficit reduction cannot be relied on to provide stimulus when long term Treasury yields are below 2.0 percent. Here are four areas where the deep ideological cleavages between the parties need not be an obstacle to meaningful policy action. First, as the President has recognized the budget cuts implicit in the upcoming "sequester" now scheduled to be implemented at the beginning of March should not be reduced but should be spread out over time. With the economy already taking a significant hit from the elimination of the payroll tax cut, it is misguided fiscal policy and potentially dangerous national security policy to allow meat cleaver cuts that were designed to be disastrous to go suddenly into effect. Second, a firm end-of-2013 deadline needs to be set for the corporate tax reform debate in its international aspects. We are now in the worst of all worlds. U.S. corporations, disproportionately those in technology, have a sum approaching $2 trillion in cash sitting abroad in large part because it is currently highly burdensome to bring it back, and they believe there is a prospect that they will get relief on repatriated profits in the not too distant future. Given corporations' eagerness to bring the money back to the United States either to reinvest it or to distribute it to restive shareholders, I suspect it should be possible to find a formula where they get some relief on repatriation but unlike with past repatriation holidays, the government does not suffer a long-run revenue loss. This would be ideal. But even if it cannot be achieved, clarity that no break is coming in the future would act to encourage reinfusion of funds held abroad back into the American economy. Third, no one regardless of their ideology should be satisfied with the way the nation's system of housing finance is currently working. After a period when mortgages were too available and too cheap, the pendulum has swung too far and lack of finance is inhibiting the housing recovery. Substantial efforts by the Federal Reserve to bring down the interest rates on existing mortgage-backed securities have had only a limited impact on the rates charged to those taking out new mortgages or refinancing old ones. In part because of limitations on mortgage credit, many middle income families are renting homes with far higher monthly payments than they would have as homeowners, with the extra yield and future appreciation going to the large investors who will enjoy not just high yields but capital gains as the housing sector recovers. The GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have as their historic function providing countercyclical support to the mortgage market. It is high time they be forced to step up. Fourth, priority needs to be attached to accelerating the development of North American energy resources for both economic and environmental benefit. Decision making on the Keystone Pipeline needs to recognize that oil from Canadian tar sands that does not flow to the United States will likely over time flow to Asia where it will be burned with fewer environmental protections. Plans to exploit natural gas resources need to be made with the awareness that over the next decade replacing coal with natural gas has much more scope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than more fashionable efforts to promote renewables. And both the production and the use of natural gas which looks to be relatively inexpensive for years to come can be a substantial job creator. More items could be added to this list. Unlike cutting a budget where there have to be losers, polices to spur growth can benefit all stakeholders. If the conversation about economic policy can give at least as much weight to growth and job creation as it has to fiscal issues there is the prospect that we can improve the tone of our policy debates, and over time reap the defict reduction benefits of a stronger economy.

06 февраля 2013, 22:30

Case Study: In Search of a Second Act

Stephanie Alexis couldn't get out of her car. If she sat there much longer, she'd be late for a meeting with her board member and friend Rob Cooley, but she still had no idea what she was going to say to him — hence the paralysis. Rob had asked Steph to his office in downtown Vancouver to discuss the future of Alexis Products, the company she'd launched three years ago with one great product: the Brrrd, the first interactive language-learning tool to incorporate artificial intelligence. It looked like a stuffed animal — a cartoonish plush bird with a beetling brow and goofy eyes — but it contained a microphone, tiny speaker, headphone jack, computer chip, and enough speech-recognition and voice-generation technology to engage in sassy banter in Mandarin. (Editor's Note: This fictionalized case study will appear in a forthcoming issue of Harvard Business Review, along with commentary from experts and readers. If you'd like your comment to be considered for publication, please be sure to include your full name, company or university affiliation, and email address.) The Brrrd couldn't teach you a lot of grammar or vocabulary, or help you to recognize or write Chinese characters, but it was a fun, effective way to learn the basics of the language — key words and phrases having to do with food, transportation, clothing, movies, music, money, personal hygiene, and, of course, business. For a while it had been wildly popular, especially with students and young professionals trying to learn a little conversational Mandarin before their first trips to Shanghai or Guangzhou. But the Brrrd's heyday had come and gone. The media attention generated by its novelty had died down and, in spite of incremental technological improvements, sales were slipping. For Alexis Products to survive, Steph needed to either come up with another hit — quickly — or formulate a cohesive strategy to take on the language-learning market as a serious competitor. Rob had summoned her because the company stood at a crossroads. He was one of her most important investors and a leader on the board; if she could earn his support for a new strategy, the other members would follow. So what should the company do for its second act? Her loyal employees and her investors were counting on her to make the right decision. Fun or Functional? The Brrrd was hatched during a laughter-filled car ride. Steph and Tina, one of her grad-school classmates at MIT's Media Lab, were driving to Chicago for a conference and heard an ad on the radio for the language-learning company SimpleLanguage. "I keep meaning to order that for Mandarin," Tina said. "I'll be in Shanghai next semester. I've tried books and CDs, but nothing is sticking. I just can't seem to retain it." "Oh, stop complaining and try harder!" Steph blurted out — in Mandarin. "Don't rub it in! Not everyone grows up in a bilingual family," Tina moaned. "Actually — talk to me in Mandarin. Help me learn — in a way that's fun, not boring." Steph was no teacher. She was an engineer and programmer. But she'd learned Mandarin just by listening to her Taiwan-born mother. Maybe Steph could teach Tina the same way. So Steph launched into Mandarin, chatting about passing cars and the faces of kids on a bus and Tina's new purple eyeglasses — pretty much anything that came into her head. When Tina hesitatingly repeated the vocabulary, Steph mimicked her atrocious intonation, and they laughed and joked until Tina got it right. "I wish you could make me a little 'Steph Robot' to carry around," Tina said near the end of the ride. For the next few days Steph couldn't get the comment out of her head. Back at the Media Lab, she started working on the Brrrd, and within a year she had found a manufacturer in China and turned her prototype into a commercial product priced at $79.99 and sold through high-end retailers such as The Sharper Image and Hammacher Schlemmer. It immediately became a media darling, and sales hit $3 million in the first year. Reporters, retailers, and customers seemed to embrace it because it was a category smasher — both a toy and an educational product. Its speech-recognition software and AI "brain" could figure out what language areas were giving a user trouble — so it was a highly functional tool — while its deep reservoir of conversational phrases, including jokes and retorts as well as praise and encouragement, made it a welcome companion. Steph had gotten used to explaining the Brrrd's dual nature to anyone who asked. But lately her marketing chief, Gregoire Ferron, had been raising difficult questions about what that duality meant for Alexis Products. "Are we a toy company or a language company?" he had asked testily at a team meeting just that morning. "We can't be both." Steph was worried about Gregoire — worried that he might leave the company now that sales and morale were sagging. She knew he felt outnumbered by the gadget people on the staff. She was trying to formulate an answer that would be respectful of his viewpoint when Mia Yoon, Steph's top sales executive, piped up. "We all know what our unique selling point is," she said. "Fun." Steph sensed Gregoire's exasperation and jumped in. "What's cool about the Brrrd is that it's both. It plays with you in an educational way. It teases you into learning." "But as a language-learning tool, it has significant shortcomings, which is why sales are down," Gregoire said. "I think we should turn the Brrrd into a gateway to a suite of language offerings that can really compete with SimpleLanguage from a pedagogical standpoint." SimpleLanguage, whose computer-based courses had disrupted the language-learning establishment more than a decade ago, was Gregoire's former employer. "Pedagogical?" Mia asked scornfully. "Who cares about that? People buy the Brrrd because it's a blast to talk to, and maybe they learn a little Chinese. Once we start using education buzzwords like 'pedagogical,' we lose our customers." "Well, even if we decide to pursue the 'fun gadget' path, we need a strategic focus," Gregoire responded, his voice rising. "And call me biased, but languages are the obvious answer. The Brrrd has launched us into a market that's lucrative and fast-growing. I'm not saying our new product shouldn't be fun. Just that it needs to provide more in the way of tangible benefits. If we could find a way to be fun and stay on the cutting-edge of AI while also adopting best practices for teaching languages, we could dominate." He paused to let his words sink in. "But when the fun outweighs the functional, you're just a toy company trying to churn out — or worse, chase — the latest fad." "But Steph has so many great ideas," Mia said. "Why would we want to confine ourselves to just one category? What about using our AI and speech capabilities to motivate people to exercise? Or to help elderly folks keep their minds nimble? Or to teach people how to cook?" Mia was biased, too — toward diversification. She had bounced around from retail to media to tech throughout her career, but she had great instincts and Steph valued her outlook. On her first day of work at Alexis Products, she had walked into Steph's office and said, "I'm here now, which means you can stop thinking about sales and start inventing again. Come up with something cutting edge that will make me laugh — whether it has anything to do with languages or not." It was just like Tina's challenge years before, and Steph had been inspired. Now, every morning, she made it a point to spend at least an hour doodling, opening her mind to all sorts of ideas. And yet she still hadn't come up with a killer new product. Once, during one of those periods of creative thinking, she had picked up the Brrrd and asked: "Are you just a toy?" and it had shot back the Mandarin equivalent of, "I won't dignify that with an answer," which had made her laugh. But she had to take the company's future seriously. Should it aspire to become the next Wham-O, maker of an incredible series of iconic toys, from the Frisbee and the Hula Hoop to the Slip 'N Slide and the Super Ball? Or should it model itself after iRobot, which launched with the fun Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner and then carved out a niche with new products aimed at solving other household cleaning problems? Going the Wham-O route would mean coming up with great new product ideas all the time, and then finding new customers for each one in the fiercely competitive $855 million electronic-toy industry. The concepts she had sketched during her doodle time were pretty interesting — there was the Snowman, a talking gadget that would stand in the refrigerator and tell you what you were running low on, and the FoeFriend, which would play word games with you — but she suspected they lacked a wow factor. She'd have to rely heavily on Mia to sell them. She wondered whether Mia could be an effective brainstorming partner and whether Mia might use her sales expertise to exert even more influence over the company's strategy. Going the iRobot route would mean acknowledging that Alexis Products was focused on just one market and didn't expect to produce another blockbuster idea. But maybe that was OK. There was certainly a lot of money to be made in the $956 million language-instruction business, and she could see how, with Gregoire's help, the company might capitalize on the Brrrd brand and provide an advanced-level product for customers who wanted more than the basics of Mandarin. There were other possibilities too. Since kids were a natural audience for language learning and the company had already established a reputation for injecting fun into education, she could focus on the elementary-school market. She could also develop an image-recognition capability for the Brrrd to help people learn to write Chinese characters. She could have fun with that. Still, thinking about becoming an "educational content publisher" made her feel tired and overwhelmed. To succeed, Alexis Products would have to grab share from the likes of SimpleLanguage, a tough and experienced competitor. The company would have to hire a cadre of language experts, who would no doubt find fault with the Brrrd's "teaching methods." Plus, Apple's problems with Siri had exposed real limits to the power of artificial intelligence and computerized speech. It would be business suicide to promise more than the company could deliver. Maybe she was just a toy queen at heart. "Steph?" Mia prompted. "You both make good arguments," she replied. "I'm torn myself. Let me think a bit more about it." Other People's Money Steph overcame her paralysis, grabbed her briefcase out of the back of the car, and walked into Rob's building. She had mixed feelings about their working relationship. Initially she hadn't needed investors. She'd inherited a trust from her grandfather, the founder of a Canadian timber company, and had used those funds for product development. Her uncle offered her space in a building he owned in Vancouver, where Steph had grown up, and she had accepted. When product-development companies in the U.S. and Canada had besieged her with tempting licensing and commercialization offers for the Brrrd, she had used her independent means to retain full control. But when sales declined to $2.2 million in her second year of business, the reduced cash flow began to pose a problem. Steph's uncle persuaded her to seek outside funding and introduced her to Rob, a retired computer magnate. They'd immediately hit it off. He and several of his angel-investor friends had put money into the company and become directors. At first, they'd assured her that they loved the Brrrd and had full confidence in her ability to lead the company. But by the third year, when sales had sunk to $1.5 million and a hoped-for distribution relationship with Best Buy fell through, the board meetings started to become more contentious. Beefing up sales and marketing by hiring Mia and Gregoire had allayed the directors' concerns for a while. But they were clearly growing impatient. In his affable and tactful way, Rob had spelled it out when he called to set up the meeting. Steph needed to remember that she was playing with other people's money — a lot of it. "The investors want to know whether to keep their money in or not," he'd said. "It's as simple as that. Why don't you come over here tomorrow and help me understand your vision. Where is Alexis Products heading?" Now, standing in the elevator of his building, she had to decide. Question: Should Steph create another gadget or focus on language learning?Please remember to include your full name, company or university affiliation, and email address.

04 февраля 2013, 20:43

Rise Of The Preppers: 50 Of The Best Prepper Websites And Blogs On The Internet

Michael Snyder, ContributorActivist Post Are you preparing for the collapse of society?  If so, the truth is that you are definitely not alone.  The number of preppers in the U.S. has absolutely exploded in recent years.  It has been estimated that there are now approximately 3 million preppers in the United States, and Doomsday Preppers is currently the highest rated show on the National Geographic channel.  In fact, you could be living next to a prepper and never even know it. All over America, families are transforming spare rooms into long-term food storage pantries, planting survival gardens, unplugging from the grid, converting their homes over to alternative sources of energy, taking self-defense courses and stocking up on just about everything that you can imagine. The re-election of Barack Obama and other recent events seem to have given the prepper movement even more momentum.  For example, in January the U.S. Mint broke all kinds of records and sold nearly half a billion dollars worth of gold and silver coins to the public.  Not only that, Americans bought enough guns during the last two months of 2012 alone to supply the entire armies of China and India.  When it comes to prepping, nobody can match the passion that Americans put into it. So what are all of these people prepping for?Well, the truth is that no two preppers have the exact same motivation.  There is a general consensus among preppers that our world is becoming increasingly unstable, but when you sit down and talk with them you find out that there are a whole host of different civilization-killing events that various preppers are concerned about.  Some are preparing for the collapse of the economy.  Others are extremely concerned about the potential for crippling natural disasters and catastrophic earth changes. To other preppers, the rise of the "Big Brother" surveillance grid that is being constructed all around us is the greatest danger, and many of them warn of the tyrannical agenda of the New World Order. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; Terrorism, killer pandemics, EMP attacks, World War III, martial law, solar megastorms, asteroid strikes and societal chaos are some of the other things that many preppers are worried about.  There are even some preppers that are not worried about any "threats" at all - they just want to get "back to the land" and want to become less dependent on the system. Whatever the motivation, it is undeniable that the prepper movement has gotten very large and that it continues to grow. In fact, there was a recent article in the New York Times about preppers that was actually written by a prepper entitled "The Preppers Next Door"...To the unprepared, the very word 'prepper' is likely to summon images of armed zealots hunkered down in bunkers awaiting the End of Days, but the reality, at least here in New York, is less dramatic. Local Preppers are doctors, doormen, charter school executives, subway conductors, advertising writers and happily married couples from the Bronx. They are no doubt people that you know — your acquaintances and neighbors. People, I’ll admit, like myself.I was absolutely amazed that one of the key mouthpieces of the establishment, the New York Times, would publish an article that was mostly positive about preppers, because the truth is that prepping is essentially a huge expression of a lack of faith in the establishment.   Even the article admitted as much...PREPPING IS THE BIG SHORT: a bet not just against a city, or a country or a government, but against the whole idea of sustainable civilization. For that reason, it chafes against one of polite society’s last remaining taboos — that the way we live is not simply plagued by certain problems, but is itself insolubly problematic.And that is exactly right.  There are millions of us that are entirely convinced that the world around us is becoming increasingly unstable and that "the system" will not be there to take care of us when everything falls to pieces. With each passing day, even more Americans lose faith in the system and begin prepping.  If you are one of those new preppers, there are actually dozens of great websites out there on the Internet where you can get an education about prepping for free.  The list of websites and blogs that I have compiled below contains more articles and resources than you could ever possibly need.  Hopefully many of you will find this list to be extremely helpful. The following are 50 of the best prepper websites and blogs on the Internet...1. Survival Blog2. American Preppers Network3. The Survival Mom4. SHTFPlan.com5. Survival 4 Christians6. Urban Survival7. Backdoor Survival8. Off Grid Survival9. Modern Survival Online10. The Survivalist Blog11. The Suburban Prepper12. The Great Northern Prepper13. Prepper Website14. The Survival Podcast15. Doom And Bloom16. Provident Living Today17. Prepper.org18. Prepared Christian19. SHTFblog.com20. Survival Cache21. Modern Survival Blog22. Rural Revolution23. Preparedness Advice Blog24. Prep-Blog.com25. Survival And Prosperity26. TEOTWAWKI Blog27. The Neighbor Network28. The Apartment Prepper29. Armageddon Online30. The Berkey Guy Blog31. The Home For Survival32. My Family Survival Plan33. Prepography33. Prepper Dashboard34. Bacon And Eggs35. SHTF School36. Canadian Preppers Network37. Maximum Survival38. Survivor Jane39. Prepping To Survive40. SaltnPrepper41. SGTReport42. SHTF Wiki43. Jewish Preppers44. Survival Magazine45. Survival Week46. Prepper Forums47. Survivalist Boards48. Tactical Intelligence49. The Prepared Ninja50. Common Sense Homesteading The sad truth is that our world is becoming increasingly unstable in a whole bunch of different ways and we all need to learn how to prepare for the difficult years ahead. Unfortunately, most Americans simply are not prepared for much of anything. For example, a large percentage of Americans do not even have enough savings to get them through a single financial emergency.  According to one recent report, approximately 44 percent of all households in the United States are just one unexpected event away from financial disaster. Most American families do not have much food stored up either.  One recent survey discovered that 55 percent of all Americans have less than three days supply of food in their homes. Could that possibly be accurate?  Do people really keep that little food in their homes?Another survey asked Americans how long they think they could survive if the entire electrical grid went down and there was no more power for an extended period of time.  Incredibly, 21 percent of those who responded said that they would survive for less than a week, and an additional 28 percent of those who responded said that they would survive for less than two weeks.  Close to 75 percent of those who responded said that they would be dead before the two month mark. So who are the crazy ones? Are the people trying to become more independent and self-sufficient crazy, or are the people who have complete and total faith that the system will take care of them no matter what happens actually the crazy ones? I don't know about you, but I would prefer for myself and my family to at least have a chance to survive if society melts down for some reason. What about you? Are you a prepper? Do you know some preppers? Do you believe that people should be prepping? Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below...This article first appeared here at The Truth.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here. var linkwithin_site_id = 557381; linkwithin_text='Related Articles:' Enter Your Email To Receive Our Daily Newsletter Close var fnames = new Array();var ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';fnames[1]='FNAME';ftypes[1]='text';fnames[2]='LNAME';ftypes[2]='text';var err_style = ''; try{ err_style = mc_custom_error_style; } catch(e){ err_style = 'margin: 1em 0 0 0; padding: 1em 0.5em 0.5em 0.5em; background: FFEEEE none repeat scroll 0% 0%; font- weight: bold; float: left; z-index: 1; width: 80%; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz- initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial; color: FF0000;'; } var mce_jQuery = jQuery.noConflict(); mce_jQuery(document).ready( function($) { var options = { errorClass: 'mce_inline_error', errorElement: 'div', errorStyle: err_style, onkeyup: function(){}, onfocusout:function(){}, onblur:function(){} }; var mce_validator = mce_jQuery("#mc-embedded-subscribe-form").validate(options); options = { url: 'http://activistpost.us1.list-manage.com/subscribe/post-json? u=3ac8bebe085f73ea3503bbda3&id=b0c7fb76bd&c=?', type: 'GET', dataType: 'json', contentType: "application/json; charset=utf-8", beforeSubmit: function(){ mce_jQuery('#mce_tmp_error_msg').remove(); mce_jQuery('.datefield','#mc_embed_signup').each( function(){ var txt = 'filled'; var fields = new Array(); var i = 0; mce_jQuery(':text', this).each( function(){ fields[i] = this; i++; }); mce_jQuery(':hidden', this).each( function(){ if ( fields[0].value=='MM' && fields[1].value=='DD' && fields[2].value=='YYYY' ){ this.value = ''; } else if ( fields[0].value=='' && fields [1].value=='' && fields[2].value=='' ){ this.value = ''; } else { this.value = fields[0].value+'/'+fields[1].value+'/'+fields[2].value; } }); }); return mce_validator.form(); }, success: mce_success_cb }; mce_jQuery('#mc-embedded-subscribe-form').ajaxForm(options); }); function mce_success_cb(resp){ mce_jQuery('#mce-success-response').hide(); mce_jQuery('#mce-error-response').hide(); if (resp.result=="success"){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(resp.msg); mce_jQuery('#mc-embedded-subscribe-form').each(function(){ this.reset(); }); } else { var index = -1; var msg; try { var parts = resp.msg.split(' - ',2); if (parts[1]==undefined){ msg = resp.msg; } else { i = parseInt(parts[0]); if (i.toString() == parts[0]){ index = parts[0]; msg = parts[1]; } else { index = -1; msg = resp.msg; } } } catch(e){ index = -1; msg = resp.msg; } try{ if (index== -1){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } else { err_id = 'mce_tmp_error_msg'; html = ' '+msg+''; var input_id = '#mc_embed_signup'; var f = mce_jQuery(input_id); if (ftypes[index]=='address'){ input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]+'-addr1'; f = mce_jQuery(input_id).parent().parent().get(0); } else if (ftypes[index]=='date'){ input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]+'-month'; f = mce_jQuery(input_id).parent().parent().get(0); } else { input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]; f = mce_jQuery().parent(input_id).get(0); } if (f){ mce_jQuery(f).append(html); mce_jQuery(input_id).focus(); } else { mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } } } catch(e){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } } } BE THE CHANGE! 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04 февраля 2013, 04:27

Robert Redford: You Can Move Washington, D.C. Forward on Climate Change

On February 17, tens of thousands are coming together in Washington, D.C. to ask the president to stand up for climate. The Forward on Climate Rally is expected to be the largest climate rally in U.S. history. How fitting that this will happen on President's Day weekend after the inspiring inaugural address from President Obama about the moral necessity to tackle climate change for ourselves and for our children. This is the beginning. The beginning of a real battle, for America's future. Real economic security is found in clean energy. That's our future, not dirty energy that threatens us with ever worsening harm from climate change. From rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to limiting carbon pollution from our nation's dirty power plants, President Barack Obama's legacy will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in solving the climate crisis. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would carry the dirtiest oil on the planet from Canada to America's Gulf Coast's refineries and ports, and then most of it likely exported overseas. It would promote one of the most damaging industrial practices ever devised, to coax low-grade crude oil from tar sands. We don't need another pipeline for Canadian tar sands. It's not in our national interest but is a profit scheme for big oil that needs to be rejected. And in addition to the ability to say no to this dirty fuels project, the president has both the authority and the responsibility to limit the amount of industrial carbon pollution emitted from power plants. Taking this action will set the right course for reducing carbon pollution domestically and send the right signals that the U.S. is ready to lead globally. The Natural Resources Defense Council has laid out a common-sense plan that will cut carbon pollution; provide jobs to thousands of Americans; and save families real money in electricity bills. It's the 21st century. We're not about to turn back now. Wind, solar, and other renewable power, now that, to me, is the future. It's clean energy that will produce new and plentiful jobs for generations to come without the disastrous effects of tar sands and carbon-belching power plants. So, on February 17, join the rally in D.C. to stand up for the future you know we deserve. Stand up to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Stand up for power plant carbon standards. Stand up for climate leadership. [Click here to learn more.]

28 января 2013, 23:24

Zach Puchtel: The 'You Can Have It' Plan

President Barack Hussein Obama, I dig that you're black, seriously. Most of America does. You're the Jackie Robinson of politics, singing your Al Green and playing basketball at North Carolina. Honestly, you very well might be the coolest president of all time. JFK was cool, he had Marilyn, yeah, but you, you have the biggest stars in the world show up to sing you songs on Inauguration Day, and you're the perfect family man and husband to boot. I'm wondering though, you're so good with people, you're so good with speaking and taking down evil regimes without any ground troops, why is it that you have so much trouble handling Republicans? It's become clear that a bi-partisan system doesn't serve the people because the two sides are too busy arguing over who is right rather than compromising on how to help the masses. No one's fault, just doesn't work. Not to associate Southerners with Republicans, mainly because of Florida and also because they have lots of guns, but a lot of these people still fly Confederate flags, believing that "the South will rise again!" The only thing rising in the South is the average temperature every year due to global warming, which many of them also don't believe in. So here it is Pres., I have a plan for you. Yes, it is cut and dry, and yes it will offend some people, but radical decisions and progressive thoughts are always looked down upon before they are accepted and eventually revered. It's called the "You Can Have It" plan. Here's how it works: People who don't believe in global warming, science, gun control, equality and clean fuel are allowed to do so in the entirety of the United States. From Florida to New York to Minnesota, California and Texas, the entire continental United States will be devoted to anyone who chooses not to believe. The cool part about the plan is that everyone will have a choice. Those who do believe in the aforementioned move to Canada. It's called "You Can Have It" because this land's political landscape has been a battle ground for seemingly simple issues for much too long. Rather than bicker over whether a woman has the right to abort a pregnancy if she was raped, and other "hot button" issues, those who move to the North will be given a choice in how to live their lives as they see fit, within reasonable societal guidelines. In 50 years or so, once global warming really starts to heat up, the South will be experiencing a sauna, and they will no doubt be crowding near the Canadian border, but they will not be let in. They will have been given all they asked for, and after continuing to burn fossil fuels, the hole in the ozone over the U.S. will be too much to bear. Luckily, science will have found answers to to our CO2 problems, creating new plants that convert three times as much CO2 into O2 daily. (This already exists in nature -- life will find a way!) I understand that air travels over borders. I guess we can export some of our CO2 plants. People in the North will also have access to life-prolonging medical supplies that will most likely be free of charge since the socialist system, which is set up to benefit the WHOLE OF A SOCIETY, will provide immaculate health care to all of its residents, not just its senators and rich. Also, stem cell research will have heavy funding, and the North will have organic replacements for every organ and tissue in the human body, not to mention cures for some of the world's worst diseases. There are holes in the plan. They will have a lot of guns. I think we need lasers, really big ones... I bet science can handle that one. Postscript: The North will be living side by side with robots too, just sayin'. This post first appeared on Zach's blog: zachpuch.wordpress.com

22 января 2013, 22:01

Nebraska Governor Appoves Alternative Route Of Keystone XL Pipeline: Will Buffett/Obama Give The Green Light?

One of the more contentious issues in the past year for America's environmentalists was the (successful) blocking of the Keystone XL pipeline over fears that it would contaminate the Ohallala aquifier in the Sandhill region of Nebraska, a major source of groundwater, and an issue over which none other than the president was quite vocal just about a year ago when he killed the idea. At least that was the pre-spun, socially accepted reason (for the real one read below). It is now time to revisit the fate of this critical pipeline following today's news that the Nebraska governor has approved a new route for the pipeline, one which avoids the most sensitive area in the Sandhills. The response from the opponents has not been late in coming: "Governor Heineman just performed one of the biggest flip-flops that we've in Nebraska political history," said Jane Kleeb, executive director of the group Bold Nebraska. And now it will be up to Obama, whose second inauguration speech had a dedicated segment to clean energy, to kill or let it go through. Since the decision will once again be about politics, the outcome is all but certain, but at least it will provide yet another theatrical sideshow to add to all the others emanating from DC these days. After all it is all about distraction. From AP: Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman approved a new route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Tuesday that avoids the state's environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.   Heineman sent a letter to President Barack Obama confirming that he would allow the controversial, Canada-to-Texas pipeline to proceed through his state.   The project has faced some of its strongest resistance in Nebraska from a coalition of landowners and environmental groups who say it would contaminate the Ogallala aquifer, a massive groundwater supply.   Canadian pipeline developer TransCanada and some workers' unions say the project is safe and will create thousands of jobs.   The original route would have run the pipeline through a region of erodible, grass-covered sand dunes. The new route skirts that area, although the pipeline's most vocal critics remain firmly opposed to it as well.   "Governor Heineman just performed one of the biggest flip-flops that we've in Nebraska political history," said Jane Kleeb, executive director of the group Bold Nebraska.   Heineman said previously that he would oppose any pipeline route through the Sandhills region. In his letter to Obama, he said the new 195-mile route through Nebraska avoids the Sandhills but would still cross part of the aquifer. Heineman said any spills would be localized, and the clean-up responsibilities would fall to TransCanada.   The governor said the project would result in $418.1 million in economic benefits for the state and $16.5 million in taxes from the pipeline construction materials. And for those wondering why we are confident the answer this time, like a year ago, will be a resounding no, here is a repost from precisely one year ago: Obama Puppetmaster Warren Buffett Biggest Winner From Keystone Pipeline Rejection   Just when one thinks American crony capitalism couldn't hit new lows, here comes Warren Buffett and his personal puppet, the president, proving everyone wrong once more. Because if one thinks there is no (s)quid pro quo for all that "sage" advice that Buffett has been giving to Obama on extracting as much wealth as possible from future wealthy Americans (before they decide they have had enough with this crony shit and leave the country for good), one would be fatally wrong. As it turns out, it is not just natural resources and aquifer purity that Obama had in mind when sealing the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline. No - it appears there were far more relevant numerial metrics that determined Obama's decisions. Such as the bottom line number of Buffett's Burlington Northern, which according to Bloomberg, is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration’s decision to reject TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit. '“Whatever people bring to us, we’re ready to haul,” Krista York-Wooley, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern, a unit of Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), said in an interview. If Keystone XL “doesn’t happen, we’re here to haul." And quite delighted to reap the windfalls of unfounded populist fears she forgot to add. Because while the whole "carbon-credit" multi-trillion top line expansion scheme for Goldman under the pretense of actually caring for the environment may have collapsed, it is not preventing others from trying and succeeding where even Goldman has failed.

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22 января 2013, 21:08

WATCH: Men Nuts About NAKED Yoga

Yoga to be kidding! It turns out naked yoga is a hit with men in Edmonton, Canada. CTV News reports that a growing number of men are taking advantage of Shanti Yoga Studios' men-only class that asks participants to strip down for a more psychologically fulfilling experience than traditional yoga, according to the class instructor. "For some it’s about naturalism and just being nude, and for other people it’s just a bucket list endeavor," instructor Chris McBain told CTV. Earlier this month, McBain told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that naked yoga helps people conquer their fears. "Yoga itself is a great physical activity and has many benefits," McBain said. "When you're engaging a challenge for yourself, it's a little intimidating but when you confront that challenge, it can take on a lot of self-confidence." Naked yoga also has proponents stateside. Isis Phoenix of Naked Yoga NYC told Health News Daily the activity offers a way to free people's minds and their bodies. "A new reality is created in the first 15 minutes of class — a reality where people can be naked and practice yoga in the room, and it's OK," Phoenix said. "Nobody's going to point and laugh."

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22 января 2013, 06:09

Danielle Crittenden: Hope, Change and Traffic Jams

It was Sunday afternoon, a time when downtown Washington, D.C., is generally empty, save for museum-going tourists. Not this past inaugural weekend. My son and I sat in grid-lock traffic, stretching the seven miles from our home to Union Station. He was supposed to catch a 4 p.m. train back to college. As we crawled past the vice president's mansion we were brought to a stop again by more sirens and flashing lights. Three white mini-buses, each escorted by speeding police cars blaring with self-importance, raced by us. The traffic resumed its creeping pace. "Huh. Mini-buses. That's unusual. Who was in those do you think?" Decoding motorcades is something of a Washington car game. "Not the vice president, obviously," my son replied. "He's always in a black car with tinted windows. And there wasn't a second car so it couldn't be the president." (The second car serves as a decoy. The same when the president flies over the city in his helicopter, Marine One. You can tell it's him because it's trailed by a twin.) "And there were no motorcycles." "Right. I don't think it was anyone super-important. Presidential relatives maybe?" "Could be. Or maybe congressmen being shuttled from event to event." "Yeah, that makes sense." We both glanced at the clock again. We were barely a mile from the house and a quarter hour had passed. "Do you remember when Biden made me late for school?" my son asked. "Hah, no. Remind me." "So I overslept one morning but I managed to make the bus, and I was like a minute away from the school -- I was just going to make it -- when the vice president's motorcade suddenly appeared and stopped traffic. Got a late slip. I was really pissed off." He considered what he'd just said and smiled. "I guess not many kids can say the vice president made them late for class." "It's a weird city to grow up in," I agreed. IT WAS THAT kind of weekend -- for the permanent residents of the capital a combination of celebration and hassle. Flocks of circling helicopters thwack, thwack, thwacked overhead like noisy mechanical geese. The inaugural parties were no less gridlocked than the streets. Daily Beast/Newsweek held what was billed a bipartisan brunch at Cafe Milano, Washington's equivalent of Tavern on the Green. It proved to be bipartisan on many fronts: Grover Norquist poked through the same buffet as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaragosa. Harvey Weinstein and Eva Longoria mingled with policy heavyweights such as former defense secretary William Cohen; Arianna Huffington broke bread with our hostess Tina Brown -- two rival Internet queens cheerfully holding court over mimosas and sparkling water. It's an unofficial rule here that the best Washington parties are given by New Yorkers (Exhibit A: the annual Vanity Fair after-party at the White House Correspondent's Dinner). Our own parties are both stodgy and brutal, much like the city itself. So if you live outside Washington, the phrase "inaugural ball" might conjure up images of princesses and glass slippers. Think again. I attended my first (and only) inaugural ball in 1989. A friend of ours had scored tickets to the Texas ball, to be held that year at the Air and Space Museum. Of course it was THE ball to go to, given the Texan connections of our newly elected president, the first George Bush. I'd like to tell you that the evening went magically: that we drank flutes of champagne and nibbled on blini as we watched the new president and first lady danced to an 18-piece orchestra. I'd like to tell you that I exchanged witticisms with incoming cabinet ministers and was even asked to dance by one of the president's sons (who knew one day he would become president?!). The reality was -- well, try to imagine attending a party at O'Hare airport, lines and security included. Imagine standing in topply, impractical heels and shivering in bare shoulders as the inaugural equivalent of TSA agents inspected ID and hustled you through metal detectors. Imagine then stepping into the vastness of a Smithsonian museum, as crowded as a departure lounge on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Except here everyone is drunk (how this is possible you don't know because it will eventually take you two hours to find the bar and shove your way to the front for one lousy drink). Did the president and the first lady arrive already? Did they dance? You don't know because the dance floor area is similarly impossible to navigate. I remember the most exciting moment of the evening was sighting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, bow tie slightly askew, traveling on a down escalator as we went up. ON INAUGURATION DAY 2013, Martin Luther King day, the city was as quiet as a church before the bride and groom march down the aisle. Again I found myself driving downtown, this time with my husband, on our way to watch the festivities from the rooftop balcony of the Canadian embassy. Once every four years, the Canadians have the best seats in the house. The embassy enjoys one of the best views in town. From its roof, you can see the vast sweep of the Capitol and its grounds; the inaugural parade route passes directly below. We were able to penetrate as near as three blocks from the embassy before we were prohibited by perimeter security from going any further. I argued with my husband about where to park: there was definitely an apocalyptic feeling to the empty streets. By that time most of the crowds were already at the mall and what remained were patrols of heavily armed soldiers, humvees, police and sharpshooters. I insisted that we should just park illegally -- seriously, were the cops going to ticket us today? They obviously had bigger duties to attend to. My husband retorted that he wasn't worried about being ticketed or even towed. "Today is the sort of day they'll just blow up the car. We'll return and find all that's left is scorched pavement and bits of melted rubber." He had a point there. So we drove around until we found a meter that didn't have a temporary no-parking sign taped to it, buttoned up our coats and walked in the direction of the cheers. It was definitely a more subdued day than four years ago, when the entire city felt seized by Obama-mania. Even the street vendors seemed to offer fewer souvenir tchochkes -- the tables of "Obama Nation" T-shirts and commemorative crockery looked positively meager in comparison to the riches of memorabilia four years ago. I suppose you could build a whole political thesis out of this observation: What does it say about Obama's diminished popularity? etc., etc. But the Washingtonian in me thought, "Meh. Second term." We reached the gates of the embassy, where security guards festooned in bright red-and-white "Canada/USA" scarves passed out red-and-white striped mittens to the arriving guests. A huge tailgate party was taking place on the embassy's front steps. A long line had formed in front of a food truck serving "Beaver Tails," which is the Canadian equivalent of funnel cakes: flattened pastries globbed with assorted sickly-looking toppings. Inside Ambassador Gary Doer and his wife Ginny graciously greeted throngs of politicians and diplomats. Who wouldn't prefer to watch the ceremony from this glorious perch, well-fed and warm, a glass of wine or steaming cup of Tim Horton's coffee in hand? Canada's feisty foreign minister, John Baird, was this year's embassy guest of honor. I'd met him at a pre-inaugural event the night before and was impressed to see him leave in a Diamond taxi cab. No black tinted windows or earpieced security goons for this guy. Not even an Uber! A refreshing contrast to the limo wars that were being waged outside pre-inaugural parties all over the city. (I overheard one elegantly coiffed lady complain to her husband -- as they stood freezing and waiting for their car to be called up in front of a hotel -- that they should have brought her car because it "wasn't black like all the others. We might see it more quickly.") AFTER MARVELING AT the view of the Capitol, dressed up in its best bunting, I retreated to the warm indoors to watch the ceremony on a big screen. The convivial party chatter hushed when the president took the Oath of Office, and remained respectfully silent throughout his speech. I felt, as always on these occasions, that for all the cynicism and partisanship that pervades every waking moment in Washington, these events have the power to make it stop. Even if just for a moment. The solemnity of the ceremony underscores the fact that, for better or worse, we're going to be married to this president for the next four years. As with a marriage ceremony, attending skeptics are moved to suspend their misgivings for at least a few brief minutes -- and instead reflect on the greatness of the institution as a whole. That a president may fall short of his loftily stated promises is to be expected. Yet in the drama of the moment, you hope for the best. The gimlet-eyed aunt in the front row may well be right and will have many years to tell you so. But you want just a few seconds for the angry shouting and jeering to stop before -- "I don't think it was a good as 2008." "He was basically saying, 'screw you' to the Republicans --" "I was surprised he didn't talk more about guns." "I thought Michelle looked angry." Oh well. That's the nature of our democratic politics, as epitomized by these quadrennial rituals of renewal. Hope and celebration tempered by opposition, cynicism and traffic jams.