Tuesday, June 08, 2010

getting ready for life with less oil..,

NYTimes | As oil continued to pour into the Gulf of Mexico on a recent Saturday, Jennifer Wilkerson spent three hours on the phone talking about life after petroleum.

For Mrs. Wilkerson, 33, a moderate Democrat from Oakton, Va., who designs computer interfaces, the spill reinforced what she had been obsessing over for more than a year — that oil use was outstripping the world’s supply. She worried about what would come after: maybe food shortages, a collapse of the economy, a breakdown of civil order. Her call was part of a telephone course about how to live through it all.

In bleak times, there is a boom in doom.

Americans have long been fascinated by disaster scenarios, from the population explosion to the cold war to global warming. These days the doomers, as Mrs. Wilkerson jokingly calls herself and likeminded others, have a new focus: peak oil. They argue that oil supplies peaked as early as 2008 and will decline rapidly, taking the economy with them.

Located somewhere between the environmental movement and the bunkered survivalists, the peak oil crowd is small but growing, reaching from health food stores to Congress, where a Democrat and a Republican formed a Congressional Peak Oil Caucus.

And they have been resourceful, sharing the concerns of other “collapsitarians,” including global debt and climate change — both caused by overuse of diminishing oil supplies, they maintain.

Many people dispute the peak oil hypothesis, including Daniel Yergin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power” and chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a company that advises governments and industry. Mr. Yergin has argued that new technology continues to bring more oil.

Andre Angelantoni is not taking that chance. In his home in San Rafael, Calif., he has stocked food reserves in case an oil squeeze prevents food from reaching market and has converted his investments into gold and silver.

The effects of peak oil, including high energy prices, will not be gentle, said Mr. Angelantoni, a Web designer whose company, Post Peak Living, offers the telephone class and a handful of online courses for life after a collapse.

“Our whole economy depends on greater and greater energy supplies, and that just isn’t possible,” he said. “I wish I could say we’ll quietly accept having many millions of people unemployed, their homes foreclosed. But it’s hard to see the whole country transitioning to a low-energy future without people becoming angry. There’s going to be quite a bit of social turmoil on the way down.”

can science solve life's mysteries?

Guardian | Each of us lives intensely within herself or himself, continuously assimilating past and present experience to a narrative and vision that are unique in every case yet profoundly communicable, whence the arts. And we all live in a great reef of collective experience, past and present, that we receive and preserve and modify. William James says data should be thought of not as givens but as gifts, this by way of maintaining an appropriate humility in the face of what we think we know. The gifts we bring to the problem of making an account of the mind are overwhelmingly rich, severally and together. This is not an excuse for excluding them from consideration. History and civilisation are an authoritative record the mind has left, is leaving, and will leave, and objectivity deserving the name would take this record as a starting point. In practical terms, this would mean doing as the humanists have done since the building of the library of Alexandria, more or less. Humankind never ceases to express itself in new terms, and the data at hand are inevitably flawed and partial. But the complexity of the object, the human brain, and all associated phenomena are at the centre of the question, inextricable from it. The schools of thought I have criticised exclude the great fact of human exceptionalism, though no one would deny that it is a pure expression of the uniqueness of the human brain. A primary assumption of the evolutionary model behind neo-Darwinism is that development can be traced back through a series of subtly incremental changes. At what for our purposes is the terminus of all these changes there emerges, voila, the world as we know it. The neatness of this argument has always bothered me, but this is no refutation of it, nor am I interested in refuting it. I wish only to point out that there are certain things it should not be taken to imply. For example, it does not imply that a species carries forward an essential similarity to its ancestors. A bird is not a latter-day dinosaur. We can assume the ancestors ate and slept and mated, carrying on the universal business of animal life. Still, whatever the shared genetic history of beast and bird, a transformative change occurred over the millennia, and to find the modern sparrow implicit in the thunder lizard is quite certainly an error, if one wishes to make an ornithological study of sparrow behaviour. On the same grounds, there is no reason to assume our species resembles in any essential way the ancient primates whose genes we carry. It is a strategy of parascientific argument to strip away culture-making, as if it were a ruse and a concealment within which lurked the imagined primitive who is for them our true nature.

Here is another instance of evolution, to illustrate my point. The universe passed through its unimaginable first moment, first year, first billion years, wresting itself from whatever state of nonexistence, inflating, contorting, resolving into space and matter, bursting into light. Matter condenses, stars live out their generations. Then, very late, there is added to the universe of being a shaped stick or stone, a jug, a cuneiform tablet. They appear on a tiny, teetering, lopsided planet, and they demand wholly new vocabularies of description for reality at every scale. What but the energies of the universe could be expressed in the Great Wall of China, the St Matthew Passion? For our purposes, there is nothing else. Yet language that would have been fully adequate to describe the ages before the appearance of the first artifact would have had to be enlarged by concepts like agency and intention, words like creation, that would query the great universe itself. Might not the human brain, that most complex object known to exist in the universe, have undergone a qualitative change as well? If my metaphor only suggests the possibility that our species is more than an optimised ape, that something terrible and glorious befell us, a change gradualism could not predict – if this is merely another fable, it might at least encourage an imagination of humankind large enough to acknowledge some small fragment of the mystery we are.

Monday, June 07, 2010

why torture is necessary?

Video - Shock Doctrine short movie.

truthout | Naomi Klein's 2007 book "The Shock Doctrine" took 466 pages to flesh out the worldview that can even be proud of torture, as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove have confessed to be. Though her book is a hard read, we need a better understanding of the marriage of greed and violence that has become our world's greatest enemy. Klein would side with the Na'vi, though her research shows the Quaritches and their corporate masters almost always win.

Human history confirms Klein's research: the combined forces of greed and violence usually win. History also offers the testimony of General Smedley Butler (1881-1940), who wrote "War Is a Racket". One of only two Americans to win the Medal of Honor on two separate occasions, his words were as courageous as his actions, especially when he spoke about the real purpose of war:
"The flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.... I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.... I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested."
In the United States of 2010, the greediest corporations have won, and are consolidating their strength for a long reign. We need to understand how they can employ a degree of violence, torture and murder that simply paralyzes most of us.

The Prototype of Disaster Capitalism
Naomi Klein calls it "disaster capitalism"; she says the French call it "savage capitalism." Both names reflect the (so far) unstoppable power of violence and greed. The economist associated with the golden age of this supercharged greed was Milton Friedman who, along with others from "the Chicago School" of economics, showed many leaders from South America to first-world countries how to become wealthy by selling out their countries, offering national properties and resources at a fraction of their worth to corporate bidders - mostly from the United States. The Chicago School developed the wrecking ball that has been used in nearly all the episodes of disaster capitalism. However, the prototypical model was the CIA-backed coup of 1965 in Indonesia. Sukarno, Indonesia's first elected president, saw the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as agents of American greed and dreams of empire. He threw them out of the country. Naomi Klein describes what happened when Suharto came to power as dictator:
His use of terror was so merciless, so far beyond even the worst expectations, that a people who only weeks earlier had been collectively striving to assert their country's independence were now sufficiently terrified that they ceded total control to Suharto and his henchmen. Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations manager during the years of the coup, said Indonesia was a "model operation.... You can trace back all major, bloody events run from Washington to the way Suharto came to power. The success of that meant that it would be repeated, again and again.

While citizens were distracted by the terror, a group of US economists from the University of California at Berkeley handed out "tax holidays," and within two years, Indonesia's natural wealth - copper, nickel, hardwood, rubber and oil - was being divided up among the largest mining and energy companies in the world.[1]
After Indonesia, this bloody pattern of shock, awe and robbery continued in Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina - as well as in larger first-world countries - including Britain, Russia and the United States.

wall street's war

Rolling Stone | It's early May in Washington, and something very weird is in the air. As Chris Dodd, Harry Reid and the rest of the compulsive dealmakers in the Senate barrel toward the finish line of the Restoring American Financial Stability Act – the massive, year-in-the-making effort to clean up the Wall Street crime swamp – word starts to spread on Capitol Hill that somebody forgot to kill the important reforms in the bill. As of the first week in May, the legislation still contains aggressive measures that could cost once-indomitable behemoths like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase tens of billions of dollars. Somehow, the bill has escaped the usual Senate-whorehouse orgy of mutual back-scratching, fine-print compromises and freeway-wide loopholes that screw any chance of meaningful change.

The real shocker is a thing known among Senate insiders as "716." This section of an amendment would force America's banking giants to either forgo their access to the public teat they receive through the Federal Reserve's discount window, or give up the insanely risky, casino-style bets they've been making on derivatives. That means no more pawning off predatory interest-rate swaps on suckers in Greece, no more gathering balls of subprime shit into incomprehensible debt deals, no more getting idiot bookies like AIG to wrap the crappy mortgages in phony insurance. In short, 716 would take a chain saw to one of Wall Street's most lucrative profit centers: Five of America's biggest banks (Goldman, JP Morgan, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup) raked in some $30 billion in over-the-counter derivatives last year. By some estimates, more than half of JP Morgan's trading revenue between 2006 and 2008 came from such derivatives. If 716 goes through, it would be a veritable Hiroshima to the era of greed.

Whatever the final outcome, the War for Finance Reform serves as a sweeping demonstration of how power in the Senate can be easily concentrated in the hands of just a few people. Senators in the majority party – Brown, Kaufman, Merkley, even a committee chairman like Lincoln – took a back seat to Reid and Dodd, who tinkered with amendments on all four fronts of the war just enough to keep many of them from having real teeth. "They're working to come up with a bill that Wall Street can live with, which by definition makes it a bad bill," one Democratic aide explained in the final, frantic days of negotiation.

On the plus side, the bill will rein in some forms of predatory lending, and contains a historic decision to audit the Fed. But the larger, more important stuff – breaking up banks that grow Too Big to Fail, requiring financial giants to pay upfront for their own bailouts, forcing the derivatives market into the light of day – probably won't happen in any meaningful way. The Senate is designed to function as a kind of ongoing negotiation between public sentiment and large financial interests, an endless tug of war in which senators maneuver to strike a delicate mathematical balance between votes and access to campaign cash. The problem is that sometimes, when things get really broken, the very concept of a middle ground between real people and corrupt special interests becomes a grotesque fallacy. In times like this, we need our politicians not to bridge a gap but to choose sides and fight. In this historic battle over finance reform, when we had a once-in-a-generation chance to halt the worst abuses on Wall Street, many senators made the right choice. In the end, however, the ones who mattered most picked wrong – and a war that once looked winnable will continue to drag on for years, creating more havoc and destroying more lives before it is over.

europe is heading for a depression...,

Counterpunch | Despite a nearly-$1 trillion rescue operation, financial conditions in the eurozone continue to deteriorate. All the gauges of market stress are edging upwards and credit default swaps (CDS) spreads have widened to levels not seen since the weekend of the emergency euro-summit. Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate) is on the rise and liquidity is draining from the commercial paper and money markets. According to the Federal Reserve, the total amount of (foreign banks’) commercial paper has shrunk 15 percent or $32 billion since late April. Central bank officials insist that there's no chance of another Lehman-type meltdown, but their actions don't match their words. Apart from the massive $920 billion EU Stabilization Fund, the European Central Bank has beefed-up its liquidity facilities and is aggressively purchasing state bonds from struggling countries in the south. Without the ECB's assistance, the slow-motion slide into recession could turn into a full-blown market crash. Brussels has every reason to be worried.

EU banks are over-leveraged, under-capitalized, and too exposed to emerging market debt. In the next 12 months, they'll have to roll over more than $400 billion in loans in a market where funding is scarce and liquidity is drying up. The ECB should present a plan for restructuring Greek debt now instead of trying to keep the bubble afloat and hoping for a miracle.

The run on the shadow system is forcing more banks to seek funding from the ECB. The central bank has loaned out more than $850 billion and that figure is expected to rise. The ECB's balance sheet is proof that the wholesale funding system is broken and needs basic structural change. The EU is moving forward with a raft of regulatory reforms on everything from hedge funds to naked shorts, from corporate governance to a financial transaction tax, from tighter oversight on CDS to revamping the ratings agencies. So far, however, the shadow banking system has escaped their attention, which is unfortunate. The system is inherently unstable and will lead to more serious crises in the future. Financial institutions that act as banks (investment banks, hedge funds, insurers) must be regulated as banks, that's the bottom line. The dangers of maximizing leverage and unsupervised credit expansion, should be clear to everyone by now.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

pariah nation

Video - Obama rained out....,

Counterpunch | In the opinion of much of the world, Israel is descending to the status of South Africa in the final years of apartheid (in which period, it has just emerged, Israel was trying to sell South Africa nuclear weapons) – a pariah nation.

In February the Tel Aviv–based Reut Institute presented a big report to the Israeli cabinet, long in the making, called “The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall.” It has sinister recommendations for a strategy of “offense.” Israel’s government is embarking on a methodical assault on human rights groups and kindred NGOs seen as delegitimizers. It’s not paranoid to expect COINTELPRO-type black-bag jobs sponsored by Israel on solidarity groups here and around the world.

Israel is plunging into deeper darkness. As the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy recently told one interviewer: “In the last year there have been real cracks in the democratic system of Israel.… It’s systematic—it’s not here and there. Things are becoming much harder.” And Levy also wrote in Ha’aretz, “When Israel closes its gates to anyone who doesn’t fall in line with our official positions, we are quickly becoming similar to North Korea. When right-wing parties increase their number of anti-democratic bills, and from all sides there are calls to make certain groups illegal, we must worry, of course. But when all this is engulfed in silence, and when even academia is increasingly falling in line with dangerous and dark views…the situation is apparently far beyond desperate.”

A year ago Obama gave his famous speech in Cairo, addressing the Muslim World in a constructive manner. He vowed “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world”, declaring, “Islam is a part of America” and “is an important part of promoting peace.”

It was a great act, but one utterly disconnected from the realities of American politics. Wimps love to be crowd-pleasers. But a year later the crowd – world opinion, in this instance – is remembering the speech as one betrayed commitment after another.

It’s clear enough the White House knew of the impending Israeli attack on the relief flotilla and contented itself with a private, purely pro forma call for restraint. In other words, a green light. It may even encouraged the lethal violence, as its own signal to Turkey that its initiative with Brazil to defuse the Iran crisis had not found favor with the US government.

The public White House response to Israel’s international piracy was comical in its wimpishness. “The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy,” deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton demurely declared in Chicago.

A friend of mine gave a good parody of the servile posture of the US government and press: “I think,” he wrote to me, “that matters are close to the point where if Hillary Clinton and a group of senior American officials were meeting the Israeli leaders for negotiations, and Netanyahu expressed his displeasure at the American positions by pulling out a gun and shooting her dead, then having the entire American delegation beaten to death by his security guards, there would probably be a small item buried in the next days' American newspapers that due to conflict with the Israelis, Obama had decided to nominate a new Secretary of State.”

There’s a political price to be paid for manifest wimpery. Obama is running up a hefty bill.

hijacking of the truth: film evidence destroyed

Independent | Protesters say Israel had an assassination list. Israel says soldiers fired only in self-defense. So what really happened on 31 May?

A military spokesman, Lt Col Avital Leibowitz, insisted soldiers acted in self-defense and that she "was not aware" of any list. But one thing is fast becoming clear – many of the dead were shot multiple times at point-blank range. One was a journalist taking photographs. "A man was shot ... between the eyebrows, which indicates that it was not an attack that took place from self-defence," Hassan Ghani, a passenger, said in an account posted on YouTube. "The soldier had time to set up the shot." Mattias Gardell, a Swedish activist, told the TT news bureau: "The Israelis committed premeditated murder ... Two people were killed by shots in the forehead, one was shot in the back of the head and one in the chest."

When Israeli troops had subdued the ship, they rounded up the passengers, bound their wrists, in some cases forcing activists into stress positions, and prevented them from using toilets. Mr Elshayyal said he was given just three sips of water before he was taken off the ship more than 24 hours later.

Their ordeal, of course, was not yet over. Accused of entering Israel illegally, the captives were transferred to an Israeli prison, where many were held in cramped cells and denied phone calls. Furious, Turkey sent three planes to transport the activists out of Israel, threatening to sever all diplomatic ties if they were not all released.

Meanwhile, much of the video footage confiscated from Marmara passengers remains undisclosed, and Israel has sought to undermine some eyewitness accounts by alleging some of the passengers were terrorist sympathisers bent on martyrdom.

Questions remain unanswered on both sides. But without a full and transparent airing of all the evidence, the truth of that dreadful night on the Marmara may never come to light.

In the meantime, the organisers say they will seek again and again to breach Israel's defences. Scottish protester Ali El-Awaisi said: "We sent six ships this time. Next time it will be 30 ships."

who will win the media battle?

Guardian | Reporting by mainstream media on the Gaza flotilla attack was unbalanced and dominated by Israel's edited version of events. The provenance of photographs of weapons supposedly found on the boats has been questioned in the blogosphere.

From the moment that the Israeli naval commandos launched their attack on the flotilla aiming to break the siege of Gaza by carrying humanitarian aid to the territory, the struggle by both sides to dominate how the media covered the events – a struggle that began days in advance of the 4am attack on Monday – entered a completely new phase.

Soon after the commandos landed on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship carrying more than 600 of the activists, the live satellite broadcasts from the vessel were cut. From that point on, the Israeli authorities seized almost complete control of how evidence of what was taking place could be made public. Video of the last footage broadcast by the journalists on board was immediately available from sources such as al-Jazeera and the IHH (the Turkish Foundation for Freedoms and Human Rights and Humanitarian Relief), but it showed a very confusing picture: there were badly injured passengers, yet it was impossible to know how they had been injured.

What the world has been watching since then is either edited video shot by the Israelis or other video shot by activists, confiscated by the Israelis and subsequently edited and made available through Israeli sources.

In an operation reminiscent of the first week or so of the Israeli offensive against Gaza in winter 2008-2009, the Israeli PR machine succeeded in getting the major news outlets to focus on its version of events and to use the Israeli authorities' discourse for a crucial 48 hours. (One example of how this was being done is a leaked, sophisticated briefing paper with key talking points, compiled using official government sources and pro-government Israeli media, issued through the World Zionist Organisation on 1 June.)

This time, however, commentators in the Israeli media, on the left and the right, were immediately slamming the commando attack as a failure. The repeated screening of the video, taken from an Israeli assault craft, of the commandos abseiling down ropes onto the Mavi Marmara and then being set upon by the activists waiting for them on the deck, became the defining image of the capture of the boats. Posted by the IDF on YouTube, by Wednesday it had attracted more than 600,000 views.

The activists' actions were described by Israeli spokespersons as a premeditated terrorist attack by al-Qaida sympathisers, using clubs, knives and guns, carried out with the intention of "lynching" the commandos who were carrying out an entirely legal and peacefully executed operation.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

knuckledragging tail wags dog....,

Video - ultra-orthodox brigade violently protests digital video.

Independent | The amazing thing in all this is that so many Western journalists – and I'm including the BBC's pusillanimous coverage of the Gaza aid ships – are writing like Israeli journalists, while many Israeli journalists are writing about the killings with the courage that Western journalists should demonstrate. And about the Israeli army itself. Take Amos Harel's devastating report in Haaretz which analyses the make-up of the Israeli army's officer corps. In the past, many of them came from the leftist kibbutzim tradition, from greater Tel Aviv or from the coastal plain of Sharon. In 1990, only 2 per cent of army cadets were religious Orthodox Jews. Today the figure is 30 per cent. Six of the seven lieutenant-colonels in the Golani Brigade are religious. More than 50 per cent of local commanders are "national" religious in some infantry brigades.

There's nothing wrong with being religious. But – although Harel does not make this point quite so strongly – many of the Orthodox are supporters of the colonisation of the West Bank and thus oppose a Palestinian state.

And the Orthodox colonists are the Israelis who most hate the Palestinians, who want to erase the chances of a Palestinian state as surely as some Hamas officials would like to erase Israel. Ironically, it was senior officers of the "old" Israeli army who first encouraged the "terrorist" Hamas to build mosques in Gaza – as a counterbalance to the "terrorist" Yasser Arafat up in Beirut – and I was a witness to one of their meetings. But it will stay the same old story before the world wakes up. "I have never known an army as democratic as Israel's," the hapless French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy said a few hours before the slaughter.

Yes, the Israeli army is second to none, elite, humanitarian, heroic. Just don't tell the Somali pirates.

the shadow over israel

Video - Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men....,

Haaretz | Recently I was in Israel. The Israelis I met could not have been more welcoming. I saw many impressive accomplishments and creative projects, and talked with many different people. The sun was shining, the waves waving, the flowers were in bloom. Tourists jogged along the beach at Tel Aviv as if everything was normal.

But… there was the Shadow. Why was everything trembling a little, like a mirage? Was it like that moment before a tsunami when the birds fly to the treetops and the animals head for the hills because they can feel it coming?

“Every morning I wake up in fear,” someone told me. “That’s just self-pity, to excuse what’s happening,” said someone else. Of course, fear and self-pity can both be real. But by “what’s happening,” they meant the Shadow.

I’d been told ahead of time that Israelis would try to cover up the Shadow, but instead they talked about it non-stop. Two minutes into any conversation, the Shadow would appear. It’s not called the Shadow, it’s called “the situation.” It haunts everything.

The Shadow is not the Palestinians. The Shadow is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, linked with Israeli’s own fears. The worse the Palestinians are treated in the name of those fears, the bigger the Shadow grows, and then the fears grow with them; and the justifications for the treatment multiply.

The attempts to shut down criticism are ominous, as is the language being used. Once you start calling other people by vermin names such as “vipers,” you imply their extermination. To name just one example, such labels were applied wholesale to the Tutsis months before the Rwanda massacre began. Studies have shown that ordinary people can be led to commit horrors if told they’ll be acting in self-defense, for “victory,” or to benefit mankind.

exodus amnesia?

Video - Edith Piaf Exodus.

Guardian | Israel's vivid act of piracy may yet turn the tide of global opinion. Like the Exodus in 1947, the Gaza aid flotilla has now etched itself on the mind – whatever the eventual consequences. In the summer of 1947 a semi-derelict 200-berth Chesapeake Bay steamer carrying 4,500 Holocaust survivors, renamed the Exodus, set out from France to run the British blockade of Palestine. The survivors had been rotting in displaced persons camps since the end of the war, waiting to find a country that would take them. The organisers of the expedition, the Zionist movement, were operating a policy of illegal immigration as both a humanitarian rescue operation and as a calculated move to politically gerrymander the country's Jewish population. They didn't expect to be able to land, but they knew that the rickety vessel with its pitiful human cargo of refugees would show up the British as cold-hearted colonial masters. The Exodus could equally have been called End of Empire.

As the ship approached Haifa, the commander received a radio signal from the Zionist leadership not to risk the lives of the passengers by a confrontation. But the incalcitrant Polish captain refused to turn back. Hemmed in by three British destroyers, the crew and passengers found themselves boarded, and retaliated with whatever weapons came to hand – a consignment of cans of kosher corned beef. The British killed three people, one bludgeoned to death by a rifle butt in the face. A few days later the passengers were transferred to another ship and sailed back to Germany, back to the refugee camps, under withering press headlines: "Return to the death land," read one.

The gripping events in the eastern Mediterranean, shown on the news reels, evoked massive public sympathy, particularly in America where Britain was seen as the old colonial regime. The media coverage was a PR catastrophe for Britain. To the ship's captain, Ike Aronowitz, when I met him in 2007 shortly before his death, Ernest Bevin's decision to repel the Exodus was a gift from a God who had "sent us Ernest Bevin to create a Jewish state".

Against the single image of a ship full of Holocaust survivors being beaten by squaddies, the British had to set a complex narrative, too complicated for a public looking for a simple story of victims and oppressors. The British spoke of the needs and wishes of the existing Arab population of Palestine; a new Jewish state implanted in the Middle East against the will of its native inhabitants was not to be the happy ending of a tragic Jewish story. Yet the Exodus was to be instrumental in cementing support later that year for the UN partition vote which divided Mandate Palestine, and the largely erroneous novel and film of the same name in the late 1950s would create a lasting mythology. The image of the boat had greater power than the warnings from the Foreign Office or the pleas of Arab leaders.

The events early this week of the boarding of the Gaza aid flotilla should have jogged the memories of Israel's political leaders and its military. The sight of Israeli politicians, diplomats and army spokespeople trying to assert a more complicated story than that of innocent civilians brutally murdered by an act of piracy has not washed with the public. No amount of showing videos of the peace activists attacking the abseiling Israeli soldiers will answer the question: what were the soldiers doing there in the first place and why would the passengers not defend themselves against their attackers, exactly as the refugees had done in 1947?

Israel's political reasoning, of a Hamas-controlled Gaza strip, of the threat to the Jewish state from Gaza in the south and Hezbollah in the north, backed by the nuclear-ambitious Iran, falls on deaf ears. Legal arguments by maritime experts that Israel was within its right to assault the ship in international waters can't compete with the authoritative presence on another of the vessels of the internationally bestselling novelist Henning Mankell, who risked his own life to bring aid to the starving millions of Gaza.

Palestinian solidarity movements have not, until now, attained the critical mass of the campaign against apartheid South Africa. Perhaps, like the Exodus in 1947, the Gaza aid flotilla will be the tipping point in the long agony of the Palestinian people, when wavering public opinion finally turns decisively against Israel and the whole Zionist project of a national home for the Jews.

Friday, June 04, 2010

the revolution may be televised after all....,

Video - Freedom flotilla images.

Wired | How much money did it cost the Israeli government to cancel all vacations for Navy personnel, have them all on standby, keep several surveillance planes in the air to watch the flotilla, keep destroyers ready to intercept the incoming flotilla, intercept the boats, set up a holding and transit facility at Ashdod to process all the activists brought there, put all the activists on planes and buy them tickets back to their countries of origin?

Answer: Millions of shekels.

And now after the fact, how much money is it costing Israel to bolster security at embassies and consulates across the world; to send out thousands of police across the country to quell riots; to treat all the foreign wounded at our hospitals? How costly will the worsening relations with much of the international community be?

Answer: This is hard to quantify, but it won’t be cheap.

The asymmetry in money spent and effect achieved between the two sides is staggering. Call it the # sign versus the $ sign. The flotilla organizers spent almost nothing and won the day; Israel spent huge amounts of money and ended up with egg on its face.

The narrative that navy commandos were attacked with metal bars, knives and possibly guns, while trying to take over a flotilla meant to break the naval blockade on Gaza — after Israel offered to transfer humanitarian aid — was drowned out on the social media networks by charges of an unprovoked massacre of peaceful activists on a humanitarian mission to besieged Gaza.

In events like these, the traditional media take their cue from social media, whose “reporters” are on the scene. TV stations use images and sounds they find posted on Twitter, not the other way round. This is also good for them because it means they don’t have to spend money on sending crews on site.

But why is Twitter so important? And does it have any real-world impact?

Just ask the Iranian regime, who pulled out all the stops, and the generators, to try shut down the social networking site just this year when the popular uprising against Ahmadinejad’s stolen re-election relied heavily on Twitter to organize rallies and smuggle out photos and videos of regime suppression. Here again, traditional media relied on material smuggled out through the social networks.

Social media is cheap and is antithetical to centralized bodies and subverts their authority. It is, so far, proving to be one of the asymmetrical weapons of choice for grassroots activists.

At the other end of the spectrum, Israeli officials, especially those in the Foreign Ministry, the Information Directorate of the Prime Minister’s Office, Minister for Public Diplomacy Yuli Edelstein, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit and others, decry the lack of money and resources that Israel spends on its public diplomacy, on its hasbara.

They point out that the MFA’s PR budget is smaller than the advertising budget for one of Israel’s yogurt companies. For instance, one of the ideas bandied about in recent years has been the establishment of an “Israeli Al-Jazeera” to pump out Israel’s message 24 hours a day on satellite TV. (And no, it wouldn’t feature videos this like this.) There have even been serious attempts to find the vast amount of money to do this, with the finances mostly coming from Jewish philanthropists in the United States.

But these attempts have come to naught. Other attempts to re-brand Israel away from its image as a land of conflict and occupation, such as creating “Tel-Aviv beaches” in Vienna, Manhattan and several other locations have failed abysmally. Each “beach” cost the state more than $100,000 — with the sand, the money and their purpose scattered by the first wind.

It is becoming increasingly clear that money is not the only issue, and that the people charged with disseminating Israel’s message still don’t get it.

Setting aside the obvious issue of real diplomatic progress with the Palestinians and other Arab states, and the effect that would have on Israel’s image, the tiny, brainy and resourceful Jewish state is light-years away from its adversaries on communicating its message. Money is not the answer: forward-looking and creative use of traditional and new media is of urgent importance.

assymetrical adroitness vs. state ultra-violence

Video - Free media fighting.

Guardian | It takes some nerve, and a special kind of detachment from reality, to claim that your soldiers were "lynched" by "terrorists" when they have just shot dead at least nine unarmed human rights activists and wounded dozens of others while suffering no fatal injuries themselves. But that is the line Israel's propaganda machine spun while it held nearly 700 international pro-Palestinian campaigners incommunicado in the wake of Monday's assault on six boats bringing humanitarian aid to the besieged people of Gaza.

It has already turned the Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev into a figure of international ridicule. And as hundreds of foreign nationals seized in the attacks were deported from Israel yesterday, a more credible picture started to emerge: of shooting even before the commandos landed, according to Haneen Zuabi, a Palestinian Israeli MP; of stun grenades, electric shocks, tear gas – and reports of bullet wounds to the head.

The charge of piracy from Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, can scarcely be regarded as hyperbole, when on a string of counts Israel has acted in flagrant violation of international law. Not only did the attacks take place in international waters, but its blockade of Gaza supports an illegal occupation and unlawfully deprives the population of essential supplies in an outlawed policy of collective punishment.

The Israeli military was well aware there were no arms on board the boats in the flotilla as they had been repeatedly searched by the Greek and Turkish authorities. And the fearsome weapons it said it had discovered turned out to be a collection of chair legs and kitchen knives. Those campaigners who used sticks against the attacks of heavily armed soldiers were evidently acting in self-defence, and the bravery – underlined yesterday as the MV Rachel Corrie, an Irish boat, sailed on towards Israel's exclusion zone – cannot be in doubt.

But whether this outrage was a trigger-happy display of incompetence or an attempt at deterrence that spun out of control, it has spectacularly backfired. What Erdogan branded an act of state terrorism has both set the seal on the rupture between Israel and its one-time Turkish ally and forced open cracks in the siege of Gaza that the attacks were presumably intended to close.

Egypt, the junior partner in the blockade, has been forced to open its border with Gaza; and the western governments that have connived in the siege since Palestinians voted for Hamas and the movement took over in 2007 now feel compelled to speak out against it. Hillary Clinton conceded the situation in Gaza was "unsustainable", while Mark Lyall Grant, Britain's ambassador to the UN, dared call it "unacceptable".

That's still a long way short of condemnation, let alone pulling the plug on the enforced suffering of more than one and a half million captive people. It's that political vacuum citizens across the world are now taking action to fill. Far from being ships of hate, the Free Gaza movement flotilla with 40-odd nationalities, its eight seaborne predecessors and the Viva Palestina convoys represent a growing global movement that has understood governments are not spontaneously going to turn against barbarities they themselves sponsor.

memetic adversary

nuke baby nuke!

Video - An Atomic Bomb will stop the Gulf Oil Leak.

NYTimes | The chatter began weeks ago as armchair engineers brainstormed for ways to stop the torrent of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico: What about nuking the well?

Decades ago, the Soviet Union reportedly used nuclear blasts to successfully seal off runaway gas wells, inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow. Why not try it here?

The idea has gained fans with each failed attempt to stem the leak and each new setback — on Wednesday, the latest rescue effort stalled when a wire saw being used to slice through the riser pipe got stuck.

“Probably the only thing we can do is create a weapon system and send it down 18,000 feet and detonate it, hopefully encasing the oil,” Matt Simmons, a Houston energy expert and investment banker, told Bloomberg News on Friday, attributing the nuclear idea to “all the best scientists.”

Or as the CNN reporter John Roberts suggested last week, “Drill a hole, drop a nuke in and seal up the well.”

This week, with the failure of the “top kill” attempt, the buzz had grown loud enough that federal officials felt compelled to respond.

Stephanie Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said that neither Energy Secretary Steven Chu nor anyone else was thinking about a nuclear blast under the gulf. The nuclear option was not — and never had been — on the table, federal officials said.

“It’s crazy,” one senior official said.

return of the orange book?

WaPo | The U.S. government is seeing "hints" that adversaries are targeting military networks for "remote" sabotage, the head of the Pentagon's recently launched Cyber Command said in his first public remarks since being confirmed last month.

"The potential for sabotage and destruction is now possible and something we must treat seriously," said Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who also heads the National Security Agency, the nation's largest intelligence agency. "Our Department of Defense must be able to operate freely and defend its resources in cyberspace."

Alexander spoke Thursday before more than 300 people at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In remarks afterward, Alexander said he is concerned about the safety of computer systems used in war zones. "The concern I have is when you look at what could happen to a computer, clearly sabotage and destruction are things that are yet to come," he said. "If we don't defend our systems, people will be able to break them."

James A. Lewis, director of CSIS's Technology and Public Policy Program, said advanced militaries are capable of destroying U.S. computer systems. "That wasn't true four years ago, but it's true now and Cyber Command will have to deal with it," he said.

The Cyber Command, launched last month at Fort Meade, was created by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to streamline the military's capabilities to attack and defend in cyberspace, supported by NSA's intelligence capabilities.

Alexander stressed that the Command will focus on protecting the U.S. military's 15,000 computer networks under oversight of the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Congress and the administration. His remarks were aimed at assuaging concerns over the NSA's role in helping to protect civilian and private-sector networks, as well as fears of a "militarization" of cyberspace.

"We spend a lot of time with the court, with Congress, the administration, the oversight committees to ensure they know what we're doing and why we're doing it," Alexander said.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

collective intelligence?

MIT Spectrum | Can collective intelligence save the planet? “It’s the only hope we have,” says Prof. Thomas Malone, adding that “no one really knows whether we’ll succeed.”

Malone — who is “basically an optimist” and believes that in the end, we will probably make choices that will, in fact, save the Earth — is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and is director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

He launched the Center in 2006 in part to learn how to harness the collective intelligence of the planet to help solve the world’s biggest problems — climate change, poverty, terrorism, healthcare, or crime — problems too big to be solved by any one expert or group. While, he says, groups like countries, companies, armies, and families have used various forms of collective intelligence for centuries to solve problems, the goal of the Center is to combine pooled human brainpower with new information technologies “to solve problems in ways that would never have been thinkable before.”

Google, Wikipedia, Linux, and YouTube already are using pooled brainpower to bring forth new solutions, he says. Consider Google. Millions create websites linked to each other; the information is harvested by Google algorithms, so when you type in a question, the answers are amazingly intelligent. Or take Wikipedia, where thousands across the globe create a huge, high-quality intellectual project with almost no centralized control. To best use these systems, he says, we need to better understand them. That’s a main goal of the Center, where the big question is: How can people and computers be connected so that collectively they act more intelligently than any person, group, or computer has ever done before?

One of their main projects is the Climate Collaboratorium, which harnesses the collective intelligence of thousands across the world to develop plans for what we can do about global climate change. Most recently, more than 2,000 users have visited the site, with 350 registered users, who have contributed 22 finalized plans with another 35 in progress. Users of the site include: the general public; world-class experts; moderators, who help organize and manage the input; and national and international policymakers.

Malone says: “We believe that for this site to realize its potential it should have at least thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people involved. Of course, we don’t know if this will happen, but we think it’s an experiment worth doing.”

mobile phones and honey bees?

Telegraph | The growing use of mobile telephones is behind the disappearance of honey bees and the collapse of their hives, scientists have claimed. Their disappearance has caused alarm throughout Europe and North America where campaigners have blamed agricultural pesticides, climate change and the advent of genetically modified crops for what is now known as 'colony collapse disorder.' Britain has seen a 15 per cent decline in its bee population in the last two years and shrinking numbers has led to a rise in thefts of hives.

Now researchers from Chandigarh's Punjab University claim they have found the cause which could be the first step in reversing the decline: They have established that radiation from mobile telephones is a key factor in the phenomenon and say that it probably interfering with the bee's navigation senses.

They set up a controlled experiment in Punjab earlier this year comparing the behaviour and productivity of bees in two hives – one fitted with two mobile telephones which were powered on for two fifteen minute sessions per day for three months. The other had dummy models installed.

After three months the researchers recorded a dramatic decline in the size of the hive fitted with the mobile phon, a significant reduction in the number of eggs laid by the queen bee. The bees also stopped producing honey.

The queen bee in the "mobile" hive produced fewer than half of those created by her counterpart in the normal hive.

They also found a dramatic decline in the number of worker bees returning to the hive after collecting pollen. Because of this the amount of nectar produced in the hive also shrank.

Ved Prakash Sharma and Neelima Kumar, the authors of the report in the journal Current Science, wrote: "Increase in the usage of electronic gadgets has led to electropollution of the environment. Honeybee behaviour and biology has been affected by electrosmog since these insects have magnetite in their bodies which helps them in navigation. Fist tap Dale.

snoop on your neighbor's energy use?

Fast Company | Ever wished you could find out whether your eco-obsessed neighbor is really an energy hog? Enter Microsoft's Hohm Scores, an online tool that allows you to view energy efficiency data about a specific home address. There are already 60 million homes listed in the database, and results can be compared to averages of other homes in the neighborhood and across the U.S.

Hohm Scores gets its information from a mashup of public records, including information about a home’s size, age, location, and average utility bills. Add in data about local weather patterns and some advanced analytics from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy, and voila, the tool can tell you just how energy efficient your home is--and how efficient it could be with a few home improvements.

Hohm provides an energy efficiency rating of 0 to 100 for each home. "Users can update the info that's driving their score and improve accuracy," says Troy Batterberry, general manager for Hohm, in an interview with FastCompany.com. So if you add insulation or fix up the windows, you can input your updated information and get a higher score.

Hohm Scores doesn't yet sync up to smart meters, and it can't provide information for apartment dwellers, either. But Batterberry tells us there are many other Hohm Scores improvements in the pipeline: "Users will also the have ability to provide info and publish their home score even if their home isn't already in the database."

The real goal for all of this is presumably to encourage Hohm Scores users to sign up for Microsoft's Hohm energy management system. And there's no denying that offering people the ability to snoop on their neighbors is a savvy marketing tool--even if it does raise some privacy questions. Fist tap Chando.

something's wrong with this picture....,

CSMonitor | The rate at which the United States is becoming more energy-efficient has soared since 1995, when the computer-based Internet and communications revolution began soaking into US society.

That conclusion – from a groundbreaking study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) last week – stands in sharp contrast to recent concerns that the computer backbone of the Internet was gobbling up huge amounts of energy.

Indeed, all America's servers – the computers that direct traffic on the Internet – and the systems that cool them use about 1.2 percent of the nation's electricity, according to a study last year. That's still a lot of power, comparable to the energy used by color TVs in the US.

But it turns out that for every kilowatt-hour of electricity used by information and communications technologies, the US saves at least 10 times that amount, the new ACEEE report found.

"Acceleration of information and computer technology across the US landscape post 1995 is driving much of the nation's energy-productivity gain," says John Laitner of the ACEEE and coauthor of the study. "Had we continued at the historic rate of prior years, we would today be using the energy equivalent of 1 billion barrels of oil more [per year] than we were" in the early 1990s.

After the oil embargoes of the 1970s, America quickly became more efficient and its "energy intensity" fell sharply. Energy intensity is the amount of energy required to produce a dollar of economic output. But its efficiency improvements slowed to less than 1 percent per year between 1986 and 1996.

Then something dramatic happened: Efficiency improvements sped up and the decline in energy intensity reached an average 2.9 percent annually between 1996 and 2001. Most of that decline came from technological innovation, according to the ACEEE study. Since 2001, the pace of US energy efficiency gains has remained remarkably high, at a robust 2.4 percent annually, at least half due to technology gains, researchers say.

Companies are making big improvements. Not long ago, delivery giant UPS introduced new software to develop more efficient routes and help drivers avoid left-hand turns. Result: 28.5 million fewer miles driven and 3 million gallons of gas saved each year. Fist tap Dale.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

dudus worried about public perception

Video - Jamaica Primetime News.

Jamaica Observer | REVEREND Al Miller says Christopher 'Dudus' Coke maintains he is misunderstood by those who failed to see the many initiatives implemented by him in West Kingston to make the crime rate in that police division the lowest.

Miller, who last met with Coke — now a fugitive — two days before the security forces took control of his Tivoli Gardens stronghold, said Coke spoke openly about, among other things, the role he played in helping the elderly and providing a start to many youth who would otherwise have turned to a life of crime.

Miller said Coke spoke of the perception that the public had of him which caused them to view him differently from who he really is.

"He voiced his concern that his side of the story was not being told," Miller told the Observer on Monday.

Miller said Coke insisted that were it not for his input, violence would be a constant feature of Downtown Kingston. Instead, he said that he tried to do the positives which no one spoke about.

"He felt he took the initiative and called together the men from other communities and encouraged the peace and unity for those areas as well," Miller said.

According to the pastor, Coke not only maintained that crime was the lowest in that police division but he was able to quote exact statistics.

Coke attributed this to his influence in West Kingston.

"He asked why people thought he is trying to create mayhem and war when he has done everything to ensure peace," Miller told the Observer in an interview Monday night.

Coke, Miller said, also spoke of encouraging other communities to examine the development model being used for Tivoli Gardens where many persons were encouraged to start their own small businesses and to stay away from crime and violence.

"He said he tried to get into the heads of youths the need to develop themselves and work and to cease from their violent ways," said Miller, adding that Coke also spoke of helping the elderly, organising after-school programmes within West Kingston while insisting that young children must attend school and be off the streets by a certain time nightly.

america's complicity in evil

Video - Finkelstein on Gaza flotilla attack.

Counterpunch | As I write at 5pm on Monday, May 31, all day has passed since the early morning reports of the Israeli commando attack on the unarmed ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, and there has been no response from President Obama except to say that he needed to learn “all the facts about this morning’s tragic events” and that Israeli prime minister Netanyahu had canceled his plans to meet with him at the White House. Thus has Obama made America complicit once again in Israel’s barbaric war crimes. Just as the US Congress voted to deep-six Judge Goldstone’s report on Israel’s war crimes committed in Israel’s January 2009 invasion of Gaza, Obama has deep-sixed Israel’s latest act of barbarism by pretending that he doesn’t know what has happened.

No one in the world will believe that Israel attacked ships in international waters carrying Israeli citizens, a Nobel Laureate, elected politicians, and noted humanitarians bringing medicines and building materials to Palestinians in Gaza, who have been living in the rubble of their homes without repairs or medicines since January 2009, without first clearing the crime with its American protector. Without America’s protection, Israel, a totally artificial state, could not exist. No one in the world will believe that America’s spy apparatus did not detect the movement of the Israeli attack force toward the aid ships in international waters in an act of piracy, killing 20, wounding 50, and kidnapping the rest. Obama’s pretense at ignorance confirms his complicity.

Once again the US government has permitted the Israeli state to murder good people known for their moral conscience. The Israeli state has declared that anyone with a moral conscience is an enemy of Israel, and every American president except Eisenhower and Carter has agreed.

Obama’s 12-hour silence in the face of extreme barbarity is his signal to the controlled corporate media to remain on the sidelines until Israeli propaganda sets the story.

The Israeli story, preposterous as always, is that the humanitarians on one of the ships took two pistols from Israeli commandos, highly trained troops armed with automatic weapons, and fired on the attack force. The Israeli government claims that the commandos’ response (70 casualties at last reporting) was justified self-defense. Israel was innocent. Israel did not do anything except drop commandos aboard from helicopters in order to intercept an arms shipment to Gazans being brought in by ships manned by terrorists.

Many Christian evangelicals, brainwashed by their pastors that it is God’s will for Americans to protect Israel, will believe the Israeli story, especially when it is unlikely they will ever hear any other. Conservative Americans, especially on Memorial Day when they are celebrating feats of American arms, will admire Israel for its toughness. Here in north Georgia where I am at the moment, I have heard several say, admiringly, “Them, Israelis, they don’t put up with nuthin.”

Conservative Americans want the US to be like Israel. They do not understand why the US doesn’t stop pissing around after nine years and just go ahead and defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. They don’t understand why the US didn’t defeat whoever was opposing American forces in Iraq. Conservatives are incensed that America had to “win” the war by buying off the Iraqis and putting them on the US payroll. Israel murders people and then blames its victims. This appeals to American conservatives, who want the US to do the same.

israeli sense of reality dangerously distorted

Video - Russia Today Flotilla Raid State Piracy?

Independent | An old Israeli saying describing various less-than-esteemed military leaders says: "He was so stupid that even the other generals noticed." The same derisive remark could be applied almost without exception to the present generation of Israeli politicians.

Such healthy scepticism among Israelis about the abilities of their military and political leaders has unfortunately ebbed in recent decades. As a result, Israelis are left perplexed as to why their wars, military interventions and armed actions have so often ended in failure since the 1973 war, despite the superiority of their armed forces.

The latest example of this is the assault on the Gaza aid convoy by naval commandos, a confrontation initiated by Israel which thereby ensured that the convoy's organisers achieved their objectives to a degree beyond their wildest dreams. By using assault troops in a police action against civilians with predictably bloody results Israel managed to focus international attention on its blockade of Gaza, which the world had hitherto largely ignored. The Israeli action infuriated Turkey, once its strongest ally in the region, and strengthened the claim of Hamas to Palestinian leadership.

The capacity of Israel to shoot itself in the foot needs explanation. From the beginning the operation was idiotic, since Israel was always likely to look bad after any confrontation between élite troops and civilian protesters. Even more ludicrous is the Israeli explanation that their élite and heavily armed soldiers were at risk of their lives because they had to use thick gloves to protect their hands when sliding down cables from a helicopter and therefore could not use their weapons.

The nature of the fiasco should cause little surprise because such botched Israeli military actions have been the norm for years. The 1982 invasion of Lebanon was discredited by the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Christian militias loosed on them by Israeli army commanders. Syria, not Israel, became the predominant power in Lebanon. In south Lebanon, the Israeli army fought a long and unsuccessful guerrilla war against Hizbollah. The bombardments of Lebanon in 1996 and 2006 left Hizbollah stronger, and a similar attack on Gaza in 2008 failed to weaken Hamas.

The problem is that nobody believes Israeli propaganda as much as Israelis. Pro-Palestinian activists often lament the fluency and mendacity of Israeli spokesmen on the airwaves and the pervasive influence of Israel's supporters abroad. But, in reality, these PR campaigns are Israel's greatest weakness, because they distort Israelis' sense of reality. Defeats and failures are portrayed as victories and successes.

The slaughter of civilians is justified as a military necessity or somehow the fault of the other side. Opponents are demonised as bloodthirsty terrorists. Comforted by such benign accounts of their activities, Israeli leaders are consumed by arrogance because they come to believe they have never made a mistake. Denial that errors have occurred makes it extremely difficult to sack generals or ministers, however gross their incompetence or record of failure.

the flotilla fiasco

Video - IDF video of freedom flotilla assault.

WaPo | THE ISRAELI commandos who landed on the deck of the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara off the coast of the Gaza Strip early Monday were totally unprepared for what they encountered: dozens of militants who swarmed around them with knives and iron bars. The result was a bloody battle in which at least nine passengers were killed -- and a diplomatic debacle for the government of Binyamin Netanyahu. Though the investigations to come will find many to blame, it's already clear that Israel's response to the pro-Palestinian flotilla was both misguided and badly executed.

We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla -- a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists. Israel says that some of the organizers have ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. What's plain is that the group's nominal purpose, delivering "humanitarian" supplies to Gaza, was secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation. The flotilla turned down an Israeli offer to unload the six boats and deliver the goods to Gaza by truck; it ignored repeated warnings that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza. Its spokesmen said they would insist on "breaking Israel's siege," as one of them put it.

Yet the threat to Israel was political rather than military. So far there's been no indication the boats carried missiles or other arms for Hamas. Mr. Netanyahu's aim should have been to prevent the militants from creating the incident they were hoping for. Allowing the boats to dock in Gaza, as Israel had done before, would have been better than sending military commandos to intercept them. The fact that the soldiers who roped down from helicopters to the lead Turkish ferry were unprepared to subdue its passengers without using lethal force only compounded the error.

Israel will now endure days, if not months, of condemnations by its many enemies. Middle East peace talks are at risk again, as are Israel's once-strong relations with Turkey. What was to have been a conciliatory meeting between Mr. Netanyahu and President Obama Tuesday has been cancelled. The White House has been properly cautious so far in responding to the incident; it should be careful to distinguish itself in the coming days from the anti-Israeli chorus. U.S. diplomacy should aim at ensuring that the inevitable calls for an international investigation do not lead to another one-sided setup like the United Nations' Goldstone commission, whose report on Israel's 2008 invasion of Gaza has become another weapon in the international campaign to de-legitimize the Jewish state.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

explains what's happening in kingston jamaica...,

Video - Nils Gilman Fora.TV Deviant Globalization. Fist tap Dale.

LongNow Foundation | Gilman described deviant globalization as "the unpleasant underside of transnational integration."

There's nice tourism, and then sex tourism, such as in Thailand and Switzerland. The vast pharmacology industry is matched by a vast traffic in illegal drugs. The underside of waste disposal is the criminal dumping in the developing world of toxic wastes from the developed world. Military activities worldwide are fed by a huge gray market in weapons. Internet communications are undermined by floods of malware doubling every year. Among the commodities shipped around the world are exotic hardwoods, endangered species, blood diamonds, and stolen art worth billions in ransom. Illegitimate health care includes the provision of human organs from poor people---you can get a new kidney with no waiting for $150,000 in places like Brazil, the Philippines, Istanbul, and South Africa. Far overwhelming legal immigration are torrents of illegal immigrants who pay large sums to get across borders. And money laundering accounts for 4-12% of world GDP---$1.5 to 5 trillion dollars a year.

These are not marginal, "informal" activities. These are enormous, complex businesses straight out of the Harvard Business Review. The drug business in Mexico, for example, employs 400,000 people. A thousand-dollar kilo of cocaine grows in value by 1400-percent when it crosses into the US---nice profit margin there.

The whole phenomenon is driven by state regulators acting on ethical taboos. When we outlaw or tax certain goods and services, we reduce supply while demand increases, and that provides an irresistible opportunity for risk-taking entrepreneurs.

Also, historian Gilman points out, international development practices are partially to blame. From 1949 to 1989 the Cold War was played out with the US and USSR trying to create new states like themselves. It mostly failed, and it ended with the end of international Communism. Then came the neoliberal "Washington Consensus" theory of structural adjustment---governments in developing countries must "stabilize, privatize, and liberalize." That sort of worked, but it hollowed out the governments and dismantled their regulatory capacity. People in those countries realized they were on their own, forced to "survival entrepreneurship." In some places like Eastern Europe criminals took over the economy.

There is a certain Robin Hood effect on the large scale. Serious money is moving from the rich global north to the poor global south and enriching some people there.

Politically, the deviant entrepreneurs don't want to take over the state, just undermine it. For their own communities they often provide state-like services of infrastructure, health care, and even education. They are "post-modern, post-revolutionary, and post-progressive." They resort to violence against the state only when the state suddenly attacks them---as is playing out in (Kingston Jamaica) Mexico now.

What to do? If you try to shut down the deviant economy, you just make the profit margins greater and exacerbate the problem. If you shrug and legalize everything, you condone hateful practices like child sex slavery and the total deforestation of tropical hardwoods.

We are left with making judicious choices about which deviant practices to take most seriously, and then dealing with them patiently in a non-sudden way, realizing that the unsavory economy will never be fully eradicated.

bacteria control weather....,

NYTimes | Walking across the campus of Montana State University here, David Sands, a plant pathologist, says the blanket of snow draped over the mountains around town contains a surprise.

The cause of most of it, he said, is a living organism, a bacterium, called pseudomonas syringae.

In the last few years, Dr. Sands and other researchers have accumulated evidence that the well-known group of bacteria, long known to live on agricultural crops, are far more widespread and may be part of a little-studied weather ecosystem. The principle is well accepted, but how widespread the phenomenon is remains a matter of debate.

The accepted precipitation model is that soot, dust and other inert things form the nuclei for raindrops and snowflakes. Scientists have found these bacteria in abundance on the leaves of a wide range of wild and domestic plants, including trees and grasses, everywhere they have looked, including Montana, Morocco, France, the Yukon and in the long buried ice of Antarctica. The bacteria have been found in clouds and in streams and irrigation ditches. In one study of several mountaintops here, 70 percent of the snow crystals examined had formed around a bacterial nucleus.

Some of the bacteria promote freezing as a means of attacking plants. They make proteins that will trigger freezing at higher temperatures than usual and the resulting water ice damages the plant, giving the bacteria access to the nutrients they need.

This ability to promote freezing of water at higher-than-normal freezing temperatures has led Dr. Sands and other scientists to believe the bacteria are part of an unstudied system. After the bacteria infect plants and multiply, he says, they may be swept as aerosols into the sky, where it seems they prompt the formation of ice crystals (which melt as they fall to earth, causing rain) at higher temperatures than do dust or mineral particles that also function as the nuclei of ice crystals. Fist tap Nana.