People occasionally send me things they would like me to blog about. Edmund sent me some fascinating articles about the Kurdish feminist fighters in Turkey and Iraq, who have pushed back all manner of foes including ISIL. I’ve yet to do the research on this complex story to present it well.
GPaul recently dropped two articles on me which he thought were worthy of note and, while I agree with him, it might be for different reasons.
The first is about a new IMF study, which shows fossil fuel industry “subsidies” exceed $5 trillion per year. For comparison purposes, this is about 1/4 of the entire national product of the US. It is also slightly more than all the countries of the world spend together on health care.
The conventional radical thinking here would be: End the fossil subsidies and the market will take us to a renewable future.
But this is hardly new news. There have been all manner of studies of direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies, including by the IMF which released a report with similar findings in May of this year. What is news, is who did it and how they did it.
The IMF, usually with its partner the World Bank, has been involved for decades in making global infrastructure investments. This generally means support of the fossil fuel industry (fortunately not nuclear reactors). What this report represents is a departure from the IMF’s traditional lending scheme. It is, in essence, an admission of a mistake.
IMF: “We used to fund fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Now we recognize that direct and indirect subsidies to this sector are creating tremendous climate damage.
The other thing which is interesting about the IMF study is that it includes health effects of the fossil fuel industry as part of its estimated costs. On one level, this is hardly surprising. Good economists and analysts attempt to be robust in their cost accounting. And this includes “externalities”.
In economics, an externality is the cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit. – Wikipedia
If your next door neighbor plays just your type of music, that is a positive externality. If your up river neighbor pours poison into the river, when you drink it, you will die. This is a negative externality.
Industrial capitalism is all about manipulating the externalities. Your coal mine is dirty? Move it to a place with no environmental controls. Your sweatshop is killing workers? Be sure to locate it in a country which won’t make you liable for that problem. What capitalism thrives on is the notion at negative externalities can be ignored. “We don’t have to pay for these problems we create, therefore we can give greater value to our shareholders.”
The IMF is saying, “When we are looking at the economic effects of fossil fuels we need to consider the externalities, including human health.” This is a rare assault on the very foundations of capitalism. This is an economic model the IMF is sworn to protect and advance.
The second article is about Uruguay going 100% renewable. This is lovely, we want lots of places to do this. But Uruguay is not the first country to propose such a shift. Iceland did it in 1998. Albania and Paraguay are doing it using their ample hydropower resources. What make this story exciting is how the Uruguayans did it. They did it much the same way the Germans did.
You do it by looking at green energy generation as an economic problem rather than a technical problem. The hardware is out there and key to getting it installed is protecting investors. Like Germany did with its Energiewende policy. Germany protected investors in renewables by making sure they did not lose out when electricity prices fluctuated. Uruguay followed suit and the world got better.
“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,” Uruguay’s Méndez says. “The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”
The results? Uruguay has cut its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs. Renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s current electricity and inflation adjusted electricity prices for it are lower than in the ten years ago.
The US could do this as well, if the fossil and nuclear bound utilities did not control the state legislatures.
In a clearly anti-democratic move, the President of France has shut down public assembly during the present climate negotiations, because of the recent attacks on Paris. In response some protesters have shown up as shoes.
But squelching public assembly is not going to stop some of the world’s best critical minds, assembled in Paris for these climate negotiations, from getting the word out.
One of my favorite comrades, David Solnit, is working for 350.org on the protests of COP 21. This UN conference will have 40K delegates including 140 heads of state and will be the largest conference France has ever hosted.
Does Paris event matter? CNN says “the fate of the world as we know it could be at stake.” There are two big questions:
- Can the parties reach a legally binding agreement?
- Will there be climate assistance to poor countries?
The chances for success in finding a binding agreement are quite low. Obama’s deal making is crippled by an uncooperative Congress. Europe is an economic crisis and unwilling to foot the bill for the transitions needed (with the exception of a few countries like Denmark and Germany.) Even with the world’s largest renewables portfolio, China is the biggest energy consumer and carbon emitter. And even if a deal were possible, the strongest proposal on the table is still too weak to avert a 2 degree increase in temperature, which climate scientists say we need to avert to avoid catastrophic ecological effects.
In terms of climate protection assistance to poor countries, what is important to realize is that the world has changed dramatically in the last decade. China had 9 of the 10 worst polluted cities in the world in 2005. Now India has most of them, with air pollution killing 1.3 million people a year. Will some nations or investors step forward and help the planet by harvesting this low hanging fruit of technological transfer, where small investments can have significant emissions reductions?
Update: An uncharacteristically useful first draft has come out early, with key questions about which parts (or all) of the document should be legally binding and both aid and expectations of developing countries.
There have been terrible terrorist attacks against the city of Paris and everyone knows about it. The mainstream media (MSM) is jumping on tragedy the way they are fantastically capable of and everyone in the US who is even near a television knows all about it. Almost.
We know about it in the context of a corporate controlled media. We know all about how innocent the victims were. We know that French President Hollande is promising a “pitiless” war in response to the attacks. And we know because the attackers are terrorists and the victims are innocent and the French President is promising a vicious response, that starting this French war against ISIS is justified. Except we are wrong.
France is not starting a war with ISIL because of these recent attacks on Paris. France has been at war with ISIL for over a year, bombing them in Iraq for that entire time and, two months ago, it started also bombing suspected ISIL sites inside of Syria. Except it has not really been a war because, having learned from the US, the French were perfectly happy killing members of ISIL and countless surrounding Syrian and Iraqi civilians using airstrikes without ever being exposed to a hostile response from ISIL. Here is the sentence you will never see in the MSM reporting of the Paris attacks:
By attacking Paris, ISIL is retaliating against French attacks on Arab civilians and ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria.
But this background information is critically important if you are trying to understand what is actually happening with these attacks. It gets worse.
Recently declassified US Intelligence documents indicate that the US and western allies, including France were hoping and supporting extremist Islamic resistance to the Assad regime as recently as 3 years ago. This western supported resistance became ISIS.
We have seen this before in the US around the 9/11 attacks. If you ask most US Americans if the 9/11 attacks on the US were unprovoked, they will assure you they were. If you asked them why bin Laden organized these attacks, you will get muddled answers, including gems like, “They hate our freedom”. Before 9/11 bin Laden had outlined the reasons why he was retaliating against the US:
- US military presence in Saudi Arabia (despite significant protests)
- US sanctions in Iraq that killed 600K children
- US support of Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestine
One can argue about whether these were good enough reasons to launch the 9/11 attacks, but it is hard to argue either that they were unprovoked or a surprise.
Back to Paris. The day before the Paris attacks there were similar attacks in Beirut, which got basically no MSM attention. Why no attention? One could claim that Beirut has been in some state of war for many years. But i believe the reason is deeper. We see over and over that the US MSM does not care about terrorist attacks unless the victims are white.
Do i condone these attacks on Paris? Certainly not. But what i feel an extraordinary need to condemn is the willful ignorance of why these attacks are happening and how the systematic nationalism and racism of the US media helps to insure that they will keep happening.
Other good critical sources on asymmetric reporting on terrorism and failed US policy in the middle East:
We cannot properly honor the deaths of Parisians killed in these terror attacks without analyzing our governments’ understanding of the subsequent radicalization that has followed invasions and airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria; drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries; and the American bombing of the Doctors without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in October.
We cannot bring ourselves to say JeSuisBeirut. White supremacy does not allow us to imagine ourselves in the lives of people of color. We cannot see our humanity, our pain, our fears in the eyes of the Sunni Muslims who were terrorized as they mourned the loss of a loved one.
An excellent and accessible article from the Nation on interviewing ISIL prisoners.
At the end of the interview with the first prisoner we ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” For the first time since he came into the room he smiles—in surprise—and finally tells us what really motivated him, without any prompting. He knows there is an American in the room, and can perhaps guess, from his demeanor and his questions, that this American is ex-military, and directs his “question,” in the form of an enraged statement, straight at him. “The Americans came,” he said. “They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”
CommonDreams.org assaults the US and western approach to conflict in the middle East in the article called Paris: You dont want to read this.
But I do have this: stop what we have been doing for the last 14 years. It has not worked. There is nothing at all to suggest it ever will work. Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan. Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea. Putting western soldiers on the ground in the MidEast and western planes overhead fans the flames. Vengeance does not and cannot extinguish an idea.
I am still getting a fact check on this article about how the Bush Administration was instrumental in building he foundation for ISIL. The second point of the 5 is quite weak, and does not support the thesis. But the other points appear to make the case reasonably well.
- ISIS leaders’ training as part of Hussein’s regime gave them the knowledge they’ve needed to be deadly:
Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.
They have brought to the organization the military expertise and some of the agendas of the former Baathists, as well as the smuggling networks developed to avoid sanctions in the 1990s and which now facilitate the Islamic State’s illicit oil trading.
Here is an informative piece on the controversy over the name ISIS/ISIL it’s proposed replacement and how acronyms are quite exotic in Arabic.
The main misapprehensions about the word currently circulating [Daesh] in our media boil down to the following list:
- That daesh is an Arabic word in its own right (rather than an acronym) meaning ‘a group of bigots who impose their will on others’
- That it can be ‘differently conjugated’ to mean either the phrase above or ‘to trample and crush’
- That one of the words in the acronym also means ‘to trample or crush’
- That it is an insult or swearword in its own right
- That is has different meanings in the plural form
An excellent Guardian piece on how the US prison in Iraq at Bucca was the training camp for IS and US prison relations with Baghdadi helped him rise to power and build ISIL
“He was respected very much by the US army,” Abu Ahmed said. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”
Brittany ran to me as i was walking through the Ash Street gardens of the Baltimore Free Farm. She was clearly excited to see me.
“I am so glad there is an old person here now!” was the first thing she said to me
I cracked up laughing. She explained that the party was full of 20 somethings and she thought my experience would be a grounding effect. Most people don’t find me grounding, but i was still totally flattered.
Many folks say they are busy, but you make time for what is important to you. I really wanted to go to StrangeFolx, the Baltimore Free Farms anniversary celebration. I wanted to go because i had missed the protests that BFF had played an amazing supportive role in. I wanted to go because i am regularly impressed with daring, tenacity and street smarts of these punks. I wanted to go, because i wanted a big, political party that someone else had organized.
On the way to the event i stopped at a roadside stand and got a flat of strawberries. I was handing them out to the perhaps 100 people who were already at this event by 1 PM. I walked by Billy who was pumping out pizzas.
As i approached the oven, there was a metal stake sticking up in the middle of the steps which dozens of people would soon be walking. “Fix that!” i barked at Billy pointing to the offending stake, in the way busy organizers sometimes dispense with pleasantries. A nearby anarchist reminded me, “You could fix it.” Billy soon put a purple cup over the stake and pronounced it fixed. Safety isn’t first with this crowd, otherwise they would not be rioting with the police.
Billy suggested that i change my thinking about pizza. Moving away from the idea that it would be a point in time in which one might have pizza, to more of a continuum or infinite span of pizza. And he made quite good on his promise to deliver unending pizza. Recently toughened up by the tremendous cooking effort done to support protesters of police violence in Baltimore, the Free Farm kids prepped for this 8 hour long anniversary party of a few hundred people. GPaul asked for a vegan pizza, and in moments it was there. The advantage of these real pizza ovens is they can cook a full pizza in just a couple of minutes.
When Billy finally took a break he greeted me warmly and gave me an illegal piece of riot swag. I was touched and i looked at him curiously. “We could not have done it without your cooks. It was amazing to have all this help and we desperately needed it.” When Baltimore exploded, Billy called me. He asked me to put out the call to Action: Baltimore needs cooks. So i blogged about it, copied it to few facebook pages and crossed my fingers. I got great reaction, with cooks responding to the blog post wanting to help. Many had minor logistical problems (like little money and no car). I cobbled together ride shares and other minor logistics, but folk were resourceful and wanted to get to Baltimore. In the end about a dozen cooks ended up volunteering at BFF. And i felt some pride around networking effectively.
But as though my ego were on some type of zen roller coaster, shortly after this i got schooled by Brittany on how unworkable my clever plans were to try to build coalitions with people of color (POC) activists. She was clear and firm in telling me that the internship scheme i was proposing would not fly culturally.
Instead Brittany and Billy agreed that the best thing for white allies to do these days is be consistent in providing the type of food services for protesters that BFF and Food Not Bombs have been providing. And be patient.
I live in a world that is slightly inconceivable to most people. I do a lot of work, almost all of it stuff I am super pleased to do. And I don’t get paid for it. Instead the communities I live in (Twin Oaks and Acorn) cover most of the costs of my living: Food, shelter, clothes, education, entertainment, medical insurance, dental insurance, and most of my travel.
Instead of getting paid in money, besides the services listed above, I accrue labor credits. For each hour I work, I get one labor credit. My labor obligation is 42 hours a week. It makes little sense, however, to compare this work quota to most people’s straight jobs. On the rare cases when I commute (like to a college speaking gig or a craft show) I get “paid” for my time traveling. I get labor credits for voting and going to the doctor, and some small fraction of the time I spend taking care of my son Willow is labor creditable. All the time I spend with Willow on home schooling, including the prep is labor creditable. When I clean our collective dishes, I get labor credits. If I were to cook for more than 7 people (which I never do) it would be also be creditable.
Some of the stuff I do is hard. I do mediation between people who are furious with each other. I work to stop nuclear power plants. I am trying to start income sharing communities in NYC, where couples committed to each other for life find it easier to not share income. I help find consensus when there is sharp disagreement. With some regularity people thank me and appreciate the difficulty of this work. When I am feeling clever or exhausted by my efforts I say, “That is why I make the big labor credits”, a silly knock off on the phrase “That is why I make the big bucks.”
Silly, because all labor credits are exactly the same size. One hour is one credit. It does not matter how hard I work in an hour to the accounting system (though other members certainly appreciate and celebrate anyone’s hard work). The labor credit I get for an hour of preparing space for a party is the exact same size as the one I get for hour I spend getting a drunk and belligerent guest out of the party. The labor credit I get for folding mail in the sun while talking with charming visitors is the same size as the one I get for counseling and talking down a manic or suicidal member.
I don’t need to get a bigger labor credit for the harder work. Turns out when my basic needs are met, I am pretty well off. The communities are poor. The people who live there have legitimately calculated taxable income below the poverty line (or at least in the case of Twin Oaks–Acorn is higher but still below the national average income). What this radical sharing we deploy does is to permit us to live like kings (or at least like the upper middle class), while we live in technical poverty.
If you are thinking to yourself “Wait why doesn’t everyone do this? We could eliminate the awful effects of living in poverty without having to make any more money,” you would be on to something. Besides stopping climate change, we would be saving millions of lives from the sharp edge of poverty.
What stops us is we don’t trust each other enough to share what we have, almost all of which is sitting idle almost all the time.
Post Script: I should clarify this thing about traveling, since it has sparked a bunch of questions. Perhaps half of these trips are paid for by the communities i live in. These include craft fairs trips with Hawina, college speaking gigs, hammocks sales trips and almost monthly trips to DC/Baltimore and NYC for the Point A Project, With the possible exception of Ira from Acorn, no one at either Twin Oaks or Acorn travels even close to this much. And i travel more than this.
I visit my mother at least two or three times a year, often in Florida, and she pays for this travel completely. I also travel with the Star family (my family of choice) and i pay for this out of money i earn outside of the community. I am also fortunate to have romantic intimates who pay for me to come and see them in all manner of curious or exotic locations.