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Sunday, March 1, 2015

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Islam and the "Culture of Offence": Missing the Point

Maryam Namazie challenges the Culture of Offence. Maryam Namazie is a political activist, campaigner and blogger. She is the Spokesperson for Fitnah - Movement for Women's Liberation, Equal Rights Now, One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. She works closely with Iran Solidarity, which she founded, and the International Committee against Stoning.

In the age of ISIS, dissent and criticism of religion is a life and death necessity. It has been - and remains - key for human progress.
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There is Only One Aspect of British Life Which is Still Dominated by the Working Classes Hence its Enormous Popularity

Mick Hall with a piece on soccer which he argues is still immersed in the traditions and culture of the working class.  Mick Hall is a veteran Marxist activist and trade unionist who blogs at Organized Rage.

I've written before about how public life in much of the UK has become a working class free zone, whether it be politics, big business, the arts, or the mainstream media, working class people have been all but excluded from front of house roles, having been replaced by upper middle class clones of the ruling class. When was the last time you heard someone speaking in parliament with a brummie, scouse or cockney accent? This lack of access to public life is especially true of broadcasters like the BBC and Sky TV. TV documentaries bar the odd one, are presented wall to wall by middle class Oxbridge academics or their former pupils. They make no attempt to empathise with their working class viewers.
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Greece’s Syriza – A Toothless Tiger?

The Broken Elbow reproduces a piece seriously questioning Syriza's radical credentials.
       
The following article, taken from the World Socialist Web Site, challenges the consensus view of the Greek Syriza party which swept to power in the recent general election in that country on an anti-austerity platform. Far from being the radical, left-wing party portrayed in the media and by many on the left, argues Evel Ekonomakis, Syriza’s actual demands are modest and fall far short of challenging the system that causes Greece’s woes. He questions the party’s choice of allies and predicts that Syriza will backpedal on its pre-election promises (a prescient call given the weekend deal Greece agreed with the Eurozone).
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The Paris Climate Talks and the Failure of States

Gabriel Levy puts out his perspective on the anticipated Paris talks on global warming. Gabriel Levy is a Marxist writer who blogs at People And Nature.


The officials in charge of the United Nations climate talks say that no deal will be done in Paris in December to avoid dangerous global warming

After preparatory negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, this month, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), confirmed that the target set previously, of limiting warming to 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, would be missed.

Figueres had already said, in December, after a round of talks in Lima, Peru, that "the sum total of efforts [in Paris]will not be able to put us on the path for two degrees. […] We are not going to get there with the Paris agreement … We will get there over time.” This month she reiterated that the Paris talks would only “set the pathway for an orderly planned transition over time to a low-carbon society”.

March in Defence of Mother Earth at the climate talks in Lima, Peru, in December. Source: http://cumbrepuebloscop20.org/


The EU climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, claimed that “you can not say it is a failure” if, collectively, the world’s governments abandoned the 2 degrees target, as long as there is “an ongoing process”.

Diplomats at Geneva put together an 86-page document for political leaders to haggle over in December. (It’s downloadable here.) But it’s already clear that:

■ The approach adopted in Kyoto in 1997 – to require countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by particular amounts, within specified timeframes under international law – has been abandoned. Instead, negotiators are reported to be saying, the

new agreement will rely on “peer pressure, national accountability and global cooperation” to “voluntarily” slow down global warming.

■ The USA, the European Union and China – who jointly account for more than half of all emissions from burning fossil fuels[1] – have already decided on their commitments. A group of academic researchers analysed the likely effect of countries’ promises, and concluded that if governments stick to them, the atmosphere would probably get 3 or 3.5 degrees warmer – rather than the 4-5 degrees of warming likely in a “business as usual” scenario.

Massimo Tavoni of the Politecnico di Milano, who led the research, acknowledged that “there’s a lot of uncertainty” with the countries’ targets and their exact effects. What is not uncertain is the relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and warming (see The global carbon budget, below).

Neither is there any doubt about the terrible human suffering that researchers associate with warming of 3 degrees or more. (You can get an idea from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report – downloadable here – which contains frightful descriptions of the likely consequences of 4 degrees of warming. And don’t forget, there are no exaggerations here: it’s all been signed off by representatives of all countries that have signed the convention, including Saudi Arabia and other oil producers.)

To summarise:

The target of keeping global warming to 2 degrees has been repeatedly analysed by scientists, and accepted by politicians and even energy companies as essential to prevent what the UN framework convention calls “dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system”. (The UNFCCC summary is here, and an excellent summary history is here.)

The Paris deal, if it happens, will certainly miss this target by a long way, and will depend on the good will of governments, rather than any international enforcement mechanism.

Diplomats and politicians are claiming that this is “not a failure”, as the EU’s Canete put it. But, measured in terms of the welfare of the world population, it clearly is.

This is a collective failure of the world’s large states.

In 2009 at Copenhagen, Denmark, they acknowledged the 2 degrees target – and in 2010 at Cancun, Mexico, wrote it into an international agreement – but failed to make commitments to achieve it. This year in Paris, they will abandon any pretence of concerted action, rubber-stamp voluntary “commitments”, and use the diplomatic-media-NGO circus to try to spread the illusion of progress.

Some leftists portray Copenhagen as the outcome of neoliberalism and market fundamentalism. I see it differently.

The response of the world’s leading capitalist states to the 2008 financial crash – that is, their economic policy since before Copenhagen – can not be described as market fundamentalism. In 2009-10 the USA invested hundreds of billions of dollars to support the banking system. It deepened its symbiotic relationship with the Chinese dictatorship, that advanced industrialisation and urbanisation – a counterbalance to the recession in the USA and Europe – with an approach that had little to do with neoliberalism.

Of course neoliberal dogma continued to be used to bolster trade arrangements that favoured the large capitalist states, and to justify “austerity” policies. But the large states continued to intervene in the economy. What they stopped far short of was policies that might have begun to address the threat of global warming.

Plenty has been said about a “green new deal” and “green growth”, by trade union leaders and left parties among others … but measures that might enhance the transition away from fossil fuels – ending subsidies, or state-supported investment in renewable technologies and decentralised energy systems – have been pathetically inadequate or non-existent.

On the demo in Lima.


Instead of a carbon tax (which, if you believe global warming could or should be addressed without tampering with capitalism, is at least logical), the EU launched the ridiculous emissions trading scheme. It has failed (as predicted) to produce any discernible movement away from fossil fuel burning. There has been some investment in solar and wind power, but only insofar as it fits in to the commercial electricity system dominated by coal, gas and nuclear.

Come December last year, the US and Chinese presidents, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, agreed that the USA will by 2025 aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% of the 2005 level, and that China’s emissions will peak in 2030. The EU had previously set a target – which many observers believe it will miss – of cutting emissions levels by 40% of the 1990 level, by 2030. These political leaders – not neoliberals, but maybe market liberals, post-Stalinists, post-social democrats, whatever – have abandoned any effective action on warming.

The moment in the Hollywood movie, when the world’s leaders agree to overlook their differences to combat the shoal of meteors, alien spaceships, or whatever, has not happened.

Copenhagen and Paris are not failures of neoliberalism, but failures of states, and a failure of the UN, the forum for cooperation between those states set up after the second world war.

Liberal writers on international relations have long assumed that in the long run modern capitalist states led by liberals would, and should, work together. This assumption underpinned Francis Fukuyama’s argument that the universalisation of western liberal democracy was the culmination of human achievement.[2]

At Paris, universalised western liberal democracy will complete its retreat, not before alien spaceships or shoals of meteors, but in front of a monster produced by capitalist economic growth.

It’s a frightening prospect. But it could also refocus the attention of social and labour movements on the need to recreate society ourselves.

How might social and labour movements react?

Here are three suggestions.

First. We should reject the false narratives being promoted around the talks … the stuff about “we” are making “progress”.

It’s worth noting what some big environmental NGOs are saying. After the Geneva talks, Climate Central reported that the Paris meetings “are being viewed [by NGOs] as an opportunity to launch a wholly new approach to global climate action […] that could do far more” than an international diplomatic agreement.

Alex Hanafi of the Environmental Defense Fund said that Paris will “put us not on an emissions trajectory for 2 degrees, but on an institutional trajectory that allows us to try to meet that goal”. For me that is false optimism gone mad.

Another illusion to be avoided is that the politicians are responding substantially to the pressure of civil society. The journalist Rebecca Solnit, commenting on the Obama-Xi deal in December, wrote: “Pressure works. The [US] president is clearly feeling it, and it’s reflected in the recent US-China agreement […] – far from perfect or adequate, but a step forward.” Really? I prefer Ben Adler’s sober judgment that Obama “shies away from using the levers of power” that he has. And I take Obama’s commitment as seriously as I would the promise of any politician about anything.

Second. We should reject the false narratives about technologies that tweak the fossil-fuel-based energy system but can not produce the necessary fundamental shift away from it.

The latest favourite among politicians is a technology known as BECCS: the attachment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to power stations burning biomass, instead of fossil fuels. Theoretically, if plants, trees or crops are grown to replace those that are burnt, BECCS could actually reduce the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere.

The latest IPCC report includes many scenarios that make incredibly optimistic assumptions about the spread of BECCS plants – of which there is not yet a single one in operation. (There’s a good explanation by Carbon Brief here.) To me, the whole thing looks like a way of boosting CCS (beloved of power companies who want to keep burning coal or gas on the grounds that at some point in the future they will use CCS to reduce emissions) and of forgetting about deeper-going technological shifts.

Fixes that do not involve progress on renewable and decentralised technologies should be treated with suspicion, in my view.

Third. We should do more to develop discussions on the complex social, economic and technological issues in social and labour movements, and in civil society more broadly.

The implication of the failure of states so evident in the run-up to the Paris talks is that we must broaden and deepen discussion and action independently of and in opposition to those states. In December 2013, for example, the UK’s leading climate change research outfit, the Tyndall Centre, organised a “radical emissions reduction” conference that brought gogether academics and researchers with activists. Why don’t social and labour movement organisations pick that up and develop it further? Gabriel Levy, 25 February 2015.

The global carbon budget

The media circus around the climate talks generates huge quantities of numbers. These are often used to convince us that something is happening, rather than to describe things as they really are.

To push past the obfuscation, a good number to start with is the global carbon budget. This is the amount of carbon (contained in carbon dioxide) that can be released into the atmosphere without spoiling our chances of keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Research shows pretty accurately that, so far, about two-thirds of the budget has been spent, almost all of it since the industrial revolution. The rate at which the economy eats up the carbon budget has risen relentlessly for the last century or so. And it will only take a further 30 years, if greenhouse gas emissions carry on at the 2014 level, to use up the budget completely.

To say that another way: starting in 1870, the cumulative total of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere is a little over 2000 gigatonnes. To have a 66% chance of staying below 2 degrees of warming, the total budget available is 3200 gigatonnes (with uncertainty of 300 gigatonnes either way).

Those numbers were examined, tested and published in October last year by a team headed by Pierre Friedlingstein of Exeter University.[3] It was just the latest addition to a mountain of research. Friedlingstein and his colleagues looked at various complicating factors, such as the effect of non-CO2 greenhouse gases and aerosols, and emphasised that the dominant role of CO2 emissions, and their causal relationship with warming, is proven and measurable. A presentation by the Global Carbon Project, which cited the research, is downloadable here. Here’s one of the graphics, showing how the carbon budget is being used up:


If emissions continue to grow as projected to 2019, and then continue at the 2019 rate, the remaining budget would be used about 22 years from 2019.

Add caption

The second graphic, below, shows how the annual total emissions of carbon dioxide rose to about 37 gigatonnes in 2014 – and that, if the IMF’s projections about economic growth are correct, and if the gentle decline in the amount of emissions per unit of economic growth continues, the world economy will by 2019 be putting 43 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere. Much too much.

The graphic also shows the complete failure of the Kyoto protocol, which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005, to make the slightest difference.

Carbon dioxide emissions 1990-2014, and projections by Friedlingstein et al, using economic growth estimates by the IMF and estimates of fossil fuel intensity based on a ten-year trend

It’s worth looking at the whole Global Carbon Project presentation, here. And there is a good explanation of the budget concept by Carbon Brief writers here.

The IPCC has accepted the idea of the carbon budget, and included it in its latest report. The table showing its view of the carbon budget is on page 61 of the Synthesis Report downloadable here.

There are a whole set of other issues – the uneven way that emissions produce warming (devilishly complex but getting clearer to scientists), factors both human-made and natural that counteract the warming effect, and the likely consequences of warming in terms of e.g. sea level rise, extreme weather eventsand damage to agriculture – and numbers that go with them.

Moreover, there is a fierce discussion between climate scientists about the 2 degrees target: many of them think it is too high, and that the risk of horrible consequences is already too great at 1.5 degrees.

Whatever your view of the dangers, the global carbon budget is the best measure of the speed at which the world economy is moving towards producing them, and the effectiveness (if any) of measures to slow that down and stop it.

[1] In 2013, the shares of global emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production were 28% by China, 14% by the USA and 10% by the EU (28 countries). Emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production are about three-quarters of all emissions. (Sources: Global Carbon Project, IPCC Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report.)

[2] See Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (Free Press, 1992)

[3] P. Friedlingstein et al, “Persistent growth of CO2 emissions and implications for reaching climate targets”, Nature Geoscience vol. 7, October 2014, pp. 709-715.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

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2015 A Salute to 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs

Mary Marshall with a tribute to the 21 Coptic Christians butchered by Islamic State in Libya. Mary Marshall is from Sydney Australia. She is a Christian who is strongly opposed to clerical abuse and cover-up within the Roman Catholic Church.

This submission is short on words but big on meaning which is contained in the video of 2 minutes duration. Please spare the time to look at it.
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Machetes For Mohammed

  • Bangladesh has become a safe haven for Islamists where they can do whatever they like ... They can kill people with no qualms whatsoever. Avijit Roy has been killed the way other free-thinking writers were killed in Bangladesh. No free thinker is safe in Bangladesh - Taslima Nasreen,
 
A blogger hacked to death by religious fascists in Bangladesh is horrific but not surprising. For an uncomfortably large amount of people the machete, if the AK 47 is not available, is the next most appropriate way of spreading the word of Mohammed.
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Churches Tied up in Knots: 50 Shades Could Help

John Coulter with a wry take on the Christian churches evasion of resp0nsibility when it comes to sex education. John Coulter is a radical right wing unionist writer and an evangelical Christian. He is also a columnist at the Irish Daily Star.


Every cleric, nun, pastor and reverend should show the courage of their Christian convictions and see a screening of the erotic bonkbuster, 50 Shades of Grey, starring Ireland’s Hollywood hunk actor Jamie Dornan.
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101 Things to do in a Cat-B Cell

Alex Cavendish explains how a prisoner gets their day in under a 23 hour lock up regime. Alex Cavendish is an author and academic: a social anthropologist, former prisoner and an active participant in the debate surrounding crime, prisons and probation. He blogs at Prison UK: An Insider's View.

I was asked recently by a blog reader to provide an insight into what there is to do in a typical Cat-B cell during 23-hour bang-up. This regime is becoming more and more common these days owing to a combination of staff shortages and overcrowding on the wings.

Friday, February 27, 2015

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The Return of Radio Free Eireann

Sandy Boyer announces the resumption oif broadcasting from Radio Free Eireann after a short interregnum.

Radio Free Eireann will finally be back this Saturday, February 28, at 12 Noon New York time.

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Who are DAISH-ISIS and What are Their Motives?

Sajjad Amin Bangash shares his perspective on Islamic State.  Sajjad Amin Bangash is a Lecturer in International Politics and Economics, Human Rights Activist and Political Activist for PTI (Imran Khan party- Freedom and Justice for All). He blogs at Sajjad Khan Bangash's blog.

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Islamic State


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PSNI’s Double Standards

PSNI’s Double Standards On Investigating The Past Illustrated By Scapatticci Case. One Law For Boston Interviewees, Another For British Agents

Ed Moloney showing how the PSNI is implementing its Different Strokes for Different Folks programme for dealing with the past. Ed Moloney is a prominent Irish journalist living in New York. He was the project director for Boston College’s oral history project. He blogs at The Broken Elbow.
This was a story carried by Ulster Television today. No comment from me is necessary because the implications are obvious. Note the ‘no comment’ from PSNI. And not a squeak from the British military:
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Condemnation

Michael Doherty probes the politically loaded term 'condemnation.' Michael Doherty observes the Derry political scene with a detached eye.  Like many contributors to TPQ he is a full time member of CAB - Citizens Against Bull!

Amid the flurry of self -righteous “condemnation”, and castigation of anyone not using the exact word after the disgraceful, dangerous and futile acts of a few in Derry last night, maybe it’s time to look at the word and its use here.