Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
SOURCE: New Republic (12-4-12)
Robert Satloff is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
SOURCE: LA Times (11-28-12)
Doyle McManus is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
It seems as if every pundit in the capital has gone to see the masterful biopic about our 16th president, and — surprise — they all found something to support their views about contemporary politics.
The analogies are hard to resist. The movie is set in the first months after Lincoln won a second term, facing an unruly lame-duck Congress. Over the objections of risk-averse aides, the president decides to seek passage of a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, and proves willing to cut almost any corner to gain his objective.
What does that tell us about the choices before a newly reelected President Obama and a lame-duck Congress wrestling with a year-end deadline over taxes and spending cuts?..
SOURCE: National Review (11-28-12)
Larry Kudlow, NRO’s economics editor, is host of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report and author of the daily web log, Kudlow’s Money Politic$.
Once again, President Obama dodged the key fiscal-cliff issues at a campaign rally/press conference Wednesday morning. Campaign-style, he argued that the middle-class tax cuts (below $250,000) must be renewed in order to prevent a $2,200 average tax hike from hitting middle-class folks. He added that a middle-class tax hike would cost consumers $200 billion in spending power.
Okay, fine. But no one wants to raise middle-class taxes. That’s not the issue. And even if those numbers are right, they dodge one of the key points in the dialogue between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. Namely, what to do about top income-tax rates, which include capital gains, dividends, and inheritance taxes?
The president once again avoided the term “tax rate” in his latest round of fiscal-cliff comments. He basically said, Let’s get this done before Christmas in a fair and balanced way. But what is balance?..
SOURCE: The Diplomat (11-27-12)
James R. Holmes is a defence analyst for The Diplomat and an associate professor of strategy at the US Naval War College where he specializes in US, Chinese and Indian maritime strategy and US diplomatic and military history.
University of Georgia undergraduates used to look at me quizzically when I told them you can learn ninety percent of what you need to know about diplomacy and war by studying a war fought two millennia ago, in a postage-stamp-size theater, between alliances armed with—as my colleagues in Newport like to joke—spears and rowboats. Yet it’s true. War and politics are human endeavors. The dynamics of human interaction endure from age to age. The remainderis mere technological change.
That’s why Thucydides’ chronicle of the Peloponnesian War still captivates readers. Including policymakers, I hope. As Japanese and American emissaries revise the U.S.-Japan defense cooperation guidelines for the first time since 1998, they could do worse than crack open Thucydides’ history. Tokyo and Washington intend to open discussions early next month, presumably in hopes of adapting the guidelines to China’s military rise. A zero-based review of alliance relations ought to incorporate some historical perspective. Who better to consult than the father of history?
Thucydides proffers numerous insights into the workings—and dysfunctions—of alliances and coalitions. How lesser allies relate to greater ones—and vice versa—is of acute interest to him, as it should be for Washington and Tokyo. Alliance relations is about more than power. The strong cannot simply dictate to weaker partners, lest they provoke rebellion or passive-aggressive cooperation. Mutual accommodation is the rule among successful alignments...
SOURCE: American Spectator (11-29-12)
Matthew Omolesky specialized in European affairs at the Whitehead School of Diplomacy's graduate program, and received his juris doctor from The Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law.
Drawn in pale brown pink on two skins of soft vellum, the Gough Map, kept in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, presents a haunting image of a Britain half-formed in the consciousness of a mid-14th-century cartographer. While a russet-robed William Langland sat nestled in the Malvern Hills, gazing eastwards and dreaming of a tower, a dungeon, and the “fair feld ful of folk” between, the Gough Map’s anonymous scribe set about delineating the bustlingsettlements, blessed plots, ancient highways, and riverine byways of the Scepter’d Isle. The scattered icons of the fading map still recall the social panorama included in Langland’s Piers Plowman, that great “assemblee” of Britain, with “alle manere of men, the meene and the riche, werchynge and wandrynge as the world asketh.” In the Gough Map, one can still make out the various facets of Langland’s country, from the fecund pastures to the teeming emporia, indeed all the hallmarks of a self-sufficient but outward-looking nation.
One can also make out, suspended overhead like a canopy, or perhaps like Damocles’ sword, a thin strip of land vaguely representative of the coasts of Flanders and Normandy. Studded with inviting ports populated by obliging burghers, and with forbidding castles garrisoned by mortal dynastic enemies, Europe appears as both bane and boon to those across the narrow channel. Already being advanced in this, the first accurate map of the British Isles, was a semi-detached view of Albion’s relationship with Europe. It was a view that would hold sway in the centuries to come, necessitating an uneasy accommodation between insular exceptionalism and the lucrative, yet dangerous, call of the continent.
From time immemorial, the English have flattered themselves with the Shakespearean formulation that theirs is a “little world,” a “precious stone set in the silver sea,” separated from “less happier lands” by a fortuitous moat, one wider in practice than the seven leagues from Dover to Calais. “This realm of England is an empire,” declared the Henrician Act in Restraint of Appeals to Rome (1533), with a “body politic” admittedly comprised of “all sorts and degrees of people divided in terms and by names of spiritualty and temporalty,” but one absolutely independent of “any foreign princes or potentates of the world.” That Britannia was comprised of “all sorts” was certainly no exaggeration. Daniel Defoe, in The True-Born Englishman (1700), archly described his countrymen as an “amphibious ill-born mob,” a palimpsest of invaders and settlers whose “relics are so lasting and so strong” as to leave a “shibboleth upon our tongue / By which with easy search you may distinguish / Your Roman-Saxon-Danish-Norman English.” By factoring in the “Dutch, Walloons, Flemings, Irishmen, and Scots / Vaudois, and Valtolins, and Huguenots” who likewise made their often desperate way to Britain’s shores, Defoe could conclude that his homeland was “Europe’s sink,” rather than the doughty “fortress built by Nature for herself” of Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt.
Even if the “true-born Englishman” was in fact a curiously “het’rogeneous thing,” as Defoe demonstrated and the passage of time has further confirmed, one exceptional aspect of his island empire’s character could at least be considered sui generis: its free constitution. From the slow accretion of the common law to the dramatic recognition of the Magna Carta, and from the development of the writ of habeas corpus to the passage of the 1689 Bill of Rights, the British state would come to feature an array of what William Blackstone termed “the absolute rights of every Englishman.” The English writer John Brown, in his 1757 Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times, spoke for his countrymen as he boasted that whereas Liberty “hath been ingrafted by the Arts of Policy in other Countries, it shoots up here as from its natural Climate, Stock, and Soil,” with the result that “this great Spirit hath produced more full and compleat Effects in our own Country, than in any known Nation that ever was upon Earth.” Liberal philosophes across the Channel were in full agreement, with Montesquieu positing that it was in England that “liberty will appear in its highest perfection,” and with Voltaire praising the English for being “jealous not only of their own liberty, but even of that of other nations.” The government of England, the sage of Ferney continued, had for its laudable object “not the brilliant folly of making conquests, but to prevent its neighbors from making them.”
Poised in the balance of the swaying scales of European geopolitics, Britain could hold itself out as the safeguard of both continental stability and sovereign rights. It was a dual role perfectly suited to the conflicted identity of an exceptional island drawn inexorably toward the mainland. As such, Britain would find itself in an unending series of continental interventions, many renowned, and many more now but half-remembered in the public’s consciousness. The British historian Brendan Simms has recently made a compelling case that “the Bank of England, the national debt, the stock market, the Royal Navy and the standing army”—all of which make up the modern “apparatus of the ‘fiscal-military state’”—were each “primarily designed to sustain Britain’s international role in Europe.” Imperial holdings would grow in importance, and a “blue water” policy would become increasingly fashionable in strategic circles, but the European commitment was destined to remain a British preoccupation...
SOURCE: National Post (Canada) (11-28-12)
Jonathan Kay is Managing Editor for Comment at the National Post, and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (11-27-12)
The writer is a professor at Harvard and author of The Future of Power.
SOURCE: National Interest (11-27-12)
Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (11-20-12)
Matt Hill is a British journalist.
Partisans of the Israel-Palestine conflict – and it often seems everyone’s a partisan of one side or the other – know exactly who to blame for the fighting now in its sixth day. The other guy, of course.
But the bombs dropping on Gaza and southern Israel haven’t fallen out of a clear blue sky. So what happens if we trace events backwards and try to answer, as objectively as possible, the obvious question: who started it?
The latest phase of fighting started on 14 November when Israel assassinated the Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari. A day earlier, Hamas was touting a truce offer, but only after two days of fighting which saw over a hundred missiles launched into Israel and Gaza coming under attack by warplanes, drones and artillery.
These exchanges were preceded on 10 November by the injury of two IDF soldiers, hit by an anti-tank missile as they patrolled outside the Strip, and the deaths of at least five Palestinians and the injury of dozens more when Israel responded with shelling and air strikes.
And these incidents, in turn, were sparked by the killing of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who was caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between the IDF and Palestinian militants on 8 November.
We could go back further...
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (11-21-12)
The writer is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was the US envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process from 2001-03.
Israeli missiles continued to fall on Gaza; meanwhile, a bus was blown up in Tel Aviv. But by the end of Wednesday, a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, and brokered by Egypt and the US, was signed. However, there is a big difference between a truce that is an interlude between rounds of fighting and one that presages a promising political process. It might take a willingness to learn from Northern Ireland, of all places, to tip the scales towards the latter.
Decades of violence – "the troubles" – set the backdrop to negotiations. Success had it roots in British policy. London’s objective was to end the terrorism and bring about a political settlement. Doing so required persuading the Provisional IRA that it would never be able to shoot or bomb its way into power and that there was a political path open to it that would satisfy some of its goals and many of its supporters, if it would act responsibly.
The government of Israel has internalised the first but not the second part of Britain’s strategy. Israel has carried out massive air strikes that have reportedly destroyed the bulk of Hamas’s Iran-supplied, longer-range missiles and killed dozens of Palestinians, including Hamas’s military chief.
But military force has limits...
SOURCE: Forbes (11-20-12)
Brian Domitrovic is a Forbes contributor.
The president is bent on raising taxes big time, if not on January 1, when all sorts of rates are scheduled to go up, then shortly thereafter as the new, more Democratic Congress convenes to do its damage.
The rationale? The deficit is getting out of control. Indeed it is. Since January 2009, when Obama took office, the United States has run cumulative budget deficits of $5 trillion. Before that time, debt held by the public was $6.3 trillion. Now it’s $11.4 trillion, an increase of 80%.
What did we get for it? Growth of 1.5% per year. As it happens, the over the eight years of President George W. Bush, the economy averaged 1.6% economic growth, and the cumulative deficit was $2.4 trillion. Obama has more than doubled the W. deficits, while coming up short a tenth of a point of growth. What a horrible record...
SOURCE: Ottawa Citizen (11-15-12)
Wenran Jiang is a political science professor at the University of Alberta and director of the Canada-China Energy & Environment Forum.
For those who followed the U.S. presidential elections up to last week, the intense horse race had clear rules to follow on how one candidate can win. When it comes to China’s leadership transition though, the general public had very little clue who China’s new leaders were until the seven men, called the Politburo Standing Committee members, walked onto the stage to meet the press in Beijing Thursday.
But this is already progress in the context of Chinese history: the latest once-in-a-decade leadership transition is only the second time power was peacefully and institutionally transferred in more than 100 years since the Qing dynasty was overthrown in 1911.
Since then, Chinese politics went through civil wars, foreign invasion, the establishment of a new People’s Republic and the Chinese Communist Party’s struggle to transfer itself from a revolutionary party to a governing institution in a series of turbulent events such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution...
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (11-18-12)
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown MBE is a Ugandan-born British journalist and author.
You've seen the pictures, read about the bloodshed, heard the accusations. The military head of Hamas in Gaza, pictured, was assassinated by Israel. Rockets fired in retaliation killed three Israelis and Israel then went into overkill. It is 95 years this month since the Balfour Declaration. Lord Balfour who was Foreign Secretary in 1917, informed Baron Rothschild that Britain would back a new Jewish state on Palestinian territory as demanded by Zionists, some of them terrorists.
Britain had no legal right to the land it breezily handed over and has never apologised for its disastrous decision. Palestinians paid for Europe's massive, anti-Semitic killing project.
Thousands of Muslim and Christian Palestinians were dispossessed and, since then, it's been a story of endless conflict. And so here again is another horrendous conflagration...
SOURCE: WSJ (11-18-12)
Ms. Kissel is a member of the Journal's editorial board.
In one of those gems that reveal the Obama administration's penchant for taking credit for the work of others, a senior State Department official on a plane to Perth last week for a U.S.-Australia confab spoke to reporters about the president's trip to Burma Monday. The "enormously significant" visit, he said, will highlight what "clearly stacks up as a major early success of the Obama administration."
On the surface, that sounds right. Burma was driven into misery for decades after Gen. Ne Win implemented the "Burmese Way to Socialism" in 1962, but the country of about 55 million has experienced a remarkable transformation in the past two years. The former general now in charge has welcomed more foreign investment, lifted the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, held elections that brought opposition party candidates into parliament, released political prisoners, relaxed press restrictions, and moved to make peace with some of the country's ethnic minorities.
President Obama will surely laud these reforms, enjoying a rare moment of foreign-policy success, when he visits Rangoon as part of a three-day Southeast Asia tour. Yet Burma's political calculations had little to do with Mr. Obama or with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The country's change instead was prompted by—steady yourself, Foggy Bottom—the administration of George W. Bush, who put in place a diplomatic framework that nudged Burma in the right direction when the generals were finally ready to embrace reform...
SOURCE: National Interest (11-19-12)
John Mueller is senior fellow at the Cato Institute and professor of political science at Ohio State University. He is the author of Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda; together with Mark Stewart, he wrote Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Costs, and Benefits of Homeland Security.
Some decades ago, Columbia University’s Warner Schilling observed that "at the summit of foreign policy, one always finds simplicity and spook."
I was reminded of this observation when I came across a passage in George F. Kennan, the excellent Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the prominent foreign-policy intellectual by John Lewis Gaddis. In 1950, notes Gaddis, no one anticipated most of the major international developments that were to take place in the next half-century, among them "that there would be no World War" and that the United States and the USSR, "soon to have tens of thousands of thermonuclear weapons pointed at one another, would agree tacitly never to use any of them."
But the absence of further world war, whether nuclear or not, was compatible with a fairly obvious observation: those running world affairs after World War II were the same people or the intellectual heirs of the people who had tried desperately to prevent that cataclysm. It was entirely plausible that such people, despite their huge differences on many issues, would manage to avoid plunging into a self-destructive repeat performance.
Thus, it could have been reasonably argued at the time that major war was simply not in the cards...
SOURCE: NYT (11-18-12)
Paul Krugman is an economist at Princeton University and an op-ed columnist for the New York Times.
The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.
Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich....
...[I]n the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax rate of 91, that’s right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years. The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today....
SOURCE: TomDispatch (11-18-12)
Ellen Cantarow first wrote from Israel and the West Bank in 1979. A TomDispatch regular, her writing has been published in The Village Voice, Grand Street, Mother Jones, Alternet, Counterpunch, and ZNet, and anthologized by the South End Press. She is also lead author and general editor of an oral-history trilogy, Moving the Mountain: Women Working for Social Change, published in 1981 by The Feminist Press/McGraw-Hill, widely anthologized, and still in print.
There’s a war going on that you know nothing about between a coalition of great powers and a small insurgent movement. It’s a secret war being waged in the shadows while you go about your everyday life.
In the end, this conflict may matter more than those in Iraq and Afghanistan ever did. And yet it’s taking place far from newspaper front pages and with hardly a notice on the nightly news. Nor is it being fought in Yemen or Pakistan or Somalia, but in small hamlets in upstate New York. There, a loose network of activists is waging a guerrilla campaign not with improvised explosive devices or rocket-propelled grenades, but with zoning ordinances and petitions.
The weaponry may be humdrum, but the stakes couldn’t be higher. Ultimately, the fate of the planet may hang in the balance.
All summer long, the climate-change nightmares came on fast and furious. Once-fertile swathes of American heartland baked into an aridity reminiscent of sub-Saharan Africa. Hundreds of thousands of fish dead in overheated streams. Six million acres in the West consumed by wildfires. In September, a report commissioned by 20 governments predicted that as many as 100 million people across the world could die by 2030 if fossil-fuel consumption isn’t reduced. And all of this was before superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the New York metropolitan area and the Jersey shore.
Washington’s leadership, when it comes to climate change, is already mired in failure. President Obama permitted oil giant BP to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, while Shell was allowed to begin drilling tests in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. At the moment, the best hope for placing restraints on climate change lies with grassroots movements.
In January, I chronicled upstate New York’s homegrown resistance to high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, an extreme-energy technology that extracts methane (“natural gas”) from the Earth’s deepest regions. Since then, local opposition has continued to face off against the energy industry and state government in a way that may set the tone for the rest of the country in the decades ahead. In small hamlets and tiny towns you’ve never heard of, grassroots activists are making a stand in what could be the beginning of a final showdown for Earth’s future.
Frack Fight 2012
New York isn’t just another state. Its largest city is the world’s financial capital. Six of its former governors have gone on to the presidency and Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to have his sights set on a run for the White House, possibly in 2016. It also has a history of movements, from abolition and women’s suffrage in the nineteenth century to Occupy in the twenty-first. Its environmental campaigns have included the watershed Storm King Mountain case, in which activists defeated Con Edison’s plan to carve a giant facility into the face of that Hudson River landmark. The decision established the right of anyone to litigate on behalf of the environment.
Today, that activist legacy is evident in a grassroots insurgency in upstate New York, a struggle by ordinary Americans to protect what remains of their democracy and the Earth’s fragile environment from giant corporations intent on wrecking both. On one side stands New York’s anti-fracking community; on the other, the natural gas industry, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and New York’s industry-allied Joint Landowners Coalition.
As for Governor Cuomo, he has managed to anger both sides. He seemed to bow to industry this past June by hinting that he would end a 2010 moratorium on fracking introduced by his predecessor David Paterson and open the state to the process; then, in October, he appeared to retreat after furious protests staged in Washington D.C., as well as Albany, Binghamton, and other upstate towns.
“I have never seen [an environmental movement] spread with such wildfire as this,” says Robert Boyle, a legendary environmental activist and journalist who was central in the Storm King case and founded Riverkeeper, the prototype for all later river-guardian organizations. “It took me 13 or 14 years to get the first Riverkeeper going. Fracking isn’t like that. It’s like lighting a train of powder.”
Developed in 2008 and vastly more expansive in its infrastructure than the purely vertical form of fracking invented by Halliburton Corporation in the 1940s, high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing is a land-devouring, water-squandering technology with a greenhouse gas footprint greater than that of coal. The process begins by propelling one to nine million gallons of sand-and-chemical-laced water at hyperbaric bomb-like pressures a mile or more beneath Earth's surface. Most of that fluid stays underground. Of the remainder, next to nothing is ever again available for irrigation or drinking. A recent report by the independent, nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded that fracking poses serious risks to health and the environment.
New York State’s grassroots resistance to fracking began about four years ago around kitchen tables and in living rooms as neighbors started talking about this frightening technology. Shallow drilling for easily obtainable gas had been done for decades in the state, but this gargantuan industrial effort represented something else again.
Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University’s Department of Engineering, co-author of a study that established the global warming footprint of the industry, calls this new form of fracking an unparalleled danger to the environment and human health. “There’s much more land clearing, much more devastation of forests and fields. . . thousands of miles of pipelines. . . many compressor stations [that] require burning enormous quantities of diesel. . . [emitting] hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.” He adds that it’s a case of “the health of many versus the wealth of a few.”
Against that wealth stands a movement of the 99% -- farmers, physicists, journalists, teachers, librarians, innkeepers, brewery owners, and engineers. “In Middlefield we’re nothing special,” says Kelly Branigan, a realtor who last year founded a group called Middlefield Neighbors. “We’re just regular people who got together and learned, and reached in our pockets to go to work on this. It’s inspiring, it’s awesome, and it’s America -- its own little revolution.”
Last year, Middlefield became one of New York’s first towns to use the humblest of tools, zoning ordinances, to beat back fracking. Previously, that had seemed like an impossible task for ordinary people. In 1981, the state had exempted gas corporations from New York’s constitutionally guaranteed home rule under which town ordinances trump state law. In 2011, however, Ithaca-based lawyers Helen and David Slottje overturned that gas-cozy law by establishing that, while the state regulates industry, towns can use their zoning powers to keep it out. Since then, a cascade of bans and moratoria -- more than 140 in all -- have protected towns all over New York from high-volume frack drilling.
This Is What Democracy Looks Like
Caroline, a small hamlet in Tompkins County (population 3,282), is the second town in the state to get 100% of its electricity through wind power and one of the most recent to pass a fracking ban. Its residents typify the grassroots resistance of upstate New York.
“I’m very skeptical that multinational corporations have the best interests of communities at heart,” Don Barber, Caroline’s Supervisor, told me recently. “The federal government sold [Americans] out when they exempted fracking from the Clean Water and Air Acts,” he added. “Federal and state governments are not advocating for the civil society. There’s only one level left. That’s the local government, and it puts a tremendous load on our shoulders.”
Caroline’s Deputy Supervisor, Dominic Frongillo, sees local resistance in global terms. “We’re unexpectedly finding ourselves in the ground zero for climate change,” he says. “It used to be somewhere else, mountaintop removal in West Virginia, deep-sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, tar sands in Alberta, Canada. But now...it’s right here under our feet in upstate New York. The line is drawn here. We can’t keep escaping the fossil fuel industry. You can’t move other places, you just have to dig in where you are.”
Two years of pre-ban work in Caroline included an election that replaced pro-drilling members of the town board with fracking opponents, public education forums, and a six-month petition drive. “We knocked on every single door two or three times,” recalls Bill Podulka, a retired physicist who co-founded the town’s resistance organization, ROUSE (Residents Opposed to Unsafe Shale Gas Extraction). “Many people were opposed to gas-drilling but were afraid to speak out, not realizing that the folks concerned were a silent majority.” In the end, 71% of those approached signed the petition, which requested a ban.
On September 11th, a final debate between drilling opponents and proponents took place, after which Barber called for the vote. A ban was overwhelmingly endorsed. “For the first time,” he told the crowd gathered in Caroline’s white clapboard town hall, “I will be voting to change the balance of rights between individuals and civil society. This is because of the impacts of fracking on health and the environment. And the majority of our citizens have voted to pass the ban.” The board then ruled 4 to 1 in favor.
About a year and a half ago, as Caroline and other towns were moving to protect their land from the industry, XTO, a subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil Corporation, began preparing for a possible fracking future in the state. It eyed tree-shaded, Oquaga Creek, a trout-laden Delaware tributary in upper New York State’s Sanford County, leased the land, and applied to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) for a water-withdrawal permit. XTO required, it said, a quarter of a million gallons of water from the creek every day for its hydraulic fracturing operations.
Delaware Riverkeeper, an environmental organization, found out about the XTO application and spread the word. Within days, the DRBC received 7,900 letters of outrage. On June 1, 2011, hundreds of citizens, organized by grassroots anti-frackers, packed a hearing in Deposit, a village in Sanford Township that lies at the confluence of the creek and the western branch of the Delaware River. Only two people spoke at the meeting in favor of XTO. One was the Supervisor (mayor) of Sanford, Dewey Decker. He applauded the XTO application and denounced protestors as “outsiders.” He is among a group of landowners who have leased land to XTO for hundreds of millions of dollars. (Decker refused to be interviewed for this article.) The rest of the crowd spoke up for the creek, its fish, and its wildlife. The Delaware River Basin Commission indefinitely tabled the XTO application.
While a grassroots victory, the episode also served as a warning about how determined the industry is to move forward with fracking plans despite the state-enforced moratorium still in place. As a result, Caroline and other towns are continuing to develop local anti-fracking measures, since they know that the 2010 ban on the process will end whenever Governor Cuomo okays rules currently being written by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
When it comes to those rules and fracking more generally, the DEC has a conflict of interest. While it is supposed to protect the environment, it is also tasked with regulating the very industries that exploit it through the agency’s Mineral Resources Division. Last year, the DEC received over 80,000 written comments on the latest draft of its guidelines for the industry, the 1,500-page “SGEIS” (which stands for “Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement"). Drilling opponents outnumbered proponents 10 to 1. The deluge was a record in the agency’s history.
Activists weren’t the only ones with a keen interest in the SGEIS, however. Documents obtained through New York’s Freedom of Information Law indicate that, in mid-August 2011, six weeks before the DEC made its statement public, the agency shared detailed summaries of it with gas corporation representatives, giving the industry a chance to influence the final document before it went public.
Two days before the SGEIS was opened to public scrutiny, an attorney for the Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation and other companies asked regulators to “reduce or eliminate” a requirement for the sophisticated testing of fracking fluids. Such fluids are laden with toxins, including carcinogens, which storms could wash away from drilling sites -- an especially grim prospect given the catastrophic flooding experienced in the state over the last three years.
At the same time, two upstate New York journalists revealed that Bradley Field, the head of the DEC’s Mineral Resources Division, had signed a petition that denied the existence of climate change. Formerly of Getty Oil and Marathon Oil, Field also serves as the state’s representative to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council, both industry fronts which maintain that fracking is benign. As this was coming to light, state officials anonymously leaked word of a plan to open five counties on New York’s border with Pennsylvania to fracking as long as communities there supported the technology.
This is What Autocracy Looks Like
In May 2012, Dewey Decker and his board passed a resolution pledging that the town of Sanford would take no action against fracking, while awaiting the decision of the DEC. There was no prior notice. Citizens were left to read about it in their local papers. “You wake up the next morning and say, ‘What happened?’” commented Doug Vitarious, a retired Sanford elementary school teacher.
In June, a headline in the Deposit Courier, a Sanford paper, read “Local Officials in Eligible Communities Approve Pro-Drilling Resolutions.” Accompanying the piece was a map of towns that had passed such resolutions. The subscript under the map read: “Joint Landowners Coalition of N.Y.” The JLCNY is the state’s grassroots gas industry ally, whose stated mission is to “foster... the common interest... as it pertains to natural gas development.” Decker represents the organization in Sanford.
During the summer, Vitarious and other citizens asked their town board where the resolution had originated, but were met with silence. They requested that the board rescind the resolution and conduct a referendum. Decker refused.
By the end of August, 43 towns in the region had passed resolutions modeled on one appearing at the JLCNY website. It stipulates that at the local level “no moratorium on hydraulic fracturing will be put in place before the state of New York has made it’s [sic] decision.” Under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and the National Resources Defense Council obtained records from Sanford and two other towns about how they achieved their objectives. The records, says Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, “detail contacts between gas industry operatives and officials.”
Two months before superstorm Sandy swamped parts of the state, Sue Rapp, a psychotherapist from the town of Vestal, told me that flooding worries her as much as anything else about fracking. Upper New York State suffered flooding in 2010 and 2011. And then came Sandy. Floods turn millions of gallons of fracking waste-water for which there is no safe storage into streams of poisons that wash into waterways.
Unlike Sanford’s board, Vestal’s has not formally blocked debate. It has heard arguments for a moratorium by Rapp and an organization she co-founded, Vestal Residents for Safe Energy (VERSE), as well as pleas for a moratorium by physicians and academics. Its reaction, however, has simply been to sit on its hands, waiting for the DEC and Cuomo to make a final decision. This amounts to adopting the JLCNY position in all but formal vote. “What is happening?” asked Rapp rhetorically at a demonstration in Binghamton this past September. “They are trying to shut us down. But we do vote and we will vote. We do not constitute [what pro-drillers call] the tyranny of the majority, but simply the majority. That is called democracy.”
Demonstrations against Cuomo’s frack plan, which drew thousands to Washington D.C., Albany, and elsewhere in New York, included pledges to commit sustained acts of civil disobedience should the governor carry out plans to open the Pennsylvania border area of the state to fracking. At the end of September, the New York Times announced that Cuomo had retreated from his June stance. The report credited the state’s grassroots movement for his change of mind. Legendary for his toughness and political smarts, the governor will confront a political challenge in the coming months. Either he will please gas-industry supporters or his Democratic base. Whichever way he goes, it could affect his chances for the White House.
The stakes, however, are far larger than Cuomo’s presidential aspirations. Opening any part of the state to fracking will certainly damage the local environment. More importantly, a grassroots win in New York State could open the door to a nationwide anti-fracking surge. A loss might, in the long run, result in a cascade of environmental degradation beyond the planet’s ability to cope. As unlikely as it sounds, the fate of the Earth may rest with the residents of Middlefield, Caroline, Vestal, and scores of tiny villages and small towns you’ve never heard of.
“All eyes are on New York,” says Chris Burger, a former Broome County legislator and one of a small group who persuaded New York’s last governor, David Paterson, to pass the state’s moratorium on fracking. “This is the biggest environmental issue New York has ever faced [and not just] New York, the nation, and the world. If it’s going to be stopped, it will be stopped here.”
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SOURCE: NYT (11-18-12)
FASTIDIOUSNESS is never a good sign in a general officer. Though strutting military peacocks go back to Alexander’s time, our first was MacArthur, who seemed at times to care more about how much gold braid decorated the brim of his cap than he did about how many bodies he left on beachheads across the Pacific. Next came Westmoreland, with his starched fatigues in Vietnam. In our time, Gen. David H. Petraeus has set the bar high. Never has so much beribboned finery decorated a general’s uniform since Al Haig passed through the sally ports of West Point on his way to the White House....
THE problem was that he hadn’t led his own Army to win anything even approximating a victory in either Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s not just General Petraeus. The fact is that none of our generals have led us to a victory since men like Patton and my grandfather, Lucian King Truscott Jr., stormed the beaches of North Africa and southern France with blood in their eyes and military murder on their minds.
Those generals, in my humble opinion, were nearly psychotic in their drive to kill enemy soldiers and subjugate enemy nations. Thankfully, we will probably never have cause to go back to those blood-soaked days. But we still shouldn’t allow our military establishment to give us one generation after another of imitation generals who pretend to greatness on talk shows and photo spreads, jetting around the world in military-spec business jets....
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (11-14-12)
Con Coughlin is an expert on international terrorism and the Middle East.
One of the many consequences of the spectacular implosion of General David Petraeus’s career – which include the humiliation of Holly Petraeus, his wife of 37 years – is that he can kiss goodbye to any hopes he may still have entertained of one day running for the White House.
America has a long and distinguished history of its generals turning their swords into election manifestos, which dates back to the Republic’s founding father, George Washington. Consequently, following a heroic effort to turn around the fortunes of the US’s traumatic experience in post-Saddam Iraq, Gen Petraeus was seen by many of his countrymen more as a leader of the American people than simply the leader of those in uniform. Though less well known, General John Allen might have had ambitions to be seen in the same way, until he too became embroiled in the scandal engrossing America.
Until his mistress Paula Broadwell demolished one of the most distinguished military careers of modern times, Gen Petraeus was regarded as a potential candidate for the Republican nomination for the next presidential election in 2016.
The Obama administration certainly saw him in those terms, which is one of the reasons he was sent to head the CIA in the first place, rather than being given the job he really wanted, to be appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of America’s armed forces.
Having saved Iraq with his "surge" strategy, and then been parachuted into Afghanistan to try a similar feat with the Nato mission in the summer of 2010, Gen Petraeus made no secret of his view that, as a reward, he should be made Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. As the highest ranking US military officer, the holder of this coveted position is a constant presence in the White House and acts as the principal adviser to the President in his capacity as commander-in-chief, as well as all the other government departments and agencies involved with national security issues...
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (11-15-12)
The writer is a co-founder of Oxford Investment Partners.
If Karl Marx had been alive in 2007, he would have been working for a bank. Banks had reached a state of communist perfection. The workers took home everything; the capital holders were left with nothing. Shareholders of banks were raped by the staff, who paid themselves extravagant sums out of illusory profits. Labour had found a far more effective device than trade unions for destroying capitalists, by duping the shareholders that higher pay was essential to retain Talent. They were assisted by the accountants, who allowed them to declare profits before they received any cash. Marx would have been laughing all the way from the bank.
We should hardly be surprised that the beneficiaries of the communist banking system are squealing. There are many siren warnings of the consequences of more regulation. Don’t kill the golden goose, they say. Many in banking seem not to have noticed that they recently brought the world economy to its knees.
To be fair, the banks were not alone in their mistakes. Central banks set interest rates too low for too long; politicians believed they had abolished the business cycle and that a permanently higher level of public expenditure could be justified; too many citizens borrowed money they could never afford to repay. This type of mass self-delusion has characterised most booms in history. But it is the bankers who seem most reluctant to accept that change is necessary. They need rescuing from themselves. Counterintuitively, it is regulation that can reimpose a capitalist system on the banks...