From Bad to Verse

 

Thousand-year-old yew tree,  Kelburn Castle, UK.

Recently, at a meeting of a local poetry society, I encountered the ultimate denial.

I innocently read a recent poem of mine that described the winter trees expressing various emotions, in the tradition of pathetic fallacy, and ending

But then, the winter willow

Broken by winds

Kneels as if in pity on the lesser rest of us,

Who do not live as long or stand as strong as trees.

We who do not last the winter.

Once everyone had read their poems, discussion was opened. Someone queried, “What did that last line mean?”

Is it not obvious, gentle reader? Read those last two lines. I think it is so obvious that her question was really a demand that it mean something else. I had stumbled upon the penultimate denial: of the inevitability of death.

Painful as it is to explain a poem, I explained. Winter is death. Trees are reborn in spring. We are not. 

“But trees don’t really die in winter,” another then piped up. “And pine trees don’t die in winter. Coniferous trees don’t die.”

Imagine that; someone at a poetry meeting not understanding metaphor. And only barely a metaphor at that: I might have responded that the only proof that trees do not die in winter is that they are born again the next spring. But we were getting into quibbles about semantics.

Of course she understood the metaphor. The problem was the subject: death, whenever encountered, must be denied to exist. That ought to work.

“Even if you take it literally, trees live longer than humans,” I responded.

“Sometimes,” she said. 

Almost always, if they are not cut down. Perhaps she had never thought of it—it would require, after all, thinking about death. Perhaps, as soon as the subject of death comes up, a hysterical “no” forms in her mind. Perhaps that is what was happening here. I had mentioned the unmentionable.

Another participant, from India, chipped in, “In India we believe in reincarnation; you are born again just like the trees are in spring.”

Someone else eagerly responded, “So it depends on your philosophy.”

No, it does not. You cannot simply wish things to be true. This is denial in its perfect form. 

Of course, reincarnation might be true. Not my business to write a Buddhist or a Hindu poem. Few in Canada would have understood.

But this person had not thought out the consequences of reincarnation either. 

There is nothing scary about death itself, if death is simply the loss of consciousness. Are we afraid to go to sleep? Are we worried about what is happening in Addis Ababa right now that we might not be conscious of?

People fear death because they are aware that the universe inclines toward justice, and the afterlife might bring retribution.

That is the real, ultimate denial: the denial of right and wrong, the denial of guilt.

Reincarnation is not infinitely extended life as you are. It is ruled by karma; your next life exacts punishment for this one. In fact, as I pointed out, in lands where reincarnation is assumed, the desired goal is “nirvana,” “cessation,” like the blowing out of a candle. You wish for final death. Breaking even is your best hope.

And that pretty much ended the conversation. Better to move on to other subjects, I guess. Like violence in the streets. What could cause it?

One of the participants, black, lamented the rising tide of violence in the city. But, she said, she had no solution. What was the solution?

The obvious solution would be more policing. But she had cited the recent murder of Tyre Nichols by police as one example of the violence. And this was fair enough. More policing may not be the solution.

Another participant—she who could not accept the death of trees in winter—immediately pitched in that the problem was mental illness. Yes; mental illness. More money for police, say, was a bad idea. We needed to put more resources into the treating of mental illness.

I chipped in that the new ingredient, causing the rise in violence, seemed to be the rise in drug use. New and more potent drugs had become available. Addicts need to steal to support their habit.

That comment, debatable as it was, was simply ignored. It dropped into the void of denial. She went back to lamenting the problem of mental illness. It had to be mental illness.

I held my tongue;  there was no point arguing with denial. But the problem with blaming violence on mental illness is first, that, statistically, the mentally ill as currently defined are no more likely to be violent or to commit crimes than the general public. This, remarkably, remains true even though we now actually define anyone who does violence or habitually commits crimes as mentally ill. “Antisocial behaviour disorder.” “Oppositional defiant disorder.” And so forth.

In other words, the “real” mentally ill, the depressed, manic, chronically anxious or schizophrenic, are probably far less likely to be violent than the general population. 

By claiming they are the source of all violence, we are scapegoating them. As if they didn’t already have enough problems, with suffering and with stigma.

Why? 

Because by doing so, we are able to deny the existence of human evil. Nobody is ever evil; if they do something evil, they must not know what they are doing. Hence, “insane.”

And we are not insane. So we cannot be guilty of evil, no matter what we do. Any guilty conscience to the contrary.

This is why attributing it to drug use, although it can be done, and the suggestion need not be reacted to violently, is much less acceptable. Despite the current insistence that “addiction is a disease,” drug use still does look somewhat intentional. There is a whiff of guilt about it.

No; better to claim it is the insane.

Speaking now of poetry, and art; for we are at a poetry meeting.

The rising tide of denial is surely why poetry and the arts are moribund in our time. Art and poetry cannot exist without speaking truth. That is their whole purpose.

The rising tide of denial is also the ultimate reason why drug use, and violence, is escalating. Those who deny are those most likely to become violent; and those most likely to resort to drugging themselves. To escape their guilt with attempted unconsciousness.

Source link

#Bad #Verse

Examining America’s war in Iraq after 20 years

On March 20, 2003, what was officially one of America’s shorter wars began with an airstrike on Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace in Baghdad. U.S. armed forces, 160,000 strong, moved out of Kuwait and across Iraq, and after overcoming a few small roadblocks along the way took the capital city within three weeks. On May 1, President George W. Bush declared victory from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, off the coast of San Diego. With combat over, “our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country,” Bush said. “In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world.”

As it turned out, neither the U.S. military mission nor the broader cause of liberty and peace were accomplished by May 2003, nor were they in the months and years to follow. What the Bush administration sold as a grim but necessary surgical strike for democracy and stability in the Middle East and the world has been revealed over the past two decades as one of the most grievous errors in superpower history. Mendacious in its beginnings, incompetent in its aftermath, and downright criminal in the death and civilizational wreckage it caused, the Iraq War was a catastrophe America has not yet properly reckoned with.

Mangled Bodies From Tangled Lies

To understand war, your vision must focus on details more intimate and specific than geopolitical generalities and great-power prerogatives. This particular war began with human bodies split open with bombs from the air and shells from the ground and bullets from every direction. In some cities, more than half of the accomplishments that make us civilized—buildings and homes and the complicated machinery that brings us safe water to drink and electricity to light up the darkness and power machines—were damaged or destroyed.

Because of the “kinetic actions,” in bloodless militaryspeak, that the U.S. government initiated in March 2003, for many years Iraqis would view the common automobile—usually a symbol of industrialized society meeting basic human needs—as a potential harbinger of violent death. The vehicles would, with a frequency too horrible to accept, explode, shattering the glass that kept homes and stores secure from the elements and intruders; tearing the skin and arteries that kept human bodies alive; robbing children from parents and parents from children and breadwinners from families and merchants from the customers who relied on them; sending shockwaves of grief and rage that set up motive and opportunity for the next violent assault on life and on the orderly operation of bourgeois society that constitutes the good life.

The invasion eliminated a brutal dictator, something many Iraqis were grateful for in itself. But it also for years eliminated even the distant vision of that good life. As one Iraqi woman told journalist Nir Rosen for his 2010 book Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America’s Wars in the Muslim World, “My message to the American people after five years, they destroyed us and didn’t help us, they didn’t reconstruct the country, they even added more destruction to us. The days during Saddam were better. Now there is killing and nothing good. Before there was security and life was going on easily…now things are getting worse and worse, killing in the streets.” As late as 2016, 93 percent of polled young Iraqis considered Americans their enemies for a war that Bush and his team framed as their liberation.

War of Choice

The boys doing Bush’s foreign policy thinking had a prewar paper trail planning Saddam’s overthrow that stretched back a decade. It had become an article of neoconservative faith by the turn of the century that Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, should have deposed the Ba’athist dictator as the capper to the 1991 war that expelled his armies from Kuwait. In 2001, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), full of folk who would forge W.’s foreign policy, made it clear that this grand plan was much larger than a single tyrant: It was about a “need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf [that] transcends the…regime of Saddam Hussein.” The government’s official National Security Strategy for 2002, issued in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, incorporated PNAC’s thinking, pushing the principle that any country seen as credibly threatening U.S. interests should be brought to heel with hard military power, not just the softer stuff of cultural influence and diplomacy and trade.

Even before September 11, Bush Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill would later report, one of the administration’s highest priorities was finding a way to topple Saddam. In the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, most any military act, no matter how severe or reckless, could be framed as an urgent fight against terrorism, even if not related to 9/11 itself. The prospect of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)—deploying them, selling them, maybe just handing them over to Osama bin Laden—was a bedtime story with terrifying potency for a rattled public. Newspaper publisher Knight Ridder reported as early as February 2002 that the White House was clandestinely planning to invade a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Saddam had been pushing back against a United Nations WMD inspection regime imposed on Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War. The Clinton administration bombed him directly for this in 1998 (it had already been bringing routine death from the air via anodyne-sounding “no-fly zones”) and made his ouster official U.S. policy with that same year’s bipartisan Iraq Liberation Act. Iraq was also under an international economic sanctions regime, one that U.N. humanitarian aid coordinators had decried as destroying the country in concert with the previous war’s destruction of the nation’s power, food storage, oil, sewage, road, and railway systems—$232 billion’s worth.

Buoyed by claims mostly from self-interested Iraqi exiles that Saddam’s roads were crawling with mobile biowarfare factories and that his emissaries were scouring the globe to buy tubes and uranium for his active nuclear weapons program, the Bush administration told Americans and the world that safety and justice required preemptive conquest. Those claims were based on intelligence that was almost comically false in retrospect, some from pure fabricators and some from people who were tortured. Officials did their best to keep such more-than-reasonable doubts from the public, but they were well-known within the U.S. intelligence community.

Bush and his British ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair, considered as a possible casus belli for an invasion ginning up a confrontation, such as flying a U2 reconnaissance aircraft over Iraq “with fighter cover…painted in U.N. colours,” according to a memo written by a Blair aid who was present for the conversation. But ultimately the legal basis for this dubiously legal war was that America said so. Congress in October 2002 authorized a bipartisan measure allowing Bush to invade Iraq, with then-Sen. Joe Biden voting for it despite believing that the WMDs “do not pose an imminent threat to our national security.” Like many in Washington, he saw such a war as part of a “march to peace and security.”

In March 2003, the destruction of Iraq began. Bombs dropped and bullets flew and bodies (and a civilization) were annihilated. Saddam’s armed forces, presumed to have numbered around 400,000, barely fought, a phantom menace that in great numbers took off their uniforms and tried to fade back into Iraqi society, such as it remained.

As a military operation, Bush’s invasion did everything it needed to do, nearly flawlessly. And thus an American and Iraqi disaster began.

Reconstruction Blues

The WMDs were not found. They were not there. Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, commander of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, gave it to us straight: Nothing was found to justify the war on its own terms. “It’s not for lack of trying,” Conway said in a May 30, 2003, Defense Department briefing from Baghdad. “We’ve been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwait border and Baghdad but they’re simply not there.”

The administration fell back on the argument that Saddam never gave up “aspirations and intentions” toward obtaining such weapons. (Of course, nothing would inspire him more to use them if he had them than invading his country to overthrow him. But not much was said about that.) Very thin accusations that Saddam had allied with or aided Al Qaeda before 9/11 were floated and similarly did not hold water.

As head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, L. Paul Bremer by then was essentially viceroy of Iraq; to flex how deeply we were obliterating the cause and memory of Saddam Hussein (who was executed in December 2006), Bremer disbanded the old Iraqi army and barred nearly all Ba’ath Party members from participation in government. Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of aggrieved and unemployed young men were stalking the country, and nearly anyone with experience running schools or hospitals or water treatment facilities or oil refineries or electrical plants weren’t allowed to work on any of those things.

By the end of 2004, Iraq had become so violent that most U.S. officials—no matter how much their tasks might require seeing, understanding, and speaking to Iraqis (though the vast majority could only do so through translators)—just hunkered down in the area around Saddam’s old Republican Palace. In an act of bloody irony, the U.S. had made this its headquarters, known as the Green Zone. Projects from generating electricity to distributing food were stymied or halted because it simply wasn’t safe to be anywhere or to do anything in this nation cursed by U.S. liberation; nervous contractors hired armed guards, who too often killed Iraqi civilians merely for not stopping their cars when warned.

Guaranteed profits for well-connected corporations (some of them run by absurdly underqualified conman cowboys who knew the right people) were more common than improvements to the average Iraqi’s life. Marquee state-of-the-art hospitals favored by D.C. got more cash and attention than basic clinics to deal with more mundane but still deadly problems, such as the diarrhea that afflicted Iraqi children who often lacked access to clean water.

A pivot to security in late 2004 meant that near-majorities of planned water and electricity projects never got finished; the funding for them was diverted to trying to keep Americans and their employees alive. (Some that got finished were better left undone, like the series of natural-gas-powered generators erected in places where there were no conceivable pipelines to deliver the gas.) Nor did Iraqis seem prepared to step up: When the U.S. handed over control of the Health Ministry in March 2004, for example, 40 percent of medicines the ministry declared “essential” were not in stock in hospitals, and public clinics dealing with chronic diseases were out of 26 of 32 needed drugs. Three years later, the Iraqi health minister faced trial for such crimes as selling pharmaceuticals meant for his citizens to Iran (at a discount) and to foreign firms (for profit)—and ordering the deaths of guards from a Commission on Public Integrity that was investigating. He was acquitted, an event that a later Governance Assessment Report from the U.S. declared “a signal that those in government are above the law.”

As an occupying army, the U.S. was understandably afraid to hire many Iraqis, which left more unemployed people angry at that occupying army in a nation awash with weapons. Even those employed in the Iraqi military or police would frequently sell their bullets and guns for walking-around money. In the meantime, Washington was widely perceived as propping up Shiite Muslims (who had been suppressed under Saddam’s government) in their increasingly violent dealings with Sunni Muslims. The new Iraqi government, run by a Shiite, was torturing Sunnis, even in hospitals. Many Sunnis crawled into the arms of Al Qaeda in Iraq and began shooting back at the Shiites.

Things got bad, and things got worse. The Syrian border became a pathway for foreign militants to come in and make trouble. Iran’s influence over the Shiite government of Iraq deepened, and it has continued to this day. The Sadrist Movement withdrew from normal governance and became its own insurgent army. Insurgent courts would administer acid baths for unveiled women, and electric prods and hot irons for Sunni men who insisted on continuing to live where their families had long been living.

After seven years of U.S. occupation, Rosen writes in Aftermath, “hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had been killed. Many more had been injured. There were millions of widows and orphans. Millions had fled their homes. Tens of thousands of Iraqi men had spent years in American prisons. The new Iraqi state was among the most corrupt in the world. It was often brutal. It failed to provide adequate services to its people, millions of whom were barely able to survive.”

Mission Accomplished! Lessons Learned?

With negotiations complicated by Washington’s insistence that its troops must be able to act with complete legal impunity in Iraq, Bush, and later Obama, agreed to pull out all armed forces by the end of 2011. But with the rise of more militant chaos in the 2010s from the Islamic State group, American troops were back fighting throughout most of the 2010s. With that mission now officially over, about 2,500 troops still remain there, allegedly to merely assist and advise the Iraqis (who recently spent nearly a year trying to pull together a government, an effort marred by the usual factional rivalries, mass protests, arrests, and murders).

By some metrics, modern Iraq has shown improvement since 2003. Life expectancy is up, if only by two years, and gross domestic product has increased sixfold (while still barely half what it was prior to the first Western wreckage of Iraq in 1991). Crude oil production (nearly 90 percent of the nation’s income) has more than doubled. But it is dangerous to let economic growth fool us into deciding, decades past the daily piles of bodies in the streets, that it all seems to have worked out well enough in the end.

Beyond all the misery and chaos caused in Iraq itself, the U.S. came nowhere close to the neoconservative dream of a democratic domino effect in the Middle East. What resulted from the Iraq adventure was greater power and influence for America’s sworn enemy Iran, plus weapons and experienced jihadists and sectarian rivalries spreading around the region.

“Rather than being inspired by what happened in Iraq after the invasion,” former Middle Eastern CIA man Paul R. Pillar wrote in The National Interest in 2011, “Middle Easterners were repelled by it. If the violence, disorder, and breakdown of public services in Iraq were the birth pangs of a new Middle Eastern order, most people in the region wanted nothing of it.”

Even after Iraq, the U.S. has not given up on its hegemonic hunch that it can expend treasure and kill strangers to push the Middle East in desired directions. But it is now doing this more with mechanized drones in the air and less with American soldiers on the ground. While American bombardment helped topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, leading to still more chaos and instability and death, and we have troops and drones acting to this day in Syria, the U.S. since then has had the general sense—or the exhaustion—not to again try to invade and reconstruct a Middle Eastern nation from the ground up. In the post–Donald Trump GOP, support for the Iraq War has largely become anathema.

Yet the U.S. has still not fully internalized that war’s lessons. The Iraq debacle should have taught the U.S. it can never again scare itself into war based on guesses about how sinister some enemy is or will be. It should have taught Americans the damage that can be done by treating a foreign bogeyman as inherently intolerable—whether it’s Saddam Hussein or Vladimir Putin or the mullahs of Iran, a nation whose feared pursuit of nuclear weapons has vexed Washington for many years. Instead, President Joe Biden declared in November 2022 that “we’re gonna free Iran!”

In 2007, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D–Texas) summed up America’s bloody, buffoonish attempts at conquest and reconstruction. “This war,” he said, “was launched without an imminent threat to our families” by “radical know-it-all ideologues here in Washington” who “bent facts, distorted intelligence, and perpetrated lies designed to mislead the American people into believing that a third-rate thug had a hand in the 9/11 tragedy and was soon to unleash a mushroom cloud.”

Even the commingled scents of burning rubber, plastic, and flesh from car bombs dissipate with time. But the lessons of the folly that destroyed so many lives should never fade.

Source link

#Examining #Americas #war #Iraq #years

China’s Mideast buildup stirs security worries for U.S.

China has previously used spending on pipelines, ports and other commercial facilities to pave the way for military bases near strategic locations such as the mouth of the Red Sea, the CSIS authors write. Now, China’s investment in regional ports and infrastructure in Oman and the United Arab Emirates could provide an entry point for Chinese naval ships in the strait. Such ships already travel nearby waters to patrol against pirate vessels.

“China has laid the groundwork for something it might do in the future,” said Matthew Funaiole, senior fellow at the CSIS China Power Project. “It’s all about giving itself options.”

He added: “China has cast a wide net in the region, which gives it plenty of leverage. And a military facility on the western side of the Arabian peninsula does make sense from a military planning standpoint.”

The Biden administration has kept an eye on Beijing’s presence in the area, said a senior administration official who requested anonymity because of lack of authorization to speak to the media.

“The administration is focused on infrastructure buildout by China and has developed strategies with our G7 allies to ensure a global high-quality and diversified supply chain,” the official said.

The CSIS report documents China’s billions of dollars of investment over the past decade in port facilities in the UAE and Oman, two countries that straddle the strait across the water from Iran. The expansion of Beijing’s footprint at the Khalifa Port in the UAE, plus its ownership stake at a fuels storage terminal at the country’s Port of Fujairah about 100 miles to the east and investment at Duqm Port in Oman, raise the issue of Chinese power growing in the region, the report says.

The report notes that the China Harbour Engineering Co. won a bid in October 2022 to build a 700,000-square-meter container yard and 36 supporting buildings at Khalifa Port. The company is a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Co., one of the firms that the Trump administration sanctioned for supporting China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Years earlier, Shanghai-based shipping giant COSCO signed a $738 million agreement to build a container terminal at the same port. The deal includes provisions giving China exclusive design, construction and management rights over the terminal for 35 years.

Good reasons exist for concern that the Chinese government may use its commercial relationships in the Hormuz Strait as a foundation for the development of a military foothold in the region.

Beijing parlayed its commercial relations with Djibouti to seal a deal in 2014 to allow the Chinese navy to use the African country’s port near the mouth of the Red Sea. Beijing used that agreement to establish a naval installation in 2017 that U.S. Africa Command has accused of using military- grade lasers to harass U.S. fighter pilots landing in Djibouti.

Western interests worry that Beijing’s focus on the area may eventually lay the groundwork for the Chinese military to add its presence to the area. The U.S. government has flagged this as a concern for years. The Defense Department noted in a report to Congress last year that China is “likely” considering the UAE as a location for military logistics facilities.

“The [Persian] Gulf area is now going to become a contested region, subject to superpower strategic competition,” said John O’Connor, chief executive at J.H. Whitney Investment Management, a firm that analyzes geopolitical risk. “And that’s a new feature, not a bug.”

Not everyone thinks a military buildup is inevitable, however.

Other assessments of China’s military in the Strait of Hormuz suggest that it’s highly unlikely that Beijing will seek to extend its reach in the region with the creation of facilities for People’s Liberation Army Navy units or personnel. A RAND Corp. analysis published in December that rated the relative attractiveness of 24 countries for potential PLA facilities assessed the possibility of such a development in the UAE as “low feasibility” due to the Pentagon’s close scrutiny of the country and the Arab nation’s dealings with potential rivals.

And China has its own concerns about the flow of oil out of the strait that would make it want to build up infrastructure there. It has surpassed the United States as the world’s No. 1 consumer of oil and heavily depends on the Middle East for much of its supply. Ports and storage facilities could be a way to protect China’s own supply from being disrupted in an area known for regional conflict.

Other analysts say the PLA doesn’t need to establish formal military facilities in strategic ports where Chinese state firms are already present.

“Rather than raise international threat perceptions with overt shows of military presence, the PLA may opt to embed plainclothes personnel … and use nominally commercial warehousing, communications, and other equipment to quietly meet military needs,” an article in the spring 2022 edition of the journal International Security concluded.

Despite China’s substantial and growing economic and political relations with the UAE and Oman, “I don’t see any indications that China currently seeks to establish a base or enduring military presence in either of those countries, or elsewhere in the Middle East,” said Dawn Murphy, associate professor of national security strategy at the National War College and an expert on China’s relations in the Middle East. “I see no signs that China desires to fundamentally change its security presence in the Middle East, pick sides between countries, or challenge the U.S. security role in the region – for now China is primarily an economic and political power in the region.”

Still, a heavy Chinese presence in the area could roil oil markets if concerns over possible military tensions with the United States or Europe over Taiwan spill into the area. Crude prices often spike whenever anxieties grow over friction between the U.S. and Iran.

That China’s buildup in the area can raise concerns in the United States shows how oil politics can still loom large for the U.S., the world’s biggest oil producer. Even a benign presence at the choke point would give Chinese companies information about fuel or ship movements that they could send back to Beijing as intelligence, said Republican aides with the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Everything in the private industry in China is somewhat connected to the larger CCP or the PLA,” said the official, who was granted anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to be quoted in the media. “Even if you’re a private company, you might be called upon by the Chinese government to share intel.”

At worst, having a direct PLA presence on the Strait of Hormuz would set off alarm bells among energy security experts, said Scott Modell, chief executive of consulting firm Rapidan Energy and a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who served in the Middle East, Central Asia and Latin America.

“National security hawks like me will view the news of Chinese bases along the Strait of Hormuz as an unacceptable threat to U.S. national security, sensing that Beijing’s long-term objective is the placement of military bases at choke points around the world to offset the risk to strategic commodity flows in the event of a major geopolitical event such as a forced reunification with Taiwan,” Modell said.

Source link

#Chinas #Mideast #buildup #stirs #security #worries

The right-wing takeover of Britain’s media

With a handful of Conservative-supporting billionaires controlling most of the country’s national newspaper industry, the BBC in the firing line of the Tory right, the arrival of two openly reactionary broadcasters, and the launch of more right-wing populist news websites, Britain’s media is shifting further to the right.

Data from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in 2022 showed that consumer trust in UK media was in rapid decline. The Times, the Telegraph and the BBC had suffered the biggest drops in trust among news media over the past five years.

Research by Reuters also shows that people still value the ideal of impartial news, particularly in countries like the UK, where debates about politics and social justice have become deeply polarised.

With the rise opinion-led television formats, and traditional print publications focusing more on opinion pieces as a means of driving traffic and standing out online, the news impartiality consumers crave is diminishing.  

And with a handful of Conservative-supporting billionaires controlling most of the country’s national newspaper industry, the BBC in the firing line of the Tory right, the arrival of two openly reactionary broadcasters, and the launch of more right-wing populist news websites by the likes of Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of the Sun, Britain’s media is shifting further to the right.

Four ultra-rich men –  Fourth Viscount Rothermere, Jonathan Harmsworth, Rupert Murdoch, the surviving Barclay brother, and Evgeny Lebedev – control three-quarters of Britain’s national newspapers.  

In September 2022, Harmsworth won his bid to take full control of the Daily Mail publisher, DMGT. The estimated £2.4bn takeover deal, meant the Rothermere family, which already owned around 34 percent of DMGT shares, paid close to £1.6bn for the part of the company that they did not already own.

As well as the Mail titles, the media multinational owns the Metro and i. It had been listed on the London Stock Exchange since 1932 but was delisted following the successful bid offer by Rothermere, thereby removing the family business from the glare of public markets. In other words, now being private without outside shareholders, Rothermere can do what he wants.

DMGT was founded by Rothermere’s great-grandfather. The family has a long history of supporting right-wing political parties, including the fascists in the 1930s. In January 1934, the newspaper published what became one of its most famous articles. Entitled ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’, the article celebrated Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists (BUF). The piece was penned by Lord Rothermere. In it, he praised Mosley and the Blackshirts, seeing them as the correct party to “take over responsibility for [British] national affairs.”

The Mail’s long history of campaigning against the interests of the working people remains at play today. One example of this is how the paper’s current owner, Jonathan Harmsworth, has the tax-avoiding ‘non-dom’ status. In 2015, the newspaper ran a smear campaign against Ed Miliband, in a bid to destroy his chances of becoming PM. Miliband had promised to remove non-domicile tax status. Little surprise there then.

In 2020, the Daily Mail surpassed Murdoch’s Sun as the top-selling newspaper in the UK, albeit because the latter’s circulation fell faster than the Mail’s. The Sun had maintained the title since 1978.

The ousting of Geordie Greig

Despite turning the Mail into Britain’s best-selling title, in 2021, the paper’s then editor Geordie Greig was ousted after just three years in the job. Pro-Remain Greig notoriously clashed with his predecessor Paul Dacre. Under Dacre’s 25-year reign as editor, the Mail was described as the UK’s most fanatical anti-liberal voice. It was even suggested that Dacre could be the most dangerous man in Britain.

Under Greig’s brief lead, the newspaper even held the government to account. It probably caught the mood of the country over the Cumming’s lockdown-breaking scandal, and the Owen Paterson debacle, with one of Greig’s headlines reading: ‘SHAMELESS MPs SINK BACK INTO SLEAZE.’

When Greig abruptly left, Paul Dacre, who had pulled out of running to be the next chair of the media regulator, Ofcom, returned as editor-in-chief of the newspaper’s parent company. Ted Verity became the new head of a seven-day print operation. News of the defenestration of Greig was made to staff by Jonathan Harmsworth in an email.

Without Greig in charge, the Mail has slid back to the despotic voice it was under Paul Dacre. During the painful ‘who’s going to be Boris’ successor’ reporting last summer, the Mail unleashed weeks of pro-Truss stories, attacks on her rivals and puff-pieces, thundering that the ‘Tory right’ needed to unite or let ‘establishment favourite Rishi Sunak’ into No 10. Of course, its fanatical promotion of Truss has now been conveniently forgotten, given the disaster that unfolded during her brief tenure at the top.

Then there are the newspapers owned by probably the second most powerful person in British news media, after Viscount Rothermere – Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch’s diversified empire

While the phone hacking and the Leveson Inquiry scandals might have led to the demise of Murdoch’s News of the World – one of the world’s best-selling English language newspapers – his UK media empire lives on. The media magnate has committed hundreds of millions of pounds trying to update News UK, whose titles include the Sun, the Sun on Sunday, the Times and the Sunday Times. His tabloid journalism has still struggled to retain readers though and Murdoch decided to return to British TV. But more on that shortly.

With his media empire diversifying and moving beyond print, Murdoch’s cosy relationship with the Tory government became more insidious than ever.

The Australian-born American media entrepreneur even admitted that he often entered Downing Street “by the back door.”

In 2020, research laid bare the remarkable levels of access Murdoch’s papers have to the Tory government. As LFF reported, a study by Hacked Off found that Murdoch personally met with the government three times in Johnson’s first six months in office. As well as his media influence, the billionaire has also used his cash as a political power, having donated £19,000 to the Tory Party in 2004.

Speaking of influential media barons being in bed with the government, the Barclay brothers, billionaire owners of the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator, long made their support for the Tories known. In 2004, the brothers insisted that the Daily Telegraph would maintain its traditional support for the Conservative Party under their ownership. The passing of Sir David Barclay in 2021, meant the titles are in the sole hands of Sir Frederick Barclay, who lives on Brecqhou, a private island in the Channel Islands. He may or may not have given up day to day running of the group but whatever the future, nobody expects the Telegraph to become a Labour paper any day soon, or even mildly liberal.

Then there is Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian-British businessman who owns Lebedev Holdings Ltd, which in-turn owns the Evening Standard and is the Independent’s largest shareholder. In 2020, Lebedev, who has a net worth of $300 million, was made a life peer after being nominated by Boris Johnson for his work in the media industry and support for conservation charities. 

Between Rothermere, Murdoch, Barclay and Lebedev, the media barons control just under 75 percent of all national newspapers in the UK, according to 2020 figures.

Though of course when examining the UK media’s shot to the right, we must look well beyond print.

Print media has been dominated for over 100 years by the likes of the Mail, the Express, the Telegraph and the Times. The situation improved slightly by the development of radio and television and the launch of the BBC, and of course, more latterly, the rise of digital news.

Though sadly, digital native news brands have not yet managed to overhaul the long-engrained media legacy of the mainstream giants. Analysis by the Press Gazette shows that digital media is dominated by legacy titans.

The ‘Foxification’ of UK media

In 2021, two new TV news channels arrived in Britain. talkTV – owned by Rupert Murdoch – and GB News, are seen as the British equivalents to the popular conservative US channel Fox News. Both talkTV and GB News emerged as ideas to counter established British news channels such as BBC and Sky.

Concerns about the ‘Foxification’ of the British media have been raised, namely that the arrival of two opinionated right-wing broadcasters is the last thing a deeply fractured and ill-informed country needs.  

Unease that the Fox News-style channels would create more media bias and contribute to political polarisation came to light just last week with the announcement that Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries are to host their own talk shows on GB News and talkTV respectively.

Not only are right-wingers with vested political interests associated with owning and operating the channels, but they are even presenting their own shows, thereby talking to audiences directly. Granted, the audiences of the new channels might be small, but their arrival is further testimony of the UK media’s overall shift to the right.

BBC in the right-wing firing line

But perhaps the saddest part of the British media’s swing to the right, has been the fate of the BBC. The public corporation has long been in the firing line of the Tory right. Together with fellow national treasures the NHS and the National Trust, politicised campaigns have been waged against the BBC,  designed to influence control and direction.

David Cameron gnawed away at it, making it accept a £750m cut or take responsibility to ending free licenses for the over-75s. Boris Johnson made an irate threat to abolish the licence fee, amid a row of the then PM’s refusal to look at a picture of a sick boy sleeping on the floor of A&E.

The right-wing Tory newspapers love to shake their fists at the BBC. This headline in the Times in 2019 spoke volumes: “Boycott threat to punish ‘biased’ BBC.” The newspaper’s owner Murdoch has long lobbied to make the licencing fee a voluntary donation, which would reduce its size to that of America’s
Public Broadcasting Service.

As the BBC comes under greater criticism and scrutiny from Conservative ministers and their press, its governance is being progressively swamped by Tories. In June 2020, Tim Davie, who was deputy chairman of the Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative Party in the 1990s, replaced Tony Hall as director general. Less than a year into the job, and Davie scrapped the BBC’s much-loved satirical show  ‘The Mash Report,’ reportedly because he believed it criticised the government too much. According to a report in the Sun at the time, Tim Davie told sources ‘close to him’ that the BBC’s satire needed a radical overhaul as it was too biased against the Tories and Brexit.

The same year, Richard Sharp was appointed as the new chairman of the BBC. Since 2021, the former Goldman Sachs banker has donated more than £400,000 to the Conservative Party, Electoral Commission records show. Sharp reportedly oversaw the work of Rishi Sunak, during the now PM’s early career in the finance industry.

Amid allegations that he helped Boris Johnson secure a £800,000 loan just weeks before he was recommend for the position by Johnson, Sharp now faces multiple investigations.

As he set out his blueprint for improving the broadcaster, the BBC’s chairman criticised Emily Maitlis for her comments about Dominic Cummings’ breaking of lockdown rules and criticism of the government on Newsnight. Sharp had told the Sunday Times that the BBC is “not a campaigning institution. Our approach is to present the facts and not to lead with a broadcaster’s opinion.” He also claimed that “the BBC does have a liberal bias” but insisted “the institution is fighting against it.”

In November, John McAndrew, former ‘anti-woke’ editorial director of news and programmes at GB News, was hired as the BBC’s director of news programmes. McAndrew, who was a launch director of GB News, worked closely with Andrew Neil, where he proposed an “anti-woke” alternative to established broadcasters.

Shackled by an increasing threat to the license fee and awash with right-wing Tory figures making threatening noises and seeking revenge for its Brexit coverage, journalistically and creatively, the BBC has become a shadow of its former self. Its news division employs 6,000 people, four times more than the UK’s largest newspaper group. But where are the impressive investigations, the bold scoops, and the breaking news stories we once saw?

Run by conservatives with partisan agendas rather than creative ones, the corporation has become feebler and more compliant than it used to be, to the detriment of its audience.

Decline of local newspapers and rise of right-wing news websites

The impact that declining local news has had on the rise of a British media’s swing to the right cannot be ignored. From 2005 to 2018, the UK suffered a loss of 245 local news titles. As weekly updates on what’s going on in local councils and courts falling on our doormats are no longer expected, there is now little or no accountability for councils, local politicians and more.

While a decline in print media in general has been compensated for by the rise in online news, this is not the case at a local level. The free and unregulated internet may have opened a door to liberal news sites, think HuffPost, Novara Media and of course Left Foot Forward, but it has presented endless opportunities for right-wing mouthpieces to foghorn their thoughts. Just have a quick peek at Piers Morgan’s Twitter feed, if you dare! Recognising the opportunity to reach limitless audiences and to make revenue gains amid print decline, right-wing news sites are springing up.

Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of the Sun and Martin Clarke, former editor-in-chief and chief executive of Mail Online,  are set to launch  a new right-wing populist website called the Daily Disclosure. MacKenzie said he plans to hire and train up four or five young journalists who must be prepared to “work very hard for not much money.”

You can just imagine the content ‘Daily Disclosure’ will be filled with.  

Probably more woke-bashing, hate-driven drivel the right-wing tabloid newspapers are stuffed with. Irrelevant nonsense that has little bearing on the lives of most ordinary people. Hysteria about taking charitable status from private schools, earnest articles about the phoney ‘Beergate’ scandal, the constant deriding of Harry and Meghan, and so on. Feeble distractions from issues that matter they may be, but they still manage to link them to attacks on left thinking.

Ironically, if you compare the stuff the right-wing media fill their pages with to what the polls say people are concerned about, there is an enormous gap.

Perhaps Kelvin MacKenzie has a point though when he says he is planning on training young journalists. As, at the moment, the UK media is full of over-the-hill right-wing commentators fulminating about the modern world to the older demographics who still consume their news in print format.

No wonder circulation is nosediving.

Right-wing media watch – Tory press ramp up campaign to resurrect Prince Andrew’s reputation

A photo of a man and a woman cramped together in a bath, fully dressed, donning masks of Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre, looks like an image you might see on a satirical site like News Thump, accompanying a wildly ridiculous piece about the Duke of York debacle.

But for the Conservative media, it is being used to advance the possibility that the Duke is not guilty of allegations that he was engaged in sexual activity with a teenage girl. The Telegraph even went as far as to watermark the image, in what seems like an effort to make out it has some sort of copyright or exclusivity over it. Accompanying the photo, which was taken by the family of Ghislaine Maxwell, is the headline: ‘Exclusive: The photo that ‘clears Prince Andrew’ over bath sex.’

Without boring you with too much detail, if you are not yet familiar with the story, the Maxwell family believes the photo discredits Giuffre’s claims that sexual activities began in the bath. Maxwell’s lawyers are also claiming that sexual ‘frolicking’ could not have happened because there was not enough room. The ‘game changing’ photo was released after it emerged that the Duke hopes to overturn the multi-million pound settlement he agreed with Giuffre a year ago, as the Telegraph keenly reports.

Publishing the story without any kind of interrogation over the credibility of a bizarrely staged photo, says more about the Telegraph’s seeming campaign to resurrect Prince Andrew’s reputation than it does about his possible innocence.

Just last week, columnist Charles Moore was chuntering on about the same thing. ‘I believe that Prince Andrew may well be innocent’ read the headline, with Moore claiming that the ‘burden of proof must never be reversed – even for royals.’ The author wastes no time pointing out that he was the only journalist to suggest at the time that Prince Andrew might not have been guilty of the allegations made against him by Giuffre.

Of course, the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ that Moore preaches about in Prince Andrew’s defence, is crucial to protecting the integrity of the justice system and respecting human dignity, we know that. But his and the Telegraph’s defence of the Duke begs the question – would the newspaper be so quick to defend someone wrapped up in paedophilic rape allegations and who paid a multimillion pound settlement to the accuser, if they weren’t a member of the Royal Family?

It’s no secret that Charles Moore – Baron Moore of Etchingham – is a monarchist. He once said that the monarchy “reaches parts politics cannot reach” and “it should stay that way.” He is also well connected to the Tory party, having been given peerage and made a member of the House of Lords under Boris Johnson’s government in 2020. Moore was editor of the Telegraph, Spectator and the Sunday Telegraph, and still writes for all three. He was even Johnson’s boss when the former PM was a journalist, and of course, biographer of Margaret Thatcher.

Being pushed onto the front page of the Telegraph, Moore’s defence of Prince Andrew is symptomatic of the symbiotic relationship between the royals and the Tory press.

It is also important to remember, that the whole Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre saga only became public because of the Epstein scandal breaking in the US.  If it had been a UK scandal, the chances are that it would have all been hushed up by aggressive lawyers and/or discredited by Establishment toadies in the media.

In its account of the fake ‘sex bath’ image – distasteful language to use in a story relating to the alleged rape of a minor – the Telegraph does not linger on the absurdity of the photo, a term used by a US lawyer who represents nine of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims. US attorney Spencer Kuvin also claims the photo actually “undermines the case.” And it doesn’t take a legal expert to deduce that a staged photo taken by the family of someone convicted of conspiring with a late convicted paedophile to sexually abuse minors, splashed over newspaper front pages, is, yes, likely to undermine the case.

But that’s exactly what the Establishment press want, one could argue.

Woke-bashing of the week – Conservative press in a paddy over LSE’s ‘cancelling’ of Lent

Following the ‘woke brigade’s’ apparent ‘cancelling’ of Christmas the right-wingers love to hysterically pontificate, they are now in meltdown over the so-called rescinding of Lent and Easter. 

According to Melanie McDonagh’s column in the Times, the London School of Economics (LSE) is erasing Lent, and, by doing so, is assaulting Christianity. How can a university erase Lent, you might ask? Oh, by abolishing Christian terminology, i.e Lent term and Easter break, in favour of ‘winter term’ and ‘spring break.’ As McDonagh notes, the LSE believes the new names use more “accessible and widely recognised terminology, and better reflect the international nature of our community and our broader global engagement.”

Forgive me if I’m wrong but naming academic terms to their relevant seasons is logical and is what most modern students will have become accustomed to throughout their whole academic careers, whether they were born and bred in Britain or are from overseas, and regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs.

But according to the author, the LSE has nothing better to do than the “dechristianisation” of language. It seems like the Times, the Telegraph, the Mail and the other right-wing media outlets that keenly reported the story, have little better to write about. You’d think there was nothing else going on the UK right now!

While students at the LSE are probably blissfully unaware of the name of their academic terms, and couldn’t care less what they are called, the conservative commentators’ objections about the so-called dechristianisation of language has more to do with the war on woke than it does about Christianity. The Telegraph’s report of the story even mentions ‘woke’ in the first paragraph, claiming, in no uncertain terms, that ‘Lent has been cancelled by a ’woke’ university in a drive to remove Christian term names.’

It didn’t take long for senior Tories to get excited about the LSE’s ‘assault’ on Christianity. A group of 20 Tory MPs have warned that universities which change the name of their terms “cause an irreversible erasure of the Christian language” and are “shockingly neglectful of the common culture.”

Common culture? Hmm… that’s debatable anyway given that Christianity is no longer a majority religion in England and Wales, as shown in the 2021 census.

And what’s more, with around half a million public sector workers walking out in the largest coordinated strike action for a decade this week, who on earth could be prattling on about a university changing its term names?

Oh, hang on, the warnings were made in a letter organised by the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs, which is, of course, headed by Sir John Hayes. That explains it then! These people spend their time bellyaching about ‘wokeism’, gripes which tediously always find their way to the pages of the right-wing press

Thank goodness the New Statesman saw the LSE story for what it is, an objectionable overaction that is driven by misplaced nostalgia rather than Christianity.

We could have fun guessing what their next ‘woke’ objection will be. The Whit half-term recklessly referred to as the May holiday maybe? 

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is author of Right-Wing Watch

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful – and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

Source link

#rightwing #takeover #Britains #media

What ‘Massacre’ In Jenin?

To hear the Palestinian Arabs and their army of supporters tell it, the “real massacre” was that in Jenin, where the IDF engaged in a three-hour gun battle with many terrorists, and at the end, seven terrorists, and one innocent passerby, were dead. And now that the real massacre – no scare quotes needed – has taken place in Jerusalem, those who raged about “the massacre in Jenin” have little or nothing to say about the slaughter of seven Israeli civilians, including a married couple and a 14-year-old boy, as they were coming out of a synagogue.

More on this can be found here: “A tale of two massacres,” by Brendan O’Neill, Spiked, January 31, 2023:

…Western politicians who went online to express horror over the slaughter in [just outside] the synagogue found themselves bombarded by ‘pro-Palestine’ people asking: ‘And what about the killings in Jenin?’ Some media outlets hinted at a moral equivalence, or at least a moral link, between the Jenin clash and the synagogue killings. In its report on the synagogue slaughter, the BBC said ‘tensions have been high since nine Palestinians – both militants and civilians – were killed during an Israeli military raid in Jenin’. Have we really lost the ability to morally differentiate between an armed confrontation between soldiers and militants and the mass murder of unarmed civilians in their place of worship? These are not the same thing. In any way.

There was no link, save for that of proximity in time, between the gun battle in Jenin between two groups of armed men and the massacre of unarmed civilians in Jerusalem. The 21-year-old terrorist responsible for the massacre in Jerusalem had been planning his attack for many months before the Jenin battle; he was determined to be a “martyr,” as his social media posts made clear; he left no message linking his attack to what had happened at Jenin. Those connecting the massacre in Jerusalem to the gun battle in Jenin present a classic case of post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin: “after this, therefore because of this”), which logicians describe as an informal fallacy that states: “Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.” But there is no evidence at all that the massacre in Jerusalem was in response to the gun battle in Jenin the day before. Those pushing for this connection are not-so-subtly trying to justify the Jerusalem massacre: “See, the Israelis behaving with such wanton murderousness in Jenin caused that nice young Palestinian boy to snap. Mind you, I’m not justifying what he did, but we need to understand….”

Listen: when people are targeted in [coming out of] a synagogue, they are targeted because they are Jews. The slaughter on Holocaust Memorial Day was an act of racist barbarism, akin to the grim assaults on Christian churches in Sri Lanka or mosques in New Zealand. ‘Explaining’ the synagogue massacre as if it were a normal or even understandable expression of the broader tensions gripping the Middle East shows just how unhinged anti-Israel sentiment has become. It is shocking that this needs to be said, but nothing – not the events in Jenin, not Israel’s recent incursions into the West Bank and Gaza, not the Israeli settlements – makes the mass murder of Jews for being Jews a comprehensible thing.

Oh, but it is comprehensible. Just as the attack on the World Trade Center was comprehensible, and came as no surprise to anyone who was familiar with the Qur’an and hadith. The attack on worshippers coming out of the synagogue in Neve Ya’akov, a Jerusalem neighborhood, was comprehensible but intolerable, morally beyond-the-pale, an atrocity.

The past week suggests that the anti-Israel fury of influential Westerners is no longer just strange and prejudiced – it’s dangerous. It seems increasingly clear to me that the reimagining of Israel-Palestine as a war between dark and light, between the world’s most wicked state and the world’s most victimised people, is helping to nurture new and ever-more crazed forms of violence in the region. After all, if you are evil, then anything done against you can be justified, right?

So committed are some in the West to the narrative of Israeli evil and Palestinian good that they hold up Palestinians as the pitiable victims of massacres in the very week when it was Israelis, Jews in fact, who were the victims of a massacre. Their devotion to the ideology of Israel-hate clearly takes precedence over everything, even truth. That there has not been more moral and historical angst in the West over the massacre of praying Jews on Holocaust Memorial Day is abominable. It is a blot on the Western moral conscience. It tells us more about us than we would care to know.

It is nauseating to see the major media attempt, by sleight of word, to establish a link between the battle pitting armed men against each other in Jenin and the massacre of unarmed civilians, most of them worshippers, in Jerusalem. Too many in the media rushed to suggest that Israel’s Jenin operation was to blame for having started what they insist upon calling “this latest cycle of violence.” I’ve heard it dozens of times already: “In the latest cycle of violence, that began yesterday with the killing of eight Palestinians in Jenin….”

Brendan O’Neill knows that when the IDF soldiers entered Jenin, they did not come to kill anyone, but to arrest a terror cell that they had learned was in the final stages of preparing for an imminent attack on Israeli civilians. The soldiers arrived outside the hideout of the terrorists. They called for those inside to surrender. Instead, they were shot at and, unsurprisingly, they fired back. More Palestinians, outside the hideout, joined the fight. A wide-ranging three-hour gun battle ensued, at the end of which seven terrorists lay dead. Hamas said four of them belonged to its group; Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed two; a third belonged to the military wing of Fatah. That is, all seven of those killed – by the groups’ own admissions – were members of terror groups. A gun battle between armed men on both sides, one that lasts three hours, is not a massacre. And when one terrorist surrendered to the IDF, they did not kill him, but took him prisoner, unharmed, instead. That is not what happens during a massacre.

Source link

#Massacre #Jenin

The $400 billion man running America’s clean energy transition

Jigar Shah, director of the Department of Energy’s loan programs office in Washington, D.C. Mother Jones; US Energy Department/Wikimedia

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Deep in the confines of the hulking, brutalist headquarters of the US Department of Energy, down one of its long, starkly lit corridors, sits a small, unheralded office that is poised to play a pivotal role in America’s shift away from fossil fuels and help the world stave off disastrous global heating.

The department’s loan programs office was “essentially dormant” under Donald Trump, according to its head, Jigar Shah, but has now come roaring back with a huge war chest to bankroll emerging clean energy projects and technology.

Last year’s vast Inflation Reduction Act grew the previously moribund office’s loan authority to $140 billion, while adding a new program worth another $250 billion in loan guarantees to retool projects that help cut planet-heating emissions. Which means that Shah, a debonair former clean energy entrepreneur and podcast host who matches his suits with pristine Stan Smiths, oversees resources comparable to the GDP of Norway: all to help turbocharge solar, wind, batteries and a host of other climate technologies in the US.

With a newly divided Congress stymieing any new climate legislation in the foreseeable future, Shah has emerged as one of Washington’s most powerful figures in the effort to confront global heating. Shah says such focus on him is “hyperbolic” but the White House is pinning much of its climate agenda on an office that barely had a dozen people when Shah joined in March 2021. It now has more than 200 staffers as it scrambles to distribute billions in loans to projects across the US.

John Podesta, senior adviser to Joe Biden on clean energy, said that the loans office is “essential to the effective implementation” of the administration’s goal to eliminate planet-heating emissions by 2050. “Jigar is laser-focused on working with all levels of government, project sponsors, and affected communities to deliver on that mission and realize results for the American people,” Podesta said.

“There’s a lot of responsibility that’s been put on to this office, clearly Congress gave us those additional resources,” said Shah, who has been busy connecting the newly enriched loans office with all corners of the emerging clean energy economy, not just wind farms and solar operators.

Shah said there was “some rust on the gears” among those tasked with reanimating the office following the tenure of Trump, a president so wary of even the most lo-fi environmental technology that he complained energy efficient lightbulbs made him look orange and became fixated upon the weak flushing ability of water-saving toilets.

But the clean energy loans now appear to be gaining momentum, with 125 current applications seeking $119 billion worth of loans to act as the “bridge to bankability,” as Shah puts it. About $2.5 billion has been given to Ultium Cells to manufacture lithium-ion batteries for electric cars in three states, $700 million has gone to a project that will mine lithium in Nevada—despite concerns this will negatively affect a rare flower in the region—and more than $500 million for the world’s largest facility creating “green” hydrogen, to be used to fuel trucks and industry, in Utah.

“We’ve left no stone unturned,” said Shah, who says he understands the mindset of entrepreneurs, having previously founded the renewable energy companies SunEdison and Generate Capital, as well as being the co-host of The Energy Gang podcast.

“We’ve called every one of those companies that have been labeled climate tech, whether it’s green chemicals, green cement, green steel,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, we’ve called them and said, ‘Hey, let me introduce you to the loan programs office, so now we can help.’”

This new prominence is set to provoke a stinging Republican backlash, however. To conservatives, the loans office, which was founded in 2005, is forever tarred by the much-criticized decision during Barack Obama’s administration to loan $535 million to Solyndra, the California solar firm, only for the company to file for bankruptcy two years later, in 2011.

The huge new financial arsenal at the office’s disposal risks “Solyndra on steroids,” according to Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the incoming Republican chair of the House energy committee. A group of Republicans led by Rodgers have said the new loan authorities “raise questions about increased risks of waste, fraud and abuse, especially if the administration uses the program for its rush-to-green agenda.”

Shah, who could well be hauled in front of Rodgers’ committee this year, said GOP scrutiny is “totally ordinary and expected” and that the loans office is a more rounded and mature entity than during the Obama years when it still, a year before Solyndra collapsed, notably backed an upstart car company called Tesla with a $465 million loan. The failure rate of 3.3 percent for its loans is about that you’d expect from a prudent bank lender rather than a profligate waster of taxpayer money, Shah points out.

Some level of risk taking will be required if the US is to quickly scale up the sort of clean energy technologies that are regularly devised by Americans but can struggle to get support from investors, Biden’s allies argue. “Shah will pick some winners and some losers, that’s how it works,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate change adviser, now with the Progressive Policy Institute.

“If you don’t pick any losers you haven’t taken on enough risk of picking a big winner. They key is a to pick a few really big winners and with this office there have been more Teslas than Solyndras, by a long shot.”

Bledsoe said that the US has traditionally not funneled large amounts of public money into commercializing clean energy technology and “right about now we are wishing we did,” due to the emergence of China as the global leader in solar panel, wind turbine and battery production.

The US, after years of happily offshoring such activities, is looking to kickstart domestic manufacturing via the Inflation Reduction Act incentives. “We have to harden our domestic supply chains because we can’t replace oil-based transportation with critical minerals-based transportation and be dependent on foreign nations when we can process those minerals ourselves,” said Bledsoe. 

While the cost of wind and solar power has fallen dramatically over the past decade—to the point new renewable projects are often cheaper than continuing with existing fossil fuel plants—and electric vehicle sales boomed globally last year, there remains a knot of different causes of the climate crisis still awaiting solutions that are at the tipping point of mass adoption.

Heavy trucking, shipping and aviation that can’t run yet on batteries require a new fuel source, perhaps hydrogen (the Department of Energy is actively looking to fund clean-running aircraft) that isn’t as polluting as oil. Industrial processes such as steel and cement manufacturing are nowhere near to being emissions free.

Even if the US entirely cleans up its electricity grid, it will need thousands of miles of new transmission lines and integrated large-scale batteries to store and distribute the renewable energy to where it’s needed. The Department of Energy, meanwhile, is putting billions of dollars into efforts to remove carbon directly from the atmosphere or capture it at source and bury it underground, although this barely scratches the surface – a recent report estimates that 1,300 times more CO2 removal from new technologies is needed globally by 2050 to avoid breaching a 2C rise above pre-industrial temperatures.

The key to much of this is, as John Kerry, the US climate envoy, put it recently, “money, money, money, money, money, money, money.” Jessica Jewell, an expert in clean energy at Chalmers University, said that even though the cost of solar and wind “has fallen tremendously over the last couple of decades, growth of low-carbon technologies is still not fast enough to reach our climate goals and has yet to make a significant dent in hard-to-abate sectors like industry and transportation.”

“There are many clean energy technologies which are still ‘pre-commercial’ which means they cannot compete without significant support,” Jewell added. “Without these technologies, even the growth of wind and solar power may stall or don’t have the required effect on bringing emissions down.”

Shah said he is confident major strides are being made on hydrogen fuels and that that it is a “foregone conclusion” that 100m tons of CO2 will be captured and buried by US industry due to carbon management investments.

But he thinks much more needs to be done in nuclear, such as the development of small modular reactors, as well as advanced geothermal, where steam from reservoirs of underground hot water is harnessed to run power plants. He frets that the US is short of a million tradespeople to engineer the mass electrification of everything that currently runs on fossil fuels, and that the transmission lines aren’t being built quickly enough.

“I think there’s a lot of work to be done in some of those areas,” Shah said. “When you think about the enormity of the challenges that we’re faced with, that are all prerequisite ingredients to a successful climate deployment, there’s a lot of work to do.”

Shah, who is 48, was born in Gujarat, India, and moved to the US when be was one. He now has a seven-year-old son of his own who adds a certain urgency to his father’s work. “He is asking me tougher questions every month—he says, ‘Hey, are you doing enough on these issues? Hey, why is there exhaust coming out of the car in front of me? Why don’t they have an electric car?’ I’m like, ‘We’re working on that,’” Shah said.

Aside from the pressure exerted by Republicans—and his son—Shah also has to grapple with the existential imperative of a ticking climate timebomb. The last eight years were the hottest ever reliably recorded on Earth but they will appear almost frigid in the future if the US, the world’s biggest ever carbon emitter, doesn’t give up its fossil fuel habit.

“You feel that pressure,” Shah said. “I hold myself to outcomes. I don’t hold myself to best efforts. I feel like there’s a lot of people who are like, ‘Well, I gave it my best.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I mean, that’s not enough. You either have reduced climate emissions or you haven’t.’

“And it does weigh on you. I mean, I sleep well at night, I recognize that good sleep is a good thing. But I do put a lot of pressure on myself and my team, because I think we are up to the challenge. And I think that if not us, then who?”

Source link

#billion #man #running #Americas #clean #energy #transition

Short Circuit: A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

Please enjoy the latest edition of Short Circuit, a weekly feature written by a bunch of people at the Institute for Justice.

Alaska’s sparse population creates unique educational challenges. To address these, the state created “correspondence programs,” in which a student’s public school uses the post office or float planes to deliver lessons and then pick up and grade assignments. In 1997 and again in 2014, the law was broadened to allow parents more freedom to design their children’s curriculum and receive reimbursement for certain educational expenses, including tuition at nonpublic schools. But now the program is under attack, and IJ has teamed up with a group of Alaska families who benefit from the program to defend it in court.

  • FOIA allows agencies to withhold “confidential” and “commercial” information, but could that category possibly include the bare names of the contractors that sell execution drugs to the Bureau of Prisons? D.C. Circuit: Maybe, but not on this record. (Concurrence: But remember that “maybe” doesn’t mean “yes.”)
  • Pro tip from the Second Circuit: The George Costanza defense (“Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?”) is a poor basis on which to withdraw your guilty plea to extortion for threatening to nonconsensually publish nude photos of your ex-girlfriend unless she takes you back.
  • Third Circuit: “Statutory silences, like awkward silences, tempt speech.” But, we are reminded, silence from Congress demands a different response than does silence from one’s Tinder dates.
  • In a scheme clearly designed to frustrate writers of pithy summaries of appellate decisions, Johnson & Johnson, facing tens of thousands of lawsuits over the (possible) negative health effects of its baby powder, creates a new corporation to which it gives its baby-powder business, all the liability from the baby-powder lawsuits, and also a promise to pay the damages from those lawsuits. Then, the new corporation files for bankruptcy to facilitate the orderly distribution of money to claimants. Can they do that? Third Circuit: This is bankruptcy, and that giant promise to pay for damages seems like it stops the new corporation’s bank from being rupt. Petition dismissed.
  • In which the Third Circuit resorts to Webster’s for the definition of the word “if,” if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.
  • There are probably lawyers who have been champing at the bit to see what the Third Circuit was going to say about how issue preclusion and law of the case apply to multidistrict litigation about price-fixing in the drywall industry. If you’re one of them, we’re happy for you.
  • If there’s anyone who loves precision in English usage, it’s Bryan Garner. But if there’s anyone else, it’s your Short Circuit editors. So kudos to this Fourth Circuit panel for holding that the statement that a doctor “misread” a test result could be defamatory when all agree that she actually did not read the test result (and might have been medically justified in not doing so). SNOOTs of the world, unite!
  • Does insurance that covers “direct physical loss of or damage” to property cover business interruptions caused by COVID-19, since, you know, COVID virions are physical things that can touch stuff? The Fifth Circuit once again holds “no.”
  • Normally a case like this would fly under the radar, but when you subscribe to Short Circuit, you can be sure you’ll hear about it when the Fifth Circuit holds that the Second Amendment protects the right of people subject to domestic violence restraining orders to keep and bear arms.
  • Sixth Circuit: Government employees have a First Amendment right to speak on matters of public concern. But depending on the speech—”Let me be the first on record to have the balls to say Tamir Rice should have been shot and I am glad he is dead”—they don’t necessarily get to stay government employees.
  • Forklift driver hits a bump in a warehouse. She falls onto the floor and stops. Forklift does not. Now short one leg, she sues the forklift manufacturer. Her expert wants to testify that the accident could have been prevented through this safety device called a “door.” District court: Sorry, under the Daubert test that expert’s excluded. Seventh Circuit: Yeah, but that’s literally all the district court said, which is not enough of a reason to exclude.
  • DEA seizes $146,000 in cash from a man’s vehicle. After receiving a notice of forfeiture, the man’s attorney sends in paperwork. But, oops! It was the wrong paperwork to force the government to go to court, a “petition for remission” instead of a “claim.” After the time limit has run he files a lawsuit anyway. District court: I lack subject matter jurisdiction. Seventh Circuit: Actually, the court probably had jurisdiction. But the government wins anyway.
  • Man standing outside a Los Angeles housing complex is stopped by police, who frisk him, find car key, go to nearby parking lot, and click the key until they locate the car—complete with a handgun under the front seat. A Fourth Amendment violation? Ninth Circuit: Yes, but a harmless one as to the man’s most serious convictions (Hobbs Act robbery and conspiracy). But his other conviction (brandishing the weapon) should be set aside.
  • In which the Ninth Circuit does a deep dive into the traditional fishing practices of the Metlakatkan Indian Community and concludes that an 1891 statute secures the Metlakatkans’ right to non-exclusive off-reservation fishing in areas where they have fished since time immemorial. So does Alaska’s effort to limit the Metlakatkans’ fishing in certain areas violate that right? The district court should figure that out on remand.
  • Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air Industries provide paid leave for jury duty, bereavement, and sick leave, but not for short-term military leave. A violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act? Ninth Circuit: Yeah, maybe. This pilots’ class action should go to trial.
  • A macabre facet of Eighth Amendment death penalty litigation is that a prisoner challenging his method of execution must propose an alternative he prefers. Here, a convicted murderer on Georgia death row proposes a firing squad in lieu of lethal injection because, he says, he’s taking medicine that will render the sedative ineffective and has a vein condition that will make the injection procedure inhumane. Eleventh Circuit (after being reversed by the Supreme Court on a procedural issue): Firing squad is a valid alternative, and the medication-related claim is both timely and viable. But the vein-related claim needs more facts to support it.
  • Indigent prisoners can generally file federal civil-rights suits without having to pay court fees up front. But the Prison Litigation Reform Act deters repeat vexatious lawsuits by taking away that privilege after “three strikes” for cases dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or failing to state a claim. If a case is dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, is that a “strike”? Eleventh Circuit (en banc): Only if the case is dismissed because failure to exhaust was apparent on the face of the complaint, not if the defendant had to introduce evidence. Concurrence to district courts: Stop having prisoners fill out a check-box about exhaustion because that’s not how litigation normally works and exhaustion is more complicated than a yes/no answer.
  • And in en banc news, the Ninth Circuit will not reconsider its opinion that “and” does not mean “or” in a case about the First Step Act of 2018.
  • And in further en banc news, the Fifth Circuit will not reconsider its opinion affirming a denial of qualified immunity when Louisiana prisoners were kept in custody months after serving their sentences. Seven judges voted in favor of rehearing, but none of them wrote to explain why.
  • And in still more en banc news, the D.C. Circuit will not reconsider its opinion upholding a rule allowing nonimmigrant students to work in the U.S. post-graduation. Two judges think the rule can’t be squared with the text of the Immigration and Nationality Act, but the case needed five for a grant. (Ed.: Why weren’t six votes required when there are ten active judges on the D.C. Circuit? Two of the judges did not participate, so petitioners needed only five of eight.)
  • And in amicus brief news, IJ is urging the Supreme Court to reverse a Sixth Circuit decision that interpreted a federal statute to allow the IRS to summons—without notice or opportunity to object—financial records from any innocent third party that the IRS believes might assist them in collecting someone else’s unpaid taxes. We think the Fourth Amendment might have something to say about that.

Friends, do you like donuts? Well, if you pass through Conway, New Hampshire, you can stop at Leavitt’s Country Bakery to sample what local news called the best donuts in the state. You’ll be able to spot it by the mural painted on its façade by local art students … unless town zoning officials get their way. They’ve decided that the mural is no mural at all, but rather an illegal sign. Why? Because the mural depicts baked goods—if it depicted anything else, it would be perfectly legal. But government officials don’t get to tell people what they can and can’t paint, which is why IJ has teamed up with bakery owner Sean Young to defend his First Amendment rights.

Source link

#Short #Circuit #Roundup #Federal #Court #Decisions

Georgia County Skirts ‘Zuckerbucks’ Ban to Bank $2 Million Election Grant

A Georgia county has accepted a $2 million grant for election operations from a Big Tech-aligned organization that distributed similar grants in 2020 from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, doing so despite a state law prohibiting local election offices from taking private money.

The Georgia law, however, could allow such private funds to go to a county’s treasury to be appropriated for use by an election office, effectively making the restriction difficult to enforce, one knowledgable lawyer in the state told The Daily Signal.  

The county in question is DeKalb County, which earlier accepted nearly $10 million from the Center for Tech and Civic Life during the 2020 presidential election. 

Last April, CTCL launched the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, a five-year, $80 million project in partnership with groups financed by two liberal groups, Arabella Advisors and Democracy Fund. The election alliance went on to offer $2 million to DeKalb County for use in the 2024 elections.

In a public statement, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond, a Democrat, clearly said the $2 million would be used by the Board of Registration and Elections, even if filtered through other offices. 

 “The county is pleased to be a recipient of this funding in support of the Elections Department’s ongoing efforts to serve as a model for election integrity not just in Georgia but throughout our nation,” Thurmond said Thursday.

Quinn Hudson, chief communications officer for DeKalb County, told The Daily Signal on Thursday that the person who could address the issue, including the apparent conflict with state law, would be out until next week. 

Last week, however, a Georgia news outlet called Decaturish paraphrased DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections Chairwoman Dele Lowman Smith as saying that “since election offices are not allowed to receive grants directly, the lengthy application process was led by the county’s finance department.”

DeKalb County, with a population of more than 700,000, includes part of Atlanta. The county seat is Decatur. 

Georgia’s Senate Bill 202, signed in 2021 by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, includes this language: “No superintendent shall take or accept any funding, grants, or gifts from any source other than from the governing authority of the county or municipality, the state of Georgia, or the federal government.”

The key words are “no superintendent,” which means no election superintendent, the lawyer told The Daily Signal, which agreed not to use his name. 

However, the law’s reference to “other than from the governing authority” opens the door for a local government to accept the private money and then allocate it toward election administration, the lawyer said. 

“It seems this is tailored to bypass the legalese and exploiting loopholes in the law,” Hayden Ludwig, senior investigative researcher at the Washington-based Capital Research Center, told The Daily Signal. 

“This obviously violates the spirit of the law,” Ludwig said. “Lawmakers weren’t concerned about which office the money went directly to. The concern was private entities funding elections.”

Since state laws differ, it’s hard to say how enforceable the bans on using private money to run elections will be in the 24 states that enacted them, Ludwig said. But the laws in Virginia and Florida contain some of the tightest language, he said. 

Legislators in states that have bans on using private money for elections should look at closing loopholes, said Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project, which last month teamed with the John Locke Foundation to release a report on the election alliance.  

“The fact they are looking at the state law and evading the spirit of that law speaks volumes about the alliance,” Snead told The Daily Signal. “Georgia’s statutory language might be weak, but it was intended to cut off corrosive private money from funding elections. This should put other counties on guard against doing business with the alliance.”

In 2020, the Center for Tech and Civic Life distributed a total of $350 million to local election offices in 47 states with the backing of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative begun by Facebook’s Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. 

Out of that pot of money, DeKalb County got two separate grants, one for $4.6 million and another for $4.8 million. 

Six of the 10 largest grant recipients per capita in 2020 were in the Atlanta area and DeKalb County that year got $12.59 per capita, according to the Capital Research Center. 

In the 10 counties that received the most election-related funds, Democrat nominee Joe Biden got a total of 1.49 million votes, about 378,000 more votes than party nominee Hillary Clinton did in 2016. 

In 2020, Donald Trump received a total of 691,000 in those 10 counties, an increase of only 92,000 votes over his 2016 performance, according to the Capital Research Center. 

The Center for Tech and Civic Life, which handles press inquiries for the election alliance, did not respond to inquiries for this story from The Daily Signal. 

“I am thrilled we have chosen DeKalb County as a Center for Election Excellence,” Tiana Epps-Johnson, executive director of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, said in a press release announcing the new $2 million grant. “DeKalb County is a leader in safe, secure, and inclusive elections that put voters first. This program will take their election administration work to the next level.”

The Alliance for Election Excellence is largely funded by The Audacious Project, which Inside Philanthropy describes as “a tech-heavy group of funders that lean liberal in their grantmaking.” They include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, novelist MacKenzie Scott, the MacArthur Foundation, and other traditionally left-leaning funders. 

The Daily Signal reported last week that a Utah county had been accepted as part of the grantmaking election alliance, but a county official said there would be no grants because of the state’s ban of such private money in elections.

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email [email protected] and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.



Source link

#Georgia #County #Skirts #Zuckerbucks #Ban #Bank #Million #Election #Grant

Michael Shellenberger takes Hunter Biden APART for demanding his dad’s DOJ investigate whistleblower

Nobody ever accused Hunter Biden of being that smart … well, except his dad.

What exactly does Hunter think will happen if they go after the whistleblower? It only makes Hunter look worse, and that he’s trying to use his dad’s DOJ to make it happen kinda sorta totally proves corruption and abuse of power.

Just sayin’.

Michael Shellenberger of course said it far better in a thread:

And it’s about more than Hunter just being a degenerate perv.

Or, you know, Hunter leaving the laptop there without ever coming back to get it did that … just sayin’.

Ukrainian businessmen.

Sort of goes back to that crazy article we wrote about what America is really doing in the Ukraine.

Which led to the whole cover-up …

Uh-huh.

… the FBI’s former counsel-turned-Twitter deputy counsel, Jim Baker.

They had to know the laptop was real.

That.

All of that.

Why not both?

And since Sleepy Joe should reject it … he probably won’t.

***

Related:

If this thread about why America is REALLY helping Ukraine is true at ALL it’s HUGE (back to Obama?!)

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Chinese spy balloon and LOL there’s something written on the side

AOC brings a knife to a gun-fight with Marjorie Taylor Greene and it like goes SOOO wrong for her

***

Join us in the fight. Become a Twitchy VIP member today and use promo code SAVEAMERICA to receive a 40% discount on your membership



Source link

#Michael #Shellenberger #takes #Hunter #Biden #demanding #dads #DOJ #investigate #whistleblower

If this thread about why America is REALLY helping Ukraine is true at ALL it’s HUGE (back to Obama?!)

Every once in a while we come across a thread that while we can neither confirm nor deny if it’s true, we feel like our readers might want to take a look and decide for themselves. This thread from user Clandestine (who has 150k followers) is one of those threads.

Again, we can’t tell you if this is what’s happened or what is happening for sure but you guys … woof.

Take a gander.

Get some popcorn.

Trust us.

Nearly 20 years ago.

Keep going.

Seems they always change their tune when it might prove Republicans were right about something.

But wait, there’s more.

In Ukraine.

Meep.

You guys remember all of this, right?

Good times.

Now, THIS we remember because Biden has bragged about it on numerous occasions.

*adjusts tinfoil hat, twice*

This just gets worse and worse.

Still there?

Sounds crazy, right? But if true? Yikes.

There’s a numbering thing here but we think this is in order.

Could this be true?

Sure.

Could parts of it be true?

Absolutely.

Could it be false? Eh … truth is usually stranger than fiction so we shall see.

***

Related:

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Chinese spy balloon and LOL there’s something written on the side

AOC brings a knife to a gun-fight with Marjorie Taylor Greene and it like goes SOOO wrong for her

Pfizer dir. who lost it when confronted by James O’Keefe admits #Pfertility issues with vaccine (watch)

***

Join us in the fight. Become a Twitchy VIP member today and use promo code SAVEAMERICA to receive a 40% discount on your membership



Source link

#thread #America #helping #Ukraine #true #HUGE #Obama