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“The Battle Of The Oil Barons”: Like Kids Playing With Gasoline In A Burning Schoolyard

It’s a very exciting time in the world of oil geopolitics, if you’re a fan of juvenile saber-rattling in the service of making billionaires even richer:

The fracking boom has driven US output to the highest in three decades, contributing to a global surplus that Venezuela has estimated at 2 million barrels a day. That’s equal to or more than the production of six OPEC members…

Conventional oil producers in OPEC can no longer dictate prices, United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said in an interview in Vienna this week. Newcomers to the market who have the highest costs and created the glut should be the ones to determine the price, he said.

“That is what OPEC is hoping for,” said Carsten Fritsch, a commodity analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. “It’s the question of who will blink first.”

OPEC will feel pressure too, with prices now below the level needed by nine member states to balance their budgets.

The United States has been making it a matter of public policy to poison its own groundwater and stress its fault lines by fracking, steaming and acidizing for oil. This is partly in order to enrich its own oil magnates, and partly to stick its thumb in the eye of Russia, Venezuela and OPEC. The Hillary Clinton-led state department has only been too happy to strongly encourage shale gas fracking in Europe in order to frustrate Russian ambitions as well.

So OPEC has been flooding the world with cheap oil partly out of revenge, partly in a regional power play against Iran and others, and partly to disincentivize Western fracking by making it economically unfeasible.

It’s all good fun, and I’m sure the players feel like they’re doing great work to advance the interests of their “good people” against all those other “bad people” in those nasty other countries.

Of course, what almost no one is paying attention to in the middle of all this is the impact on climate change and the planet. We now know beyond a doubt that if all of this new shale oil comes out of the ground and gets burned into the atmosphere as CO2, the world’s youngest inhabitants may not have many habitable places left to live by their retirement age.

But that’s not so important compared to frustrating the economic ambitions of that rival nation-state, right?

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, November 29, 2014

November 30, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment, Fracking | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Edward Snowden Is No Hero”: Civil Disobedience Is, Almost By Definition, An Act Of Faith In Vindication

Mohandas Gandhi went to Yeravda Central Prison.

Martin Luther King Jr., went to Birmingham jail.

Nelson Mandela went to Robben Island.

Edward Snowden is going to Venezuela.

Or not. His destination was up in the air as these words were written. A Russian lawmaker tweeted on Tuesday that Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. contractor, had accepted asylum from Venezuela. Then the tweet was deleted and the official word was that there was no official word.

Whatever happens, one thing is obvious. Wherever Snowden goes, he has no intention of coming home to answer for what he did.

One struggles to know how to feel about that.

Many of us, after all, believe he struck a blow for freedom in leaking classified information revealing the breadth and depth of government spying on private citizens. But he seems not to have thought through the implications and likely outcomes of that act. How else to explain the fact that he has wound up trapped in the international transit zone at the Moscow airport, unable to enter the country, yet unable to leave because he has nowhere to go?

Well, that’s not quite accurate. Snowden is reported to be fielding offers of asylum from several nations, including, besides Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. It is worth noting that these would-be benefactors all have problematic recent relations with his own country. Surely that plays a part in their eagerness to get their hands on him.

One wonders if he understood what he was getting into. Civil disobedience is never without risk and one accepts this going in. To practice civil disobedience is, after all, to break the law in the conviction that doing so serves a higher moral law.

A visitor from China once asked Dr. Bernard Lafayette with some amazement how such a thing could be justified. Was that not a recipe for chaos? If every citizen can choose for himself or herself which laws to obey and which to ignore, does that not show disrespect for the very rule of law? Lafayette, a hero of the civil rights movement, said no, because civil disobedience does not seek to evade punishment. One shows one’s respect for the rule of law, he said, by submitting to the penalties prescribed for breaking it.

Dr. Daniel Ellsberg would likely disagree; he supports Snowden’s flight to elude U.S. authorities. Ellsberg famously leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and faced a possible 115-year sentence for doing so. Charges were dismissed in 1973.

In an op-ed published Sunday by the Washington Post, he argued that Snowden’s situation cannot be compared to his — different circumstances, different era. Snowden, he writes, would likely be disappeared into solitary confinement if returned to these shores and have little chance to contribute to the debate on government surveillance.

Perhaps. But here’s the thing: Civil disobedience is, almost by definition, an act of faith. Not faith in government, nor even faith in law, but faith in vindication. It is an act that says, I am right, so I refuse to obey this law and will take my medicine until you see that I am right.

Snowden is not willing to do that, not willing to stand, with head held high, upon the courage of his convictions. There is something unseemly about that. It makes his action feel unfinished. And undermined.

Yes, there’s also something unseemly about some guy sitting safely behind his desk smugly advising some other guy to put the rest of his life at risk for the sake of principle. But consider the alternative. Should he go to some unfriendly nation and become a propaganda tool against his own country? No. There are no seemly options here — only a narrowing range of unseemly ones.

So Snowden should come home. You may say that is the worst possible choice, and you’d be right. It is the worst.

Except for all the rest.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, July 10, 2013

July 11, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“His Own Epitaph”: Edward Snowden, A Man Without A Country

We woke this morning to find that Edward Snowden (Mr. Around the World in Rrrrrrrrrrr! [sound of a screeching stop]) has been offered asylum first in Venezuela, and then in Nicaragua. Perhaps the only person entirely happy about this result may be John Logan, author of the next two James Bond films, who may now be inspired to include a scene of a world-famous leaker meeting an untimely fate at the end of a bejeweled thong on the sun-struck beaches of Playa El Agua.

If Snowden can make his way to the Americas (hardly a given), we may learn the answer to one of the burning questions of the moment: what have you been doing all day, Ed? The possibilities of his treatment at Sheremetyevo airport range from detention-lite to a pleasant sterility, the sort of environment that George Clooney might have appreciated in Up in the Air. After almost two weeks, one might expect Snowden to have cleaned up his email folder, finished everything he’s downloaded to his e-reader, and finally got his fill of Diamond Mine.

Should he be scrounging for something else to read, he could do worse than to locate The Man Without A Country, a short story that was published in The Atlantic in December 1863. Written by Edward Everett Hale, the author and clergyman (and not his uncle Edward Everett, the author and orator, or Edward Everett Horton, the comic actor), The Man Without a Country tells the story of a young Army lieutenant Philip Nolan, who becomes friends with the nefarious Aaron Burr. When Burr is indicted for treason for ham-handedly trying to seize part of the Louisiana Territory for himself, Nolan is tried for treason. During the proceedings, he loses his temper, and renounces America. “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” he shouts, and the judge sentences Nolan to his wish: he is to spend the rest of his life aboard United States Navy warships, in exile, with no right ever again to set foot on U.S. soil, and with explicit orders that no one shall ever mention his country to him again.

And so it happens. Nolan spends approximately fifty years aboard various vessels, never allowed to return to US soil. No one is allowed to speak to him about the United States, nor is he allowed to read anything about the country. Over the years, he repents his angry comments, and one day advices a young sailor to avoid his mistake: “Remember, boy, that behind all these men … behind officers and government, and people even, there is the Country Herself, your Country, and that you belong to her as you belong to your own mother. Stand by her, boy, as you would stand by your mother … !” At the end of the story, a dying Nolan invites an officer named Danforth to his room. It has become a patriotic shrine, with a flag, pictures of George Washington and a bald eagle. Danforth tells Nolan everything that happened to America since his sentence was imposed; the narrator confesses, however, that “I could not make up my mouth to tell him a word about this infernal rebellion,’’—the Civil War. When Nolan is found dead later that day, they find that he has written his own epitaph:

In memory of PHILIP NOLAN, Lieutenant in the army of the United States. He loved his country as no other man has loved her; but no man deserved less at her hands

Treacly stuff, in a way, yet quite moving in its sentimental power. The story was a Civil War story, designed to use sentiment and argument to show what the country as a whole, as opposed to the individual states, had achieved. I’d love to hear what Snowden thinks of the tale a few years from now, although generally speaking, those who possess the audacity to commit a great deed seldom have the audacity to reconsider it.

 

By: Jamie Malanowski, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 6, 2013

July 7, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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