“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, May 31, 2014

If hanging, gassing or electrocution is wrong, then so is this:

Lockett’s execution was scheduled for 6pm. At 6:23, observers reported witnessing the administration of a sedative, with a doctor reporting that Lockett was fully sedated at 6:33. Sedation is critical in executions, as the three-drug cocktail used involves a sedative, a paralytic, and a drug that induces cardiac arrest. Without sedation, the process would be extremely painful and traumatic for the prisoner, who would suffocate to death while fully conscious.
When the second and third drugs were administered, however, Lockett was clearly alert and responsive to his surroundings, groaning and licking his lips. He reportedly tried to lift his head and was clearly in a state of physical distress. A prison official in the room said ‘something’s wrong,’ according to AP reporter Bailey Elise McBride, and the shutters between the execution chamber and the witnesses were closed. The witnesses waited for over 47 minutes for news, later learning that Lockett died of cardiac arrest at 7:06.
Some confusion initially obscured the cause of the problem – the drugs, or a blown vein. If it was the drugs, Oklahoma’s experimental drug cocktail would have been proved ineffective and dangerous, yet again. If it was a blown vein that prevented successful administration of the drugs, it was a testimony to the dangers of having inept, careless, and poorly-trained medical personnel in the execution chamber—a number of states don’t even require medical staff to be present at executions. The presence of a blown vein is easy to spot and correct and the physician present should have checked the intravenous line before administering the second and third drugs.
The grisly scene in the execution chamber horrified witnesses, and set off a firestorm of infuriated conversation. Death penalty opponents argue that execution itself is a form of cruel and unusual punishment, barred under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Advocates have long maintained that lethal injection is a humane and effective way to conduct executions, dodging the issue of whether the state should be conducting retributive justice in the first place. As this and other recent botched executions illustrate, however, the death penalty is clearly not humane in any form.

Friday, May 30, 2014

"In the cops defense, the baby was holding a rifle, or a rattle that looked like a rifle. This made them mistake the baby for the family dog. Policy calls for shooting dogs in cribs, but after returning fire from the parakeet they were out of bullets, so grenade.” - Dr. No

Jacob Sullum|REASON May. 30, 2014 1:43 pm

Habersham County, Georgia, Sheriff Joey Terrell feels bad that his deputies horribly burned a toddler by tossing a "distraction device" (a.k.a. a "flash bang" grenade) into the playpen where he was sleeping during a drug raid on Wednesday morning. "The baby didn't deserve this," Terrell concedes in an interview with "The family didn't deserve this. This family was displaced from another home down here and apparently just moved in." If his deputies had known there were children in the home, he says, they would not have used the grenade. But given what they knew, Terrell insists, they acted appropriately:
We keep asking ourselves, "How did this happen?" No one can answer that. You can't answer that. You try and do everything right. Bad things can happen. That's just the world we live in. Bad things happen to good people. 
But it turns out Terrell does have an answer:
The person I blame in this whole thing is the person selling the drugs. Wanis Thonetheva, that's the person I blame in all this. They are no better than a domestic terrorist, because they don't care about families—they didn't care about the family, the children living in that household—to be selling dope out of it, to be selling methamphetamine out of it. All they care about is making money. 
They don't care about what it does to families. It's domestic terrorism, and I think we should treat them as such. I don't know where we can go with that, but that's my feelings on it. It just makes me so angry! I get so mad that they don't care about what they do. They don't care about the families or the people they're selling to.

It makes me angry too, but in a different way. It makes me angry that Terrell thinks violence is an appropriate response to consensual transactions in which someone exchanges methamphetamine for money (provided that person is not a pharmacist and his customer is not a patient with a prescription). It makes me angry that Terrell sees nothing wrong with sending a heavily armed SWAT team into an alleged meth dealer's home in the middle of the night, which inevitably endangers not only the dealer but anyone else who happens to be there. In Terrell's mind, that is not an act of aggression. It was Wanis Thonetheva who attacked first by agreeing to sell speed to people who wanted it. Hence Thonetheva is a "domestic terrorist," harming an innocent child because all he cares about is making money.
Terrorists, of course, are usually motivated by politics rather than greed. And it was not Thonetheva who sent Alecia Phonesavanh's 19-month-old son, Bounkham, to the hospital with severe burns. One of Terrell's deputies did that, in service of a political ideology that says people may not alter their consciousness in ways that are not approved by the government. "He is in a medically induced coma and he is paralyzed," Phonesavanh told WSB-TV, the ABC affiliate in Atlanta. "I hope he's not going to remember this. I know his sisters, his mommy, and his daddy will never forget this. Our kids have been through enough this year. This is just more trauma that they didn't need, and I just wish there was something better I could do to make it better for him. Wrong place, wrong time."
That place is America, and that time is a period during which police believe it is their duty to launch military-style assaults on civilians who sell politically incorrect drugs, knowing full well that there is bound to be "collateral damage" like this from time to time. After Bounkham recovers from the injuries inflicted by his government and becomes old enough to ask what happened that night, is there any explanation that will make sense to him?  

Chinese banks could be beneficiaries of deteriorating relations between Russia and the West, with pressure growing on European and US investment banks to stop dealing with Moscow. Bankers say sanctions imposed on Russia in response to the Ukraine crisis are creating a situation similar to that in Iran, where Western banks and companies are effectively barred from doing business by regulators at home.

USA 'to fine BNP Paribas €7 billion' in sanctions probe

Latest update : 2014-05-30
The US is seeking more than $10 billion to resolve a criminal probe into allegations that the French bank evaded US sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
BNP – the largest publicly traded French bank – is seeking to pay less than $8 billion, the newspaper reported citing people familiar with the case.
Still, the multibillion dollar figure would put the fine among the largest penalties ever imposed on a bank and is far higher than what BNP has provisioned for.
A $10 billion settlement figure would represent a "hit" of around 5 percent to the bank's tangible book value and result in a 5 euro per share impact on the fair value of BNP Paribas stock, Citigroup analysts said.
The US Justice Department and BNP are reportedly currently discussing whether the French banking giant, as part of its punishment, would be temporarily denied the right to transfer money into and out of the United States – a central part of any foreign bank's business dealings in the US.
The report said Justice Department prosecutors continue to press the bank to plead guilty to the charges, which theoretically could risk its US banking license. North America is a key part of BNP's new strategy to increase profits outside Europe. It aims for the region to account for 12 percent of its 2016 revenues, up from 10 percent in 2013.
A person familiar with the negotiations said in May that US prosecutors were insisting not only that it plead guilty to charges that it did business with parties in Iran, Sudan and elsewhere that were under US sanctions, but also fire 12 employees involved in the transactions.
The Journal said a final resolution of the BNP case, which is related to the bank's activity in 2002-2009, is still "likely weeks away".
In a separate case last week involving a bank that helped thousands of Americans avoid taxes, Switzerland's Credit Suisse pleaded guilty to one felony charge and was fined $2.6 billion but was allowed to keep its banking license.
That was the first time in 20 years a major bank had been convicted on US criminal charges.

Last year BNP set aside €789 million ($1.1 billion) to resolve the US sanctions case. But in its first-quarter earnings report in late April, BNP noted "a possibility that the amount of the fines could be far in excess of the amount of the provision".

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry chided National Security Agency leak source Edward Snowden on Wednesday, telling him he "should man up and come back to the United States." Kerry's comments came as Snowden's extensive interview with NBC's Brian Williams is set to air Wednesday night. Kerry was asked about an excerpt from the interview in which Snowden said he was trained by the U.S. government as a "spy," something that countered the Obama administration's previous assertions he was a low-level analyst.

Sure Asshole - To This:

US 'supermax' prison is condemned internationally for its abusive regime
The Bureau of Prisons boss seems oblivious, as ADX Florence faces a class action lawsuit brought by mentally ill prisoners, Tuesday 18 September 2012 08.30 EDT

In 1990, John Jay Powers was sentenced to time in prison for robbing a bank. While there, he witnessed the murder of another inmate and began suffering from post-traumatic stress. In 2001, after a brief escape attempt, he was transferred to Administrative Maximum (ADX) Florence, the federal government's only supermax facility, where inmates are housed in conditions of such extreme isolation the prison is known, not so fondly, as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies".
Before entering ADX, Powers had no history or symptoms of mental illness, but since being installed there, he has become deranged and has engaged in numerous acts of self-mutilation, including amputating his testicle and scrotum, biting off his finger and trying to kill himself on several occasions.

To give you an idea of why a previously sane person would lapse into madness at ADX, you need look no further than the circumstances of their confinement. ADX was designed to ensure the total isolation of all its prisoners, who are held in cells about the size of an average toilet. The cells have thick, concrete soundproof walls, a door with bars and a second door made of solid steel. The only possible means of communicating with other humans is to yell into the toilet bowl and hope that someone may hear. The inmates are kept in their cell 24/7 for two days each week. On the other five days, they may get to spend approximately one hour in a similarly-sized cage for what is laughingly referred to as "outdoor" recreation. By its own policy, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) excludes the mentally ill from ADX, but it seems that many prisoners with mental illness end up there because of a deficient screening process – and more still who were sane upon arrival tend not to remain so for long.
Powers is one of 11 prisoners at ADX Florence named in a federal class action lawsuit filed against the BOP on 18 July of this year, alleging mistreatment and abuse of prisoners with mental illness who are frequently misdiagnosed (if diagnosed at all) and then denied proper care. It comes at a time of mounting pressure from the international community, including the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights and the European Court of Justice. Yet the BOP, which would not comment on the pending litigation, has demonstrated by their prior, and subsequent, actions that they are oblivious at best and indifferent at worst to the allegations.
To give an idea of the kind of obliviousness I'm talking about, you need to look no further than a memo with the subject line "Suicide Prevention" that was sent by Charles Samuels, the director of the federal Bureau of Prisons, two days after the lawsuit was filed, to all inmates in the federal system – including those housed in solitary confinement at ADX. In the memo, Samuels, sounding like a concerned social worker, urges prisoners who may be feeling suicidal to try to look on the bright side. Here's an excerpt:
"Incarceration is difficult for many people. Many individuals experience a wide range of emotions – sadness, anxiety, fear, loneliness, anger or shame. At times you may feel hopeless about your future and your thoughts may turn to suicide. If you are unable to think of solutions other than suicide, it is not because solutions do not exist; it is because you are currently unable to see them. Do not lose hope. Solutions can be found, feelings change, unanticipated positive events occur. Look for meaning and purpose in education and treatment programs, faith, work, family, and friends."
Samuels goes on to urge suicidal inmates to avail themselves of the psychologists, counseling services and so on that he seems to think are readily available to them. Now, one could take the memo at face value as a genuine attempt to rally the spirits of prisoners who are feeling out of sorts. But when you consider that the memo was addressed to inmates, many of whom Samuel acknowledges in the final paragraph, "may be reading this message while in a Special Housing Unit or Special Management Unit cell" (all euphemisms for solitary confinement), and that the suicidal feelings prisoners are experiencing are far more likely to be a direct consequence of the fact that they are housed in such isolation units than for existential reasons, it's hard not to be a tad cynical. It's harder still when one learns that Samuels himself seems to have only a hazy notion, at best, as to what kind of counseling services prisoners have access to, if any.
A month before the memo was issued, Samuel testified before a senate subcommittee hearing on solitary confinement, during which he claimed "no negative effect" of isolation on prisoners. And he fluffed his response to a direct question by Senator Durbin regarding the access prisoners at ADX have to psychologists.
"I can give you later, for the record, I mean, an average, but I would say, I mean, because this is being conducted, sir, I mean throughout, you know, the country, various locations and to give a specific amount of time."
There are larger implications of this lawsuit and those that have proceeded it, however: once again, it focuses an embarrassing spotlight on the fact that while the powers-that-be in the US are quick to condemn abuses of prisoners in captivity in other countries, they are apparently unconcerned with the less overt, yet equally damaging, human rights abuses happening in prisons on American soil. Since 2007, the European Court of Human Rights has put a stay on the extradition of six men wanted on terrorism charges because of concerns about the treatment that would be in store for them at ADX.

Finally, under apparent pressure from the US, it agreed to allow the extradition to proceed this past April. But that decision prompted such a backlash from advocacy groups that it is considering an appeal later this month. One can only hope that the international community will remind the US that it needs to hold itself to the same standards to which it holds others.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rory Stewart - his world view today in Ukraine and his past view on Afghanistan - well worth a listen

West may need new bases to deter Putin – UK defence committee chief

Rory Stewart, chair of Commons defence watchdog, warns US and Europe to take fears of Russian military action seriously

The west may need to build military bases in eastern Europe to deter Russian president Vladimir Putin from invading a Baltic state, the new chairman of the House of Commons defence watchdog has said.
Rory Stewart, the Tory elected to lead the defence committee last week, said the west has proved poor at assessing risks and threats, so should take seriously the fears of Russia's neighbouring states that Putin may be training for further military action.
In a blogpost offering thoughts on Putin, he said the US and Europe should not overreact to the annexation of Crimea but ought to plan for "some testing scenarios".
Stewart, who has served in the army and diplomatic service, said the dominant view in Britain is that the threat from Putin is still minimal. But he highlighted the alternative viewpoint from eastern Europe that Putin is very dangerous, with his defence spending increasing by 50% as Nato's drops by 20%.
If this assessment proves true, Stewart said "we may need to consider pre-positioning supplies and building bases in eastern Europe, increasing surveillance, redeploying troops, and planning and training to deter Putin.
"Recent military exercises have suggested that Russia could mobilise up to 100,000 troops in 72 hours, and that they have already trained for invading the Baltic," he said . "Those states [Estonia and Latvia] argue that Putin only understands strength, that there is no point pretending any more that he is a potential partner, or worrying about irritating him. And that Putin may be tempted to destabilise or even invade a Baltic state."
He warned that Nato would be "fatally weakened" if this happened and the west was unable to respond.
Stewart said the UK's poor track record in predicting threats such as the Arab spring and how military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan would turn out partly "reflect the hollowing out of our strategic institutions".
Too many Foreign Office officials were tied to their desks rather than spending a significant time focused on the politics of other cultures, he said.
"We have got away with this for the last 20 years, when the major issues seemed to be economics, and terrorism. But Crimea reminds us that we could face much more direct threats to the European alliance. This does not mean we should overreact to Putin. But it does mean we have to understand what he is doing, and is likely to do, and plan for some testing scenarios."
Stewart's warning comes after James Arbuthnot, the outgoing defence committee chairman who served under six secretaries of state, warned that UK defence cuts have emboldened countries such as Russia.
"They are now smaller, very powerful still, but smaller armed forces than they have been for many decades and that will inevitably reduce our influence in the world," he said last month. "It will leave us open to the sort of bullying power that Putin feels free to exercise in Ukraine."
Prince Charles also caused controversy by suggesting last week during a tour of Canada that Putin was acting like Hitler by annexing Crimea.

Downing Street's response to Russia's actions in the region has been to condemn the decision to take Crimea but emphasise the need to calm the situation in Eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are at the centre of violent protests.

Interesting times in Europe

Ukrainians Are More European Than the French

13 MAY 26, 2014 10:17 AM EDT

Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's assertions (here and here, for example) that "neo-Nazis" and "anti-Semites" rule the roost in Ukraine, the extreme right did badly in Sunday's Ukrainian election. It was in the European Parliament election, which ended on the same day, that they triumphed.
So if the European ideal is to create a citadel of tolerance and universal human values, who are the true Europeans?
Probably not those 25 percent of French voters who carried the National Front to victory on Sunday, or the 27 percent of British voters who ensured first place to the anti-immigrant the UK Independence Party. Could it rather be the Ukrainians who, according to preliminary results, gave their pro-European presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko a bigger share of the vote than his 20 rivals combined?
Sure, this is not quite a fair comparison. Those same French and U.K. voters would not have handed real power in their countries to the people they sent to the European Parliament. They voted the way they did to send a message to their own leaders and the EU's bureaucracy. Average turnout was 43 percent, compared to 60 percent in Ukraine (even many in the east could not vote due to instability and interference by pro-Russian separatists).
Most Ukrainians believed they were genuinely choosing their homeland's future. The ideas they support don't bear much relation to the anti-fascist propaganda from Moscow, which has been embraced by many in the EU.
According to exit polls, Dmitry Yarosh, the presidential candidate of the supposedly rampant neo-fascist Pravy Sektor won 1 percent of the vote. Oleh Tyahnybok of Svoboda, a party that might sit alongside Marine Le Pen’s National Front on the scale of extremism, won all of 1.3 percent.
Neither managed to do as well as Vadim Rabinovich, a businessman and the chairman of the European Jewish Parliament, who scored 2 percent.
The purity of Ukrainians' pro-European sentiment contrasts sharply with Europeans' grumbling: Even Yarosh and Tyahnybok, called for a speedy EU accession. The anti-EU vote was limited to about 10 percent, distributed among candidates who used to be close to deposed President Viktor Yanukovych and the communist contender. That is only a slightly higher percentage than Germans gave to the euroskeptic Alternative fuer Deutschland party.
If anything explains the paradox of the two votes it is immigration: Ukrainians want to be part of Europe and to be able to travel and work there, while many protest voters in the EU voted for the right precisely because they want to keep people like Ukrainians out.
Take Andreas Molzer, a prominent candidate for the Austrian Freedom Party. He had to abandon his European Parliament bid after decrying Europe's future as a "conglomerate of negroes," but the party won 20 percent of the vote, compared to 7.3 percent four years ago. Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party that is at least as extreme as Pravy Sektor, won 9 percent in Greece. The list of xenophobic victories in the EU election, one of the largest expressions of democratic process in the world, is distressing.
The EU is a remarkable bloc in which many of those who are in want out, but equal numbers of outsiders want in. The reasons for that are largely economic: People want better jobs and better lives, and they tend blame outsiders when they don't get them.
To become that citadel of tolerance and universal values, Europe has to concentrate on what's important. Instead of trying to regulate hairdressers footwear (no high heels, they are bad for your health if you have to stand when you work) or high-speed trading (what is there about it that separate countries cannot figure out?), the EU needs to show that a united labor market evens out imbalances rather than adding to local unemployment. It needs to refocus on creating jobs and integrating immigrants. And it needs to remember its original vocation of uniting Europe, keeping the doors open to those that aren't yet in. Even Ukraine.

To contact the writer of this article: Leonid Bershidsky at

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Marc Champion at

Monday, May 26, 2014

Another BS national holiday, “Memorial Day”, passes with the usual flag waving, parade marching, saluting and “remembering” our fallen heroes.

Not too many weeks ago, we saw what the flag waivers really thought:

On the other hand, we have the absurdity where the  two needless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a  Harvard University study,  have a projected final bill  to hit $4 trillion to $6 trillion in the coming decades.

Yet the latest headlines are that Obama is too timid and not getting us involved in new foreign ventures. Who do you believe in Washington? 

This probably explains some of it:

"Putin is the anti-Obama, moving to occupy the cultural-moral vacuum left by America. As we celebrate multiculturalism, LGBT rights, and abortion on demand, Putin repudiates Hollywood values.”

 Patrick J. Buchanan

Memorial Day will likely bring alarmist headlines in the elite media about a populist fever raging in Europe, and manifest in the shocking returns from the elections for the European Parliament.
Marine Le Pen’s National Front may run first in France, and Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party first in Britain.
What is happening in Europe?
In his unpublished “Leviathan and Its Enemies,” my late friend Sam Francis wrote of the coming crisis of the “soft managerial state,” of which the European Union is a textbook example.
Oswald Spengler used the word “Civilization” to describe “the terminal phase of a cultural organism,” wrote Francis. In 1941, Pitirim Sorokin described the characteristics of a Spenglerian “Civilization”:
“[C]osmopolitanism and the megalopolis vs. ‘home,’ ‘race,’ ‘blood group’ and ‘fatherland’; scientific irreligion or abstract dead metaphysics instead of the religion of the heart; ‘cold matter-of-factness’ vs. reverence and tradition and respect for age; internationalist ‘society’ instead of ‘my country’ and state (nation); money and abstract values in lieu of earth and real (living) values; ‘mass’ instead of ‘folk’; sex in lieu of motherhood … and so on.”
Between the managerial state and the civilization and culture that preceded it, the polarities are stark.
Yet they mirror the clashes of today as the European Union of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman’s vision exhibits unmistakable symptoms of disintegration and decay.
In a way, this is remarkable.
For undeniably the rise of the EU has coincided with an unprecedented rise in the standard of living for the hundreds of millions from the Atlantic to the Baltic and from the North Sea to the Mediterranean.
Still, though Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Parliament of man” and “Federation of the world” captured the imagination of 19th-and 20th-century one-worlders, the dream has proven incapable of capturing the hearts of European peoples. Who would die for the Brussels bureaucracy?
What are the identifying marks of these populist parties that have sprouted up now in almost every European country?
There is first the rejection of universalism and transnationalism, and a reversion to patriotism and its songs, symbols, holidays, history, myths and legends.
To peoples such as these, the preservation of the separate and unique ethnic and cultural identity of the nation supersedes all claims of supranational organizations, be it the EU or U.N.
This sentiment is reflected not only in fierce resistance to further integration within the EU, but in visceral hostility to further immigration from the Third World, Islamic world or Eastern Europe.
These people want to remain who and what they are.
Even the Swiss last winter voted for an initiative of the People’s Party calling for reintroduction of quotas for immigrants from the EU.
A second telltale sign of the new populism is traditionalism and cultural conservatism, reverence for the religious and cultural history and heritage of the nation and its indigenous people.
That victory in the recent Eurovision contest of Conchita, the bearded transvestite drag queen who performed in a gown, though celebrated by much of the European press, sent a message to millions of traditionalists that this is no longer their culture.
Another aspect of the rising populist right, as the New York Times notes, is a grudging admiration for Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Why? Putin not only publicly rejects the moral relativism of the West, under his guidance Russian social legislation is being consciously rooted in traditional Christian concepts of right and wrong.
Putin is the anti-Obama, moving to occupy the cultural-moral vacuum left by America. As we celebrate multiculturalism, LGBT rights, and abortion on demand, Putin repudiates Hollywood values.
When Western politicians and media rail against his annexation of Crimea as a violation of America’s rules-based New World Order, Putin invokes patriotism and nationalism in his defense: Crimea belonged to us for 200 years. Most of its people are Russians. They wish to return to Mother Russia. Our warm-water port is there. Americans do not dictate to Russians where Russia’s vital interests are concerned.
In the anti-American precincts of Europe, they are applauding.
Yet another specter is haunting Europe: secessionism. Scots, Catalans and Venetians wish to declare independence and become again the countries they once were.
As for the epithets used on the populists, that they are racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, fascist, overuse has caused them to lose their toxicity.
The Eurocrats have cried wolf too often.
How serious is this right-wing populism?
At the least, as the Tea Party has pulled the GOP to the right, these parties are likely to pull center and center-right parties in their direction all across Europe.
Then there is the real possibility not only of a breakup of the EU, but of the breakup of the United Kingdom, the loss of Scotland after 300 years, England’s secession from the EU, and the collapse of the Tory Party into Europhiles and Europhobes, all on David Cameron’s watch.
Like materialism, consumerism and socialism, transnationalism suffers from the same fatal flaw. It feeds the body and starves the soul. And eventually bored people hear the old calls again.

If you have mental health issues, please do not watch this!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Europe has lost the global scramble for reliable energy supplies and faces a long-term queeze as Siberian gas is diverted to the fast-growing markets of Asia, Russia's gas chief has warned in scathing comments aimed at EU political leaders.

Europe has lost the global scramble for reliable energy supplies and faces a long-term squeeze as Siberian gas is diverted to the fast-growing markets of Asia, Russia's gas chief has warned in scathing comments aimed at EU political leaders.
Alexey Miller, chairman of the state giant Gazprom, said Russia's $400bn deal this week to supply gas to China for 30 years is a black moment for Europe and will change the geo-strategic balance in the world. "The global competition for Russian gas resources started yesterday. Let there be no mistake about that. We have untapped the Asian market and this is going to have an impact on European gas prices," he said.
Mr Miller said the 38bn cubic metres (BCM) contract from 2018 is larger than the entire volume of liquefied natural gas (LNG) sold in the world. "You don't find that sort of contract on the side of the road in Europe," he told the St Petersburg Economic Forum.
Relishing his theme, he said China's gas demand is growing exponentially and would surge past Europe's total consumption to reach 400 BCM in "the very near future" as the Politburo tries to wean its polluted mega-cities off coal-powered plants. A large proportion of this will come from the vast Siberian fields, crowding out supplies for buyers in Europe deemed "less reliable".
Describing Europe's energy shortage as "scary", he ridiculed the EU's push for wind and solar power as a shambles, and said its LNG venture had gone nowhere with capacity use collapsing to 22pc. “ Europe has lost the competition global for LNG, and in a single day it has just lost the competition for the world's pipeline gas as well," he said.
The comments reflect the fury in Russia over a string of hostile measures by Brussels following the Ukraine crisis, including a de facto freeze on the South Stream gas pipeline through the Black Sea and plans being developed by a team at the European Commission to slash reliance on Russian gas as quickly as possible.
The China prize has given Russia a dramatic means of fighting back, though it is far from clear what the Memorandum of Understanding between the two sides actually means. Most analysts say it is highly unlikely that China would wish to become too dependent on Russian supplies after witnessing the skirmishes in Europe.
The reason why Europe's imports of LNG have fallen so low is because Japanese demand since the Fukushima nuclear disaster has pushed up the price. Germany, Spain and the UK have been turning to coal instead to produce electricity.
Mr Miller's words were echoed by the Russian energy minister, Alexander Novak, who predicted that China would need to import a further 110 to 130 BCM from Siberia beyond the original deal, a four-fold increase.
Mr Novak was slightly more cautious, saying that China's total gas use would double over the next decade to 300 BCM and then flatten at European levels. By then India would be entering the fray as the next big market.
Michael Stoppard, chief gas strategist for IHS Energy, said the volumes may be huge but the price is being held down by "brutal competition" from coal. Gas currently trades at a price equivalent to $30 a barrel in the US and $60 in Europe, far below the spot price for oil.
It is no longer a remote prospect that the "sleeping giant" of Iran could burst on the global scene with colossal levels of supply as sanctions are lifted. Gas may rise from 21pc to 25pc of global energy use by 2030, he said, but that does not mean that Russian gas producers will automatically make much money from it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pass the smelling salts to Netanyahu

The Obama Effect? Are Iran, Saudi, and the Gulf Cooperation Council no longer on a war footing?

There are signs of a diplomatic thaw between Iran and the Arab oil monarchies of the Gulf. It has just been announced that the ruler of Kuwait, Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, will make a state visit to Iran. This news comes after it was confirmed that the Iranian foreign minister has been invited to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

A year ago, relations between Iran and the Arab oil monarchies of the Gulf were at a nadir. Iran supports the Shiite government of Iraq, supports the Bashar al-Assad Baath government in Syria, supports Shiite protesters in Bahrain, supports populist Muslim fundamentalists in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and supports Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia and its allies support Iraqi Sunni Arabs, support the rebels trying to overthrow al-Assad, support the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain against the Shiite demonstrators, support secular and/or Salafi currents in North Africa against the Muslim Brotherhood, and support Saad al-Hariri (a Sunni) and the March 14 coalition in Syria against Hizbullah.

The Great Arab-Iran Cold War of the past 11 years was worsened by the Bush overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein (seen by Saudi Arabia as a bulwark against Iran, though Kuwaiti feelings on the matter were more complex). They were worsened by the Shiite take-over of Iraq in 2005, especially the Da’wa (Islamic Mission) Party. Nouri al-Maliki and the Da’wa had a grudge against Wahhabi Islam, the state religion of Saudi Arabia, which is vehemently anti-Shiite. Da’wa staged rallies against Wahhabism at Saudi embassies in Europe, embarrassing the Kingdom.

The split in Lebanon between Hizbullah-Aoun (March 8) and the Sunni-Other Christians alliance in 2005 was also polarizing. Saudi Arabia sees Hizbullah as a mere cat’s paw of Iran in the Arab world and as adventurist– blaming it for provoking the 2006 war with Israel.

The Arab Spring and its aftermath have also exacerbated tensions. The Shiite majority in Bahrain wants a better deal from the Sunni monarchy, but the Al-Khalifa adamantly refuse to consider it and attempted to crush the Shiite protesters. The Saudis and the UAE sent in troops to show support for the Sunni king.

The struggle in Syria turned into a civil war, with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia strongly supporting the rebels, and private billionaires in the two countries supporting the extremist factions among the rebels, i.e. al-Qaeda affiliates. Saudi Arabia was against the Egyptian revolution. But it is inconsistent and supported the revolutionaries in Libya and Syria. In Syria’s case, I think Riyadh thinks that if al-Assad could be overthrown, the Iranians would lose their contiguous bloc of allies stretching from the Iran-Iraq border all the way to the Mediterranean.

The government of president Hassan Rouhani, elected last summer, wants to improve diplomatic relations with the US, with Europe, and with its Arab neighbors. Rouhani’s people have apparently been trying hard to get a hearing in Riyadh.

We learned last week that Saudi Arabia has invited Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, to the Saudi capital.

Why the apparent thaw and move to diplomacy?

1. Bandar Bin Sultan, the former Saudi Ambassador to the US and a hawk, was fired last month as Intelligence Minister, just before President Obama visited King Abdullah in Riyadh. His half-brother was later fired as deputy secretary of defense. Bandar is allegedly fanatically anti-Iran and really supportive of the Syrian revolutionaries.
2. The Bahrain Shiite movement seems unlikely to pose a threat to the Sunni monarchy.
3. Bashar al-Assad has for about a year been winning the Syria war, and the rebels may not seem a very attractive investment any more. Moreover, the most effective fighting forces have declared themselves a branch of al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia is deathly afraid of the latter. Riyadh recently discovered a terrorist plot in which the major group fighting in Syria (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) became a threat to their own Saudi backers. That episode may soured Riyadh on the most hawkish strategy in Syria. Indeed, you could imagine a Saudi-Iran alliance against al-Qaeda affiliates, now holding territory in northern Iraq and northern Syria.
4. The Obama administration is trying to “open” Iran the way Nixon opened China. Obama is trying to reassure King Abdullah that Iran cannot menace the Kingdom with nuke down the road because the enrichment facilities will be tightly inspect.

No doubt other things are going on that aren’t visible on the surface explaining the new GCC diplomacy with Iran. To the extent that a detente might help peace in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and justice in Bahrain, some sort of Riyadh-Tehran agreement would be good for the region.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

March 18, 2011 - President Obama told a bipartisan group of members of Congress today that he expects the U.S. would be actively involved in any military action against Libya for "days, not weeks," after which he said the U.S. would take more of a supporting role, sources tell ABC News.

Farrakhan had it right:



Militiamen loyal to a rogue former general attacked Libya’s parliament building Sunday, state media said, in a new challenge to the authority of the North African nation’s weak central government. The group later reportedly declared it had replaced the lawmaking body.
Gunfire rang out in streets surrounding the General National Congress complex in the capital, Tripoli, witnesses said, and the official LANA news agency said routes leading to it had been blocked by armed men with truck-mounted heavy weapons.
Frightened residents took to social media to report rocket fire in at least one area of the capital, and the road to the city's international airport was closed. The Associated Press cited hospital officials saying the attack killed one person and wounded nine.
It was not clear whether any lawmakers were inside the parliament building at the time of the assault. LANA quoted one as saying most had left earlier after a session was adjourned, and other reports said the building had been nearly emptied after warnings of the coming attack. However, the website of the Libya Herald, an English-language newspaper, said seven lawmakers apparently had been captured by the assailants.
A spokesman for Khalifa Haftar, the former general, later appeared on television to say the assailants had assigned a 60-member constituent's assembly to take over for parliament and that the current government would act on an emergency basis, the Associated Press reported.
The spokesman, Mokhtar Farnana, called the attack not a coup but “fighting by people's choice.”
Adding to the chaos, there were indications that other pro- and anti-government militias were taking sides with either the assailants or the government. Citing witnesses, the BBC reported that members of the powerful Zintan militia appeared to be taking part in the assault, and AP quoted an official with an umbrella group of militias providing security for the government as saying its fighters had engaged the attackers.
The attack on the parliament building marked an escalation of Haftar’s campaign to supplant Libya’s central authority. Lawmakers are divided among Islamist and non-Islamist elements, and the swearing in of a new cabinet led by an Islamist-leaning prime minister, Ahmed Matiq, has been repeatedly delayed by political infighting.
The targeting of parliament came two days after the fighters affiliated with Haftar, who was prominent in the 2011 revolt against late strongman Moammar Kadafi, launched an offensive against bases belonging to armed Islamist groups in the eastern city of Benghazi. That fighting, involving commandeered military aircraft, left 70 dead and more than 140 injured, LANA said Sunday.
Acting Prime Minister Abdullah Thani and the regular army’s chief of staff characterized Haftar’s attacks on the Islamists — and his ignoring of orders to stand down — as tantamount to a coup.
Although the government insisted that Haftar was acting without any authorization, some military units apparently defected to his force, which he calls the National Army.
Libyan authorities imposed a “no-fly” zone over Benghazi in a bid to prevent Haftar from again sending fighter planes and helicopters aloft.
Thani ordered the army to restore order after the ex-general launched his attack in Benghazi, but the country’s regular armed forces are weak and disorganized. Western governments, including the Obama administration, are moving to train and professionalize Libyan troops but have made little headway.

Hassan is a special correspondent.

On Second Thoughts: Vietnam smothered anti-China protests on Sunday with a massive security clampdown after deadly riots triggered by a territorial dispute with Beijing spooked investors and the country's authoritarian leadership alike.

China evacuates 3,000 nationals from Vietnam as conflict simmers
Vietnamese government clamps down on demonstrations after attacks on Chinese and other foreign businesses

China has evacuated more than 3,000 of its nationals from Vietnam, state media reported on Sunday, after a wave of anti-China unrest following Beijing's deployment of an oil rig in contested waters.
But the anti-China protests planned for Sunday in Ho Chi Minh City, originally sanctioned by the Vietnamese government, were quickly stopped by scores of uniformed and secret police.
Armed with batons and walkie talkies, they contained the small group of protesters holding up notebook-sized banners reading "Vietnam is small but no coward" and chanting "Vietnam! Vietnam!".
About 15-20 demonstrators were seen to be detained and pushed into unmarked vans.
The government has been sending daily text messages to all mobile phone users in Vietnam, urging them to exercise restraint and not engage in violent behaviour. The latest message, sent on Sunday, warned citizens against joining in the planned protests.
The Vietnamese government is obviously keen to control the situation – Chinese-Vietnamese trade is worth some $50b – but much of the damage may have already been done. In Ho Chi Minh City's Chinese-majority District 5, shopkeepers have begun dismantling, or covering up, any Chinese characters on their storefronts, out of fear that the anti-China aggression may turn directly on them.
"The government sent us a letter telling us to do this," said Van Vuy, the manager of a silkscreen-printing business. "I don't want to, but the owner is scared of what might happen if we don't."
The evacuees "returned to China with the assistance of [the] Chinese embassy to Vietnam," Xinhua news agency said, citing China's foreign ministry.
The Chinese government was also arranging for a chartered plane and vessel to evacuate the staff of China 19th Metallurgical Corporation, a contractor of one of the plants badly hit by the recent violence, Agence France-Presse reported, citing Xinhua.
In a later update the agency reported: "Sixteen critically injured Chinese nationals were evacuated from Vietnam early on Sunday morning aboard a chartered medical flight arranged by [the] Chinese government."
It did not specify which company they were working for.
On Sunday China dispatched a further five ships to speed up the evacuation of its citizens, the Associated Press reported. The first ship left on Sunday morning from the southern island of Hainan, Xinhua said.
Beijing on Saturday advised its nationals against travelling to Vietnam, which has seen its worst anti-China unrest in decades over the past week, AFP reported.
China's positioning of an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam in the South China Sea has ignited long-simmering enmity between the two communist neighbours.
Demonstrations spread to 22 of Vietnam's 63 provinces in the last week, according to the Vietnamese government, with enraged mobs torching foreign-owned factories.
Hong Kong also updated its travel advisory on Saturday, warning its residents to avoid "non-essential travel" to Vietnam.
On Saturday Xinhua reported that security chief Guo Shengkun had spoken to his Vietnamese counterpart and urged the authorities there to quell the violence. Xinhua also said commerce minister Gao Hucheng had called on officials to "bring relevant issues under control".
An alliance of 20 vocal Vietnamese NGOs has called for fresh protests in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other areas against China's "aggressive actions" in the South China Sea.
However, it urged participants to remain peaceful following the chaos on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"Those violent actions created a bad image for patriotic demonstrations and the people of Vietnam; therefore, they must be stopped," said a statement issued on social media late on Friday.
The alliance largely comprises anti-government organisations and is believed to have played a role in stirring the recent protests.
The oil-rig confrontation is the latest to spark alarm among China's south-east Asian neighbours, which complain of increasing maritime intimidation by Beijing.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, which is believed to hold significant offshore energy reserves.

A real conservative would ask questions like: What about the suspension of habeas corpus and other constitutional rights that the Lincoln administration inflicted on American citizens, even in states that had not seceded, during the War Between the States? What about the government-incited attacks on German Americans and their property that began even before President Wilson managed to get us into WWI?

Why Does Jonah Goldberg Want To Block The Backlash Against Political Correctness?
By Paul Gottfried on May 17, 2014

Whenever I read a syndicated column by Jonah Goldberg that touches on the historical past, I expect to find nothing of substance. And I’m rarely disappointed. A widely-featured mouthpiece of Conservatism, Inc., Jonah has about the same relation to historical erudition that Jay Z has to Mozart’s minuets: a bit less than none. In Jonah’s latest pronouncement, he tries to block the growing backlash to rampant Political Correctness:
[I]t’s good to understand that things have been worse than they are today. There’s a tendency to think our government has only become more intrusive and censorial than ever. That’s simply untrue.
Last, we should be wary of thought-crime panics.
Again, things are not nearly so bad as when Wilson’s Attorney General Mitchell A. Palmer [sic—he means Alexander Mitchell Palmer] set about to eradicate the ‘disease of evil thinking.’ That’s a pretty low bar for an open and tolerant society.”
[Be wary of thought-crime panics, May 7, 2014. Links added.]
Although two of Goldberg’s heartthrobs, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Somali feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, were recently disinvited by universities as speakers, even these horrors, Jonah inform, should not occasion the outrage we should feel for those attacks on (mostly) foreign residents unleashed by the notorious “Palmer Raids.”
It’s not surprising that Jonah should single out the Palmer Raids as the non plus ultra of American political intolerance. He has simply internalized the Leftist indoctrination given to his generation—which is a particularly necessary professional qualification for Conservatism Inc. apparatchiks, who (I have long argued) are basically Judas goats, leading the faithful to accept liberalism.
A real conservative would ask questions like:
Whoops, I forgot! Those were outrages that Jonah’s neoconservative patrons approve, Therefore they are not as worthy of condemnation as the Palmer Raids (which could also well have targeted his patrons’ Leftist forebears).
The Palmer Raids took place for about three months, between November 1919 and January 1920, with presidential and congressional authorization. No doubt they did involve excesses, but they seem on their face to have been far more justified than the assaults on war-opponents and German Americans that took place before and during World War I and World War II.
In 1919, thirty bombs were sent to government officials by Anarchists, led by an Italian radical who was then resident in the US, Luigi Galleani. Agents of the Soviet Comintern were active in the US and Western Europe openly inciting violent revolution—and making no pretense about what they were doing.
In the end, Palmer and his assistants managed to get 500 “foreign citizens” deported. All or at least most of these deportees had certainly engaged in revolutionary activities—people like Emma Goldman—exactly as Palmer and his agency believed.
If the objects of the raids had been right-wingers, nobody would now be calling attention to them. We know this because there is never any mention by journalists and fashionable historians of those alleged right-wingers who were hounded by the House Un-American Committee during World War II, before that Committee began investigating Communists and Communist sympathizers after 1945.
Last—if I may borrow this misused adjective which is supposed to serve as an adverb in Jonah’s much-admired prose style—it is ridiculous to compare the three-month Palmer Raids to the black night of PC intolerance that has been descending on the US and the onetime West since the 1960s.
I have spent decades of my life investigating and writing about this pervasive thought-control, which government administrators, putative educators, and the Main Stream Media have all sedulously advanced. We have all been put permanently on guard against any new threat to Leftist activities. But this has not brought to an end the crusade against “bigotry.” The Palmer Raids have been blended into the Cultural Marxist narrative that supports this expanding crusade, together with the now-conventional account of what we are told was the McCarthy White Terror.
From Jonah’s abbreviated account of thought- and speech control in modern America, it would seem that he is ignorant of the dangers we face. When PC comes up, our publicist turns the conversation to academic speech codes and which Republican celebrity or feminist critic of Islam has been recently snubbed by a university. But what about the vast array of “anti-discrimination” laws that operate on the state and national level and which (as I argued at length in my After Liberalism) have effectively imported speech and thought restraints on educational institutions? Government surveillance for the purpose of maintaining ideological orthodoxy would be there even if our universities weren’t looney-tunes Leftist.
The plain fact is that Jonah buys into the Left’s war against “bigotry,” both principle and in many of its details—see Rand Paul’s Civil Rights Act Comments Revisited [NRO, May 26, 2010] witness his joining the National Review’s John Derbyshire lynch mob. Government at all levels has been restricting our commercial and social activities since the 1960s. What is now happening in both the public and private spheres is simply icing on the cake, and there may be no practical way of getting rid of the cake or the icing after fifty years.
For Jonah, the iron fist of PC is not really a problem at all, except for trivial cases of Leftist campus intolerance that can serve the GOP in the next election—and then be conveniently dropped. Is Brandeis’ disinviting a Third World feminist who has made a career out of bashing Islamists the worst Jonah can cite as evidence of thought control? What about the fact that in England, which for neoconservatives is the sacred source of Anglophone “liberal democracy,” it is now apparently a criminal offense to read Winston Churchill’s warnings about Islam?
Apparently this is not be the kind of thing that Jonah wants to notice. It has only limited value to his patrons. They wish to stress the goodness of the “liberal democracies” as they prepare for war against the next Hitler of the month. Otherwise, they want to continue Electing A New People—and dispossessing the old.

Paul Gottfried [ email him ] recently retired as Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of After Liberalism, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism His most recent book is Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America.