Month: December 2007

Dynasty, Anyone

When I first read that Benazir Bhutto’s 19 year old son would become chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, and “also continue his studies”, I though I was reading the Onion, but it is true, and Tariq Ali lays into the feudal cabal that is the Bhutto family.

On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in three European courts) and two ciphers will run the party till Benazir’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal, comes of age. He will then become chairperson-for-life and, no doubt, pass it on to his children. The fact that this is now official does not make it any less grotesque. The Pakistan People’s Party is being treated as a family heirloom, a property to be disposed of at the will of its leader.Nothing more, nothing less. Poor Pakistan. Poor People’s Party supporters. Both deserve better than this disgusting, medieval charade.

My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade – Independent Online Edition > Commentators

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Benazir Bhutto, martyr

There is nothing like stopping at a gas station somewhere in the Catskills, glancing up at Fox News on TV and finding out that they killed Benazir Bhutto. Of all the Bhutto related articles, this one captured my attention.

South Asians like their martyrs. My great-grandfather allegedly brought home a vial of some of the ashes of a teenage revolutionary hanged by the British. Khudiram had thrown a bomb at a British magistrate and gone to the gallows with a smile. Ironically, my great-grandfather worked for the British, in their police service. But he was so awed by young Khudiram’s sacrifice, he used his official connections to get that vial, which he kept in his bedroom.

Benazir was no 15-year-old tilting at windmills in some foolhardy act of defiance. She was South Asian royalty. “Benazir is killed. I’m stunned,” a friend texted me from a cafe in Calcutta. “I really am.” As my friend says, in our feudal societies, much as we might pretend otherwise, we have a royalist streak. And when a royal goes down in a hail of bullets, it sends a collective shiver down our spines.

Benazir Bhutto, martyr |

He’s right, having grown up through two major assassinations on Indian “royal family” scions (Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi), the post-martyr deification that occurs needs to be lived through to be understood.

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E.P.A. Says 17 States Can’t Set Emission Rules for Cars

Shameful. I did not blog much, or anything about the recently passed energy bill because I thought it was a watered down compromise that subsidized coal, oil and ethanol industries at the expense of renewable energy, public transportation and public health. But these are the consequences of passing such a bill, it allows the EPA to claim that something major has already been done, so noting needs to be done any more .

The E.P.A. administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, said the proposed California rules were pre-empted by federal authority and made moot by the energy bill signed into law by President Bush on Wednesday. Mr. Johnson said California had failed to make a compelling case that it needed authority to write its own standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks to help curb global warming.

E.P.A. Says 17 States Can’t Set Emission Rules for Cars – New York Times

This is truly absurd. The energy bill does not address CO2 emissions. California has used its right to set stronger standards many times in the past, and nothing in this bill preempts this right.

I guess this is Supreme Court bound, where that one man decision making machine Justice Kennedy will no doubt set the standards for this country.

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U.S. "compromises"

The head of the U.S. delegation — Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky — was booed Saturday afternoon when she announced that the United States was rejecting the plan as then written because they were “not prepared to accept this formulation.” She said developing countries needed to carry more of the responsibility. While rhetoric at such conferences is often just words, a short speech by a delegate from the small developing country of Papua New Guinea appeared to carry weight with the Americans. The delegate challenged the United States to “either lead, follow or get out of the way.”Just five minutes later, when it appeared the conference was on the brink of collapse, Dobriansky took to the floor again to announce the United States was willing to accept the arrangement. Applause erupted in the hall and a relative level of success for the conference appeared certain.

U.S. agrees to Bali compromise –

Papua New Guinea, way to go!! Apparently, this administration can still “compromise”. Now the Bali talks are being called a success with all kinds of shenanigans happening on the last day. So, what did they compromise on?

The EU wanted an agreement to require developed countries to cut their emissions by 25 to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. The United States opposes those targets, along with Japan and Canada.

The latest draft of the agreement removes the specific figures and instead, in a footnote, references the scientific study that supports them.

While the EU and the United States appeared to have ended their impasse, India had objections to other parts of the agreement, notably the contributions developed nations would make to help developing nations clean up their emissions problems. Talks were expected to continue for several more hours.

So, no mandatory cuts on the table, they agreed to talk some more in 2 years time. So, who will it be in 2009? President Clinton/Obama sending Al Gore for talks, or President Giuliani/Huckabee/Romney further stonewalling. Apparently, this US election is going to be pretty important as well!

So, what does Nobel price winner Rajendra Pachauri think?

“I wouldn’t term that a failure at all,” Pachauri said. “I think what would be a failure is not to provide a strong road map by which the world can move on, and I think that road map has to be specified with or without numbers. If we can come up with numbers, that’s certainly substantial progress, and I hope that happens.”

I disagree. This is a numbers game. The damage caused by CO2 in the atmosphere is non-linearly proportional to the the amount in the atmosphere. The more you cut, the less damage you will cause later. At some number, the emission cuts may affect the lifestyles of certain countries. But to say that you don’t need numbers for success is just diplomatese.

Note that Japan and Canada opposed cuts as well, but thanks to the exalted world leader position of the US, they can get away with little scorn.

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Gore speaks, you listen

I had a long rant brewing in my head all day about U.S intransigence at the Bali Climate talks, but hell, one massage and a Chimay later, I should just outsource to someone more qualified to lay down the law.


I am going to speak an inconvenient truth. My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that. We all know that,” he said.

VOA News – Al Gore Blames US for Climate Change Deadlock in Bali

Here’s what pissed me off this morning…

U.S. Strategy Succeeds in Bali
Climate Talks Turn to Efforts Other Than Emissions Targets

BALI, Indonesia, Dec. 13 — U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon conceded Wednesday that the United States had succeeded in achieving one of its key objectives at the climate conference here, blocking a proposal that called on industrialized nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020.

Hmm, this is not even worth a rant. When the capital’s newspaper characterizes behavior that will no doubt result in untold human and material destruction as a “win”, what can be said?

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Eastern United States vulnerable to climate change
Time to get out of the Eastern United States? A study to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science tries to quantify the relative risk of climate change using something called a “socioclimatic” risk factor. As always, the redder the worse. A look at the paper would no doubt be more illuminating, but for some reason, press releases about PNAS papers come out way before the papers actually become public. China is in bright red all the way, India in a rather bright orange. Where I live, the Eastern United States, is a nice beet red. No doubt, the unprecedented drought the South is experiencing right now is a nice big red signal.

Interesting stuff, though the actual paper will tell the story. Any technique that tries to integrate all the complex scientific, social and economic variables of climate change into one number is bound to have a flaw or two. But such a metric is useful for estimating relative risk, as the authors themselves say.

He added that the study does not address the absolute degree of impact or risk.

“This study illustrates exposure of one nation relative to another,” Diffenbaugh said. “Thus, it is important to note that a country low on the relative scale could still face substantial risk.”

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A bit of good news – India and Wind Energy

But renewable energy, of which the vast majority is wind power, accounts for more than seven per cent of India’s installed generation capacity – a rate that compares favourably with much of the rest of the world. India is the world’s fourth largest wind-power market.”Wind power is growing tremendously. If you want a wind plant you’ll have to book a year in advance,” said Chandra Bhushan, associate director at the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.”There’s been years of progressive policies and recognition for a long time that India will face a shortage of fossil fuels.”

Gulfnews: Energy-hungry India slowly becomes wind superpower

Some numbers for comparison: The U.S has about 14,000 MW of installed capacity with 5,000 more on the way. This represents about 1.4% of the > 1 million MW of installed capacity. At least when it comes to one of the cheapest and cleanest forms of renewable energy, India is ahead of the US as far as its renewable energy portfolio goes!

Wind energy in the US has been stymied by objections over the aesthetics of wind turbines. But the American Wind Energy Association has this guide on mitigating buttfugliness issues, including such helpful hints as “do not advertise on your tower, or paint it flaming orange!”

Good stuff, makes this blogger happy.

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