November 26, 2012

Sunday Extra

ABC Radio National

Budget of the Century

John Hewson: Coalition Opposition Leader, 1990-4; Professor and Chair, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Australian National University

[The] inequity of the process!
To argue that everyone is sharing the burden, when obviously they are not, because, people at the bottom end of the income scale are losing between 12-15% of their disposable income and people at the top are losing less than 1%.
The inequity just screams at you …

I think [Abbott and Hockey] actually did believe they had brought down the 'budget of the century' — [one] that actually will be remembered as probably one of the worst; because, it was so ill conceived, so many incoherent messages, so many partial attempts to solve problems, with massive inequity overriding the lot.
A lot a pain for very little gain.
What do they do now?
If the revenue continues to be weaker than predicted, which is … a pretty high probability, and the deficit will start to blow out and they can't go back an try and fix it again.

(The rise of anti-establishment political parties, 25 May 2014)

November 24, 2012

American Experience

Public Broadcasting Service

Douglas Brinkley (1960) [Historian]:
It was in stark contrast to kind of the so called greed decade of the 80s to see somebody not looking to make big speaking fees, not looking to sit on corporate boards.
[There's] just something about an ex-president … in blue jeans, with a hammer, sleeping in cots and building houses for the poor.
It's an image seared on our imaginations.
(Adriana Bosch, Jimmy Carter, 2002)

Ulysses Grant (1822 – 1885):
The fact is, I think I am a verb rather than a personal pronoun.
A verb is anything that signifies 'to be', 'to do' or 'to suffer'.
I signify all three.
(July 1885)

David Bradley (1950) [Writer]:
[Grant] was a very honourable man.
He was a principled human being.
He was a reasonable man in any unreasonable time.
(Elizabeth Deanne, Ulysses S Grant: The President, 2002)

James McPherson (1936):
[Grant was a] slouchy and unsoldier-like in appearance, of undistinguished family, a West Point graduate from the lower half of his class who had resigned from the army in disgrace for drunkenness in 1854 and had failed in several civilian occupations before volunteering his services to the Union in 1861. …
A man of no reputation and little apparent promise, Grant would rise to the rank of lieutenant general commanding all the Union armies and become the president of the United States.
(Battle Cry of Freedom, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2003, p 235)

[As] a Civil War General … he did more to shape the future of America than anyone else except Abraham Lincoln.
He earned a secure place as one of the great captains of history, and "unheroic" hero, in John Keegan's apt description.
(Drawn With The Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War, Oxford University Press, 1996, pp 172-3)

(Mohammed Naqvi & Hemal Trivedi, Among the Believers, 2015)

Dreaming of Star Wars

In October 1986 Reagan met Gorbachev [at a summit in] Reykjavik, Iceland [and was offered a chance to] realize his dream of reducing the nuclear threat.

Gorbachev offered Reagan everything he had wanted: they would both destroy half their long range bombers and missiles.
Eliminate all the missiles threatening Europe.
And he made a major concession on human rights.
[In return, he asked that SDI research be confined] to the laboratory. …
Alexander Bessmertnykh (1933) [Foreign Ministry, USSR]:
Reagan responded with the idea of having the complete elimination of strategic ballistic missiles.
And Gorbachev said,
How about eliminating all the nuclear weapons instead of just going part by part?
They … actually moved each other to the direction of the discussion of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. …

Richard Perle (1941) [Assistant Secretary of Defense]:
When asked, I expressed the categorical view that there was no way you could see the program through to a successful conclusion if we accepted the constraints that Gorbachev had in mind.
Upon hearing that, he turned to Don Regan and said,
If we agree to this, won't we be doing that simply so we can leave here with an agreement?
And it was a rhetorical question, of course, and you knew the moment he put it that he'd made his decision.
And within seconds, it was over.
Presidents grasp at treaties because they convey an image of Presidents as statesmen and peacemakers, and they're sometimes not bothered about the details.
It took tremendous discipline for Ronald Reagan to leave that little room without an agreement. …

Donald T Regan [Chief of Staff]:
[Reagan] said,
Don we were that close …
[Holding up his left hand, just finger and thumb.]
We were that close to getting rid of all missiles …
[But Gorbachev] kept insisting that we had to do away with SDI and I couldn't do that. …
I promised the American people I would not give in on that.
I cannot do it. …
(Adriana Bosch & Austin Hoyt, Reagan, 1998)

November 21, 2012

Rear Vision: 2010

ABC Radio National: Rear Vision


Leading the Free World

MMR vaccine scare

Big New Tax

Financial Derivatives

Australia's Mining Industry


An American Coup


Annabelle Quince & Keri Phillips


  • Irish lament, 8 December 2010.
  • Carbon Tax: a way forward or economic ruin?  18 August 2010.
    Paul Ekins: Professor of Energy and Environment Policy, UCL Energy Institute, University College London.
    Monica Prasad: Associate Professor, North Western University in Chicago.
    Mikael Skou Andersen: Professor in Policy Analysis, National Environmental Research Institute, Denmark.

    Paul Ekins:
    A tax sets the price of carbon, and then the quantity [of pollution] will adjust to that, whereas a trading scheme sets the quantity of carbon emissions and then the trading scheme will set the price of the pollution permits. …

    Monica Prasad:
    [With] a carbon tax, you're fixing the price of carbon emissions, but you're letting the quantity of carbon emissions vary.
    So you don't really know how much is going to get emitted.

    Whereas the carbon trading is the opposite.
    You're fixing the quantity of … total carbon emissions, but you're letting the price vary.
    And it's a good way to get yourself under a certain level of carbon emissions.
    The problem for firms and producers [is, as] we know from previous experiences with other kinds of cap and trade … there can be extreme volatility, up to 40% in the price of the thing that you're putting the cap and trade on.
    [In which case] you can't predict … your next year's costs …
    [Price] volatility has been one of the main problems.

    Paul Ekins:
    [About] six northern European countries have implemented carbon taxes over, or effectively carbon taxes, over the last 20 years.
    [The] European Commission wanted to implement a carbon energy tax in the early 1990s [but] unanimous agreement on a European carbon energy tax could not be secured.
    [Consequently, an emissions] trading scheme … was passed into law in 2003 and became operational in 2005. …

    [In Scandanavia, there was a] shift from taxing goods, things like employment and profits … to taxing bads like pollution …
    [This is the essence of] environmental tax reform, whereby a government systematically seeks to raise the taxation on carbon energy and other environmental pollutants, and reduces taxes on income, taxes on profits …

    [In] the UK, the government first announced its intention to tax the business use of energy in 1998.
    Business lobbied very, very heavily against it, and indeed they did get 80% rebate on the tax …
    That's due to fall next year to a 65% rebate …
    [Generally,] putting these taxes in place to start with, does cause an enormous amount of debate.
    Then once they're there, obviously the debate subsides and the rates are sometimes adjusted … and that proves to be a little easier. …

    Monica Prasad:
    Denmark did not … lose competitiveness because of the carbon tax … because this revenue was … recycled back to industry
    (… 60% was recycled outright whereas 40% was recycled in the form of environmental subsidies). …

    Paul Ekins:
    [We conducted] a Europe-wide study on the competitiveness effects of these instruments, and … they really have not appeared to have any effect on the energy intensive industrial sectors at all.
    [Indeed,] they have had a slightly positive effect on the economic performance of the countries that had introduced them overall. …

    Mikael Skou Andersen:
    [This] may sound as a paradox, but … many countries were not [optimised] on their energy consumption …
    [Once] these taxes came in … management had to direct their attention to energy consumption and these energy productivity improvements, which took some years to work their way through, helped improve on the competitiveness … [spurring] ideas for improvement of products, [and] maybe even opening new product lines …

    Paul Ekins:
    [There] are several ways in which [tax revenues] can come back into the economy:
    • you can reduce the taxes on jobs …
    • you can compensate low income households if you're worried about the effect on their income households of higher energy prices …
    • you can compensate vulnerable economic sectors …
    • you can use some part of the revenues to reinforce the carbon reduction by investing in energy efficiency or renewables.
    [All] have the effect of injecting the revenues back into the economy, and [since] revenues don't leave the economy and [its unlikely to] have a major macro-economic impact …
    [All] the modelling studies that I know [of] suggest that it won't.
    [If] you reduce the tax on jobs, if you increase investments, you can expect to get a slightly positive macroeconomic outcome.
    [It] might be slightly negative … if you compensate low income households through the benefit system, [because] you're not going to get the job effects and you're not going to get the investment effects.
    But in all cases, the macro economic effects are rather small but the increase in the number of jobs, if you reduce the tax on jobs, can be quite large. …

    Monica Prasad:
    [In] Norway you actually have a slight increase in CO2 emissions despite this carbon tax, whereas in Denmark you have 0.14 ton per capita decrease in CO2 emissions over 1990 to 2006 [which was] the most that we've seen in any country in that period. …

    [The] Danish government made it very easy for Danish firms to substitute away from coal and towards other sources [such as] natural gas or wind …
    [They] invested massively in wind power. …
    [Over] 20% of their electricity comes from wind energy now, and … it's going to be up to 50% in a few years.

    Mikael Skou Andersen:
    [The] carbon tax which is introduced with revenue neutrality … is probably the [price] signal which is the most simple and stable, and creates the most equitable framework … for those who are in the market [and for] developing new and greener technologies …

  • The History of Australia's mining industry, 2 June 2010.
    Pietro Guj: Associate Professor in the Department of Mineral Economics and Mining Management at the Graduate School of Business, Curtain University.

    You need to distinguish between two forms of capital [-] immobile capital, and mobile capital.
    [Current] operations which are … profitable are not going to close down because of the [mining super-profits] tax. …
    [They] are essentially trapped.
    They may not perhaps be very happy to expand their operation, they may slow down the rate of investment in them, but essentially they will continue to operate.

    [However, for] projects that are on the verge of being developed or they are at a late stage of exploration [— unless] significant … capital has already been sunk [—] the owners … will reassess the value … of those projects compared to alternative investment opportunit[ies] they may have abroad.
    [Some] projects may be deferred.
    Some projects may … go ahead …

    In the end, it's … a choice between having fewer mines, more highly taxed [or] more mines more lightly taxed …
    [That's the] essential policy decision.

  • The MMR vaccine scare, 2 February 2010.
    Brian Deer: Investigative Journalist, The Sunday Times.
    Trisha Greenhalgh: Professor of Primary Health Care, University College London.
    Terry Nolan: Professor & Head of School, Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne.
    James Colgrove: Assistant Professor, Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

    Keri Phillips:
    Britain's General Medical Council has found that Dr Andrew Wakefield acted dishonestly and 'showed a callous disregard' for the suffering of children in conducting his research. …
    Wakefield's [1998 Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine] study caused vaccination rates to plummet and children to suffer and die needlessly. …

    Trisha Greenhalgh:
    [Wakefield was lead author of a paper published in The Lancet which] described a series of experiments on 12 children [with] three characteristics.

    1. … some kind of developmental problem which the parents described as autism [or] autism-like symptoms.
    2. … some kind of tummy problem, and
    3. they'd received the MMR vaccine. …

    [When] Andrew Wakefield was asked [at the press conference whether he thought] the MMR vaccine caused autism [he responded] in the affirmative. …

    Brian Deer:
    [There] was a hospital in North London in the late 1990s where the families of 12 children with autistic-type disorders, suddenly turned up.
    This hospital had no reputation for dealing with autism and hardly anybody who knew anything about it.
    [In eight of the 12 cases] the mother said,
    It was the MMR …
    [My] child's problems came on within [two weeks of] being vaccinated.
    [All] of a sudden these people start turning up and saying this very extraordinary thing. [So I wondered:]
    [Could] these families … be in it together[?]
    [And, in fact, they were.]
    [Before the paper was published Wakefield had been employed for two years by a firm of lawyers] at 150 … pounds per hour, to make a case against vaccination.
    He'd gone out to [anti-vaccine] groups and … selected children who had [autism-like] problems, [constipation and a parent who blamed MMR and] told them to come to his hospital …
    [It] was a piece of scientific confectionary. …
    [After this all came to light] vaccination rates slowly started to recover in the UK. …

    … Wakefield had started this scare by telling people that they should boycott the MMR vaccine and have their children vaccinated with single shots, measles, mumps and rubella at yearly intervals.
    [Nine] months before … he had patented his own single measles vaccine. …
    [He had received] 435,643 pounds, plus expenses [from] lawyers to promote the scare …
    [He was paid by the hour] which meant that the longer the thing went on, the more money he made.
    [In addition,] his own laboratory had done … molecular tests on [the] children and found no measles virus. …

    Trisha Greenhalgh:
    [If it weren't for Deer's work] I'm sure the story about the criminal negligence lawyer and the funding of Wakefield's work by the Legal Aid Board in the UK … would never have come out. …

    Brian Deer:
    [Scientists are] involved in all kinds of misconduct {behind the veil of anonymous research} of which this was just one example. …

    Trisha Greenhalgh:
    [Several] years ago [the British Medical Journal] went over to what's called open peer review. …

    Keri Phillips:
    The publication of Wakefield's paper had little effect in the United States where compulsory vaccination is widespread, or in Australia, where there's a high degree of voluntary compliance. …

    [In] the late 1970s and early '80s, there was concern around the world over the vaccine for pertussis or whopping cough.

    Terry Nolan:
    [There] was concern that this vaccine, in a very small, tiny minority of children, might be causing brain injury, or what was called a pertussis encephalopathy, and there was some research at the time, credible research, which appeared to support that view …
    [That] research was [re-examined and] it became clear that [some of those children] had developed a brain injury [due to other causes that were not apparent at the time they were vaccinated.]
    [When] those cases were removed from that analysis [the association] went away.
    [There was] a dramatic impact on uptake …
    [But by the time the original vaccine was cleared, it had been replaced by a new] purified acellular vaccine. …

    James Colgrove:
    [During] the 19th century, many people believed that the smallpox vaccine was derived from calves' lymph and many people believed that administering the vaccine would cause people somehow to metamorphose into cows. …

    Brian Deer:
    [There've] been three kinds of victim in all of this.
    • [The] children in the UK who've died of measles …
    • [The] parents who really agonised … over whether they should vaccinate their child.
    • [And those] parents who blame themselves for their child having autism because they took that child to be vaccinated.
      … I've had mothers just collapse sobbing saying,
      Not a day goes past when I don't blame myself for taking my child to be vaccinated.
      It's my fault that he's got autism, it's my fault that his life will never be the same as that of other children.


  • Libya, 18 November 2009.
    Ali Ahmida: Chair, Political Science Department, University of New England, Maine.
    Dirk Vandewalle: Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA.
    Ronald Bruce St John: Independent scholar and analyst, Foreign Policy in Focus.
    Vivienne Walt: Foreign Correspondent.

    Keri Phillips:
    This story begins in 1911, when Italy, as its share of a colonial carve-up of North Africa with Britain and France, invaded what's now known as Libya.
    Sparsely populated by nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes, it had for centuries been a relatively autonomous part of the Ottoman Empire and there was strong resistance to the Italian colonisers.

    Ali Ahmida:
    Mussolini and his generals [pursued some of] the most brutal policies in Africa, including rounding up the whole population of Eastern Libya [in order] to crush the resistance … which lasted for 20 years.
    We know around at least 100,000 or 125,000 tribesmen and peasants, including elderly and children[, were] put in concentration camps between 1929 until 1934. …
    [Only] around 40,000 came alive due to the fact most of the interned were poor, hungry, the Italians refused to feed them aside from some bread and some rice.
    And diseases then decimated the whole people in the camps.

    … Gaddafi was born in a place not far away …
    Why is he so angry and why the officers in 1969 were so angry?
    It has to do with this delayed Libyan bitterness and alienation from [what] happened in the colonial period.

    In 1969, when [Gaddafi and] the junior officers came to power, there were [many] who were poor, and [anti-colonial sentiment] was very high.
    Military bases were very much disliked [and the] monarchy was very corrupt …
    [When] he came to power the regime was very popular because …
    • they get rid military bases;
    • they raised the minimum wage for poor people;
    • they expanded education and medical care;
    • they give free scholarships to thousands of children;
    • they expanded education for women;
    [It] was a high time in Libya, and even though the regime did not tolerate dissent much at the beginning, the people said the country is progressing.

    Dirk Vandewalle:
    [During] the first years of the revolution [Gaddafi] tried to … bring more riches down to the level of the people, and since oil prices increased very dramatically during the first few years he was in office, he was able to do that.
    But at the same time, there was also an enormous amount of money wasted on military adventures and purchases of material that really was not at all relevant to the Libyan economy.
    So although the economic lot of the average Libyan increased somewhat during perhaps the first 15 years or so, it really was never as high as it should have been and could have been.
    And particularly then as the revolution really reached its apex in the late 1970s, early 1980s, there was the kind of austerity that was imposed.
    And so people in a sense, economically, started to suffer.

    Ronald Bruce St John: Gaddafi saw himself as someone out to change … the world. …
    [He supported] groups in Africa and in the Middle East, as well as in unusual places, like the Irish Republican Army in the UK or in Central America a number of the guerrilla organizations or guerrilla organizations in the Philippines.
    [Gaddafi saw] himself as a freedom fighter …
    Nelson Mandela, for example, has always been a very close friend and warm supporter of Gaddafi. …

    Keri Phillips:
    [One] movement not supported by this leader of a country of just over 5-million Sunni Muslims, is radical Islam.

    Vivienne Walt:
    He's always been extremely hostile to the Islamic fundamentalists. …
    [He instigated the] first arrest warrant that was ever issued internationally for Osama bin Laden …
    Gaddafi has always been a complete secularist, and so in that respect, he … has common cause with the West.

    Keri Phillips:
    And for most of the 1990s Libya suffered economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation as a result of Gaddafi's refusal to allow the extradition of two Libyans accused of planting a bomb on a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people in 1988.

    In 1999, he handed over the two Libyans charged with the Lockerbie bombing for trial under Scottish law in the Netherlands.
    In 2003, Libya agreed to pay almost $US3-billion in damages to relatives of the Lockerbie bombing and to top up money previously paid to families of victims of the downing of a French plane over Africa.
    The Libyan leader also promised to eliminate his weapons of mass destruction program.

    Dirk Vandewalle:
    [The] West overlooks a lot of what Gaddafi does … in part because Libya remains a highly attractive destination for oil investment and all kinds of other investments …
    [The] United States and Great Britain and also France to some extent, and certainly Italy, have overlooked a little bit of this kind of almost clownish behaviour that the Libyan leader has exhibited over the last few months, because of the economic contracts that are so readily available now …

  • The 1929 stock market crash, 24 April 2008.
    Harold Bierman: The Nicholas H. Noyes Professor of Business Administration, Cornell University.

    [We] don't really understand the crash of '29. …
    [A] drastic crash can occur without a seemingly good general reason.
    [A] narrow segment of the market [such as] subprime mortgage mess [is] enough to trigger an overall decline …

  • Oil, democracy and a CIA coup, 30 September 2007.
    Stephen Kinzer: Journalist, New York Times.
    All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the roots of Middle East Terror, John Wiley, 2003.

    Mark Gasiorowski: Director, International Studies Program, Department of Political Science, Louisiana State University.
    Mohammad Mosaddeq: and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Syracuse University Press, 2004.

    Mansour Farhang: Former Iran ambassador to the United Nations.
    Professor of Diplomatic History / International Relations, Bennington College, USA.

    Annabelle Quince:
    In 1901, the cash-strapped [Qajar] Shah of Iran sold the British a concession to explore for oil, effectively handing Britain control over Iran's oil reserves. …

    Stephen Kinzer:
    So all the oil that the British used to power their industrial growth during the [inter-war years, and which enabled the Royal Navy] to project British power all over the world, came from Iran.

    [The] British agreed to pay 15% of the profits in perpetuity to Iran.
    However, [as part of the deal,] no Iranians were ever allowed to look at the books …
    In addition, the oil company was owned principally by the British government, and the British government … established very heavy taxes on the oil company — essentially was taxing itself …
    [Consequently,] the 15% they were sending was 15% after the government had already taxed something like 80% of the company's income …
    So no-one really knows how much the British paid, but it's clear that was a very tiny fraction of the actual value of the oil. …

    Mark Gasiorowski:
    [In 1941] the British and the Russians jointly invaded Iran to make a supply route for the Russian war effort.
    [They] were concerned that Reza Shah might be pro-German … so they overthrew Reza Shah and installed on the throne his young son.
    [From 1941,] until Mossadeq became Prime Minister, in 1951 … there was [a period of] very wide open political activity in Iran [—] lots of different political parties emerged, lots of different newspapers emerged, [and] the parliament quickly became a very dynamic body. …

    Mansour Farhang:
    … Mossadeq emerged as the most popular and the most trusted leader of the nationalist liberal forces in Iran. …
    He had two principles:
    • One was nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry [— which] was the very first time that a native government in the Middle East [had ever challenged] British interests …
    • [And the second was the] establishment and implementation of free elections [— which was extremely threatening to the … power and influence [of the aristocratic land-owning class.]

    Annabelle Quince:
    In 1951 Mohammad Mossadeq was elected prime minister of Iran by the parliament, and the first thing he did was nationalise the oil industry.

    Mark Gasiorowski:
    [The British immediately] began to gear up a full-scale embargo of Iranian oil exports which was very successful.
    They slapped various kinds of economic sanctions on Iran [and] began covert operations with their various intelligence assets inside Iran, to try to overturn Mossadeq.

    [Indeed,] they were all set to invade Iran in September 1951, and it was only intervention by President Truman that stopped [them] from invading South Western Iran and seizing the oil [fields. …]

    Stephen Kinzer:
    The British [unsuccessfully sought a Security Council resolution ordering Iran to return] the oil company …
    [It] was the first time ever that an important political resolution at the UN Security Council presented by a [major] power had ever failed to win approval.

    [Mossadeq had the unanimous support] of both houses of the Iranian parliament [for] the nationalisation of the Anglo Iranian Oil Company.
    [The] British withdrew all their technicians and blockaded Iranian ports so that no Iranian oil could be exported.
    The British [then took Iran to] the World Court in The Hague [however, the] Court ruled in favour of Iran.

    Mark Gasiorowski:
    [The] attitude of the Truman administration really until it finally left office in January 1953, was to try to act more or less in an even-handed manner as an honest broker between the British and Iranians.

    [But] when the Eisenhower administration came into office, it was very different.
    [As in 2001,] when the Clinton administration was replaced by the George W Bush administration [it was] the same pattern [— a] relatively open-minded, moderate, progressive, [Democrats] being replaced by much more hard-nosed Republicans.
    … John Foster Dulles, the incoming secretary of state, and his brother, the incoming CIA director, Alan Dulles, they had been talking already before the inauguration about [getting rid] Mossadeq …
    They were … intrigued with the idea of using covert intelligence operations to do things, and [within] about two weeks [of Eisenhower's inauguration] the initial decision was made by John Foster Dulles to start preparations for a coup.
    [That] being said, Eisenhower himself didn't [finally agree to] go forward with planning a coup [until two months later, in mid-March 1953.]
    BBC Reporter:
    There's no doubting the significance of a code word being broadcast.
    It was a prearranged signal to the Shah of Iran that plans were in place for a coup against Dr Mohamad Mossadeq, the leader of the country's elected government.
    This 200-page CIA report, less than subtly entitled 'Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran' details the unfolding plot led by an American [CIA] agent called Kermit Roosevelt.
    Stephen Kinzer:
    Kermit Roosevelt crossed over clandestinely into Iran at the beginning of August 1953.
    He went to work in a basement office in the US Embassy and immediately began building a network of people basically by bribing them.

    [One] of the early plots that he came up with was that he would try to bribe enough members of parliament so that maybe they could vote in a No Confidence motion to depose Mossadeq.
    But the idea of deposing Mossadeq through a vote of No Confidence never panned out. …

    [He] bribed mullahs, the religious leaders in Iran, to begin denouncing Mossadeq from the pulpit as an atheist, or non-believer, which was not true as Mossadeq was a devout Twelver Shi'ite.

    He bribed newspaper editors and reporters, to the point where he had 80% of the Iranian press in his payroll.
    And what that meant was that every day, Iranians would wake up to news reports and commentaries about how Mossadeq was Jewish, he was homosexual, he was a British agent, just about anything bad you could think of, would show up day after day in practically every newspaper in Tehran. …

    He also bribed commanders of military and police units so they would be ready to help on the day that he struck against Mossadeq.

    [Roosevelt] went to the Tehran bazaar, where there was a group of thugs operating under a very colourful leader named Shabaan the Brainless.
    And he hired Shabaan, who actually is still alive and living in California, [and told him to:]
    Get together the biggest group of thugs and gangsters you can find; we're going to pay every one of them.
    Find every adult male who wants to be a gangster for a day and hire them.
    And … your job is, (and this is exactly what this gang did for several days in Tehran) [to] run through the streets wildly, smash shop windows, fire guns into mosques and … shout:
    We love Communism and Mossadeq!
    So he created this mob that was very violent, that was posing as thugs for Mossadeq.

    [He then] hired another mob to attack that mob, the idea being he wanted to create the image, in the minds of ordinary Iranians, that Iran was in chaos. …

    This coup is a classic in the history of American interventions abroad in one sense, and that is it seemed successful at first.
    But in the long run … had terrible, unintended consequences.
    [It] seemed successful [because] was we got rid of a guy we didn't like, and we put in someone who would do whatever we said …
    The Shah ruled with increasing repression for 25 years [eventually producing] the explosion of the late 1970s in Iran, what we called the Islamic Revolution.
    That revolution brought to power a clique of fanatically anti-Western clerics who have spent the last 25 years [enthusiastically] and sometimes very violently working to undermine western interests all over the world.
    [The] 1979 Islamic Revolution also inspired Muslim fundamentalists in many countries, including next-door Afghanistan, where a radical regime then came to power and gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden …

    I found a fascinating article … by an Iranian professor who … was one of the students that stormed the American Embassy in 1979, and held the diplomats hostage.
    In this article [he wrote:]
    [In 1953 the] people of Iran rose up and they threw the Shah out.
    But CIA agents working inside the US Embassy organised another coup, and they brought him back, with terrible results for us and our country.

    Now it's 1979 [and the] Shah has now been thrown out again, 25 years later, a second time.
    But we figure that history will repeat itself, that CIA agents working inside the US Embassy will do what they did last time, which is organise some kind of other coup and bring the Shah back.
    [We] had to prevent history from repeating itself, that's why we went into the American Embassy.
    So now we're in a position where the United States government and political establishment really feels a passionate anger and resentment of the Iranian regime that dates back to the humiliations of 1979.
    [But why] did that whole 1979 set of circumstances happen? …
    The explanation goes back to the American intervention in 1953. …
    That set us off on the path to the confrontation between Iran and the United States that we're seeing right now.

November 18, 2012

Scientific American: 2011

Scientific American

Radioactive Smoke

[The WHO estimates that over a million people a year die from smoking related lung cancers.]
If polonium had been reduced through methods [long] known to the [tobacco] industry, many thousands of those deaths could have been avoided.

(January 2011, p 67)

The Last Great Global Warming

Cretaceous HothousePaleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)[Anthropocene]
Speed of WarmingSlowModerateFast
Rate of Carbon Release
(petagrams per year)

< 2 [1]9 to 25 [2]
Rate of Temperature Rise
(degrees Celsius per 100 years)
0.0000250.0251 to 4
Absolute Temperature Rise
(degrees Celsius)
(Over 20 million years)
5 [to 9]
(Over 20 thousand years)
2 to 10
(Projected over the next 200 to 300 years)
Duration (years) Millions Thousands [3] Tens to Hundreds
Main underlying causeVolcanic eruptionsVolcanoes
Methane bubbling up from the ocean bottom
Peat and coal fires
Thawing permafrost
Fossil-fuel burning
Environmental changeOceans absorbed carbon dioxide slowly so did not acidifyDeep sea acidificationAcidifying oceans
More extreme weather
Glacier melting
Sea-level rise
Life's responseNearly all creatures had time to adapt or migratePoleward movement of many species
Habitat loss
Coral bleaching

  1. [The] rate of [atmospheric carbon] injection during the PETM was less than two petagrams a year …
  2. [We] are now pumping nine petagrams of carbon into the atmosphere every year …
    [Consequently,] C02 concentrations are rising [around] 10 times faster now than they did during the PETM. …
    Projections that account for population growth and increased industrialization of developing nations indicate that rate may reach 25 petagrams a year before all fossil-fuel reserves are exhausted. …
  3. It took nearly 200,000 years for the earth's natural buffers to bring the fever down.
(Lee Kump, Implications: Lessons from Past Warmings, July 2011, pp 42, 44-45)

November 14, 2012

Renewable Energy and Mitigation

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Figure SPM.2
Shares of energy sources in total global primary energy supply in 2008 (492 EJ).
Modern biomass contributes 38% of the total biomass share. …
(IPCC, Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation, 2011, p 6)

Climate Council

Despite pledging in 2009 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, all G20 countries continue to subsidise fossil fuels, collectively spending an estimated US$ 452 billion annually on fossil fuels.
The amount spent by G20 countries subsidising fossil fuels is nearly four times the amount spent to encourage the uptake of renewable energy. …
(p 14)

Despite global growth in renewable energy for power generation, fossil fuels continue to make up 77% of global electricity production, with coal contributing the largest share (40%). …
In 2014, coal plant closures in OECD countries were offset by capacity increases in the rest of the world, leading to a net increase of 66 GW in coal power capacity …
(p 18)

(Andrew Stock, Petra Stock and Martin Rice, A Whole New World: Tracking the renewables boom from Copenhagen to Paris, 2015)

The 6°C Scenario

International Energy Agency

The 6°C Scenario (6DS) is largely an extension of current trends.
By 2050, primary energy use grows by almost two-thirds (compared with 2012) and total GHG emissions rise even more.
In the absence of efforts to stabilise atmospheric concentration of GHGs, average global temperature rise above preindustrial levels is projected to reach almost 5.5°C in the long term (by 2500) and almost 4°C by the end of this century.
Already, a 4°C increase within this century is likely to stimulate severe impacts, such as sea level rise, reduced crop yields, stressed water resources or diseases outbreaks in new areas.
The 6DS is broadly consistent with the World Energy Outlook Current Policy Scenario through 2040.

The 4°C Scenario (4DS) takes into account recent pledges made by countries to limit emissions and step up efforts to improve energy efficiency, which helps limit long-term temperature rise to 4°C (by 2500).
The 4DS is, in many respects, already an ambitious scenario that requires significant changes in policy and technologies compared with the 6DS.
This long-term target also requires significant additional cuts in emissions in the period after 2050; yet with average temperature likely to rise by almost 3°C by 2100, it still carries the significant hazard of bringing forth drastic climate impacts.
(p 17)

[For] the first time since the IEA started monitoring clean energy progress, not one of the [clean energy technology fields (ie renewable power and heat, nuclear power, gas-fired power, coal-fired power, CCS, industry, iron and steel, cement, transport, fuel economy, electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, buildings, building envelopes, appliances and equipment, co-generation and district heating and cooling, smart grids, energy storage or hydrogen) was on track to meet its objectives under the 2°C Scenario.]
(p 4, emphasis added)

[Within the renewable power field, solar] PV is the only technology on track to meet its 2DS power generation target by 2025.
Its capacity is forecast to grow by 18% annually between 2014 and 2020. …
If these medium-term trends continue, solar PV could even surpass its 2025 target.

Improvement Needed
(p 24)

Low-priced coal was the fastest-growing fossil fuel in 2013, and coal-fired generation increased in all regions. …
Natural gas-fired power, a cleaner and more flexible generation fuel than coal, slowed markedly on global markets in 2013-14, unable to compete against low coal prices. …

Total electricity generation in 2012:
  • 40% coal-fired
  • 21% renewable [— wind and solar 2.8%]
  • 11% nuclear …
(p 8)

[The] first commercial-scale coal-fired power plant (CFPP) with CO2 capture [was opened] in October 2014.
(p 9)

… 90% of CO2 emissions from the unit … will be captured and stored underground through enhanced oil recovery … without storage-focused monitoring. …
To meet the 2DS, the rate of CO2 being stored per year will need to increase by an order of magnitude.
(p 32)

[Enhanced oil recovery currently] remains the only commercial driver for carbon capture projects.
(p 12)

In 2014, global renewable electricity generation rose by an estimated 7% (350 TWh) …
OECD non-member economies continued to dominate global renewable generation, with their share increasing to around 55%.
China remained the largest market, accounting for an estimated 23% of overall renewable electricity generation in 2014.

In 2014 … over 45 gigawatts (GW) of new [onshore wind, and 40 GW of new solar photovoltaic] capacity was installed globally …
(p 17)

Renewable Power Generation By Technology — 2°C Scenario
(Adapted from Figure 1.7)
On TrackImprovement NeededNot On Track
Solar PVHydropowerSolar Thermal Electricity

Onshore windOffshore Wind




(p 25)

At the beginning of 2014, 72 [nuclear] reactors were under construction, the highest number for more than 25 years. …
[Gross installed capacity is] currently at 396 GW [and] is projected to reach 438 GW to 593 GW by 2025 …
[Under the 2°C Scenario] global nuclear capacity would need to reach 585 GW by that time.
(p 26)

Last year China overtook the United States in annual investment in smart grid technologies.
(p 56)

By 2020 the average lifetime emissions intensity of all new-build plants in China, India and the United States will need to fall to levels near half that of current gas-fired plants …
(p 64)

The average CO2 intensity of electricity generation has fallen since 2000 in [China, the United States and the European Union. …]
Policies to phase out inefficient coal plants and wider deployment of wind and solar power helped to cut emissions intensity by 17% in China between 2000 and 2012.
The development of cheap shale gas in the United States triggered a switch from coal to gas-fired generation that lowered average emissions intensity by 19%.
In the European Union, reductions in emissions intensity have been more modest as policies to phase out nuclear power, combined with ongoing use of coal, have partially offset rapid expansion of renewable generation.
[By contrast,] the emissions intensity of electricity generation in India has risen slightly (by 2%) because rapid growth in electricity demand has been mainly satisfied by subcritical coal plants and because existing coal capacity is ageing and poorly maintained.
(p 69)

Each 1% reduction in electricity consumption in the buildings sector … can help to reduce emissions from power generation by 60 MtCO2, equivalent to an installed capacity of 45 GW of wind power (15,000 turbines) or 23 GW of coal-fired power (46 plants).
(p 75)

(Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2015)

November 10, 2012

Acid Rain

Naomi Oreskes: Merchants of Doubt

[There is evidence] that a straight-out command and control approach might [be more efficient than] cap and trade …
It is well established that the lack of immediate financial benefits leads companies to underinvest in R & D …
[This is because the benefits of] pollution prevention [are poorly] reflected in the market price of goods and services … the incentives for private investment are weak.
Competitive forces just don't provide enough justification for the long-term investment required …
[When] government establishes a regulation, it creates demand [and companies respond with innovation.]
[There] may even be cost savings … as obsolete technologies are replaced with state-of-the art ones [— something companies would not have done] had they not been forced to.
(p 105, emphasis added)

The empirical evidence shows that … regulation provides a strong and continuous stimulus for invention.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and regulatory compliance is a powerful form of necessity.
(p 106)

November 7, 2012


Bertrand Russell

[In ancient times a] man who took no interest in politics was frowned upon, and was called an 'idiot', which is Greek for 'given over to private interests'.
(Wisdom of the West, 1959, p 11)

It is not ultimately by violence that men are ruled, but by the wisdom of those who appeal to the common desires of mankind,
  • for happiness,
  • for inward and outward peace, and
  • for the understanding of the world in which, by no choice of our own, we [all] have to live.
(Power, 1938, p 185)

The Taming of Power

[It] must be evident that democracy … is an essential part of the solution [to the problem of the taming of power.]
[However, the] complete solution is not to be found by confining ourselves to political conditions …
[We] must take account also of economics, of propaganda, and of psychology as affected by circumstances and education.
(p 187)

[There] should be toleration of all propaganda not involving incitement to break the law …
[And] the law, should be as tolerant as is compatible with technical efficiency and the maintenance of order.
(p 189)

If there were ever an international government, it would obviously have to be a federation of national governments, with strictly defined powers.
(p 191)

[As] a result of modern technique, organisations tend to grow and to coalesce and to increase their scope …
[Hence,] the political State must either increasingly take over economic functions, or partially abdicate in favour of vast private enterprises which are sufficiently powerful to defy or control it.
If the State does not acquire supremacy over such enterprises, it becomes their puppet, and they become the real State.
(p 194)

[And, if] concentration of power in a single organisation — the State — is not to produce the evils of despotism in an extreme form, it is essential that power within that organisation should be widely distributed, and that subordinate groups should have a large measure of autonomy.
Without democracy, devolution, and immunity from extra-legal punishment, the coalescence of economic and political power is nothing but a new and appalling instrument of tyranny.
(p 198)

[Fear,] rage, and all kinds of violent collective excitement, tend to make men blindly follow a leader, who, in most cases, takes advantage of their trust to establish himself as a tyrant. …
[And where] a spirit of ferocious dogmatism prevails, any opinion with which men disagree is liable to provoke a breach of the peace.
(p 200)

Revivalist enthusiasm, such as that of the Nazis, rouses admiration in many through the energy and apparent self-abnegation that it generates.
Collective excitement, involving indifference to pain and even to death, is historically not uncommon.
Where it exists, liberty is impossible. …

To admire collective enthusiasm is reckless and irresponsible, for its fruits are fierceness, war, death, and slavery.
War is the chief promoter of despotism …
[If,] once the world were freed from the fear of war, under no matter what form of government or what economic system, it would in time find ways of curbing the ferocity of its rulers.
On the other hand, all war, but especially modern war, promotes dictatorship by causing the timid to seek a leader and by converting the bolder spirits from a society into a pack.

The risk of war causes a certain kind of mass psychology, and reciprocally this kind, where it exists, increases the risk of war, as well as the likelihood of despotism.
(p 201)

The temper required to make a success of democracy is, in the practical life, exactly what the scientific temper is in the intellectual life; it is a half-way house between scepticism and dogmatism.
Truth, it holds, is neither completely attainable nor completely unattainable …
[It] is attainable to a certain degree, and that only with difficulty. …

Wherever there is autocracy, a set of beliefs is instilled into the minds of the young before they are capable of thinking, and these beliefs are taught so constantly and so persistently that it is hoped the pupils will never afterwards be able to escape from the hypnotic effect of their early lessons.
(p 203)

To acquire immunity to eloquence is of the utmost importance to the citizens of a democracy.
Modern propagandists have learnt from advertisers, who led the way in the technique of producing irrational belief.
Education should be designed to counteract the natural credulity and the natural incredulity of the uneducated:
[The] habit
  • of believing an emphatic statement without reasons, and
  • of disbelieving an unemphatic statement even when accompanied by the best of reasons. …
There have been in the past eminent orators and writers who defended, with an appearance of great wisdom, positions which no one now holds: the reality of witchcraft, the beneficence of slavery, and so on.
(p 204)

[Wisdom] is not merely intellectual …
[Intellect] may guide and direct, but [it] does not generate the force that leads to action.
[That] force must be derived from the emotions.
Emotions that have desirable social consequences are not so easily generated as hate and rage and fear.
(p 205)

The Love of Power

The love of power is a part of normal human nature, but power-philosophies are, in a certain precise sense, insane.
The existence of the external world, both that of matter and that of other human beings, is a datum, which may be humiliating to a certain kind of pride, but can only be denied by a madman.
(p 176)

Certified lunatics are shut up because of their proneness to violence when their pretensions are questioned …
[The] uncertified variety are given the control of powerful armies, and can inflict death and disaster upon all sane men within their reach.
The success of insanity, in literature, in philosophy, and in politics, is one of the peculiarities of our age, and the successful form of insanity proceeds almost entirely from impulses towards power.
(p 177)

The Biology of Organisations

[The] sentiments which are the most important psychological sources of power [are:] (p 107)

Forms of Power

Power not based on tradition or assent I call ‘naked’ power. …
[It] is usually military, and may take the form [of internal tyranny or] foreign conquest. …
(p 27, italics added)

Conquest by force of arms has had more to do with the spread of civilisation than any other single agency.
Nevertheless, military power is, in most cases, based upon some other form of power, such as (p 28)

Organisations and the Individual

Loyalty to the State … is connected with love of home and family [—] reinforced by … love of power and fear of foreign aggression. …
No other organisation rouses anything like the loyalty aroused by the national State.
And the chief activity of the State is preparation for large-scale homicide.
It is loyalty to this organisation for death that causes men to endure the totalitarian State, and to risk the destruction of home and children and our whole civilisation rather than submit to alien rule.

Individual psychology and governmental organisation have effected a tragic synthesis from which we, and our children, must suffer if we continue powerless to find an issue except through disaster.
(p 145)

Would you like to know more?

November 5, 2012

The World 1

George W Bush

Surgical Airstrike

Reza Deghati (1952)

(David Smith, Behind The Photo — War Zone, part2 pictures, 2009)

Socrates (c470 – 399 BCE):
[To] inflict injustice is more disgraceful than to suffer it …
(Plato, Gorgias)

Do not resist one who is evil.
But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil …
Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(King James Bible, 12:17-21)

Do not let the injustice of others lead you into injustice …

Georg Hegel (1770 – 1831):
The state has … to make up its own mind concerning what is to be considered as objective truth.
(Philosophy of Right, 1821)

Karl Rove:
[Those in the] reality-based community … believe that solutions emerge from [the] judicious study of discernible reality. …
That's not the way the world really works anymore.
We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. …
We're history's actors [so all that is left for you to do, is to study] what we do.
(Quoted by Ron Suskind, Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W Bush, The New York Times Magazine, 17 October 2004)

Greg Thielmann [Proliferation Expert, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US State Department]:
This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude:
We know the answers …
[Give] us the intelligence to support those answers.
[This] kind of attitude [quashes] the spirit of intellectual inquiry and integrity.
(The President of Good and Evil, 2004, p 119)

Bruce Bartlett:
[George W Bush understands] Al Quaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy … because he's just like them.
He truly believes he's on a mission from God.
The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.

Ada Louise Huxtable:
Whose afraid of the big bad buildings?
Because there are so many things about gigantism that we just don't know.
The gamble of triumph or tragedy at this scale … demands an extraordinary payoff.
The twin towers could be the start of a new skyscraper age, or the biggest tombstones in the [history of the] world.

(Ric Burns, New York: The Centre of the World, Episode 1, PBS American Experience, WBGH, 2003)

American Justice

(Nick Broomfield, Battle for Haditha, Channel Four Films, 2007)

George W Bush (1946):
More than three thousand suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries.
Many others have met a different fate.
Put it this way: they're no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.
[Standing ovation]
One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American Justice.
[Standing ovation]
(State of the Union Address, US Congress, 28 January 2003)

[The people] we have liberated will not surrender their freedom.
Democracy will succeed because the United States of America will not be intimidated by a bunch of thugs!

(Jesper Huor & Bosse Lindquist, WikiRebels: The Documentary, SVT, 2010)