White rage – Limbaugh style (updated x2)

Seems like America is having increasing trouble with the whole post-racial thing. Here’s Rush Limbaugh ginning up white rage following release of a video showing a 17-year old kid being bullied up on a bus.

Greetings my friends where it’s Obama’s America is it not? Obama’s America where white kids are getting beat up on school buses now. When you put your kids on school buses, you expect safety but in Obama’s America the white kids now get beat up, with the black kids cheering: “yeah, right on, right on, right on!”

And of course, everyone says: “The white kid deserved it. He was born a racist. He was white.” Newsweek magazine told us this. We know that white students are destroying civility on buses, white students destroying civility in classrooms all across America, white Congressmen destroying civility in the House of Representatives.

We can redistribute students while we redistribute their parents’ wealth. We can redistribute everything. Just return the white students to their rightful place. Their own bus. With bars on the window. And armed guards. They’re racists. They get what they deserve. Newsweek magazine told us this. Post-racial America.

I wonder if Obama’s going to come to come to the defence of the assailants the way he did his friend Skip Gates up there at Harvard. I mean the assailants are presumed innocent due to the white racism we all know runs rampant in America…

If he’s going to apologize for America, Obama needs to apologize for the right reasons. White Americans are racists who have created what they call free markets, that really just enslave the rest of America and her trading partners.

I mean it was White Americans that ran off Van Jones. Let’s just follow Eric Holder’s advice and not be cowards about all this. Let’s have an open conversation, an honest conversation about all of our typical white grandmothers. You had one. I had one. Obama had one. They’re racists. Just like our students are.

Update: Here’s ‘crunchy’ conservative, Rod Dreher’s reaction:

On his deathbed not too many years ago, a relative of mine confessed to having been part of a white lynch mob in the 1930s, which strung up a black man after he was caught having sex with a white woman. She accused him of rape. The sheriff led the lynch mob. There was no need for a trial; what a black man did to a white woman was considered so horrifying that nobody could wait for a trial and a verdict. After the black man was murdered, the guilt-stricken white woman confessed that the man had been her lover, and she called him a rapist to protect her honor.

None of us ever knew this about my kinsman, until in his dying days, he admitted it because it tortured him. It had been on his heart all his life. I pray that his repentance in the face of eternity helped him find mercy. It unnerved me, though, to think that that kindly old man had once fallen under the sway of race hatred to that degree, a race hatred that was part of the society into which he was born and raised. It still does, because that world seems like a thousand years ago. But it only seems so far away because many people worked too hard — and some even gave their lives — to drive those demons out. And now here is Limbaugh, of Palm Beach, and his ilk, calling them back insouciantly, for political advantage. This is evil.

Update II: And then there’s Limbaugh on the Kanye West hoohah – reaching for the black man/white virgin imagery:

If you’re Kanye West and here’s some 19-year-old country western virgin, and what’s she doing on the show in the first place, when you got somebody like Beyonce out there, it’s all totally understandable if you look at it from Kanye’s worldview.

On the web: Lehman’s legacy, the Irish referendum on Lisbon, transatlantic trends and more…

- With the anniversary of Lehman Brother’s demise, the FT recalls the events of that fateful weekend last September. The NYT has reflections of three former Lehman employees, while a Guardian roundtable asks what lessons, if any, we’ve learned from the bank’s fall. Niall Ferguson, meanwhile, rails against those who argue “if only Lehman had been saved”. He suggests:

Like the executed British admiral in Voltaire’s famous phrase, Lehman had to die pour encourager les autres – to convince the other banks that they needed injections of public capital, and to convince the legislature to approve them.

- Sticking with matters financial and economic, Der Spiegel has an interview with the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on the Fund’s actions during the crisis and the potential for a new role for the institution going forward. Former MPC member, David Blanchflower, meanwhile, offers a telling insight into the inner workings of the Bank of England’s decision-making as financial meltdown ensued.

- Elsewhere, the WSJ reports on President Sarkozy’s call to broaden indicators of economic performance and social progress beyond traditional GDP, following the findings of the Stiglitz Commission. Richard Layard, expert on the economics of happiness, offers his take here, arguing that “[w]e desparately need a social norm in which the good of others figures more prominently in our personal goals”.

- Wolfgang Münchau, meanwhile, assesses the implications of an Irish  “No” vote in the upcoming referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.  “There is an intrinsic problem for the Yes campaign in Ireland”, he suggests, “which is that the core of the treaty was negotiated seven years ago. This is a pre-crisis treaty for a post-crisis world… If we had to reinvent the treaty from scratch, we would probably produce a very different text”.

- Finally, last week saw the German Marshall Fund of the US publish its Transatlantic Trends survey for 2009. Unsurprisingly, a majority of Europeans (77%) support Barack Obama’s foreign policy compared to the 2008 finding for George W. Bush (19%); though the “Obama bounce” was less keenly felt in Central and Eastern Europe than Western Europe. A multitude of other interesting stats – on attitudes to Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, the economic crisis, and climate change –  can be found here (pdf).

Who will point out that the CDM emperor has no clothes?

From yesterday’s Sunday Times, more news that all is not well with the Clean Development Mechanism:

The legitimacy of the $100 billion (£60 billion) carbon-trading market has been called into question after the world’s largest auditor of clean-energy projects was suspended by United Nations inspectors. SGS UK had its accreditation suspended last week after it was unable to prove its staff had properly vetted projects that were then approved for the carbon-trading scheme, or even that they were qualified to do so.

It is a source of never-ending frustration to me that this dog of a policy mechanism was ever set up. The CDM, in case you haven’t had the delight of making its acquaintance, is a mechanism that’s supposed to allow developing countries to benefit from emissions trading – without having emissions targets.

If you’re wondering how that’s supposed to work, then join the queue. This is the other kind of emissions trading, the one that isn’t cap-and-trade. It’s called baseline-and-credit. What happens is that you look at (say) a factory where you’re about to install spanking new energy efficiency equipment. The idea is that you get issued with emission permits adding up to the level of emissions you’re saving by installing said technology. The problem, though, is that in order to do that, someone has to work out what the emissions would have been without it. And who the hell knows – really?

Back when the government set up the UK Emissions Trading Scheme in 2001 / 2002 (before it was superseded by the EUETS), I spent four surreal months as an official seconded in to Defra – where I was in charge of developing the baseline-and-credit part of the Scheme.  It was abundantly clear that it wouldn’t result in real emissions reductions. But companies loved it – as well they might. And as for the consultants charged with designing and accrediting the projects: it was Christmas.

Now, with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), it’s all gone global – and the same basic design problems are still, unavoidably, built in. So who has an incentive to say that the emperor wears no clothes?

Not developed country governments: they love the fact that it helps them to achieve their emissions targets cheaply (as you can see from the fact that a fifth of EUETS permits are from the CDM, or from the huge reliance on the CDM built into Waxman-Markey in the US). Not developing country governments: China and a couple of others are making money out of it, and the gripe you hear from the rest of them is not that the system is bust, but that they’re not getting a piece of the action. And certainly not the UNFCCC Secretariat (who are supposed to be impartial in all this): their little secret is that a levy on CDM transactions funds a lot of of jobs at their HQ in Bonn.

Which might leave you wondering why the NGOs don’t make more of a fuss.  Alas, it’s the same old story: their long-standing inability to decide what to think about the thorny issue of developing country participation in climate mitigation. Hamstrung by a rigid interpretation of what constitutes ‘equity’ for developing countries, none of them are willing to touch the question of quantified emission targets for poor nations. With targets out of the picture, they need some alternative storyline on how developing countries are supposed to reduce emissions and get access to clean technology – and so they end up cheerleading for the CDM, and persisting in the fiction that a few tweaks will be enough to resolve the fundamental design faults with the scheme.

So with no-one out there calling time on the CDM, Copenhagen will doubtless agree another ten years for this broken mechanism that delivers neither real emissions reductions nor real finance for development.

The tragedy here is that all the while, a far better solution to these challenges has been staring us in the face: get all countries involved in quantified targets, and deal with the equity issue by sharing them out on an equal per capita basis.  Presto: massive new source of finance for development, plus safely stabilised climate. But the longer we wait to do this, the more of a safe ‘emissions budget’ gets used up – and the less remains to be shared with developing countries when a worsening climate means it’s no longer avoidable for them to take on targets.

The CDM represents a collective unwillingness to face up to difficult issues in the hope that they’ll get easier with time.  Alas, the opposite is the case.

David Cameron: “I f**king hate politicians”

As UK political party leaders vie with each other in the wake of the expenses scandal to crack down on the cushy life that MPs are perceived to enjoy, Tom Harris MP learns that David Cameron’s widely-trailed plans to cut ministerial pay and eliminate subsidised food in Parliament are just the thin end of the wedge:

Cameron: “I f**king hate politicians”

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

POLITICIANS will rue the day they were born if the Conservatives get their way, David Cameron promised yesterday.

Announcing a series of reforms to be implemented by a future Tory government, Mr Cameron said that MPs were “the lowest form of life known to man” and “utter scum”.

The Tory leader said that his government would not only cut the number of MPs by “at least” 100 per cent, but would also make sure their salaries were cut radically, forcing them “to depend on their trust funds like ordinary people”. He also promised to raise the cost of food and drink in the Palace of Westminster and suggested that staff might want to spit in MPs’ tea, “just to remind them who’s boss”.

“I’m so glad I never went into politics,” Mr Cameron told a  room packed full of journalists and a scary-looking bloke in an anorak and clutching a thermos flask who said he was from the Tax-Payers’ Alliance.

Asked what qualities he hated most in politicians, Mr Cameron replied: “Cynicism and populism.”

Support for suicide bombing in freefall among Muslim publics

From the Pew Global Attitudes project:

Eight years after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Pew Global Attitudes Project finds that support for Osama bin Laden has declined considerably among Muslim publics in recent years. Moreover, majorities or pluralities among eight of the nine Muslim publics surveyed this year say that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians can never be justified to defend Islam; only in the Palestinian territories does a majority endorse such attacks.

The drop in support for bin Laden has been most dramatic in Indonesia, Pakistan and Jordan. Currently, about one-quarter of Muslims in Jordan (28%) and Indonesia (25%) express confidence in the al Qaeda leader to do the right thing regarding world affairs; in 2003, majorities in each country agreed (56% and 59%, respectively).

Down with collapse!

A few weeks back, George Monbiot and Paul Kingsnorth had an intriguing debate on the Guardian’s website about prospects for the imminent demise of western civilisation. Both are firmly convinced that the world is in Very Serious Trouble, what with climate change, oil depletion and what have you.  Both think we are probably All Doomed. Where they differ, though, is whether we should even try to mount a rescue attempt.

Monbiot is definitely the more upbeat of the two, in that – cheery chap that he is – he reckons that it’s on balance a good idea to avoid the total collapse of civilisation:

I’m sure we can agree that the immediate consequences of collapse would be hideous: the breakdown of the systems that keep most of us alive; mass starvation; war. These alone surely give us sufficient reason to fight on, however faint our chances appear. But even if we were somehow able to put this out of our minds, I believe that what is likely to come out on the other side will be worse than our current settlement … I am fighting to prevent both initial collapse and the repeated catastrophe that follows. However faint the hopes of engineering a soft landing – an ordered and structured downsizing of the global economy – might be, we must keep this possibility alive.

Pah, says Kingsnorth: our current economic system can’t be tamed without collapsing - “and who wants it tamed anyway?”  – so we must grow up and let go of the idea that our predicament can be fixed (whether through clean technology, through co-ordinated interntional action, or whatever).

The challenge is not how to shore up a crumbling empire with wave machines and global summits, but to start thinking about how we are going to live through its fall, and what we can learn from its collapse.

As you might expect, all of this is deeply exciting for other collapse gurus, some of whom just can’t resist adding their own two-pennyworth. Like the Archdruid, for instance, whose blog is reliably full of (always readable) musings on our imminent demise. Rather fabulously, he dismisses both Monbiot and Kingsnorth on the basis that both of them are unduly optimistic:

Both men are proclaiming the gospel of a better future; their disagreements are simply about what form that future will take and how we will get there. Both assume that we can have, and ought to have, a future that’s even shinier than the present …

We are not going to have a future better than the present: not in our lifetimes, and not in those of our grandchildren’s grandchildren. We collectively closed the door on that possibility decades ago, and none of the rapidly narrowing range of choices still open to us now offers any way of changing that. If this sounds like fatalism, it may be worth remembering that once a car goes skidding off a mountain road into empty air, it requires neither a crystal ball nor a faith in predestination to recognize that nothing anybody can do is going to prevent a terrific crash.

One can only imagine the sort of inverse euphoria induced by spending one’s days in this kind of competitive auction of doom with other collapse gurus – perhaps this is what it’s like to take ketamine. Either way, I wish to place on record a discordant note. Continue reading

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